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were probably never either sorted or examined during his brother's life. Any correspondence which passed afterwards with her or about her would naturally be kept separate, and so destroyed or lost all together. But though the disappearance of all letters is easily accounted for, the absence of all casual mention of her, through so many years, is not so: especially in such a thing as the Commentarius Solutus, where if she had been still living in the enjoyment of her dower, either at Gorhambury or elsewhere, the very inventory of the estate could not have been complete without reference to her. The fact that there is not a single allusion to her throughout that note-book would certainly, but for the evidence of the next letter, have satisfied me that she died before the date of it; and (the evidence of the next letter proving conclusively that she was still alive) we are left to account for it as we can. The supposition which seems to me most probable is that she lost the command of her faculties some years before her death, that the management of her affairs was taken out of her hands, and that somebody was employed to take care of her. There are symptoms in her earlier correspondence of an excitement and irritability which might easily end in that way; and if it did, the silence would be accounted for. The only allusion to her later years which I have met with is in Bishop Goodman's Court of King James the First,' and is in these words:"But for Bacon's mother, she was but little better than frantic in
her age." ""1 There were times between 1593 and 1597 when almost
the same thing might have been said of her. But if her frantic moods took the same form and became more frequent, it is hard to imagine how they could have escaped all notice. It seems more likely that the morbid irritability was the precursor of decay, and that she grew helpless as she grew older. Her exact age I have not been able to learn, but she was the second of five daughters, and her eldest sister would have been 87 if she had lived: so that we may presume she was above 80.2
To SIR MICHAEL HICKS.3
Sir Michael Hicks,
It is but a wish and not any ways to desire it to your trouble. But I heartily wish I had your company here at my Mother's funeral which I purpose on Thursday next in the fore
1 Vol. I. p. 285.
She had four brothers, but the biographical books do not say in what order they came.
3 Lansd. MSS. XCI. fo. 183. Orig. own hand, docketed "27 Aug. 1610. Sr Fra. Bacon."
noon. I dare promise you a good sermon to be made by Mr. Fenton the preacher of Gray's Inn; for he never maketh other. Feast I make none. But if I mought have your company for two or three days at my house I should pass over this mournful occasion with more comfort. If your son had continued at St Julian's it mought have been an adamant to have drawn you: but now if you come I must say it is only for my sake. I commend myself to my Lady, and commend my wife to you both, and
This Monday the
the 27th of August 1610.
Yours ever assured
In my preface to 'The beginning of the History of Great Britain,'1 I gave my reasons for supposing that it was written at the end of 1609 or the beginning of the next year. I am now rather inclined to place it a little later, and to regard it as one of the fruits of the summer vacation of 1610. My chief reason for placing it so early was that there seemed to be an allusion to the subject in a letter which I then supposed to have been written in the spring of 1610; but am now inclined to place in January or February, 1611. If we suppose that the reading of Camden's Annals of Q. Elizabeth,' and the interest the King was taking in them about Easter 1610, put into Bacon's head the notion of writing a history of the present reign, the next vacation would be the likeliest time for beginning it; and the letter which accompanied the sample will find its fittest place here. What the King thought of it is not known: but as Bacon never went on with it any further, I suppose he did not meet with much encouragement. Which was a pity.
A LETTER TO THE KING, UPON THE SENDING UNTO HIM OF A BEGINNING OF A HISTORY OF HIS MAJESTY'S TIME.2
It may please your Majesty,
Hearing that you are at leisure to peruse story, a desire took me to make an experiment what I could do in your Majesty's times. Which being but a leaf or two, I pray your pardon if I send it for your recreation, considering that love 1 Lit, and Prof. Works, I. p. 275.
2 Addl. MSS. 5503. f. 27. b.
must creep where it cannot go. But to this I add these petitions. First, that if your Majesty do dislike any thing, you would conceive I can amend it upon your least beck. Next, if I have not spoken of your Majesty encomiastically, your Majesty will be pleased only to ascribe it to the law of an history, which doth not clutter together praises upon the first mention of a name, but rather disperseth and weaveth them throughout the whole narration, and as for the proper place of a commemoration (which is in the period of life) I pray God I may never live to write it. Thirdly, that the reason why I presumed to think of this oblation, was because, whatsoever my disability be, yet I shall have that advantage which (almost) no writer of history bath had; in that I shall write of times not only since I could remember, but since I could observe. And lastly, that it is only for your Majesty's reading.
Among the grievances included in the Petition of the House of Commons, one was the abuse of Royal Proclamations: where, by forbidding people to do certain things, under penalties which could be enforced by the Star Chamber, the Crown did in fact assume a power of penal legislation. The particular proclamations to which exception was taken as containing clauses open to this objection were, one relating to the election of Knights and Burgesses,' four to building,2 two to the manufacture of starch, and one to the folding of wools. To this article the King's answer was, "if sithence the beginning of our reign Proclamations have been more frequent than in former times, or have extended further than is warranted by Law, we take in good part to be informed thereof by our loving subjects, and take it to heart as a matter of great consequence, and therefore we will have conference with our Privy Council, and with our Judges and Learned Counsel, and will cause such our Proclamations as are past to be reformed, where cause shall be found; and for future time will provide that none be made but such as shall stand with the former laws or statutes of the kingdom, and such as in cases of necessity our Progenitors have by their Prerogative Royal used in times of the best and happiest government of this kingdom."
1 11 Jan. 1603-4.
16 Sep. 1603.
1 March 1603-4.
12 Oct. 1607.
25 July 1608.
3 23 Aug. 1607.
This answer was delivered on the 23rd of July, immediately before the prorogation; at which time Sir Edward Coke was absent on his circuit. On the 20th of September, about a month before Parliament was to meet again, he was sent for to attend the Council, and question was raised as to the legality of two of the Proclamations which had been complained of. One related to new buildings in and about London, the other to the making of starch with wheat; in both which cases restrictions and regulations had been imposed, with threat of punishment to all who should transgress them. The object in both cases was public policy, but the policy was not the question. The question was whether such restrictious and regulations could be imposed and enforced at the discretion and by the authority of the Crown alone, without Parliament. And it seems by Coke's account1 that the Lord Chancellor-the highest legal officer in the kingdom, and one whom James found in the place, and naturally relied upon in such matters-was of opinion that it was a power which the King either had or ought to have; and that if it could not be justified by any former precedent, it was fit that a precedent should now, with the concurrence of the Judges, be made.
Bacon was present at the conference, along with the Attorney and the Recorder, and took a part in it but since he is not mentioned as saying anything in support of the Lord Chancellor's opinion, I conclude that he remained silent; until, upon Coke's desiring time for consideration and conference with the other Judges before he gave his answer, he took occasion to remind him that the question was not altogether new to him: "Divers sentences had been given in the Star Chamber upon the Proclamation against Building: and he had himself given sentence in divers cases for the said Proclamation:" a fact which Coke does not seem to have been able to contradict; and which as an argumentum ad hominem he could not but allow to be pertinent. If he had himself given sentence against offenders charged with disobeying the Proclamation, he must have been of opinion that such disobedience was an offence legally punishable. But though he might not be able to clear himself of having sanctioned the opinion by implication, it did not follow that it was a sound one. It was better (he said) to go back than to go on in the wrong way. A question of great consequence had been put to him: before he answered it, he desired time to examine precedents and confer with his brethren. A desire so reasonable could not be refused, and the inquiry ended in a resolution "by the two Chief Justices, Chief Baron, and Baron Altham, upon conference betwixt the Lords of the Privy Council and them, that the King by his Procla1 Rep. Part XII. p. 74.
mation cannot create any offence which was not an offence before . . . that he has no prerogative but that which the law of the land allows him . . . and that if the offence be not punishable in the Star Chamber, the prohibition of it by proclamation cannot make it punishable there."
So far, the King had made good his promise to confer with the Judges; and the result of the conference had been clearly in favour of the view maintained in the petition of Grievances. It remained only to make good the rest, by reforming such past proclamations as were inconsistent with this resolution, and providing that no more such be issued. Accordingly on the 24th of September 1610, a proclamation was put forth "signifying his Majesty's pleasure touching some former Proclamations:" by which a considerable number (including, I think, all those specified in the Petition) were withdrawn. And for the future, we have it on Coke's own authority that "after this resolution no proclamation imposing fine and imprisonment was afterwards made."
Upon this article therefore of their petition the King was prepared to meet the Commons with a clear concession; a much better thing for present purposes than the most conclusive justification would have been.
Nevertheless the three months' consideration and discussion inthe country of the terms of the Great Contract had not tended to smooth its way with either party. And though it might seem that an arrangement so advantageous to the Crown should have had all the help which the Court party could give, this does not appear to have been the case. Take the figures as given in the Journals of the House of Commons, and it seems impossible to doubt that as a financial arrangement the Crown would receive by it a great deal more than it gave; and would be made more independent of Parliament than it had ever been before, or was ever likely to be as long as old precedents were held sacred. But the Commons would naturally incline to abate the price of that which they were going to buy; and in estimating the revenue derived from Wardships and Purveyance at 80,0007., it is likely enough that they undervalued it. Another calculation, attributed to no less a man than Sir Julius Cæsar, then Chancellor of the Exchequer and in close alliance with Salisbury, estimates the rights to be parted with as worth 115,000l. a year as then administered, and as capable of improvements which would yield 85,000l. a year more. Now if in exchange for the 200,0007.
1 Coke. Rep. XIII. p. 76.
2 Rep. XII. p. 76.