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the common view of his character, might have been expected in a letter to the man who had been the King's personal favourite for many years, and had greater influence with him now than ever before. Sir George Carey, who had been made Master of the Wards in June (somewhat to the disappointment of Bacon who had expected the place himself), died on the 13th of November, "of this new disease," says Chamberlain,'-and Bacon wrote the following letter
TO THE R. HON. HIS VERY GOOD L. THE VISCOUNT ROCHESTER OF HIS MS MOST HON. PR. COUNSEL.2
It may please your good L.
This Mastership of the Wards is like a mist. Sometimes it goeth upwards, and sometimes it falleth downwards. If it go up to great Lords, then it is as it was at the first; if it fall down to mean men, then it is as it was at the last. But neither of these ways concern me in particular. But if it should in a middle region go to lawyers, then I beseech your L. have some care of me. The Attorney and the Solicitor are as the King's champions for civil business, and they had need have some place of rest in their eye for their encouragement. The Mastership of the Rolls, which was the ordinary place kept for them, is gone from them. If this place should go to a lawyer, and not to them, their hopes must diminish. Thus I rest
Your Lp's affectionate
to do you humble service
What encouragement Bacon received on this occasion we do not know, but it is said on good authoritys that he was so confident of the place that he had "put most of his men into new cloaks" in anticipation of it. Again however he was disappointed. It went again to a mean man. "Among many suitors for the place (says Chamberlain, 19 Nov.). . . . I heard for certain yesterday that Sir Walter Cope has gotten the grant of it. I have it from one that heard himself speak it on Tuesday to the Earl of Salisbury. If it fall out so I shall marvel at the luck of the thing, and if the two last
119 Nov. 1612. Court and Times of James I., i. p. 208.
2 S. P. Dom. James I., vol. lxxi. no. 34. Original, own hand. No date. 3 Dr. Rawley's Commonplace book. "Sir Francis Bacon certainly expecting the place had put most of his men into new cloaks. Afterward when Sir Walter Cope carried the place, one said merrily that Sir Walter was Master of the Wards and Sir Francis Bacon of the Liveries." Lit. and Prof. Works, ii. p. 182.
Treasurers could look out of their graves to see these successors in that place, I think they would be out of countenance with themselves and say to the world quantum mutatus!”
The death of the Prince, occurring only three weeks after the arrival of the Count Palatine, necessarily postponed the marriage and prolonged his visit. But the delay was a serious inconvenience in the then state of the Exchequer, and the period of mourning was made as short as the customs of the time permitted. The marriage was celebrated on the 14th of February 1612-3, with the usual triumphs and rejoicings,-fire-works, sham fights upon the water, masques, running at the ring, and the rest of it; concerning which it would not have been necessary to say anything, were it not that Bacon took a principal part in the preparation of one of the masques. This was the joint masque presented by the gentlemen of Gray's Inn and the Inner Temple, written by Francis Beaumont, and printed shortly after with the following dedication.
TO THE WORTHY SIR FRANCIS BACON HIS MAJESTY'S SOLICITORGENERAL, AND THE GRAVE AND LEARNED BENCH OF THE ANCIENTLY ALLIED HOUSES OF GRAY'S INN AND THE INNER TEMPLE, THE INNER TEMPLE AND GRAY'S INN.
Ye that spared no pain nor travail in the setting forth, ordering, and furnishing of this Masque, (being the first fruits of honour in this kind which these two societies have offered to his Majesty), will not think much now to look back upon the effects of your own care and work; for that, whereof the success was then doubtful, is now happily performed and graciously accepted; and that which you were then to think of in straits of time, you may now peruse at leisure: and you, Sir Francis Bacon, especially, as you did then by your countenance and loving affections advance it, so let your good word grace it and defend it, which is able to add value to the greatest and least matters.
It is easy to believe that if Bacon took an active part in the preparation of a thing of this kind in the success of which he felt an interest, he would have a good deal to say about all the arrangements. But as we have no means of knowing what he did say, and thereby learning something as to his taste in this department of art, it will be enough to give a general account of the performance as described by a contemporary witness.
On Tuesday (says Chamberlain, writing on the 18th of February 1612-3) 1 S. P. Dom. James I., vol. lxxi. no. 38.
it came to Grays Inn and the Inner Temple's turn to come with their masque, whereof Sir Francis Bacon was the chief contriver; and because the former came on horseback and in open chariots, they made choice to come by water from Winchester Place, in Southwark; which suited well with their device, which was the marriage of the river of Thames to the Rhine; and their show by water was very gallant, by reason of infinite store of lights, very curiously set and placed, and many boats and barges, with devices of light and lamps, with three peals of ordnance, one at their taking water, another in the Temple garden, and the last at their landing : which passage by water cost them better than three hundred pounds. They were received at the Privy Stairs, and great expectation there was that they should every way excel their competitors that went before them, both in device, daintiness of apparel, and above all in dancing, wherein they are held excellent and esteemed for the properer men.
But by what ill planet it fell out I know not, they came home as they went, without doing anything; the reason whereof I cannot yet learn thoroughly, but only that the hall was so full that it was not possible to avoid it or make room for them; besides that most of the ladies were in the galleries to see them land, and could not get in. But the worst of all was that the King was so wearied and sleepy with sitting up almost two whole nights before, that he had no edge to it. Whereupon Sir Francis Bacon adventured to entreat of his Majesty that by this difference he would not, as it were, bury them quick; and I hear the King should answer that then they must bury him quick, for he could last no longer; but withal gave them very good words, and appointed them to come again on Saturday. But the grace of their masque is quite gone, when their apparel hath been already showed, and their devices vented, so that how it will fall out God knows, for they are much discouraged and out of countenance, and the world says it comes to pass after the old proverb, the properer man the worse luck.'
Their devices however went much beyond the mere exhibition of themselves and their apparel, and there was novelty enough behind the curtain to make a sufficient entertainment by itself, without the water business for overture. Chamberlain writes again on the
Our Gray's Inn men and the Inner Templars were nothing discouraged for all the first dodge, but on Saturday last performed their parts exceeding well and with great applause and approbation both from the King and all the company. The next night the King invited the masquers with their assistants, to the number of forty, to a solemn supper in the new marriageroom, where they were well treated and much graced with kissing his Majesty's hand and every one having a particular accoglienza from him.?
The Masque itself, with all particulars as to scenery, dresses, and 1 Court and Times of James I., i. p. 227. * Ibid., p. 229.
stage arrangements, may be seen in any edition of Beaumont and Fletcher. For what Bacon had to say about such things, see his Essay on Masques and Triumphs; which was very likely suggested by the consideration he had to bestow upon this.
In these days, when anybody may publish any opinion about public matters without fear of worse than ridicule or dislike, it is not easy to imagine a world in which the publication of a false opinion was held to be an offence and forbidden under penalties. The futility of all attempts to suppress error by authority has been so well established by experience, that we have come to regard the attempt itself as immoral. In opinious, as in trade, we have learned that interference is mischievous; and the only error which we cannot tolerate is the error of putting restrictions on their freedom of development. Now in the beginning of the 17th century this was not the doctrine of any party, or probably of any person. The champions of liberty were quite as forward as the champions of authority in forbidding the utterance of opinions which they thought would do harm. If a Bishop published a book in which the proceedings of the House of Commons were discussed and censured (unjustly in their own opinion), all business was suspended till he and his book had been disavowed and rebuked, and a formal submission and apology extorted from him. If a Professor of Civil Law published a law-dictionary "wherein was set forth the true meaning of all or the most part of such words and terms as are mentioned in the law writers or the statutes of this victorious and renowned kingdom, requiring any exposition or interpretation ;" and if it were found that his definition of such words as King, Parliament, Prerogative, Subsidy, implied legal doctrines inconsistent with the privileges of the House of Commons as interpreted by themselves; there was no peace until the King had issued a Proclamation forbidding all men to buy sell or read the book, commanding every man who had a copy to give it up to the nearest person in authority, and promising to exercise thenceforward a stricter censorship of the press in matters concerning the laws and the government.? If an old gentleman, in speaking of the King and Queen of Bohemia, at a time when the nation was in excitement and their cause popular, had the indiscretion to use a contemptuous epithet, what was to be done? He had to be handed over by the House of Commons to the House of Lords, there formally charged by the Attorney General with notorious misdemeanours and high pre1 Bishop of Bristol's case. See vol. iii. p. 209.
2 Dr. Cowel's case. See above, p. 161.
sumption-namely, that he had "rejoiced at the losses happened to the King's daughter and her children," that he had "discouraged others who were of good affection unto them," that he had "spoken basely of them," and that he had "taken upon himself to judge of the rights of kingdoms "-and thereupon sentenced to be for ever held an infamous person, incapable of bearing arms like a gentleman or giving testimony in a Court of Justice; to be branded; to stand. in the pillory; to be whipped at a cart's tail from the Fleet to Westminster Hall; to be fined 50007. and to be imprisoned in Newgate for life. When measures like these were not only allowed by a House of Commons famous for its championship of the subject's liberty to pass without remonstrance, but welcomed with gratitude and applause as the fit retribution for the utterance of opinions supposed to be derogatory to the privileges of Parliament, we cannot wonder that exception was occasionally taken by the Council to opinions supposed to be derogatory to the prerogatives of the Crown, and that the Crown lawyers were called upon to prove the authors guilty of contempt.
A case of the kind happened about this time, in which Bacon had to take a part, and which therefore I should not be justified in passing over. Oddly enough, the occasion out of which it grew was an attempt on the part of the Crown to reform an unpopular abuse. It had been found or suspected that the service of the Navy was suf fering through the misconduct of some of the inferior officers and servants. Thereupon commissioners were appointed with authority to enquire and examine, to take order for the punishment of offenders, to reform the rules, and generally to set right whatever was wrong. The commissioners were the principal councillors of state; and the whole proceeding has every appearance upon the face of it of being just and laudable. That it was agreeable to the superior officers of the department, did not of course follow of necessity. Commissioners of enquiry ab extra are seldom agreeable to heads of departments, and never less so than when they are most wanted. The old Earl of Nottingham, who was still Lord High Admiral, and Sir Robert Mansel, who was Treasurer of the Navy, not only disliked, but determined if possible to resist and defeat it; and with that view employed a lawyer, who had distinguished himself in Parliament as a critic of the Prerogative, to find objections to the commission in point of law which he accordingly did. As neither the commission itself nor the paper of exceptions to it has been preserved, we cannot form any judgment for ourselves upon the merits of the argument or the constitutionality of the doctrines expressed or implied in the 1 Floyd's case in 1621. See Journals.