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A DOUBT has been raised with regard to three of the new pieces printed as Bacon's in the last volume. As the evidence stands, " ordinary people” (it is said) “might say they were not necessarily Bacon's.” Some “ formal proof of their authen. ticity” is needed.
The pieces in question are, 1. The “Memorial of some points which may be touched in his Majesty's speech to both Houses,”—printed from the original manuscript belonging to Mr. David Laing (p. 24). 2. The “letter to the King advising him to call a Parliament,”—from a copy in The Inner Temple Library (p. 176). 3. “The King's Decree touching the granting of Præmunires against any for sueing in Chancery after a judgment at common law,”—from a manuscript formerly belonging to Sir Julius Cæsar (p. 385).
1. With regard to the first, the question would not have arisen, I think, but for an oversight of my own. I ought to have stated that the whole paper, marginalia and all, is written in Bacon's hand : and considering how unlikely it is that he would have copied it himself, when he had all his scribes about him, if it had been another man's composition, I suppose the fact will be accepted even by ordinary people as a sufficient reason for concluding that it was his own.
2. With regard to the Inner Temple manuscript, the cæternal evidence of authenticity is merely the name of “Sir Francis Bacon” on the back ;--a kind of evidence with which ordinary people (if by “ordinary people” I am to understand people who are not familiar enough with the writers of Bacon's age to see differences between one and another) are in general far too
easily satisfied. But though to me the appearance of Bacon's name, whether on the back or at the foot of a composition, does not prove (unless I know who put it there) that he was the composer, it affords a presumption sufficient to justify inquiry; and if I find on examination that the views, sentiments, and style resemble those by which his many known and avowed compositions of the same kind are distinguished, and that the allusions are all consistent with his position at the time, I do not know what right I have to reject it. When I refuse a place among Bacon's works to a composition which has gone
abroad under his name—and I have had occasion to refuse it to several—I always feel bound to give an express reason for thinking that it was not his. In this case I am confident that no such reason can be given : and though I cannot expect the reasons for believing that it was his, and could not have been another's, to seem as conclusive to those who come new to the whole subject as they do to myself, I should not despair of proving the point to the satisfaction of any competent tribunal, if it were seriously disputed by an authority weighty enough to make it worth while.
3. The case of the King's Decree is different, the proof of its authenticity being borne on the very face of it, and as formal as it could well be. It is an official document drawn up in the King's name, reciting, approving, ratifying and confirming two reports from his law-officers. To prove indeed to the satisfaction either of ordinary or extraordinary people that the reciting, approving, ratifying, and confirming clauses (which fill altogether a page and a half out of the ten which the whole paper occupies) were the work of Bacon's own pen, is more than I can undertake. They consist of a few formal sentences of official phraseology, and though it was Bacon's business to see them properly framed—and a business he was not likely to depute to another—there were others no doubt that could have done it without betraying any difference of hand. But that the Decree itself is fully entitled to a place among Bacon's writings of business, I do not see how proof can be needed by anybody who has read it. For of what does
it consist ? It consists merely and entirely of the answers returned by Bacon and his fellows to certain questions referred to them by the Lord Chancellor. The King recites these answers at full length, word for word, as given under all their names, and embodies them in a solemn Decree to be enrolled among the records of the Chancery. What proof of authenticity more formal can anybody want? That Bacon himself drew them up, and that they are as much his as if he had signed them alone, I have for my own part very little doubt. But at any rate he must be regarded as having fully adopted them, for he was the man of highest authority among the signers.
With regard to these particular cases I need say no more. But since they are adduced as examples of a general tendency with which I am credited,-a tendency which if justly imputed would materially affect the value of this collection,-I may be allowed to offer a few words of explanation : the rather because, though these examples are unluckily chosen, others more to the purpose might easily be produced. “Naturally prejudiced in favour of those whom he has known so long and so well as James and Bacon, he has a tendency to assign to the latter much that is simply Baconian (or rather Elizabethan or Jacobean).” Such is the imputation. How my prejudices in favour of James should dispose me to assign to Bacon what does not belong to him, I do not clearly understand. But the gist of the observation seems to be, that my prejudices in favour of Bacon himself-prejudices induced, according to the writer, by knowledge-dispose me to give him as much credit in every way as I can; and that, not being able to distinguish one man's style from another where all styles are so much alike, I am apt to see his hand in everything belonging to his age, and to suppose him the author of every unclaimed contemporary writing which I think would do him credit.
Now I admit that as a man who has made it his business to make as complete a collection as he could of Bacon's occasional writings, I am apter probably than other men, when the