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close of the reign of George the Second was the most enviable ever occupied by any public man in English history. He had conciliated the king; he dominecred over the House of Commons; he was adored by the people; he was admired by all Europe. He was the first Englishman of his time; and he had made England the first country in the world. The Great Commoner-the name by which he was often designated-might look down with scorn on coronets and garters. The nation was drunk with joy and pride. The Parliament was as quiet as it had been under Pelham. The old party distinctions were almost effaced; nor was their place yet supplied by distinctions of a yet more important kind. A new generation of country-squires and rectors had arisen who knew not the Stuarts. The Dissenters were tolerated; the Catholics not cruelly persecuted. The Church was drowsy and indulgent. The great civil and religious conflict which began at the Reformation seemed to have terminated in universal repose. Whigs and
Tories, Churchman and Puritans, spoke with equal reverence of the constitution, and with equal enthusiasm of the talents, virtues, and services of the minister.
A few years sufficed to change the whole aspect of affairs. A nation convulsed by fac tion, a throne assailed by the fiercest invective, a House of Commons hated and despised_by the nation, England set against Scotland, Britain set against America, a rival legislature sitting beyond the Atlantic, English blood shed by English bayonets, our armies capitulating, our conquests wrested from us, our enemies hastening to take vengeance for past humiliation, our flag scarcely able to maintain itself in our own seas-such was the spectacle Pitt lived to see. But the history of this great revolution requires far more space than we can at present bestow. We leave the "Great Commoner" in the zenith of his glory. It is not impossible that we may take some other opportunity of tracing his life to its melancholy yet not inglorious, close
[Edinburgh Review, 1837.]
WE return our hearty thanks to Mr. Montagu, as well for his very valuable edition of Lord Bacon's Works, as for the instructive Life of the immortal author, contained in the last volume. We have much to say on the subject of this Life, and will often find ourselves obliged to dissent from the opinions of the biographer. But about his merit as a collector of the materials out of which opinions are formed, there can be no dispute; and we readily acknowledge that we are in a great measure indebted to his minute and accurate researches, for the means of refuting what we cannot but consider his errors.
derives pleasure and advantage from the performances of such a man. The number of those who suffer by his personal vices is small, even in his own time, when compared with the number of those to whom his talents are a source of gratification. In a few years, all those whom he has injured disappear. But his works remain, and are a source of delight to millions. The genius of Sallust is still with
The labour which has been bestowed on this volume, has been a labour of love. The writer is evidently enamoured of the subject. It fills his heart. It constantly overflows from his lips and his pen. Those who are acquainted with the courts in which Mr. Montagu practises with so much ability and success, well know how often he enlivens the discussion of a point of law by citing some weighty aphorism, or some brilliant illustration, from the De Augmentis or the Novum Organum. The Life before us, doubtless, owes much of its value to the honest and generous enthusiasm of the writer. This feeling has stimulated his activity; has sustained his perseverance; has called forth all his ingenuity and eloquence: but, on the other hand, we must frankly say, that it has, to a great extent, perverted his judgment.
But the Numidians whom he plundered, and the unfortunate husbands who caught him in their houses at unseasonable hours, are forgotten. We suffer ourselves to be delighted by the keenness of Clarendon's observation, and by the sober majesty of his style, till we forget the oppressor and the bigot in the historian. Falstaff and Tom Jones have survived the gamekeepers whom Shakspeare cudgelled, and the landladies whom Fielding bilked. A great writer is the friend and benefactor of his readers; and they cannot but judge of him under the deluding influence of friendship and gratitude. We all know how unwilling we are to admit the truth of any disgraceful story about a person whose society we like, and from whom we have received favours, how long we struggle against evidence, how fondly, when the facts cannot be disputed, we cling to the hope that there may be some explanation or some extenuating circumstance with which we are unacquainted. Just such is the feeling which a man of liberal education naturally entertains towards the great minds of former We are by no means without sympathy for ages. The debt which he owes to them is inMr. Montagu even in what we consider as his calculable. They have guided him to truth. weakness. There is scarcely any delusion They have filled his mind with noble and which has a better claim to be indulgently graceful images. They have stood by him in treated than that, under the influence of which all vicissitudes-comforters in sorrow, nurses a man ascribes every moral excellence to in sickness, companions in solitude. These those who have left imperishable monuments friendships are exposed to no danger from the of their genius. The causes of this error lie occurrences by which other attachments are deep in the inmost recesses of human nature. weakened or dissolved. Time glides by; forWe are all inclined to judge of others as we tune is inconstant; tempers are soured; bonds find them. Our estimate of a character always which seemed indissoluble are daily sundered depends much on the manner in which that by interest, by emulation, or by caprice. But character affects our own interests and pas- no such cause can affect the silent converse sions. We find it difficult to think well of which we hold with the highest of human inthose by whom we are thwarted or depressed; tellects. That placid intercourse is disturbed and we are ready to admit every excuse for by no jealousies or resentments. These are the vices of those who are useful or agreeable the old friends who are never seen with new to us. This is, we believe, one of those illu- faces, who are the same in wealth and in sions to which the whole human race is sub-poverty, in glory and in obscurity. With the ject, and which experience and reflection can dead there is no rivalry. In the dead there is only partially remove. It is, in the phraseolo- no change. Plato is never sullen. Cervantes gy of Bacon, one of the idola tribus. Hence it is never petulant. Demosthenes never comes is, that the moral character of a man eminent unseasonably. Dante never stays too long. in letters, or in the fine arts, is treated-often No difference of political opinion can alienate by contemporaries-almost always by posterity Cicero. No heresy can excite the horror of -with extraordinary tenderness. The world Bossuet.
The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of Eng new By BASIL MONTAGU, vols. 8vo. London. 1825-1834.
Nothing, then, can be more natural than that a person of sensibility and imagination should entertain a respectful and affectionate feeling
towards those great men with whose minds he | defence of one most eloquent and accomplished holds daily communion. Yet nothing can be more certain than that such men have not always deserved, in their own persons, to be regarded with respect or affection. Some writers, whose works will continue to instruct and delight mankind to the remotest ages, have been placed in such situations, that their actions and motives are as well known to us as the actions and motives of one human being can be known to another; and unhappily their conduct has not always been such as an impartial judge can contemplate with approbation. But the fanaticism of the devout worshipper of genius is proof against all evidence and all argument. The character of his idol is matter of faith; and the province of faith is not to be invaded by reason. He maintains his superstition with a credulity as boundless, and a zeal as unscrupulous, as can be found in the most ardent partisans of religious or political factions. The most overwhelming proofs are rejected; the plainest rules of morality are explained away; extensive and important portions of history are completely distorted; the enthusiast misrepresents facts with all the effrontery of an advocate, and confounds right and wrong with the dexterity of a Jesuit-and all this only in order that some man who has been in his grave for ages may have a fairer character
than he deserves.
The volume before us reminds us now and then of the "Life of Cicero." But there is this marked difference. Dr. Middleton evidently had an uneasy consciousness of the weakness of his cause, and therefore resorted to the most disingenuous shifts, to unpardonable distortions and suppressions of facts. Mr. Montagu's faith is sincere and implicit. He practises no trickery. He conceals nothing. He puts the facts before us in the full confidence that they will produce on our minds the effect which they have produced on his own. It is not till he comes to reason from facts to motives, that his partiality shows itself; and then he leaves Middleton himself far behind. His work proceeds on the assumption that Bacon was an eminently virtuous man. From the tree Mr. Montagu judges of the fruit. He is forced to relate many actions, which, if any man but Bacon had committed them, nobody would have dreamed of defending-actions which are readily and completely explained by supposing Bacon to have been a man whose principles were not strict, and whose spirit was not high all-actions which can be explained in no other way, without resorting to some grotesque hy pothesis for which there is not a title of evi dence. But any hypothesis is, in Mr. Montagu's opinion, more probable than that his hero should ever have done any thing very wrong.
Middleton's "Life of Cicero" is a striking instance of the influence of this sort of partiality. Never was there a character which it was easier to read than that of Cicero. Never was there a mind keener or more critical than that of Middleton. Had the doctor brought to the examination of his favourite statesman's conduct but a very small part of the acuteness and severity which he displayed when he was engaged in investigating the high pretensions of Epiphanius and Justin Martyr, he could not have failed to produce a most valuable history of a most interesting portion of time. But this most ingenious and learned man, though "So wary held and wise That, as't was said, he scarce received For gospel what the church believed,"
This mode of defending Bacon seems to us by no means Baconian. To take a man's cha racter for granted, and then from his character to infer the moral quality of all his actions, is surely a process the very reverse of that which is recommended in the Novum Organum. No thing, we are sure, could have led Mr. Montagu to depart so far from his master's precepts, except zeal for his master's honour. We shall follow a different course. We shall attempt, with the valuable assistance which Mr. Montagu has afforded us, to frame such an account of Bacon's life as may enable our readers correctly to estimate his character.
had a superstition of his own. The great Iconoclast was himself an idolater. The great Avvocata del Diavolo, while he disputed, with no small ability, the claims of Cyprian and Athanasius to a place in the Calendar, was himself composing a lying legend in honour of St. Tully! He was holding up as a model of every virtue a man whose talents and acquire ments, indeed, can never be too highly extolled, and who was by no means destitute of amiable qualities, but whose whole soul was under the dominion of a girlish vanity and a craven fear. Actions for which Cicero him-racter, we had almost said one life, may, to a self, the most eloquent and skilful of advocates, considerable extent, serve for them all. could contrive no excuse, actions which in his They were the first generation of statesmen confidential correspondence he mentioned with by profession that England produced. Before remorse and shame, are represented by his their time the division of labour had, in this biographer as wise, virtuous, heroic. The respect, been very imperfect. Those who had whole history of that great revolution which directed public affairs had been, with few ex overthrew the Roman aristocracy, the whole ceptions, warriors or priests: warriors whose state of parties, the character of every public rude courage was neither guided by science man, is elaborately misrepresented, in order to nor softened by humanity; priests whose make out something which may look like a learning and abilities were habitually devoted
It is hardly necessary to say that Francis Bacon was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, who held the great seal of England during the first twenty years of the reign of Elizabeth. The fame of the father has been thrown into shade by that of the son. But Sir Nicholas was no ordinary man. He belonged to a set of men whom it is easier to describe collectively than separately; whose minds were formed by one system of discipline; who belonged to one rank in society, to one university, to one party, to one sect, to one administration; and who resembled each other so much in talents, in opinions, in habits, in fortunes, that one cha
Henry that the new theology obtained the ascendant at one time, and that the lessons of the nurse and of the priest regained their influence at another. It was not only in the house of Tudor that the husband was exasperated by the opposition of the wife, that the son dissented from the opinions of the father, that the brother persecuted the sister, the one sister persecuted another. The principles of conservation and reform carried on their warfare in every part of society, in every congregation, in every school of learning, round the hearth of every private family, in the recesses of every reflecting mind.
to the defence of tyranny and imposture. The Hotspurs, the Nevilles, the Cliffords-rough, illiterate, and unreflecting-brought to the council-board the fierce and imperious disposition which they had acquired amidst the tumult of predatory war, or in the gloomy repose of the garrisoned and moated castle. On the other side was the calm and subtle prelate, versed in all that was then considered as learning; trained in the schools to manage words, and in the confessional to manage hearts; seldom superstitious, but skilful in practising on the superstition of others; false as it was natural that a man should be, whose profession imposed on all who were not saints the necessity of being hypocrites; selfish as it was natural that a man should be, who could form no domestic ties, and cherish no hope of legitimate posterity; more attached to his order than to his country, and guiding the politics of England with a constant side-glance at Rome. But the increase of wealth, the progress of knowledge, and the reformation of religion produced a great change. The nobles ceased to be military chieftains; the priests ceased to possess a monopoly of learning; and a new and remarkable species of politicians appeared.
It was in the midst of this ferment that the minds of the persons whom we are describing were developed. They were born Reformers. They belonged by nature to that order of men who always form the front ranks in the great intellectual progress. They were, therefore, one and all Protestants. In religious matters, however, though there is no reason to doubt that they were sincere, they were by no means zealous. None of them chose to run the smallest personal risk during the reign of Mary. None of them favoured the unhappy attempt of Northumberland in favour of his daughterThese men came from neither of the classes in-law. None of them shared in the desperate which had, till then, almost exclusively fur- councils of Wyatt. They contrived to have nished ministers of state. They were all lay- business on the Continent; or, if they stayed in men; yet they were all men of learning, and England, they heard Mass and kept Lent with they were all men of peace. They were not great decorum. When those dark and perilmembers of the aristocracy. They inherited ous years had gone by, and when the crown no titles, no large domains, no armies of re- had descended to a new sovereign, they took tainers, no fortified castles. Yet they were not the lead in the reformation of the church. But low men, such as those whom princes, jealous they proceeded not with the impetuosity of of the power of a nobility, have sometimes theologians, but with the calm determination raised from forges, and cobblers' stalls, to the of statesmen. They acted, not like men who highest situations. They were all gentlemen considered the Romish worship as a system by birth. They had all received a liberal edu- too offensive to God and too destructive of cation. It is a remarkable fact that they were souls to be tolerated for an hour; but like men all members of the same university. The two who regarded the points in dispute among great national seats of learning had even then Christians as in themselves unimportant; and acquired the characters which they still retain. who were not restrained by any scruple of In intellectual activity, and in readiness to conscience from professing, as they had before admit improvements, the superiority was then, professed, the Catholic faith of Mary, the Proas it has ever since been, on the side of the testant faith of Edward, or any of the numerous less ancient and splendid institution. Cam-intermediate combinations which the caprice bridge had the honour of educating those cele- of Henry, and the temporizing policy of Cranbrated Protestant bishops whom Oxford had mer, had formed out of the doctrines of both the honour of burning; and at Cambridge the hostile parties. They took a deliberate were formed the minds of all those statesmen view of the state of their own country and of to whom chiefly is to be attributed the secure the continent. They satisfied themselves as establishment of the reformed religion in the to the leaning of the public mind; and they north of Europe. chose their side. They placed themselves at the head of the Protestants of Europe, and staked all their fame and fortunes on the suc cess of their party.
The statesmen of whom we speak passed their youth surrounded by the incessant din of theological controversy. Opinions were still in a state of chaotic anarchy, intermingling, It is needless to relate how dexterously, how separating, advancing, receding. Sometimes resolutely, how gloriously, they directed the the stubborn bigotry of the Conservatives politics of England during the eventful years seemed likely to prevail. Then the impetuous which followed; how they succeeded in unitonset of the Reformers for a moment carried ing their friends and separating their enemies; all before it. Then again the resisting mass how they humbled the pride of Philip; how made a desperate stand, arrested the move- they backed the unconquerable spirit of Coment, and forced it slowly back. The vacilla- ligni; how they rescued Holland from tyrantion which at that time appeared in English ny; how they founded the maritime greatness legislation, and which it has been the fashion of their country; how they outwitted the artful to attribute to the caprice and to the power of politicians of Italy, and tamed the ferocious one or two individuals, was a national chieftains of Scotland. It is impossible to vacillation. It was not only in the mind of deny that they committed many acts which
There were, doubtless, many diversities in their intellectual and moral character. But there was a strong family likeness. The constitution of their minds was remarkably sound. No particular faculty was pre-eminently developed; but manly health and vigour were equally diffused through the whole.
would justly bring on a statesman of our time | perhaps contained in the motto which Sit censures of the most serious kind. But when Nicholas Bacon inscribed over the entrance of we consider the state of morality in their age, his hall at Gorhambury-Mediocria firma. This and the unscrupulous character of the adver- maxim was constantly borne in mind by him. saries against whom they had to contend, we self and his colleagues. They were more are forced to admit, that it is not without rea- solicitous to lay the foundations of their power son that their names are still held in veneration deep, than to raise the structure to a conspi by their countrymen. cuous but insecure height. None of them aspired to be sole minister. None of them provoked envy by an ostentatious display of wealth and influence. None of them affected to outshine the ancient aristocracy of the kingdom. They were free from that childish love of titles which characterized the successful courtiers of the generation which preceded They were men of letters. Their minds them, and that which followed them. As to were by nature and by exercise well-fashioned money, none of them could, in that age, justly for speculative pursuits. It was by circum- be considered as rapacious. Some of them stances rather than by any strong bias of in- would, even in our time, deserve the praise of clination, that they were led to take a promi-eminent disinterestedness. Their fidelity to nent part in active life. In active life, however, the state was incorruptible. Their private no men could be more perfectly free from the morals were without stain. Their households faults of mere theorists and pedants. No men were sober and well governed. observed more accurately the signs of the times. No men had a greater practical acquaintance with human nature. Their policy was generally characterized rather by vigilance, by moderation, and by firmness, than| by invention or by the spirit of enterprise.
Among these statesmen Sir Nicholas Bacon was generally considered as ranking next to Burleigh. He was called by Camden, "Sacris conciliis alterum columen;" and by George Buchanan,
They spoke and wrote in a manner worthy of their excellent sense. Their eloquence was less copious and less ingenious, but far purer and more manly than that of the succeeding generation. It was the eloquence of men who had lived with the first translators of the Bible, and with the authors of the Book of Common Prayer. It was luminous, dignified, solid, and very slightly tainted with that affectation which deformed the style of the ablest men of the next age. If, as sometimes chanced, they were under the necessity of taking a part in those theological controversies on which the dearest interests of kingdoms were then staked, they acquitted themselves as if their whole lives had been passed in the schools and the
There was something in the temper of these celebrated men which secured them against the proverbial inconstancy both of the court and of the multitude. No intrigue, no combination of rivals, could deprive them of the confidence of their sovereign. No Parliament attacked their influence. No mob coupled their names with any odious grievance. Their power ended only with their lives. In this respect their fate presents a most remarkable contrast to that of the enterprising and brilliant politicians of the preceding, and of the succeeding generation. Burleigh was minister during forty years. Sir Nicholas Bacon held the great seal more than twenty years. Sir Thomas Smith was Secretary of State eighteen years; Sir Francis Walsingham about as long. They all died in office, and in the full enjoyment of public respect and royal favour. Far different had been the fate of Wolsey, Cromwell, Norfolk, Somerset, and Northum berland. Far different also was the fate of Essex, of Raleigh, and of the still more illusious man whose life we propose to consider. The explanation of this circumstance is
The second wife of Sir Nicholas, and the mother of Francis Bacon, was Anne, one of
daughters of Sir Anthony Cook-a man of distinguished learning, who had been tutor to Edward the Sixth. Sir Anthony had paid
considerable attention to the education of his
daughters, and lived to see them all splendidly and happily married. Their classical acquire the women of fashion of that age. Katherine, ments made them conspicuous even among who became Lady Killigrew, wrote Latia hox ameters and pentameters which would appear with credit in the Musa Etonenses. Mildred, the wife of Lord Burleigh, was described by Roger Ascham as the best Greek scholar among the young women of England, Lady ther of Francis Bacon, was distinguished both Jane Grey always excepted. Anne, the moas a linguist and as a theologian. She corres ponded in Greek with Bishop Jewell, and translated his Apologia from the Latin, so cor rectly that neither he nor Archbishop Parker could suggest a single alteration. She also
translated a series of sermons on fate and
free will from the Tuscan of Bernardo Ochino. This fact is the more curious, as Ochino was
one of that small and audacious band of Ita
lian reformers-anathematized alike by Wittenberg, by Geneva, by Zurich, and by Rome -from which the Socinian sect deduces its origin.
But we must not suffer ourselves to be deluded
Lady Bacon was doubtless a lady of highly cultivated mind after the fashion of her age. into the belief, that she and her sisters were more accomplished women than many who are now living. On this subject there is, we heard men who wish, as almost all men of think, much misapprehension. We have often
* Strype's Life of Parker.