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- Shakespeare, Bacon and the Great Unknown - 20/37 -

Will, had "rewritten and transformed them."

What an associate was our Will for the concealed poet; how certain it was that Will would blackmail the "man in high position"! "Doubtless" he did: we find Bacon arrested for debt, more than once, while Will buys New Place, in Stratford, with the money extorted from the concealed poet of high position. {164a} Bacon did associate with that serpent Phillips, a reptile of Walsingham, who forged a postscript to Mary Stuart's letter to Babington. But now, if not Bacon, then some other concealed poet of high position, with a mysterious passion for rewriting and transforming plays by sad, needy authors, is in close contact with Will Shakspere, the Warwickshire poacher and ignorant butcher's boy, country schoolmaster, draper's apprentice, enfin, tout le tremblement.

"How strange, how more than strange!"

The sum of the matter seems to me to be that from as early as March 3, 1591, we find Henslowe receiving small sums of money for the performances of many plays. He was paid as owner or lessee of the House used by this or that company. On March 3, 1591, the play acted by "Lord Strange's (Derby's) men" was Henry VI. Several other plays with names familiar in Shakespeare's Works, such as Titus Andronicus, all the three parts of Henry VI, King Leare (April 6, 1593), Henry V (May 14, 1592), The Taming of a Shrew (June 11, 1594), and Hamlet, paid toll to Henslowe. He "received" so much, on each occasion, when they were acted in a theatre of his. But he never records his purchase of these plays; and it is not generally believed that Shakespeare was the author of all these plays, in the form which they bore in 1591-4: though there is much difference of opinion.

There is one rather interesting case. On August 25, 1594, Henslowe enters "ne" (that is, "a new play") "Received at the Venesyon Comodey, eighteen pence." That was his share of the receipts. The Lord Chamberlain's Company, that of Shakespeare, was playing in Henslowe's theatre at Newington Butts. If the "Venesyon Comodey" (Venetian Comedy) were The Merchant of Venice, this is the first mention of it. But nobody knows what Henslowe meant by "the Venesyon Comodey." He does not mention the author's name, because, in this part of his accounts he never does mention the author or authors. He only names them when he buys from, or lends to, or has other money dealings with the authors. He had none with Shakespeare, hence the Silence of Philip Henslowe.


In the chapter on the Preoccupations of Bacon the reader may find help in making up his mind as to whether Bacon, with his many and onerous duties and occupations, his scientific studies, and his absorbing scientific preoccupation, is a probable author of the Shakespearean plays. Mr. Greenwood finds the young Shakspere impossible--because of his ignorance--which made him such a really good pseudo-author, and such a successful mask for Bacon, or Bacon's unknown equivalent. The Shakspere of later life, the well-to-do Shakspere, the purchaser of the right to bear arms; so bad at paying one debt at least; so eager a creditor; a would-be encloser of a common; a man totally bookless, is, to Mr. Greenwood's mind, an impossible author of the later plays.

Here, first, are moral objections on the ground of character as revealed in some legal documents concerning business. Now, I am very ready to confess that William's dealings with his debtors, and with one creditor, are wholly unlike what I should expect from the author of the plays. Moreover, the conduct of Shelley in regard to his wife was, in my opinion, very mean and cruel, and the last thing that we could have expected from one who, in verse, was such a tender philanthropist, and in life was--women apart--the best-hearted of men. The conduct of Robert Burns, alas, too often disappoints the lover of his Cottar's Saturday Night and other moral pieces. He was an inconsistent walker.

I sincerely wish that Shakespeare had been less hard in money matters, just as I wish that in financial matters Scott had been more like himself, that he had not done the last things that we should have expected him to do. As a member of the Scottish Bar it was inconsistent with his honour to be the secret proprietor of a publishing and a printing business. This is the unexplained moral paradox in the career of a man of chivalrous honour and strict probity: but the fault did not prevent Scott from writing his novels and poems. Why, then, should the few bare records of Shakspere's monetary transactions make HIS authorship impossible? The objection seems weakly sentimental.

Macaulay scolds Scott as fiercely as Mr. Greenwood scolds Shakspere,- -for the more part, ignorantly and unjustly. Still, there is matter to cause surprise and regret. Both Scott and Shakspere are accused of writing for gain, and of spending money on lands and houses with the desire to found families. But in the mysterious mixture of each human personality, any sober soul who reflects on his own sins and failings will not think other men's failings incompatible with intellectual excellence. Bacon's own conduct in money matters was that of a man equally grasping and extravagant. Ben Jonson thus describes Shakespeare as a social character: "He was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature . . . I loved the man and do honour his memory on this side idolatry as much as any." Perhaps Ben never owed money to Shakspere and refused to pay!

We must not judge a man's whole intellectual character, and declare him to be incapable of poetry, on the score of a few legal papers about matters of business. Apparently Shakspere helped that Elizabethan Mr. Micawber, his father, out of a pecuniary slough of despond, in which the ex-High Bailiff of the town was floundering,-- pursued by the distraint of one of the friendly family of Quiney-- Adrian Quiney. They were neighbours and made a common dunghill in Henley Street. {171a} I do not, like Mr. Greenwood, see anything "at all out of the way" in the circumstance "that a man should be writing Hamlet, and at the same time bringing actions for petty sums lent on loan at some unspecified interest." {171b} Nor do I see anything at all out of the way in Bacon's prosecution of his friend and benefactor, Essex (1601), while Bacon was writing Hamlet. Indeed, Shakspere's case is the less "out of the way" of the two. He wanted his loan to be repaid, and told his lawyer to bring an action. Bacon wanted to keep his head (of inestimable value) on his shoulders; or to keep his body out of the Tower; or he merely, as he declares, wanted to do his duty as a lawyer of the Crown. In any case, Bacon was in a tragic position almost unexampled; and was at once overwhelmed by work, and, one must suppose, by acute distress of mind, in the case of Essex. He must have felt this the more keenly, if, as some Baconians vow, HE WROTE THE SONNETS TO ESSEX. Whether he were writing his Hamlet when engaged in Essex's case (1601), or any other of his dramatic masterpieces, even this astonishing man must have been sorely bestead to combine so many branches of business.

Thus I would reply to Mr. Greenwood's amazement that Shakspere, a hard creditor, and so forth, should none the less have been able to write his plays. But if it is meant that a few business transactions must have absorbed the whole consciousness of Shakespeare, and left him neither time nor inclination for poetry, consider the scientific preoccupation of Bacon, his parliamentary duties, his ceaseless activity as "one of the legal body-guard of the Queen" at a time when he had often to be examining persons accused of conspiracy,--and do not forget his long and poignant anxiety about Essex, his constant efforts to reconcile him with Elizabeth, and to advocate his cause without losing her favour; and, finally, the anguish of prosecuting his friend, and of knowing how hardly the world judged his own conduct. Follow him into his relations with James I; his eager pursuit of favour, the multiplicity of his affairs, his pecuniary distresses, and the profound study and severe labour entailed by the preparation for and the composition of The Advancement of Learning (1603-5). He must be a stout-hearted Baconian who can believe that, between 1599 and 1605, Bacon was writing Hamlet, and other masterpieces of tragedy or comedy. But all is possible to genius. What Mr. Greenwood's Great Unknown was doing at this period, "neither does he know, nor do I know, but he only." He, no doubt, had abundance of leisure.

At last Shakspere died (1616), and had not the mead of one melodious tear, as far as we know, from the London wits, in the shape of obituary verses. This fills Mr. Greenwood with amazement. "Was it because 'the friends of the Muses' were for the most part aware that Shakespeare had not died with Shakspere?" Did Jonson perchance think that his idea might be realised when he wrote,

"What a sight it were, To see thee in our waters yet appear"?

and so on. Did Jonson expect and hope to see the genuine "Shakespeare" return to the stage, seven years after the death of Shakspere the actor, the Swan of Avon? As Jonson was fairly sane, we can no more suspect him of having hoped for this miracle than believe that most of the poets knew the actor not to be the author. Moreover Jonson, while desiring that Shakespeare might "shine forth" again and cheer the drooping stage, added,

"Which since thy flight from hence hath mourned like Night, And despairs day, but for thy volume's light,"

that is--the Folio of 1623. Ben did not weave the amazing tissue of involved and contradictory falsities attributed to him by Baconians. Beaumont died in the same year as Shakspere, who died in the depths of the country, weary of London. Has Mr. Greenwood found obituary poems dropped on the grave of the famous Beaumont? Did Fletcher, did Jonson, produce one melodious tear for the loss of their friend; in Fletcher's case his constant partner? No? Were the poets, then, aware that Beaumont was a humbug, whose poems and plays were written by Bacon? {174a}

I am not to discuss Shakespeare's Will, the "second-best bed," and so forth. But as Shakespeare's Will says not a word about his books, it is decided by Mr. Greenwood that he had no books. Mr. Greenwood is a lawyer; so was my late friend Mr. Charles Elton, Q.C., of White Staunton, who remarks that Shakespeare bequeathed "all the rest of my goods, chattels, leases, &c., to my son-in-law, John Hall, gent." (He really WAS a "gent." with authentic coat-armour.)

It is with Mr. Elton's opinion, not with my ignorance, that Mr. Greenwood must argue in proof of the view that "goods" are necessarily exclusive of books, for Mr. Elton takes it as a quite natural fact that Shakespeare's books passed, with his other goods, to Mr. Hall, and thence to a Mr. Nash, to whom Mr. Hall left "my study of books" {175a} (library). I only give this as a lawyer's

Shakespeare, Bacon and the Great Unknown - 20/37

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