Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

invent his design and his method, he borrows all his most significant stories from him, and brings them in to illustrate the same points, and the points are borrowed also: he makes use, indeed, of his common-place book throughout in the most shameless and unconscionable manner. * Rack his style, Madam, rack his style,' he said to Queen Elizabeth, as he tells us, when she consulted him-he being then of her counsel learned, in the case of Dr. Hayward, charged with having written “the book of the deposing of Richard the Second, and the coming in of Henry the Fourth,' and sent to the Tower for that offence. The queen was eager for a different kind of advice. Racking an author's book did not appear to he coarse sensibilities, perfectly unconscious of the delicacy of an author's susceptibilities, a process in itself sufficiently murderous to satisfy her revenge. There must be some flesh and blood in the business before ever she could understand it. She wanted to have the question' put to that gentleman as to his meaning in the obscure passages in that work under the most impressive circumstances; and Mr. Bacon, himself an author, being of her counsel learned, was requested to make out a case of treason for her; and wishes from such a source were understood to be commands in those days. Now it happened that one of the managers and actors at the Globe Theatre, who was at that time sustaining, as it would seem, the most extraordinary relations of intimacy and friendship with the friends and patrons of this same person, then figuring as the queen's adviser, had recently composed a tragedy on this very subject; though that gentleman, more cautious than Dr. Hayward, and having, perhaps, some learned counsel also, had taken the precaution to keep back the scene of the deposing of royalty during the life-time of this sharp-witted queen, reserving its publication for the reign of her erudite successor; and the learned counsel in this case being aware of the fact, may have felt some sympathy with this misguided author. No, madam,' he replied to her inquiry, thinking to take off her bitterness with a merry conceit, as he says, 'for treason I can not deliver opinion that there is any,

but
very

much felony.'

The queen apprehending it gladly, asked, “How?' and 'wherein ? Mr. Bacon answered, “Because he had stolen many of his sentences and conceits out of Cornelius Tacitus.' It would do one good to see, perhaps, how many felonious appropriations of sentences, and quotations, and ideas, the application he recommends would bring to light in this case.

But the instances already quoted are not the only ones which this free spoken foreign writer, this Elizabethan genius abroad, ventures to adduce in support of this position of his, that statesmen-men who aspire to the administration of republics or other forms of government--if they cannot consent on that account to relinquish altogether the company of the Muses, must at least so far respect the prevailing opinion on that point, as to be able to sacrifice to it the proudest literary honours. Will the reader be pleased to notice, not merely the extraordinary character of the example in this instance, but the grounds of the assumption which the critic makes with so much coolness.

“And could the perfection of eloquence have added any lustre proportionable to the merit of a great person, certainly Scipio and Lælius had never resigned the honour of their comedies, with all the luxuriancies and delicacies of the Latin tongue, to an African slave, for that the work was THEIRS its beauty and excellency SUFFICIENTLY PROVE:* besides Terence himself confesses as much, and I should take it ill in any one that would dispossess me of that belief. For, as he says in another place, in a certain deeply disguised dedication which he makes of the work of a friend, a poet, whose early death he greatly lamented, and whom he is determined,' as he says, * to revive and raise again to life if he can: 'As we often judge of the greater by the less, and as the very pastimes of great men give an honourable idea to the clear-sighted of the source from which they spring, I hope you will, by this work of his, rise to the knowledge of himself, and by consequence love and

* This is from a book in which the supposed autograph of Shakspere is found ; a work from which he quotes incessantly, and from which he appears, indeed, to have taken the whole hint of his learning.

6

embrace his memory. In so doing, you will accomplish what he exceedingly longed for whilst he lived.' But here he continues thus, 'I have, indeed, in my time known some, who, by a knack of writing, have got both title and fortune, yet disown their apprenticeship, purposely corrupt their style, and affect ignorance of so vulgar a quality (which also our nation observes, rarely to be seen in very learned hands), carefully secking a reputation by better qualities.'

I once did hold it, as our statists do, a baseness to write fair:

but now it did me yeoman's service.-Hamlet. And it is in the next paragraph to this, that he takes occasion to mention that his stories and allegations do not always serve simply for example, authority, or ornament; that they are not limited in their application to the use he ostensibly makes of them, but that they carry, for those who are in his secret, other meanings, bolder and richer meanings, and sometimes collaterally a more delicate sound. And having interrupted the consideration upon Cicero and Pliny, and their vanity and pitiful desire for honour in future ages, with this criticism on the limited sphere of statesmen in general, and the devices to which Lalius and Scipio were compelled to resort, in order to get their plays published without diminishing the lustre of their personal renown, and having stopped to insert that most extraordinary avowal in regard to his two-fold meanings in his allegations and stories, he returns to the subject of this correspondence again, for there is more in this also than meets the ear; and it is not Pliny, and Cicero only, whose supposed vanity, and regard for posthumous fame, as men of letters, is under consideration. But returning to the speaking virtue;' he says, 'I find no great choice between not knowing to speak anything but ill, and not knowing anything but speaking well. The sages

tell

us, that as to what concerns knowledge there is nothing but philosophy, and as to what concerns effects nothing but virtue, that is generally proper to all degrees and orders. There is something like this in these two other philosophers, for they also promise ETERNITY to the letters they write to their friends, but 'tis after another manner, and by accommo

dating themselves for a good end to the vanity of another ; for they write to them that if the concern of making themselves known to future ages, and the thirst of glory, do yet detain them in the management of public affairs, and make them fear the solitude and retirement to which they would persuade them; let them never trouble themselves more about it, forasmuch as they shall have credit enough with posterity to assure thein that, were there nothing else but the letters thus writ to them, those letters will render their names as known and famous as their own public actions themselves could do. [And thatthat is the key to the correspondence between two other philosophers enigmatically alluded to here.] And besides this difference,' for it is these two other philosophers,” and not Pliny and Cicero, and not Seneca and Epicurus alone, that we talk of here, and besides this difference, these are not idle and empty letters, that contain nothing but a fine jingle of well chosen words, and fine couched phrases; but replete and abounding with grave and learned discourses, by which a man may render himself — not more eloquent but more wise, and that instruct us not to speak but to do well; for that is the rhetorical theory that was adopted by the scholars and statesmen then alive, whose methods of making themselves known to future ages he is indicating, even in these references to the ancients. Away with that eloquence which so enchants us with its harmony that we should more study it than things'; for this is the place where the quotation with which our investigation of this theory commenced is inserted in the text, and here it is, in the light of these preceding collections of hints that he puts in the story first quoted, wherein he says, the nature of the orator will be much more manifestly laid open to us, than in that seeming care for his fame, or in that care of his style, for its own sake. It is the story of Eros, the slave, who brought the speaker word that the audience was deferred, when in composing a specch that he was to make in public, he found himself straitened in time, to fit his words to his mouth as he had a mind to do.'

CHAPTER III.

THE POSSIBILITY OF GREAT ANONYMOUS WORKS,— OR

WORKS PUBLISHED UNDER AN ASSUMED NAME, - CONVEYING, UNDER RHETORICAL DISGUISES, THE PRINCIPAL SCIENCES,— RE-SUGGESTED, AND ILLUSTRATED.

BUT

Is the storm overblown? I hid me under the dead moon-calf's gaberdine for fear of the storm.-Tempest. UT as to this love of glory which the stoics, whom this

philosopher quotes so approvingly, have measured at its true worth; as to this love of literary fame, this hankering after an earthly immortality, which he treats so scornfully in the Roman statesman, let us hear him again in another chapter, and see if we can find any thing whereby his nature and designs will more manifestly be laid open to us. Of all the foolish dreams in the world,' he says, that which is most universally received, is the solicitude of reputation and glory, which we are fond of to that degree as to abandon riches, peace, life, and health, which are effectual and substantial good, to pursue this vain phantom. And of all the irrational humours of men, it should seem that the philosophers themselves have the most ado, and do the least disengage themselves from this the most restive and obstinate of all the follies. There is not any one view of which reason does so clearly accuse the vanity, as that; but it is so deeply rooted in us, that I doubt whether any one ever clearly freed himself from it, or no. After you have said all, and believed all that has been said to its prejudice, it creates so intestine an inclination in opposition to your best arguments, that you have little power and firmness to resist it; for (as Cicero says) even those who controvert it, would yet that the books they write should appear before the world with their names in the title

page,

and seek to derive glory from seeming to despise it. All other things are

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »