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The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakspere Unfolded by Delia Bacon

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Aphorisms representing A KNOWLEDGE _broken_ do invite men to
inquire further LORD BACON

You find not the apostophes, and so miss the accent.

Untie the spell.--PROSPERO



DEC 6, 1972

Reprinted from a copy in the collection
of the Harvard College Library
Reprinted from the edition of 1857, London
First AMS EDITION published 1970
Manufactured in the United States of America

International Standard Book Number: 0-404-00443-1

Library of Congress Card Catalog Number: 73-113547

NEW YORK, N.Y. 10003




I. The Proposition

II. The Age of Elizabeth, and the Elizabethan Men of Letters

III. Extracts from the Life of Raleigh.--Raleigh's School

IV. Raleigh's School, continued.--The New Academy

* * * * *


the FIRST BOOK of this Work as it was originally prepared for the
Press, is reserved for separate publication.]




I. Ascent from Particulars to the 'Highest Parts of Sciences,' by the
Enigmatic Method illustrated

II. Further Illustration of 'Particular Methods of
Tradition.'--Embarrassments of Literary Statesmen

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



I. THE 'BEGINNERS.'--['Particular Methods of Tradition.'--
The Double Method of 'Illustration' and 'Concealment']

II. INDEX to the 'Illustrated' and 'Concealed Tradition' of
the Principal and Supreme Sciences.--THE SCIENCE OF

III. THE SCIENCE OF MORALITY. Section I. The Exemplar of Good

IV. THE SCIENCE OF MORALITY. Section II. The Husbandry thereunto,
or the Cure and Culture of


VI. Method of Convoying the Wisdom of the Moderns

* * * * *




I. The Design
II. The Missing Books of the Great Instauration or 'Philosophy




I. Philosophy in the Palace
II. Unaccommodated Man
III. The King and the Beggar
IV. The Use of Eyes
V. The Statesman's Note-Book--and the Play








I. The Death of Tyranny; or, the Question of the Prerogative
II. Caesar's Spirit



I. The Elizabethan Heroism
II. Criticism of the Martial Government
III. 'Insurrections Arguing'
IV. Political Retrospect
V. The Popular Election
VI. The Scientific Method in Politics
VII. Volumnia and her Boy
VIII. Metaphysical Aid
IX. The Cure.--Plan of Innovation.--New Definitions.
X. The Cure.--Plan of Innovation.--New Constructions.
XI. The Cure.--Plan of Innovation.--'The Initiative'
XII. The Ignorant Election revoked.--A 'Wrestling Instance'.
XIII. Conclusion


This Volume contains the argument, drawn from the Plays usually
attributed to Shakspere, in support of a theory which the author of it
has demonstrated by historical evidences in another work. Having never
read this historical demonstration (which remains still in manuscript,
with the exception of a preliminary chapter, published long ago in an
American periodical), I deem it necessary to cite the author's own
account of it:--

'The Historical Part of this work (which was originally the principal
part, and designed to furnish the historical key to the great
Elizabethan writings), though now for a long time completed and ready
for the press, and though repeated reference is made to it in this
volume, is, for the most part, omitted here. It contains a true and
before unwritten history, and it will yet, perhaps, be published as it
stands; but the vivid and accumulating historic detail, with which
more recent research tends to enrich the earlier statement, and
disclosures which no invention could anticipate, are waiting now to be
subjoined to it.

'The INTERNAL EVIDENCE of the assumptions made at the outset is that
which is chiefly relied on in the work now first presented on this
subject to the public. The demonstration will be found complete on
that ground; and on that ground alone the author is willing, and
deliberately prefers, for the present, to rest it.

'External evidence, of course, will not be wanting; there will be
enough and to spare, if the demonstration here be correct. But the
author of the discovery was not willing to rob the world of this great
question; but wished rather to share with it the benefit which the
true solution of the Problem offers--the solution prescribed by those
who propounded it to the future. It seemed better to save to the world
the power and beauty of this demonstration, its intellectual stimulus,
its demand on the judgment. It seemed better, that the world should
acquire it also in the form of criticism, instead of being stupified
and overpowered with the mere force of an irresistible, external,
historical proof. Persons incapable of appreciating any other kind of
proof,--those who are capable of nothing that does not 'directly fall
under and strike _the senses_' as Lord Bacon expresses it,--will have
their time also; but it was proposed to present the subject first to
minds of another order.'

In the present volume, accordingly, the author applies herself to the
demonstration and development of a system of philosophy, which has
presented itself to her as underlying the superficial and ostensible
text of Shakspere's plays. Traces of the same philosophy, too, she
conceives herself to have found in the acknowledged works of Lord
Bacon, and in those of other writers contemporary with him. All agree
in one system; all these traces indicate a common understanding and
unity of purpose in men among whom no brotherhood has hitherto been
suspected, except as representatives of a grand and brilliant age,
when the human intellect made a marked step in advance.

The author did not (as her own consciousness assures her) either
construct or originally seek this new philosophy. In many respects, if
I have rightly understood her, it was at variance with her
pre-conceived opinions, whether ethical, religious, or political. She
had been for years a student of Shakspere, looking for nothing in his
plays beyond what the world has agreed to find in them, when she began
to see, under the surface, the gleam of this hidden treasure. It was
carefully hidden, indeed, yet not less carefully indicated, as with a
pointed finger, by such marks and references as could not ultimately
escape the notice of a subsequent age, which should be capable of
profiting by the rich inheritance. So, too, in regard to Lord Bacon.
The author of this volume had not sought to put any but the ordinary
and obvious interpretation upon his works, nor to take any other view
of his character than what accorded with the unanimous judgment upon
it of all the generations since his epoch. But, as she penetrated more
and more deeply into the plays, and became aware of those inner
readings, she found herself compelled to turn back to the 'Advancement
of Learning' for information as to their plan and purport; and Lord
Bacon's Treatise failed not to give her what she sought; thus adding
to the immortal dramas, in her idea, a far higher value than their
warmest admirers had heretofore claimed for them. They filled out the
scientific scheme which Bacon had planned, and which needed only these
profound and vivid illustrations of human life and character to make
it perfect. Finally, the author's researches led her to a point where
she found the plays claimed for Lord Bacon and his associates,--not in
a way that was meant to be intelligible in their own perilous
times,--but in characters that only became legible, and illuminated,
as it were, in the light of a subsequent period.

The reader will soon perceive that the new philosophy, as here
demonstrated, was of a kind that no professor could have ventured
openly to teach in the days of Elizabeth and James. The concluding
chapter of the present work makes a powerful statement of the position
which a man, conscious of great and noble aims, would then have
occupied; and shows, too, how familiar the age was with all methods of
secret communication, and of hiding thought beneath a masque of
conceit or folly. Applicably to this subject, I quote a paragraph from
a manuscript of the author's, not intended for present publication:--

'It was a time when authors, who treated of a scientific politics and
of a scientific ethics internally connected with it, naturally
preferred this more philosophic, symbolic method of indicating their
connection with their writings, which would limit the indication to
those who could pierce within the veil of a philosophic symbolism. It
was the time when the cipher, in which one could write '_omnia per
omnia_,' was in such request, and when 'wheel ciphers' and 'doubles'
were thought not unworthy of philosophic notice. It was a time, too,
when the phonographic art was cultivated, and put to other uses than
at present, and when a '_nom de plume_' was required for other
purposes than to serve as the refuge of an author's modesty, or
vanity, or caprice. It was a time when puns, and charades, and
enigmas, and anagrams, and monograms, and ciphers, and puzzles, were
not good for sport and child's play merely; when they had need to be
close; when they had need to be solvable, at least, only to those who
_should_ solve them. It was a time when all the latent capacities of
the English language were put in requisition, and it was flashing and
crackling, through all its lengths and breadths, with puns and quips,
and conceits, and jokes, and satires, and inlined with philosophic
secrets that opened down "into the bottom of a tomb"--that opened into
the Tower--that opened on the scaffold and the block.'

I quote, likewise, another passage, because I think the reader will
see in it the noble earnestness of the author's character, and may
partly imagine the sacrifices which this research has cost her:--

'The great secret of the Elizabethan age did not lie where any
superficial research could ever have discovered it. It was not left
within the range of any accidental disclosure. It did not lie on the
surface of any Elizabethan document. The most diligent explorers of
these documents, in two centuries and a quarter, had not found it. No
faintest suspicion of it had ever crossed the mind of the most recent,
and clear-sighted, and able investigator of the Baconian remains. It
was buried in the lowest depths of the lowest deeps of the deep
Elizabethan Art; that Art which no plummet, till now, has ever
sounded. It was locked with its utmost reach of traditionary cunning.
It was buried in the inmost recesses of the esoteric Elizabethan
learning. It was tied with a knot that had passed the scrutiny and
baffled the sword of an old, suspicious, dying, military government--a
knot that none could cut--a knot that must be untied.

'The great secret of the Elizabethan Age was inextricably reserved by
the founders of a new learning, the prophetic and more nobly gifted
minds of a new and nobler race of men, for a research that should test
the mind of the discoverer, and frame and subordinate it to that so
sleepless and indomitable purpose of the prophetic aspiration. It was
"the device" by which they undertook to live again in the ages in
which their achievements and triumphs were forecast, and to come forth
and rule again, not in one mind, not in the few, not in the many, but
in all. "For there is no throne like that throne in the thoughts of
men," which the ambition of these men climbed and compassed.

'The principal works of the Elizabethan Philosophy, those in which the
new method of learning was practically applied to the noblest
subjects, were presented to the world in the form of AN ENIGMA. It was
a form well fitted to divert inquiry, and baffle even the research of
the scholar for a time; but one calculated to provoke the philosophic
curiosity, and one which would inevitably command a research that
could end only with the true solution. That solution was reserved for
one who would recognise, at last, in the disguise of the great
impersonal teacher, the disguise of a new learning. It waited for the
reader who would observe, at last, those thick-strewn scientific
clues, those thick-crowding enigmas, those perpetual beckonings from
the "theatre" into the judicial palace of the mind. It was reserved
for the student who would recognise, at last, the mind that was
seeking so perseveringly to whisper its tale of outrage, and "the
secrets it was forbid." It waited for one who would answer, at last,
that philosophic challenge, and say, "Go on, I'll follow thee!" It was
reserved for one who would count years as days, for the love of the
truth it hid; who would never turn back on the long road of
initiation, though all "THE IDOLS" must be left behind in its stages;
who would never stop until it stopped in that new cave of Apollo,
where the handwriting on the wall spells anew the old Delphic motto,
and publishes the word that "_unties_ the spell."

On this object, which she conceives so loftily, the author has
bestowed the solitary and self-sustained toil of many years. The
volume now before the reader, together with the historical
demonstration which it pre-supposes, is the product of a most faithful
and conscientious labour, and a truly heroic devotion of intellect and
heart. No man or woman has ever thought or written more sincerely than
the author of this book. She has given nothing less than her life to
the work. And, as if for the greater trial of her constancy, her
theory was divulged, some time ago, in so partial and unsatisfactory a
manner--with so exceedingly imperfect a statement of its claims--as to
put her at great disadvantage before the world. A single article from
her pen, purporting to be the first of a series, appeared in an
American Magazine; but unexpected obstacles prevented the further
publication in that form, after enough had been done to assail the
prejudices of the public, but far too little to gain its sympathy.
Another evil followed. An English writer (in a 'Letter to the Earl of
Ellesmere,' published within a few months past) has thought it not
inconsistent with the fair-play, on which his country prides itself,
to take to himself this lady's theory, and favour the public with it
as his own original conception, without allusion to the author's prior
claim. In reference to this pamphlet, she generously says:--

'This has not been a selfish enterprise. It is not a personal concern.
It is a discovery which belongs not to an individual, and not to a
people. Its fields are wide enough and rich enough for us all; and he
that has no work, and whoso will, let him come and labour in them. The
field is the world's; and the world's work henceforth is in it. So
that it be known in its real comprehension, in its true relations to
the weal of the world, what matters it? So that the truth, which is
dearer than all the rest--which abides with us when all others leave
us, dearest then--so that the truth, which is neither yours nor mine,
but yours _and_ mine, be known, loved, honoured, emancipated, mitred,
crowned, adored--_who_ loses anything, that does not find it.' 'And
what matters it,' says the philosophic wisdom, speaking in the
abstract, 'what name it is proclaimed in, and what letters of the
alphabet we know it by?--what matter is it, so that they _spell_ the
name that is _good_ for ALL, and _good_ for _each_,'--for that is the
REAL name here?

Speaking on the author's behalf, however, I am not entitled to imitate
her magnanimity; and, therefore, hope that the writer of the pamphlet
will disclaim any purpose of assuming to himself, on the ground of a
slight and superficial performance, the result which she has attained
at the cost of many toils and sacrifices.

And now, at length, after many delays and discouragements, the work
comes forth. It had been the author's original purpose to publish it
in America; for she wished her own country to have the glory of
solving the enigma of those mighty dramas, and thus adding a new and
higher value to the loftiest productions of the English mind. It
seemed to her most fit and desirable, that America--having received so
much from England, and returned so little--should do what remained to
be done towards rendering this great legacy available, as its authors
meant it to be, to all future time. This purpose was frustrated; and
it will be seen in what spirit she acquiesces.

'The author was forced to bring it back, and contribute it to the
literature of the country from which it was derived, and to which it
essentially and inseparably belongs. It was written, every word of it,
on English ground, in the midst of the old familiar scenes and
household names, that even in our nursery songs revive the dear
ancestral memories; those "royal pursuivants" with which our
mother-land still follows and retakes her own. It was written in the
land of our old kings and queens, and in the land of _our own_
PHILOSOPHERS and POETS also. It was written on the spot where the
works it unlocks were written, and in the perpetual presence of the
English mind; the mind that spoke before in the cultured few, and that
speaks to-day in the cultured many. And it is now at last, after so
long a time--after all, as it should be--the English press that prints
it. It is the scientific English press, with those old gags (wherewith
our kings and queens sought to stop it, ere they knew what it was)
champed asunder, ground to powder, and with its last Elizabethan
shackle shaken off, that restores, "in a better hour," the torn and
garbled science committed to it, and gives back "the bread cast on its
sure waters."'

There remains little more for me to say. I am not the editor of this
work; nor can I consider myself fairly entitled to the honor (which,
if I deserved it, I should feel to be a very high as well as a
perilous one) of seeing my name associated with the author's on the
title-page. My object has been merely to speak a few words, which
might, perhaps, serve the purpose of placing my countrywoman upon a
ground of amicable understanding with the public. She has a vast
preliminary difficulty to encounter. The first feeling of every reader
must be one of absolute repugnance towards a person who seeks to tear
out of the Anglo-Saxon heart the name which for ages it has held
dearest, and to substitute another name, or names, to which the
settled belief of the world has long assigned a very different
position. What I claim for this work is, that the ability employed in
its composition has been worthy of its great subject, and well
employed for our intellectual interests, whatever judgment the public
may pass upon the questions discussed. And, after listening to the
author's interpretation of the Plays, and seeing how wide a scope she
assigns to them, how high a purpose, and what richness of inner
meaning, the thoughtful reader will hardly return again--not wholly,
at all events--to the common view of them and of their author. It is
for the public to say whether my countrywoman has proved her theory.
In the worst event, if she has failed, her failure will be more
honorable than most people's triumphs; since it must fling upon the
old tombstone, at Stratford-on-Avon, the noblest tributary wreath that
has ever lain there.



* * * * *




'One time will owe another.'--_Coriolanus_.

This work is designed to propose to the consideration, not of the
learned world only, but of all ingenuous and practical minds, a new
development of that system of practical philosophy from which THE
SCIENTIFIC ARTS of the Modern Ages proceed, and which has already
become, just to the extent to which it has been hitherto opened, the
wisdom,--the universally approved, and practically adopted, Wisdom of
the _Moderns_.

It is a development of this philosophy, which was deliberately
postponed by the great Scientific Discoverers and Reformers, in whose
Scientific Discoveries and Reformations our organised advancements in
speculation and practice have their origin;--Reformers, whose
scientific acquaintance with historic laws forbade the idea of any
immediate and sudden cures of the political and social evils which
their science searches to the root, and which it was designed to

The proposition to be demonstrated in the ensuing pages is this: That
the new philosophy which strikes out from the Court--from _the Court_
of that despotism that names and gives form to the Modern
Learning,--which comes to us from the Court of the last of the Tudors
and the first of the Stuarts,--that new philosophy which we have
received, and accepted, and adopted as a practical philosophy, not
merely in that grave department of learning in which it comes to us
professionally _as_ philosophy, but in that not less important
department of learning in which it comes to us in the disguise of
amusement,--in the form of fable and allegory and parable,--the
proposition is, that this Elizabethan philosophy is, in these two
forms of it,--not two philosophies,--not two Elizabethan philosophies,
not two new and wondrous philosophies of nature and practice, not two
new Inductive philosophies, but one,--one and the same: that it is
philosophy in both these forms, with its veil of allegory and parable,
and without it; that it is philosophy applied to much more important
subjects in the disguise of the parable, than it is in the open
statement; that it is philosophy in both these cases, and not
philosophy in one of them, and a brutish, low-lived, illiterate,
unconscious spontaneity in the other.

The proposition is that it proceeds, in both cases, from a reflective
deliberative, eminently deliberative, eminently conscious, _designing_
mind; and that the coincidence which is manifest not in the design
only, and in the structure, but in the detail to the minutest points
of execution, is _not_ accidental.

It is a proposition which is demonstrated in this volume by means of
evidence derived principally from the books of this philosophy--books
in which the safe delivery and tradition of it to the future was
artistically contrived and triumphantly achieved:--the books of a new
'school' in philosophy; books in which the connection with the school
is not always openly asserted; books in which the true names of the
authors are not always found on the title-page;--the books of a
school, too, which was compelled to have recourse to translations in
some cases, for the safe delivery and tradition of its new learning.

The facts which lie on the surface of this question, which are
involved in the bare statement of it, are sufficient of themselves to
justify and command this inquiry.

The fact that these two great branches of the philosophy of
observation and practice, both already _virtually_ recognised as
that,--the one openly, subordinating the physical forces of nature to
the wants of man, changing the face of the earth under our eyes,
leaving behind it, with its new magic, the miracles of Oriental dreams
and fables;--the other, under its veil of wildness and spontaneity,
under its thick-woven veil of mirth and beauty, with its inducted
precepts and dispersed directions, insinuating itself into all our
practice, winding itself into every department of human affairs;
speaking from the legislator's lips, at the bar, from the
pulpit,--putting in its word every where, always at hand, always
sufficient, constituting itself, in virtue of its own irresistible
claims and in the face of what we are told of it, the oracle, the
great practical, mysterious, but universally acknowledged, oracle of
our modern life; the fact that these two great branches of the modern
philosophy make their appearance in history at the same moment, that
they make their appearance in the same company of men--in that same
little courtly company of Elizabethan Wits and Men of Letters that the
revival of the ancient learning brought out here--this is the fact
that strikes the eye at the first glance at this inquiry.

But that this is none other than that same little clique of
disappointed and defeated politicians who undertook to head and
organize a popular opposition against the government, and were
compelled to retreat from that enterprise, the best of of them
effecting their retreat with some difficulty, others failing entirely
to accomplish it, is the next notable fact which the surface of the
inquiry exhibits. That these two so illustrious branches of the modern
learning were produced for the ostensible purpose of illustrating and
adorning the tyrannies which the men, under whose countenance and
protection they are produced, were vainly attempting, or had vainly
attempted to set bounds to or overthrow, is a fact which might seem of
itself to suggest inquiry. When insurrections are suppressed, when
'the monstrous enterprises of rebellious subjects are overthrown, then
FAME, who is _the posthumous sister of the giants_,--the sister of
_defeated_ giants springs up'; so a man who had made some political
experiments himself that were not very successful, tells us.

The fact that the men under whose patronage and in whose service 'Will
the Jester' first showed himself, were men who were secretly
endeavouring to make political capital of that new and immense motive
power, that not yet available, and not very easily organised political
power which was already beginning to move the masses here then, and
already threatening, to the observant eye, with its portentous
movement, the foundations of tyranny, the fact, too, that these men
were understood to have made use of the stage unsuccessfully as a
means of immediate political effect, are facts which lie on the
surface of the history of these works, and unimportant as it may seem
to the superficial enquirer, it will be found to be anything but
irrelevant as this inquiry proceeds. The man who is said to have
contributed a thousand pounds towards the purchase of the theatre and
wardrobe and machinery, in which these philosophical plays were first
exhibited, was obliged to stay away from the first appearance of
Hamlet, in the perfected excellence of the poetic philosophic design,
in consequence of being immured in the Tower at that time for an
attempt to overthrow the government. This was the ostensible patron
and friend of the Poet; the partner of his treason was the ostensible
friend and patron of the Philosopher. So nearly did these philosophic
minds, that were 'not for an age but for all time,' approach each
other in _this_ point. But the _protege_ and friend and well-nigh
adoring admirer of the _Poet_, was also the _protege_ and friend and
well-nigh adoring admirer of the Philosopher. The fact that these two
philosophies, in this so close juxta-position, always in contact,
playing always into each other's hands, never once heard of each
other, know nothing of each other, is a fact which would seem at the
first blush to point to the secret of these 'Know-Nothings,' who are
men of science in an age of popular ignorance, and therefore have a
'secret'; who are men of science in an age in which the questions of
science are 'forbidden questions,' and are therefore of necessity

As to Ben Jonson, and the evidence of his avowed admiration for the
author of these plays, from the point of view here taken, it is
sufficient to say in passing, that this man, whose natural abilities
sufficed to raise him from a position hardly less mean and obscure
than that of his great rival, was so fortunate as to attract the
attention of some of the most illustrious personages of that time; men
whose observation of natures was quickened by their necessities; men
who were compelled to employ 'living instruments' in the
accomplishment of their designs; who were skilful in detecting the
qualities they had need of, and skilful in adapting means to ends.
This dramatist's connection with the stage of course belongs to this
history. His connection with the author of these Plays, and with the
player himself, are points not to be overlooked. But the literary
history of this age is not yet fully developed. It is enough to say
here, that he chanced to be honored with the patronage of _three_ of
the most illustrious personages of the age in which he lived. He had
_three_ patrons. One was Sir Walter Raleigh, in whose service he was;
one was the Lord Bacon, whose well nigh idolatrous admirer he appears
also to have been; the other was _Shakspere_, to whose favor he
appears to have owed so much. With his passionate admiration of these
last two, stopping only 'this side of idolatry' in his admiration for
them both, and being under such deep personal obligations to them
both, why could he not have mentioned some day to the author of the
Advancement of Learning, the author of Hamlet--Hamlet who also 'lacked
advancement?' What more natural than to suppose that these two
philosophers, these men of a learning so exactly equal, might have
some sympathy with each other, might like to meet each other. Till he
has answered that question, any evidence which he may have to produce
in apparent opposition to the conclusions here stated will not be of
the least value.

These are questions which any one might properly ask, who had only
glanced at the most superficial or easily accessible facts in this
case, and without any evidence from any other source to stimulate the
inquiry. These are facts which lie on the surface of this history,
which obtrude themselves on our notice, and demand inquiry.

That which lies immediately below this surface, accessible to any
research worthy of the name is, that these two so new extraordinary
developments of the modern philosophy which come to us without any
_superficially_ avowed connexion, which come to us as _branches_ of
learning merely, do in fact meet and unite in one stem, 'which has a
quality of entireness and continuance throughout,' even to the most
delicate fibre of them both, even to the 'roots' of their trunk, 'and
the strings of those roots,' which trunk lies below the surface of
that age, buried, carefully buried, for reasons assigned; and that it
is the sap of this concealed trunk, this new trunk of sciences, which
makes both these branches so vigorous, which makes the flowers and the
fruit both so fine, and so unlike anything that we have had from any
other source in the way of literature or art.

The question of the authorship of the great philosophic poems which
are the legacy of the Elizabethan Age to us, is an incidental question
in this inquiry, and is incidentally treated here. The discovery of
the authorship of these works was the necessary incident to that more
thorough inquiry into their nature and design, of which the views
contained in this volume are the result. At a certain stage of this
inquiry,--in the later stages of it,--that discovery became
inevitable. The primary question here is one of universal immediate
practical concern and interest. The solution of this literary problem,
happens to be involved in it. It was the necessary prescribed,
pre-ordered incident of the reproduction and reintegration of the
Inductive Philosophy in its application to its 'principal' and
'noblest subjects,' its 'more chosen subjects.'

The HISTORICAL KEY to the Elizabethan Art of Tradition, which formed
the first book of this work as it was originally prepared for the
press, is not included in the present publication. It was the part of
the work first written, and the results of more recent research
require to be incorporated in it, in order that it should represent
adequately, in that particular aspect of it, the historical discovery
which it is the object of this work to produce. Moreover, the
demonstration which is contained in this volume appeared to constitute
properly a volume of itself.

Those who examine the subject from this ground, will find the external
collateral evidence, the ample historical confirmation which is at
hand, not necessary for the support of the propositions advanced here,
though it will, of course, be inquired for, when once this ground is

The embarrassing circumstances under which this great system of
scientific practice makes its appearance in history, have not yet been
taken into the account in our interpretation of it. We have already
the documents which contain the theory and rule of the modern
civilisation, which is the civilisation of science in our hands. We
have in our hands also, newly lit, newly trimmed, lustrous with the
genius of our own time, that very lamp with which we are instructed to
make this inquiry, that very light which we are told we must bring to
bear upon the obscurities of these documents, that very light in which
we are told, we must unroll them; for they come to us, as the
interpreter takes pains to tell us, with an 'infolded' science in
them. That light of '_times_,' that knowledge of the conditions under
which these works were published, which is essential to the true
interpretation of them, thanks to our contemporary historians, is
already in our hands. What we need now is to explore the secrets of
this philosophy with it,--necessarily secrets at the time it was
issued--what we need now is to open these books of a new learning in
it, and read them by it.

In that part of the work above referred to, from which some extracts
are subjoined for the purpose of introducing intelligibly the
demonstration contained in this volume, it was the position of the
Elizabethan Men of Letters that was exhibited, and the conditions
which prescribed to the founders of a new school in philosophy, which
was none other than the philosophy of practice, the form of their
works and the concealment of their connection with them--conditions
which made the secret of an Association of 'Naturalists' applying
science in that age to the noblest subjects of speculative inquiry,
and to the highest departments of practice, a life and death secret.
The _physical_ impossibility of publishing at that time, anything
openly relating to the questions in which the weal of men is most
concerned, and which are the primary questions of the science of man's
relief, the opposition which stood at that time prepared to crush any
enterprise proposing openly for its end, the common interests of man
as man, is the point which it was the object of that part of the work
to exhibit. It was presented, not in the form of general statement
merely, but in those memorable particulars which the falsified,
suppressed, garbled history of the great founder of this school
betrays to us; not as it is exhibited in contemporary documents
merely, but as it is carefully collected from these, and from the
_traditions_ of 'the next ages.'

That the suppressed Elizabethan Reformers and Innovators were men so
far in advance of their time, that they were compelled to have
recourse to literature for the purpose of instituting a gradual
encroachment on popular opinions, a gradual encroachment on the
prejudices, the ignorance, the stupidity of the oppressed and
suffering masses of the human kind, and for the purpose of making over
the practical development of the higher parts of their science, to
ages in which the advancements they instituted had brought the common
mind within hearing of these higher truths; that these were men whose
aims were so opposed to the power that was still predominant
then,--though the 'wrestling' that would shake that predominance, was
already on foot,--that it became necessary for them to conceal their
lives as well as their works,--to veil the true worth and nobility of
them, to suffer those ends which they sought as means, means which
they subordinated to the noblest uses, to be regarded in their own age
as their _ends_; that they were compelled to play this great game in
secret, in their own time, referring themselves to posthumous effects
for the explanation of their designs; postponing their honour to ages
able to discover their worth; this is the proposition which is derived
here from the works in which the tradition of this learning is
conveyed to us.

But in the part of this work referred to, from which the ensuing
extracts are made, it was the life, and not merely the writings of the
founders of this school which was produced in evidence of this claim.
It was the life in which these disguised ulterior aims show themselves
from the first on the historic surface, in the form of great
contemporaneous events, events which have determined and shaped the
course of the world's history since then; it was the life in which
these intents show themselves too boldly on the surface, in which they
penetrate the artistic disguise, and betray themselves to the
antagonisms which were waiting to crush them; it was the life which
combined these antagonisms for its suppression; it was the life and
death of the projector and founder of the liberties of the New World,
and the obnoxious historian and critic of the tyrannies of the Old, it
was the life and death of Sir Walter Raleigh that was produced as the
Historical Key to the Elizabethan Art of Tradition. It was the Man of
the Globe Theatre, it was the Man in the Tower with his two
Hemispheres, it was the modern 'Hercules and his load too,' that made
in the original design of it, the Frontispiece of this volume.

'But stay I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanced and made a _constellation_ there.
Shine forth, thou Star of Poets, and with _rage
Or influence_, chide or cheer the drooping stage,
Which since thy flight from hence hath mourned like night,
And despairs day, but for thy Volume's light.

['To draw no envy _Shake-spear_ on thy name,
Am I _thus ample_ to thy book and fame.'--BEN JONSON.]

The machinery that was necessarily put in operation for the purpose of
conducting successfully, under those conditions, any honourable or
decent enterprise, presupposes a forethought and skill, a faculty for
dramatic arrangement and successful plotting in historic materials,
happily so remote from anything which the exigencies of our time have
ever suggested to us, that we are not in a position to read at a
glance the history of such an age; the history which lies on the
surface of such an age when such men--men who are men--are at work in
it. These are the _Elizabethan_ men that we have to interpret here,
because, though they rest from their labours, their works do follow
them--the Elizabethan _Men_ of _Letters_; and we must know what that
title means before we can read them or their works, before we can
'_untie_ their _spell_.'



'The times, in many cases, give great light to _true_
_Advancement of Learning_.

'On fair ground
I could beat forty of them.'

'I could myself
Take up a brace of the best of them, yea _the two tribunes_.'

'But now 'tis odds beyond arithmetic,
And _manhood_ is called _foolery_ when it stands
Against a falling fabric.'--_Coriolanus_.

The fact that the immemorial liberties of the English PEOPLE, and that
idea of human government and society which they brought with them to
this island, had been a second time violently overborne and suppressed
by a military chieftainship,--one for which the unorganised popular
resistance was no match,--that the English People had been a second
time 'conquered'--for that is the word which the Elizabethan historian
suggests--less than a hundred years before the beginning of the
Elizabethan Age, is a fact in history which the great Elizabethan
philosopher has contrived to send down to us, along with his
philosophical works, as the key to the reading of them. It is a fact
with which we are all now more or less familiar, but it is one which
the Elizabethan Poet and Philosopher became acquainted with under
circumstances calculated to make a much more vivid impression on the
sensibilities than the most accurate and vivacious narratives and
expositions of it which our time can furnish us.

That this second conquest was unspeakably more degrading than the
first had been, inasmuch as it was the conquest of a chartered,
constitutional liberty, recovered and established in acts that had
made the English history, recovered on battle-fields that were fresh,
not in oral tradition only; inasmuch as it was effected in violation
of that which made the name of Englishmen, that which made the
universally recognised principle of the national life; inasmuch, too,
as it was an _undivided_ conquest, the conquest of _the single
will_--the will of the 'one only man'--not unchecked of commons only,
unchecked by barons, unchecked by the church, unchecked by _council_
of any kind, the pure arbitrary absolute will, the pure idiosyncrasy,
the crowned demon of the _lawless_, irrational will, unchained and
armed with the sword of the common might, and clothed with the
divinity of the common right; that _this_ was a conquest unspeakably
more debasing than the conquest 'commonly so called,'--this, which
left no nobility,--which clasped its collar in open day on the
proudest Norman neck, and not on the Saxon only, which left only one
nation of slaves and bondmen--that _this_ was a _subjugation_--that
this was a government which the English nation had not before been
familiar with, the men whose great life-acts were performed under it
did not lack the sensibility and the judgment to perceive.

A more _hopeless_ conquest than the Norman conquest had been, it might
also have seemed, regarded in some of the aspects which it presented
to the eye of the statesman then; for it was in the division of the
former that the element of freedom stole in, it was in the parliaments
of that division that the limitation of the feudal monarchy had begun.

But still more fatal was the aspect of it which its effects on the
national character were continually obtruding then on the observant
eye,--that debasing, deteriorating, demoralising effect which such a
government must needs exert on _such_ a nation, a nation of
Englishmen, a nation with such memories. The Poet who writes under
this government, with an appreciation of the subject quite as lively
as that of any more recent historian, speaks of 'the face of men' as a
'motive'--a _motive_ power, a revolutionary force, which ought to be
sufficient of itself to raise, if need be, an armed opposition to such
a government, and sustain it, too, without the compulsion of an oath
to reinforce it; at least, this is one of the three motives which he
produces in his conspiracy as motives that ought to suffice to supply
the power wanting to effect a change in such a government.

'If not _the face_ of _men_,
The sufferance of our _souls, the time's abuse_,--
_If these be motives weak, break of betimes._'

There is no use in attempting a change where such motives are weak.

'Break off _betimes_,
And every man hence to his idle bed.'

That this political degradation, and its deteriorating and corrupting
influence on the national character, was that which presented itself
to the politician's eye at that time as the most fatal aspect of the
question, or as the thing most to be deprecated in the continuance of
such a state of things, no one who studies carefully the best writings
of that time can doubt.

And it must be confessed, that this is an influence which shows itself
very palpably, not in the degrading hourly detail only of which the
noble mind is, in such circumstances, the suffering witness, and the
secretly protesting suffering participator, but in those large events
which make the historic record. The England of the Plantagenets, that
sturdy England which Henry the Seventh had to conquer, and not its
pertinacious choice of colours only, not its fixed determination to
have the choosing of the colour of its own 'Roses' merely, but its
inveterate idea of the sanctity of '_law_' permeating all the
masses--that was a very different England from the England which Henry
the Seventh willed to his children; it was a very different England,
at least, from the England which Henry the Eighth willed to _his_.

That some sparks of the old fire were not wanting, however,--that the
nation which had kept alive in the common mind through so many
generations, without the aid of books, the memory of that 'ancestor'
that 'made its laws,' was not after all, perhaps, without a
future--began to be evident about the time that the history of 'that
last king of England who was the ancestor' of the English Stuart, was
dedicated by the author of the Novum Organum to the Prince of Wales,
afterwards Charles I., not without a glance at these portents.

Circumstances tending to throw doubt upon the durability of this
institution--circumstances which seemed to portend that this monstrous
innovation was destined on the whole to be a much shorter-lived one
than the usurpation it had displaced--had not been wanting, indeed,
from the first, in spite of those discouraging aspects of the question
which were more immediately urged upon the contemporary observer.

It was in the eleventh century; it was in the middle of the Dark Ages,
that the Norman and his followers effected their successful landing
and lodgement here; it was in the later years of the fifteenth
century,--it was when the bell that tolled through Europe for a
century and a half the closing hour of the Middle Ages, had already
begun its peals, that the Tudor 'came in by battle.'

That magnificent chain of events which begins in the middle of the
fifteenth century to rear the dividing line between the Middle Ages
and the Modern, had been slow in reaching England with its
convulsions: it had originated on the continent. The great work of the
restoration of the learning of antiquity had been accomplished there:
Italy, Germany, and France had taken the lead in it by turns; Spain
had contributed to it. The scientific discoveries which the genius of
Modern Europe had already effected under that stimulus, without
waiting for the New Organum, had all originated on the continent. The
criticism on the institutions which the decaying Roman Empire had
given to its Northern conquerors,--that criticism which necessarily
accompanied the revival of _learning_ began there. Not yet recovered
from the disastrous wars of the fifteenth century, suffering from the
diabolical tyranny that had overtaken her at that fatal crisis,
England could make but a feeble response as yet to these movements.
They had been going on for a century before the influence of them
began to be visible here. But they were at work here, notwithstanding:
they were germinating and taking root here, in that frozen winter of a
nation's discontent; and when they did begin to show themselves on the
historic surface,--here in this ancient soil of freedom,--in this
natural retreat of it, from the extending, absorbing, consolidating
feudal tyrannies,--here in this 'little world by itself'--this nursery
of the genius of the North--with its chief races, with its union of
races, its 'happy breed of men,' as our Poet has it, who notes all
these points, and defines its position, regarding it, not with a
narrow English partiality, but looking at it on his Map of the World,
which he always carries with him,--looking at it from his 'Globe,'
which has the Old World and the New on it, and the Past and the
Future,--'a precious stone set in the silver sea,' he calls it, 'in a
great pool, a _swan's nest_':--when that seed of all ages did at last
show itself above the ground here, here in this nursery of hope for
man, it would be with quite another kind of fruit on its boughs, from
any that the continent had been able to mature from it.

It was in the later years of the sixteenth century, in the latter half
of the reign of Elizabeth, that the Printing press, and the revived
Learning of Antiquity, and the Reformation, and the discovery of
America, the new revival of the genius of the North in art and
literature, and the Scientific Discoveries which accompanied this
movement on the continent, began to combine their effects here; and it
was about that time that the political horizon began to exhibit to the
statesman's eye, those portents which both the poet and the
philosopher of that time, have described with so much iteration and
amplitude. These new social elements did not appear to promise in
their combination here, stability to the institutions which Henry the
Seventh, and Henry the Eighth had established in this island.

The genius of Elizabeth conspired with the anomaly of her position to
make her the steadfast patron and promoter of these movements,--worthy
grand-daughter of Henry the seventh as she was, and opposed on
principle, as she was, to the ultimatum to which they were visibly and
stedfastly tending; but, at the same time, her sagacity and prudence
enabled her to ward off the immediate result. She secured her
throne,--she was able to maintain, in the rocking of those movements,
her own political and spiritual supremacy,--she made gain and capital
for absolutism out of them,--the inevitable reformation she herself
assumed, and set bounds to: whatever new freedom there was, was still
the freedom of her will; she could even secure the throne of her
successor: it was mischief for Charles I. that she was nursing. The
consequence of _all_ this was--_the Age of Elisabeth_.

That was what this Queen meant it should be literally, and that was
what it was apparently. But it so happened, that her will and humours
on some great questions jumped with the time, and her dire necessities
compelled her to lead the nation on its own track; or else it would
have been too late, perhaps, for that exhibition of the monarchical
institution,--that revival of the heroic, and _ante_-heroic ages,
which her reign exhibits, to come off here as it did at that time.

It is this that makes the point in this literary history. This is the
key that unlocks the secret of the Elizabethan Art of Delivery and
Tradition. Without any material resources to sustain it--strong in the
national sentiments,--strong in the moral forces with which the past
controls the present,--strong in that natural abhorrence of change
with which nature protects her larger growths,--that principle which
tyranny can test so long with impunity--which it can test with
impunity, till it forgets that this also has in nature its
limits,--strong in the absence of any combination of opposition, to
the young awakening England of that age, that now hollow image of the
past, that phantom of the military force that had been, which seemed
to be waiting only the first breath of the popular will to dissolve
it, was as yet an armed and terrific reality; its iron was on every
neck, its fetter was on every step, and all the new forces, and
world-grasping aims and aspirations which that age was generating were
held down and cramped, and tortured in its chains, dashing their eagle
wings in vain against its iron limits.

As yet all England cowered and crouched, in blind servility, at the
foot of that terrible, but unrecognised embodiment of its own power,
armed out of its own armoury, with the weapons that were turned
against it. So long as any yet extant national sentiment, or
prejudice, was not yet directly assailed--so long as that arbitrary
power was yet wise, or fortunate enough to withhold the blow which
should make the individual sense of outrage, or the feeling of a class
the common one--so long as those peaceful, social elements, yet waited
the spark that was wanting to unite them--so long 'the laws of
England' might be, indeed, at a Falstaff's or a Nym's or a Bardolph's
'commandment,' for the Poet has but put into 'honest Jack's' mouth, a
boast that worse men than he, made good in his time--so long, the
faith, the lives, the liberties, the dearest earthly hopes, of
England's proudest subjects, her noblest, her bravest, her best, her
most learned, her most accomplished, her most inspired, might be at
the mercy of a woman's caprices, or the sport of a fool's sheer will
and obstinacy, or conditioned on some low-lived 'favorites' whims. _So
long_: And how long was that?--who does not know how long it
was?--that was long enough for the whole Elizabethan Age to happen in.
In the reign of Elizabeth, and in the reign of her successor, and
longer still, that was the condition of it--till its last act was
finished--till its last word was spoken and penned--till its last mute
sign was made--till all its celestial inspiration had returned to the
God who gave it--till all its Promethean clay was cold again.

This was the combination of conditions of which the Elizabethan
Literature was the result. The Elizabethan Men of Letters, the
organisers and chiefs of the modern civilization were the result of

These were men in whom the genius of the North in its happiest union
of developments, under its choicest and most favourable conditions of
culture, in its yet fresh, untamed, unbroken, northern vigour, was at
last subjected to the stimulus and provocation which the ancient
learning brings with it to the northern mind--to the now unimaginable
stimulus which, the revival of the ancient art and learning brought
with it to the mind of Europe in that age,--already secure, in its own
indigenous development, already advancing to its own great maturity
under the scholastic culture--the meagre Scholastic, and the rich
Romantic culture--of the Mediaeval Era. The Elizabethan Men of Letters
are men who found in those new and dazzling stores of art and
literature which the movements of their age brought in all their
freshly restored perfection to them, only the summons to their own
slumbering intellectual activities,--fed with fires that old Eastern
and Southern civilizations never knew, nurtured in the depths of a
nature whose depths the northern antiquity had made; they were men who
found in the learning of the South and the East--in the art and
speculation that had satisfied the classic antiquity--only the
definition of their own nobler want.

The first result of the revival of the ancient learning in this island
was, a report of its 'defects.' The first result of that revival here
was a map--a universal map of the learning and the arts which the
conditions of man's life require--a new map or globe of learning on
which lands and worlds, undreamed of by the ancients, are traced. 'A
map or globe' on which 'the principal and supreme sciences,' the
sciences that are _essential_ to the human kind, are put down among
'the parts that lie fresh and waste, and not converted by the industry
of man.' The first result of the revival of learning here was 'a plot'
for the supply of these deficiencies.

The Elizabethan Men of Letters were men, in whom the revival of 'the
Wisdom of the Ancients,' which in its last results, in its most select
and boasted conservations had combined in vain to save antiquity,
found the genius of a happier race, able to point out at a glance the
defect in it; men who saw with a glance at those old books what was
the matter with them; men prepared already to overlook from the new
height of criticism which this sturdy insular development of the
practical genius of the North created, the remains of that lost
civilization--the splendours rescued from the wreck of empires,--the
wisdom which had failed so fatally in practice that it must needs
cross from a lost world of learning to the barbarian's new one, to
find pupils--that it must needs cross the gulf of a thousand years in
learning--such work had it made of it--ere it could revive,--the
wisdom rescued from the wreck it had piloted to ruin, _not_ to
enslave, and ensnare, and doom new ages, and better races, with its
futilities, but to be hung up with its immortal beacon-light, to shew
the track of a new learning, to shew to the contrivers of the chart of
new ages, the breakers of that old ignorance, that old arrogant wordy
barren speculation. For these men were men who would not fish up the
chart of a drowned world for the purpose of seeing how nearly they
could conduct another under different conditions of time and races to
the same conclusion. And they were men of a different turn of mind
entirely from those who lay themselves out on enterprises having that
tendency. The result of this English survey of learning was the
sanctioned and organised determination of the modern speculation to
those new fields which it has already occupied, and its organised, but
secret determination, to that end of a true learning which the need of
man, in its whole comprehension in _this_ theory of it, constitutes.

But the men with whom this proceeding originates, the Elizabethan Men
of Letters, were, in their own time, 'the Few.' They were the chosen
men, not of an age only, but of a race, 'the noblest that ever lived
in the tide of times;' men enriched with the choicest culture of their
age, when that culture involved not the acquisition of the learning of
the ancients only, but the most intimate acquaintance with all those
recent and contemporaneous developments with which its restoration on
the Continent had been attended. Was it strange that these men should
find themselves without sympathy in an age like that?--an age in which
the masses were still unlettered, callous with wrongs, manacled with
blind traditions, or swaying hither and thither, with the breath of a
common prejudice or passion, or swayed hither and thither by the
changeful humours and passions, or the conflicting dogmas and conceits
of their rulers. That is the reason why the development of that age
comes to us as a _Literature_. That is why it is on the surface of it
_Elizabethan_. That is the reason why the leadership of the modern
ages, when it was already here in the persons of its chief
interpreters and prophets, could get as yet no recognition of its
right to teach and rule--could get as yet nothing but _paper_ to print
itself on, nothing but a _pen_ to hew its way with, nor that, without
death and danger dogging it at the heels, and threatening it, at every
turn, so that it could only wave, in mute gesticulation, its signals
to the future. It had to affect, in that time, bookishness and wiry
scholasticism. It had to put on sedulously the harmless old monkish
gown, or the jester's cap and bells, or any kind of a tatterdemalion
robe that would hide, from head to heel, the waving of its purple.
'_Motley's_ the only wear,' whispers the philosopher, peering through
his privileged garb for a moment. King Charles II. had not more to do
in reserving _himself_ in an evil time, and getting safely over to the
year of his dominion.

Letters were the only ships that could pass those seas. But it makes a
new style in literature, when such men as these, excluded from their
natural sphere of activity, get driven into books, cornered into
paragraphs, and compelled to unpack their hearts in letters. There is
a new tone to the words spoken under such compression. It is a tone
that the school and the cloister never rang with,--it is one that the
fancy dealers in letters are not able to deal in. They are such words
as Caesar speaks, when he puts his legions in battle array,--they are
such words as were heard at Salamis one morning, when the breeze began
to stiffen in the bay; and though they be many, never so many, and
though they be musical, as is Apollo's lute, that Lacedemonian ring is
in each one of them. There is great business to be done in them, and
their haste looks through their eyes. In the sighing of the lover, in
the jest of the fool, in the raving of the madman, and not in
Horatio's philosophy only, you hear it.

The founders of the new science of nature and practice were men
unspeakably too far above and beyond their time, to take its bone and
muscle with them. There was no language in which their doctrines could
have been openly conveyed to an English public at that time without
fatal misconception. The truth, which was to them arrayed with the
force of a universal obligation,--the truth, which was to them
religion, would have been, of course, in an age in which a single,
narrow-minded, prejudiced Englishwoman's opinions were accepted as the
ultimate rule of faith and practice, 'flat atheism.' What was with
them loyalty to the supremacy of reason and conscience, would have
been in their time madness and rebellion, and the majority would have
started at it in amazement; and all men would have joined hands, in
the name of truth and justice, to suppress it. The only thing that
could be done in such circumstances was, to _translate_ their doctrine
into the language of their time. They must take the current terms--the
vague popular terms--as they found them, and restrict and enlarge
them, and inform them with their new meanings, with a hint to 'men of
understanding' as to the sense in which they use them. That is the key
to the language in which their books for the future were written.

But who supposes that these men were so wholly super-human, so devoid
of mortal affections and passions, so made up of 'dry light,' that
they could retreat, with all those regal faculties, from the natural
sphere of _their_ activity to the scholar's cell, to make themselves
over in books to a future in which their mortal natures could have no
share,--a future which could not begin till all the breathers of their
world were dead? Who supposes that the 'staff' of Prospero was the
first choice of these chiefs?--these 'heads of the State,' appointed
of nature to the Cure of the Common-Weal.

The leading minds of that age are not minds which owed their
intellectual superiority to a disproportionate development of certain
intellectual tendencies, or to a dwarfed or inferior endowment of
those natural affections and personal qualifications which tend to
limit men to the sphere of their particular sensuous existence. The
mind of this school is the representative mind, and all men recognise
it as that, because, in its products, that nature which is in all men,
which philosophy had, till then, scorned to recognise, which the
abstractionists had missed in their abstractions,--that nature of
will, and sense, and passion, and inanity, is brought out in its true
historical proportions, not as it exists in books, not as it exists in
speech, but as it exists in the actual human life. It is the mind in
which this historical principle, this motivity which is not reason, is
brought in contact with the opposing and controlling element as it had
not been before. In all its earth-born Titanic strength and fulness,
it _is_ dragged up from its secret lurking-places, and confronted with
its celestial antagonist. In all its self-contradiction and cowering
unreason, it is set face to face with its celestial umpire, and
subjected to her unrelenting criticism. There are depths in this
microcosm which _this_ torch only has entered, silences which this
speaker only has broken, cries which he only knows how to articulate.

'The soundest disclosing and expounding of men is by their _natures_
and _ends_,' so the one who is best qualified to give us information
on this question tells us,--by their natures _and_ ends; 'the weaker
sort by their natures, and the _wisest_ by their ends'; and '_the
distance_' of this wisest sort 'from the _ends_ to which they aspire,'
is that 'from which one may take measure and scale of the rest of
their actions and desires.'

The first end which these Elizabethan Men of Letters grasped at, the
thing which they pursued with all the intensity and concentration of a
master passion, was--_power_, political power. They wanted to rule
their own time, and not the future only. 'You are hurt, because you do
not reign,' is the inuendo which they permit us to apply to them as
the key to their proceedings. 'Such men as this are never at heart's
ease,' Caesar remarks in confidence to a friend, 'whiles they behold a
greater than themselves.' 'Come on my right hand, for this ear is
deaf,' he adds, 'and tell me truly what thou think'st of him.' These
are the kind of men that seek instinctively 'predominance,' not in a
clique or neighbourhood only,--they are not content with a domestic
reflection of their image, they seek to stamp it on the state and on
the world. These Elizabethan Men of Letters were men who sought from
the first, with inveterate determination, to rule their own time, and
they never gave up that point entirely. In one way or another,
directly or indirectly, they were determined to make their influence
felt in that age, in spite of the want of encouragement which the
conditions of that time offered to such an enterprise. But they sought
that end not instinctively only, but with the stedfastness of a
rational, scientifically enlightened purpose. It was an enterprise in
which the intense motivity of that new and so 'conspicuous'
development of the particular and private nature, which lies at the
root of such a genius, was sustained by the determination of that not
less superior development of the nobler nature in man, by the motivity
of the intellect, by the sentiment which waits on _that_, by the
motive of 'the larger whole,' which is, in this science of it, 'the

We do not need to apply the key of times to those indirectly
historical remains in which the real history, the life and soul of a
time, is always best found, and in which the history of such a time,
if written at all, must necessarily be inclosed; we do not need to
unlock these works to perceive the indications of suppressed movements
in that age, in which the most illustrious men of the age were
primarily concerned, the history of which has not yet fully
transpired. We do not need to find the key to the cipher in which the
history of that time is written, to perceive that there was to have
been a change in the government here at one time, very different from
the one which afterwards occurred, if the original plans of these men
had succeeded. It is not the Plays only that are full of that
frustrated enterprise.

These were the kind of men who are not easily baffled. They changed
their tactics, but not their ends; and the enterprises which were
conducted with so much secresy under the surveillance of the Tudor,
began already to crown themselves as certainties, and compare their
'olives of endless age' with the spent tombs of brass' and 'tyrant's
crests,' at that sure prospect which, a change of dynasties at that
moment seemed to open,--at least, to men who were in a position then
to estimate its consequences.

That _this_, at all events, was a state of things that was not going
to endure, became palpable about that time to the philosophic mind.
The transition from the rule of a sovereign who was mistress of 'the
situation,' who understood that it was a popular power which she was
wielding--the transition from the rule of a Queen instructed in the
policy of a tyranny, inducted by nature into its arts, to the policy
of that monarch who had succeeded to her throne, and whose 'CREST'
began to be reared here then in the face of the insulted reviving
English nationality,--this transition appeared upon the whole, upon
calmer reflection, at least to the more patient minds of that age, all
that could reasonably at that time be asked for. No better instrument
for stimulating and strengthening the growing popular sentiment, and
rousing the latent spirit of the nation, could have been desired by
the Elizabethan politicians at that crisis, 'for the great labour was
with the people'--that uninstructed power, which makes the sure basis
of tyrannies--that power which Mark Antony takes with him so
easily--the ignorant, tyrannical, humour-led masses--the masses that
still roar their Elizabethan stupidities from the immortal groups of
Coriolanus and Julius Caesar. We ourselves have not yet overtaken the
chief minds of this age; and the gulf that separated them from those
overpowering numbers in their own time, to whose edicts they were
compelled to pay an external submission, was broad indeed. The
difficulty of establishing an understanding with this power was the
difficulty. They wanted that 'pulpit' from which Brutus and Mark
Antony swayed it by turns so easily--that pulpit from which Mark
Antony showed it Caesar's mantle. They wanted some organ of
communication with these so potent and resistless rulers--some 'chair'
from which they could repeat to them in their own tongue the story of
their lost institutions, and revive in them the memory of '_the kings_
their ancestors'--some school in which they could collect them and
instruct them in the scientific doctrine of the _commons_, the
doctrine of the common-_weal_ and its divine supremacy. They wanted a
school in which they could tell them stories--stories of various
kinds--such stories as they loved best to hear--Midsummer stories, or
Winter's tales, and stories of their own battle-fields--they wanted a
school in which they could teach the common people _History_ (and not
English history only), with illustrations, large as life, and a magic
lantern to aid them,--'visible history.'

But to wait till these slow methods had taken effect, would be,
perhaps, to wait, not merely till their estate in the earth was done,
but till the mischief they wished to avert was accomplished. And thus
it was, that the proposal 'to go the beaten track of getting arms into
their hands under colour of Caesar's designs, and _because the people
understood them not_,' came to be considered. To permit the new
dynasty to come in without making any terms with it, without insisting
upon a definition of that indefinite power which the Tudors had
wielded with impunity, and without challenge, would be to make
needless work for the future, and to ignore criminally the
responsibilities of their own position, so at least some English
statesmen of that time, fatally for their favour with the new monarch,
were known to have thought. 'To proceed by process,' to check by
gradual constitutional measures that overgrown and monstrous power in
the state, was the project which these statesmen had most at heart.
But that was a movement which required a firm and enlightened popular
support. Charters and statutes were dead letters till that could be
had. It was fatal to attempt it till that was secured. Failing in that
popular support, if the statesman who had attempted that movement, if
the illustrious chief, and chief man of his time, who headed it, did
secretly meditate other means for accomplishing the same end--which
was to limit the prerogative--such means as the time offered, and if
the evidence which was wanting on his trial _had been_ produced in
proof of it, who that knows what that crisis was would undertake to
convict him on it now? He was arrested on suspicion. He was a man who
had undertaken to set bounds to the absolute will of the monarch, and
therefore he was a dangerous man. [He (Sir Walter Raleigh), together
with the Lord Chobham, Sir J. Fortescue, and _others_, would have
obliged the king to _articles_ before he was admitted to the throne,
and thought the number of his countrymen should be
limited.--_Osborne's Memorials of King James_.] The charges that were
made against him on that shameless trial were indignantly repelled.
'Do you mix, me up with these spiders?' (alluding, perhaps, more
particularly to the Jesuit associated with him in this charge). 'Do
you think I am a Jack Cade or a Robin Hood?' he said. But though the
evidence on this trial is not only in itself illegal, and by
confession perjured, but the _report_ of it comes to us with a
falsehood on the face of it, and is therefore not to be taken without
criticism; that there was a movement of some kind meditated about that
time, by persons occupying chief places of trust and responsibility in
the nation--a movement not favourable to the continuance of 'the
standing departments' in the precise form in which they then
stood--that the project of an administrative reform had not, at least,
been wholly laid aside--that there was something which did not fully
come out on that trial, any one who looks at this report of it will be
apt to infer.

It was a project which had not yet proceeded to any overt act; there
was no legal evidence of its existence produced on the trial; but
suppose there were here, then, already, men 'who loved the
_fundamental part of state_,' more than in such a crisis 'they
_doubted_ the change of it'--men 'who preferred a noble life before a
long'--men, too, '_who were more discreet_' than they were
'_fearful_,' who thought it good practice to 'jump a body with a
dangerous medicine _that was sure of death_ without it;' suppose there
_was_ a movement of that kind arrested here then, and the evidence of
it were produced, what Englishman, or who that boasts the English
lineage to-day, can have a word to say about it? Who had a better
right than those men themselves, those statesmen, those heroes, who
had waked and watched for their country's weal so long, who had fought
her battles on land and sea, and planned them too, not in the tented
field and on the rocking deck only, but in the more 'deadly breach' of
civil office, whose _scaling_-ladders had entered even the tyrant's
council chamber,--who had a better right than those men themselves to
say whether they would be governed by a government of laws, or by the
will of the most despicable 'one-only-man power,' armed with sword and
lash, that ever a nation of Oriental slaves in their political
imbecility cowered under? Who were better qualified than those men
themselves, instructed in detail in all the peril of that crisis,--men
who had comprehended and weighed with a judgment which has left no
successor to its seat, all the conflicting considerations and claims
which that crisis brought with it,--who better qualified than these to
decide on the measures by which the hideous nuisances of that time
should be abated; by which that axe, that sword, that rack, that
stake, and all those burglar's tools, and highwayman's weapons, should
be taken out of the hands of the mad licentious crew with which an
evil time had armed them against the common-weal--those weapons of
lawless power, which the people had vainly, for want of leaders,
refused before-hand to put into their hands. Who better qualified than
these natural chiefs and elected leaders of the nation, to decide on
the dangerous measures for suppressing the innovation, which the Tudor
and his descendants had accomplished in that ancient sovereignty of
laws, which was the sovereignty of this people, which even the Norman
and the Plantagenet had been taught to acknowledge? Who better
qualified than they to call to an account--'the thief,' the 'cut-purse
of the empire and the rule,' who 'found the precious diadem _on a
shelf_, and stole and put it in his pocket'?

['Shall the blessed _Sun_ of _Heaven_ prove a micher, and _eat
blackberries_'? A question _not_ to be asked! Shall the blessed 'Son
of England' prove a thief, and take purses? A question _to be asked_.
'The _poor_ abuses of the time want _countenance_.'

_Lear_. Take that from me, my friend,
who have the power to _seal the accuser's_ lips.]

Who better qualified could be found to head the dangerous enterprise
for the deliverance of England from that shame, than the chief in whom
her Alfred arose again to break from her neck a baser than the Danish
yoke, to restore her kingdom and found her new empire, to give her
domains, that the sun never sets on,--her Poet, her Philosopher, her
Soldier, her Legislator, the builder of her Empire of the Sea, her
founder of new 'States.'

But then, of course, it is only by the rarest conjunction of
circumstances, that the movements and plans which such a state of
things gives rise to, can get any other than the most opprobrious name
and place in history. Success is their only certificate of legitimacy.
To attempt to overthrow a government still so strongly planted in the
endurance and passivity of the people, might seem, perhaps, to some
minds in these circumstances, a hopeless, and, _therefore_, a criminal

'That _opportunity_ which then they had to take from us, to resume, we
have again,' might well have seemed a sufficient plea, so it could
have been made good. But it is not strange that some few, even then,
should find it difficult to believe that the national ruin was yet so
entire, that the ashes of the ancient nobility and commons of England
were yet so cold, as that a system of despotism like that which was
exercised here then, could be permanently and securely fastened over
them. It is not strange that it should seem to these impossible that
there should not be enough of that old English spirit which, only a
hundred years before, had ranged the people in armed thousands, in
defence of LAW, against absolutism, enough of it, at least, to welcome
and sustain the overthrow of tyranny, when once it should present
itself as a fact accomplished, instead of appealing beforehand to a
courage, which so many instances of vain and disastrous resistance had
at last subdued, and to a spirit which seemed reduced at last, to the
mere quality of the master's will.

That was a narrow dominion apparently to which King James consigned
his great rival in the arts of government, but that rival of his
contrived to rear a 'crest' there which will outlast 'the tyrants,'
and 'look fresh still' when tombs that artists were at work on then
'are spent.' 'And when a soldier was his theme, my name--my _name_
[namme de plume] was nor far off.' King James forgot how many weapons
this man carried. He took one sword from him, he did not know that
that pen, that harmless goose-quill, carried in its sheath another. He
did not know what strategical operations the scholar, who was 'an old
soldier' and a politician also, was capable of conducting under such
conditions. Those were narrow quarters for 'the Shepherd of the
Ocean,' for the hero of the two hemispheres, to occupy so long; but it
proved no bad retreat for the chief of this movement, as he managed
it. It was in that school of Elizabethan statesmanship which had its
centre in the Tower, that many a scholarly English gentleman came
forth prepared to play his part in the political movements that
succeeded. It was out of that school of statesmanship that John
Hampden came, accomplished for his part in them.

The papers that the chief of the Protestant cause prepared in that
literary retreat to which the Monarch had consigned him, by means of
those secret channels of communication among the better minds which he
had established in the reign of Elizabeth, became the secret manual of
the revolutionary chiefs; they made the first blast of the trumpet
that summoned at last the nation to its feet. 'The famous Mr. Hamden'
(says an author, who writes in those 'next ages' in which so many
traditions of this time are still rife) '_a little before_ the civil
wars was at the charge of transcribing three thousand four hundred and
fifty-two sheets of Sir Walter Raleigh's MSS., as the amanuensis
himself _told me_, who had his _close chamber_, his fire and _candle_,
with an _attendant to deliver him the originals_ and _take his copies
as fast as he could write them_.' That of itself is a pretty little
glimpse of the kind of machinery which the Elizabethan literature
required for its 'delivery and tradition' at the time, or near the
times, in which it was produced. That is a view of 'an Interior'
'before the civil wars.' It was John Milton who concluded, on looking
over, a long time afterwards, one of the unpublished papers of this
statesman, that it was his duty to give it to the public. 'Having
had,' he says, 'the MS. of this treatise ["The Cabinet Council"]
written by Sir Walter Raleigh, many years in my hands, and finding it
lately by chance among other books and papers, upon reading thereof, I
thought it _a kind of injury to withhold longer_ the work of so
eminent an author from the public; it being both answerable in style
to other works of his already extant, as far as _the subject_ would
permit, and given me for a true copy by a learned man at his death,
who had collected several such pieces.'

'_A kind of injury_.'--That is the thought which would naturally take
possession of any mind, charged with the responsibility of keeping
back for years this man's writings, especially his choicest
ones--papers that could not be published then on account of the
subject, or that came out with the leaves uncut, labouring with the
restrictions which the press opposed then to the issues of such a

That great result which the chief minds of the Modern Ages, under the
influence of the new culture, in that secret association of them were
able to achieve, that new and all comprehending science of life and
practice which they made it their business to perfect and transmit,
could not, indeed, as yet be communicated directly to the many. The
scientific doctrines of the new time were necessarily limited in that
age to the few. But another movement corresponding to that,
simultaneous in its origin, related to it in its source, was also in
progress here then, proceeding hand in hand with this, playing its
game for it, opening the way to its future triumph. This was that
movement of the new time,--this was that consequence, not of the
revival of learning only, but of the growth of the northern mind which
touched everywhere and directly the springs of government, and made
'bold power look pale,' for this was the movement in 'the many.'

This was the movement which had already convulsed the continent; this
was the movement of which Raleigh was from the first the soldier; this
was 'the cause' of which he became the chief. It was as a youth of
seventeen, bursting from those old fastnesses of the Middle Ages that
could not hold him any longer, shaking off the films of Aristotle and
his commentators, that he girded on his sword for the great
world-battle that was raging already in Europe then. It was into the
thickest of it, that his first step plunged him. For he was one of
that company of a hundred English gentlemen who were waiting but for
the first word of permission from Elizabeth to go as volunteers to the
aid of the Huguenots. This was the movement which had at last reached
England. And like these other continental events which were so slow in
taking effect in England when it did begin to unfold here at last;
there was a taste of 'the island' in it, in this also.

It was not on the continent only, that Raleigh and other English
statesmen were disposed to sustain this movement. It was not possible
as yet to bring the common mind openly to the heights of those great
doctrines of life and practice which the Wisdom of the Moderns also
embodies, but the new teachers of that age knew how to appreciate, as
the man of science only can fully appreciate, the worth of those
motives that were then beginning to agitate so portentously so large a
portion of the English people. The Elizabethan politicians nourished
and patronised in secret that growing faction. The scientific
politician hailed with secret delight, hailed as the partner of his
own enterprise, that new element of political power which the changing
time began to reveal here then, that power which was already beginning
to unclasp on the necks of the masses, the collar of the absolute
will--that was already proclaiming, in the stifled undertones of 'that
greater part which carries it,' another supremacy. They gave in secret
the right hand of a joyful fellowship to it. At home and abroad the
great soldier and statesman, who was the first founder of the Modern
Science, headed that faction. He fought its battles by land and sea;
he opened the New World to it, and sent it there to work out its

It was the first stage of an advancement that would not rest till it
found its true consummation. That infinity which was speaking in its
confused tones, as with the voice of many waters, was resolved into
music and triumphal marches in the ear of the Interpreter. It gave
token that the nobler nature had not died out under the rod of
tyranny; it gave token of the earnestness that would not be appeased
until the ends that were declared in it were found.

But at the same time, this was a power which the wise men of that age
were far from being willing to let loose upon society then in that
stage of its development; very far were they from being willing to put
the reins into its hands. To balance the dangers that were threatening
the world at that crisis was always the problem. It was a very narrow
line that the policy which was to save the state had to keep to then.
There were evils on both sides. But to the scientific mind there
appeared to be a choice in them. The measure on one side had been
taken, and it was in all men's hearts, but the abysses on the other no
man had sounded. 'The danger of stirring things,'--the dangers, too,
of that unscanned swiftness that too late _ties leaden pounds to his
heels_ were the dangers that were always threatening the Elizabethan
movement, and defining and curbing it. The wisest men of that time
leaned towards the monarchy, the monarchy that was, rather than the
anarchy that was threatening them. The _will_ of the one rather than
the _wills_ of the many, the head of the one rather than 'the
many-headed.' To effect the change which the time required without
'wrenching all'--without undoing the work of ages--without setting at
large from the restraints of reverence and custom the chained tiger of
an unenlightened popular will, this was the problem. The wisest
statesmen, the most judicious that the world has ever known were here,
with their new science, weighing in exactest scales those issues. We
must not quarrel with their concessions to tyranny on the one hand,
nor with their determination to effect changes on the other, until we
are able to command entirely the position they occupied, and the
opposing dangers they had always to consider. We must not judge them
till they have had their hearing. What freedom and what hope there is
of it upon the earth to-day, is the legacy of their perseverance and

They experienced many defeats. The hopes of youth, the hopes of
manhood in turn grew cold. That the 'glorious day' which 'flattered
the mountain tops' of their immortal morning with its sovereign eye
would never shine on them; that their own, with all its unimagined
splendours obscured so long, would go down hid in those same 'base
clouds,' that for them the consummation was to 'peep about to find
themselves dishonourable graves' was the conviction under which their
later tasks were achieved. It did not abate their ardour. They did not
strain one nerve the less for that.

Driven from one field, they showed themselves in another. Driven from
the open field, they fought in secret. 'I will bandy with thee in
faction, I will o'errun thee with policy, I will kill thee a hundred
and fifty ways,' the Jester who brought their challenge said. The
Elizabethan England rejected the Elizabethan Man. She would have none
of his meddling with her affairs. She sent him to the Tower, and to
the block, if ever she caught him meddling with them. She buried him
alive in the heart of his time. She took the seals of office, she took
the sword, from his hands and put a pen in it. She would have of him a
Man of Letters. And a Man of Letters he became. A Man of Runes. He
invented new letters in his need, letters that would go farther than
the sword, that carried more execution in them than the great seal.
Banished from the state in that isle to which he was banished, he
found not the base-born Caliban only, to _instruct_, and train, and
subdue to his ends, but an Ariel, an imprisoned Ariel, waiting to be
released, able to conduct his masques, able to put his girdles round
the earth, and to 'perform and point' to his Tempest.

'Go bring the RABBLE, o'er whom I give thee _power_, here to this
place,' was the New Magician's word.

[Here is another version of it.

'When Sir Nicholas Bacon, the Lord Keeper, lived, every room in
Gorhambury was served with a pipe of water from the pond distant about
a mile off. In the lifetime of Mr. Anthony Bacon the water ceased, and
his lordship coming to the inheritance could not recover the water
without infinite charge. When he was Lord Chancellor, he built Verulam
House _close by the pond yard, for a place of privacy_ when he was
called upon to dispatch any urgent business. And being asked why he
built there, his lordship answered that, seeing _he could not carry
the water to_ his House, he _would carry his House_ to the water.]

This is not the place for the particulars of this history or for the
barest outline of them. They make a volume of themselves. But this
glimpse of the circumstances under which the works were composed which
it is the object of this volume to open, appeared at the last moment
to be required, in the absence of the Historical Key which the proper
development of them makes, to that Art of Delivery and Tradition by
means of which the secrets of the Elizabethan Age have been conveyed
to us.



'Our court shall be a little Academe,
Still and contemplative in _living_ Art.'
'What is the _end_ of study? let me know.'

_Love's Labour's Lost_.

But it was not on the New World wholly, that this man of many toils
could afford to lavish the revenues which the Queen's favour brought
him. It was not to that enterprise alone that he was willing to
dedicate the _eclat_ and influence of his rising name. There was work
at home which concerned him more nearly, not less deeply, to which
that new influence was made at once subservient; and in that there
were enemies to be encountered more formidable than the Spaniard on
his own deck, or on his own coast, with all his war-weapons and
defences. It was an enemy which required a strategy more subtle than
any which the exigencies of camp and field had called for.

The fact that this hero throughout all his great public career--so
full of all kinds of excitement and action--enough, one would say, to
absorb the energies of a mind of any ordinary human capacity--that
this soldier whose name had become, on the Spanish coasts, what the
name of '_Coeur de Lion_' was in the Saracen nursery, that this
foreign adventurer who had a fleet of twenty-three ships sailing at
one time on his errands--this legislator, for he sat in Parliament as
representative of his native shire--this magnificent courtier, who had
raised himself, without any vantage-ground at all, from a position
wholly obscure, by his personal achievements and merits, to a place in
the social ranks so exalted; to a place in the state so _near_
that--which was chief and absolute--the fact that this many-sided man
of deeds, was all the time a literary man, not a scholar merely, but
himself an Originator, a Teacher, the Founder of a School--this is the
explanatory point in this history--this is the point in it which
throws light on all the rest of it, and imparts to it its true

For he was not a mere blind historical agent, driven by fierce
instincts, intending only their own narrow ends, without any faculty
of comprehensive survey and choice of intentions; impelled by thirst
of adventure, or thirst of power, or thirst of gold, to the execution
of his part in the great human struggle for conservation and
advancement; working like other useful agencies in the Providential
Scheme--like 'the stormy wind fulfilling his pleasure.'

There is, indeed, no lack of the instinctive element in this heroic
'composition;' there is no stronger and more various and complete
development of it. That '_lumen siccum_' which his great contemporary
is so fond of referring to in his philosophy, that _dry light_ which
is so apt, he tells us, in most men's minds, to get 'drenched' a
little sometimes, in 'the humours and affections,' and distorted and
refracted in their mediums, did not always, perhaps, in its practical
determinations, escape from that accident even in the philosopher's
own; but in this stormy, world-hero, there was a latent volcano of
will and passion; there was, in his constitution, 'a complexion' which
might even seem to the bystanders to threaten at times, by its
'o'ergrowth,' the 'very pales and forts of reason'; but the intellect
was, notwithstanding, in its due proportion in him; and it was the
majestic intellect that triumphed in the end. It was the large and
manly comprehension, 'the large discourse looking before and after,'
it was the overseeing and active principle of 'the larger whole,' that
predominated and had the steering of his course. It is the common
human form which shines out in him and makes that manly demonstration,
which commands our common respect, in spite of those particular
defects and o'ergrowths which are apt to mar its outline in the best
historical types and patterns of it, we have been able to get as yet.
It was the intellect, and the sense which belongs to _that_ in its
integrity--it was the truth and the feeling of its obligation, which
was sovereign with him. For this is a man who appears to have been
occupied with the care of the common-weal more than with anything
else; and that, too, under great disadvantages and impediments, and
when there was no honour in caring for it truly, but that kind of
honour which he had so much of; for this was the time precisely which
the poet speaks of in that play in which he tells us that the end of
playing is 'to give to the very age and body of the time _its form and
pressure_.' This was the time when 'virtue of vice _must pardon beg_,
and curb and beck for leave to do it good.' It was the relief of man's
estate, or the Creator's glory, that he busied himself about; that was
the end of his ends; or if not, then was he, indeed, no hero at all.
For it was the doctrine of his own school, and 'the first human
principle' taught in it, that men who act without reference to that
distinctly _human_ aim, without that _manly_ consideration and
_kind_-liness of purpose, can lay no claim either to divine or human
honours; that they are not, in fact, men, but failures; specimens of
an unsuccessful attempt in nature, at an advancement; or, as his great
contemporary states it more clearly, 'only a nobler kind of vermin.'

During all the vicissitudes of his long and eventful public life,
Raleigh was still persistently a scholar. He carried his books--his
'trunk of books' with him in all his adventurous voyages; and they
were his 'companions' in the toil and excitement of his campaigns on
land. He studied them in the ocean-storm; he studied them in his tent,
as Brutus studied in his. He studied them year after year, in the dim
light which pierced the deep embrasure of those walls with which
tyranny had thought to shut in at last his world-grasping energies.

He had had some chance to study 'men and manners' in that strange and
various life of his, and he did not lack the skill to make the most of
it; but he was not content with that narrow, one-sided aspect of life
and human nature, to which his own individual personal experience,
however varied, must necessarily limit him. He would see it under
greater varieties, under all varieties of conditions. He would know
the history of it; he would 'delve it to the root.' He would know how
that particular form of it, which he found on the surface in his time,
had come to be the thing he found it. He would know what it had been
in other times, in the beginning, or in that stage of its development
in which the historic light first finds it. He was a man who wished
even to know what it had been in _the Assyrian_, in _the Phenician_,
in _the Hebrew_, in _the Egyptian_; he would see what it had been in
_the Greek_, and in _the Roman_. He was, indeed, one of that clique of
Elizabethan Naturalists, who thought that there was no more curious
thing in nature; and instead of taking a Jack Cade view of the
subject, and inferring that an adequate knowledge of it comes by
nature, as reading and writing do in that worthy's theory of
education, it was the private opinion of this school, that there was
no department of learning which a scholar could turn his attention to,
that required a more severe and thorough study and experiment, and
none that a man of a truly _scientific_ turn of mind would find better
worth his leisure. And the study of antiquity had not yet come to be
then what it is now; at least, with men of this stamp. Such men did
not study it to discipline their minds, or to get a classic finish to
their style. The books that such a man as this could take the trouble
to carry about with him on such errands as those that he travelled on,
were books that had in them, for the eager eyes that then o'er-ran
them, the world's 'news'--the world's story. They were full of the
fresh living data of his conclusions. They were notes that the master
minds of all the ages had made for him; invaluable aid and sympathy
they had contrived to send to him. The man who had been arrested in
his career, more ignominiously than the magnificent Tully had been in
_his_,--in a career, too, a thousand times more noble,--by a Caesar,
indeed, but _such_ a Caesar;--the man who had sat for years with the
executioner's block in his yard, waiting only for a scratch of the
royal pen, to bring down upon him that same edge which the poor
Cicero, with all his truckling, must feel at last,--such a one would
look over the old philosopher's papers with an apprehension of their
meaning, somewhat more lively than that of the boy who reads them for
a prize, or to get, perhaps, some classic elegancies transfused into
his mind.

During the ten years which intervene between the date of Raleigh's
first departure for the Continent and that of his beginning favour at
home, already he had found means for ekeing out and perfecting that
liberal education which Oxford had only begun for him, so that it was
as a man of rarest literary accomplishments that he made his brilliant
_debut_ at the English Court, where the new Elizabethan Age of Letters
was just then beginning.

He became at once the centre of that little circle of highborn wits
and poets, the elder wits and poets of the Elizabethan age, that were
then in their meridian there. Sir Philip Sidney, Thomas Lord
Buckhurst, Henry Lord Paget, Edward Earl of Oxford, and some others,
are included in the contemporary list of this courtly company, whose
doings are somewhat mysteriously adverted to by a critic, who refers
to the condition of 'the Art of Poesy' at that time. '_The gentleman
who wrote the late Shepherds' Calendar_' was beginning then to attract
considerable attention in this literary aristocracy.

The brave, bold genius of Raleigh flashed new life into that little
nucleus of the Elizabethan development. The new '_Round Table_,' which
that newly-beginning age of chivalry, with its new weapons and
devices, and its new and more heroic adventure had created, was not
yet 'full' till he came in. The Round Table grew rounder with this
knight's presence. Over those dainty stores of the classic ages, over
those quaint memorials of the elder chivalry, that were spread out on
it, over the dead letter of the past, the brave Atlantic breeze came
in, the breath of the great future blew, when the turn came for this
knight's adventure; whether opened in the prose of its statistics, or
set to its native music in the mystic melodies of the bard who was
there to sing it. The Round Table grew spheral, as he sat talking by
it; the Round Table dissolved, as he brought forth his lore, and
unrolled his maps upon it; and instead of it,--with all its fresh yet
living interests, tracked out by land and sea, with the great
battle-ground of the future outlined on it,--revolved the round world.
'_Universality_' was still the motto of these Paladins; but 'THE
GLOBE'--the Globe, with its TWO hemispheres, became henceforth their

The promotion of Raleigh at Court was all that was needed to make him
the centre and organiser of that new intellectual movement which was
then just beginning there. He addressed himself to the task as if he
had been a man of literary tastes and occupations merely, or as if
that particular crisis had been a time of literary leisure with him,
and there were nothing else to be thought of just then. The relation
of those illustrious literary partners of his, whom he found already
in the field when he first came to it, to that grand development of
the English genius in art and philosophy which follows, ought not
indeed to be overlooked or slightly treated in any thorough history of
it. For it has its first beginning here in this brilliant assemblage
of courtiers, and soldiers, and scholars,--this company of Poets, and
Patrons and Encouragers of Art and Learning. Least of all should the
relation which the illustrious founder of this order sustains to the
later development be omitted in any such history,--'the prince and
mirror of all chivalry,' the patron of the young English Muse, whose
untimely fate keeps its date for ever green, and fills the air of this
new 'Helicon' with immortal lamentations. The shining foundations of
that so splendid monument of the later Elizabethan genius, which has
paralyzed and confounded all our criticism, were laid here. The
extraordinary facilities which certain departments of literature
appeared to offer, for evading the restrictions which this new poetic
and philosophic development had to encounter from the first, already
began to attract the attention of men acquainted with the uses to
which it had been put in antiquity, and who knew what gravity of aim,
what height of execution, that then rude and childish English Play had
been made to exhibit under other conditions;--men fresh from the study
of those living and perpetual monuments of learning, which the genius
of antiquity has left in this department. But the first essays of the
new English scholarship in this untried field,--the first attempts at
original composition here, derive, it must be confessed, their chief
interest and value from that memorable association in which we find
them. It was the first essay, which had to be made before those
finished monuments of art, which command our admiration on their own
account wholly, could begin to appear. It was 'the tuning of the
instruments, that those who came afterwards might play the better.' We
see, of course, the stiff, cramped hand of the beginner here, instead
of the grand touch of the master, who never comes till his art has
been prepared to his hands,--till the details of its execution have
been mastered for him by others. In some arts there must be
generations of essays before he can get his tools in a condition for
use. Ages of prophetic genius, generations of artists, who dimly saw
afar off, and struggled after his perfections, must patiently chip and
daub their lives away, before ever the star of his nativity can begin
to shine.

Considering what a barbaric age it was that the English mind was
emerging from then; and the difficulties attending the first attempt
to create in the English literature, anything which should bear any
proportion to those finished models of skill which were then dazzling
the imagination of the English scholar in the unworn gloss of their
fresh revival here, and discouraging, rather than stimulating, the
rude poetic experiment;--considering what weary lengths of essay there
are always to be encountered, where the standard of excellence is so
far beyond the power of execution; we have no occasion to despise the
first bold attempts to overcome these difficulties which the good
taste of this company has preserved to us. They are just such works as
we might expect under those circumstances;--yet full of the pedantries
of the new acquisition, overflowing on the surface with the learning
of the school, sparkling with classic allusions, seizing boldly on the
classic original sometimes, and working their new fancies into it;
but, full already of the riant vigour and originality of the
Elizabethan inspiration; and never servilely copying a foreign
original. The English genius is already triumphant in them. Their very
crudeness is not without its historic charm, when once their true
place in the structure we find them in, is recognised. In the later
works, this crust of scholarship has disappeared, and gone below the
surface. It is all dissolved, and gone into the clear intelligence;--
it has all gone to feed the majestic current of that new, all-subduing,
all-grasping originality. It is in these earlier performances that the
stumbling-blocks of our present criticism are strewn so thickly.
Nobody can write any kind of criticism of the 'Comedy of Errors,'
for instance, without recognizing the Poet's acquaintance with the
classic model, [See a recent criticism in 'The Times.']--without
recognizing the classic treatment. 'Love's Labour's Lost,' 'The
Taming of the Shrew,' the condemned parts of 'Henry the VI.,' and
generally the Poems which are put down in our criticism as doubtful,
or as the earlier Poems, are just those Poems in which the Poet's
studies are so flatly betrayed on the surface. Among these are plays
which were anonymously produced by the company performing at the
Rose Theatre, and other companies which English noblemen found
occasion to employ in their service then. These were not so much as
produced at the theatre which has had the honor of giving its name to
other productions, bound up with them. We shall find nothing to object
to in that somewhat heterogeneous collection of styles, which even a
single Play sometimes exhibits, when once the history of this
phenomenon accompanies it. The Cathedrals that were built, or re-built
throughout, just at the moment in which the Cathedral Architecture had
attained its ultimate perfection, are more beautiful to the eye,
perhaps, than those in which the story of its growth is told from the
rude, massive Anglo-Saxon of the crypt or the chancel, to the last
refinement of the mullion, and groin, and tracery. But the antiquary,
at least, does not regret the preservation. And these crude beginnings
here have only to be put in their place, to command from the critic,
at least, a similar respect. For here, too, the history reports itself
to the eye, and not less palpably.

It may seem surprising, and even incredible, to the modern critic,
that men in this position should find any occasion to conceal their
relation to those quite respectable contributions to the literature of
the time, which they found themselves impelled to make. The fact that
they did so, is one that we must accept, however, on uncontradicted
cotemporary testimony, and account for it as we can. The critic who
published his criticisms when 'the gentleman who wrote the late
Shepherd's Calendar' was just coming into notice, however inferior to
our modern critics in other respects, had certainly a better
opportunity of informing himself on this point, than they can have at
present. 'They have writ excellently well,' _he_ says of this company
of Poets,--this 'courtly company,' as he calls them,--' they have writ
excellently well, _if their doings could be found out and made public
with the rest_.' _Sir Philip Sidney, Raleigh,_ and the gentleman who
wrote the late Shepherd's Calendar, are included in the list of Poets
to whom this remark is applied. It is Raleigh's verse which is
distinguished, however, in this commendation as the most 'lofty,
insolent, and passionate;' a description which applies to the
anonymous poems alluded to, but is not particularly applicable to
those artificial and tame performances which he was willing to
acknowledge. And this so commanding Poet, who was at the same time an
aspiring courtier and meddler in affairs of state, and who chose, for
some mysterious reason or other, to forego the honours which those who
were in the secret of his literary abilities and successes,--the very
best judges of poetry in that time, too, were disposed to accord
him,--and we are not without references to cases in antiquity
corresponding very nearly to this; and which seemed to furnish, at
least, a sufficient precedent for this proceeding;--this so successful
poet, and courtier, and great man of his time, was already in a
position to succeed at once to that chair of literary patronage which
the death of Sir Philip Sidney had left vacant. Instinctively
generous, he was ready to serve the literary friends whom he attracted
to him, not less lavishly than he had served the proud Queen herself,
when he threw his gay cloak in her obstructed path,--at least, he was
not afraid of risking those sudden splendours which her favour was
then showering upon him, by wearying her with petitions on their
behalf. He would have risked his new favour, at least with his
'Cynthia,'--that twin sister of Phoebus Apollo,--to make her the
patron, if not the inspirer of the Elizabethan genius. 'When will you
cease to be a beggar, Raleigh?' she said to him one day, on one of
these not infrequent occasions. 'When your Majesty ceases to be a most
gracious mistress,' was this courtier's reply. It is recorded of her,
that 'she loved to hear his reasons to her demands.'

But though, with all his wit and eloquence, he could not contrive to
make of the grand-daughter of Henry the Seventh, a Pericles, or an
Alexander, or a Ptolemy, or an Augustus, or an encourager of anything
that did not appear to be directly connected with her own particular
ends, he did succeed in making her indirectly a patron of the literary
and scientific development which was then beginning to add to her
reign its new lustre,--which was then suing for leave to lay at her
feet its new crowns and garlands. Indirectly, he did convert her into
a patron,--a second-hand patron of those deeper and more subtle
movements of the new spirit of the time, whose bolder demonstrations
she herself had been forced openly to head. Seated on the throne of
Henry the Seventh, she was already the armed advocate of European
freedom;--Raleigh had contrived to make her the legal sponsor for the
New World's liberties; it only needed that her patronage should be
systematically extended to that new enterprise for the emancipation of
the human life from the bondage of ignorance, from the tyranny of
unlearning,--that enterprise which the gay, insidious Elizabethan
literature was already beginning to flower over and cover with its
devices,--it only needed _that_, to complete the anomaly of her
position. And that through Raleigh's means was accomplished.

He became himself the head of a little _Alexandrian_ establishment.
His house was a home for men of learning. He employed men in literary
and scientific researches on his account, whose business it was to
report to him their results. He had salaried scholars at his table, to
impart to him their acquisitions, Antiquities, History, Poetry,
Chemistry, Mathematics, scientific research of all kinds, came under
his active and persevering patronage. Returning from one of his visits
to Ireland, whither he had gone on this occasion to inspect a
_seignorie_ which his 'sovereign goddess' had then lately conferred
upon him, he makes his re-appearance at court with that so obscure
personage, the poet of the 'Faery Queene,' under his wing;--that same
gentleman, as the court is informed, whose bucolics had already
attracted so much attention in that brilliant circle. By a happy
coincidence, Raleigh, it seems, had discovered this Author in the
obscurity of his clerkship in Ireland, and had determined to make use
of his own influence at court to push his brother poet's fortunes
there; but his efforts to benefit this poor bard _personally_, do not
appear to have been attended at any time with much success. The
mysterious literary partnership between these two, however, which
dates apparently from an earlier period, continues to bring forth
fruit of the most successful kind; and the 'Faery Queene' is not the
only product of it.

All kinds of books began now to be dedicated to this new and so
munificent patron of arts and letters. His biographers collect his
public history, not from political records only, but from the eulogies

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