About Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626) was an English philosopher, statesman, and essayist. He is also known as a proponent of the scientific revolution. Indeed, according to John Aubrey, his dedication may have brought him into a rare historical group of scientists who were killed by their own experiments.
Bacon was knighted in 1603, created Baron Verulam in 1618, and created Viscount St Alban in 1621; without heirs, both peerages became extinct upon his death. He has been credited as the creator of the English essay.
Francis Bacon was born at York House in Strand, London. He was raised as an English gentleman. He was the youngest of five sons of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under Elizabeth I. His mother, Ann Cooke, was Sir Nicholas's second wife. She was a daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke and a member of the Reformed Puritan Church. His (maternal) aunt married William Cecil (Lord Burghley), the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I.
Biographers believe that Bacon received an education at home in his early years, and that his health during that time, as later, was delicate. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1573 at the age of twelve, living for three years there with his older brother Anthony.
At Cambridge he first met the Queen, who was impressed by his precocious intellect, and was accustomed to calling him "the young Lord Keeper".
There also his studies brought him to the conclusion that the methods (and thus the results) of the science of his day were erroneous. His reverence for Aristotle conflicted with his dislike of Aristotelian philosophy, which seemed to him barren, disputatious, and wrong in its objectives.
On 27 June 1576, he and Anthony were entered de societate magistrorum at Gray's Inn, and a few months later they went abroad with Sir Amias Paulet, the English ambassador at Paris. The disturbed state of government and society in France under Henry III afforded him valuable political instruction.
The sudden death of his father in February 1579 necessitated Bacon's return to England, and seriously influenced his fortunes. Sir Nicholas had laid up a considerable sum of money to purchase an estate for his youngest son, but he died before doing so, and Francis was left with only a fifth of that money. Having started with insufficient means, he borrowed money and became habitually in debt. To support himself, he took up his residence in law at Gray's Inn in 1579.
Bacon's goals were threefold: discovery of truth, service to his country, and service to the church. Knowing that a prestigious post would aid him toward these ends, in 1580 he applied, through his uncle, Lord Burghley, for a post at court which might enable him to devote himself to a life of learning. His application failed, and for two years he worked quietly at Gray's Inn giving himself seriously to the study of law, until admitted as an outer barrister in 1582. In 1584 he took his seat in parliament for Melcombe in Dorset, and subsequently for Taunton (1586). He wrote on the condition of parties in the church, and he wrote down his thoughts on philosophical reform in the lost tract, Temporis Partus Maximus, but he failed to obtain a position of the kind he thought necessary for his own success. In the Parliament of 1586 he took a prominent part in urging the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. About this time he seems again to have approached his powerful uncle, the result of which may possibly be traced in his rapid progress at the bar, and in his receiving, in 1589, the reversion to the Clerkship of the Star Chamber, a valuable appointment, the enjoyment of which, however, he did not enter into until 1608.
During this period Bacon became acquainted with Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1567–1601), Queen Elizabeth's favourite. By 1591 he was acting as the earl's confidential adviser. Bacon took his seat for Middlesex when in February 1593 Elizabeth called a Parliament to investigate a Roman Catholic plot against her. His opposition to a bill that would levy triple subsidies in half the usual time (he objected to the time span) offended many people; he was accused of seeking popularity, and was for a time excluded from the court. When the Attorney-Generalship fell vacant in 1594 and Bacon became a candidate for the office, Lord Essex's influence could not secure him the position; in fashion, Bacon failed to become solicitor in 1595. To console him for these disappointments, Essex presented him with a property at Twickenham, which he subsequently sold for £1800, the equivalent of around £240,000 today.
Memorial to Francis Bacon, in the chapel of Trinity College, CambridgeIn 1596 he was made a Queen's Counsel, but missed the appointment of Master of the Rolls. During the next few years, his financial situation remained bad. His friends could find no public office for him, a scheme for retrieving his position by a marriage with the wealthy widow Lady Elizabeth Hatton failed, and in 1598 he was arrested for debt. His standing in the queen's eyes, however, was beginning to improve. He gradually acquired the standing of one of the learned counsel, though he had no commission or warrant and received no salary. His relationship with the queen also improved when he severed ties with Essex, a fortunate move considering that the latter was executed for treason in 1601 - Bacon was one of those appointed to investigate the charges against him, and examine witnesses, in connection with which he showed eagerness in pressing the case against his former friend and benefactor. This act Bacon endeavoured to justify in A Declaration of the Practices and Treasons, etc., of ... the Earl of Essex, etc. He received a gift of a fine of £1200 on one of Essex's accomplices.
The accession of James I brought Bacon into greater favour; he was knighted in 1603, and endeavoured to set himself right with the new powers by writing his Apologie (defence) of his proceedings in the case of Essex, who had favoured the succession of James. Bacon was present at the state opening of parliament in 1605, which would have all but certainly made him a victim of the Gunpowder Plot had it succeeded. The following year, during the course of the uneventful first parliament session Bacon married Alice Barnham.
In 1608, Bacon entered upon the Clerkship of the Star Chamber, and was in the enjoyment of a large income; but old debts and present extravagance kept him embarrassed, and he endeavoured to obtain further promotion and wealth by supporting the king in his arbitrary policy. Bacon's services had been rewarded in June 1607 with the office of Solicitor. In 1610 the famous fourth parliament of James met. Despite Bacon's advice to him, James and the Commons found themselves frequently at odds over royal prerogatives and the king's embarrassing extravagance, and the House was dissolved in February 1611. Through this Bacon managed in frequent debate to uphold the prerogative, while retaining the confidence of the Commons. In 1613, Bacon was finally able to become attorney general, by dint of advising the king to shuffle judicial appointments; and in this capacity he would prosecute Somerset in 1616. The parliament of April 1614 objected to Bacon's presence in the seat for Cambridge — he was allowed to stay, but a law was passed that forbade the attorney-general to sit in parliament — and to the various royal plans which Bacon had supported. His obvious influence over the king inspired resentment or apprehension in many of his peers.
Bacon continued to receive the King's favour, and in 1618 was appointed by James to the position of Lord Chancellor. His public career ended in disgrace in 1621 when, after having fallen into debt, a Parliamentary Committee on the administration of the law charged him with corruption under twenty-three counts. To the lords, who sent a committee to inquire whether the confession was really his, he replied, "My lords, it is my act, my hand, and my heart; I beseech your lordships to be merciful to a broken reed." He was sentenced to a fine of £40,000, remitted by the king, to be committed to the Tower of London during the king's pleasure (his imprisonment in fact lasted only a few days). More seriously, Lord St Alban (as he had been since earlier in 1621) was declared incapable of holding future office or sitting in parliament. He narrowly escaped being deprived of his titles. Thenceforth the disgraced viscount devoted himself to study and writing.
It has been argued by Nieves Mathews that Bacon was in fact innocent of the bribery charges; Bacon himself said that he was forced to plead guilty so as to save King James from a political scandal, stating:
I was the justest judge, that was in England these last fifty years. When the book of all hearts is opened, I trust I shall not be found to have the troubled fountain of a corrupt heart. I know I have clean hands and a clean heart. I am as innocent of bribes as any born on St Innocents Day.
Various authors and scholars have written that Francis Bacon was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and that Elizabeth's other secret biological son was Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (who the Queen forced Bacon to prosecute for treason). There is documented evidence that Elizabeth visited Nicholas Bacon's house at Gorhambury at least twice and was entertained by the eight or nine year old Francis.
It is claimed that by the age of fifteen he was frequently present at Queen Elizabeth's Court, and that it was there that he learned for the first time that he was her son. Robert Cecil, Lord Burleigh's son, whispered the secret of the parentage of Francis to the ladies of the Court. The Queen, overhearing one them, Lady Scales, repeating the story, seized the girl and beat her furiously. Francis, who supposedly walked into the room while the fracas was taking place, intervened. He learned the truth — and the cause of the incident — from the Queen's own lips, and, enraged that he should have taken the girl's part, she added: "Though you are my own child, I bar you from the Succession for withstanding your mother." That same evening, Anne Bacon confirmed the truth of the story, adding that the Queen was married to Robert Dudley in a secret ceremony on January 21, 1561 in the house of Lord Pembroke, and that Nicholas Bacon had been one of the witnesses.
Elizabeth promptly sent him off to France with the ambassador Amyas Paulet, arriving at Calais on the 25 September 1576, and with him went straight to the Court of Henry III. of France. Francis Bacon's trip to France under the care of Sir Amyas Paulet, with a personal send-off from the Queen herself, is a well-documented historical event. No other "commoner" ever received such royal treatment.
Pierre Ambroise, in writing the first biography of Francis Bacon in 1631, writes "And he saw himself destined to one day hold in his hands the helm of the Kingdom." He adds that Francis was "born in the purple" and "brought up in the expectation of a great career". This is another way of saying that he was of royal birth and an heir to the throne. Purple at this time was a colour reserved for royalty, and it would have been considered an insult to the monarch for a subject to clothe himself in robes of purple. Ambroise also mentions that Francis wished to study different peoples, and travelled extensively for some years in Europe, including France, Italy and Spain.
While in France, Francis mingled with the most exalted statesmen and wits of the period, and acquired knowledge of foreign courts and politics. For the next three years he visited Blois, Poitiers, Tours, also Italy and Spain. In Paris he allegedly met Marguerite de Valois, daughter of Henry II and Catherine de Medici, sister of the King of France and wife of Henry of Navarre. Marguerite was famous for her beauty, intelligence, and education. When Francis Bacon arrived at the French Court, a divorce was being arranged at Marguerite's instigation. King Henry of Navarre, her legal husband, was passionately attached to the Baroness de Sauve who virtually lived with him as his mistress. Francis was 18 and Marguerite was 26. They immediately fell in love with each other "at first sight". They vowed that they were "eternally each other's". He remained in France three years, and was then suddenly ordered back to England upon the death of Nicholas Bacon, in February 1579. "Francis Bacon's love for Margueritte was the overmastering passion of his life, and dominated his mind for many years." The first of 7 Sonnets dedicated to his love for Marguerite was written the year he left France. The last ones were written after his public downfall, Sonnet XXX To Marguerite: And a Worthy Brother and Sonnet XXXI Found in Hiram's Grave . . . Resurrection.
Francis BaconWhen he was 36, Francis engaged in the courtship of Elizabeth Hatton, a young widow of 20. She broke off their relationship upon accepting marriage to a wealthier man. Years later, Bacon still wrote of his regret that the marriage to Elizabeth had never taken place.
At the age of forty five, Bacon married Alice Barnham (1592–1650), the fourteen year old daughter of a well-connected London alderman and M.P. Francis wrote 3 Sonnets proclaiming his love for Alice. The first Sonnet was written during his courtship and the second Sonnet on his wedding day 10 May 1606. The third Sonnet was written years later "when by special Warrant of the King, Lady Bacon was given precedence over all other Court ladies" when Bacon was appointed "Regent of the Kingdom": Let not my Love be call'd Idolatry. Reports of increasing friction in his marriage to Alice Barnham appeared, with speculation that some of this may have been due to financial resources not being as readily available to Alice as she was accustomed to having in the past. Alice was reportedly interested in fame and fortune, and when reserves of money were no longer available, there were complaints about where all the money was going. A. Chambers Bunten wrote in Life of Alice Barnham that, upon their descent into debt, she actually went on trips to ask for financial favours and assistance from their circle of friends. Francis disinherited her upon discovering her secret romantic relationship with John Underhill. He rewrote his will, which had previously been very generous to her (leaving her lands, goods, and income), to revoke it all.
Several authors, such as A .L. Rowse, author of Homosexuals in History, believe that Bacon was homosexual. This conclusion has been disputed by others, such as Nieves Mathews, author of Francis Bacon: The History of a Character Assassination, who consider the sources to be questionable and the conclusions open to interpretation.
Francis Bacon frequently got together with the men at Gray's Inn to discuss politics and philosophy, and to try out various theatrical scenes that he admitted writing. He was frequently hosting banquets in which the leading men in the fields of science, the arts, literature, law, and politics were invited. Bacon's alleged connection to the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons has been widely discussed by authors and scholars in scores of books. Historian Frances Yates, in her books The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment presents a great deal of evidence that he was involved in some of the more closed intellectual movements of his day - as were a whole host of other important individuals such as Elias Ashmole, Robert Fludd and several others.
On 22 January, 1621 in honour of Sir Francis Bacon's sixtieth birthday, a select group of men assembled without fanfare for a great Masonic banquet. This Masonic banquet was to pay tribute to their leader, Sir Francis Bacon. Only those of the Rosicrosse (Rosicrucians) and the Masons who were already aware of Bacon's leadership role were invited. The meeting was at the Great Hall at York Palace, England (now known as Whitehall). The tables were T-tables with gleaming white drapery and silver. Flowers decorated the Great Hall. A dear long-time friend of Bacon, the famous English Poet Ben Jonson gave a Masonic ode to Bacon that day. Jonson remarked about Bacon, "I love the man and do honour his memory above all others."
Monument to Bacon at his burial place, St Michael's Church in St AlbansIn April 1626, Sir Francis Bacon came to London. Continuing his scientific research, he was journeying to Highgate through the snow with the King's physician when, as John Aubrey recounts in Brief Lives, he was suddenly inspired by the possibility of using the snow to preserve meat. According to Aubrey "They were resolved they would try the experiment presently. They alighted out of the coach and went into a poor woman's house at the bottom of Highgate hill, and bought a fowl, and made the woman exenterate it". After stuffing the fowl with snow, he happened to contract a fatal case of pneumonia. He then attempted to extend his fading lifespan by consuming the fowl that had caused his illness. Some people, including Aubrey, consider these two contiguous, possibly coincidental events as related and causative of his death: "The Snow so chilled him that he immediately fell so extremely ill, that he could not return to his Lodging ... but went to the Earle of Arundel's house at Highgate, where they put him into ... a damp bed that had not been layn-in ... which gave him such a cold that in 2 or 3 days as I remember Mr Hobbes told me, he died of Suffocation." He was reported to have died at Lord Arundel's home in Highgate on 9 April 1626, leaving assets of about £7,000 and debts to the amount of £22,000.
At his April 1626 funeral, over thirty great minds collected together their eulogies of him. It is clear from all these eulogies that he was not only loved deeply, but that there was something about his character which led men even of the stature of Ben Jonson to hold him in reverence and awe. A volume of the 32 eulogies was published in Latin in 1730. Bacon's peers refer to him as "a supreme poet" and "a concealed poet," and also link him with the theatre. There was a depth of love by a large body of men toward Bacon, similar to some degree in the manner that disciples love a Master. This is especially true when taking into account his membership (and some say leadership) of secret societies such as the Rosicrucians and Freemasons. Membership was restricted to males only, and secrecy as to the religious and philosophical activities that went on in those lodges was strictly enforced. In the inner esoteric membership, which included Francis Bacon, vows of celibacy (for spiritual reasons) were encouraged.
 Works and philosophy
Bacon's works include his Essays, as well as the Colours of Good and Evil and the Meditationes Sacrae, all published in 1597. His famous aphorism, "knowledge is power", is found in the Meditations. He published The Proficience and Advancement of Learning in 1605. Bacon also wrote In felicem memoriam Elizabethae, a eulogy for the queen written in 1609; and various philosophical works which constitute the fragmentary and incomplete Instauratio magna (Great Renewal), the most important part of which is the Novum Organum (New Instrument, published 1620); in this work he cites three world-changing inventions:
Printing, gunpowder and the compass: These three have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world; the first in literature, the second in warfare, the third in navigation; whence have followed innumerable changes, in so much that no empire, no sect, no star seems to have exerted greater power and influence in human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.
In 1623 Bacon expressed his aspirations and ideals in The New Atlantis. Released in 1627, this was his creation of an ideal land where "generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendor, piety and public spirit" were the commonly held qualities of the inhabitants of Bensalem. In this work, he portrayed a vision of the future of human discovery and knowledge. The plan and organization of his ideal college, "Solomon's House", envisioned the modern research university in both applied and pure science.
Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker have argued that Bacon was not as idealistic as Atlantis might suggest. A year prior to the release of New Atlantis, Bacon published an essay that reveals a version of himself not often seen in history. This essay, a lesser-known work entitled, "An Advertisement Touching an Holy War," advocated the elimination of detrimental societal elements by the English and compared this to the endeavors of Hercules while establishing civilized society in ancient Greece. He saw the "extirpation and debellating of giants, monsters, and foreign tyrants, not only as lawful, but as meritorious, even divine honour..." Laurence Lampert wrote that Bacon dared to suggest that a revolution in thinking and acting was necessary because European intellectual and spiritual life as well as European politics had been captured by religious fanaticism that threatened to plunge Renaissance Europe into another dark age. Bacon chose the old literary device of dialogue to present his argument for wholesale change indirectly. In the conversation of his characters, he allows readers to see the reasons for kindling spiritual warfare against the spiritual rulers of European civilization.
Bacon did not propose an actual philosophy, but rather a method of developing philosophy; he wrote that, whilst philosophy at the time used the deductive syllogism to interpret nature, the philosopher should instead proceed through inductive reasoning from fact to axiom to law. Before beginning this induction, the inquirer is to free his mind from certain false notions or tendencies which distort the truth. These are called "Idols" (idola), and are of four kinds: "Idols of the Tribe" (idola tribus), which are common to the race; "Idols of the Den" (idola specus), which are peculiar to the individual; "Idols of the Marketplace" (idola fori), coming from the misuse of language; and "Idols of the Theatre" (idola theatri), which result from an abuse of authority. The end of induction is the discovery of forms, the ways in which natural phenomena occur, the causes from which they proceed.
Bacon's somewhat fragmentary ethical system, derived through use of his methods, is explicated in the seventh and eighth books of his De augmentis scientiarum (1623). He distinguishes between duty to the community, an ethical matter, and duty to God, a purely religious matter. Any moral action is the action of the human will, which is governed by reason and spurred on by the passions; habit is what aids men in directing their will toward the good. No universal rules can be made, as both situations and men's characters differ.
Bacon distinctly separated religion and philosophy, though the two can coexist. Where philosophy is based on reason, faith is based on revelation, and therefore irrational (or perhaps super-rational) — in De augmentis he writes that "the more discordant, therefore, and incredible, the divine mystery is, the more honour is shown to God in believing it, and the nobler is the victory of faith." And yet he writes in "The Essays: Of Atheism" that "a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion", suggesting he continued to employ inductive reasoning in all areas of his life, including his own spiritual beliefs.
Bacon contrasted the new approach, of the development of science, with that of the Middle Ages. He once said, to top it all off:
Men have sought to make a world from their own conception and to draw from their own minds all the material which they employed, but if, instead of doing so, they had consulted experience and observation, they would have the facts and not opinions to reason about, and might have ultimately arrived at the knowledge of the laws which govern the material world.
 Bacon and Shakespeare
The Shakespeare authorship question, which ascribes the famous plays to various contemporaries instead of Shakespeare of Stratford, has produced a large number of candidates, of whom Bacon is one of the most popular. An 1888 two-volume book, "The Great Cryptogram", by American journalist and adventurer Ignatius Donnely, had much to do with this. Donnely developed complex numerical schemes for working out hidden messages within the plays, but his methods "were so flexible that one could literally use them to obtain any desired text." Donnely himself used them to discover that Bacon had written not only Shakespeare, but Montaigne and Marlowe as well. After Donnely the Baconian theory became extremely popular and gave birth to many further studies of Bacon's cipher. Edward Clark's late 19th century "The Tale of the Shakspere Epitaph by Francis Bacon" referred to an inscription on a bust of Shakespeare which he asserted concealed the sentence, "FRA BA WRT EAR AY", an abbreviation of "Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays." Another author, Francis Carr, has suggested that Bacon wrote not only Shakespeare's plays but Don Quixote as well, while Dr Orville Owen, in his monumental (5 volumes) "Francis Bacon's Cipher Story" (1893-95), recounted his success in using a special machine to prove Bacon the true author of Shakespeare and the son of the Earl of Leicester and Elizabeth I. Even Mark Twain was a Baconian arguing vigorously for Bacon and ridiculing the "Stratfordolators" and the "Shakespearoids" in "Is Shakespeare Dead?" (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1909). Friedrich Nietzsche, in his Ecce Homo (II, 4), also opined that Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare's plays, despite mockingly referring to Donnely as a "muddlehead and blockhead."
 Influences up to the present
Bacon's ideas about the improvement of the human lot were influential in the 1630s and 1650s among a number of Parliamentarian scholars. During the Restoration, Bacon was commonly invoked as a guiding spirit of the Royal Society founded under Charles II in 1660. In the nineteenth century his emphasis on induction was revived and developed by William Whewell, among others.
Various authors have written that there were indications that Francis Bacon had gone into debt while secretly funding the publishing of materials for the Freemasons, Rosicrucians, "Spear-Shakers", "Knights of the Helmet", as well as publishing, with the assistance of Ben Jonson, a selection of the plays that they believe he had written under the pen name of "Shake-Speare" in a "First Folio" in 1623. Furthermore, they allege that Bacon faked his own death, crossed the English Channel, and secretly traveled in disguise after 1626 through France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, and other areas utilizing the secret network of Freemasons and Rosicrucians that he was associated with. It is alleged that he continued to write under pseudonyms, as he had done before 1626, continuing to write as late as 1670 (using the pseudonym "Comte De Gabalis"). Elinor Von Le Coq, wife of Professor Von Le Coq in Berlin, stated that she had found evidence in the German Archives that Francis Bacon stayed after 1626 with the Andrea family in Germany.
There are some scholars who believe that Bacon's vision for a Utopian New World in North America was laid out in his novel The New Atlantis. He envisioned a land where there would be greater rights for women, the abolishing of slavery, elimination of "debtors prisons", separation of church and state, and freedom of religious and political expression. Francis Bacon played a leading role in creating the British colonies, especially in Virginia, the Carolinas and Newfoundland. His government report on “The Virginia Colony” was made in 1609. Francis Bacon and his associates formed the Newfoundland Colonization Company and in 1610 sent John Guy to found a colony in Newfoundland. In 1910 Newfoundland issued a stamp to commemorate Francis Bacon's role in establishing Newfoundland. The stamp states about Bacon, "the guiding spirit in Colonization Schemes in 1610."
Francis Bacon's influence can also be seen on a variety of religious and spiritual authors, and on groups that have utilized his writings in their own belief systems. Beginning early in the 20th century in the U.S.A., a number of Ascended Master Teachings organizations began making the claim that Francis Bacon had never died. They believed that soon after completing the "Shake-Speare" plays, he had feigned his own death on Easter Sunday 1626 and then travelled extensively outside of England, eventually attaining his physical Ascension on May 1, 1684 in the region of the Carpathian Mountains. Their belief is that Bacon took on the name "Saint Germain" as an Ascended Master.