Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bacon, Richard Mackenzie
BACON, RICHARD MACKENZIE (1775–1844), journalist, musician, and miscellaneous writer, was born at Norwich in or about 1775, and laid the foundation of a classical education at the free school of his native city. Turning his attention to literature, he became connected with the 'Norwich Mercury,' one of the leading provincial organs of liberal opinion, in his eighteenth year, and from 1816 until his death was unremittingly engaged in editing that journal, of which he was principal proprietor. In 1813 he and Bryan Donkin obtained a patent for certain improvements in the implements or apparatus employed in printing, whether from types, from blocks, or from plates. In the 'Norwich Mercury' of 30 Nov. 1814 is a prospectus of Bacon's printing machine, with an account of the progress it had then made. The Invention is highly praised by the author of the article 'Printing' in Rees's 'Cyclopædia' (1819), who says: 'A patent has recently been obtained by Messrs. Bacon and Donkin for a machine which they publicly exhibited before the university of Cambridge, and they are now making one for printing bibles and prayer-books at the university. We have examined their machine at work,. and found it to display so much mechanical ingenuity, and to produce such beautiful specimens of printing, with a rapidity un-equalled by any other means, that we have made a drawing of it.'
He was also the proprietor and projector of the 'Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review,' which he began to publish in London in 1818, and continued to edit for ten years. It was principally owing to his exertions that the Norwich Musical Festival was established. Mr. Chappell remarks (Popular Music of the Olden Time, 142 n.) that Bacon's 'memory was so stored with traditional songs, learnt in boyhood, that, having accepted a challenge at the tea-table to sing a song upon any subject a lady would mention, I have heard him sing verse after verse upon teaspoons and other such themes, proposed as the most unlikely for songs to have been written upon. He had learnt a number of sea songs, principally from one old sailor, and some were so descriptive that it was almost thrilling to hear them sung by him. Seventeen years ago these appeared to me too irregular and declamatory to be reduced to rhythm; but I have since greatly regretted the loss of an opportunity that can never recur.'
Bacon died at Cossey, near Norwich, 27 Nov. 1844.
His principal works are: 1. 'Life of Pitt,' Norwich, 1806. 2. 'Pamphlet relative to the Regular, the Militia, and the Volunteer Forces, in reply to the Right Hon. William Windham,' Ipswich, 1806. 3. 'Independent Remarks on the Queen's Case,' Norwich, 1820. 4. 'Reply to Mr. Cobbett,' Norwich, 1822. 5. 'Address to the People on Stack-burning,' 1822. 6. 'Elements of Vocal Science, being a philosophical inquiry into some of the principles of singing,' London,. 1824, 8vo. 7. 'Letter to Edward, Lord Suffield, upon the Distress of the Labourers and its Remedy,' London and Norwich, 1831. 8. 'Letters to the Viscount Stormont and Sir James Scarlett, Knt.,' on the bribery and corruption practised at the Norwich election, London and Norwich, 1831. 9. 'A Memoir of the Life of Edward, third Baron Suffield,' Norwich, 1838, 4to (privately printed). 10. 'A Musical Dictionary,' completed but never published.[Norwich Mercury, 7 Dec. 1844; Norfolk Chronicle, 30 Nov. 1844; Timperley's Dict. of Printers, 852, 857; Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time, 141; Rees's Cyclopædia, art. 'Printing;' Martin's Privately Printed Books, 476; Chambers's Norfolk, 1284; Gent. Mag. N..S, xxiii. 109.]