Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 10.djvu/133

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9* s. x. AUG. IB, 1902.] NOTES AND QUERIES.


display proves not only that the plays and poems are by a profound Greek and Latin scholar, but that tnat scholar must have been Bacon. Ben Jonson is constantly mentioned by them as one whose work is in striking contrast to that of Shakespeare, and Mrs. Pott could hardly find a single line in his work to parallel any of the ' Promus ' entries. Well, let readers judge for themselves. The work of Ben Jonson is that of a man who was steeped to the lips in classical authors ; consequently we shall find him repeating the learning of Bacon with a literalism that is almost painfully different from Shakespeare, whose knowledge of the classics was derived almost entirely through English channels. Once or twice only does Shakespeare happen to bring into his plays Latin tags noted by Bacon, although they can be found by the score in others ; but in Ben Jonson they abound, and not unfrequently in a context that is manifestly stolen from Bacon.

There is no evidence to prove conclusively that Bacon and Shakespeare ever met, or were acquainted with each other. But the case of Ben Jonson is different. Jonson at one time acted as a kind of secretary to Bacon, and translated, or assisted to translate, his essays into Latin. Jonson's 'Discoveries,' moreover, prove that he had often been in Bacon's company. The fact that Bacon and Jonson were known to each other is not disputed ; but it is not known, even by those who are most versed in Bacon's work, that certain entries in the ' Promus ' have a direct relation to Ben Jonson's masques and plays. I will deal with these entries in the proper place. All I urge now is that if parallels can be used to filch from a man the work that was uni- versally assigned to him by contemporaries if we must ignore all tradition, and the voice of a cloud of witnesses if gross and palpable differences in the style of writers are to count for nothing then Shakespeare must be thrown overboard by the Baconians, and they must elect Ben Jonson in his place, because Jonson repeats Bacon much more nearly than Shakespeare does, and because, on their own showing, the writer of the Jonson plays is a different man from the writer of the Shakespeare plays and poems. Shakespeare does not and cannot be made to illustrate many of the 'Promus' entries in the way that Bacon and Jonson illustrate

kthem ; and the ludicrous manner in which Mrs. Pott essayed the task only serves to show that it is an easy matter to prove by such parallels that Bacon must have written everything that had been penned up to- his

time, including the Bible, and not forgetting that portion of it which' is entitled the Book of Judges. For it is a truth, and one that we should ponder over when we begin to flatter ourselves and imagine what clever people we are, that the range of our thoughts is extremely limited, and that the number of essentially different ideas that man is capable of expressing or of cogitating in his mind is on about a par with the number of the letters in the alphabet. These ideas, like the letters of the alphabet, which can be made to represent all sounds and all knowledge, are simply capable of being expanded and varied by an infinite number of combinations ; yet, when all is said, it comes to this, that the greatest of the philo- sophers and the most lofty of the poets cannot express a thought which cannot be paralleled out of the crude notions of the ignorant ploughman. It is, therefore, easy to explain why Shakespeare can be made to illustrate, with more or less faithfulness, the things which Bacon noted in his ' Promus,' or which have been brought from his prose works. Mrs. Pott thinks it a legitimate thing to parallel a Greek saying with a time-worn English proverb, or a Bible sentence with a bit of Ovid or of Virgil which Shakespeare caught up from son^ English writer, and to use the same passage many times over and under various headings which only agree in containing the same notion in a more or less crude form. I say again, if one is to decide on parallels of that land, then Bacon must have written everything that had been written up to his time and during the time that he lived. Is it any wonder, then, that the critics who work upon such a plan as that, and who, just as the ostrich when it sees an enemy buries its head in the sand, refuse to read or who ignore the writings of all other men because they would convict them, con- fining their reading to Shakespeare and Bacon is it any wonder that they are able to pre- sent a specious case against Shakespeare and to impose on men who either have not the time or lack the critical faculty to see through their false and preposterous resemblances ? Bacon calls that kind of work legerdemain, and he compares it to the tricks of tumblers, who only thrive until their tricks are known.

C. CRAWFORD. 53, Hampden Road, Hornsey, N. (To be continued.)

SHAKESPEARE'S SEVENTY-SIXTH SONNET. In Judge Webb's recent book 'The Mystery of William Shakespeare ' there is one special argument against the ordinarily received