The plays known as Shakespeare's are at the present time universally acknowledged to be the "Greatest birth of time," the grandest production of the human mind. Their author also is generally recognised as the greatest genius of all the ages. The more the marvellous plays are studied, the more wonderful they are seen to be.
Classical scholars are amazed at the prodigious amount of knowledge of classical lore which they display. Lawyers declare that their author must take rank among the greatest of lawyers, and must have been learned not only in the theory of law, but also intimately acquainted with its forensic practice. In like manner, travellers feel certain that the author must have visited the foreign cities and countries which he so minutely and graphically describes.
It is true that at a dark period for English literature certain critics denied the possibility of Bohemia being accurately described as by the sea, and pointed out the "manifest absurdity" of speaking of the "port" at Milan; but a wider knowledge of the actual facts has vindicated the author at the expense of his unfortunate critics. It is the same with respect to other matters referred to in the plays. The expert possessing special knowledge of any subject invariably discovers that the plays shew that their author was well acquainted with almost all that was known at the time about that particular subject.
And the knowledge is so extensive and so varied that it is not too much to say that there is not a single living man capable of perceiving half of the learning involved in the production of the plays. One of the greatest students of law publicly declared, while he was editor of the Law Times, that although he thought that he knew something of law, yet he was not ashamed to confess that he had not sufficient legal knowledge or mental capacity to enable him to fully comprehend a quarter of the law contained in the plays.
Of course, men of small learning, who know very little of classics and still less of law, do not experience any of these difficulties, because they are not able to perceive how great is the vast store of learning exhibited in the plays.
There is also shewn in the plays the most perfect knowledge of Court etiquette, and of the manners and the methods of the greatest in the land, a knowledge which none but a courtier moving in the highest circles could by any possibility have acquired.
In his diary, Wolfe Tone records that the French soldiers who invaded Ireland behaved exactly like the French soldiers are described as conducting themselves at Agincourt in the play of "Henry V," and he exclaims, "It is marvellous!" (Wolfe Tone also adds that Shakespeare could never have seen a French soldier, but we know that Bacon while in Paris had had considerable experience of them.)
The mighty author of the immortal plays was gifted with the most brilliant genius ever conferred upon man. He possessed an intimate and accurate acquaintance, which could not have been artificially acquired, with all the intricacies and mysteries of Court life. He had by study obtained nearly all the learning that could be gained from books. And he had by travel and experience acquired a knowledge of cities and of men that has never been surpassed.
Who was in existence at that period who could by any possibility be supposed to be this universal genius? In the days of Queen Elizabeth, for the first time in human history, one such man appeared, the man who is described as the marvel and mystery of the age, and this was the man known to us under the name of Francis Bacon.
In answer to the demand for a "mechanical proof that Bacon is Shakespeare" I have added a chapter shewing the meaning of "Honorificabilitudinitatibus," and I have in Chapter XIV. shewn how completely the documents recently discovered by Dr. Wallace confirm the statements which I had made in the previous chapters.
I have also annexed a reprint of Bacon's "Promus," which has recently been collated with the original manuscript. "Promus" signifies Storehouse, and the collection of "Fourmes and Elegancyes" stored therein was largely used by Bacon in the Shakespeare plays, in his own acknowledged works, and also in some other works for which he was mainly responsible.
I trust that students will derive considerable pleasure and profit from examining the "Promus" and from comparing the words and phrases, as they are there preserved, with the very greatly extended form in which many of them finally appeared.
"What does it matter whether the immortal works were written by Shakespeare (of Stratford) or by another man who bore (or assumed) the same name?"
Some twenty years ago, when this question was first propounded, it was deemed an excellent joke, and I find that there still are a great number of persons who seem unable to perceive that the question is one of considerable importance.
When the Shakespeare revival came, some eighty or ninety years ago, people said "pretty well for Shakespeare" and the "learned" men of that period were rather ashamed that Shakespeare should be deemed to be "the" English poet.
"Three poets in three distant ages born,
Greece, Italy and England did adorn,
The force of Nature could no further go,
To make a third she joined the other two."
Dryden did not write these lines in reference to Shakespeare but to Milton. Where will you find the person who to-day thinks Milton comes within any measurable distance of the greatest genius among the sons of earth who was called by the name of Shakespeare?
Ninety-two years ago, viz.: in June 1818, an article appeared in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, under the heading "Time's Magic Lantern. No. V. Dialogue between Lord Bacon and Shakspeare" [Shakespeare being spelled Shakspeare]. The dialogue speaks of "Lord" Bacon and refers to him as being engaged in transcribing the "Novum Organum" when Shakspeare enters with a letter from Her Majesty (meaning Queen Elizabeth) asking him, Shakspeare, to see "her own" sonnets now in the keeping of her Lord Chancellor.
Of course this is all topsy turvydom, for in Queen Elizabeth's reign
Bacon was never "Lord" Bacon or Lord Chancellor.
But to continue, Shakspeare tells Bacon "Near to Castalia there bubbles also a fountain of petrifying water, wherein the muses are wont to dip whatever posies have met the approval of Apollo; so that the slender foliage which originally sprung forth in the cherishing brain of a true poet becomes hardened in all its leaves and glitters as if it were carved out of rubies and emeralds. The elements have afterwards no power over it."
Bacon. Such will be the fortune of your own productions.
Shakspeare. Ah my Lord! Do not encourage me to hope so. I am but a poor unlettered man, who seizes whatever rude conceits his own natural vein supplies him with, upon the enforcement of haste and necessity; and therefore I fear that such as are of deeper studies than myself, will find many flaws in my handiwork to laugh at both now and hereafter.
Bacon. He that can make the multitude laugh and weep as you do Mr. Shakspeare need not fear scholars… More scholarship might have sharpened your judgment but the particulars whereof a character is composed are better assembled by force of imagination than of judgment…
Shakspeare. My Lord thus far I know, that the first glimpse and conception of a character in my mind, is always engendered by chance and accident. We shall suppose, for instance, that I, sitting in a tap-room, or standing in a tennis court. The behaviour of some one fixes my attention… Thus comes forth Shallow, and Slender, and Mercutio, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Bacon. These are characters who may be found alive in the streets. But how frame you such interlocutors as Brutus and Coriolanus?
Shakspeare. By searching histories, in the first place, my Lord, for the germ. The filling up afterwards comes rather from feeling than observation. I turn myself into a Brutus or a Coriolanus for the time; and can, at least in fancy, partake sufficiently of the nobleness of their nature, to put proper words in their mouths… My knowledge of the tongues is but small, on which account I have read ancient authors mostly at secondhand. I remember, when I first came to London, and began to be a hanger-on at the theatres, a great desire grew in me for more learning than had fallen to my share at Stratford; but fickleness and impatience, and the bewilderment caused by new objects, dispersed that wish into empty air…
This ridiculous and most absurd nonsense, which appeared in 1818 in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine was deemed so excellent and so instructive that (slightly abridged) it was copied into "Reading lessons for the use of public and private schools" by John Pierpont, of Boston, U.S.A., which was published in London nearly twenty years later, viz., in 1837.
As I said before, the dialogue is really all topsy turvydom, for the writer must have known perfectly well that Bacon was not Lord Keeper till 1617, the year after Shakspeare's death in 1616, and was not made Lord Chancellor till 1618, and that he is not supposed to have began to write the "Novum Organum" before the death of Queen Elizabeth.
I have therefore arrived at the conclusion that the whole article was really intended to poke fun at the generally received notion that the author of the plays was an _un_lettered man, who picked up his knowledge at tavern doors and in taprooms and tennis courts. I would specially refer to the passage where Bacon asks "How frame you such interlocutors as Brutus and Coriolanus?" and Shakspeare replies "By searching histories, in the first place, my Lord, for the germ. The filling up afterwards comes rather from feeling than observation. I turn myself into a Brutus or a Coriolanus for the time and can at least in fancy partake sufficiently of the nobleness of their nature to put proper words in their mouths."
Surely this also must have been penned to open the eyes of the public to the absurdity of the popular conception of the author of the plays as an _un_lettered man who "had small Latin and less Greek"!
The highest scholarship not only in this country and in Germany but throughout the world has been for many years concentrated upon the classical characters portrayed in the plays, and the adverse criticism of former days has given place to a reverential admiration for the marvellous knowledge of antiquity displayed throughout the plays in the presentation of the historical characters of bygone times; classical authority being found for nearly every word put into their mouths.
What does it matter whether the immortal works were written by Shakspeare (of Stratford) or by a great and learned man who assumed the name Shakespeare to "Shake a lance at Ignorance"? We should not forget that this phrase "Shake a lance at Ignorance" is contemporary, appearing in Ben Jonson's panegyric in the Shakespeare folio of 1623.
The Shackspere Monument, Bust, and Portrait.
In the year 1909 Mr. George Hookham in the January number of the National Review sums up practically all that is really known of the life of William Shakspeare of Stratford as follows: —
'We only know that he was born at Stratford, of illiterate parents – (we do not know that he went to school there) – that, when 18-1/2 years old, he married Anne Hathaway (who was eight years his senior, and who bore him a child six months after marriage); that he had in all three children by her (whom with their mother he left, and went to London, having apparently done his best to desert her before marriage); – that in London he became an actor with an interest in a theatre, and was reputed to be the writer of plays; – that he purchased property in Stratford, to which town he returned; – engaged in purchases and sales and law-suits (of no biographical interest except as indicating his money-making and litigious temperament); helped his father in an application for coat armour (to be obtained by false pretences); promoted the enclosure of common lands at Stratford (after being guaranteed against personal loss); made his will – and died at the age of 52, without a book in his possession, and leaving nothing to his wife but his second best bed, and this by an afterthought. No record of friendship with anyone more cultured than his fellow actors.
No letter, – only two contemporary reports of his conversation, one with regard to the commons enclosure as above, and the other in circumstances not to be recited unnecessarily.
In a word we know his parentage, birth, marriage, fatherhood, occupation, his wealth and his chief ambition, his will and his death, and absolutely nothing else; his death being received with unbroken and ominous silence by the literary world, not even Ben Jonson who seven years later glorified the plays in excelsis, expending so much as a quatrain on his memory.'
[Illustration: Plate III. The Stratford Monument,
From Dugdale's Warwickshire, 1656.]
[Illustration: Plate IV. The Stratford Monument as it appears at the present time.]
To this statement by Mr. George Hookham I would add that we know W. Shakspeare was christened 26th April 1564, that his Will which commences "In the name of god Amen! I Willim Shackspeare, of Stratford upon Avon, in the countie of warr gent in perfect health and memorie, god be praysed," was dated 25th (January altered to) March 1616, and it was proved 22nd June 1616, Shakspeare having died 23rd April 1616, four weeks after the date of the Will.
We also know that a monument was erected to him in Stratford Church. And because L. Digges, in his lines in the Shakespeare folio of 1623 says "When Time dissolves thy Stratford Moniment,"1 it is supposed that the monument must have been put up before 1623. But we should remember that as Mrs. Stopes (who is by no means a Baconian) pointed out in the Monthly Review of April 1904, the original monument was not like the present monument which shews a man with a pen in his hand; but was the very different monument which will be found depicted in Sir William Dugdale's "Antiquities of Warwickshire," published in 1656. The bust taken from this is shewn on Plate 5, Page 14, and the whole monument on Plate 3, Page 8.
[Illustration: Plate V. The Stratford Bust, from Dugdale's Warwickshire.
The figure bears no resemblance to the usually accepted likeness of Shakspeare. It hugs a sack of wool, or a pocket of hops to its belly and does not hold a pen in its hand.
In Plate 6, Page 15, is shewn the bust from the monument as it exists at the present time, with the great pen in the right hand and a sheet of paper under the left hand. The whole monument is shewn on Plate 4, Page 9.
[Illustration: Plate VI. The Stratford Bust as it appears at the present time.]
The face seems copied from the mask of the so-called portrait in the 1623 folio, which is shewn in Plate 8.
[Illustration: Plate VIII. Full size Facsimile of part of the Title Page of the 1623 Shakespeare folio]
It is desirable to look at that picture very carefully, because every student ought to know that the portrait in the title-page of the first folio edition of the plays published in 1623, which was drawn by Martin Droeshout, is cunningly composed of two left arms and a mask. Martin Droeshout, its designer, was, as Mr. Sidney Lee tells us, but 15 years of age when Shakspeare died. He is not likely therefore ever to have seen the actor of Stratford, yet this is the "Authentic," that is the "Authorised" portrait of Shakspeare, although there is no question – there can be no possible question – that in fact it is a cunningly drawn cryptographic picture, shewing two left arms and a mask.
The back of the left arm which does duty for the right arm is shewn in
Plate 10, Page 26.
[Illustration: Plate X. The Back of the Left Arm, from Plate VIII]
Every tailor will admit that this is not and cannot be the front of the right arm, but is, without possibility of doubt, the back of the left arm.
[Illustration: Plate XI. The Front of the Left Arm, from Plate VIII]
[Illustration: (not included in list of plates) The Front of Left Arm.
From Plate VIII. The Back of Left Arm From Plate VIII. Arranged
Tailor fashion, shoulder to shoulder, as in the Gentleman's TailorMagazine, April, 1911]
Plate 11 shews the front of the left arm, and you at once perceive that you are no longer looking at the back of the coat but at the front of the coat.
[Illustration: Plate XII. The [Mask] Head, from the [so-called]
Portrait, by Droeshout, in the 1623 Folio]
Now in Plate 12, Page 32, you see the mask, especially note that the ear is a mask ear and stands out curiously; note also how distinct the line shewing the edge of the mask appears. Perhaps the reader will perceive this more clearly if he turns the page upside down.
[Illustration: Plate XIII. Sir Nicholas Bacon, from the Painting by Zucchero]
Plate 13, Page 33, depicts a real face, that of Sir Nicholas Bacon, eldest son of the Lord Keeper, from a contemporary portrait by Zucchero, lately in the Duke of Fife's Collection. This shews by contrast the difference between the portrait of a living man, and the drawing of a lifeless mask with the double line from ear to chin. Again examine Plates 8, Pages 20, 21, the complete portrait in the folio. The reader having seen the separate portions, will, I trust, be able now to perceive that this portrait is correctly characterised as cunningly composed of two left arms and a mask.
While examining this portrait, the reader should study the lines that describe it in the Shakespeare folio of 1623, a facsimile of which is here inserted.
To the Reader.
This Figure, that thou here seest put,
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut;
Wherein the Grauer had a strife
with Nature, to out-doo the life:
O, could he but haue drawne his wit
As well in brasse, as he hath hit
His face; the Print would then surpasse
All, that was euer writ in brasse.
But, since he cannot, Reader, looke
Not on his Picture, but his Booke.
B.I. call the ridiculous dummy a "portrait" but describes it as the "Figure put for" (that is "instead of") and as "the Print," and as "his Picture"; he likewise most clearly tells us to "looke not on his (ridiculous) Picture, but (only) his Booke." It seems, therefore, evident that he knew the secret of Bacon's authorship and intended to inform those capable of understanding that the graver had done out the life when he writes, "Out-doo the life." In the New English Dictionary, edited by Sir J.A.H. Murray, there are upwards of six hundred words beginning with "Out," and every one of them, with scarcely a single exception, requires, in order to be fully understood, to be read reversed. Out-law does not mean outside of the law, but lawed out by a legal process. "Out-doo" was used only in the sense of "do out"; thus, in the "Cursor Mundi," written centuries before the days of Elizabeth, we read that Adam was out done [of Paradise]; and in Drayton's "Barons' Wars," published in 1603, we find in Book V. s. li.
"That he his foe not able to withstand,
Was ta'en in battle and his eyes out-done."
The graver has indeed done out the life so cleverly that for hundreds of years learned pedants and others have thought that the figure represented a real man, and altogether failed to perceive that it was a mere stuffed dummy clothed in an impossible coat, cunningly composed of the front of the left arm buttoned on to the back of the same left arm, as to form a double left armed apology for a man. Moreover, this dummy is surmounted by a hideous staring mask, furnished with an imaginary ear, utterly unlike anything human, because, instead of being hollowed in, it is rounded out something like the rounded outside of a shoe-horn, in order to form a cup which would cover and conceal any real ear that might be behind it.
Perhaps the reader will more fully understand the full meaning of B.I.'s lines if I paraphrase them as follows: —
To the Reader.
The dummy that thou seest set here,
Was put instead of Shake-a-speare;
Wherein the Graver had a strife
To extinguish all of Nature's life;
O, could he but have drawn his mind
As well as he's concealed behind
His face; the Print would then surpasse
All, that was ever writ in brasse.
But since he cannot, do not looke
On his mas'd Picture, but his Booke.
Do out appears in the name of the little instrument something like a pair of snuffer which was formerly used to extinguish the candles and called a "Doute." Therefore I have correctly substituted "extinguished" for "out-doo." At the beginning I have substituted "dummy" for "figure" because we are told that the figure is "put for" (that is, put instead of) Shakespeare. In modern English we frequently describe a chairman who is a mere dummy as a figurehead. Then "wit" in these lines means absolutely the same as "mind," which I have used in its place because I think it refers to the fact that upon the miniature of Bacon in his 18th year, which was painted by Hilliard in 1578, we read: – "Si tabula daretur digna animum mallem." This line is believed to have been written at the time by the artist, and was translated in "Spedding": – "If one could but paint his mind."
In March, 1911, the Tailor and Cutter newspaper stated that the Figure, put for Shakepeare in the 1623 folio, was undoubtedly clothed in an impossible coat, composed of the back and the front of the same left arm. And in the following April the Gentleman's Tailor Magazine, under the heading of a "Problem for the Trade," shews the two halves of the coat as printed on page 28a, and says: "It is passing strange that something like three centuries should have been allowed to elapse before the tailors' handiwork should have been appealed to in this particular manner."
"The special point is that in what is known as the authentic portrait of William Shakespeare, which appears in the celebrated first folio edition, published in 1623, a remarkable sartorial puzzle is apparent."
"The tunic, coat, or whatever the garment may have been called at the time, is so strangely illustrated that the right-hand side of the forepart is obviously the left-hand side of the backpart; and so gives a harlequin appearance to the figure, which it is not unnatural to assume was intentional, and done with express object and purpose."
"Anyhow, it is pretty safe to say that if a Referendum of the trade was taken on the question whether the two illustrations shown above represent the foreparts of the same garments, the polling would give an unanimous vote in the negative."
"It is outside the province of a trade journal to dogmatise on such a subject; but when such a glaring incongruity as these illustrations show is brought into court, it is only natural that the tailor should have something to say; or, at any rate, to think about."
This one simple fact which can neither be disputed nor explained away, viz., that the "Figure" put upon the title-page of the First Folio of the Plays in 1623 to represent Shakespeare, is a doubly left-armed and stuffed dummy, surmounted by a ridiculous putty-faced mask, disposes once and for all of any idea that the mighty Plays were written by the illiterate clown of Stratford-upon-Avon.
"He hath hit his face"
It is thought that hit means hid as in Chaucer's Squiere's Tale, line 512 etc.
"Right as a serpent hit him under floures
Til he may seen his tyme for to byte"
If indeed "hit" be intended to be read as "hid" then these ten lines are no longer the cryptic puzzle which they have hitherto been considered to be, but in conjunction with the portrait, they clearly reveal the true facts, that the real author is writing left-handedly, that means secretly, in shadow, with his face hidden behind a mask or pseudonym.
We should also notice "out-doo" is spelled with a hyphen. In the language of to-day and still more in that of the time of Shakespeare all, or nearly all, words beginning with out may be read reversed, out-bar is bar out, out-bud is bud out, out-crop is crop out, out-fit is fit out, and so on through the alphabet.
If therefore we may read "out-doo the life" as "doo out the life" meaning "shut out the real face of the living man" we perceive that here also we are told "that the real face is hidden."
The description, with the head line "To the Reader" and the signature "B.I.," forms twelve lines, the words of which can be turned into numerous significant anagrams, etc., to which, however, no allusion is made in the present work. But our readers will find that if all the letters are counted (the two v.v.'s in line nine being counted as four letters) they will amount to the number 287. In subsequent chapters a good deal is said about this number, but here we only desire to say that we are "informed" that the "Great Author" intended to reveal himself 287 years after 1623, the date when the First Folio was published, that is in the present year, 1910, when very numerous tongues will be loosened.
Examine once more the original Stratford Bust, Plate 5, Page 14, and the present Stratford Bust, Plate 6, Page 15, with the large pen in the right hand.
If the Stratford actor were indeed the author of the plays it was most appropriate that he should have a pen in his hand. But in the original monument as shewn in Plate 3, Page 8, the figure hugs a sack of wool or a pocket of hops or may be a cushion. For about 120 years, this continued to be the Stratford effigy and shewed nothing that could in any way connect the man portrayed, with literary work. I believe that this was not accidental. I think that everybody in Stratford must have known that William "Sha_c_kspeare" could not write so much as his own name, for I assert that we possess nothing which can by any reasonable possibility be deemed to be his signature.
[Illustration: Decorative Chapter Heading]