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Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse
You shall still live—such virtue hath my pen—
Where breath most breathes, even in the meuths of men."
From SoDnet 42 it appears that the young Earl had won the heart of the widow Sidney:
"That thou hast her, it is not all my grief,
And yet it may be said I loved her dearly;
A loss in love that touches me more nearly.
Thou dost love her, because thou know'st I love her,
Suffering my friend for my sake to approve her.
And losing her, my friend hath found that loss;
And both for my sake lay me on this cross:
The second part of the "Sonnets," after 126, is addressed to the Earl's bethrothed; we quote Sonnet 134 r
"So now I have confessed that he is thine.
Thou wilt restore, to be my comfort still;
For thou art covetous and he is kind:
Under that bond that him as fast doth bind,
Thou usurer that put'st forth all to use,
Incidentally it may be noted how familiar the writer of the above lines must have been with the practice of law. Shakspere's legal knowledge has amazed the lawyers.
The next Sonnet introduces the name of '' Will," and puns upon it profusely:
'' Whoever hath her wish thou hast thy Will,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine f
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
How preposterous to believe that a common-place play actor, with a wife and children, addressed such sentiments to the bride of his dearest friend! At no time do the sentiments or circumstances of the poem fit the person of the actor, of whom the dying and dissipated playwright, Greene, wrote in 1592:
"There is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers that with his Tygers heart, wrapt in a player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bumbast out a blank verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is, in his owne conceyt, the onely Shake-scene in a countne."
But, on the other hand, frequent evidence appears that Bacon", up to the time he was made AttorneyGeneral in 1613, was constantly engaged in secret literary work. But not so secret as to be unknown to a circle of friends and perchance a few enemies; for, in 1599, when he interceded with the Queen for his dear friend Essex, then under arrest on account of a treasonable pamphlet being dedicated to him, her Majesty flung at Bacon "a matter which grew from him, but went after about in others' names," being in fact the play of "Richard II," which, in that and the preceding year, had a great run on the stage, and had gone through two editions, but, for prudential reasons, with the scene containing the deposition of the king left out.
But even in the "Sonnets" the fact appears that the author has been writing for the stage:
"Alas, 'tis true I have gone here and there,
And made myself a motley to the view,
Made old offenses of affections new;
Askance and strangely; but by all above,
And worse essays proved thee my best of love."
"O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
Than public means which public manners breeds.
And almost thence my nature is subdued
Pity me then and wish I were renewed."
Here is not only a private confession of being compelled to produce plays for subsistence, but a sorrowful acknowledgment that thereby his "name receives a brand."
Yet it must not be supposed that Bacon was publicly known at any time as a play writer. His first publication, the "Essays," was in 1597, aud Shakspere's name first appeared on the title page of a Play in 1598, by which time nearly half of the Plays had been written or sketched, and six had been printed, all without the author's name. And when the first collection was published in the "Folio" of 1623, (seven years after Shakspere's death,) it included some Plays never before heard of, and eighteen never before printed.
Lord Coke, who was Bacon's most jealous rival and adversary, seems never to have suspected him of play writing. Nor did the watchful Puritanic mother of the two bachelors of Gray's Inn ever dream that her studious younger son was engaged in such sinful work.
In Sonnet 76 the writer deplores his want of variety of style, and fears that this fault will almost disclose his secret authorship:
"Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
To new-found methods and to compounds strange?
And keep invention in a noted weed,
Showing their birth and where they did proceed?"
Bacon having begun to produce plays for Shakspere's theater before 1590, the authorship of which was afterward assumed by the actor and proprietor, it became necessary also to avoid being publicly known as a writer of sonnets. Therefore, in view of the circulation and ultimate publication of this poem, he facetiously disguised the identity of the writer by calling himself "Will." Three years later he dedicated a published poem to his young friend Southampton under the name of "William Shakespeare," and again another in 1594. But the "Sonnets" were not published until 1609, when Essex had been dead eight years, and his widow had been married six years to a third husband. It would never do for the SolicitorGeneral to be known as the author of such a poem y so when it came out in print it was dedicated to "Mr. W. H." by "T. T.," and no one until a few years ago ever seems to have suspected that Bacon wrote the poem, nor, so far as we are aware, has any one ever suspected until July 31, 1883, that •< W. H." was the accomplished and famous Earl of Essex.
The young widow Sidney was the only daughter of the Queen's principal secretary, Sir Francis Walsinghaui, for whom Bacon drafted an important state paper in 1588 on the conduct of the government toward Papists and Dissenters. And that Bacon was intimate with the Secretary's daughter, aye, even one of her lovers, appears from many of the Sonnets addressed to her. He describes her playing on the harpsichord, envies the keys "that nimbly leap to kiss her hand," and says:
'' Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
And from other passages it is quite evident that he had often kissed her.
No fact has been found incompatible with Bacon's authorship of the "Sonnets." The following line might seem to indicate a writer past the age of 29: "Although she knows my days are past the best."
But in 1599, when Shakspere was only 35, this very verse was published as his in the "Passionate Pilgrim," where Sonnet 138 appears as number one.