Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban KC QC (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626) was an English philosopher, statesman, and author. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. He is also known as a catalyst of the scientific revolution. His most celebrated works included his The New Atlantis. 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.
Biographers believe that Bacon was educated at home in his early years owing to poor health (which plagued him throughout his life), receiving tuition from John Walsall, a graduate of Oxford with a strong leaning towards Puritanism. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, on 5 April 1573 at the age of twelve, living for three years there together with his older brother Anthony under the personal tutelage of Dr John Whitgift, future Archbishop of Canterbury. Bacon's education was conducted largely in Latin and followed the medieval curriculum. He was also educated at the University of Poitiers. It was at Cambridge that he first met the Queen, who was impressed by his precocious intellect, and was accustomed to calling him "the young Lord Keeper".
His studies brought him to the belief that the methods and results of science as then practiced were erroneous. His reverence for Aristotle conflicted with his loathing of Aristotelian philosophy, which seemed to him barren, disputatious, and wrong in its objectives.
On 27 June 1576, he and Anthony entered de societate magistrorum at Gray's Inn. A few months later, they went abroad with Sir Amias Paulet, the English ambassador at Paris. The state of government and society in France under Henry III afforded him valuable political instruction. For the next three years he visited Blois, Poitiers, Tours, Italy, and Spain. During his travels, Bacon studied language, statecraft, and civil law while performing routine diplomatic tasks. On at least one occasion he delivered diplomatic letters to England for Walsingham, Burghley, and Leicester, as well as for the queen.
The sudden death of his father in February 1579 prompted Bacon to return to England. 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 borrowed money, Bacon got into debt. To support himself, he took up his residence in law at Gray's Inn in 1579. He made rapid progress. He was admitted to the bar in 1582, he became Bencher in 1586, and he was elected a reader in 1587, delivering his first set of lectures in Lent the following year.
In 1584, he took his seat in parliament for Melcombe in Dorset, and subsequently for Taunton (1586). At this time, he began to write on the condition of parties in the church, as well as philosophical reform in the lost tract, Temporis Partus Maximus. Yet, he failed to gain a position he thought would lead him to success. He showed signs of sympathy to Puritanism, attending the sermons of the Puritan chaplain of Gray's Inn and accompanying his mother to the Temple chapel to hear Walter Travers. This led to the publication of his earliest surviving tract, which criticised the English church's suppression of the Puritan clergy. In the Parliament of 1586, openly, he urged execution for Mary Queen of Scots.
About this time, he again approached his powerful uncle for help, the result of which may be traced in his rapid progress at the bar. In 1589, he received the valuable appointment of reversion to the Clerkship of the Star Chamber, although he did not formally take office until 1608 - a post which was worth £16,000 per annum.
In 1592, he was commissioned to write a response to the Jesuit Robert Parson's anti-government tract entitled 'Certain observations made upon a libel' identifying England with the ideals of Republican Athens against the belligerence of Spain.
When the Attorney-Generalship fell vacant in 1594, Lord Essex's influence was not enough still to secure Bacon's candidacy into the office. Likewise, Bacon failed to become solicitor in 1595. To console him for these disappointments, Essex presented him with a property at Twickenham, which he sold subsequently for £1,800, the equivalent of around £240,000 in 2006.
In 1596, Bacon became 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, and a scheme for retrieving his position by a marriage with the wealthy and young widow Lady Elizabeth Hatton failed after 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. In 1598 Bacon was arrested because of his debts. Afterwards however, his standing in the queen's eyes improved. Gradually, Bacon earned the standing of one of the learned counsels, though he had no commission or warrant and received no salary. His relationship with the queen further improved when he severed ties with Essex, a shrewd move because Essex was executed for treason in 1601.
With others, Bacon was appointed to investigate the charges against Essex, his former friend and benefactor. Bacon pressed the case hard against Essex. To justify himself, Bacon wrote A Declaration of the Practices and Treasons, etc., of ... the Earl of Essex. 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. In another shrewd move, Bacon wrote Apologie (defence) about his proceedings in the case of Essex, as Essex had favoured James to ascend to throne. The following year, during the course of the uneventful first parliament session, Bacon married Alice Barnham. In 1608, Bacon began working as the Clerkship of the Star Chamber. In spite of a generous income, old debts and spendthrift ways kept him indebted. He sought further promotion and wealth by supporting King James and his arbitrary policy.
Bacon gained reward with the office of Solicitor in June 1607. In 1610 the famous fourth parliament of James met. Despite Bacon's advice to him, James and the Commons found themselves at odds over royal prerogatives and the king's embarrassing extravagance. The House dissolved in February 1611. Through this, Bacon managed to stay in favor of the king while retaining the confidence of the Commons.
In 1613, Bacon became attorney general, after advising the king to shuffle judicial appointments. As attorney general, Bacon prosecuted Somerset in 1616. The parliament of April 1614 objected to Bacon's presence in the seat for Cambridge and to the various royal plans which Bacon had supported. Although he was allowed to stay, parliament passed a law that forbade the attorney-general to sit in parliament. His influence over the king inspired resentment or apprehension in many of his peers. Bacon continued to receive the King's favour. In 1618, King James appointed Bacon to the position of Lord Chancellor.
Bacon's public career ended in disgrace in 1621. After having fallen into debt, a Parliamentary Committee on the administration of the law charged him with twenty-three separate counts of corruption. To the lords, who sent a committee to inquire whether a 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 King James, to be committed to the Tower of London during the king's pleasure (his imprisonment lasted only a few days). More seriously, parliament declared Bacon incapable of holding future office or sitting in parliament. Narrowly, he escaped being deprived of his titles. Thenceforth the disgraced viscount devoted himself to study and writing.
Historians such as Nieves Mathews believe Bacon may have been innocent of the bribery charges; Bacon himself said that he pleaded guilty by force deliberately so to save the king from a worse 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."
Biographers continue to debate about Bacon's sexual inclinations and the precise nature of his personal relationships. When he was 36, Francis engaged in the courtship of Elizabeth Hatton, a young widow of 20. Reportedly, 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. Bacon wrote three 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 appeared, with speculation that some of this may have been due to financial resources not being as readily available to her 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. Alice Chambers Bunten wrote in her 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. Bacon 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), revoking it all.
Several authors, such as A .L. Rowse, author of Homosexuals in History, believe that Bacon was either bisexual or homosexual. In 1996, the Journal of Homosexuality published Masculine Love, Renaissance Writing, and the New Invention of Homosexuality: An Addendum in which Charles R. Forker PhD, Professor of English, Department of English at Indiana University explores the "historically documentable sexual preferences" of both King James and Bacon in addition to those of dramatist Christopher Marlowe and of Bacon's brother Anthony - all of whom Forker believed were oriented to "masculine love", a term that "seems to have been used exclusively to refer to the sexual preference of men for members of their own gender.This conclusion has been disputed by other authors, 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.
In April 1626, Sir Francis Bacon came to Highgate near London, and died at the empty (except for the caretaker) Arundel mansion. A famous and influential account of the circumstances of his death was given by John Aubrey in his Brief Lives. Aubrey has been criticized for his evident credulousness in this and other works; on the other hand, he knew Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher and friend of Bacon. Aubrey's vivid account, which portrays Bacon as a martyr to experimental scientific method, has him journeying to Highgate through the snow with the King's physician when he is suddenly inspired by the possibility of using the snow to preserve meat. "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."
Being unwittingly on his deathbed, the philosopher wrote his last letter to his absent host and friend Lord Arundel:
"My very good Lord,—I was likely to have had the fortune of Caius Plinius the elder, who lost his life by trying an experiment about the burning of Mount Vesuvius; for I was also desirous to try an experiment or two touching the conservation and induration of bodies. As for the experiment itself, it succeeded excellently well; but in the journey between London and Highgate, I was taken with such a fit of casting as I know not whether it were the Stone, or some surfeit or cold, or indeed a touch of them all three. But when I came to your Lordship's House, I was not able to go back, and therefore was forced to take up my lodging here, where your housekeeper is very careful and diligent about me, which I assure myself your Lordship will not only pardon towards him, but think the better of him for it. For indeed your Lordship's House was happy to me, and I kiss your noble hands for the welcome which I am sure you give me to it. I know how unfit it is for me to write with any other hand than mine own, but by my troth my fingers are so disjointed with sickness that I cannot steadily hold a pen.
He died at Lord Arundel's home on 9 April 1626, leaving assets of about £7,000 and debts to the amount of £22,000.
This account appears in a biography by William Rawley, Bacon's personal secretary and chaplain:
"He died on the ninth day of April in the year 1626, in the early morning of the day then celebrated for our Saviour's resurrection, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, at the Earl of Arundel's house in Highgate, near London, to which place he casually repaired about a week before; God so ordaining that he should die there of a gentle fever, accidentally accompanied with a great cold, whereby the defluxion of rheum fell so plentifully upon his breast, that he died by suffocation."
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.
Derived through use of his methods, Bacon explicates his somewhat fragmentary ethical system 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 religious matter. Bacon claimed that  any moral action is the action of the human will, which is governed by belief and spurred on by the passions;  good 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.
Regarding faith, 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." 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."
Bacon contrasted the new approach of the development of science with that of the Middle Ages. He said:
"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'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.
The Novum Organum is a philosophical work by Francis Bacon published in 1620. This is a reference to Aristotle's work Organon, which was his treatise on logic and syllogism. In Novum Organum, Bacon details a new system of logic he believes to be superior to the old ways of syllogism. In this work, we see the development of the Baconian method consists of procedures for isolating the form nature, or cause, of a phenomenon, including the method of agreement, method of difference, and method of concomitant variation.
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.
In cinema, Bacon has been most memorably portrayed by Donald Crisp in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) starring Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. He was also played in the 2005 Golden Globe winning mini-series Elizabeth I by Will Keen (with Helen Mirren in the title role). On television, John Nettleton played Bacon in the 1970s BBC production of Elizabeth R starring Glenda Jackson.
The mainstream view is that William Shakespeare of Stratford, an actor in the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later the King's Men), wrote the poems and plays that bear his name. The Baconians, however, hold that scholars are so focused on the details of Shakespeare's life that they neglect to investigate the many facts that they see as connecting Bacon to the Shakespearean work.
The main Baconian evidence is founded on the presentation of a motive for concealment, the circumstances surrounding the first known performance of The Comedy of Errors, the close proximity of Bacon to the William Strachey letter upon which many scholars think The Tempest was based, perceived allusions in the plays to Bacon's legal acquaintances, the many supposed parallels with the plays of Bacon's published work and entries in the Promus (his private wastebook), Bacon's interest in civil histories, and ostensible autobiographical allusions in the plays. Because Bacon had first-hand knowledge of government cipher methods, most Baconians see it as feasible that he left his signature somewhere in the Shakespearean work.
Supporters of the standard view, often referred to as "Stratfordian" or "Mainstream", dispute all contentions in favour of Bacon, and criticize Bacon's poetry as not being comparable in quality with that of Shakespeare.
Alfred Dodd (writing in the first half of the c.20th) claimed that by the age of fifteen Bacon was frequently present at the Elizabethan Court. Robert Cecil allegedly would whisper the secret to the ladies of the Court. The Queen, overhearing Lady Scales, repeating the story, is said to have seized the girl and beat her furiously. Bacon intervened. Enraged that he should take the girl's part, Elizabeth added: "Though you are my own child, I bar you from the Succession for withstanding your mother." Anne Bacon is said to have confirmed the story, adding the Queen was married in a secret ceremony on 21 January 1561 in the house of Lord Pembroke, and that Nicholas Bacon had been one of the witnesses. No other modern-day historians or biographers have produced any evidence whatsover to support Dodd's claim.
DateFormat = yyyy Period = from:1560 till:1626 TimeAxis = orientation:vertical order:reverse ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:5 start:1560 ScaleMinor = unit:year increment:1 start:1560
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at:1561 text:Born in London, England
at:1573 fontsize:m text:Ed. at Trinity Coll. Cambridge; dissatisfied with Aristotelean philosophy
at:1579 text:Entered Gray's Inn
from:1576 till:1579 text:In France
at:1582 text:Called to Bar
at:1584 text:Enters Parliament of England
at:1591 text:Became friend of Essex
at:1593 text:Essex presented him with estate
at:1597 text:Published first ed of Essays
at:1601 text:Prosecuted Essex
at:1605 text:Published Advancement of Learning
at:1607 text:Solicitor General
at:1609 text:Published Wisdom of the Ancients
at:1613 text:Attorney General
at:1616 text:Prosecuted Somerset
at:1618 fontsize:m text:Lord Keeper
at:1619 fontsize:m text:Lord Chancellor with title of Verulam
at:1620 fontsize:m text:Published Novum Organum
at:1621 fontsize:m text:Viscount St Albans; Charged with corruption, retired from public life.
at:1622 fontsize:m text:Published Henry VII and third part of Instauratio