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A COMPOSITE WOMAN
From Bacon “ If, one by one, you wedded all “A man cannot tell whether the world,
Apelles or Albert Dürer were the Or from all that are, took some more trifler; whereof the one would thing good,
make a personage by geometrical To make a perfect woman, she proportions; the other, by taking you kill'd
the best parts out of divers faces, Would be unparallel'd.”
to make one excellent." - Essay Winter's Tale, v. 1 (1623). of Beauty (1607–12).
“ Ferdinand (to Miranda):
But you, O you !
Tempest, ii. 1 (1623).
This singular conception appears once more in Bacon's prose works. In his history of Henry VII.' he says:
“The instructions touching the Queen of Naples were so curious and exquisite, being as articles whereby to direct a survey or framing a particular of her person, for complexion, favour, feature, stature, health, age, customs, behavior, conditions and estate, as if ... he meant to find all things in one woman" (1621).
It may be well to add that Bacon makes a characteristic error in his essay, quoted above; for it was not Apelles, but Zeuxis, of whom it is told that he took five beautiful maidens of Greece to serve as models for his picture of Helen. The author of the Plays was evidently familiar with this classical story.
The Winter's Tale' was written in or about 1611; the * Tempest,' in 1613; both were first printed in 1623. The essay preceded both.
THE HUMAN EYE
From Bacon “ The eye sees not itself “ The mind of a wise man is But by reflection, — by some other compared to a glass wherein images thing.
of all kinds in nature and custom
are represented.” – Advancement Since you know you cannot see of Learning (1603-5).
yourself So well as by reflection, I, your
glass, Will modestly discover to yourself That of yourself which yet you know not of.”
Julius Cæsar, i. 2 (1623).
For the second edition of the 'Advancement,' printed in the same year as the play, Bacon rewrote the above-quoted sentence, as follows:
“The comparison of the mind of a wise man to a glass is the more proper, because in a glass he can see his own image, which the eye itself without a glass cannot do.”
The original of both of these parallel passages, however, is in Plato, not then translated into English:
“You may take the analogy of the eye ; the eye sees not itself, but from some other thing, as, for instance, from a glass; it can also see itself by reflection in another eye.” — First Alcibiades.
CROCODILES SHEDDING TEARS “As the mournful crocodile “It is the wisdom of crocodiles With sorrow snares relenting pas- that shed tears when they would
devour.” – Essay of Wisdom 2 Henry VI., iii. 2 (1623). (1625).
Taken from the Adagia of Erasmus, the Latin work from which Bacon introduced more than two hundred proverbs into his commonplace-book. The Adagia had not been
translated into English when the play of 'King Henry VI.' was published or written. Erasmus says:
“Sunt qui scribunt crocodilum, conspecto procul homine, lachrymas emittere atque eundem mox devorare."
“The earth 's a thief That feeds and breeds by a com.
posture stolen From general excrement.”
Timon of Athens, v. 3 (1623). “ Your chamber-lie breeds fleas like a loach."
1 Henry IV., ii. 2 (1598).
From Bacon “Putrefaction is the bastard brother of vivification.” – Natural History (1622-25).
“ Moulds of pies and flesh, of Oranges and lemons, turn into worms." — Ibid.
“The nature of vivification is best inquired into in creatures bred of putrefaction. Dregs of wine turn into gnats." — Ibid.
“ Wholesome meat corrupteth to little worms." — Essay of Super. stition (1607–12).
Bacon strongly held the old notion that putrefying substances generate organisms, such as frogs, grasshoppers, and flies. And so did Shake-speare. Indeed, both authors seem to have made a like investigation into the cause of the alleged phenomenon, as the following parallelism will show:
22 ORIGIN OF LIFE FROM PUTREFACTION “ Hamlet. For if the sun breeds “Aristotle dogmatically assigned
maggots in a dead dog, being the cause of generation to the sun.” a god kissing carrion, - Have - Novum Organum (1608-20).
you a daughter ?
sun. Conception is a blessing,
Hamlet, ii. 2 (1604).
· St. Augustine says: “Certain very small animals may not have been created on the fifth and sixth days, but may have originated from putrefying matter.” St. Isadore of Seville, who wrote in the seventh century of our era, is more explicit; he declares that "bees are generated from decomposed veal, beetles from horse-flesh, grasshoppers from mules, scorpions from crabs."
Bacon pursued the subject still farther, anticipating the time when the generation of animals out of putrefying substances would be controlled by man, thus:
“ We make a number of kinds of serpents, worms, flies, fishes, of putrefaction; whereof some are advanced (in effect) to be perfect creatures, like beasts or birds. Neither do we this by chance, but we know beforehand of what matter and commixture what kind of those creatures will arise." — New Atlantis.
CHILDREN OF GOOD PARENTS
“You cannot find any man of Like a good parent, did beget of rare felicity but either he died him
childless ... or else he was unA falsehood."
fortunate in his children." - MeTempest, i. 2 (1623). morial to Queen Elizabeth (1608).
This most extraordinary opinion, expressed by Bacon in 1608, that happy men are always unfortunate in their chil. dren (if they have any), was held also by the author of the Tempest, a play composed in about 1613. It is the good parent, says Shake-speare, that begets children false to him.
In the De Augmentis Bacon reiterates the statement, by way of an exaggerated antithesis, thus: “They that are fortunate in other things are commonly unfortunate in their children ; lest men should come too near the condition of
“That which, above all others, But sweeter than the lids of Juno's yields the sweetest smell in the air eyes,
is the violet, especially the white.” Or Cytherea's breath."
- Essay of Gardens (1625). Winter's Tale, iv. 3 (1623).
The above exquisite passage from the 'Winter's Tale' has been the subject of much ignorant criticism. Dr. Johnson accused the author of mistaking Juno for Pallas, on the ground that the latter was the "goddess of blue eyes.” Mr. Ellacombe, in his elaborate treatise on 'Plant Lore in Shakespeare,' says that “in all the passages in which Shake-speare names the violet he alludes to the purple violet.” This is a misapprehension. Bacon enables us to set the matter aright; for he tells us that it is the white variety which is the sweetest, and this, being slightly tinged or veined with purple, as eyelids are, is the one, therefore, that justifies the comparison in the text.
Mr. Ellacombe adds that the dramatist was evidently“ very fond” of this flower: he was so, indeed; for in a letter to Lord Treasurer Cranfield, Bacon expressed the pleasure he should soon take in visiting his Lordship and “gathering violets” in his garden.
THE WORLD'S MUCK “He looked upon things precious “Money is like muck, not good as they were
except it be spread upon the earth.” The common muck of the world.” – Essay of Seditions (1625),
Coriolanus, ii. 2 (1623). Bacon made use of this simile three times in the course of his life: in a letter to King James; in one of his Apothegms, where he credited it to an associate in Gray's Inn; and, lastly, in the revised version of his 'Essay of Seditions. Dr.