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re\y upon others rather than upon himself, and to venture on the quicksands of politics, instead of the certain profession of the law, in which the queen had, when he was a child, predicted that he would one day be "her Lord Keeper, "(d)
To law, therefore, he was reluctantly obliged to devote himself, and, as it seems, in the year 1580, he was admitted a student of Gray's Inn, of which society his father had for many years been an illustrious member, (e)
Having engaged in this profession, he, as was to be expected, encountered and subdued the difficulties and obscurities of the science in which he was doomed to labour, and in which, he, afterwards, was so eminently distinguished, not only by his professional exertions and honours, but by his various valuable works upon different practical parts of
your ladyship's short stay, and quick return might well spare me, that came of no earnest errand. I am not yet greatly perfect in ceremonies of court, whereof, 1 know, your ladyship knoweth both the right use, and true value. My thankful and serviceable mind shall be always like itself, howsoever it vary from the common disguising. Your ladyship is wise, and of good nature to discern from what mind every action proceedeth, and to esteem of it accordingly. This is all the message which my letter hath at this time to deliver, unless it please your ladyship further to give me leave to make this request unto you, that it would please your good ladyship, in your letters, wherewith you visit my good lord, to vouchsafe the mention and recommendation of my suit; wherein your ladyship shall bind me more unto you than 1 can look ever to be able sufficiently to acknowledge. Thus in humble manner, I take my leave of your ladyship, committing you, as daily in my prayers, so, likewise, at this present, to the merciful providence of the Almighty.
Your Ladyship's most dutiful and bounden nephew, From Grey's Inn, B. Fra.
this 16th of September, 1580. (rf) See ante page 111.
(e) The admission book at Gray's Inn begins in the year 1580; but the first four pages have been torn out. Bacon's name, however, appears in the list of members of the society, in the year 1581: the book abounds with Lord Bacon's Autographs.
the law,(a) and upon the improvement of the science by exploring the principles of universal justice, the laws of law. (A)
Extensive as were his legal researches, and great as was his legal knowledge, law was, however, but an accessory, not a principal study, (c) It was not to be expected that his mind should confine its researches within the narrow and perplexed study of precedents and authorities. He contracted his 6ight, when necessary, to the study of the law, but he dilated it to the whole circle of science, and continued his meditations upon his immortal work, which he had projected when in the university, (d)
This course of legal and philosophical research was accompanied with such sweetness and affability of deportment, that he gained the affections of the whole society,
(a) See note R at the end, and note C C.
(b) See note S at the end.
(c) Contemplation feels no hunger, nor is sensible of any thirst, but of that after knowledge. How frequent and exalted a pleasure did David find from his meditation in the divine law? all the day long it was the theme of his thoughts: The affairs of state, the government of his kingdom, might indeed employ, but it was this only that refreshed his mind. How short of this are the delights of the epicure? how vastly disproportionate are the pleasures of the eating and of the thinking man? indeed as different as the silence of an Archimedes in the study of a problem, and the stillness of a sow at her wash.—South.
Being returned from travel, he applied himself to the study of the common-law, which he took upon him to be his profession. Notwithstanding that he professed the law for his livelihood and subsistence, yet his heart and affection was more carried after the affairs and places of state; for which, if the majesty royal then had been pleased, he was most fit. The narrowness of his circumstances obliged him to think of some profession for a subsistence; and he applied himself, more through necessity than choice, to the study of the common law, in which he obtained to great excellence, though he made that (as himself said) but as an accessory, and not his principal study.—Rawley. See note S at the end.
(d) See note I at the end.
and the kindness he experienced was not lost upon him. He assisted in their festivities; he beautified their spacious garden, and raised an elegant structure, known for many years after his death, as "The Lord Bacon's Lodgings," in which at intervals he resided till his death, (b)
When he was only twenty-six years of age, he was i580. promoted to the bench; (c) in his twenty-eighth year he 26was elected lent reader; (d) and the 42nd of Elizabeth he was appointed double reader. ,
His agreeable occupations, and extensive views of science, during his residence in Gray's Inn, did not check his professional exertions. In the year 1586, he applied to the lord treasurer to be called within the bar;(a) and in
(It) See note T at the end. (r) See note V at the end.
(rf) Dugdale, in his account of Bacon, says, in 30th Elizabeth, (being then but twenty-eight years of age) the honorable society of Gray's Inn chose him for their lent reader. Orig. p. 295.
(a) In the time of Lord Bacon there was a distinction between outer and inner barristers. By the following letter in 1586, it will appear that he applied to the lord treasurer that he might be called within bars.
To the Right Honorable the Lord Treasurer*
I take it as an undoubted sign of your lordship's favour unto me that, being hardly informed of me, you took occasion rather of good advice than of evil opinion thereby. And if your lordship had grounded only upon the said information of theirs, I might and would truly have upholden that few of the matters were justly objected; as the very circumstances do induce, in that they were delivered by men that did misaffect me, and, besides, were to give colour to their own doings. But because your lordship did mingle therewith both a late motion of mine own, and somewhat which you had otherwise heard, I know it to be my duty (and so do I stand affected,) rather to prove your lordship's admonition effectual in my doings hereafter, than causeless by excusing what is past. And yet (with your lordship's pardon humbly asked) it may please you to remember, that I did endeavour to set forth that said motion in such sort as it might breed no harder effect than a denial. And I protest simply before God, that I sought therein an
* Lands. MS. li. art. 5. Orig.
his thirtieth year was sworn queen's counsel learned extraordinary, (a) an honor which until that time, had never been conferred upon any member of the profession.
ease in coming within bars, and not any extraordinary or singular note of favour. And for that your lordship may otherwise have heard of me, it shall make me more wary and circumspect in carriage of myself; indeed I find in my simple observation, that they which live as it were in umbra and not in public or frequent action, how moderately and modestly soever they behave themselves, yet laborant invulia; I find also that such persons as are of nature bashful (as myself is), whereby they want that plausible familiarity which others have, are often mistaken for proud. But once I know well, and I most humbly beseech your lordship to believe, that arrogancy and overweening is so far from my nature, as if I think well of myself in any thing it is in this, that I am free from that vice. And I hope upon this your lordship's speech, I have entered into those considerations, as my behaviour shall no more deliver me for other than I am. And so wishing unto your lordship all honour, and to myself continuance of your good opinion, with mind and means to deserve it, I humbly take my leave.
Your Lordship's most bounden Nephew, Grey's Inn, Fr. Bacon.
this 6th of May, 1586.
(a) Rawley, in his life, says, he was after a while, sworn to the queen's counsel learned extraordinary; a grace, if I err not, scarce known before. "He was counsel learned extraordinary to his Majesty, as he had been to Queen Elizabeth." Extract from Biographia Britannica, vol. I. page 373. —He distinguished himself no less in his practice, which was very considerable, and after discharging the office of reader at Grays Inn, which he did, in 1588, when in the twenty-sixth year of his age, he was become so considerable, that the queen who never over valued any man's abilities, thought fit to call him to her service in a way which did him very great honour, by appointing him her council learned in the law extraordinary: by which, though she contributed abundantly to his reputation, yet she added but very little to his fortune, as indeed in this respect he was never much indebted to her majesty, how much soever he might be in all others. He, in his apology respecting Lord Essex, says, "They sent for us of the learned council."
FROM HIS ENTRANCE INTO ACTIVE LIFE TILL HIS
He thus entered on public life, submitting, as a lawyer and 1590 to
At this period the court was divided into two parties: at the head of the one were the two Cecils; of the other, the Earl of Leicester, and afterwards, his son-in-law, the Earl of Essex.
To the Cecils Bacon was allied. He was the nephew of Lord Burleigh, and first cousin to Sir Robert Cecil, the principal secretary of state; but, connected as he was to the Cecils by blood, his affections were with Essex. Generous, ard«nt, and highly cultivated, with all the romantic enthusiasm of chivalry, and all the graces and accomplishments of a court, Essex was formed to gain partizans, and attach friends. Attracted by his mind and character, Bacon could have but little sympathy with Burleigh, who thought £100. an extravagant gratuity to the author of the Fairy Queen, which he was pleased to term an "old song,"(i) and, probably deemed the listeners to such songs little better than idle dreamers. There was much grave learning and much pedantry at court, but literature of the lighter sort was regarded with coldness, and philosophy
(A) See note X at the end.