BACON AND JAMES I.
Bacon’s life was a double one. There was the life of high thinking, of disinterested aims, of genuine enthusiasm, of genuine desire to delight and benefit mankind, by opening new paths to wonder and knowledge and power. And there was the put on and worldly life, the life of supposed necessities for the provision of daily bread, the life of ambition and self-seeking, which he followed, not without interest and satisfaction, but at bottom because he thought he must—must be a great man, must be rich, must live in the favour of the great, because without it his great designs could not be accomplished. His original plan of life was disclosed in his letter to Lord Burghley: to get some office with an assured income and not much work, and then to devote the best of his time to his own subjects. But this, if it was really his plan, was gradually changed: first, because he could not get such a place; and next because his connection with Essex, the efforts to gain him the Attorney’s place, and the use which the Queen made of him after Essex could do no more for him, drew him more and more into public work, and specially the career of the law. We know that he would not by preference have chosen the law, and did not feel that his vocation lay that way; but it was the only way open to him for mending his fortunes. And so the two lives went on side by side, the worldly one—he would have said, the practical one—often interfering with the life of thought and discovery, and partly obscuring it, but yet always leaving it paramount in his own mind. His dearest and most cherished ideas, the thoughts with which he was most at home and happiest, his deepest and truest ambitions, were those of an enthusiastic and romantic believer in a great discovery just within his grasp. They were such as the dreams and visions of his great Franciscan namesake, and of the imaginative seekers after knowledge in the middle ages, real or mythical, Albert the Great, Cornelius Agrippa, Dr. Faustus; they were the eager, undoubting hopes of the physical students in Italy and England in his own time, Giordano Bruno, Telesio, Campanella, Gilbert, Galileo, or the founders of the Italian prototype of “Solomon’s House” in the New Atlantis, the precursor of our Royal Societies, the Academy of the Lincei at Rome. Among these meditations was his inner life. But however he may have originally planned his course, and though at times under the influence of disappointment he threatened to retire to Cambridge or to travel abroad, he had bound himself fast to public life, and soon ceased to think of quitting it. And he had a real taste for it—for its shows, its prizes, for the laws and turns of the game, for its debates and vicissitudes. He was no mere idealist or recluse to undervalue or despise the real grandeur of the world. He took the keenest interest in the nature and ways of mankind; he liked to observe,