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Chapter 9

Did Francis Bacon write Shakespeare's Works?

Nobody knows.

We cannot say we KNOW a thing when that thing has not been proved.
KNOW is too strong a word to use when the evidence is not final and
absolutely conclusive. We can infer, if we want to, like those
slaves . . . No, I will not write that word, it is not kind, it is
not courteous. The upholders of the Stratford-Shakespeare
superstition call US the hardest names they can think of, and they
keep doing it all the time; very well, if they like to descend to
that level, let them do it, but I will not so undignify myself as
to follow them. I cannot call them harsh names; the most I can do
is to indicate them by terms reflecting my disapproval; and this
without malice, without venom.

To resume. What I was about to say, was, those thugs have built
their entire superstition upon INFERENCES, not upon known and
established facts. It is a weak method, and poor, and I am glad to
be able to say our side never resorts to it while there is anything
else to resort to.

But when we must, we must; and we have now arrived at a place of
that sort.

Since the Stratford Shakespeare couldn't have written the Works, we
infer that somebody did. Who was it, then? This requires some
more inferring.

Ordinarily when an unsigned poem sweeps across the continent like a
tidal wave, whose roar and boom and thunder are made up of
admiration, delight and applause, a dozen obscure people rise up
and claim the authorship. Why a dozen, instead of only one or two?
One reason is, because there's a dozen that are recognizably
competent to do that poem. Do you remember "Beautiful Snow"? Do
you remember "Rock Me to Sleep, Mother, Rock Me to Sleep"? Do you
remember "Backward, turn backward, O Time, in thy flight! Make me
a child again just for to-night"? I remember them very well.
Their authorship was claimed by most of the grown-up people who
were alive at the time, and every claimant had one plausible
argument in his favor, at least: to wit, he could have done the
authoring; he was competent.

Have the Works been claimed by a dozen? They haven't. There was
good reason. The world knows there was but one man on the planet
at the time who was competent--not a dozen, and not two. A long
time ago the dwellers in a far country used now and then to find a
procession of prodigious footprints stretching across the plain--
footprints that were three miles apart, each footprint a third of a
mile long and a furlong deep, and with forests and villages mashed
to mush in it. Was there any doubt as to who had made that mighty
trail? Were there a dozen claimants? Were there two? No--the
people knew who it was that had been along there: there was only
one Hercules.

There has been only one Shakespeare. There couldn't be two;
certainly there couldn't be two at the same time. It takes ages to
bring forth a Shakespeare, and some more ages to match him. This
one was not matched before his time; nor during his time; and
hasn't been matched since. The prospect of matching him in our
time is not bright.

The Baconians claim that the Stratford Shakespeare was not
qualified to write the Works, and that Francis Bacon was. They
claim that Bacon possessed the stupendous equipment--both natural
and acquired--for the miracle; and that no other Englishman of his
day possessed the like; or, indeed, anything closely approaching

Macaulay, in his Essay, has much to say about the splendor and
horizonless magnitude of that equipment. Also, he has synopsized
Bacon's history: a thing which cannot be done for the Stratford
Shakespeare, for he hasn't any history to synopsize. Bacon's
history is open to the world, from his boyhood to his death in old
age--a history consisting of known facts, displayed in minute and
multitudinous detail; FACTS, not guesses and conjectures and might-

Whereby it appears that he was born of a race of statesmen, and had
a Lord Chancellor for his father, and a mother who was
"distinguished both as a linguist and a theologian: she
corresponded in Greek with Bishop Jewell, and translated his
Apologia from the Latin so correctly that neither he nor Archbishop
Parker could suggest a single alteration." It is the atmosphere we
are reared in that determines how our inclinations and aspirations
shall tend. The atmosphere furnished by the parents to the son in
this present case was an atmosphere saturated with learning; with
thinkings and ponderings upon deep subjects; and with polite
culture. It had its natural effect. Shakespeare of Stratford was
reared in a house which had no use for books, since its owners, his
parents, were without education. This may have had an effect upon
the son, but we do not know, because we have no history of him of
an informing sort. There were but few books anywhere, in that day,
and only the well-to-do and highly educated possessed them, they
being almost confined to the dead languages. "All the valuable
books then extant in all the vernacular dialects of Europe would
hardly have filled a single shelf"--imagine it! The few existing
books were in the Latin tongue mainly. "A person who was ignorant
of it was shut out from all acquaintance--not merely with Cicero
and Virgil, but with the most interesting memoirs, state papers,
and pamphlets of his own time"--a literature necessary to the
Stratford lad, for his fictitious reputation's sake, since the
writer of his Works would begin to use it wholesale and in a most
masterly way before the lad was hardly more than out of his teens
and into his twenties.

At fifteen Bacon was sent to the university, and he spent three
years there. Thence he went to Paris in the train of the English
Ambassador, and there he mingled daily with the wise, the cultured,
the great, and the aristocracy of fashion, during another three
years. A total of six years spent at the sources of knowledge;
knowledge both of books and of men. The three spent at the
university were coeval with the second and last three spent by the
little Stratford lad at Stratford school supposedly, and
perhapsedly, and maybe, and by inference--with nothing to infer
from. The second three of the Baconian six were "presumably" spent
by the Stratford lad as apprentice to a butcher. That is, the
thugs presume it--on no evidence of any kind. Which is their way,
when they want a historical fact. Fact and presumption are, for
business purposes, all the same to them. They know the difference,
but they also know how to blink it. They know, too, that while in
history-building a fact is better than a presumption, it doesn't
take a presumption long to bloom into a fact when THEY have the
handling of it. They know by old experience that when they get
hold of a presumption-tadpole he is not going to STAY tadpole in
their history-tank; no, they know how to develop him into the giant
four-legged bullfrog of FACT, and make him sit up on his hams, and
puff out his chin, and look important and insolent and come-to-
stay; and assert his genuine simon-pure authenticity with a
thundering bellow that will convince everybody because it is so
loud. The thug is aware that loudness convinces sixty persons
where reasoning convinces but one. I wouldn't be a thug, not even
if--but never mind about that, it has nothing to do with the
argument, and it is not noble in spirit besides. If I am better
than a thug, is the merit mine? No, it is His. Then to Him be the
praise. That is the right spirit.

They "presume" the lad severed his "presumed" connection with the
Stratford school to become apprentice to a butcher. They also
"presume" that the butcher was his father. They don't know. There
is no written record of it, nor any other actual evidence. If it
would have helped their case any, they would have apprenticed him
to thirty butchers, to fifty butchers, to a wilderness of butchers-
-all by their patented method "presumption." If it will help their
case they will do it yet; and if it will further help it, they will
"presume" that all those butchers were his father. And the week
after, they will SAY it. Why, it is just like being the past tense
of the compound reflexive adverbial incandescent hypodermic
irregular accusative Noun of Multitude; which is father to the
expression which the grammarians call Verb. It is like a whole
ancestry, with only one posterity.

To resume. Next, the young Bacon took up the study of law, and
mastered that abstruse science. From that day to the end of his
life he was daily in close contact with lawyers and judges; not as
a casual onlooker in intervals between holding horses in front of a
theatre, but as a practicing lawyer--a great and successful one, a
renowned one, a Launcelot of the bar, the most formidable lance in
the high brotherhood of the legal Table Round; he lived in the
law's atmosphere thenceforth, all his years, and by sheer ability
forced his way up its difficult steeps to its supremest summit, the
Lord Chancellorship, leaving behind him no fellow craftsman
qualified to challenge his divine right to that majestic place.

When we read the praises bestowed by Lord Penzance and the other
illustrious experts upon the legal condition and legal aptnesses,
brilliances, profundities and felicities so prodigally displayed in
the Plays, and try to fit them to the history-less Stratford stage-
manager, they sound wild, strange, incredible, ludicrous; but when
we put them in the mouth of Bacon they do not sound strange, they
seem in their natural and rightful place, they seem at home there.
Please turn back and read them again. Attributed to Shakespeare of
Stratford they are meaningless, they are inebriate extravagancies--
intemperate admirations of the dark side of the moon, so to speak;
attributed to Bacon, they are admirations of the golden glories of
the moon's front side, the moon at the full--and not intemperate,
not overwrought, but sane and right, and justified. "At every turn
and point at which the author required a metaphor, simile or
illustration, his mind ever turned FIRST to the law; he seems
almost to have THOUGHT in legal phrases; the commonest legal
phrases, the commonest of legal expressions were ever at the end of
his pen." That could happen to no one but a person whose TRADE was
the law; it could not happen to a dabbler in it. Veteran mariners
fill their conversation with sailor-phrases and draw all their
similes from the ship and the sea and the storm, but no mere
PASSENGER ever does it, be he of Stratford or elsewhere; or could
do it with anything resembling accuracy, if he were hardy enough to
try. Please read again what Lord Campbell and the other great
authorities have said about Bacon when they thought they were
saying it about Shakespeare of Stratford.

Mark Twain

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