Francis Bacon: the Peremptory Royalist

Meyrick H. Carré studies the reasons that led Francis Bacon, the distinguished philosopher and man of letters, to become in his political career a vehement upholder of absolute royal authority.

The public career of Francis Bacon has often been presented in unattractive colours. Many passages in his conduct, both as statesman and lawyer, have distressed and repelled his biographers and his character has been exhibited in unpleasing lines. He has been shown as a time-server and a courtier, cringing to James I and, what is less pardonable, to Villiers.

His political activities are apt to leave a disagreeable sense of duplicity; under an appearance of serving the State, he is ruthlessly pursuing his own advantage. Add to these severe judgements that he was coldblooded, ungenerous and vain, and there seems little of his nature left to admire. His detractors conveniently forget the testimony of his friends, one of whom wrote, “It is not the favours I have received of him that have enthralled and enchained my heart, but his whole life and character,” and another (it was Ben Jonson) said “that he seemed to me, ever by his work, one of the greatest men, and most worthy of admiration, that has been in many ages.”

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