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lege of an accepted lover, almost of a husband. But all this was to be changed:
Belphoebe's course is now observed no more;
That fair resemblance weareth out of date;
Our ocean seas are but tempestuous waves,
A queen she was to me,- —no more Belphoebe;
A lion then,-no more a milk-white dove;
How this change came about we may trace in the next chapter.
1 From the poem Cynthia, generally attributed to Ralegh. See the discussion of it in Chapter vi.
BACON AND ESSEX, continued
I have tried thus far to relate the main facts in the life of Essex and his relations with the Queen and with Francis Bacon, because, in my opinion, his fate was the cause and motive of certain plays of Shakespeare which belong to what is called his "dark period." Goethe, who was a great critic as well as a great poet, said, "Reality must give both impulse and material for the production of poems. A particular case becomes universal and poetic by the very circumstance that it is treated by a poet
snatched out of the air."
I attach no value to poems
This is a doctrine to which I wholly subscribe, and I believe that these plays, to which we shall come, far from being dramatic exercises in vacuo, as is commonly supposed, are among the most signal illustrations of that doctrine in existence. But I will ask the reader to follow the story with me a step further.
That Essex, in making love to Queen Elizabeth, was playing with fire, and that sooner or later her views as a ruler were bound to come into conflict with her feelings as a woman, is evident. It was due to the candour and simplicity of Essex's nature that he did not see this. What his real relations with the Queen were it is impossible to say, and it seems hardly worth while to inquire. In such a court as hers there were plenty of scandal-mongers. On the other hand there were some who asserted (Bacon among them) that, though she liked to be addressed in the language of love and encouraged it, it went no further than that. She certainly made love in a way to Ralegh. She was attracted by his splendid appearance and still more perhaps by his shrewd
1 Conversations with Eckermann.
practical sense. He also addressed her in the conventional language," a goddess," "the bright Angelica" and so forth; but he was not very scrupulous and can never have been really serious about it, for he was a man of constant affections and deeply devoted to his wife, as she was to him.1 Essex too, was attached to his wife, and, after his return from Cadiz, when he took a serious turn, he is described as " showing true noble kindness towards his virtuous spouse, entirely without any diversion"; but he was certainly not always faithful to her. It is evident, however, from the petition which she addressed to Robert Cecil when her husband was under sentence of death, that she was much attached to him. But the romance of Essex's life was the Queen, and for her he seems to have entertained a most exalted devotion. It is also quite clear that she loved him, and it is only by jealousy, suspicion and disillusionment that her harshness towards him in his last days can be explained.
Now the ostensible causes for this attitude on her part are insufficient to account for it. There must therefore have been something behind, which, for reasons of state, was not allowed to appear. It is fairly evident now that at the trial of Essex for treason the most important charges were kept back for such reasons, namely that they would have implicated King James of Scotland and Mountjoy, on whom the Government was then depending for the reduction of Tyrone. I conclude therefore that the real ground for the bitter feeling of the Queen towards Essex, which began from the moment when he set out for Ireland in March, 1599, was her knowledge of the Scottish correspondence which had been communicated to her by Cecil, and which was used by him and others throughout as the means of exasperating her feelings and so pulling down the Earl.
We have seen that this correspondence had been begun many years before, and that by 1594 Essex had already got into trouble for it. In 1596, when Essex was at the height of his fortunes, the Cecils made an attempt to detach Anthony Bacon from the Earl's service through the agency of his aunt,
1I discussed this subject in my book on Spenser, Ch. xvi.
Lady Russell. Anthony, who was always faithful to Essex, wrote the Earl an account of the interview, in which he said that among the charges which Lord Burghley made against him (Anthony) was this: "You are too well known and beloved in Scotland to be a true Englishman, and busy yourself with matters above your reach, as, foreign intelligences and entertainment of spies"; and that, through Anthony, Essex was brought to oppose himself more than any nobleman in England durst do, how great soever." To this Anthony had replied that on his return from abroad Burghley had taken every advantage of his information gathered by ten years work on the continent and had done nothing for him, and, on the other side, Essex had shown" special noble kindness to my germain brother," which had attached Anthony to the Earl's service. He mentioned this and other things "to satisfy my Lord Treasurer whom Her Majesty hath censured with admiration what should make him so loth, yea so backward, to advance his nephews, which God knoweth my brother and I have found most true, howsoever it pleaseth his L. to protest the contrary; namely, after his son, Mr. Secretary (whether with his L. privity God knows) had denounced a deadly feud to an ancient lady, my mother and his aunt, swearing that he held me for his mortal enemy, and would make me feel it when he could. My mother marvelled, when she told me of it, that I did laugh at it, alleging and expounding to her ladyship a Gascon's proverb, Braine d'ase ne monte pas al ciel. By God,' said Lady Russell, 'but he is no ass.' Let him go for a mule then, Madam,' said I the most mischievous beast that is'; whereat she laughed heartily. Essex replied to this thanking him for his relation, "in which I took so great pleasure as, reading it at my going to bed, I found it ran in my head all the night after."1
Dr. Abbott throws further light on the Scotch correspondence of Essex previous to his going to Ireland, and says that, in carrying it on, both Essex and Anthony Bacon appear to have believed that "in attempting to keep up friendly rela
tions between Scotland and England, so as to facilitate James's ultimate succession, and to exclude the claims of Spain, they were doing a service to the English nation."1 The Earl's enemies, however, interpreted it in another lightand I have no doubt that this was the construction which they instilled into the mind of the Queen-that under pretext of securing a Parliamentary title for James in advance of the Queen's demise, he was really aiming at the sovereignty for himself. Though I do not believe that there was any truth in this, yet there was a possibility that if an agitation was fomented in advance about the succession, the great popularity of Essex might have caused him to be summoned to the throne by acclamation, especially as he had some shadow of right through his ancestry. James was regarded in England as a foreigner, and his peaceful succession was mainly due to the dread of the restoration of Romanism through the Infanta. Also it was managed with consummate skill by Cecil, not however before Essex had been got out of the way. The belief which Essex seems always to have entertained that Cecil favoured the Infanta's claim had probably this foundation, that he would have favoured it rather than see James come in with the support of Essex, because that would have meant his own ruin. No doubt Cecil was able to clear himself of the charge at the trial of Essex, but this does not prove that, in the contingency which I suppose, he would not have shaped his course accordingly. He was a man who identified the public interest with his own career, and his great abilities may have justified him in doing so. At any rate it is a common feature among public men of exceptional ability, and, as is frequently found in such cases, Cecil's methods were entirely dictated by policy.
The piece of evidence as to the Scotch correspondence of Essex to which I was referring occurs in connection with the departure of the Earl for Spain in 1596. Anthony Bacon had recommended the Earl's cousin, Fortescue, as the fittest person to receive letters from Scotland addressed to Essex. But Fortescue refused. Writing to Anthony, he says,
1 Bacon and Essex, p. 72.