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Monday, January 25, 2016

Sir Anthony Bacon: a Life in the Shadows.

This selection is taken from AN Historical View OF THE NEGOTIATIONS Between the Courts of England France and Brussels From the Year 1592 to 1617, by Thomas Birch, M.A. F.R.S. And Rector of the United-Parishes of St Margaret-Pattens and St Gabriel-Fenchurch.  The Anna Castle Blog[1] informs us that “Anthony Bacon’s only biographer is Dame Daphne Du Maurier” in her book entitled Golden Lads.  In the course of her research, Du Maurier states that Sir Anthony resided in Southern France for about 1585-89 "and was having too much fun to come home. Until he was charged with sodomy.”  The papers have since remained closed to the public, by all accounts.  There is no reason to believe that the Dame would have fabricated such a story.  There is some circumstantial evidence in papers elsewhere that Bacon did need help to escape some dilemma in 1589-90 and which eventually required intervention by the French king in order that he might leave the country never to return.  There were also rumors, upon his return, about his comportment with his household pages.

Somehow Sir Anthony had the habit of ingratiating himself in circles of the highest historical interest and most questionable mores.  Upon his return from France, he and his more famous brother, Francis, gathered a group of hired '"good pens" to do piece work -- a number known to have served as agents in his friend Sir Francis Walsingham's (who died in April 1590) network of informers -- but they seem to have put much more of their energies toward gaining preferment under the Earl of Essex.  Anthony became secretary to Essex, for a number of years, until the Earl pleaded with the Queen to save him from the man (blackmail is rumored to have been involved). A number of mysteries surrounding the Earl’s infamous rebellion and the Shakespeare Authorship Question seem to reveal Sir Anthony playing roles officially of little importance but regularly having leveraged himself into a participant of some power and influence.  My researches inform me that I likely will have reason to mention him in future work in this regard.

The following explains the close family relationship between the Bacons and the Cecils and something of Sir Anthony’s role in the international relations of the time.  I have yet to find further information on his paintings, which were extant in 1749.

Every bit as fascinating is the respect which Nicholas Bacon’s daughters received for being fluent both in Greek and Latin.  Not only were these very rare accomplishments for noble (much less bourgeois) women of the time, but almost no English men of the time, regardless of rank or education, were well-versed in classical Greek.  An even slightly more common knowledge of the language had to wait until the middle of the 18th century.   

Anthony Bacon, Esq; whose papers have been also of great service to me in this work, and of which there are several volumes in the Lambeth library, besides that in my possession, was son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Knight, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, by his second wife, Anne, one of the daughters of Sir Anthony Cook, a Lady eminent for her skill in the Latin and Greek languages; as was likewise her sister Mildred, the second wife of the Lord Treasurer Burghley.  He was elder brother of the whole blood to Sir Francis Bacon, Lord High Chancellor, to whom he was thought equal in parts, though inferior in the acquisitions of learning and knowledge. He travelled early into foreign countries; for he was at Paris the beginning of the year 1580, and at Geneva in 1581, where he was acquainted with the celebrated Theodore Beza, who speaks of him in very high terms of admiration, in a letter to the Lord Treasurer in December that year. It appears likewise, from his papers, that he was at Bourdeaux, and Montauban, and in other parts of France in the years 1584 and 1586. Upon his return to England, about January 1589-90 he held a correspondence by letters in different countries; by which he received the earliest accounts of what passed there. And tho’ the Lord Treasurer was his uncle, and Sir Robert Cecil, Secretary of State, his cousin-german, yet he attached himself chiefly to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who, by his means, carried on a correspondence with the King of Scots, of which there are sufficient evidences among Mr. Bacon's manuscripts in my hands.
He was extremely well skilled in all the polite arts, and particularly in that of Painting; several excellent performances of his in the Flemish style, being still preserved at his seat at Gorhambury, near St Albans in Hertfordshire; an estate, which had been settled upon him by his father, and descended upon his death without issue, to his brother, Sir Francis Bacon.

[1] Anna Castle: Mysteries with Heart and Wit.

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