A Blupete Biography Page

The Elizabethan Times, #2 of
Francis Bacon: "The Secretary of Nature"

If one is to get to know about another person's life and that person's work it will be necessary to take an historical look at the times during which that person lived; this is particularly so of Francis Bacon. Let us first start by looking to the principal actors of the age. Our leading lady is Elizabeth the First, the Queen of England.

Elizabeth I, lived between the years 1533 and 1603. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. She was, after her mother's execution, declared illegitimate, but in 1544 Parliament reestablished her in the succession. On her accession in 1558 (she reigned until 1603) England's low fortunes, included: religious strife, a huge government debt, and failure in wars with France. Her reign took England through one of its greatest periods, a period that saw the country united to become a first-rate European power with a great navy; a period in which commerce and industry prospered and colonization began. Elizabeth followed in her father's footsteps and asserted the Tudor concept of strong rule. She reestablished Anglicanism, and measures against Catholics grew harsher. Although she had many favorites, Elizabeth never married, but she used the possibility of marriage as a diplomatic tool. Vain, fickle in bestowing favors, prejudiced, vacillating, and parsimonious, she was nonetheless considered to be a great monarch, highly aware of the responsibility of rule and immensely courageous.

Other personages of the time should be considered. There would be the 2nd earl of Essex, Robert Devereux (1566-1601) who quite literally lost his head over Elizabeth. Then there was the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley (1532-88), who received a number of favours from the queen. Dudley's wife Amy was reported to have committed suicide, but did she? Eventually, Dudley himself was found poisoned to death. Then there was James I (James VI of Scotland), son of Mary, Queen of Scots; and, indeed, Mary, herself. And a string of others, including: Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley (1520-98), Sir Francis Walsingham (1530-90), Sir Francis Drake (1540-96), Sir Edmund Spencer (1552-1599), Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), Edward Coke (1552-1634), Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86), and Shakespeare (1564-1616). All of these historical figures should be looked up, I have no time but to only mention them at this place.

I have yet to undertake an exhaustive examination of Bacon's life; it has been done many times before. The standard biography is that of James Spedding.4

Before passing on to saying a few words about Bacon's philosophy it is worthwhile to make the comparison between Sir Thomas More and Francis Bacon, as Frederic R. White did:

"In many external respects, the life of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was similar to that of Sir Thomas More [1478-1535], a century before. Both came from distinguished families, and both received excellent educations. Both studied law and both practised that profession. Both entered public life at a comparatively early age, and both finally arrived, at the end of their political careers, at the Lord Chancellorship. Moreover, each fell into disfavour with his sovereign; each was accused of taking bribes; each was condemned and imprisoned in the Tower. Finally, each was the most distinguished writer and thinker of his time, and each was in a sense, a martyr to his faith. More died because of his steadfast devotion to his religion. Bacon, so the story goes, met his death through devotion to experimental science. While testing the preservation powers of snow, he contracted a chill and perished. This external similarity does not extend, however, to the characters of the two men. More was a man of the utmost integrity, sweetness, and generosity; Bacon was by no means admirable." (p. 207.)


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Peter Landry