A History of Elizabethan Literature

By George Saintsbury | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VI
LATER ELIZABETHAN AND JACOBEAN PROSE

ONE name so far dominates the prose literature of the last years of Elizabeth, and that of the whole reign of James, that it has probably alone secured attention in the general memory, except such as may be given to the purple patches (of the true Tyrian dye, but not extremely numerous) which decorate here and there the somewhat featureless expanse of Sir Walter Raleigh History of the World. That name, it is scarcely necessary to say, is the name of Francis Bacon. Bacon's eventful life, his much debated character, his philosophical and scientific position, are all matters beyond our subject. But as it is of the first importance in studying that subject to keep dates and circumstances generally, if not minutely, in view, it may be well to give a brief summary of his career. He was born in 1561, the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper; he went very young to Cambridge, and though early put to the study of the law, discovered an equally early bent in another direction. He was unfortunate in not obtaining the patronage then necessary to all men not of independent fortune. Though Elizabeth was personally familiar with him, she gave him nothing of importance--whether owing to the jealousy of his uncle and cousin, Burleigh and Robert Cecil, is a point not quite certain. The patronage of Essex did him very little good, and drew him into the worst action of his life. But after Elizabeth's death, and when a man of middle age, he at last began to mount

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