Nigel Cockburn’s general refutation of cryptograms from his book The Bacon Shakespeare Question (1998)

Chapter 24

About the end of the 19th Century the Baconians took a wrong turning – they became obsessed with cryptograms. And still are. They have seen clues to Bacon’s authorship of the Shake-Speare works in printers’ title page headings, in chapter headings, in tail pieces, in pagination, in the texts themselves, and even in pictorial frontispieces of non-Shakespearian books. Howevever, the more rational Baconians, especially the lawyers, have always repudiated cryptograms.

Like many of his period, Bacon was interested in ciphers, devised his own cipher when a youth in Paris, and wrote about ciphers in his The Advancement of Learning (Spedding 3.402) and in his De Augmentis (1623) (Spedding 4.444). But the use Bacon and other Elizabethans made of ciphers was for sending letters in code (Spedding 12.288).

A moment’s thought shows the utter absurdity of the Baconian concept of cryptograms. Clues in head-pieces etc would involve alerting printers to the existence of a secret, increasing the risk of exposure. As to cryptograms embodied in the text, anyone struggling to write passable poetry has enough on his plate without having to make particular letters of the alphabet appear in particular places in his lines. What would be the point of any of the clues anyway? The Baconians see them as Bacon’s means of revealing his secret to posterity. But if readers would spot them – which actually they would not – why risk their being spotted prematurely in his lifetime? I have expressed my conviction earlier that Bacon wished his secret to die with him, lest it damaged his standing as a philosopher. But had he wished otherwise, it would have been far simpler and more effective to mention his secret in his Will or leave a letter.

By seeing cryptograms here, there and everywhere, the Baconians have held themselves up to ridicule and done incalculable harm to their case – far more than Stratfordian Professors have ever succeeded in doing. The obsession with cryptograms is a malady of the mind. Perhaps they got that way, our heretics, through banging their heads against the brick wall of Stratfordian obtuseness and intransigence. But if they ever want to be taken seriously, they must put cryptograms (like the Devil) behind them.