Disclaimer: It should be clearly understood that Baconiana is a medium for the discussion of subjects connected with the Objects of the Society, but the Council does not necessarily endorse opinions expressed by contributors or correspondents.

Obituary: Gerald Salway

Treasurer and Secretary of the Francis Bacon Society 1990-2016

Gerald was an unusual and in many ways a remarkable person, in fact it was my pleasure  if not a privilege to have known him, principally in connection with his consistent efforts on behalf of The Francis Bacon Society.  As Treasurer and Secretary alongside Thomas Bokenham the Chairman (“Bokie”), this was a post to which Gerald had been appointed over twenty five years ago and before meeting him, when I first joined The Society.  A distant figure at their quarterly meetings but always staunchly in the background, we later got to know each other on my being invited to join the Council, then as a group we met in different London venues, often with talks in Mary Brameld’s flat in Nevern Square, Mary being one of the twins (the other one was Elizabeth), whose mother, Hope, had previously been Secretary to the Society for over thirty years, and was well known to Gerald so I later discovered.

Until Bokie passed on, Gerald and I used to take him and Ruby (later his widow) regularly each month to the Bank of England Sports Club in Putney as he was a member (having worked as an official in the Bank for many years), and after a snack lunch, drive home to his little study and the library in their house in New Malden, so as to deal with current business together.  Getting to know him personally took some time over the years, but the more so on his regular visits to Pangbourne where, after dealing with routine affairs and Society matters Baconian, we also became good friends.

The picture that gradually emerged was that of a young man brought up in Surrey who was recruited for National Service in  the Royal Pay Corps, as he had studied accountancy after leaving school although he never qualified. He recently told me this led to quite a cushy job, as he got posted to The War Office staff in the Paymasters office, which he much valued.  After demobilisation, he joined the BBC for a number of years on their accounts staff, until early retirement.

Over the years he became spiritually aware and enlightened, so thereafter he enjoyed devoting time and energy mostly to charity work. He was always interested in the current affairs of our Society and anything to do with Francis Bacon, and shared much knowledge of  our recent history from his personal experience of previous members.  Hence I really respected his integrity and much admired his courage in the face of an increasingly bad back disability. He will be remembered by our Society as a very special person.

Peter Welsford.

Back to top

Obituary: Susan Sheridan

March 18th 1947 – August 8th 2015

At the September 2015 AGM we announced the death of and paid tribute to Susan Sheridan, member of the Council and loyal supporter of the Francis Bacon Society. Susan was a wonderful asset to the Society, her intelligence, joie de vivre and commitment to the Bacon cause is sadly missed. Susan Sheridan worked as an actress, voice artist, voice coach and writer.

Susan wrote and performed her one woman show The Merry Wife of Wilton, about Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, and her circle of writers at Wilton House, which included Francis Bacon. This prompted her to follow the academic trail. The Francis Bacon Society supported Susan’s work at Brunel University, which culminated in an MA in Shakespeare Authorship Studies, a subject on which she gave talks and presentations, including at the Globe Theatre in London.

She was born Susan Haydn Thomas in Surbiton, Surrey, and educated at Brigidine Convent Windsor, Ashford Grammar School Middlesex then trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she won the Malvern Prize for comedy.

After regional rep Susan made her West End debut as Christopher Robin in a West End production of the musical Winnie-the-Pooh in 1975. She made her name as astrophysicist Trillian the radio adaption of Douglas Adamss cult sci-fi comedy The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Her gifted voice skills led to other voiced parts in TV: Angus and Elspeth inThe Family-Ness and most notably Noddy in BBC’s Noddy’s Toyland Adventures where she and Jimmy Hibbert voiced all of the 32 characters over 53 episodes. In films she dubbed voices including Princess Eilonwy in Disney’s cartoon The Black Cauldron; the young Puyi in Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, and one of the Chickens in Chicken Run.

Susan’s television work included playing one of the three witches in a BBC TV production of Macbeth and a nun in a 2011 episode of Midsomer Murders.

In April this year in the televised Memorial Section of the Olivier Awards in London Susan was featured in the list of well-loved actors who recently died, the screen showed a lovely big portrait of her.

Susan’s second husband musician Max Brittain survives her with their three daughters: actresses Emily Stride and Alice Brittain, and film and television casting assistant Olivia Brittain.

A few memories of Susan from members

Susan gave talks at Rilko, the Gatekeeper Trust and the Francis Bacon Society and FBRT, she was always very knowledgeable, professional and thoroughly engaging when she lectured … she was very endearing when we spoke, always had kind words to say to me, a lovely smile we exchanged thoughts and ideas about mounds and various alignments, in Wiltshire, Wales, London, Essex, she had a delightful sense of wonder about it all, about everything … I have particularly fond memories of being in a crop circle with her and other friends one glorious summer evening

She was researching the various mounds around the UK which had links back in time, some to Celtic and Druidic sites. . A lot of these mounds were aligned and a few summers ago Susan and I and friends met in Harrow and walked up Bentley Priory,  where a beautiful Summer House use to stand, which had associations with the Pembrokes. Susan was always interesting, warm and very generous of Spirit. She was a very spiritual person, interested in alternatives, hence her fondness for wearing purple

This subject of ancient mounds that enthralled Sue in fact became her potent swan song. The few acclaimed illustrated talks on the subject that she had time to give inspired others to continue this exploration. What a gift she has given us. In her final months she pointed us in the direction of the ancient mounds. To search for answers in places where once wisdom was nurtured; there the mounds are still, silent, waiting, and inviting all those who seek to understand, to draw near. Thank you Sue.

Being an actress myself I was very inspired by Susans career, and also by the way she was interested in so many other subjects outside of the industry, which can be very all-consuming. Susan was always supportive and interested in what I was doing, and she even came to see an all-female Macbeth which I performed in. She was so comfortable in her own skin that she put you at ease immediately, and was always fun to be around. I miss her very much at meetings, and am grateful that I had the chance to know her, even for a short time.

Susan had a special vibrancy which was lovely to be around. At our meetings typically she wore bright colours, sometimes even clothes that sparkled, and this of course matched her personality. Her opinions were always worth listening to – intelligent, well thought out, and blessedly succinctly, no waffle! Towards the end, her determination to attend Society meetings, when clearly unwell, was a poignant example of her strength of spirit.  Her contribution to the work of the Council, her creative ideas, her views expressed with passion, her contagious enthusiasm are irreplaceable. And we miss her laughter.



Susan wrote and toured her own one-woman show, The Merry Wife of Wilton, about Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. The first known plays of Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, Richard III and Henry VI were brought to the stage in 1592 through Mary’s own theatrical company: Pembroke’s Men. The compilers of the Shakespeare Folio dedicated it to Mary’s two sons, ‘the incomparable brethren.’

As a memorial and fitting tribute to Susan from the Society, Susan’s daughters, actresses Emily Stride and Alice Brittain, will present a reading of Susan’s play, The Merry Wife of Wilton. This will take place after the AGM on 9th September 2016.

Lastly in an email to us which beautifully reflects Susan’s character, she wrote:

I am blessed with good fortune, good healers, good friends, good agent, and wonderful family.

Interview with Susan about her role in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Back to top

Obituary: Mary Brameld

Mary and her identical twin sister Elizabeth were born in Canton, now Ghangzhou, in China; their parents were married in Siam, now Thailand. Tommy Brameld, their father, was working in the Far East as an architect, their mother Doris Lindsay, was daughter of Sir Coutts Lindsay, Baronet, a known philanthropist, and part of the Coutts Bank family. Canton was later remembered in the paintings of Chinese life by Elizabeth, a talented amateur artist, and FBS members may recall the Chinese paintings and artefacts at Mary’s home.

Canton was a key city during the fighting between Nationalist Chiang Kai-shek and the communist forces. The Bramelds left China and returned to England, arriving as Mary said, ‘with nothing’. Then followed a somewhat nomadic life; Tommy died within a few years and Doris rented the flat at 12 Nevern Square, Earls Court, which was to become the ‘heart’ of the Francis Bacon Society for more than 60 years.

The family became committed to the work of the White Eagle Lodge, located nearby, and its founder Grace Cooke encouraged Doris to take the post of Secretary to the Francis Bacon Society in 1954. Thus began a lifelong dedication by all three of the Brameld ladies to the work of the Society.

Mary’s mother Doris had worked principally as a decoder for the Royal Navy in the First World War and for the Censorship office during the Second World War, hence the strong connection with Bacon’s use of ciphers and codes, and his enigmatic writings. One of Mary’s particular interests was in emblems.

Mary and Elizabeth produced for Society a small journal, Baconian Jottings Then and Now, for almost 30 years from 1962 to 1991. It came about partly because of the high printing costs of Baconiana, which reduced publication to one annually. Jottings included articles from Fly Leaves, the journal of The Ladies Guild of Francis St. Alban, founded by Mrs Pott in 1905 to research the concealed life and work of Bacon. Jottings was beautifully illustrated by Elizabeth. The very last Jottings included an article by Mary entitled Serpent Power, examining the relationship between emblemata and the secret wisdom teachings.

Cover of 'Jottings'

When production of this well loved journal became too much for Mary and Elizabeth, the editor of Baconiana 1991 wrote: ‘It gives me immense satisfaction to report that as a token of its gratitude the Council, on behalf of the Society, has invited Mary to become an Honorary Vice-President’.  The present Council believe Mary would be delighted that in turn, her dear friend Mrs Ann Hone, a loyal member of the Society for 60 years, has just recently accepted the role of Honorary Vice-President.

For many years, the Brameld family hosted Society meetings at their home in Nevern Square, where a huge archive of Francis Bacon material attests their considerable research, writing and publishing. Mary gave many lectures; she and Elizabeth also played an important part in the preparatory work which led to the founding of Peter Dawkins’ Francis Bacon Research Trust.

Mary and Elizabeth were inseparable throughout their lives, always together and hard to tell apart – in fact, we are unable to state categorically which is which in the photograph below. They were both primary school and elocution teachers, sang in the White Eagle Lodge choir, and were members of the Marjorie Gullan Verse-Speaking Choir.  The only difference they allowed was that Mary was the musical one and Elizabeth the artist.  Mary’s mother Doris passed in 1984 and Elizabeth in 2002, and Mary continued in her absolute dedication to the work they had shared together. Mary had become the London White Eagle Lodge organist in 1946, and she composed music and served as organist until the closure of the Lodge in 2014. After that closure she offered her home as a meeting place for services and these continued right up until her passing.

Remarkably, Mary had never been registered with a General Practitioner until she began to have problems with her eyesight at the age of 88 - a mark of her extraordinary independence and self discipline. How we admired her and thank her for the service given over so very many years to this our Society.

Mary and her sister remained unmarried. Mary leaves a number of Brameld cousins; foremost is Mr Peter Borrie.

For the last words we look to Francis Bacon:

Is not the delight of the quavering upon a stop in Music the same with playing of light upon the water?

The Advancement of Learning

Playing upon organs is decent, and tending edification.

Of the Church

Susan McIlroy June 2017

Mary and Elizabeth

Society Chairman Susan McIlroy outside Mary's flat with (right to left) Brameld cousin Peter Borrie, Peter's friend Francisco, and Mary's friend Francis Haddock

Back to top

Francis Bacon’s Magic and the Universal Principle of Gravitation

Xiaona Wang
University of Edinburgh

Xiaona Wang was born in Qingdao, China, and educated at Peking University before moving to the University of Edinburgh to take an MSc in Intellectual History. She is currently continuing her studies in Edinburgh for a PhD on the role of occult concepts in seventeenth century English science. Xiaona also works as a translator of books from English into Mandarin.

Magnetical cosmology and early theories of universal gravity

Isaac Newton’s discovery of the universal principle of gravitation, first announced in his Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), in 1687, is rightly regarded as one of the great achievements of the history of science. Accordingly, historians of science have invested a great deal of effort in trying to establish how Newton arrived at this great discovery. What developments in the natural philosophy of the day might have led up to, and inspired, Newton’s innovation?

Historians have long since been in agreement that one important element in the background to Newton’s discovery was what historians have called “magnetical cosmology”, or “magnetical philosophy”.  This movement began as a result of the pioneering work on magnetism by the leading English physician (he was personal physician to Elizabeth I and President of the Royal college of Physicians), William Gilbert (1544-1603).

Gilbert published a remarkable book called De magnete (On the magnet) in 1600, which is a sustained experimental investigation of the behaviour of magnets. As a result, Gilbert is often referred to as the “father of magnetic science” and the “father of experimental science”. But Gilbert’s main purpose in writing this book was not to understand magnetism, but to provide an explanation for the daily rotation of the Earth on its axis, and the annual revolution of the Earth around the Sun—two motions of the Earth which had been proposed for the first time by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) in 1543. Gilbert was an early convert to Copernicanism, and as such he was confronted with a problem which Copernicus himself had never properly addressed. Namely, if the Earth is moving, what keeps it in motion? How does it move?

We need not go into the details here, but Gilbert hit upon magnetism as the solution to this problem. Gilbert realised that the Earth itself was a giant magnet (the full title of his book, translated into English is: “A new philosophy of the magnet and magnetic bodies, and of the great magnet, the Earth”). Furthermore, Gilbert knew very well that magnets have the ability to spontaneously move themselves. A compass needle which is manually deviated from a north-south direction will spontaneously revert back to pointing north as soon as it is released. According to the prevailing view in contemporary natural philosophy, if something can move itself, it must have a soul. Other stones cannot move themselves—they have to be kicked, or pushed, or lifted. But the lodestone can move itself, so it must have a soul. If the Earth is a giant lodestone, or magnet, it too must have a soul, and must be capable of moving itself. We do not have to suppose, therefore, that something is pushing the Earth, or pulling it; it performs its daily rotation and annual revolution because it has a soul and can move voluntarily, just as we do.

As Gilbert wrote:

The whole earth regards Cynosura [the Pole Star] by its steadfast nature; and similarly each true part of the earth seeks a like place in the world, and turns with circular motion to that position. The natural movements of the whole and of the parts are alike: hence, since the parts move in a circle, the whole, too, hath the power of circular motion.

The Earth has the power of circular motion because:

By the wonderful wisdom of the Creator… forces were implanted in the earth, forces primarily animate, to the end the globe might, with steadfastness, take direction, and that the poles might be opposite, so that on them, as at the extremities of an axis, the movement of diurnal rotation might be performed (De magnete, Book VI, Chapter 4)

After 1660, Gilbert’s new philosophy of the magnet and the magnetic Earth was taken up by some of the leading Fellows of the Royal Society, the newly established scientific society based in London. These fellows included John Wilkins (1614-1672), John Wallis (1616-1703), Christopher Wren (1632-1723), and Robert Hooke (1635-1703). By now, they were taking the motions of the Earth for granted, but they wanted to understand how all the planets moved. What made the planets move continually around the Sun? What made the Moon orbit the Earth? And, why did the Earth move?

These later thinkers did not subscribe to Gilbert’s view that the Earth was animated by a soul and capable of self movement. Gilbert lived in an age when occult and animistic ideas were perfectly acceptable in natural philosophy, but these later thinkers lived at a time when the main vogue in natural philosophy was the so-called “mechanical philosophy”. Explanations of the natural world had to be modelled on clockwork or machinery as much as possible, and attributing a soul to a lodestone now seemed unacceptable.

So, the later thinkers emphasised the power of attraction that magnets very clearly seemed to possess, and speculated as to how this attractive force might account for the motions of all the heavenly bodies. John Wallis, for example, wrote in an article in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, in 1665:

The Load-stone and Iron have somewhat equivalent to a Tye; though we see it not, yet by the effects we know it… How the Earth and Moon are connected; I will not now undertake to shew (nor is it necessary to my purpose;) but, That there is somewhat, that doth connect them, (as much as what connects the Load-stone, and the Iron, which it draws) is past doubt to those, who allow them to be carryed about by the Sun, as one Aggregate or Body…

We can see here that although Wallis’s thinking owes something to Gilbert (because of the analogy with the lodestone and iron), it has moved some distance away from Gilbert’s animism. Wallis does not how the Earth and Moon are connected, but they are connected somehow, and it seems to be similar to magnetic attraction.

Similarly, John Wilkins, in his Discourse Concerning a New Planet (1684), wrote that,

though some parts of this great Magnet, the Earth, may, according to their Matter, be severed from the whole [world system]; yet are they always joined to it by a communion of the same Magnetical Qualities; and do no less observe these kind of Motions when they are separated from the whole, than if they were united to it.

Notice that Wilkins says that the parts of the Earth are severed from the rest of the heavenly bodies “according to their Matter”. So, Wilkins is saying that there is no material connection between the Earth and the other bodies, and yet it is joined to the other bodies by “Magnetical Qualities”. This is another characteristic feature of these speculations by the fellows of the Royal Society: they believe that magnets are capable of acting on other bodies at a distance—that is to say, they do not have to touch a piece of iron to attract it—on the contrary the attraction takes place across a distance between the magnet and the iron, and pulls the iron towards the magnet to finally make contact.

Consider a final example of this kind of speculation. This is Robert Hooke, in his “Cometa, or Remarks about Comets” (1678):

I have often wondered, why the planets should move about the sun according to Copernicuss supposition, being not included in any solid orbs . . . nor tied to it, as their center, by any visible strings; and neither depart from it beyond such a degree, nor yet move in a strait line, as all bodies, that have but one single impulse, ought to do.… The Sun must have an attractive power upon all the bodies of the planets, and of the earth that move about it, and that each of those again have a respect answerable, whereby they may be said to attract the Sun in the same manner as the Load-stone hath to Iron, and the Iron hath to the Load-stone.

Again, Hooke regards the planetary motions as being due to an attractive power, and he hints that it operates at a distance. Neither Hooke nor the other fellows of the Royal Society feel able to directly invoke actions at a distance, because such actions have long been excluded from orthodox natural philosophy as an unacceptable magical influence (I will say more about this important point later). It is worth noting, however, that by the time we get to the culminating point of these speculations, in the work of Isaac Newton, actions at a distance suddenly become respectable, as a result of Newton’s authority. Writing in his Opticks of 1718, for example, Newton spoke freely of actions operating at a distance:

Have not the small Particles of Bodies certain Powers, Virtues, or Forces, by which they act at a distance, not only upon the Rays of Light for reflecting, refracting, and inflecting them, but also upon one another for producing a great Part of the Phænomena of Nature? For its well known, that Bodies act one upon another by the Attractions of Gravity, Magnetism, and Electricity.

Arising from these speculations of the fellows of the Royal Society, and the obvious fact that their ideas owe something to Gilbert’s earlier ideas, a standard account of “magnetical cosmology” has been promoted by historians of science. In summary, the standard account holds that the analogy between universal gravity and magnetic attraction, held by the fellows of the Royal Society, derived from Gilbert. Similarly, their hints towards action at a distance also derived from Gilbert. So, the standard historical account looks like this:

Gilbert believed in action at a distance.

Gilbert believed gravity is like magnetism—an attraction between the magnetic Earth and other bodies.

Gilbert influenced later thinkers, including Wilkins, Wallis, Wren and Hooke.

This tradition of Earthly magnetism/Earthly gravity, acting at a distance, culminated in the work of Isaac Newton.


William Gilbert’s theory of Magnetism

In fact, as a result of my research, I can now say that the standard account is wrong. I shall now demonstrate in this section that Gilbert did not believe in action at a distance, and he did not believe that gravity is similar to (much less, the same as) magnetism. Consequently, theses two ideas, which certainly do occur in the thought of the later thinkers, cannot have been inspired by Gilbert.

Let’s begin with action at a distance. Gilbert categorically denies this. Writing in Book II, Chapter 2 of De magnete, Gilbert insists that “no action can be performed by matter save by contact”. This is the orthodox view, and it should come as no surprise that Gilbert holds to it. Gilbert mentions this during the course of his discussion of electric bodies—that is to say, bodies like amber, and other resins, glass, and the like, which by rubbing can be made, temporarily, to attract small, light, objects. Given that a charged (by friction) piece of amber can attract a piece of straw a few inches away, it might look like action at a distance. But Gilbert provides an alternative explanation:

For as, these electric bodies do not appear to touch, but of necessity something is given out from the one to the other to come into close contact therewith, and be a cause of incitation to it (De magnete, Book II, Chapter 2).

What Gilbert is saying is that the amber must give off “something” which then comes into contact with the straw and returns to the amber, carrying the straw with it. So, there is no action at a distance, only contact action.

Drawing upon standard tradition, Gilbert refers to the “something” making contact as “effluvia”—streams of invisibly small particles emitted from the amber, but which always move in such a way that they soon re-circulate back to the amber.

A breath, then [he writes], proceeding from a body that is a concretion of moisture or aqueous fluid, reaches the body that is to be attracted, and as soon as it is reached it is united to the attracting electric; and a body in touch with another body by the peculiar radiation of effluvia makes of the two one: united, the two come into most intimate harmony, and that is what is meant by attraction.

So, attraction is not an action at a distance—“what is meant by attraction”, as he says here, is actually the result of one body being “in touch with another body”.

Now, one reason why Gilbert believes effluvia are responsible for electrical attraction is because this kind of attraction can be easily prevented by masking. A piece of paper between the amber and the straw is sufficient to prevent any attraction taking place—clearly, the effluvia cannot penetrate through the paper. But Gilbert is very well aware that magnetism and electrical phenomena are very different. Electrics attract anything, as long as it is sufficiently small and light, but magnets only attract other magnets or iron. More to the point, magnetism cannot be masked. A magnet will attract a piece of iron even through, say, a substantially thick sheet of lead, or through slate, or marble. But, this does not lead Gilbert to abandon his objection to action at a distance. He does not conclude that because magnets can operate through barriers they must be operating at a distance.

Once again, he simply draws upon his belief that magnets are capable of moving themselves. Two magnets separated by a distance simply move themselves towards one another—and they do so whether the space between them is empty, or contains a sheet of lead. So, there is no such thing as magnetic attraction—magnets just move themselves towards one another voluntarily, as the magnetic Earth voluntarily moves around the Sun. Indeed, Gilbert tries to avoid using the word “attraction” in connection with magnets, and prefers to use instead the word “coition”:

Coition, we say, not attraction for the term attraction has wrongfully crept into magnetic philosophy, through the ignorance of the Ancients… Hence if we have at any time spoken of magnetic attraction, what we meant was magnetic coition… the loadstone does not thus attract, and there is no impulsion (Gilbert, De magnete, Bk II, Ch. 3).

So, “the loadstone does not… attract”.

But what about Gilbert’s theory of gravity? We have seen that, according to the standard view, the fellows of the Royal Society must have derived their analogy between magnetism and gravity from Gilbert. But, once again, this cannot be correct. Gilbert believed that terrestrial gravity was the result of effluvial action—that is to say, contact action brought about by effluvia given off from, and returning to, the Earth:

Air, too (the earth’s universal effluvium), unites parts that are separated, and the earth by means of the air, brings back bodies to itself; else bodies would not so eagerly seek the earth from heights… as air is the earth’s effluvium… has its own individual power of leading to union, its own movement to its origin, to its fount, and to the body that emits the effluvium (William Gilbert, De magnete, Bk II, Ch. 2).

We have seen, therefore, that there are very serious flaws with the standard account. In particular, the Royal Society fellows’ belief that gravity and magnetism are similar cannot have derived from Gilbert’s De magnete, and their tendency to think in terms of an attractive force capable of acting at a distance cannot have had its source in Gilbert’s work. Dismissing the standard account, we can say that the correct account can be summarized like this:

Gilbert does not believe in action at a distance.

Gilbert does not believe gravity is like magnetism.

Gilbert does not believe magnets exert an attractive force.

Wilkins, Wallis, Wren and Hooke do believe in action at a distance (as does Newton).

Wilkins, Wallis, Wren and Hooke, think gravity is an attractive force like magnetism.


The Missing Link?

So, there seems to be no real connection between Gilbert’s beliefs and the ideas of the later thinkers. Could there be a missing link between Gilbert and the later thinkers?

The crucially important person in this story is, of course, Francis Bacon. His role has been completely overlooked by modern scholarship, and so Bacon has indeed been the missing link in the story. But it was not always the case. In the early part of the eighteenth century, not long after Newton’s death, Bacon’s role was noticed by, of all people, the famous French enlightenment thinker, François-Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire (1694-1778).

In a famous work called Letters on the English (1733), Voltaire included a letter on Lord Bacon, and in this letter, he suggested that Bacon was the one who first gave Newton the idea for the universal principle of gravity. Having first praised Bacon as the “father of experiment”, his most widely-acclaimed achievement, Voltaire went on to say that what “ surprised me most was to read in his work, in express terms, the new attraction, the invention of which is ascribed to Sir Isaac”.

Voltaire then paraphrased Bacon’s words about the equivalence between this “new attraction” and “a kind of magnetic power”:

We must search, says Lord Bacon, whether there may not be a kind of magnetic power which operates between the earth and heavy bodies, between the moon and the ocean, between the planets, &c. In another place he says, either heavy bodies must be carried towards the centre of the earth, or must be reciprocally attracted by it; and in the latter case it is evident that the nearer bodies, in their falling, draw towards the earth, the stronger they will attract one another (Letters on the English (1733), Letter XII, “On the Lord Bacon”).

Presumably, modern scholars have assumed that Voltaire was simply talking nonsense here, and so have completely ignored this. But, in fact, Voltaire was perfectly correct because Bacon himself did say what Voltaire attributed to him.


Bacon’s Magnetic (and Magical) Principle of Gravitation


Bacon was well acquainted with Gilbert’s works, but he took issue with Gilbert’s notions of (both) the cause of gravity (and magnetic power). And so, Bacon expressed his own notion for the cause of “weight or heaviness” in Aphorism 36 Novum Organum that:

… heavy or weighty bodies either tend from their intrinsic nature to the centre of the Earth by means of their proper schematism, or they are attracted or seized by the corporeal mass of the Earth itself, as to a gathering of connatural bodies, and are carried to it by consent. Now if the latter is the case, it follows that the closer heavy bodies get to the Earth, the more strongly and vigorously they are carried towards it, and the further away the more weakly and slowly (as happens in magnetic attractions) … (Novum Organum, 1620, Book II, Aphorism 36).

It is clear that Bacon is attributing terrestrial gravity to an attractive force similar to the magnetism of the Earth, in a way that Gilbert himself never did.

And furthermore, when Voltaire told his readers that Bacon had asked “whether there be not a certain magnetic force, which operates reciprocally between the earth and other heavy bodies, between the moon and the ocean, between the planets, etc.”, he was clearly referring to Aphorism 45 in the Novum Organum:

Again, if there be any magnetic power which operates by consent between the Earth and heavy bodies, between the globe of the Moon and the seas (which seems very likely in the half-monthly tidal cycle), or between the stellar heavens and the planets by which the latter are summoned and drawn to their apogees, then all these operate at very long distances indeed (Novum Organum, Book II, Aphorism 45).

Clearly, Bacon sees the magnetism of the Earth as being the cause of the fall of bodies on Earth, the magnetism of the Moon as the cause of the Moon’s effect on the tides, and the magnetism of the heavenly spheres as the cause of the motions of the planets—all the things that gravity was later called upon in Newton’s universal principle of gravitation.

Furthermore, Bacon sees all these things as the result of actions at distance. Now, this is very remarkable because action at a distance had always been excluded from natural philosophy because it was seen as magic—and magic was generally rejected as unacceptable. The categorical rejection of actio in distans was authoritatively established in the thirteenth century by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) when, echoing Aristotle, he wrote “no agent can operate immediately where it is not” (Summa theologica, Part III, Q. 64, Art. 1, Obj. 3). This assumption was not rejected in the seventeenth century; on the contrary, with the increasing adoption of the new mechanical philosophy, the unacceptability of actions at a distance was reinforced. Even John Locke (1632-1704), before he became aware that Newton’s physics relied on action at a distance, insisted that it is “impossible to conceive that body should operate on what it does not touch (which is all one as to imagine it can operate where it is not)” (Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690, Bk II, Ch.8).

But Bacon did not reject magic, but saw it as the key to human improvement. Accordingly, he was happy to invoke actions at a distance. And this in itself is really remarkable, and is going to have an important influence on later thinkers—especially Newton. We can see his endorsement of actions at a distance, for example, in the essay on “Cupid, or the Atom” in his Wisdom of the Ancients (De sapientia veterum, 1609). He wrote:

His [Cupid’s] last attribute is archery: meaning that this virtue is such as acts at a distance: for all operation at a distance is like shooting an arrow. Now whoever maintains the theory of the atom and the vacuum (even though he suppose the vacuum not to be collected by itself but intermingled through space), necessarily implies the action of the virtue of the atom at a distance; for without this no motion could be originated, by reason of the vacuum interposed; but all things would remain fixed and immovable…

Similarly, in the essay, “Pan, or Nature”, he wrote:

The body of Nature is most elegantly and truly represented as covered with hair; in allusion to the rays which all objects emit; for rays are like the hairs or bristles of nature; and there is scarcely anything which is not more or less radiant. This is very plainly seen in the power of vision, and not less so in all kinds of magnetic virtue, and in every effect which takes place at a distance. For whatever produces an effect at a distance may be truly said to emit rays. But Pan’s hair is longest in the beard, because the rays of the celestial bodies operate and penetrate from a greater distance than any other

Bacon was drawing here upon a very strong tradition of the magical world view, which we can see for example in a famous work called On the Theory of Magic (De theoria magicarum, c. 850), or On the Rays of the Stars (De radiis stellarum) by a leading Medieval Arabic magus Al-Kindi (801-873): “…everything in this world, produces rays in the manner of stars…every place in the world contains rays from everythingthereby each thing in the sublunary world acts on all other things…”

It is worth noting that the Wisdom of the Ancients was Bacon’s most frequently published philosophical work during his own lifetime, and also that the Novum organum was his most important, and most influential, scientific work.


So, when Wren, Hooke, and the others were assuming that terrestrial gravity was similar to magnetism, and when they spoke as though action at a distance was acceptable, they were clearly following Bacon, not Gilbert. And when Newton, inspired by Hooke, developed the universal principle of gravitation he was bringing to fruition speculations that Bacon had proposed long before in his Novum Organum.

As we have seen, Voltaire noticed the important role of Bacon here (and not knowing about the intermediaries, thought that perhaps Bacon had directly influenced Newton). It was by taking Voltaire’s comment seriously that I realised the importance of Bacon and began to suspect that the standard story about Gilbert’s influence was wrong.

So, the real story can be summed up like this:

Bacon rejected Gilbert’s animistic account of magnets and replaced it with a theory of magnetic attractive force which acts at a distance.

Bacon rejected Gilbert’s effluvial account of terrestrial gravity (the fall of bodies on Earth), and argued that magnetism explained terrestrial gravity, the influence of the Moon on the tides, and the motions of the planets.

Fellows of the Royal Society (Wren, Hooke, etc.) were therefore following Bacon’s theories, not Gilbert’s.

Bacon, as Voltaire said, was a major influence on Newton’s universal principle of gravitation

Bacon was a very important influence upon Isaac Newton, and it was Bacon’s magical belief in action at a distance that enabled Newton to write so openly about actions at a distance, without which he could never have been able to develop the universal principle of gravitation.

Back to top

Notes on the poem 'Legacies'

by David Morphet

David Morphet is a writer and poet who has published thirteen volumes of verse. His admiration for Bacon began in his teens, when he first began reading him. At St John's College, Cambridge he gained a Double First in English and became co-editor of the literary magazine Delta. With a strong interest in the treatment of mental illness and in mental aftercare, in 1972 he became a Founder Member of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship (now Rethink).

David worked in the Diplomatic Service; he was a private secretary to two Foreign Secretaries, Michael Stewart and George Brown. He was the UK Governor at the International Energy Agency in Paris, Governor at the International Atomic Energy Agency and later held senior positions in BICC and Balfour Beatty and the CBI.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
In an age of stealth and candle-light
and a Court sunk deep in malice and intrigue
He rises high - becomes Lord Chancellor.
But it's not just as a pillar of the State
that he means to make his mark.
He's a scholar with 'vast ends of contemplation'.
The whole world is his open book,
all knowledge his curriculum.
Away from the narrow Court his mind expands
into realms of epistemology.
Over the years come many hundred pages
of his never-finished Instauratio,
his magnum opus on the need to found
learning on the rock of fact -
the hard ground of exact experiment.
He sees how ancient cliffs are changing shape
in the New World of the intellect
and points out half a hundred clefts
and tangled chines and crevices
where knowledge lacks a hold.
Bold, on Novum Organum's title page
a galleon's heading out to sea.
Passing the Pillars of Hercules
it leaves the Old World in its wake
on the way to undiscovered land.
His New Atlantis may well be that land -
an isle where wise man have the say
and all's well-tempered and empirical
and Syndics of a blest Academy
work for the benefit of man.
Here are engines, foundries, furnaces,
deep caves with vessels of experiment,
high towers to measure winds and meteors,
channels to carry sound and light,
chambers where air is purged for health.
How avidly his work is read! The vivid tale
of the fortunate isle reverberates
through volume after volume, Europe-wide.
His Essays, shrewd and worldly-wise,
prove durable through centuries.
Later savants - Kant, Voltaire -
hailed him as an avatar,
a father of enlightenment
whose vision and prophetic power
put idols of the dark to flight.


Bacon Society members may perhaps like to hear how I came to write my poem on Sir Francis Bacon.

In my 2014 collection Satires and Legacies I was keen to balance satire with a positive slant on human behaviour and decided that a good way to do this would be to portray individuals who, in different ways, made an important positive mark on history through their lives and/or discoveries.  That led me, through much wrestling with names, to Bacon, the Quaker William Penn (his stipulation of religious toleration in Pennsylvania), the sailor James Cook (global exploration and discovery), Edward Jenner (inoculation against smallpox) and Thomas Clarkson (bold action against the slave trade).  I chose Bacon as the lead figure because of his advocacy of inductive reasoning and scientific method, which had such a profound influence on the Enlightenment.

Having decided on the subjects, I thought it important to ‘enfold‘ them and not just leave the theme of achievement to emerge unsupported from the five ‘character’ poems.  So I introduced the Legacies section of my collection with the poem Inheritance (which uses banking vocabulary, speaking of facilities on which/ it would be witless not to draw); and concluded it with the poem A Few Words of Praise, which encapsulates the theme of alpha legacies which we inherit.

The real challenge came with the need to match fact and feeling.  Narrative poetry based on imaginative scenarios (think of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner) can take off vertically.  Narrative poetry based on actual events is more constrained.  How to condense a life to its essence while at the same time touching emotion?  There is no easy answer.  In the Bacon poem I compressed historical background in the first stanza (a Court sunk deep in malice and intrigue), so that I could move on quickly to the essence – Bacon’s vast ends of contemplation; his advocacy of the hard ground of exact experiment; the features of the New Atlantis.  Even then the watchword was compression – excessive description loses the reader.  I managed to work in a reference to the Essays, but what about Sylva Sylvarum?  Some things had to go.

I wrote the poem, as I write all my poetry, to be read aloud.  I aimed at a measured tempo and straightforward diction (with the exception perhaps of epistemology). Effects which I personally like include the way that Bold, the first word of stanza five, echoes the last word of stanza four, and anticipates the emphasis on Old – of the Old World.  I also like the staccato vigour of the letter ‘v’ in the final two stanzas and the solidity of ‘d’ in the last lineputting idols of the dark to flight.

I could not resist including the image of the galleon passing through the Pillars of Hercules.  But is it going out or coming back?  I say the former, but an expert on the rigging of vessels of the day begs to differ.  However, the word pertransibunt in the Latin epigram to the image implies both.

I was well aware that I had selected five white Protestant males, and in the poem which immediately follows the Legacy section I introduced a Difference of Opinion, expressed by a character called the Angel, whom I have employed several times in my poetry as an emblem of opinionated self-righteousness.  The Angel complains that It’s all post-Reformation (No Alban, Alcuin, Anselm or Aquinas/or even Roger Bacon); and parochial (No Vasco, Vazquez or Columbus … Or Mendel for that matter or Pasteur), to which I counter that it’s just an illustration/ of some to whom we’re all some way in debt and argue in particular about the achievement of Penn.

In fact I did think of including Pasteur, but settled for Jenner.  I also thought of Mendeleev (father of the Periodic Table about which I have written a separate collection of poems); and I endeavoured to draw poetical portraits of Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale, both of whom I should like to have included, but regrettably failed to make words move in the right way.

A final word.  Bacon was not a new discovery for me.  As a youth in 1956 I came across a copy of Devey’s 1879 edition of Bacon’s Novum Organum and Advancement of Learning, published in Bohn’s Scientific Library.  It is one of my earliest purchases.  And though I now have easy access to the volumes of Spedding, I still find Devey very handy.

David Morphet

February 2016

Satires and Legacies is a book of poems in four parts. Part Three – Legacies – salutes Francis Bacon, statesman-philosopher and a father of the Enlightenment; William Penn, who introduced freedom of worship in Pennsylvania; James Cook, the great explorer; Edward Jenner, saviour of countless lives with his smallpox vaccine; and Thomas Clarkson, the indefatigable anti-slave trade campaigner.

Details of this and David Morphet’s ten earlier poetry collections are to be found at www.notionbooks.co.uk. and may be purchased from Notion Books, 11 Daisy Lane, London SW6 3DD


Back to top

Dr Orville Owens Cipher Wheel Past, Present and Future

By Carla Groenewegen

Dr Carla Groenewegen is Director of Summit University School of Theology and Spiritual Studies.

A Unique Gift

It’s not every day that a university is gifted a nineteenth-century cipher wheel—or half a cipher wheel, to be exact. That’s what arrived in a large crate at our doorstep in Corwin Springs, Montana, compliments of Virginia Fellows, one of our former students.

Passionate about Francis Bacon, Virginia was a firm believer in the theory that the brilliant philosopher/statesman was the real author of Shakespeare’s works. While tracing the story of Bacon’s hidden life she made contact with Elizabeth Hovhaness, the then owner of the cipher wheel. The wheel was stored in an old warehouse in Detroit. Virginia knew about the wheel’s history and was aware of its value for Baconian studies. Learning that Mrs. Hovhaness was looking for a good home for it, she offered to take it in. The old lady’s only stipulation was that the wheel must have a permanent home where it would be secure, appreciated and readily available for serious examination. Virginia promised her that eventually the wheel would go to Summit University. And so it did, after Virginia’s passing in 2006.

It’s an unusual contraption, that half-a-wheel.  It consists of a large wooden cylinder, 36 inches in diameter and 48 inches in height, wound with a long, wide strip of canvas. On the canvas are glued roughly a thousand pages cut from old editions of Shakespeare’s plays as well as works by contemporary authors. Words and phrases are encircled in coloured pencil and notes abound.



The cipher wheel in its crate

The canvas unrolled

From pictures we know that the missing part of the wheel consisted of a wooden frame in which rested this cylinder and its twin, an empty spool. Much like an old reel-to-reel machine, the strip of canvas could be spooled back and forth between the two drums for easy viewing.

Where did this strange apparatus come from? In her delightful book The Shakespeare Code, Virginia Fellows shares the story of how it was created by Dr. Orville Owen to help him decipher the hidden story of Francis Bacon’s life. Dr. Owen himself would have deflected the honour. He claimed that the idea for the cipher wheel came straight from Bacon himself, in decoded instructions:


The easiest way to carry on the work is to

Take your knife and cut all our books asunder,

And set the leaves on a great firm wheel

Which rolls and rolls, and turning the

Fickle rolling wheel, throw your eyes upon FORTUNE….[1]

Dr Orville W. Owen

Orville Ward Owen (1854-1924) was a physician in the Detroit area. Virginia recounts his own journey of discovery:

As the doctor drove his horse and buggy on his daily rounds, he became aware that he was allowing his concerns about one patient to be carried over to the next. In order to clear his mind between calls, he took to reciting poetry aloud to the clop-clop-clop of his horse’s hooves. As a great lover of Shakespeare, he eventually decided to commit to memory all the plays of this favorite poet of his, memorizing a modern, amended edition and then the original 1623 First Folio. [2]

As a result of these mnemonic exercises, Dr. Owen could easily identify the act and scene of any Shakespeare quote that was put to him. The only time he had trouble making the correct identification was when he came across lines from different plays that were nearly identical. He puzzled over these strange repetitions, as well as over the out-of-context passages, anachronisms (such as cannons during King John’s reign) and nonsensical phrases that frequently appear in the plays. In particular, he was perplexed by references to ships that popped up in the plays where you would least expect them. Gradually, Dr. Owen came to the conclusion that these out-of-context passages were inserted deliberately into the plays. But his quest was only beginning.

By now the good doctor’s curiosity was piqued beyond limit. Painstakingly he wrote out all the passages in which these nautical references occur. Then he read them together and found, to his utter astonishment, that he was reading a more or less recognizable account of a great sea battle, specifically that amazing victory achieved by the Elizabethans over the Spanish fleet, the Armada, sent to attack them in 1588. It seemed impossible to believe, but there it was—two different stories being told by the same words used in different sequences. [3]

It’s hard for the human mind to resist a mystery, and the Detroit physician was no exception. Virginia continues: “Dr. Owen was not only shocked, he was hooked. Every minute he could spare was devoted to combing through the plays line by line. A passage in the prologue to Troilus and Cressida caught his attention.


Beginning in the middle, starting thence away

To what may be digested in a play.” [4]

Why start in the middle to digest a play? That didn’t make sense. Lots of pondering led Dr. Owen to a plausible answer: the sentence referred to the middle of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s collected works, published in 1623. Right there, in the first historical play, King John, he found the famous line: “Thus, leaning on mine elbow, I begin….” (act I, scene 1)  This phrase put Owen on the trail of what he interpreted as a letter from Bacon to a future decipherer.

The instructions to the decipherer pointed Owen to a series of key words such as fortune, reputation, honour and nature. These acted as markers for the beginning of sentences and passages that together made up different hidden stories.  Since it was word-based, the cipher became known as the word cipher. The letter y also contained instructions for building a cipher wheel.

It’s not clear exactly when the cipher wheel came into play. At some point in the course of his Shakespeare sleuthing, Dr. Owen had it built to help him easily process large amounts of text.


Dr. Owen’s cipher wheel in its original state in Detroit

This picture of the cipher wheel illustrates its inherent simplicity. Owen would sit on the stool, spooling the wheel back and forth and marking words and passages. He dictated his findings to one of his assistants, stationed at the lower level, who typed them up. Later, the sheets with quotes were sorted by key words and used to piece together the hidden stories.

Interestingly, among Dr. Owen’s early assistants were Elizabeth Wells Gallup and her sister, Kate Wells.[5] Elizabeth would later apply Francis Bacon’s biliteral cipher to Shakespeare’s works. More about that in a moment.

A marked-up section of the canvas

The message deciphered by Dr. Owen spelled out the now familiar account of Bacon’s hidden life: he was the son of Queen Elizabeth and her lover, the Earl of Leicester, by secret marriage, yet never publicly recognized as her son. The story details Bacon’s trials and tribulations caused by this secret heritage.

Dr. Owen published his findings in a series of five books, Sir Francis Bacon’s Cipher Story (1893-95).  But that was not all. In addition to the history of the Spanish Armada, he also deciphered The tragical historie of our late brother Robert, earl of Essex and The historical tragedy of Mary queen of Scots. [6]


How Valid Is the Word Cipher?

Francis Bacon himself was familiar with ciphers, so it’s not farfetched to believe he could have used them in Shakespeare’s works. In his youth, while in France as part of a diplomatic mission, he developed a sophisticated biliteral cipher. In his Advancement of Learning he mentions an array of ciphers and gives some criteria for their usefulness:

For ciphers, they are commonly in letters or alphabets but may be in words. The kinds of ciphers, besides the simple ciphers, with changes, and intermixtures of nulls and non-significants, are many, according to the nature or rule of the infolding, wheel-ciphers, key-ciphers, doubles, etc. But the virtues of them, whereby they are to be preferred, are three; that they be not laborious to write and read; that they be impossible to decipher; and, in some cases, that they be without suspicion. The highest degree whereof is to write omnia per omnia; which is undoubtedly possible, with a proportion quintuple at most of the writing infolding to the writing infolded, and no other restraints whatsoever.[7]

In his book The Shakespeare Enigma, Peter Dawkins convincingly demonstrates Bacon’s use of simple ciphers to show he was the author of Shakespeare’s works. These numerical ciphers are based on direct relationships between letters and numbers, which produce key numbers such as the number 33, associated with Bacon. Being number-based, they can be easily demonstrated and reproduced.[8]

Dr. Owen and Mrs. Gallup, both working with more complex ciphers, claim to have found not just simple references to Bacon’s name and authorship of Shakespeare’s works, but elaborate stories that reveal the secrets of Bacon’s life. Let’s look now at how these stories have been received and critiqued.

Striking out on her own after her time as Dr. Owen’s assistant, Mrs. Gallup focused on Bacon’s omnia per omnia or biliteral cipher, which is described in detail in Bacon’s 1623 Latin rewrite of the Advancement, published as De Augmentis Scientiarum.

Mrs. Gallup applied Bacon’s instructions to the peculiar collection of italic letters found in the 1623 Folio, and generated an autobiography that is quite similar to Dr. Owen’s. However, her decoding efforts attracted severe criticism. Only Mrs. Gallup, critics pointed out, seemed able to find the hidden message. Others who tried to follow the same method, even those trained by Mrs. Gallup herself, were not able to independently decipher the same story.

William Friedman, an accomplished cryptographer who was later employed by the US Army, and his wife Elizebeth, were two of Mrs. Gallup’s early assistants. They started their work with her in 1915 and 1916, respectively. After several years of trying, they claimed it was virtually impossible to distinguish between the different italic fonts which, according to Mrs. Gallup, were the vehicle for the biliteral cipher. In their book The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined they write:

Mrs. Gallup had always said that the differences, though just visible to the naked eye, were minute; but they were expected to become clear on enlargement. This was not so; rather the opposite. Indeed, the differences between letter shapes often turned out to be ascribable to what the printer calls ink-spread (where the ink is absorbed into the paper in a halo round the outline of the letter) or to imperfections in the surface of the paper, or to damaged type.[9]

The Friendmans’ inability to discern phrases that Mrs. Gallup could easily decipher eventually caused them to doubt the validity of her method. Elizebeth Friedman wrote:

I can state categorically that neither I nor any of the other industrious research workers at Riverbank ever succeeded in extracting a single long sentence of a hidden message; nor did one of us so much as reproduce, independently, a single complete sentence which Mrs. Gallup had already deciphered and published.

It is fitting here to point out once more that in any true cryptogram any given number of decipherers must, and will, arrive at the same solution.[10]

If Mrs. Gallup’s decoded story did not pass the test of reproducibility—nor of Bacon’s own criterion that ciphers must “be not laborious to write and read”—how about Dr. Owen’s word cipher?

Here, we find an interesting assortment of commentaries. As with Mrs. Gallup, critics were plentiful, though Owen seems to have been largely unperturbed by what was hurled his way. Rather, he invited his critics to try out his cipher wheel and prove his claims for themselves.

Virginia Fellows cites several contemporary reports of sceptics being converted. One is the case of the vicar of the church in Stratford-upon-Avon. On a lecture tour in the United States to solicit contributions for the Shakespeare Memorial in Stratford, the vicar got wind of Dr. Owen’s discoveries and travelled to Detroit to disprove them.

Planning to expose the fraud once and for all, he visited Owen at his studio and requested to see the workings of the cipher.

Dr. Owen courteously demonstrated his work to the vicar and allowed him to participate in some of the extractions from the wheel. He reduced the good man to silence.[11]

The Shakespeare Code contains an even more convincing contemporary account:

A leading Detroit newspaper printed a scathing report of one of Owen’s lectures. Owen considered it libelous and got an injunction against the paper. To settle the dispute, the paper sent one of its best writers to witness a demonstration of the deciphering work. Soon, to the writer’s enormous surprise, Owen had her not only convinced but actually working the cipher herself. The paper printed a front-page apology to Owen and the case was dropped.[12]

A crucial eye-witness account, by P.J. Sherman, was published in Baconiana in 1896. It was previously published as a longer article in the Detroit Tribune. Sherman’s article includes a summary of Dr. Owen’s method. He writes:

The Bacon cipher, as discovered by Dr. Owen, consists, I find, of a series of (1) guide words. Around these guide words are clustered (2) key words, and these key words again have (3) concordant words, both single and double. The (4) sentences containing the guides, key words, and concordants are (5) collected together, by (6) system, when it is found that the new story unrolls itself with hardly a hitch. Nothing needs to be added or taken therefrom. It is all necessary to the complete narrative.[13]

When Sherman first visited Dr. Owen, he was given an explanation of this method and told by Owen to read Bacon’s decoded “Letter to the Decipherer.” Then, he was taken to the cipher wheel and given free rein to experiment for himself.  The outcome pleased him:

[T]he most satisfying knowledge is that obtained by working out the results one’s self, and, having conquered the cipher and made actual applications of it, I will endeavour to relate how it is done, in as concise and comprehensive a manner as possible.[14]

At the conclusion of the informative article, Sherman adds:

The ridiculous idea that the cipher stories are emanations from Dr. Owen’s own brain is not abroad in the land as much as it was a year ago. Too many conclusive proofs abound, one of the most convincing being the fact that the fifth volume of the Cipher series, containing the continuation of “Sir Francis Bacon’s Life at the Court of France,” has been deciphered entirely by Dr. Owen’s assistants, he having had nothing whatever to do with it, and yet it continues as smoothly as could be desired.

To me the continued patience and perseverance of Dr. Owen in this work is almost as wonderful as the discovery of the cipher.

“This work need not stop if I should stop,” said the doctor. “If I should die tonight, my assistants could go right on with the decipherings. If one of them should die, or for any other reason leave the work, I should have someone else learn it. Thus it would continue right on.”

The learning and applying of the Baconian cipher has thoroughly convinced me of its genuineness. The rules governing it are positive, though flexible. The stories told are connected and concise, for the period in which they were written, and cannot be twisted into other than the designed conclusion. While no two decipherers might tell the story in exactly the same way, still there would be no conflict of facts. It is a true cipher.[15]

These quotes from various sources make a strong case for the validity of Dr. Owen’s word cipher. However, critics point to internal weaknesses in the cipher. The Friedmans write:

A brief examination is enough to show that the ‘cipher story’ is constructed by lifting words, lines and passages of various lengths from the works of a number of Elizabethan authors; these are put together to make a more or less coherent text, which, naturally enough, follows the lines Owen wanted to follow.[16]

These different Elizabethan authors include Marlowe, Robert Greene, George Peele, Edmund Spencer and Robert Burton. Dr. Owen did indeed maintain that some of their works were written by Bacon. Some critics found this hard to believe. Others questioned the notion that Bacon wrote all these works just to conceal a hidden cipher.

In the words of Dr. Mann, one of Owen’s best friends (and consequently one of his severest critics), We are asked to believe that such peerless creations as Hamlet, The Tempest, and Romeo and Juliet were not prime productions of the transcendent genius who wrote them, but were subsidiary devices which Bacon designed for the purpose of concealing the cipher therein’.[17]


One can make the case that this is invalid reasoning. One type of purpose does not necessarily exclude another, and a creative mind might be able to accomplish both at once. But the Friedmans make another important point. Dr. Owen gave himself a lot of latitude. Not only did he work with sets of guide words and key words, he also added a much bigger set of derivatives, the “concordant” words. Sherman writes:

I will give an example of these concordant words. Let us suppose that the key words are “love” and “king.” We must not look for “love” and “king” only, by which to be guided, but for all synonymous words. For “love’s” synonyms we find “devotion,” “adore,” “adoration,” etc. For “king” we follow such words relating to royalty as “majesty,” “highness,” “kingdom,” “court,” etc. As long as sentences containing a repetition of these words are found the student may safely continue to walk along the outlined path, gathering the story as he goes. If, however, a paragraph contains the keys, and yet refuses to “make sense,” turn it how you may—in fact, seems superfluous—it should be put aside for the time being, and by-and-bye a gap will be found into which it fits with astonishing exactness.[18]

The Friedmans severely criticize this method. They calculated that when taken together, the number of key words and their derivatives number in the thousands, allowing for way more flexibility and choices than what could reasonably be expected of a valid cipher. Additionally, they point out that Dr. Mann found “that ‘in one instance the keyword is 47 lines away from the quotation taken, and in a large number of instances it is not even to be found on the same page’. When a rule becomes so flexible that there is nothing which counts as breaking it, it can no longer be said to be a rule at all. Dr Owen’s ‘rules’ fall into this category.”[19]


Lastly, the Friedmans level this charge:

When Owen quotes a passage, does he always quote it fairly? This question is difficult to answer.… Nowhere in the course of his story does he give the exact source of a quotation; nor does he indicate the keyword or ‘connatural’, ‘concurrence’, ‘correspondent’ or ‘collocation’ which led him to choose it. Perhaps this is one reason why so many people have taken Owen’s cipher story on trust—challenging it would be such hard work.[20]

Dr. Owen had a reason for the sometimes inaccurate quotes. He believed that the instructions from Bacon to the decipherer gave him this leeway. Sherman explains this aspect of Owen’s process:

Again a sentence reads in a vague or unnatural manner. In this case the decipherer is plainly instructed to transpose it, when the true meaning is revealed at once:—

“Therefore let your own discretion be your tutor,

And suit the action to the word, and the word to the action,

With this especial observance that you match

Conjugates, parallels and relatives by placing

Instances which are related, one to another,

By themselves; and all concordances

Which have a correspondence and analogy

With each other should be commingled with the connaturals.”

The above is from Hamlet, Novum Organum, Aphorisms, and Advancement of Learning. For the first time it is brought together in the “Letter to the Decipherer,” on page 8. This is a good example of the way the sentences are scattered. On page 21 are also found these lines:—

“Some of the story

Has more feet than the verses would bear,

And you must exercise your own judgment;

And give it smoothness when it lamely halts.”[21]

In the midst of these arguments for or against the validity of Dr. Owen’s methodology, it’s important to remember that the story of Bacon’s hidden life does not rest on deciphered documents alone. Contemporary evidence abounds, such as in William Rawley’s masterful opening lines of Bacon’s biography. Bacon “was borne in York House or York Place in the Strand….”[22] At first glance it looks like innocent incertitude, but is it? Sir Nicholas Bacon’s home was called York House. York Place, on the other hand, was the original name of the Palace of White Hall, Queen Elizabeth’s residence. So where was Francis Bacon born?

Many other authors have provided compelling historical evidence that points to Bacon’s hidden life. In The Shakespeare Code, Virginia Fellows does an admirable job of weaving together fragments from the deciphered stories with historical events in Bacon’s life. Thus, the decoded texts could simply be seen as an unexpected bonus: a tell-all autobiography by one of the most remarkable geniuses of our recorded history.

Yet, the Friedmans have a point. Without a scientific verification method, can Dr. Owen’s cipher stories be considered as valid source material for Bacon’s life and times? There’s only one way to find out: back to the cipher wheel.

What’s Next for the Wheel?

It was Mrs. Hovhaness’s wish that the cipher wheel would remain available for scientific research. There are a couple of drawbacks. First, of course, Summit University possesses only half a wheel. The apparatus would have to be restored before it could be subjected to a new round of scrutiny. Secondly, the canvas and its unique content are not in good condition. After more than a hundred years, the glue is drying out and some of the pages are crumbling. This fragile state would make it difficult for the “fickle wheel” to roll and roll.

But there’s another way. I like to think that if Francis Bacon had addressed a “letter to the decipherer” to someone in our day and age, he might have said:

The easiest way to carry on the work is to

Take your desktop and digitize all our books,

And paste the pages into a giant text

Which scrolls and scrolls, and clicking away

With your mouse, first search for FORTUNE…..

There are no current plans in Summit University or its parent organization, The Summit Lighthouse, to engage in research on the cipher wheel. But it can’t hurt to dream about the possibilities. I envision two types of computer-based research projects pertaining to Dr. Owen’s cypher wheel and claims.

First, there is a need for a basic verification project. A researcher could scan in the complete contents of the pages on the cipher wheel, including Dr. Owen’s colour-coded notes, analyze them and then perform identical research on a text document that contains the same books as those used by Owen. This should prove whether the methodology is sound and the extracted messages are valid. We would be able to identify how much distance there is between guide words, key words, concordant words, and the passages selected. And we would learn where the passages were taken from and how much of the text was changed by Owen to accommodate or “smooth” the stories he discovered. This part of the research would prove once and for all whether Dr. Owen’s word cipher actually exists and whether it can be reproduced by independent investigators, with or without adjustments in the assumptions and methodology.

Secondly, if the cipher were proven valid in its original or modified form, the door would open to more research. Bacon’s interests were vast. Might there be other hidden messages in the Shakespeare Folio that could be detected by the word cipher? It’s an intriguing question.

In short, Dr. Owen’s cipher wheel is waiting for the next generation of Baconian researchers.  Who will take on the challenge and make Mrs. Hovhaness and our dear Virginia Fellows proud?

Virginia Fellows at her prized cipher wheel

Carla Groenewegen is the director of Summit University, a modern-day mystery school located in Corwin Springs, Montana (SummitUniversity.org).

[1] Orville W. Owen, Sir Francis Bacon’s Cipher Story, “Sir Francis Bacon’s Letter to the Decipherer” (Kessinger Publications, 2003).

[2] Virginia M. Fellows, The Shakespeare Code (Snow Mountain Press, 2006), p. 2.

[3] Ibid., p. 3.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., p. 4.

[6] These books are currently available as facsimile reprints released by Kessinger Publishings.

[7] Advancement of Learning (1605), Book II.

[8] Peter Dawkins, The Shakespeare Enigma (Polair Publishing, 2004), Ch. 13.


[9] William F. Friedman and Elizebeth Friedman, The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined(Cambridge University Press, 1958), p. 209.

[10] Ibid., p. 211.

[11] Fellows, The Shakespeare Code, pp. 16-17.

[12] Ibid., p. 17.

[13] P.J. Sherman, “Dr. Owen’s Cipher.” Baconiana vol. IV, no. 14, 1896. Quoted in Fellows,The Shakespeare Code, p. 316.

[14] Ibid.


[15] Ibid., p. 324.

[16] Friedman and Friedman, The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined, p. 65.

[17] Ibid., p. 66.

[18] Sherman, “Dr. Owen’s Cipher.” Quoted in The Shakespeare Code, p. 319.

[19] Friedman and Friedman, The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined, p. 68.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Sherman, “Dr. Owen’s Cipher.” Quoted in Fellows, The Shakespeare Code, p. 319-20.

[22] William Rawley, The Life of The Right Honourable Francis Bacon, Baron of Verulam, Viscount St. Alban (1657).

Back to top

Francis Bacon’s ‘New Atlantis’ and Edgar Cayce’s New Age

by Mark Finnan

Mark Finnan is an actor and writer, creating and performing a series of one-man sacred dramas that have been presented in many cities in Canada and the U.S. He is a founding member of The Shelter Valley Centre, a holistic education/retreat facility in southern Ontario, where he teaches the Holistic Integration Process and offers workshops based on his studies at the Centre for Living Research and the philosophy of Edgar Cayce.

A special area of interest is the hidden manuscripts of Shakespeare, written about in his book Oak Island Secrets. He has given various talks to the Society including talks on Oak Island and  I, Prince Tudor, Wrote Shakespeare, a play by American poet Paula Fitzgerald, drawing from the work of Elizabeth Wells Gallop and presenting Sir Francis Bacon as an enlightened individual, the author of the plays of Shakespeare and son of Elizabeth I.

There are definite connections between the visionary interests of Sir Francis Bacon and the life and work of America’s renowned seer Edgar Cayce. Both men were dedicated to expanding knowledge of the human condition through their respective abilities, and what they individually contributed continues to inform and enrich the spiritual, mental and material life of mankind. Bacon’s educational and philosophical pursuits contributed to the birth of a new nation in which freedom of thought and religion could exist. The Association for Research and Enlightenment, which was established by Cayce in Virginia Beach in 1931, is only a short distance from the spot where members of the Virginia colony, which was encouraged and supported by Bacon, first came ashore in 1607. Both men believed that humanity would eventually create a better world.

When Bacon died in 1626 he left several unfinished and unpublished manuscripts. His private chaplain and close friend William Rawley, to whom Bacon bequeathed his papers, with help from Bacon’s former private secretary Thomas Meautys and others, devotedly attended to the publication of many of these previously unknown writings.

One was the English translation from Latin of New Atlantis, a utopian fable and Bacon’s most spiritually infused literary work. In it he presented his vision of a civilisation in which advanced scientific knowledge and application complemented enlightened religious understanding and expression. It is generally believed that the tale allegorically depicted Bacon’s life-long aspiration and pursuit; the acquisition and application of all knowledge, for the benefit of mankind. As if to emphasize this, an illustration on the title page of the first edition of New Atlantis showed Father Time leading a female figure out of the darkness of a cave. A Latin inscription reads, ‘In time the secret truth will be revealed.’ Apart from its obvious suggestion that we would eventually advance out of the darkness of ignorance into the light of knowledge, it also hinted at Bacon’s belief that future ages and nations would benefit from his work.

There are aspects of the New Atlantis fable that incorporate the high idealism of the emerging Rosicrucian movement of the early seventeenth century, as expressed in the mysterious publications Fama Fraternitatis and the Confessio. Both spoke of a secret brotherhood of enlightened individuals working together for the revealing and sharing of ‘God’s light’ in the world. This scenario is played out in Bacon’s tale of an advanced, but hidden civilisation. For example the priest-scientists of Salomon’s House, the centre for  research and application in this utopian land of Bensalem, were dedicated to understanding life’s secrets, just as the secretive Rosicrucians claimed they were. Both were in the world, yet remained concealed from the world. The lost mariners in Bacon’s tale were offered help and healing without any expectation of reward. The same altruistic approach to helping others was claimed by the Rosicrucians. The seal on a document read to the sailors on their arrival had a depiction of angel’s wings, and a red cross on the turban of one of the country’s officials closely resembled that used by the esoteric brotherhood of Bacon’s time. The profound but practical piety of the leaders of Bensalem and the moral nature of its society were similar to those espoused by the Rosicrucians. It is also evident that elements in the story relate to sacred symbolism found in Masonic lore and rituals, in particular that which has its origin in the legend about the rebuilding of King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, from which Bensalem derives its name. All this adds to the significance of the tale as a testimony to Bacon’s own interest in esoteric knowledge and the role he is believed to have played in propagating it through Masonic circles at home and abroad.

Given Bacon’s association with the Virginia colony of 1607 and his interest in advancing the welfare of mankind, it is quite possible that he wrote this futuristic tale primarily as a source of inspiration for those who might in time try to develop a more spiritually influenced and scientifically advanced civilisation in America. While surviving records of the activities in the colony’s first settlement of Jamestown deal mostly with matters of conflict, survival and expansion, it is believed there was an active Masonic lodge during the 1730s in Williamsburg, which became the capital of the Virginia colony in 1699. It was also the site of the College of William and Mary, established a few years earlier, where future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe were educated. It was in Williamsburg that George Washington and several of the other Founding Fathers first came together for political meetings. Some were Freemasons, whose later deliberations influenced the political structure and civic nature of their new nation. Thomas Jefferson was an admirer of Francis Bacon and considered him one of the leading influences on his life. Jefferson, who modelled his private library along Baconian lines, would certainly have been impressed by the idealism in New Atlantis and its intimation of future possibilities for the nation he was involved in creating. Metaphysician and author Robert Krajenke, in his book The Psychic Side of the American Dream, wroteAs the man who saw through time, Bacon apparently envisioned the future growth of America. Speaking about the Virginia colony in the early 1600s he predicted, “And certainly it is with the kingdom of the earth as it is in the Kingdom of Heaven, sometimes a grain of mustard seed proves a great tree.”….Thus, if George Washington, our mystical first president, is the father of the country, perhaps Sir Francis – a genius who, with almost clairvoyant perception, sensed the use and possibilities of the New World – should be considered the godfather to America.”

Bacon’s connection to the Rosicrucian movement and the development of Masonry in England has been widely discussed by a number of authors and scholars. The late Frances Yates in her books The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment makes the case that Bacon was certainly involved in some of the secretive groups of his day. The philosopher Manly P. Hall, author of The Secret Destiny of America and perhaps the most prominent figure to champion Bacon in this regard, said that he ‘was a link in that great chain of minds which has perpetuated the Secret Doctrine of the Ages from the beginning.’ Peter Dawkins, founder of the Francis Bacon Research Trust and author of Francis Bacon, Herald of the New Age, has also added to our knowledge of this historical linkage.

It is worth noting that the Hermetic philosophies that resurfaced in Bacon’s time and were given expression in his New Atlantis tale and later carried across the Atlantic to the New World, not only influenced some prominent figures in colonial America, they helped create an environment that allowed for the cultivation of independent thought and religious freedom. Thomas Jefferson, in referring to the historic bill on separation of church and state passed in the Virginia legislature, said “it is honourable for us to have produced the first legislature who had the courage to declare that the reason of man may

be trusted with the formation of his own opinions.” It was an environment that, at the same time, allowed for the development of a diversified religious landscape in which spirit-led utopian communities and ideas such as those of the followers of Rosicrucian Johannes Kelpius, or the more enduring Quakers, could take root. It also facilitated the spread of philosophical teachings drawn from the mystical traditions of both east and west, not only through Freemasonry, but later through such organisations as Madam Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society, Manley P. Hall’s Philosophical Research Society, and Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment.

Cayce gave more than 14,000 psychic readings during his lifetime. Apart from the health readings, he gave detailed information on numerous other subjects including ancient Atlantis, which he said was a defining period in mankind’s journey from the realm of spirit into materiality. The philosophy prevalent throughout the Cayce material has been described as a modern, unified version of the mystery religions of ancient Egypt, with the individual superconscious mind, the God self, being the apex of the pyramid.

The material on ancient Atlantis details its location, the nature and lives of its inhabitants during its many years existence, the conflicts that arose between the forces of light and darkness, and its eventual destruction. All of this information is available from the A.R.E. in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which has one of the largest collections of material about Atlantis in the world.

Cayce described Atlantis as a highly advanced civilisation, more scientifically advanced even than ours today. When the spiritual forces were in the ascendant it was a veritable paradise, with its priests-scientists able to attune to the Divine and to harness the energies of the cosmos for everything from natural healing and regeneration to transportation in air and under water. It occurred to me while reading Bacon’s New Atlantis, and seeing some similarities with the Cayce descriptions of life in ancient Atlantis, that Bacon possibly had a previous life there, and that his work in Elizabethan England could have been influenced in part by that earlier lifetime.

While in deep trance Cayce drew much of his information about ancient Atlantis from the Akashic Records, which he described as the skein of time and space that contains the records of all that has gone before. He described how the misuse of scientific and political power by those who ignored spiritual law and sought only their own material advantage regardless of the interests and needs of others, eventually led to a series of conflicts and geological upheavals, resulting in that once great continent sinking into the Atlantic Ocean some twelve thousand years ago. Cayce indicated back in the mid 1930s that the world would enter a similar cycle in the late 1990s due to the return of many former Atlanteans from both sides of the divide, with their attendant interests and abilities. He also warned of the danger of there being a repeat of the same destructive pattern.

We have only to look at the scientific and technological progress in our own lifetime to realise that his prediction was right. When combined with the rampant pursuit of material progress at the expense of everything else we can see that Cayce’s warning was not misplaced. However he also prophesied that a New Age, such as we are entering right now, would usher in an extended period of universal understanding, peace and harmony, due to the concerted efforts of those on and about the planet, who ‘were influenced by and followed the light.’ The same light that Bacon sometimes spoke of.

During World War II, as part of a reading about prospects for peace and a new world order, Cayce said “Americanism the ism with the universal thought that is expressed and manifested in the brotherhood of man into group thought, as expressed by the Masonic Order, will be the eventual rule in the settlement of affairs in the world. Not that the world is to become a Masonic order, but the principles that are embraced in same will be the basis upon which the new order of peace is to be established in ’44 and ’45.” Here too one can trace a connection between the esoteric interests of the Elizabethan visionary and expressed in his Atlantean fable and the psychic insights of the twentieth century American seer.

We are living in a time when there is a gradual awakening to the transcendental nature of human life, due to the development of in-depth and integrational psychological processes, to dream-work and meditation practices. There has also been increasing interest in developing a more holistic world view in which spirituality and science can co-exist as complementary ways of exploring, understanding and expressing a universal reality, what Bacon believed to be the invisible, intelligent and benevolent source of all life. Many view this renewed quest to seek out and express the holy grail of harmony and unity as evolutionary, an expansion of consciousness, born out of humanity’s inherent desire and need to re-enter Eden, to experience Blake’s ‘New Jerusalem,’ that state of being and existence depicted symbolically in Bacon’s New Atlantis and what Cayce predicted some seventy five years ago about the nature of the emerging New Age.

Back to top

Jean Overton Fuller (1915-2009)

By Susan Waters

Susan Waters is the website arranger and compiler for Miss Overton Fuller’s website. Susan was Assistant Librarian when she first met Jean at Rushden Library.


Jean Overton Fuller was an honours graduate in English from the University of London, with post-graduate studies in phonetics and comparative philology. Most famous as the first biographer of her friend and SOE agent, Noor Inayat Khan (1914-1944), she wrote literary biographies, including Sir Francis Bacon: a biography, published in 1994.

The Bacon / Shakespeare debate was one that had long interested her. During a holiday in Stratford with her Mother, she decided to read Shakespeare’s sonnet sequence. At 15 years old, she was well acquainted with all of his plays, but the writer of these poems struck her as being quite a different personality. If anyone, the voice seemed to her to be that of a lonely bachelor.  When her Mother put Sir Francis Bacon into the equation, his authorship made perfect sense to her.

After publishing the biographies of Shelley (1968) and Swinburne (1968), Jean set about researching “the big mystery – the Bacon / Shakespeare mystery.” In an interview with Lawrence Gerald in 1994, she expounds: “Is this a myth or is it something? It took a long time to write this biography, longest of any of my books, 17 years in fact. The chief reason being the old handwriting being extremely difficult to read until one gets into the way of it. And I got into it and I went back to the original manuscripts, most of which are in the Library of Lambeth Palace.”

When Miss Fuller visited Gorhambury, it was the large family portraits that were her subject of study. A painter herself, she noted the differences between Bacon and the rest of his family. His features more closely resembled the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, in her opinion. When she presented the evidence to a geneticist from All Souls, Oxford, he concluded “it was very heavily weighted against Sir Francis Bacon being the child he was supposed to be.” Her biography gave the odds as being 100,000 to one, that this supposed 5th son could be the offspring of Anne and Nicholas Bacon.

To explore the authorship question, Jean went back to investigate Bacon and Shakespeare’s texts, rather than cypher. In The Tempest, she found a resonant symbol in Prospero breaking his magic wand before he resumed his Dukedom. So too Bacon had to choose between this creative life and a great office of state. Politics would not allow him “further time to be given to the theatre, the shadow world, which had been his delight.”

Miss Fuller had a profound belief in reincarnation. Would this account for such a remarkable person as Bacon, greatly gifted in all aspects and expressing a holistic view of the universe? Writing this short piece has given me an opportunity to look at the facts of Bacon’s biography – the person he was and what he achieved seem almost too much for one lifetime.

In my role as a Library Assistant, I archived Jean Overton Fuller’s papers for the Northamptonshire County Library Service – those not of interest to the Imperial War Museum. The website draws together the different strands of her life – biographer, poet, campaigner, painter and mystic.

I found the poem among Miss Fullers papers, gathered as an unpublished collection and named Insects and Meditationsmainly in parks, streets and public gardens. The structure of the poem suggests there are further sections, but, alas, this is all I have.

Gorhambury: home of Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Alban


Nettles and thistles, when one leaves the path; mint

Bindweed, bryony; a man-sized thistle, arms out

To seize, and head as high as my eye.

The farmed

Fields are new, and they have felled his oakwoods,

But here I step in the tangle of his land. These weeds

Ancestors were perhaps his companions.

Flash of scarlet

Angles on black. Red Admiral settles on fat

Purple head, and spreading, bares its body

To the sun. Two tortoiseshells chase

Over the nettles.

Novum Organum: he thought the sun

Was of the quality of fire because he brought

Butterflies stupid from the cold within his doors

And they were restored by proximity to fire

As if by the sun.

Perhaps he brought Red Admirals

Into the Manor, or Tortoiseshells.



Stream. Moving V splits to reveal

A water-rat swimming. He comes

To the bank, climbs out, sits

Up, and dries his face with his hands.

Face shorter than the true rat. A vole.


The ponds

Were more extensive in those days. I know

Something about Bacon thats not in the books.

He was familiar with voles.


To conclude, a snippet from one of her letters:

“Of one thing I am sure, where there is real affection there can never be any separation, neither by distance nor even by death itself. For the links of love are eternal.”

The full interview with Lawrence Gerald can be found at http://www.sirbacon.org/fullerinterview.htm

Copyright Timothy d’Arch Smith 2014

Back to top

The House of Salomon

By Tom Campbell

This extensive essay is an attempt, by FBS member Tom Campbell, to show that Bacon's New Atlantis holds the keys to understanding how Bacon, Rawley, and a certain mathematician constructed astonishingly complex cyphered texts.

Click the link below to download this article:

The House of Salomon by T. Campbell

Back to top

Magnum Opus: the search for the Heart (Cardo)

PREVIEW by Mark Finnan

Peter Welsford has held the post of Editor of Baconiana, has been Chairman of the FBS Council for many years, and is currently President of the Society. Formerly Treasurer of the Scientific and Medical Network, he is a writer and researcher, his interests include hidden harmonics, super-strings and space-time in higher dimensions.

In his article entitled Magnum Opus Peter Welsford has on one level made an intriguingly interwoven contribution to unraveling the mystery surrounding the final resting place of Sir Francis Bacon.

At the same time on another level, one that requires insight into and understanding of sacred symbolism as well as ciphers, he has presented us with the possibility that points to the Wisdom of the Ages, the timeless truths known to ancient Egyptians, Cabalists, Gnostics and other initiates of the mystery schools of former times that has been passed down to us by way of hidden parchments, cryptic writings and the inspired imagination of artists.

As someone who has researched and written about such subjects as esoteric Christianity, the inner meaning of the quest for the Holy Grail and the significance of Masonic ritual and symbolism I was naturally most interested in what Peter says here. I was particularly impressed with his connecting the stone the builder rejected (which became the corner stone) with the white stone as mentioned in St. Johns Revelation.

Here I think he has hit on the central point of one of lifes great mysteries, our need to know who we really are individually and collectively. Namely that there is a foundation identity and destiny for each of us, our new name which we may come to realize as we move into a higher, more universal state of consciousness. One in which we become our true individual selves yet also part of a greater whole.

Mr. Welsford has revealed some solid pointers to this in his fascinating article. I look forward to reading what he may have yet to say in this regard.

Continue to Peter Welsford's article 

Back to top

 The Poetry of Francis Bacon

The late FBS Vice President Mary Brameld and her twin sister the late Elizabeth Brameld joined the Society after their mother became Secretary over 50 years ago. They wrote and edited many articles for Baconiana. The article on which Elizabeth Crofts' talk (transcribed here) is based, is based in turn on the meticulously researched work of FBS founder Mrs Pott and other early members.

To see a video of Eizabeth Crofts giving this talk, click here

Elizabeth and Mary Brameld

From an article entitled ‘The Day-Star of the Muses’ which appeared in Vol L No 167 of Baconiana, dated July 1967

One of the points often raised by orthodox Stratfordians in discussing Shakespearean authorship is that the style of writing shows that WS was a poet. FB, they argue, was only a prose-writer and therefore incapable of writing poetry. Many other reasons are given for disbelieving that Bacon could have written the Plays, but the talk will concentrate on this particular aspect and examine it more fully.

According to the custom of the times, as Bertram Theobald reminds us, when any great man died the poets of the day paid homage to his memory in verses of eulogy. When Will Shaksper died not a single eulogy was published, but when FB died, his associates (Fellows of the Universities and members of the Inns of Court) joined in a chorus of praise of his wonderful achievements; and his chaplain, Dr Rawley, published a selection of thirty-two of these, in 1626, under the title  Manes Verulamiani, withholding some for reasons of his own. Some of his contemporaries and friends alluded, somewhat unexpectedly, to his poetic genius when they hailed him as ‘The Day-Star of the Muses’, ‘the tenth Muse and glory of the Choir’, and ‘a Muse more choice than the nine Muses’. It was, of course, from the Muses that the poets were reputed to receive their inspiration, for seven of these nine Goddesses presided over the Arts, and especially Poetry and Drama.

It is strange that twenty-seven of the thirty-two eulogies in the Manes referred to Bacon as a poet of outstanding merit, although Bacon (with the exception of the Psalms) published no poetry under his own name, yet there is ample proof that Bacon was known among contemporary scholars as a poet. Sir Tobie Mathew once wrote describing him as:-

A man so rare in knowledge of so many several kinds, endued with the facility and felicity of expressing it all in so elegant, significant, so abundant and yet so choice and ravishing a way of words, of metaphor and allusion as perhaps the world hath not seen since it was a world.

In a letter to Sir Tobie, Bacon once made a most revealing remark. In connection with a past transaction he inferred that his memory might have been at fault and explained:‘…my head being then wholly employed about invention.’ The interesting point here is that the word ‘invention’ was then a term of art applied specifically to poetry and drama.

On another occasion Bacon wrote in his Cogitata et Visa that ‘the art of inventing grows by invention itself.’ Surely this suggests that he did, in fact, practise the art? Bacon was described in1600 by John Stow in his Annals as being among ‘our modern and present excellent poets which worthily flourish in their own words.’ But it was not Bacon’s contemporaries alone who hailed him as a poet, as the following quotations will show: -

Poetry pervaded the thoughts, it inspired the similes, it hymned in the majestic sentences of the wisest of mankind. Bulwer Lytton

The truth is that Bacon is not without the fine frenzy of a poet. Spedding

The poetic faculty was powerful in Bacon’s mind. Macaulay

Bacon was a poet. His language has a sweet and majestic rhythm which satisfies the sense no less than the almost super-human wisdom of his philosophy satisfied the intellect. Shelley

Now note the following quotations: -

The good poem is that in which imagination and intellect are perfectly fused.

L A G Strong

The colouring of imagination is the blood of poetry.

W E WilliamsFirst Steps to Parnassus’

Condensation is one of the unfailing marks of poetry – works that crystallize a perfect description into a single phrase, that seize upon the vital characteristic of the thing described.

E G LambornThe Rudiments of Criticism’

When E&M looked in a dictionary this is what they read: ‘What is common to poets is a similarity in their way of viewing human experience, the emotional and imaginative way, together with a similarity in their way of presenting it, the rhythmical way.’ A poet is a great observer and selects what is significant.

There are many points contained in the statements above that apply to Bacon. His Aphorisms and Essays are splendid examples of condensation of thought, and in all his writings he shows us his accurate power of observation, and how vividly and imaginatively he was capable of analyzing and describing all things. To E&M’s minds Bacon’s images and analogies scattered throughout his works produce lovely highlights and bring to the picture a wonderful luminosity.

In spite of the frequent use of images in his works, FB did not aim at dressing his ideas in a poetical style. As Dr Rawley, his secretary and chaplain, said:-

In the composing of his books he did rather drive at a … clear expression than at any fineness or affection of phrases, and would often ask if the meaning were expressed plainly enough, as being one that accounted words to be but subservient or ministerial to matter, and not the principle.

It is clear from contemporary evidence that Bacon’s choice of words was arresting. A young lawyer at Gray’s Inn, after hearing Francis pleading in the King’s Bench for the first time, wrote to Bacon’s brother, Anthony, commenting on the ‘unusual words wherewith he had spangled his speech.’

Mallet, the 18th century historian, tells us that, ‘In conversation he could assume the most different characters and speak the language proper to each with a facility that was perfectly natural.’ If analysed, this remark is quite illuminating for we can deduce that he was a born mimic obviously able to vary the gestures, facial expression and tone of voice of each character he was imitating, as well as choose the appropriate turns of speech suitable to each. [EC: This, of course, also happens in WS’s plays.] Apart from making him an amusing companion, this ability must have been a most useful asset to a public speaker.

Again, as a conversationalist Rawley says of his master that:

If he had an occasion to repeat another man’s words after him, he had the use and faculty to dress them in better vestments and apparel than they had before so that the author should find his own speech much amended and yet the substance of it still retained: as if it has been natural to him to use good forms. [EC: Cf Mozart in ‘Amadeus’ altering the music composed by Salieri and turning it into a masterpiece.]

Bacon himself said that he varied his style ‘to suit different men, since no two showed the same taste and like imagination.’ In other words, he chose the style which best befitted his audience and subject matter. WS’s style also varied according to the subject matter, speaker and dramatic situation. A few sentences from Bacon’s De Augmentis clearly show that he was fully aware of sentences, as these were the two factors which would produce a particular style and design. He wrote:

I mean those parts of speech which answer to the vestibules, back doors, ante-chambers, withdrawing chambers, passages, etc of a house, and may serve indiscriminately for all subjects. Such are prefaces, conclusions, digressions, intimations of what is coming…. For as in buildings it is a great matter both for pleasure and use that the fronts, doors, windows, approaches, passages and the like be conveniently arranged: so also in a speech these accessory and interstitial passages (if they be handsomely and skilfully fashioned and placed) add a great deal both of ornament and effect to the entire structure.

How clever of Bacon to use an analogy of a skilfully designed building! For there are definite parallels between this and the structure and design of a literary work.

In a poem the three main features of design are the metrical pattern, the rhyme pattern and the number of lines in a stanza. These are exemplified in his Translation of Certain Psalms into English Verse written at the age of sixty-four. Edwin Bormann gives us a splendid introduction to these Psalms in his unusual book Francis Bacon’s Cryptic Rhymes. He writes:

The first thing that strikes us is in fact that they are all rhymed. Would it not have been the most natural thing for a man who had never had any practice in rhyming to have translated the Psalms into the form in which we are accustomed to see them in blank verse? But if he must rhyme, would he not at least have preferred to write the seven poems in the same metre or in the same form of stanza? Bacon did not do so. As becomes an experienced poet he chose for each Psalm that form which suited it best.

One of these Psalms is in four-line, two are in eight-line stanzas. Three are written in the same form as the WS epic Venus and Adonis, i.e. in six line stanzas. Another Psalm is written in heroic verse [EC= a type of verse used for epic or heroic subjects, such as the hexameter, iambic pentameter, or alexandrine – see Wikipedia for more] and has rhyming couplets throughout. This is a translation of Psalm 104 and in the minds of Emily and Mary Brameld the most beautiful of them all.

This Psalm is written in rhyming couplets. It is not broken up into stanzas but treated as one large whole; and although there are 120 lines, that is to say 60 couplets, there are only two occasions in which Bacon has repeated a rhyming couplet. Couplets, however, can easily produce a sense of finality and impede movement. [EC Often a scene in a WS play is ended with a rhyming couplet to indicate the end of the scene.] Such is not the case in this particular work. It has a wonderful flowing quality so evident in many of Bacon’s prose passages, which is achieved here by the use of enjambment – a device used by a poet whereby he lets the sense run on beyond the end of the line, or on to the next verse.

Some of the other most frequently used devices in poetry, those of:

Rhyming couplets (already refereed to)

Alliteration the repetition of a particular consonant sound in a line

Assonance – the repetition of a given vowel sound in a line; and

Internal Rhyme

are also used by FB in this Psalm, as in some of the others. Here are a few examples:

The sounds ‘s’ and ‘w’ are frequently repeated giving us a wonderful example of alliteration:

My soul shall with the rest strike up thy praise,

And carol of thy works, and wondrous ways

As well as the ‘s’ and ‘w’ sounds in these couplets, the consonant ‘m’ is also repeated:

Vaulted and arched are his chamber beams

Upon the seas, the waters and the streams:

The clouds as chariots swift do scour the sky:

The stormy winds upon their wings do fly.

With the repetition of the short ‘i’ vowel sound in another couplet we have an example of assonance:

Never to move but to be fixed still.

Yet hath no pillars but his sacred will

On another occasion we hear the long ‘E’ sound recurring –

All these do ask of thee their meat to live.

Notice the epithet ‘sacred will’ in connection with ‘pillars’, and later the lovely use of the word ‘stroking’ – the birds ‘stroking the gentle air’. And, of course, in the line, ‘Then do the forrests ring of lions roaring’ you get an example of onomatopoeia as well as of alliteration. The phrase ‘the compass heaven’ and the word ‘bridled’ to describe God’s power over the waves, are also quite striking.

Bacon adds a number of evocative images which do not appear in the Bible. The opening verse, for instance, merely says:

Bless the Lord O my soul, O Lord my God, Thou art very great:

Thou art clothed with honour and majesty.

Bacon takes eight lines to get this far but, whereas the Bible merely states a fact,

Bacon, by adding many colourful images, recasts the statement in a new and most beautiful mould. It would seem that Bacon associates fame with greatness. But he adds to the word ‘fame’ the unusual epithet ‘sounding’, which leads him on to the thought of blowing trumpets and singing praises. Allied to the idea of fame and greatness is the image of a powerful King. So from this one phrase from the Bible ‘Thou art very great’ emerged these four lines:

Father and King of Powers, both high and low,

Whose sounding fame all creatures serve to blow:

My soul shall with the rest strike up thy praise

And carol* of thy works and wondrous ways.

[EC- *carol = joyous song - etymology unknown]

Now we go on to the next phrase ‘Thou art clothed with honour and majesty.’ The added words ‘Virtues’ and ‘Renown’ are presumably evoked by the word ‘honour’ and the image of a crown set with polished jewels has sprung up from the word ‘majesty’. Thus we get the couplet:

Upon thy head thou wear’st a glorious crown,

All set with vertues, polished with renown.

We vainly searched the Hebrew Psalm for the thoughts so beautifully expressed in the next couplet about crystal light being ‘mother of colours all’:

Thence round about a silver veil doth fall

Of christal light, mother of colours all.


Now listen to and assimilate the beauty of some of the poetry of Bacon’s Translation [me – rendition] of Psalm into verse.

Father and King of Powers, both high and low,

Whose sounding fame all creatures serve to blow;

My soul shall with the rest strike up thy praise,

And carol* of thy works, and wondrous ways.

But who can blaze thy beauties, Lord, aright?

They turn the brittle beams of mortal sight.

Upon thy head thou wear’st a glorious crown,

All set with vertues, polished with renown.

Thence round about a silver veil doth fall

Of christal light, mother of colours all.

The compass heaven, smooth without grain, or fold,

All set with spangs of glitt’ring stars untold,

And strip’t with golden beams of power unpent,

Is raised up for a removing Tent.

Vaulted and arched are his chamber beams,

Upon the seas, the waters and the streams

The clouds as chariots swift do scour the sky,

The stormy winds upon their wings do fly.

His angels spirits are, that wait his will,

As flames of fire his anger they fulfil.

In the beginning with a mighty hand,

He made the earth by counterpoise to stand,

Never to move, but to be fixed still,

Yet hath no pillars but His sacred will.

This earth, as with a veil, once covered was,

The waters overflowed all the mass.

But upon His rebuke away they fled,

And then the hills began to shew their head; ……

The translations of some of the Psalms were written towards the close of his life as an exercise when on a sick bed, [EC: Not  a bad effort for a dying man!!] but the next examples, known as Antitheses, [EC: = set against] were written in early manhood, again as an exercise, and, unlike Psalm 104, exemplify thoughts compressed into very short pithy sentences.

Cicero recommended the Orator to have commonplaces ready at hand in which the question is argued and handled on either side. Bacon’s views were these:-

The best ways of making such a collection, with a view to use as well as brevity, would be to contract those commonplaces into certain acute and concise sentences; to be as skeins of thread which may be unwinded at large when they are wanted. I call them Antitheses of things.

Here is a sequence of these Antitheses, most of which are superb examples of Figures of Speech such as similes, metaphors and personification:-


Pride is the ivy that winds about all virtues and all good things.

Nature is a schoolmaster, custom a magistrate. [EC=an administrator]

Nobility is the laurel with which Time crowns men.

A healthy body is the Soul’s host, a sick body her gaoler.

Boldness is the pioneer of folly.

A jest is the orator’s altar.


Fortune sells many things to him that is in a hurry, which she gives to him that waits.

Envy keeps no holidays. Envy puts virtues to laborious tasks, as Juno did Hercules.


Wisdom is like a garment; it must be light if it be for speed.

Thoughts are wholesomest when they are like running waters.

The flatterer is like the fowler that deceives birds by imitating their cry.

Constancy is like a surly porter; it drives much useful intelligence from the door.

Temperance is like wholesome cold; it collects and braces the powers of the mind.

Bacon puts into practice his suggestion ‘to unwind at large’ these ‘skeins of thread’ in a number of the Essays. Of these Antitheses some are repeated word for word whilst others are slightly altered, e.g., originally he said that ‘Fortune is like the Milky Way: a cluster of obscure virtues without a name.’ In the essay Of Fortune this statement is altered and expanded:-

If a man look sharply and attentively he shall see Fortune: for though she be blind yet she is not invisible. The way of Fortune is like the Milky Way in the sky, which is a meeting or knot of a number of small stars, not seen asunder but giving light together: so are there a number of little and scarce discerned virtues, or rather faculties and customs that make men fortunate.

The essay Of Beauty commences with a commonplace that is repeated word for word and is familiar to us all:-

Virtue is like a rich stone, best plain set: and surely virtue is best in a body that is comely, though not of delicate features, and that hath rather dignity of presence than beauty of aspect.

The Antithesis of Life starts Bacon off in his essay Of Death. Thus he writes:-

Men fear Death, as children fear to go in the dark: and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.

This essay concludes with yet another sentence again slightly altered:-

Princes are like to heavenly bodies which cause good or evil days: and which have much veneration, but no rest. All precepts concerning Kings are in effect comprehended in those two remembrances: remember that you are a man and remember that you are a God; the one bridleth their power and the other their will. [EC: bridleth = control, as with a horse’s bridle]

Now leaving behind these Antitheses of things, but continuing with examples of Figures of Speech, here is an extract from the Advancement of Learning which I would call an extended simile since it starts with the simile ‘Knowledge is like waters’: but then Bacon expands this idea in a most beautiful way:-

Knowledge is like waters: some waters descend from the Heavens, some spring from the Earth. For all Knowledge proceeds from a two-fold information, either from divine inspiration or from external sense. As for the Knowledge which is infused by Instruction that is cumulative, not [45] original; as it is in waters which besides the head-springs are increased by the reception of other rivers that fall into them….

Bacon also uses the image of a spring in the Novum Organum but in another context. With the choice of the word ‘divine’, which in this context means foretell or guess, we are reminded of the use of a divining rod to find not only the spring but also new ideas in different and undreamt of channels:-

In conjecturing what may be, men set before them the example of what has been, and divine [=guess] of the new with an imagination preoccupied and coloured by the old, which way of forming opinions is very fallacious, for springs that are drawn from the spring-heads of nature do not always run in the old channels.

Now here is an easily recognizable simile sparked off by the word ‘quavering’, which evokes a beautiful image. The choice of the long vowel sounds and voiced consonants brings a musical quality and a feeling of serenity. It is part of a dissertation on music in the Sylva Sylvarum:-

…..the division and quavering, which please so much in music, have an agreement with the glittering of light, as the moonbeams playing on a wave….

In the passage from the Natural History Of Winds Bacon uses a most imaginative and unusual metaphor when he calls winds ‘Merchants of Vapours’:-

This is certain that winds are either in-bred or strangers. For winds are as it were Merchants of Vapours, which being by them gathered into clouds they carry out, and bring in again into countries from whence winds are again returned, as it were by exchange.

We should remember that Shelley once remarked:-

Bacon was a poet. His language has a sweet and majestic rhythm which satisfies the sense no less than the almost superhuman wisdom of his philosophy satisfies the intellect.

Technically the rhythm of sound in speech is the alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables. In verse these stresses occur at regular intervals (according to the particular metre chosen by the poet) whereas in prose these stresses occur at irregular intervals and so require a more finely attuned ear to detect it.

Rhythm is clearly discernible in most music, and it is also present in Nature. One has only to sit by the seashore and listen to, and watch, the waves rising to their crests, breaking and then receding again, to be aware of rhythm.

In most of Bacon’s very lengthy sentences the moving towards each climax is analogous to the rising to the crest of a wave. The climax or peak often comes towards the end of the main thought, and the subsidiary thoughts before the climax are likened to the wave gathering momentum until it reaches its crest. Where there are subsidiary clauses after the climax, these would correspond to the receding of the wave before the process begins again.

Aubrey, the historian, when referring to Bacon, once said, ‘His Lordship was a good Poet, but concealed, as appears by his Letters.’ Edwin Bormann not only agrees with Aubrey but also maintains that many passages in Bacon’s so-called prose works are in verse; but that Bacon purposely concealed his art by having them printed as prose.

He also draws attention to the fact that Bacon, in his last Will, signed December 1625, wrote the following:

Legacies to my friends: I give the right honourable my worthy friend the Marquis Fiatt, late Lord Ambassador of France, my books of orisons [=prayers] or psalms curiously* [EC – see below] = rhymed.

Mr Bormann does not think that Bacon was referring to his Translation of Certain Psalms into English Verse because, apart from the fact that they had been dedicated to George Herbert, such a small collection – seven in all – would not have furnished enough material to fill several books. Bormann also contends that when Bacon referred to his ‘books of orisons’ being ‘curiously rhymed’ he is telling us to take the hint and look carefully. In those days the adjective *‘curious’ meant careful, accurate, elegant, scrupulous; the Latin adverb ‘curiose’ being derived from ‘cura’ to which the English word ‘care’ is related. Bormann goes on to explain that these ‘curiously rhymed verses’ were rendered unrecognizable owing to the manner in which they were printed; for they are not set in verse form, but printed as prose.

Bormann is also of the opinion that in many of Bacon’s anecdotes (some Essays too) there are certain passages which are ‘curiously rhymed’, i.e., they are printed in prose form but contain metre and rhyme. At times the rhyme does not flash out until the end when the point comes. At others the rhymes appear in the middle, or set in simultaneously with the question and answer of the persons introduced, e.g., in one anecdote Bacon wrote, ‘Mr Savill was asked by my Lord of Essex his opinion touching poets; who answered My Lord: He thought them the best writers, next to those that write prose.’ The next one appeared in a new edition of Bacon Anecdotes brought out by Rawley in the 17th century:-

He said

he had

feeding swans

and breeding swans;

but for malice, he thankèd God,

he neither fed it

nor bred it.

There is a passage in Hamlet in which the body is called the ‘temple’ of the soul. The following [FB] anecdote also alludes to temples and, except for one line, is rhymed throughout; although at first glance you would pronounce it prose!


Bishop of Winchester, in a famine, sold

All the rich vessels and ornaments of the Church,

to relieve the poor with bread; and said,

There was no reason that the dead

temples of God should be sumptuously furnishèd

and the living temples suffer penury.

The uses of assonance and concealed rhymes in Bacon’s prose works are often similar to these devices to be found in the WS plays, e.g., in the Measure for Measure III.i: Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;/ To lie in cold obstruction and to rot; in the M of V ‘Is it not hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one nor refuse none?; from The Winter’s Tale:

And there present yourself and your fair Princess –

For so I see she must be – before Leontes.

and later:

Ay, the most peerless piece of earth I think

That e’er the sun shone bright on.

WS varies the length of his lines. Some of the dialogue is written in long lines of equal length and some in short lines. Here are two long lines in Love’s Labours Lost:

Costard: By my troth, most pleasant: how both did fit it.

Maria: A mark marvellous well shot, for they both did hit it.

From MSND, firstly two longer lines, the first and last words of each line rhyming:

Be – as thou wast wont to be;

See – as thou wast wont to see.

Secondly, four short lines all rhyming:

I go, I go

Look how I go

Swifter than arrow

From Tartar’s bow

Elizabeth and Mary Brameld feel that the poetic devices to be found in Bacon’s prose works and the WS Plays are analogous to the large and small jewelled stones used by a costume designer in embroidered motifs to bring to a costume added colour, design and brilliance. The minute sparkling sequins (or oes and spangs, as FB would call them) are akin to the function of alliteration and assonance which flash out in certain lines of verse and prose; while the larger and deeper-toned jewels can be likened to the use of an image, and epithet or a rhyme, which stand out more clearly. The design for each costume will no doubt vary according to the rank and status of the wearer. Obviously the Queen’s robes would be more jewelled than those of a duke. Similarly, the speech of a monarch would be more poetic than that of a servant. According to the character, place and emotional level, so did WS vary the style of his writing – sometimes using prose, though mostly using verse.

Bacon too varied his style of writing. He was such a master of the English Language that he could adopt any style he wanted. Though mostly choosing to write in prose, so powerful was the poetic faculty within him that he invariably expressed himself figuratively, and used poetic devices with ease.

Elizabeth and Mary’s essay concludes by quoting 3 or 4 remarks made by Bacon and his great friend Sir Tobie Mathew, which they felt are highly significant. The first is to be found in the De Augmentis and Bacon is addressing the King when he says:

Truly, I, (worthiest King) in speaking of myself, as matters stand, both in that which I now publish, and in that which I plan for the future, I often, consciously and purposely, cast aside the dignity [ = worth] of my Genius [=innate ability] and of my Name (if such thing be), while I serve the welfare of mankind.

In 1603 Bacon wrote a letter to his great friend John Davies, and concluded with this request: ‘So desiring you to be good to concealed poets, I continue Your very assured Francis Bacon.’ He did not refer to himself as a needy barrister or courtier, which he was, but as a poet. The following year, 1604, Francis wrote a sonnet for the Queen when she dined with him at Twickenham Park. Having admitted that he had ‘prepared a sonnet,’ he added ambiguously ‘though I profess not to be a poet.’

When dedicating his poems to Queen Henrietta Maria in 1645, the reference made by the poet Edmund Waller to the fact that Francis Bacon was a concealed poet and that this was ‘the diversion of his youth,’ is both interesting and illuminating:

I might defend the attempt I have made upon poetry by the example of many wise persons of our own time, as Sir Philip Sydney, Sir Francis Bacon, Cardinal Perron, etc, but Madam, these nightingales sang only in the spring; it was the diversion of their youth……

A final quotation, written in 1623 by Sir Tobie Mathew to Bacon from the Continent, is a definite hint, I think, as to the authorship of the WS Plays:

The most prodigious wit that ever I knew of my nation, and of this side of the sea, is of your Lordship’s name, though he be known by another.

With these remarks, and the fact that Bacon frequently used poetic devices in his prose, Elizabeth and Mary Brameld hope to have convinced you that, as well as being a fine prose writer, he was a poet.

Back to top

‘Shakespeare’ identified as π: the number and principle which squares the circle

By N D van Egmond
N D van Egmond is professor of environmental sciences and sustainability at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He has made a study on the relation between Shakespeare’s works, in particular with respect to value orientations, and sustainability.

On the front page of the Shakespeare First Folio of collected works (1623), ‘Shakespeare’ is identified as the unnatural and transcendental number π, which links the diameter of a circle to its periphery. In his enigmatic poem ‘To the Reader’, Ben Jonson’s tells the reader that the well known picture of ‘Shakespeare’ on the opposing page is rather a number than a person and this number is π. The many references to the number π, the square and the circle are confirmed on three levels in the poem and also in the associated Droeshout engraving on the opposite page. The front page of the First Folio positions the Rosicrucian ‘squaring the circle’ principle as the main theme of ‘Shakespeare’s’ work. Herein the material (square) is unified with the spiritual (circle) by ‘Shakespeare’ as the metaphoric (number) π. ‘Shakespeare’ appears to be rather a principle, than a person.

Click the link below to download this article:
Shakespeare identified as pi
Back to top

Our Quest for the Bruton Vault

by Nanette MA Crist

Nanette Crist is a practical mystic, renowned spiritual artist, singer and musician who was consulted during the Society investigation into Bruton Vault, which is thought to be a hiding place for  the Shakespearean manuscripts.

By now many people are aware that Sir Francis Bacon was the architect for the planning of the United States of America. He elaborated on this model in his book The New Atlantis and other publications now hidden. These documents, including the true history of England and other historical treasures, were reputed to have been brought to the American colonies by his descendant Nathaniel Bacon. They were thought to be deposited in Williamsburg, Virginia in a vault under the altar of the original Bruton Parish Church. Bacon was also considered to be known as William Shakespeare and the unrecognized son of Elizabeth I of England.

In this article I will share my experiences with the mystery of the Bruton Vault and what I have come to discover. In my opinion many of America's and England’s treasures have been captured and held for the exclusive use of a small group of privileged individuals, also known as the “Shadow Government”.  The true owners of these documents are the general population of the world with benefit to all western societies including the USA and Great Britain.

For many years I have been a scholar of world religions, initiated in mystery schools, and hold a doctorate in Metaphysics. My interest in the Bruton Vault is partly because of its proximity to my home in Virginia Beach and because of its significance as a history changing archaeological site. I have made the acquaintance of several people involved with the Bruton Vault in Williamsburg, Virginia.

When I was commissioned to do a portrait of the famous actor and singer Burl Ives and his wife Dorothy, who were the Grandmaster and Grandmistress of all Masons throughout the world, we had time to discuss this subject. They had an entire room dedicated to my work and were close friends with Manly P Hall and his wife Marie Bauer Hall. The Ives were initiated as a couple under the tradition of Count Saint Germain.

Mr Hall had dedicated his voluminous research to the incomparable Count St Germain to whom he attributed much of the ideals of the founding of America. It was this tradition that Sir Francis Bacon followed and recorded as the Masonic ideals of universal brotherhood and sisterhood based spiritual principles, virtues and freedoms. I was told that most of the Philosophical Research Society's extensive library and secret archives were consolidated through this connection with Burl and Dorothy Ives. The Ives viewed me as an intuitive and modern Renaissance woman . For this reason they asked me to assist Marie because she claimed Manly had been murdered in 1990. The alleged perpetrators had subsequently acquired control of the Society and their secret archives. I assisted her in finding investigators to deal with that tragic situation and a way to acquire some of the spiritual and literary treasures due to her through inheritance.

Marie Bauer Hall had located the original old Bruton Church and the probable location of the vault of Sir Francis Bacon and his associates in the churchyard in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1938. Prior to that, she had reportedly been employed in the household of John D Rockefeller. Suffice to say that her research was well informed, scholarly and involved a secret tradition of the codes, ciphers, anagrams and symbols commonly used in the underground streams of the Masonic, Rosicrucian and alchemical societies.

The Bruton Church and the Rockefeller Foundation were surprised to discover that Marie Bauer Hall's research was accurate in locating the foundations of the original Bruton Church in the graveyard of the current church. They agreed to attempt further excavation when a chamber was located within an early form of ground penetrating radar. But without explanation nor apology they stopped the dig when they were approaching the area where the vault was shown to be located.

In 1991 in Virginia Beach I also met a group of individuals who had attempted an illegal dig in the churchyard in Williamsburg in order to force the church to excavate. However, based on their story, it was clear that the church had no intention of undertaking a serious investigation nor had they done so since the excavation in 1938. It was alleged that the vestry was told by their attorney that they would prefer to do a private dig so that they might sell off the contents of the vault to a private collector and sponsor who had his own occult museum. The same financier allegedly employed this attorney as well. My associates and I thought this would be a terrible disservice to humanity. Unfortunately informed people were aware that this happens far too often in the field of archaeology when it comes to hiding the true origins of our history.

I read several of the volumes of research of Marie Bauer Hall including Foundations Unearthed and her deciphering of the George Wither codes along with several other of her publications. As a student of metaphysics, unified sciences and world religions I had already undertaken a thorough study of Manly P Hall's publications. It seemed a great loss to the world if the contents of the Bruton vault were still intact and not made public. They would provide a continual inspiration for an ideal society today, not to mention the missing history of England, and the United States, the original Shakespearean documents, and probably the missing crown jewels of England.

Part of the research showed that the primary Masonic founding fathers in America had all studied in the Wythe House adjacent to the Bruton Church. There was allegedly a tunnel, which led from the house directly to the vault. The original archaeologist for the Rockefeller Foundation who restored Williamsburg had left detailed writings concerning the underground tunnel system, which extended throughout the entire town and the College of William and Mary. I was told that the well at the Wythe House, which led to the tunnel, had since been sealed with concrete.

After a discussion with my sister- in- law Kip Boden DuPont Crist and my brother Leland Crist, it was decided that something should be done about this. I organized a group of volunteer professionals including the following:

  • Owner of a firm which provided ground penetrating radar surveys
  • The Curator of an archaeological museum
  • Research scholars
  • Ministers
  • Financiers
  • An anthropologist

We dubbed ourselves "The Council For Original Records".

A proposal was sent to the Bruton Parish Church where we were met with vehement opposition from the pastor. Due to the publicity from the previous dig, which resulted in a number of proposals and public pressure, they eventually consented to undertake an excavation.  They formed their own group possessing  less expertise than ours. I wondered why they did not accept expertise or finances for the dig from our group or any other, considering most of our group were the same Christian denomination of Episcopalians. I also found it strange that they were hiring an archaeologist from Williamsburg who was totally uninformed about the research on the subject and did not even know about the tunnel system, publicly denying its existence.

Nevertheless we were grateful to have the opportunity to act as observers for the dig. For the next several weeks we watched them excavate the wrong area of the churchyard. When our team of experts asked to see the ground penetrating radar surveys we were repeatedly stalled by the scientist who had done the original surveys. It turned out he was, by his own admission, still on the payroll of the Rockefellers. Our Council never did get to see the surveys until after the dig was closed down. When our experts saw the ground penetrating radar surveys it was undeniable that they were digging in the wrong place.

We also used dowsing and remote viewing to determine that the dig would hit water at approximately 10 feet. I informed the lead archaeologist and geologist of this likely development and he denied that there was any possibility of hitting ground water in an area that shallow. Nevertheless I was certain that the enlightened men who put the vault there had set up a system of booby traps should the uninitiated attempt to come in through the wrong direction. This was also done on Oak Island and many other places throughout the ancient world. As predicted they did hit water at 9 or 10 feet and had to bring in pumps.

Our team was permitted to climb down into the hole, the team's experts exclaiming that indeed the earth had been disturbed below the level of the graves, which were to the side of the area being excavated.

During the dig the world press corps was present and continually asked if we would agree that if nothing was found that we would concede that there was no vault. I proclaimed "absolutely not, it only means there is no vault where they are digging which is not in the correct place anyway." I tried repeatedly to convince the geologists to send their metal probe bars in the right direction but the dig officials stopped them.

In addition the spokesperson for Colonial Williamsburg headquarters told the press that there was no evidence that Nathaniel Bacon was descended from Sir Francis Bacon. When asked about this I responded "Let me take you into the foyer of the Bruton Parish Church and there you will see an 8 foot tall stone monolith stating : “HERE LIES NATHANIAL BACON DESCENDED FROM SIR FRANCIS BACON, LORD CHANCELLOR OF ENGLAND”.” Much of Marie Bauer Hall's research was based on the engravings and symbols on the headstones and monuments in the Bruton churchyard.

For me, as a portrait artist, one of the most compelling bits of evidence concerning the actual identity of William Shakespeare was the frontispiece of Manly P Hall 's volume an encyclopedic outline entitled The Secret Teachings of All Ages. This was a portrait of the traditional version of William Shakespeare with a translucent overlay of the portrait of Sir Francis Bacon. It was clear to me that the only difference was Bacon's hat and goatee. Their features and even the pose were identical.

Our council got permission from the Vice President of the College of William and Mary, to enter into another doorway of the underground tunnels leading towards the Bruton Church. Campus security and the ROTC Director accompanied us. In the ROTC office was a large bookshelf covering the entryway to the tunnel system. Once it was removed and we were about to enter with our hard hats and flashlights the security staff got a phone call from the President of the college saying, “permission denied”. Again no further explanation was forthcoming.

Near the end of the dig the original group, which had carried out an unauthorized dig, came back to Williamsburg and were apprehended by the officials. They were taken into custody, charged and were told that if they would never come back into town they could return to their out-of-state homes.

It was not until after the dig was closed down that the man who was the official on ground penetrating radar for the Bruton Church showed our experts the survey. It was obvious that there were two large underground anomalies where they were not digging. When I demanded an explanation for why he did not recommend that they dig there he said, "Well I just thought that it might be a lead casket. " I responded, "Wait a minute, didn't you just tell me that these small circles on this survey map are also lead caskets? Why then would the other one be 10 times larger? " Most importantly these anomalies were in precisely the same place where Maria Bauer Hall's research pinpointed the location of the Vault.

I asked our expert and he said it is most likely a large cavern or vault probably filled with metal (perhaps even the copper tubes described in Marie Bauer Hall's books). Then he lamented, "I feel like such a fool that we did not get to see these earlier." All of this intrigue caused the story to hit the London Times, and most of the major newspapers in America.

There were far too many incidents of “shadow government” interference while I was there to relate in an article of this size. However the most interesting validation occurred when the planned-to-be-unsuccessful dig was ending. For the first time in history an anonymous donor released a single page of an original Shakespearean manuscript to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London. The expert graphologists from England declared that it was identical to the handwriting of Sir Francis Bacon. For me that leaves no doubt as to his actual identity. Marie's research thoroughly covers the topic of why Sir Francis Bacon wrote the true history of England in the Shakespeare plays and how he was the unrecognized son of Elizabeth the First of England.

It is unfortunate that when the dig was concluded the Bruton Parish Church decided to cover over the foundations of the original church. They did this right after they got notification that Prince Charles was coming for an unannounced visit. Of course he was well aware that a lot of the history of England and its original writings and artefacts were missing.

Feeling totally disheartened I went into the church to pray and ask God for guidance. I had a vision that Jesus said to me: "Tell the minister I am here and because they have obstructed the truth a spiritual earthquake will hit this place!". I told my group and attempted to convey this message to the minister giving him a portrait of the vision of Jesus I had painted. This painting was validated as accurate by the world's foremost visionaries and near death experiencers. He looked as if a lightning bolt had hit him and he was going to explode!

A short time later it was announced in all of the local newspapers that the parents of the Bruton Parish church were suing all church officials and ministers for ritual sexual molestation of the children. This was reportedly due to an underground satanic cult, which I encountered on various occasions during the dig and in other locations.  Consequently the head minister, associate pastors and the vestry were forced to resign. One of the vestry members reportedly decried "We have been punished for not allowing the Bruton Vault to come forth as God ordained!"

It took several years for the church to find a permanent minister. In the meantime they undertook the cleaning, restoration, and even removal of some headstones, monuments and mausoleums in the churchyard; all done behind a rope. It is not known if they found any artefacts or tunnels when this project was finally completed.

The question remains, should a scholarly group of experts (scientists, geologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, metaphysicians, geophysicists and ministers) undertake a proposal to the church again? It might be a success if the individuals are familiar with Marie Bauer Hall’s work and were present at the previous digs.

My recommendation would be that the foundations of the original Bruton Church be relocated and a simple micro camera sent down through a small drill hole in a number of locations to see if there is a vault. It would be easy to locate any potential anomalies with modern day advances in ground penetrating and side scan radar along with satellite surveys. I was shown one photograph dated at the time of the 1938 dig, which depicted the top of what appears to a brick arch, most probably the roof of the Vault, right before it was covered up. However I do not have a copy of that picture.

I would be happy to assist or speak in depth with anyone who has a high purpose for recovering the truth about the contents of the Bruton Vault. Today more than ever the world needs to have revealed the secret teachings of all ages through those  great fountainheads of history.

Back to top

The Hidden Manuscript Messages

by Maryellen McCabe

New York-based singer/songwriter and actress Maryellen McCabe performs original songs about her heroines and heroes, one of whom is Francis Bacon.

In the autumn of 2007 I began to receive messages concerning Sir Francis Bacon and the lost manuscripts via a clairvoyant, clairaudient woman who unexpectedly came into my life. This inspired guidance actively continued until 2012.  The spiritual communication given to me by her from Lord Bacon completely confirms the truth and validity about Sir Francis Bacon’s life as deciphered by both Dr Orville Ward Owen and Elizabeth Wells Gallup in both the Word and Biliteral ciphers.  Although I have considered myself a Baconian since the early 1970’s, having been introduced to the Spiritual and cultural importance of Sir Francis Bacon’s life by Manly Palmer Hall, my focus and interest in Sir Francis Bacon was upon the esoteric, Masonic and Rosicrucian foundations of America and not upon the Shakespeare/Bacon authorship controversy.  As a result, I was quite ignorant about the existence of the deciphered diary of Sir Francis Bacon as decoded both by Dr Owen and Mrs Gallup. I hope therefore, by sharing a part of my personal story about how I was spiritually led to discovering them, it will encourage all Baconians to take a serious, second look at their deciphered writings and continue some of the tasks indicated by Bacon that still remain to be done.

Occasionally my friend has given me messages since 2012, however in recent years they are more of a personal nature related to my spiritual training.  I must add that although my friend is a native of the UK she has not had any previous intellectual training, awareness, interest or background concerning Sir Francis Bacon/ Shakespeare or Saint Germain.  In fact most of the time my new friend was apologizing to me as if it were insignificant gibberish she was receiving for me. However she was impelled, despite her doubts, to convey the messages to me by a being from the inner planes!   In addition,  she does not use her spiritual gifts for commercial or money-making purposes but only when she is directed to give her insights to others by her inner plane teachers. Highlights of the messages I was given related to the ciphers and the Hidden Manuscripts are as follows.

In the first vision I received from my friend she described a dark haired impeccably dressed man, she recorded “ the kind of aristocratic looking man you would see in London” standing behind me to my right. Oddly, she continued, he had sandals on his feet and wanted to convey he is equally at home in the desert as he is in the city.   He wanted me to write something and he held a quill pen and a leather folder of files that he wished to give to me.  In an altered state, a pained expression began to come over my friend’s face as she began to hold her heart as if having a heart attack.  He told her the files were heavy and sad, she then saw orthopaedic shoes.  Her vision then ended abruptly. At the time, I was very intrigued and open, however I was completely baffled as to what her vision could possibly mean.

Several weeks later, in the second vision my friend gave me, she saw flashes of purple and gold.  She then saw a ring that she was instructed to tell me was very important.  She saw three plumes forming a fleur-de-lys, like the Prince of Wales symbol.  This was the first clue that led me to suspect that Sir Francis Bacon was conveying information.  Her vision continued to describe a cave where men were hiding and then taking files from place to place.  Readers perhaps will be interested to know this description of “taking files from place to place” was similar to a descriptions of events that occurred at that time included in Elizabeth Gallup’s last book on the hidden manuscripts. She then saw a feather in a hat and a circle surrounding an elongated fleur-de-lys.  She was told specifically to tell me “one of the files is in and one is out”.  She then saw a purple heart.

Several days later, as I was contemplating the messages and taking a walk in the town where I live in New York State, a cheap, Styrofoam fleur-de-lys landed at my feet, having been blown by the wind from across the street.  I was also given a Quill pen as a present from an acquaintance at a Christmas party I was hosting around the same time.  Odd, synchronistic, symbolic events like these occurred quite frequently in the beginning of the guidance as if to help me confirm beyond a doubt that Sir Francis Bacon was the man with the leather file folders and was calling me for some task.

In the third vision my friend saw a large V she described between pages that already existed  - “There are two parts to it and two people, the man with the files is chameleon like and he was now wearing an Opera cloak..”  She then saw the man in an elegant, ornate type of apparel, with a large puffy brimmed hat.  He writes stanzas/verses that convey covert spiritual lessons.  “These verses are put into the computer to be recorded, but they turn out to be misinterpreted and in the wrong font.”  She continued “it was as though the computer had been fed the wrong information so it converts back to the old information and interpretation.  I thought of Shakespeare but I don’t think it was him.”  She then became this man for a short time, and felt his acute frustration as he walked into a room and put his Elizabethan hat down. My friend then wrote how she wanted to drift back to sleep but was prevented by a monk in a white robe who stood by a large wrought iron gate.  He indicated he would not move until she got up and recorded this dream/vision that needed to be given to me.

An amazing, synchronistic event occurred within the week, which fully explained the meaning of the dream/vision my friend had just given me.  As I was scanning a book entitled 'The Shadow of Solomon' by the Masonic Scholar Laurence Gardner, I suddenly discovered the following passage:

“Shakespeare’s works are loaded with capital letter manipulations in a form he called cogging.  From the time of the first folio of his work all subsequent editions have been corrupted by editors and publishers who thought they were making improvements or corrections. An importance of the first folio is that apart from the Capital letters many others were presented in bold letters…the cogging cipher becomes sophisticated and complex in much of Shakespeare and Bacon’s work.  This serves to make the point that what the writer writes is precisely what is meant to be conveyed…it cannot be adjusted or interpreted without the chance of losing or distorting the original intent.”1

At the end of Reading this passage, it was like a gigantic light bulb went off in my head.  “ O my God,” I exclaimed out loud  running into my husband’s home office,  “John, you must read this…  look, it completely explains the meaning of the dream/ vision Maureen recently gave me about the frustrated man with the Elizabethan hat and the changed fonts!”

This discovery eventually led me to find Dr Owen’s manuscripts “Sir Francis Bacon’s Cipher Story” and Elizabeth Wells Gallup’s volumes on the Biliteral Cipher at the Theosophical library.  These books have since inspired several dramatic, television scripts as part of a mini-series that I have written in collaboration with my husband called “Son of the Virgin Queen…The secret code of Sir Francis Bacon.”

Beginning in September of 2010 several cryptic messages were given to me about the  Hidden Manuscripts and their possible locations. The first message reads as follows:

“One mile from Staffordshire something is seen.  Look beneath the meadows green.”

My friend then heard an organ being played by a man in a church.  She then saw the Red Cross flag of England and a shoe with a rose on the buckle. (Baconians will recognize the distinct, familiar rose buckled shoes of Sir Francis Bacon as featured in the monuments both at Gray’s Inn and at Trinity College Cambridge.)

As an American I was unfamiliar with Staffordshire, and thought perhaps she was mistaken and had instead heard Stratford-shire. However as I began to research information about Staffordshire, I came across a story published in 1675 from a book entitled   'The History of Staffordshire' by Dr Plot.

A chapter in the curious book of Dr Plot’s describes a Rosicrucian crypt in Staffordshire where a rustic countryman discovers a metal plate in a field near Lichfield Cathedral.  The countryman opens the metal plate, hoping he will find a monetary treasure. He descends the staircase a hundred feet below and discovers a cave, where a man is sitting in a stone chair.  The man, called Rosicrucis, who was the head of the hidden society, was studiously reading from a great book with his elbow resting on a table like a rectangular altar in a square chamber built of large hewn stones. …. (Baconians will note the familiar elbow pose of Sir Francis Bacon as featured in several of the distinct memorials and monuments devoted to Sir Francis Bacon in Great Britain).  The story continued to describe a large ancient iron lamp suspended by a thick chain in the middle of the roof casting its light upon a rose carved exquisitely in some dark stone or marble.

Some may consider the Dr Plot story a mere fable. However Walter Arensberg, the famous American modern art collector and Baconian student of cryptology, wrote a small book entitled 'The Burial of Francis Bacon and his mother in the Lichfield chapter house, of the Lichfield Cathedral.'     This book adds additional merit and credibility as to the truth of the story behind Dr Plot’s  'History of Staffordshire.'  It features several important emblems including the Rosicrucian, Masonic “lamp of the ancients” and a field outside a cathedral, as the spiritual guidance given to me indicated.

Readers will perhaps find it interesting to note that Dr Plot was a close friend, protégé and student of the well known Magus, Free Mason, Rosicrucian and founding member of the Bacon-inspired scientific Royal Society, Elias Ashmole.

An intriguing Masonic/Rosicrucian maze of family relationships began to reveal itself to me as I pursued my own “treasure trail towards Truth” as Peter Dawkins describes it.  My research revealed Elias Ashmole was the son-in-law to the famous antiquarian Sir William Dugdale.  Sir William Dugdale initiated Elias Ashmole into the Bacon-inspired Mysteries and entrusted him as the Masonic/ Rosicrucian guardian of Bacon’s legacy before his death.  Sir William Dugdale is an extremely important historical figure for all Baconian researchers interested in the Hidden Manuscripts. According to Mrs Gallup, he was one of the entrusted  executors of Sir Francis Bacon’s precious writings along with Dr Rawley and was responsible for deciding where the precious manuscripts were to be hidden in the various monuments and crypts, of which he was an expert, in order to be safeguarded for the future. Elias Ashmole continued his father-in-law’s mission as one of Bacon’s Masonic “sons of the widow” or SOWS, a term given to all Master Masons.  Baconians will recognize the sow, hog or pig is the familiar symbol of the heraldic crest of Sir Francis Bacon featured in many of the cryptic emblem books of the time to indicate secret information and messages contained in the book for the brethren, if one knows where to look and has the eyes to see.

In Mrs Gallup’s ‘Hidden Manuscripts’ book she mentions the memorial to Robert Burton located on one of the arched columns in Christ Church, Oxford as a place that the ciphers indicated some of Bacon’s manuscripts were hidden. To support the truth of this Oxford location, my friend, unaware of this factor or of the importance of “Burton” and his connection to Lord Bacon as one of his primary “masks”, gave me a message, shortly after the “Staffordshire” vision.  She heard “Jhana Yoga, Burton,” and then saw a large bright diamond and the letter T.  She then heard  “Albany and Biron.” A cryptic message about Oxford  followed:

“Ride a white horse to Banbury Cross to see a fine lady upon a white horse.  Thou rode with me so long ago, and carried deep within thy cloak, the hidden treasure at the yoke, deep concealed in hidden place within thy long coat by thy waist, within a box neath hidden stair, thou place the treasure hidden there, by chapel of the greatest school.

 Deep within these hallowed halls, the brothers gather within these walls,

Neath cap and gown,

 They gather too

This their masquerade tis true

For hidden work and treasure They

 begin their work for later day

To sail beyond the sea,

to build a new eternity.”2,3

My “ Treasure Trail of Truth” continued as I found T Bright was the name of the first author of the 'Anatomy of Melancholy' later attributed to Robert Burton who was one of Lord Bacon’s Masks.  T Bright was one of the first authors of a book on stenography and an early mask of Sir Francis Bacon.  Bacon was reported to have trained his many secretaries in the use of stenography, which accounts for the rapid speed and prodigious amounts of diverse writings attributed to Lord Bacon.

The word “Albany” my clairvoyant friend also mentioned turned out to have important significance. As if to make sure my consciousness would pay attention, I had several dreams that featured the symbol of  Albany. In one of the dreams, a dark haired man, a musician resembling Francis Bacon, was travelling to Albany.  This dream was followed by a dream about a Doctor from Albany, who did human rights work and  also had a  great talent for  writing dialogue because of his compassion for the people he was writing about.

Viscount St Alban was a name Lord Bacon assumed after being knighted and made Chancellor by James the First.  Albany, or the land of St. Alban’s, was the name of the place where Sir Francis Bacon grew up and was supposedly the place where he was buried. However, when the coffin was investigated, it was discovered that the remains of Sir Francis Bacon were not located at this site but must be located somewhere else!

Dr Owen was later to discover Sir Francis Bacon also had an estate called Mount St Alban’s near Tintern Abbey on the Wales/ English border of Great Britain near Newport, several miles from Chepstow.  He discovered this Western St Alban’s after following the cipher and being led to the Wales/English border, while investigating the possible whereabouts for the hidden manuscripts based on a cipher he found in the last edition of Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia. This cipher led him to the Severn valley, the River Wye and the town of Chepstow.

In the next vision given to me by my friend, this was the exact area that was indicated.  As a preface, I must add that at the time I received the information, I had no awareness that Dr Owen conducted an investigation and search to find the whereabouts of “Lost Manuscripts” in the Chepstow/Mt St Albans, Hereford area.4

Dramatically in July of 2011 my friend clairvoyantly saw a map of England, Scotland and Wales and from an island off the coast of Scotland on the eastern side of Great Britain she saw a great energy line of light that traced itself from this island off the coast of Scotland to the south western area of England where it borders Wales.  She called this area an “outpost of headquarters.”  Oddly, she then heard

“Hereford, Shropshire, where do we shop Sir, in his crypt is the script”. The guidance was followed by “ listen high, listen well, Boswell, little shop by the well.”5

I had no idea what this could possibly mean so I began to research the location of Hereford, and to my surprise, I discovered Hereford was just north of Chepstow, the place investigated by Dr Orville Owen as a location for the whereabouts of the hidden manuscripts.  To emphasize the importance of this vision, on the day it was given to me my psychic friend’s son woke up with a dream where he was told to tell his mother to make sure she gave the information about her vision to me, for it was important.

That day, when I began to research on-line about Hereford and the possible meaning of the vision, surprisingly I was led to a link that featured a newspaper article from the turn of the 20th century about Dr Owen.  It was only then that I discovered that Dr Owen had led an excavation to find the manuscript proof that Lord Bacon was Shakespeare by following Lord Bacon’s cipher, to the exact area of the vision that was being given to me!  This information about Dr Owen’s dig became overwhelming emotional for me, and I spent the day oddly crying from a combination of deep grief and gratitude for the insights I was being graced with.

Wikipedia states “Owen was led to the belief that original manuscripts were hidden in iron boxes buried beneath or close to the River Wye at Chepstow Castle. After a fruitless search in caves near the castle in September 1909, he returned late the following year and excavated the river bed a few hundred yards above the castle in the belief that a rift in the river bed held a vault containing 66 lead-lined boxes.” To support Dr Owen’s claims, that have since been cruelly mocked and scoffed upon, my friend followed the Wales /English border map vision with a message for me “treasure lost in mud and dust, but the treasure there.” She then saw a square black safe and heard “in this safe lies your book, on the pages written there, is the T and the square.” Following this guidance, I had a vivid dream where I was diving under water and examining a large metal box.

Concerning the Hidden Manuscripts the only other message I received after this concerned Williamsburg, Virginia.  After an Agni Yoga meditation class that my clairvoyant friend attends at my home, she came out of the meditation and said she heard “Williamsburg” and asked me what I might know about it.  She said she saw a church and began to describe a yard behind the church, surrounded by a fence with iron spears that faced a brick building from across the street.  Her description I recognized was the site of the Bruton churchyard in Williamsburg, which Marie Bauer Hall investigated in 1938 and claimed that there existed a buried vault in the  church’s graveyard that contained Sir Francis Bacon's hidden manuscripts.  I was very familiar with this Williamsburg vault story, however I had never confided to my friend that in 1991 I had peripherally participated as a musician, in an event organized by Marsha Middleton, who, inspired by Marie Bauer Hall, conducted an illegal, guerrilla style investigative dig of the Bruton Church graveyard.  There were no other details except, I would like to add at this point, that in addition to the information about the hidden manuscripts, there was additional guidance given me that contained obvious symbols of Masonry and the Rosicrucians. These messages confirmed to me, beyond a doubt, that Lord Bacon was considered to be head of both orders at the time.  I reiterate, my friend was intellectually ignorant about what she was receiving, however I could recognize, from my limited background in Masonry, she was seeing Masonic/Rosicrucian coded information. They included symbols such as capital T T, the Rose, black and white checkered flags and floors, the Masonic Rainbow Arch, the widow’s son, Bees, the lamp of the Ancients, and the compass and the square. I would like to add that her guidance additionally confirmed that Sir Francis Bacon indeed did subsequently become the great Master of the “Great White Brotherhood” known as St Germain, just as the Theosophists and Manly Palmer Hall had proclaimed.  This truth was confirmed to me by many messages and symbols given to me, which for the purposes of this article is too lengthy to describe.

Many of you who are devoted Baconian researchers know the “Word Cipher” discovered by Dr Owen and the “Biliteral Cipher” discovered by Elizabeth Gallup Wells fell into disrepute after the attacks by William and Elizabeth Friedman in their book 'The Shakespeare Ciphers Examined', published in 1957.   Belief, faith and further investigation into the ciphered diaries of Lord Bacon were greatly damaged by the intellectual criticisms of the Friedmans, whose authority seemed to be unquestionable because they were esteemed throughout the world for breaking the Japanese codes during the Second World War. Early in their careers, the Friedmans were trained in the use of cryptology and codes, as assistants to Elizabeth Wells Gallup. George Fabyan, a wealthy American businessman who owned a 600-acre estate and research centre called Riverbank Research Labs where the Friedmans were also being employed, was sponsoring Mrs Gallup at that time. He also financed Dr Owen’s dig in Chepstow.

The fallout and charges, that the ciphers were not credible, directed against D. Owen and Mrs Gallup was such that to this day, even very devoted Baconians have become quite skeptical as to their worth and validity. I hope my story will help correct this viewpoint. There is still so much work that remains to be done as indicated by Lord Bacon, tasks such as finding the “ Hidden Manuscripts” and discovering further “plays within plays” by applying the Word Cipher that are yet to be discovered and recorded. Some of the titles of these plays Lord Bacon mentioned with key words include “The Seven Wise men of the West” a comedy that reveals the story behind Bacon’s experience with his other six “masks”. I hope this article will help all Baconian researchers to have greater trust and fearless faith in Dr Owen’s and Elizabeth Gallup’s pioneering, culturally, courageous work.  For all of us who find lord Bacon’s story to be compelling and of utmost historical and cultural significance for humanity at large and of great spiritual value, he calls us all to continue to help him build like masons, “Solomon’s Temple,” “The universal Reformation of the World.”


1 'The Shadow of Solomon' by Laurence Gardner pages 321,322.

2 I must add my initial thought was the cap and gown mentioned applied to the type of attire an Oxford professor or perhaps a student at that time might wear. However my research eventually led me to discover an emblem picture that may explain the meaning.  The book featured the bearded face of Sir Francis Bacon dressed in a woman’s cap and gown.  The Spanish emblem book and  picture was discovered by Dr. William Herbert Prescott, a close friend of Dr. Orville Owen and trained in his cipher methods by him.  He decoded, that after Lord Bacon’s feigned death, he escaped England dressed in a woman’s cap and gown, as a serving maid of Lady Delaware. 'Reminiscences of a Baconian' by Kate H Prescott page 93,94.

3 Banbury is a town outside Oxford

4 For those interested, Joy Hancox the author of“ Kingdom for a Stage” outlines many details about Lord Bacon’s interests in this area and the possible location of Lord Bacon’s burial site.  Her impressive, impeccable research I feel is invaluable for all Baconians.

5 I don’t know if in any way this is relevant but Sir William Boswell, ambassador to the Hague and literary friend of Sir Francis Bacon was entrusted with some of Sir Francis Bacon’s papers and books after his “supposed death” . He was  also the source for the first biography of Sir Francis Bacon by Pierre Amboise.


Back to top

A Fraction of a Fragment

by Clifford Hall

Clifford Hall was formerly an Editor of Baconiana and member of the Council. His book on Francis Bacon: A Fragment of a Life, deals with Bacon as lawyer and jurist, the issue of his character and his poetry contribution with special reference to the Psalm translations and George Herbert. Mr Hall is now retired from his post at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Barbados.

Nearly 30 years ago, I was privileged to give the vote of thanks to the Society at the Centenary celebrations at St Albans. Our then Chairman, Noel Fermor, had asked me to speak and had earlier invited me to join the Council because, he said, it needed a lawyer on it. Noel was, as all who knew him will attest, the kindest and most charitable of men and his encouragement was seminal in my life as a Baconian. Many will know that he died, aged over 70, after playing hockey. Well, three years ago I took up ballet – so we shall see.

Master Cowper, of Gray’s Inn and later our President, was also at the celebration. He was the most modest of men despite his massive intellect. He subsequently asked me to write for Graya, the Inn’s house magazine. Peter Dawkins was there too. I didn’t know him, and I’m not sure whether we’ve subsequently ever spoken, but I know I’d then just finished reading The Virgin Ideal by himself and Thomas Bokenham – Bokey - and I still have the copy. There was also Gerald Salway, ever supportive, and who in my memory has always been a dear friend; and Mary Brameld too. Though a stranger, she showed me every kindness and hospitality when, some months before, I had delivered a paper at her home in Nevern Square.

Now that paper was also published in the Centenary issue. It was entitled “Francis Bacon: A Landmark in the Law?” and it features, in slightly amended form, as Chapter Three in my Francis Bacon: A Fragment of a Life which was published by Gaunts of Florida two years ago. The Editor has asked me to pen some thoughts about it. It’s a book in which my scattered Baconian writings are brought together, though two-thirds of it is entirely new.

As I say, Noel said he wanted a lawyer on Council and I’ve no doubt he was right. The authorship controversy and cipher puzzles, much beloved by the Society at that time, remain as elusive as the song the Siren’s sang. But Bacon as lawyer and jurist, and so also statesman and philosopher, had hardly been touched in the sort of pedantic way lawyers bring to things. Of course, I wasn’t a lawyer like Master Cowper, a professional, but an amateur sort of lawyer who taught in schools. Once people graduate and are ‘Called’ they do rather dismiss us though we’ve nurtured them and shaped them. But no matter.

I’d conceived the Baconian interest while an undergraduate in the ‘sixties. Then I’d attended the supervisions of a remarkable teacher, Roy Stone. Roy was blind, but with his flowing black locks and hooked nose he looked every bit one of the great Roman jurists we studied, a Papinian or Ulpian. He explored with us Bacon’s methodology in law, and also in science, reasoning from case to case, from analogy, what Roy termed ‘paraduction’, an intermediate sort of logic between deduction and induction which, he said, underpinned all legal reasoning. After I joined, on my 22nd birthday, the staff of the Department of Law at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, now Aberystwyth University, I took it all a stage further by LL.M. thesis and it forms a substantial part of the Chapter on the value of Bacon’s Jurisprudence in a modern context in the book.

At this point I must mention another lawyer and a great one, Lord Denning, whom I knew, and who challenged us to confront Bacon’s character. He did this in his book Landmarks in the Law, published in 1984. In just a few pages he condemned Bacon’s “wicked doings” and said that he was an “unjust judge, lacking in integrity and proper virtue”. It was all derived from Macaulay, of course. But who would know that? For here, you see, was England’s most respected judge attempting to defame our man into oblivion. Noel had tried to reason with him and there was an exchange of letters which left Denning unmoved. At the same time, Martin Gwynne, a Society member, also weighed in against Bacon and so got into all sorts of trouble with Council. Now I have to say that I liked and respected Martin. His intellect was very acute and his arguments persuasive. It was just that he was wrong. His views are also published in the Centenary issue, as also Noel’s generous response.

Now, as I say, Denning had asserted the standard caricature of Bacon as a corrupt prerogative man who took bribes and used torture, and it was all taken basically from Macaulay’s Essay in the Edinburgh Review of 1832. In fact, I had already addressed this in the first piece I wrote on Bacon in 1975. It was called “Francis Bacon: the ‘Wisest, Brightest, Meanest of Mankind’?” and had been delivered as a Gregynog lecture while I was on the staff of UCW.

The title was, of course, taken from Pope’s epigram in the Essay on Man. Critics have argued that the use of the word ‘meanest’ clearly shows that Pope thought Bacon was a rotter. I’m not certain – the devil knoweth not the mind of man – but it’s more than equally probable that Pope was using the word to convey the idea of ‘humility’  (as Kendra Baker argued in Baconiana 1937) or, as I argue in Chapter One of the Fragment, ‘moderation’. Bacon is surely aptly described as the most moderate of men. And so Pope, I suggest, is saying ‘See how the reputation of one who could always be counted upon to take the middle course might yet be defamed by the vagaries of chance and fashion’. So: ‘mean’ does not mean ‘nasty’.

The 1975 article – the lecture was subsequently published in the Cambrian Law Review – focused on Macaulay’s charge that as Law Officer and Lord Chancellor Bacon employed his talents to pervert the laws of England for “the vilest purposes of tyranny”. This calumny I answered by reference to an examination of certain legal disputes about contemporary constitutional theory and practice, and by exploring Bacon’s relationship with Parliament which proves he was a staunch parliamentarian prior to becoming Law Officer when his duty compelled loyalty to the Crown. This thesis I developed while an active member of the Society in my paper “From Little Acorns: How Bacon Lost ‘Friends’ but Influenced People in 1593”, which is basically reproduced as Chapter Three of the Fragment. There I argue that in Bacon’s Commons’ performance in 1593 he had struck a massive blow for liberty of speech in face of a shoddy attempt to ‘gag’ Members by the Court party. On the second reading of a Bill for the Better Execution of Justice in the Star Chamber, Bacon declared: “Neither profit nor peril shall move me to speak against my conscience in this place.” Fine and brave words, aren’t they? Conscience before civility, cow-towing, and the slippery and easy way. It’s a wonderful precept for life, isn’t it?

Well, the “Wisest, Brightest” article features as a small part of Chapter One of the Fragment, the catalyst for which was the discovery in, I think, 2008, of Nieves Mathews’ wonderful book Francis Bacon: the History of a Character Assassination which had been published in 1996. The idea of a book of my own had been an ever present spectre and, of course, in the years 1986-1993 I had published fairly extensively. Noel had always been encouraging as also Bill Gaunt, CEO of Gaunts of Florida. Indeed, during my time as Editor of Baconiana Bill had suggested reprinting the entire series. But when I left for the Caribbean in 1994, initially, as it was meant to be, for a year but which became another and then another, my connection with the Society lapsed. It really wouldn’t have been fair to try to edit from 4000 miles. And with the move, the idea of a book lapsed in Rip van Winkle’s pocket. I was too wrapped up in what we call here ‘Caribbean Jurisprudence’. BUT I did keep on my desk a letter from Gaunts signaling that if and when I did finally determine to write something it would always be welcome. Wasn’t that kind of them?

But then, as I say, came Nieves Mathews. She actually cited a number of my articles which I thought had disappeared into the ether – and I can’t say I wasn’t overjoyed. But most of those cited had been published in Baconiana and so were inaccessible other than to Society members. My pioneering work on Steward’s Case, published in the Journal of Legal History, which addressed the argument by Heath, Spedding’s legal editor, that this was the one case which conclusively proved that Bacon had corrupted himself by perverting what was legally right to serve a political master, was not cited; nor my substantial piece in the Anglo-American Law Review on the torture issue which had so exercised Lord Denning. Mathews’ book hit me between the eyes. It would be absurd, I reasoned, not to get on with my own.

At roughly the same time, my colleague and former Dean of the Faculty of Law, Albert Fiadjoe, asked me to read a paper he’d written on what’s called ‘Legitimate Expectation’ in Administrative Law. The idea of that is simple enough. If a man’s reasonable expectation, having regard to previous practice, is that he should be treated the same way as others then the courts will recognize and give effect to the expectation. Part of Albert’s essay explored the conceptual underpinning of the idea, and I commented that this was not unlike Bacon’s concept of legum leges, the laws of laws, and Albert worked this into his paper.

But then the really rather obvious idea struck me forcibly. IF Bacon’s legum leges helped us to understand the basis of a legal concept in a contemporary setting, why not also the entire corpus of his jurisprudential writings to help explain what the subject, Jurisprudence, as taught in Schools, is all about. For too long Jurisprudence has been taught by means of a sort of guided tour about what different jurists have said. ‘This is what Kelsen, or Hohfeld, or Austin SAID.’ In other words, Jurisprudence is name-dropping. Why not, then, use Baconian texts, though in no systematic way, to get students to reason for themselves about legal concepts, as a catalyst to explore more-or-less contemporary debates about, say, the nature of legal reasoning, the alleged distinction between rules and principles, fallacies in argument and, indeed, the entire business of understanding the nature of law itself. So I set to work on it and, in the result, it became Chapter Eight of my Fragment.

I suppose some readers will find it a bit heavy going. But then, I find cipher puzzles pretty inscrutable too. And the fact is that Bacon, love him or hate him, is arguably the first English jurisprudent of consequence. To ignore this, despite the ramifications of the authorship question, is to leave us with only half-a-man. The slant I took was uncharted, that’s to say it was not a descriptive account of what he’d said about Jurisprudence. It was a reflection, or argument, about how his Jurisprudence might most appropriately be used. The piece took around a year to write and was published in the Caribbean Law Review, which is another way of saying it was consigned to an unmarked grave. But I found my journey graveside inexorably comforting, for it took me through the Twin Pillars into the uncharted sea, in the true Baconian spirit, before finding what became its final resting place. I hope that there are oarsmen there whose “minds and spirits” are “apt to be kindled”. Incidentally, I should say that the Jurisprudence Chapter fits well with that which precedes it – Bacon as law reformer – which was previously published in modified form in Graya at the invitation of Master Cowper.

It is difficult to express my sense of gratitude to Nieves Mathews, whom I don’t know, for her book. In essence it is a frontal attack on Macaulayism, that’s to say the dangerous and disingenuous use of carefully selected facts, shoddy scholarship and shallow judgementalism. It must be remembered, though,  that there is an equally abrasive apologetic tradition represented in grand writers like Hepworth Dixon, Kendra Baker and Alfred Dodd, and that this verges on times as hagiography. So – you choose a white rose or a red.

Both share a common understanding, which is that Bacon’s character is to be assessed by reference to his achievements or, as we might say, his ‘greatness’. For Macaulay, Bacon was indeed a genius. Yet the years he held the Great Seal, Macaulay said, “were among the darkest in English history”. Bacon was both a “soaring angel” and a “creeping snake”. How, he asked, could a man of genius issue in such ambivalence? How could a genius be other than ‘good’? For the apologists, the root problem with Macaulayism is its failure to understand historical method. We call it the ‘Whig interpretation’, reading history backwards, reading the past by reference to the present. Yet the apologists are as uncompromising as Macaulay. To them Bacon was a ‘good’ man and so his genius requires no explanation. You see how both traditions  share the same assumption – that there is, or should be, a link between ‘greatness’ and ‘goodness’?

In the First Chapter of the Fragment, I reject this simplistic assumption. It’s clearly pre-Jung. You see, we are all far too apt to dismiss a man with a word or phrase, or deny his positive qualities by reference to his weaknesses, or suppose that a small, dark part of himself is somehow the whole, or project upon him our own narrow understandings, or fear and reject him because he is different from us, or fail to see, still less comprehend, the many parts of his life, or insist on interpreting one part by reference to another. You might want to say that my approach is pretty simple ‘apologetic psychology’.

In addressing this approach, I use what I call ‘signposts’, ones which point the way to a man’s true self though not in an all-or-nothing way. After all, signposts don’t tell you when you’ve arrived nor tell you which way to go after you’ve passed them.

So, for example, I discuss the idea of ‘shadows’, the double aspect in all of us, the saint and the sinner. And also what I call the ‘reductionist fallacy’, in which the labels we put on people, ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘bigot’, ‘racist’, simply make no sense in the entire context of a man’s life. Yet I dare say too that all of us have some quality, some weakness, which informs, even dictates, whom we really are at times. It might be ‘meanness’, or ‘insecurity’, or ‘control’, or ‘women’, and it might even make our lives a living hell on occasion. Yet we shall ever be more than what it is. Do you have some quality like that?

There are other ‘signposts’ too. One, an extension of the Whig fallacy, is that you really can’t impose the moral standards of one period of history upon another, and besides, much depends upon the milieu in which a man moves. How do you rise above your conditioning? The refinements of the cloister simply won’t work in the hurdy-gurdy, rough and tumble life in the courts of kings. Or again, we  might say that a man’s character is reflected and transferred into what he does, his genius if you like. For example, theologian Paul Tillich, despite his sexual peccadilloes, is at his most powerful when he writes from the “boundaries” of his life and because he does so. Liszt’s music, its waywardness, is a reflection of his life of stark contrasts. Apply that to Bacon and we might say that the ‘moderation’ he exhibits in his works derives from the temperate, flexible character of his life at Court necessitated by the whims of the powerful and unscrupulous. To call Bacon “wicked”, which is really just vapid moralizing, is absurd. To argues that he was a saint in a doublet is equally dotty.

Well, before writing this Chapter I had learned that Bill Gaunt had died. He was a very dear friend over the years and I’ve been fortunate to know people like him and Noel. I hope I’ve ‘given back’ in the context of my own life. At any rate, the constraints of law teaching, legal research and writing, necessary for me to make my way when Baconian studies seemed to many just amateurish pursuits, were tempered by their encouragement. Indeed, apart from those standard things, it’s also been a life of editing. At Aberystwyth and Buckingham I founded the Cambrian Law Review and Denning Journal respectively and of course jointly had to edit them too. Then there was Baconiana. The present editor will know how much work that entails. And then for a time I edited the Caribbean Law Review here. So it was quite a haul to write and teach and edit and then, since 2001, work here as a priest in holy orders. No matter. My work is done, though my writing and ministry will not let me go – and a good thing too.

Now, for many years I’d had a passing interest in Bacon’s ‘Translations of Certain Psalms’. Indeed, I’d indulged myself too in writing poetry about my life as a priest which, DV, will one day be published. And then there was my Poverty Law course here which began its life in 1999 as a way of sensitizing would-be attorneys to the needs of the poor. The young are wonderfully creative and my pupils were happy to write poems to give expression to their own personal journeys into poverty. The result, coinciding with retirement in 2011, was the publication of The Twisted Web, a volume about poverty in poetry. It’s beautifully illustrated by my pupils and I’m very proud of it and them. But now here’s the point. The poetry genre seriously tickled my interest in the Translations; and also Bacon’s theology, for they go together.

In fact, Noel refers to them in his Apologia in the Centenary Baconiana to which I’ve referred. This is what he wrote in a purple passage:-

“No one who has studied Bacon’s works in depth, whether under his own name or not, can in all honesty fail to appreciate his devotion to, and humble acceptance of, the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. His beautiful prayer and translation of Psalm 91 alone offer ample evidence of this, but if any doubt this view, may I point to his Confession of Faith.”

That exactly corresponded to my state of mind when I began work on the final Chapter of the Fragment.

Again, the Psalm Translations were very much uncharted. Spedding said little and, for the most part, the verdict of literary men, in cursory asides, was negative. Bacon was a versifier  and no poet, and so could not possibly have written the Plays they said. The Translations were more piety than poetry, and even his best was not very good. Well, no-one had actually explored the Translations in any depth, and so it wasn’t clear to me how much faith I should repose in these petty judgements. In fairness, though, I have to say that on casual reading in earlier years I’d concluded they were lightweight. That view changed completely as I immersed myself in their fragrance.

A foundational question was whether there was any evidence that Bacon actually wrote poetry. As we know, he had explored its nature and function in the Advancement and had praised its significance above philosophy. How then could it possibly be supposed that he had never written it? Well, there is ample evidence that he did. Spedding mentions two poems, one of which he thinks very little of though it mirrors something of Bacon’s patterns of thought in the Translations themselves, and the other what everyone agrees is a very fine poem. This is ‘The World’s a Bubble’, an original piece though based on a Greek epigram attributed to Poseidippus.

Noel and, for example, Professor Farrington were right to identify the depth of Bacon’s theology. You find it in the Essays and in tracts like the Confessions of Faith, the Meditationes Sacrae and, I argue, the Christian Paradoxes though Bacon’s authorship of these has been doubted – I think wrongly. The consequence is that in the Translations we do indeed have “divinity and poesy met”.

One issue is the extent to which a translator’s work can be accounted as poetry in its own right, whether a translator is by definition a lesser sort of poet or no poet at all. Another is the extent of the translator’s burden, how you capture the spirit, if not also the letter, of the original, in context how you turn the prose poems of the Psalms into rhyming verses without weakening the depth of the prose.

There are a number of assumptions, I think, which have coloured perceptions of the Translations, one of which I’ve already mentioned, that translators are inferior to poets. That the translations don’t ‘sound’ like ‘Shakespeare’ is another. Nor, they say, do the Translations even approximate to the flinty toughness of the originals. And then, of course, there’s Macaulayism: how can a corrupt judge, who used torture,  possibly have written religious poems anyway? None of this, at least for me, sounds like authentic literary criticism. But then no-one had ever looked closely at Bacon’s Psalms anyway.

The Translations in fact represent a more subtle, more sophisticated, biblical exposition than is to be found in the AV, and they should be understood in the context of Psalm translation generally in this period of intense religious ferment. Sir Th. Wyatt, the Earl of Surrey, Bishop Hall and, of course Sidney and the Countess of Pembroke had all engaged the challenge. The ‘Sidney Psalter’ is generally reckoned to be a masterpiece of poesy, though I have to say I find their efforts ‘lumpy’, conceit chasing and device ridden, in the literary manner of the metaphysical poets. Certainly they are not songs to be sung or give comfort.

The Psalms exhort translation in every age to give them contemporary relevance to the human situation. That is their lasting power. They speak to our inmost thoughts and collective sense of exaltation and joy. Bacon’s seven Psalms are very much Psalms of comfort which, as I try to demonstrate in the Fragment, when taken together form a narrative in personal terms to a friend and so which, in their nature, require neither ingenuity nor wit.

That friend, as we know, was George Herbert, the same who had assisted in the translation of the Advancement  into Latin and from whom Bacon ever sought approbation and critical insight before he published. We know that a disenchanted Herbert came to turn his back on Court life and the search for worldy advancement. Doubtless, he knew he was going nowhere very much. But in the period before he found his true life in Christ there was a dark night, a soul in torment, as the past still claimed his ego and the future his heart. Bacon’s Translations, I argue, are thus not simply ‘dedicated’ to Herbert. They speak to him ‘as a man speaks to his friend’.

I’m not saying that the Translations confirm that Bacon was a great poet. It’s highly unlikely that great poets can be discovered through translations. But I would argue that Bacon’s Psalms are unique in the Psalm genre of the period for three reasons which make them very special indeed. First, they insinuate an ongoing paradox – the expression of the sinewed toughness of the substance through the gentle lyricism of the verse. Second, they present a modified and gentler theology to standard understandings. They are thus not only creative in form but compassionate in substance. Third, they are very special because Bacon writes as and for a friend addressing the deepest dilemmas in his personal life. Yes, they most assuredly give comfort like a gentle hand on the shoulder; and not only for Herbert but for the rest of us too in their tender, caressing language of little breaths and tinkling bells.

There is no part of my Fragment I enjoyed exploring more than this. In truth, there’s nothing quite like it anywhere – but then I’d want to say as much about the rest of my book. It’s to my own comfort that an old man has turned a young man’s dream into reality and so to know that some loves do endure and flower in the twilight of things. My blessings to you all and to the Society from this distant shore and through this my fraction of a Fragment too.

From Francis Bacon: A Fragment of a Life (Gaunts, Holmes Beach, Florida (2012) and Black Spider Press, Barbados. Hardback. 369pp ISBN 978-1-60449-292-7)
Back to top