No pleasure is comparable to the
standing upon the vantage ground of truth.
What sort of man was Francis Bacon? In a short Life published in The Works , Baynes & Son, London, 1824, the
anonymous biographer offers this brief yet almost charismatic portrait:
He was of a middling stature; his forehead spacious and open, early impressed with the marks of age; his eye
lively and penetrating; his whole appearance venerably pleasing: so that the beholder was insensibly drawn to love,
before he knew how much reason there was to admire him. In this respect we may apply to my lord Bacon what
Tacitus finely observes of his father-in-law, Agricola: a good man you would readily have judged him to be, and
been pleased to find him a great man.
Those talents that commonly appear single in others, and they too men of reputation, shone forth in him united and
eminent. All his contemporaries, even those who hated the courtier, stand up and bear witness together to the
superior abilities of the writer and pleader, of the philosopher and companion. In conversation he could assume the
most differing characters, and speak the language proper to each, with a facility that was perfectly natural; or the
dexterity of the habit concealed every appearance of art: a happy versatility of genius, which all men wish to arrive
at, and one or two, once in an age, are seen to possess. In public, he commanded the attention of his hearers, and
had their affections wholly in his power. As he accompanied what he spoke with all the expression and grace of
action, his pleadings, that are now perhaps read without emotion, never failed to awaken in his audience the several
passions he intended they should feel. This is not a picture of him drawn from fancy; it is copied; and that too but in
miniature, after another taken by one who knew him well; a good judge of merit, and seldom known to err, at least
in heightening a favourable likeness. . .[the glosses indicate that this sketch was drawn from the writings of Rawley,
Evelyn, Osborn and Ben Jonson.]
In 1924 one Edwin J. Des Moineaux published a pamphlet entitled "MANUSCRIPT Said to be HANDWRITING of
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE IDENTIFIED as PENMANSHIP OF ANOTHER PERSON," (Phillips Printing Co, Los
Angeles). The author contested the authenticity of a "Shakespeare signature" written at the bottom of a recently
discovered manuscript fragment of the play "Sir Thomas More" (Harlein MS No. 7368, British Library). This play had
previously been attributed to another Elizabethan, Anthony Munday, but the New York Times in 1917 found space
to award this lucky find of 147 lines first prize as: "The Most Important Discovery in the History of Literature." The
Editors then announced that the signature of The Bard of Avon appended to the manuscript was genuine beyond all
possible doubt. Great storms of literary protest ensued.
However, according to other authorities, the signature did not match the handwriting in the 147 lines of this
fragment of the play, or even the other verified Shakespeare signatures. The "Most Important Discovery" was
quickly dropped by the newsroom autographic experts of the Times . In his brief paper, Des Moineaux daringly
offered facsimiles as proof that, in his opinion, the 147 lines of this play were drafted in the calligraphy of Francis
Bacon. In his Foreword he comments acidly:
Which could possibly have been the author of plays and poems that "touch the horison of all human thought": a
butcher's apprentice or a college alumnus; a mischievous poacher or an attache of an embassy; a Stratford toper or a
London Barrister; a village vagabond or a member of Parliament; a country rustic or an habitue of royal precincts; a
Bankside showman or a producer of classic revels; a petty money changer or a privy councillor; a litigious maltster
or an Attorney General; an associate of illiterates and vulgarians or a consort of the most brilliant and refined men of
his time; an indolent lout equipped with nothing but the patois of Warwickshire or an ambitious student who
acquired a vocabulary of 18,000 words?
Lout? Maltster? Good Heavens! But daunting outbursts such as this will not alone depose the Stratford King. They
only serve to arouse sleeping scholars to search again into the misty domain of Stratfordian surmise, mayhap to rise
anew atop some hastily erected, freshly disguised and hopefully impregnable tower of profound literary conjecture.
The defenders of tradition rarely delay as they prepare to bring us back to our senses, but during the interval we
may feel more comfortable in ascribing The Works to an industrious, educated man than in inventing excuses to
credit them to a Warwickshire refugee from child support payments.
Francis Bacon was not a poet: so say modern critics. Perhaps they are unaware of these quotations collected by Mrs.
Henry Pott (Francis Bacon and his Secret Society , Schulte & Co., Chicago 1891):
[A]It is he that filled up all numbers [lines of verse], and performed that which may be compared or preferred to
insolent Greece or haughty Rome (Ben Jonson). ("These numbers will I teare, and write in prose." Shakespeare,
"Loves Labour's lost," iv, 3, 55.)
[A]His Lordship was a good poet, but concealed , as appears by his letters (John Aubrey).
[A]The author of "The Great Assises Holden in Parnassus" [attributed to the playwright John Day] ranks Lord
Verulam next to Apollo [the Greek god of all the Arts].
[A]The poetic faculty was strong in Bacon's mind. No imagination was ever at once so strong and so subjugated. In
truth, much of Bacon's life was passed in a visionary world. . .magnificent day-dreams. . .analogies of all sorts
[A]Few poets deal in finer imagery than is to be found in Bacon. . .His prose is poetry (Campbell).
[A]The varieties and sprightliness of Bacon's imagination, an imagination piercing almost into futurity, conjectures
improving even to prophecy. . .The greatest felicity of expression and the most splendid imagery (Basil Montagu).
[A]"The Wisdom of the Ancients. . .a kind of parabolical beauty. . .To the Advancement of Learning he brings every
species of poetry by which the imagination can elevate the mind from the dungeon of the body to the enjoying of its
own essence. . .Metaphors, similitudes and analogies make up a great part of his reasoning. . .Ingenuity, poetic
fancy, and the highest imagination and fertility cannot be denied him (Craik).
[A]The creative fancy of a Dante or Milton never called up more gorgeous images than those suggested by Bacon,
and we question much whether their worlds surpass his in affording scope for the imagination. His extended over all
time. His mind brooded over all nature. . .unfolding to the gaze of the spectator the order of the universe as
exhibited to angelic intelligences (Devey)
[A]The tendency of Bacon to see analogies is characteristic of him, the result of that mind not truly philosophic but
truly poetic, which will find similitudes everywhere in heaven and earth (Dr. Abbott).
[A]I infer from this sample that Bacon had all the natural faculties which a poets wants: a fine ear for metre, a fine
feeling for imaginative effect in words, and a vein of poetic passion. . .The truth is that Bacon was not without the
"fine phrensy" of a poet (Spedding).
We may recall Edmund Howes' 1615 list of 27 "excellent Poets" who had written during Elizabeth's reign. Among
them he ranked, "according to their priorities," Francis Bacon as eighth in prominence. "Willi" Shake-speare he scored
as thirteenth. Nonetheless, the literary opinions of Bacon's contemporaries don't impress modern authorities: Where
are his Works, they demand?
Let us hear from Bacon himself (Of the Advancement of Learning , Book II, Chapter XIII, p. 106):
. . .Poesy cheereth and refreshes the soule; chanting things rare, and various, and full of vicissitudes. So as Poesy
serveth and conferreth to Delectation, Magnaminity, and Morality; and therefore it may seem deservedly to have
some Participation of Divinenesse, becauwse it doth raise the mind, and exalt the spirit with high raptures, by
proportioning the shewes of things to the desires of the mind; and not submitting the mind to things, as Reason and
The author of Shakespeare's Works, who wrote lively dramatic and poetic histories of the kings of England, Rome
and Greece, might agree.
We are all familiar now with Francis Bacon's odd manner of writing, whether in opentext, ciphertext or plaintext.
Consider Sonnet 81:
Or I shall liue your Epitaph to make,
Or you suruiue when I in earth am rotten,
From hence your memory death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortall life shall haue,
Though I (once gone) to all the world must dye,
The earth can yeeld me but a common graue,
When you intombed in mens eyes shall lye,
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall ore-read,
And toungs to be, your beeing shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead,
You still shall liue (such vertue hath my Pen)
Where breath most breaths, euen in the hearts of men.
What sad words.
As we have seen, Bacon was in his acknowledged writings a master of ambiguity, of double entendre . We have
another example of it in these elegiac verses. There are many other mysteries, already raised by good scholars, about
the meaning of the Sonnets . Perhaps more labor in cryptology will reveal the answers.
Upon Francis Bacon's death his friend George Herbert wrote this lament; it deserves mournful music:
While thou dost groan 'neath weight of sickness slow
And wasting life with doubtful step doth go,
What wise fates sought I see at last fulfilled:
Thou needs must die in April--so they willed,
That here the flowers their tears might weep forlorn,
And there the nightingales melodious mourn,
Such dirges only fitting for thy tongue,
Wherein all eloquence most surely hung.
I don't remember ever being sorry for anyone so anciently demised. Now for Francis Bacon, gone for nearly four
centuries, I am.
He was buried, as directed, near his mother, in the parish church of St. Michael, near St. Albans. This picturesque
and lonely little church became a place of pilgrimage, and will, we believe, become so once more. The obligations of
the world are, as his biographer says, of a kind not to be overlooked. There is no department in literature or science
or philanthropy, no organization for the promulgation of religious knowledge, which does not owe something to
Francis Bacon [from Francis Bacon and his Secret Society , supra].
We have reviewed the abundant evidence to connect Francis Bacon with the composition of Shakespeare's works,
and the lack of it to support the authorship of the divine object of the Bardolators' sanctification. The catalog is, I
think, clear and convincing, yet it covers ground already scoured by scholars having biases in many directions. In the
past they have been unable to agree to terms of any sort. I have included the historical documentation chiefly to
show that Francis Bacon was capable of writing the Works, those that we have become accustomed to regard as
belonging to William Shakespeare; that Bacon casually let fall that he was a poet and that he wrote under an alias;
and that it is more than likely that a wealthy, traveled, cultured English barrister did so. To the contrary, the proof
that the rustic Bard of Avon wrote them rests very uncomfortably upon apocrypha, title-page labels, and the many
contrived and imaginative interpretations of the "internal evidence" claimed to be found in the books themselves.
The negative evidence, relating to Shakespeare's sketchy education and mundane character, seems to foreclose upon
the Stratford Birthplace as the source of this classical literature. Yet a preference for tradition or toward a variety of
authors to be credited with Shakespeare's Works has become a matter of literary taste: a habit based on faith, a
subjective selection leading often to an emotional conclusion. The choice so provided is hardly a useful way to end a
quarrel. In the end, by disregarding the dead hand of tradition and conjecture, perhaps science will prevail.
Bacon did not invent the cipher that he employed, he merely adapted it. Whether Johannes Trithemius did or did
not originate this particular method, a book was published in 1606 collecting his early Sixteenth Century description
of several cryptographic schemes. One of them required that open cues be included in the ciphertext, that the cues
refer to particular letters of the ciphertext, that the ciphertext letters be concealed as a steganogram, that a keyed
abbreviated alphabet be employed to cryptanalyze the ciphertext, and that the resulting doubly enciphered letters
then be submitted to the ancient Caesar cipher system for final decryption. Such nearly impervious, yet still regular,
elegance must have seemed to Francis Bacon attractive.
This was the state of the art of cryptography, so far as Bacon was concerned, when he devised his private cipher and
published SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS . The plan he selected agreed with his openly expressed opinion of the need
for deep security. Steganography, as described by Trithemius, seemed to insure the safety of the cryptographic
system that Bacon then modified for his own use. His was not intended to convey protracted messages; his was not
necessarily useful to describe the enemy's order of battle in wartime; his was certainly not made to be quickly
deciphered. The cues, the signals, were sometimes susceptible to two interpretations; one might be fashioned so as
to lead onward to a solution while the other was intentionally structured to produce only alphabetical chaos. These
indicators exactly fitted the ideal paradigm of cipher excellence that Bacon had described in The Advancement of
Learning . His practical system was disadvantaged because it required more than considerable time, tenacity and the
testing of alternatives to find the plaintext, yet these same qualities gave it the power to be almost impenetrable.
Bacon's "Bote-swaine cipher" (if I may call it that) was intended only to identify him as the sire of the poems and
plays that betoken the exquisite imagination of the author. He was content to leave only his seal, his signature,
though often coupled with "cipher" or "name;" for him that was enough. In his day it was far from uncommon for
authors, while employing anonymity or an alias, to write into their works an acrostic signature and ordinary pride of
craftsmanship tempted many of them to do so. Bacon did the same but he was far more cautious than the others. He
was far too cautious, considering the long ages of time that have passed while his deeds have remained concealed.
He was for himself a hard taskmaster as he strained to entertain his audiences, and as he secretly toiled to instruct
them without tiring them. He was not a man to tolerate any easy intrusion into his privacy, to permit any effortless
prying into his reclusive occupations. It has cost us much labor to scratch away these few flakes of opaque varnish
that have obscured his name; perhaps it is not time to rest, because Trithemius described more than one cipher
Now the Stratfordian stalwarts must deal with a confirmed cipher with more than a hundred illustrations. I offer
them a primary obstacle, a single word at which to aim: "Bote-swaine." I offer them indicators and cryptographic
landmarks, such as that word's initial printed letter: a toppled-over great capital "B." I offer them a name for a
nameless gravestone. I offer them a proven alphabet, a tool for basic research. Mere literary doubt will no longer be
sufficient; claims of error must be directed against this word, this cue, this alphabet, this "FORTH.", and then traced
back through the cryptographic system that I have demonstrated; every corroborative example must be impassively
analyzed and shown to be false.
Ridicule, patronizing appeals to authoritative dogma, doctrinaire confabulations, simplistic invocations to propitiate
the gods of chance, semantic fabrications of plausible counter hypotheses--those derisive debating techniques, those
lost promises, those prosthetic aids to Avonian fantasy that have served in the past--those shall henceforward not be
good enough. William and Elizebeth Friedman illuminated the statistical problem with these charming insights: ". .
.There are limits even to coincidence; if the mathematical probability is very small indeed, [1 divided by the odds
against] and we take other factors of the situation into account, it often becomes unreasonable to maintain that what
happens is the result of accident. If a man continues to throw seven after seven at dice, and this happens again and
again, it would be absurd not to think that the dice were loaded. . ."
It is not in a spirit of impertinence that I make this challenge; I have no wish to provoke the thoughtful and
unparochial scholars of academia, or any other literates who cherish our English language and perceive in its
Elizabethan foundations the faculties of a superb genius, of an inventive master of words, phrases, style and
eloquence of fanciful expression. I have dealt fairly with the material that is presented here, and I impose upon
critics the duty to deal fairly with that. The cryptographic procedures that I have described need not be cast aside
merely because their footings are more than four centuries old. Those who make the effort to understand them may
find a study of Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century cryptograms to be as worthwhile and as fascinating as it has been
Indeed, what does it matter who wrote the works of William Shake-speare when the poems and the plays remain
for us to admire and enjoy--to venerate, as Mark Twain said, "until the last sun goes down"?
It matters because truth matters. There is some elemental secret about Francis Bacon's life, some basic circumstance
still unexplained. At least Ben Jonson must have known. Had Bacon other friends, faithful to this strange trust, who
never revealed his quiet deeds? Have the descendants of such a coterie persisted through the long ages? Do such
initiates still quietly enjoy this deception with cryptic smiles? Who knows? The problem must not be discarded.
It has been observed that a writing is hardly ever subjected to cipher analysis unless there is good reason to believe
that it conceals a secret. I hope that in these pages I have furnished a good reason and that my own work will
encourage other fundamental research, rather than foment a stormy windfall of missiles crafted within some
complacent Nineteenth Century workshop of conventional wisdom.
Again there is more work to be done, a great deal more. Perhaps in some other unexamined text, or in quite another
unsuspected cipher, there can be discovered a footnote to this antique puzzle. We have raised a ghost and it will
take time, much more time, to put him at his ease.
Now Sam, I have offered my proofs and my briefs; I will here rest my case. We have taken Master William by
surprise and spoiled his sly game. The jurors of a new panel of our peers shall become the judges of the facts in this
case; the informed members of the general laity are about to reach their verdict. Can you hear me, Sam?