A Study Of Anthony Bacon, Francis And Their Friends
Of the two golden lads--the philosopher, essayist and barrister Francis Bacon, and his brother Anthony, sons of Elizabeth I's Lord Keeper--du Maurier is most concerned with the career of Anthony, whose life was anything but golden. Francis is more or less neglected, until the Earl of Essex's trial when he spoke for the Crown and against Essex who had been his generous patron. Perhaps, it is suggested, he did this to protect his brother Anthony, a courier for the Earl, corresponding furtively with James VI of Scotland and engaged in covert reconnaissance activities in France. Not surprisingly Anthony was under beady-eyed scrutiny by both Elizabeth and Cecil and he usually wriggled out of Court appearances by taking to his bed. Francis in the meantime, because of his opposition to the Crown's tax subsidy proposal, was continually denied advancement (his compliant performance at the Essex trial brought about a change in that royal policy). Anthony died in 1601, at forty-three, before Francis' major accomplishments; both men were unmarried. There are hints that Anthony might have had homosexual tendencies--he was arrested in France (falsely, the author believes) on a charge of sodomy. Du Maurier's research is extensive, if somewhat haphazardly splayed. Her speculations concerning the authorship of some of Essex's written pronouncements--and by extension even some of Shakespeare's lines--and attempts to trace the course of Anthony's clandestine spying activities abroad are in the nature of asides rather than stringent analyses. Meandering, and truth to tell, a shade dull, but worthwhile as an oblique approach to Francis Bacon's neglected brother and Elizabethan espionage at the slippery edge of power.