THE WINDING STAIR
Francis Bacon, His Rise And Fall
Du Maurier began this story with Golden Lads (1975), a study of the young Bacon and his beloved older brother Anthony, ending with Anthony's death in 1601. The present volume follows the mature lawyer, politician, and thinker through the remaining 25 years of his astonishing life. High office had eluded Bacon under Elizabeth; with the accession of James I in 1603 he began his gradual ascent to the Lord Chancellor's woolsack through a succession of lofty legal posts anti convenient friendships with important persons. His rise was curiously intertwined with the ominous issue of royal prerogative and the career of its most stalwart judicial opponent, Bacon's inveterate rival Sir Edward Coke. Attorney-General Bacon and the great Chief Justice of Common Pleas (once rivals for the hand of the same woman) took up opposing--and prophetic--lines of argument as to how far the common law and the judiciary should be servants to the Crown. During the same crowded decades this frail hypochondriac was writing legal works of some importance, revising and expanding his Essays in successive editions, drawing up white papers and propositions for legal reform, and publishing various parts of the encyclopedic scheme he was devising for the restructuring of "philosophy" (i.e., higher learning) in accordance with something like empirical methods. Du Maurier narrates this prodigious career smoothly but glibly, leaving us rather at a loss to account for the Lord Chancellor's stunning (and still controversial) 1621 confession to charges of receiving bribes. Most legal and intellectual issues are digested into trivial pablum, and the frequent coy references to the Shakespearean-authorship question do nothing to reassure anyone of Du Maurier's scholarly judgment. Catherine Drinker Bowen's The Lion and The Throne (1956; a biography of Coke) and Francis Bacon: The Temper of A Man (1963) remain the layman's guides par excellence to this material.