6. THE PROMUS

Among the items in the trunk are a commonplace book (a zibaldona) belonging to Anthony Bacon, (1) a book of orations and speeches by his father, Nicholas Bacon, (2) and several items identifiable as being by Francis Bacon. (3) These include:

Clearly, Le Doux and Francis Bacon were good friends, and shared much at an intellectual level. It is therefore worth mentioning Bacon's Of the Colours of Good and Evil, some of which was to be bound with the first (1597) edition of his Essays. (6) It was published fully in 1882, by a Mrs. Pott, with the quaint title Promus (a Storehouse) of Formularies and Elegancies.

The document itself (7) is a miscellany of texts from the Bible, metaphors, aphorisms, proverbs (in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Latin), and many other items, all except the French proverbs in Bacon's own handwriting and apparently assembled over a couple of years or so.

Of most interest, however, is the fact that items from the Promus, or at least the thoughts they express in an expanded form, are found in profusion in Shakespeare's plays. This, naturally, has been seized upon by 'Baconians' to support the theory that Bacon was Shakespeare. (8)

There is no doubt, however, that Le Doux would have had the chance to examine, and copy, these papers too. (9) He may even have contributed to them. One of the original Promus folios is dated 27th January 1595/6, within three days of which Le Doux arrived at Essex House, where the Bacon brothers worked, for a stay of what could have been as long as six weeks. (10) There are in fact items in Le Doux's trunk entitled Un livre de recueils tant de droit et de proverbs (a collection of sayings and proverbs) and frases des lettres (phrases from letters), which together describe the Promus documents to a 'T'. French, Spanish and Italian? Who might have copied what from whom, one wonders?


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NOTES AND REFERENCES (SECTION 6)

1 Anthony Bacon is simply Monsieur wherever he is mentioned in the list, as in this case. This identification is confirmed by the following note.

2 There is a beautifully written manuscript copy of "The Orations and Speeches of The Lord Keeper", i.e. Nicholas Bacon, in the British Library (Add. MS.48065). Several are to the Queen, exhorting her to marry, to consider the succession, etc. In Le Doux's list, the item is Le livre des Oraisons & harangues du pere de Mr. The calf-bound copy in the British Library appears to have been presented to Sir Christopher Yelverton by Anthony Bacon.

3 Those items not already well-known as being by Francis Bacon are confirmed as being his in a list of his manuscripts contained in BL Sloane MS.629 ff.244-5.

4 Sidney Lee, 'The original of Shylock', The Gentleman's Magazine (Feb. 1880) CCXLVI.

5 A copy of this in Bacon's hand is also in the British Library (BL Harley MS.6797 ff.48v-52v).

6 Dictionary of National Biography, p.823.

7 BL Harley MS.7017.

8 For example, Edwin Durning Lawrence: Bacon is Shakespeare (1910), which includes a transcript of the Promus, and B. G. Theobald: Enter Francis Bacon (1932).

9 Naturally, I wondered if the strange French hand might be that of Le Doux, but it was not; nor, as far as I could judge, was it that of any of the other regular writers in French in the Bacon Papers.

10 A letter, from Anthony Bacon's secretary Jaques Petit to his master, was carried by Le Doux from the home of Sir John Harington at Burley on the Hill, in Rutland, and arrived at Essex House on 30th January 1595/6 (LPL Bacon Papers MS.654 f.13). We know that Le Doux was overseas by the following June (see above). He had been employed as a tutor at Burley for several months and Petit had been there with him, posing as his valet, over the Christmas period. For a description of this Christmas, incidentally, see Gustav Ungerer's 'Shakespeare in Rutland', in the Rutland Record, no.7, pp.242-248.


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