Schumann: What evidence is there that Bacon, not known for anything other than magisterial prose, wrote the long poem in Iambic Pentameter known as The Faerie Queene and attributed to Edmund Spenser? Was Bacon also associated with genocidal intent towards Ireland as exhibited in Spenser’s pamphlet on the state of Ireland?
Hughes: My solution to the question of what Bacon was doing for his first 36 years is so complicated and so controversial that I keep postponing any attempt at a full treatment until I’ve got more time, and of course that time never comes, or at least it hasn’t yet. For the moment all I can say is that, following the realization that the Robert Greene canon could only be explained as one of Oxford’s early forays into publication, I decided to ignore all standard attributions of works of the imagination from this period and see if by using my sense of the major works involved––voice, tone, themes, dates––how they fit the biographies of writers with reputations and no works together with writers with works to their credit but weak or no biographies.
I was convinced that if approached this way, it should be fairly obvious who wrote what, and for the most part, that has been the case. Given the tiny size of the writing community and the fact that, apart from Marlowe, the rest were probably courtiers, no one else having the necessary leisure or education for what was in effect a literary revolution, only an educated, sophisticated Court community could have provided both the revolutionary writers and the kind of appreciative audience all budding artists need.
Of dubious authors, Spenser, Lyly (the plays) and Nashe represent (to my ear) three different aspects of the same voice. Their dates fit perfectly with Bacon’s biography, their themes fit his attitudes, interests, and the events of his life. All three fall silent right about the time he finally began to get the kind of serious government work he regarded as his by right. I believe these early works represent Bacon’s wild and reckless youth, the experimentation of a genius in search of a voice, a young writer eager to be in on the literary revolution that was unfolding around him. Do you think a man like Bacon would actually sit silent while Oxford and Sidney were commanding the attention of his community?
Apart from Oxford, only Bacon has the kind of erudition displayed by Nashe (literary historians ignore Nashe’s erudition, doubtless because they can’t imagine how he got it and probably because they themselves don’t have enough to recognize it). Except for one or two important deviations (one being their attitudes towards Aristotle), Bacon’s attitudes, his griefs, loves, hatreds and obsessions are perfectly reflected in Nashe, including his sorry inability to stop beating a dead horse and, in his writing, to wander off on tangents. As Brian Vickers noted (got to love him for loving and defending Bacon), Bacon was a stylistic chameleon, capable of creating a style to fit almost any situation.
The “View of Ireland,” was certainly not by Bacon. Spenser’s canon is filled with anomalies. If someone ever gets around to deconstructing it, they’ll probably decide that the later “Spenser” poems are by some other “hidden poet” (neither Spenser nor Bacon). As for Spenser’s politically-charged beast fables that tend to get forgotten, these too reflect Bacon’s beliefs, attitudes, politics, etc., and can easily be seen (by me anyway) as his outlet for these opinions before he found (with Mar-prelate’s help) his voice as Nashe.
Hopefully I’ll get the time someday to make the full case. Till then I’ll be happy to answer particular questions.