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I have already expressed my belief that this treatise is not Bacon's.
In point of external evidence the case stands thus :
1. The only two MSS. I am aware of, Harl. MS. 1201. and Sloane MS. 4263., have no name of the author. They are different texts, though more resembling each other than either does the first printed one.
2. The imprimatur for the first edition --- at least it bears date the year of the first edition, - is given by Archbishop Sancroft, cited in Blackburn's edition of Bacon, as follows:
“ June 3rd, 1629. Sam. Maunsell, utter barrister of the Middle Temple, having perused this book, attested it to be very useful to all young students of the law and worthy to be imprinted :” and then, “ Lambethae Junii 4° 1629, ut in aliencê arte alieno nixus judicio, libelli hujus imprimendi potestatem facio.
“ Johannes Jefferay.”
This does not seem to me to be the way in which a work known or supposed to come from such an author would be spoken of or licensed; and, accordingly,
3. The first shape in which it appeared in that same
year was anonymous, and (as appears by the preface) without any suspicior of the authorship, by way of companion to a fragment of Sir John Doderidge's English Lawyer. This latter is there entitled “ The Lawyers' Light: or a due direction for the study of the law, &c., by the reverend and learned professor thereof, J. D. ;” and the Use of the Law is “ annexed for affinity of the subject.” The Preface is also anonymous, and begins thus: “I present unto you two children, the one whereof hath an author unknown, the other a father deceased. Now Doderidge was already dead, and must have been easily recognisable as "J. D." He would seem therefore to be the author referred to in the second branch of the sentence; and hence I conclude again that the author of the other Tract was unknown.
t. Both these treatises were next published by other parties, the “ Assignees of John Moore, Esqre.,” separately, and in consecutive years; Doderidge's treatise, - now complete and with its new title, — in 1631,
with a preface stating it “was heretofore obscurely printed by an imperfect copy from a then unknown author,” and was now printed “in fair light by the author's own copy written (for the most part) with his own hand :" - all of which I extract to show that
these publishers knew the value of an authentic pedigree when they could furnish it.
The other treatise, The Use of the Law, they published in 1630, annexed to the Maxims, then first published, but with no preface at all. There is a general title-page and also a particular one to each treatise ; and that to The Use of the Law has “ by the Lord Verulam, Viscount of St. Albans.” Now this catini
have been the title actually on a MS. coming, or textually copied, from Bacon's own Collections, unless we suppose it to have been written within the last few years of Bacon's life. I do not think any one will believe, on the internal evidence, that it can be the product of his maturer years; and I therefore conclude that it was not from any MS. evidence, but on some other now unknown ground, that the Assignees of John Moore gave the authorship to Bacon.
5. It must however be said that the authorship so asserted seems to have been accepted without hesitation from that time forward, unless Archbishop Sancroft's note may be taken to imply a doubt. It is in Rawley's list at the end of the Resuscitatio, and the printed book was, with other of Bacon's then published works, given to (and now remains in) Gray's Inn Library, by Bacon's relations Nathaniel and Francis, in 1635.
The work is not mentioned in the Commentarius Solutus ; but neither is the Reading on Uses : and the negative argument must not therefore be too much pressed. Still the inference seems to be that, if the work be genuine, it was either out of Bacon's hands or uncommenced in 1608.
This is, so far as I know, the whole external evidence on either side. It may be fairly summed up, I think, by saying that no MS. seems ever to have been seen wherein the work was other than anonymous; but that the second publishers, without alleging any reason, gave it out as Bacon's within four year's after his death ; and that this ascription has been acquiesced in.
1 Generally, I think, late copies of Bacon's authentic works continue the “Mr. F. Bacon," or " Sir F. Bacon," of the originals they are taken from.