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literature

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Bacon, Sir Francis (1561-1626)  

Sir Francis Bacon, the philosopher who "took all knowledge for his province" and the lawyer-politician who became James I's Lord Chancellor, went through the heterosexual marriage required of an ambitious Renaissance public man. In addition, reflecting the needs of an era so grateful for secure royal succession that it maintained comparative silence about the homosexuality of its own king, Bacon condemned homosexuality in his more magisterial, philosophical work. For example, in his New Atlantis (written 1610, published 1627), Bacon declared that his utopian land of Bensalem had "no touch" of "masculine love" (a Renaissance term for male homosexuality).

However, Bacon subversively inserts homosexual innuendo elsewhere in his writings. In his suggestively titled The Masculine Birth of Time, an unfinished critique of prevailing philosophical and educational traditions composed around 1603 and left unpublished, the older male speaker instructs a younger man, pleading, "My dear, dear boy . . . from my inmost heart . . . give yourself to me so that I may . . . secure [you] an increase beyond all . . . ordinary marriages."

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Bacon also provocatively suggests his homosexuality in some of his Essays (third and final edition, 1625). He does so negatively in "Of Love," where he can stir himself to give only three examples from history and which he calls a "passion . . . great spirits . . . keep out" (when used as a noun classifying desire, "love" referred only to male-female attraction in the Renaissance and thus was the age's de facto language for "heterosexuality").

He writes more positively in "Of Marriage and the Single Life," where he praises "unmarried and childless men" as the "best friends, best masters, best servants" and as sources of "the best works, . . . of greatest merit for the public"; in "Of Friendship," the longest essay, where he conforms to the tradition in earlier male and female homosexual writing of using "friendship" terminology to imply same-sex romantic attachment ("wives, sons, nephews [can] not supply the comfort of friendship"); and, most daringly, in "Of Beauty," where he discuss examples of "beautiful men" only.

Bacon is also one of the few homosexual writers from periods as distant as the Renaissance for whom there is contemporary testimony about his sexuality. On April 17, 1593, Bacon's mother wrote to his brother Anthony castigating Bacon for keeping a "bloody Percy . . . as a coach companion and bed companion." "Bed companion" need not have implied eroticism since the nonsexual same-sex sharing of beds was common in the period, but "coach companion" would have been recognized as a sexual reference and thus defines "bed companion" here as one, too. Coaches were one of the few places in the age that provided privacy for a sexual liaison, and "coach" language was commonly used in the Renaissance to signify a sexual connection.

Additionally, the chronicler John Aubrey declares in his Brief Lives (composed 1665-1690) that Bacon "was a ." (Technically meaning "love of youths," pederasty was often used in the age to denote a more generic "homosexuality," as indicated by "E. K."'s use of it when discussing the Colin-Hobbinol peer-relationship in Spenser's 1579 The Shepherd's Calendar.) And although Bacon married, he did so late (at the age of 45), and his marriage produced no children.

Joseph Cady

     

 
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    Bibliography
   

Aubrey, John. Aubrey's Brief Lives. Oliver Lawson Dick, ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1957.

Bacon, Francis. The Works of Francis Bacon. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath, eds. 7 vols. London: Longman, 1857-1859.

Cady, Joseph. "'Masculine Love,' Renaissance Writing, and the 'New Invention' of Homosexuality." Homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment England: Literary Representations in Historical Context. Claude J. Summers, ed. New York: Haworth Press, 1992.

_____. "Renaissance Awareness and Language for Heterosexuality: 'Love' and 'Feminine Love.'" Renaissance Discourse of Desire. Ted-Larry Pebworth and Claude J. Summers, eds. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993.

duMaurier, Daphne. Golden Lads: Sir Francis Bacon, Anthony Bacon and Their Friends. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975.

Farrington, Benjamin. The Philosophy of Francis Bacon. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966.

Jardine, Liesa and Alan Stewart. Hostage to Fortune: The Troubled Life of Francis Bacon. New York: Hill and Wang, 1999.

Spedding, James, ed. The Letters and the Life of Francis Bacon. 7 vols. London: Longman, 1861-1874.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Cady, Joseph  
    Entry Title: Bacon, Sir Francis  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated October 26, 2002  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/bacon_f.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

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