Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shakespeare, Bacon - Weather, Gardening, Animals, Birds

Opinions, attitudes and interests of Shake-Speare and Bacon.

Interest in Gardening

Caroline Spurgeon, in her Shakespeare's Imagery (1935), p. 86 writes: One occupation, one point of view, above all others, is naturally his [Shake-Speare's], that of a gardener; watching, preserving, tending and caring for growing things, especially flowers and fruit. All through his plays he thinks most easily and readily of human life and action in the terms of a gardener". "A devoted gardener", Lord Dacre calls him in his essay "What's in a Name", "only Francis Bacon compares with him here". Bacon begins his Essay on Gardens: "God almighty first planted a garden. And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures". Bacon delighted in making improvements to the gardens at Twickenham Lodge, Gorhambury and at Gray's Inn. Aubrey adds: "At every meal, according to the season of the year, he had his table strewed with sweet herbs and flowers, which he said did refresh his spirit and memory".

Will Shakspere can have had little or no opportunity for gardening till his retirement to Stratford around 1610-1613 after the plays had been written.

Interest in the Weather

Lord Dacre, in the same essay mentioned, also commented that Shake-Speare "had a great eye for the weather and its nuances, for the seasons and their changes". Bacon's prose works offer little opportunity for comments on the weather, save his Historia Ventorum [History of the Winds] (1622) which is an encyclopedic 60-page analysis of winds. To quote a single sentence: "In a south wind the breath of men is more offensive, the appetite of animals is more depressed, pestilential diseases are more frequent, catarrhs common, and men are more dull and heavy; whereas in a north wind they are brisker, healthier, and have a better appetite". It is reasonable to infer that he had a similar interest in other aspects of the weather, which would only be one facet of his interest in nature generally.

Interest in Animals, especially Birds

Shake-Speare had a fondness for animals generally, especially birds. Caroline Spurgeon, p. 48, writes: "Of the large animal group, the outstanding point is the great number drawn from birds. If we except the human body, its parts, movements and senses, Shake-Speare's images from birds form by far the largest section drawn from any single class of objects". Shake-Speare mentions 70 kinds of birds, including sea birds, in 600 allusions - see J.E. Harting, Birds of Shakespeare (1871).

Bacon too seems to have been an animal lover. At Gorhambury in the old House he installed windows on the glass of which were painted animals and plants - see Aubrey's Brief Lives. In his Historia Vitae et Mortis (History of Life and Death) he displays much knowledge of animals. And his special interest seems to have been in birds. Aubrey tells us that Bacon had an aviary built in the grounds of York House at a cost of £300. "The crane that flew into the Thames" (for sending after which the Washwoman was rewarded with 5 shillings) had probably escaped from the aviary. In 1624 in notes of a proposed conversation with the Duke of Buckingham Bacon jotted down: "I have somewhat of the French: I love birds, as the King doth, and have some childish [next word illegible] wherein we shall consent".

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