Francis Bacon: The History of a Character Assassination

Francis Bacon: The History of a Character Assassination

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Beyond his own country Francis Bacon is remembered as a great man, founder of modern science and philosophy, a just judge and a teacher of kings. In England and America, however, he is more commonly seen as a cruel, corrupt and power-hungry politician. Which appraisal is correct? In this re-evaluation of one of Britain's most significant figures, Nieves Mathews examines the charges against Bacon and reveals how distorted facts can be recast as historical truths. In 1621 Bacon fell from power as Lord Chancellor, the highest position in the land. Charged with accepting bribes, he was convicted, fined, imprisoned and exiled from the Court. He died five years later, disgraced and deeply in debt. In this study of the Jacobean administration - a system which depended on corruption at every level - Nieves Mathews shows Bacon to have been among the least tainted of the king's officials, the scapegoat in a political conspiracy aimed at dislodging the royal favourite. The destruction of Bacon's reputation followed Thomas Babington Macaulay's eloquent "Essay on Bacon", published in 1837. Macaulay's depiction launched a search among Bacon's biographers for evidence of malice and corruption. Now Nieves Mathews in her reaappraisal portrays a man both single-minded and fallible, with qualities and flaws.

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