BACON, Sir FRANCIS (1561-1626, philosopher, writer and statesman)
MANUSCRIPT MATERIAL BY FRANCIS BACON IS NOTORIOUSLY RARE. In the last thirty years only one autograph letter signed, three other letters signed and four documents signed by Bacon have appeared at auction.
The form of signature that appears on this document was used by Bacon only during his brief nine-month tenure of the office of Lord Keeper (7 March 1617 to 7 January 1618). Although not Lord Chancellor in name until 1618, as Lord Keeper Bacon was, nonetheless, the most important official in the land. There had been no Lord Chancellor in Elizabeth's long reign.
Robert Heath (1575-1649) was a bencher in the Inner Temple at the time of this petition. He was appointed Recorder of London in November 1618, Solicitor-General in January 1621, Attorney-General in 1625 and was later Lord Chief Justice. He was no doubt already acquainted with Bacon, and indeed may be the lawyer Heath mentioned by Spedding (Life and Letters of Francis Bacon, v).
Petitions such as the present one were always drawn up in minute, presumably professional, hands. No detailed study of this genre of document is known to us, but it is perhaps possible that the smallness of the hand was thought to represent the petitioner's humility in approaching an officer of state. Henry Woudhuysen, Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 2003, p. 62, comments: 'Among state and private papers there are numerous groups of petitions, once folded to be placed directly in the hands of the monarch, courtiers, ecclesiastics, or judges, as they walked by and, with luck, read on the spot. It is unlikely that the petitioners themselves could write their addresses with the skill and care evidently felt to be appropriate to the occasion. Many [as is the present one] were written on fine paper of high quality...When one petitioner, Joan Pitt of Weymouth, wishes to appeal to Burghley she resorted to the writing-master, Peter Bales, in whose distinctive hand her petition is written. Scriveners would be the obvious people to go to for simple writing tasks...'
Bacon was a polymath: successively Solicitor and Attorney General, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and Lord Chancellor, he was a philosopher, historian, judge, statesman, scientist and psychologist. He has been hailed as the Father of Modern Science and of English prose. He was Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Albans.