Bacon Bacon Shakespeare Spy

Sam Kahn in The New Atlantis:

In 1844, a Nashville gentleman named Return Jonathan Meigs was placidly reading Francis Bacon in the evening when he suddenly slammed the book shut and, in the presence of his startled fourteen-year-old son, declared, “This man Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare.”

A few years later, the American writer Joseph C. Hart, in his book The Romance of Yachting and à propos of absolutely nothing — amidst ruminations on a voyage to Spain, and after a section about bullfighting — announced his belief that Shakespeare was just a copyist in a theater, a name assigned to the plays almost at random. “The enquiry will be, who were the able literary men who wrote the dramas imputed to him?” Hart wrote.

What’s curious about the idea that Shakespeare didn’t write his plays is that, for over two hundred years after his death, there was barely a whiff of rumor that anyone other than Shakespeare had written them, and then, around 1850, there was something in the water, and several people, completely independently, came to the same novel conclusion: Francis Bacon, the statesman, man of letters, and founder of modern science, was the literary genius behind Hamlet and King LearThe Tempest and Henry V, and all the rest.

More here.