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Sir Francis Bacon (January 22, 1561 – April 9, 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of Time, an unfinished critique of prevailing philosophical and educational traditions composed around 1603 and left unpublished, the older male speaker instructs a younger man, pleading, "My dear, dear boy .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."

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 pederast." (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.

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 April 9, 2013
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates

Further Readings:

The View Beyond: Sir Francis Bacon: Alchemy, Science, Mystery (The View series) by Dave Patrick, Mark Rylance and Rose Elliot
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Polair Publishing (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1905398220
ISBN-13: 978-1905398225
Amazon: The View Beyond: Sir Francis Bacon: Alchemy, Science, Mystery

Commemorating Sir Francis Bacon's 450th birth anniversary, the 20 and more contributors to THE VIEW BEYOND see a connection between Bacon's attempt to write the master plan of science, his esoteric interests, his supposed connection with Rosicrucianism, and the development of science and spirituality today. Division of the book is into four main sections. The first is about Bacon himself: John Henry on Bacon the scientist, Bacon the alchemist; Peter Dawkins on his 'Great Instauration' or programme for human advancement, Simon Bentley on his horoscope and Colum Hayward on his posthumous reputation. Section 2 develops the esoteric connection is represented by a diversity of authors including Tim Wyatt, who puts the main debate in a Theosophical context; Sylvia Francke on the role of Rudolf Steiner as a synthesizer and Nick Lambert on alchemy, The New Atlantis, and the esoteric. In section 3, Frank Perry writes on the seventh ray in art, seeing Bacon as standing at the head of this influence, and Richard Merrick writes on interference patterns in music and how they are building blocks of the universe itself. Section 4 is about science today, and breakthroughs in neuroscience as well as physics which bring into question the traditional model of materialism; it also examines the social responsibility of the scientist, which is inherent in Bacon's view of science as an activity of the state. In a final section, Kathleen Pepper writes on the Golden Age, Colum Hayward on the topic 'Beyond Materialism' and Steve Nation concludes with a review from the United Nations in New York of esotericism, science and spirituality today.

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Tags: author: sir francis bacon, gay 100, gay classics, literary heritage
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