April 9th, 2013

andrew potter

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of Time, an unfinished critique of prevailing philosophical and educational traditions composed around 1603 and left unpublished, the older male speaker instructs a younger man, pleading, "My dear, dear boy .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.

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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

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