three pairs of lovers with space

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FRANCIS BACON, VISCOUNT ST. ALBANS, 1561-1626

 

Francis Bacon (22 January 1561-9 April 1626), created Viscount St. Albans in 1621, who reached the zenith of his career as a statesman as Lord High Chancellor of England 1617-21, was also an eminent philosopher and prolific author. Presented here is what was said about his sexual involvement with boys by three contemporary writers, followed by further information on the two named boys.

His elder brother Anthony Bacon was also boysexual, as emerges from an account of his trial in France for sodomising a pageboy.

 

THE THREE SOURCES FOR VISCOUNT ST. ALBANS’S PEDERASTY

1.  John Chamberlain

John Chamberlain (1553-1628) was a London gentleman who walked daily to St Paul's Cathedral to gather the latest news on the London grapevine and then reported it in a long series of letters to his friends on overseas diplomatic postings.

Sir Francis Bacon by Paul van Somer, 1617

The following is taken from The Letters of John Chamberlain, edited by Norman Egbert McClure, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1939) II p. 243.

I heare he [“the Lord Chauncellor”] hath lately committed one Shingleton an Oxford man (who preaching in Paules on May day and finding himself aggrieved with some decree of his wherin he thought he had hard measure) declaimed bitterly against his court, and glaunced (they say) somewhat scandalously at him and his Catamites as he called them.[1] […] From London this 5th of June 1619.

            Your Lordships at command

                                         John Chamberlain.

To the right honourable Sir Dudley Carleton knight Lord Ambassador for his Majestie with the States of the United Provinces at the Hagh.

 

2.  Sir Simonds D’Ewes

Sir Simonds D’Ewes (1602-50) was a puritan antiquarian created a baronet in 1641. At the time of Viscount St. Alban’s downfall in May 1621, he was studying law in London and kept a journal, now preserved as British Library, Harleian Ms. 646, from folios 58b-59b of which, the following is taken:

For whereas presently upon his censure at this time his ambition was moderated, his pride humbled, and the means of his former injustice and corruption removed; yet would he not relinquish the practice of his most horrible and secret sin of sodomy, keeping still one Godrick a very effeminate faced youth to be his catamite and bedfellow, although he had discharged the most of his other household servants: which was the more to be admired[2] because men generally after his fall began to discourse of that his unnatural crime which he had practised many years; deserting the bed of his lady[3], which he accounted as the italians and turks do, a poor and mean pleasure in respect of the other; and it was thought by some that he should have been tried at the bar of justice for it, and have satisfied the law most severe against that horrible villainy with the price of his blood; which caused some bold and forward man to write these verses following in a whole sheet of paper, and to cast it down in some part of York House in the Strand, where Viscount St. Alban yet lay.

Within this sty a *hog doth lie that must be hanged for sodomy.

*Alluding both to his surname of Bacon and to that swinish abominable sin.

But he never came to any public trial for this crime; nor did ever that I could hear forbear his old custom of making his servants[4] his bedfellows, so to avoid the scandal was raised of him; though he lived many years after this his fall in his lodgings in Gray's Inn in Holborn, in great want and penury.

Gorhambury House, Viscount St. Albans's home in Hertfordshire, to which he reired after his downfall in 1621

 

3.  John Aubrey

John Aubrey F.R.S. (1626-97) was a well-connected and thereby well-informed English antiquary, best known for his Brief Lives, written in 1680-93, generally drawing on what he was told by those who had known his subjects, and including material he considered sufficiently controversial to preclude short-term publication. Most of it was first published in 1813 and the entirety in 2015.

Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Albans

The following appears in an anecdotal and generally quite favourable context. Aubrey’s informant was appaently St. Albans’ assistant, Thomas Hobbes.

He was a παιδεραστής [pederast]. His Ganimeds[5] and Favourites tooke Bribes; but his Lordship alwayes gave Judgement secundum aequum et bonum [according as was just and good].

 

Thomas Bushell

Bushell was “one of the Gentlemen that wayted on the Lord Chancellour Bacon,” whom “I sawe him at his house […] at Lambith. He was about 70, but I should not have guessed him hardly 60.”

MR. THOMAS BUSHELL was one of the Gentlemen that wayted on the Lord Chancellour Bacon. Twas the fashion in those dayes for Gentlemen to have their Suites of Clothes garnished with Buttons. My Lord Bacon was then in Disgrace, and his Man Bushell having more Buttons than usuall on his Cloake, etc., they sayd that his Lord’s breech made Buttons and Bushell wore them: from whence he was called Buttond Bushell.[6] He was only an English Scholar, but had a good witt and a working and contemplative head. His Lord much loved him.

St. Albans confronted by members of Parliament the day of his political fall, 1621

 

MORE ABOUT THE TWO NAMED LOVED BOYS

1.  Henry Goodrick

Besides D’Ewes’s mention of him, Go(o)drick(e) was mentioned identifiably in three other records.

First, in a list of all the Lord Chancellor’s servants in 1618 (before 12 July), he was listed twice: as “Mr. Goodrick” among his six gentlemen “of the chamber” and as “Mr. Goodericke” was listed among his twenty-six “gentleman waiters” (The Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, edited by James Spedding, vol. VI, London, 1872, p. 337).

Secondly, in a letter to the Secretary of State of 2 April 1623, St. Albans mentioned that “the bearer hereof, Mr. Goodrick, hath lived in Spain, and hath the language; if (as time serveth) you will be pleased to put a packet into his hands, he is fit for the trust, fit for the journey.” (The Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, edited by James Spedding, vol. VII, London, 1874, p. 414).

Thirdly, in his final will of 29 October 1625, St. Albans included this bequest: “I do devise by this my will, and do give to Mr. Henry Goodricke forty pounds.” (The Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, edited by James Spedding, vol. VII, London, 1874, p. 542).

From these mentions, one may deduce that St. Albans had a high opinion of his character and remained much attached to him until his end.

The problem with discovering more about him is how to be sure the same Henry Goodrick is being written of. The “Mr.” which always preceded his name in the preceding records then signified not adulthood, but being a gentleman: usually, and always when referring to a boy, this meant belonging to an armigerous family.

One Goodrick family appears in the records of the heralds’ visitations, which had the purpose of registering all those entitled to arms. From this, it seems likely that Viscount St. Albans’s loved boy was Henry, 2nd of the nine sons of Sir Henry Goodrick, knight, of Ribston, Yorkshire, and died unmarried sometime (presumably not long) before 31 December 1636, when administration of his estate was granted. (Dugdale’s Visitation of Yorkshire, with additions, edited by J. W. Clay, I, Exeter, 1899, p. 55).

Unfortunately the surviving registers for his home parish of Hunsingore, where he was most likely baptised, do not go back this far, so his date of birth cannot be established. However, his parents married at Elland, Yorkshire on 25 May 1602. Allowing for the births of his elder brother and perhaps an elder sister (he had three sisters of ages unknown relative to their brothers), one may therefore reasonably guess he was born ca. 1605-6[7] and would most likely have been around 12 in the first half of 1618 (by when he was in the Lord Chancellor’s service) and around 15 when D’Ewes described him as his catamite and “a very effeminate faced youth.”

 

2.  Thomas Bushell

by Frederick Smallfield

Very much more is known about Thomas Bushell (ca. 1594-21 April 1674) from a minor gentry family in Worcestershire, so much so that little will be said here that does not shed light on his time as the loved boy of Bacon.

Bacon accepted him into his service when he was fifteen, and gave him “real expressions of his love” in thrice clearing his debts and arranging his marriage to a rich heiress, promising towards that end “to make me the Heir of his knowledge in Mineral Philosophy” (Thomas Bushell, Mr. Bushell’s Abridgement of the Lord Chancellor Bacon's Philosophical Theory in Mineral Overtures, London, 1659).

He was one of his gentleman ushers in 1618 (The Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, edited by James Spedding, vol. VI, London, 1872, p. 336). He fled allegations of corruption among the latter’s staff, following his downfall in 1621, taking refuge in a cave in the Isle of Man, but soon returned to serve him until his death. His subsequent career, including time as mint-master to the King during the civil war, can be followed in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

 

[1] Isaac S(h)ingleton was a Canon of St. Paul’s. Bacon sometimes gave rise to grievances by his judgements in Chancery as Lord Chancellor, including justified ones: his downfall in 1621 was over his corruption. A sermon at St. Paul’s, then the most influential religious soapbox, offered Singleton a fine opportunity for revenge. Singleton resumed his career in the Church in Wales the following year (Joseph Foster (editor), Alumni Oxoniensis, 1500-1714, III 1359).

[2] “Admired” in this 17th-century context is equivalent to the modern “wondered at”.

[3] Four months before his death, on 19 December 1625, Viscount St. Alban suddenly cut his wife (to whom he had been married without children for nineteen years) out of his will for unnamed “just and great causes.” Only eleven days after his death, she remarried her gentleman-usher (very much taking a leaf out of her husband’s book). The obvious inference to be drawn from these unusual and otherwise inexplicable happenings is that she was having an adulterous affair, which is perhaps more understandable in the light of D’Ewes’s revelation that he had not only neglected her sexually, but publicly humiliated her by letting it become widely known that he regularly slept with a boy in his bed. (James Spedding, ed. The Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, edited by James Spedding, London, 1861-74) VII p. 545; G. E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage, revised by G. H. White, V (1949) 285).

[4] In 17th century England, most servants to the very great were from the same upper-class social background as their masters, and this was certainly the case with Bacon’s, as is clear from a list of them in 1618 (National Archives: PRO SP 14/95/64), in which the names of most were prefixed with “Mr.”, signifying not adulthood, but that they were gentlemen. Service offered the most likely opportunity for advancement for most men.  Bacon’s boys were not therefore his inferiors in social class as well as age.

[5] “Ganimed”, derived from Ganymedes, the boy loved by Zeus, the Greek king of the gods, was, with its derivative “catamite” one of the two most common expressions in English for the boy in a Greek love affair. “Favourite” was less explicit, but hinted at the same.

[6] The insinuation is that Bushell’s ostentatious dress had been earned through sexual services to his master.

[7] The eighth son was born on 20 April 1617 (G. E. Cokayne, Complete Baronetage, vol. II (Exeter, 1902) p. 136), which leaves little room for greater flexibility as to date.

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