GREAT VERULAM IS VERY LAME... ACCUSATIONS OF CORRUPTION AGAINST FRANCIS BACON AND HIS FALL FROM POWER IN POLITICAL POETRY
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The article aims to present how accusations of corruption against Lord Chancellor Francis Bacon and his fall from power were described in English political poetry, especially in licentious poems known as 'libels'. These satirical poems on individuals or events (e.g. political or social) that were very popular in the late 16th and especially in the early 17th century, have been attracting historians' attention as an important evidence of public opinion's reactions and a feature of early modern political culture. The verses typically circulated in manuscript or even orally, and were anonymous - only in very few cases their authors can be traced, and if we know their names it appears that they were usually connected either to the universities, legal corporations or Parliament. Various poetic forms were used by the poets, among others ballad, epitaph and epigram. It is quite interesting that some libels suggested that their authors and readers presented an impressive level of literary sophistication, while some other poems referred to rather simple and even vulgar concepts. As libels reacted almost immediately to significant events like rise of the royal favorites or court scandals, it is quite unsurprising that as soon as Francis Bacon was accused of bribery they commented this situation. The accusations brought in front of the House of Commons in March 1621 resulted in starting the impeachment procedure and losing by Bacon his office within less than two months. Using various literary forms (e.g. pseudo-epitaphs, popular ballads and epigrams) and different language concepts (including punning and metaphors) the poets, in vast majority of cases, condemned the Lord Chancellor for alleged accepting money and gifts and delivering partial verdicts. The other issue that was strongly stressed was the fact that Bacon was not able to control his servants and tolerated their improper behaviour. However, some libels suggested that Bacon was treated as a scapegoat by James I and his favourite duke of Buckingham in their conflict with the Parliament and remained about Bacon's achievements as philosopher and officer.
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