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Lee's 'Lucius Junius Brutus' V.ii and Bacon's 'Of Seditions and Troubles.' (Nathaniel Lee, Sir Francis Bacon)

AT the beginning of V.ii, the final scene of Nathaniel Lee's Lucius Junius Brutus, father of his country, Brutus enters to perform an act of exemplary justice by ordering the execution of his sons Tiberius and Titus as traitors to the newly founded republic. His long speech justifying his act is also a vision of what might happen in an England freed of Stuart tyranny. In the course of it he presents an economic programme of a distinctly Whiggish kind:

Thus shall we stop the mouth of loud Sedition,

Thus show the difference betwixt the Sway

Of partial Tyrants, and of a Free-born People,

Where no man shall offend because he's great,

Where none need doubt his Wives or Daughter's honor,

Where all injoy their own without suspicion,

Where there's no innovation of Religion,

No change of Laws, nor breach of Priviledge,

No desperate Factions gaping for Rebellion,

No hopes of Pardon for Assassinates,

No rash advancements of the Base or stranger,

For Luxury, for Wit, or glorious Vice;

But on the contrary, a Balanc'd Trade,

Patriots incourag'd, Manufactors cherish'd,

Vagabonds, Walkers, Drones, and Swarming Braves,

The Froth of States, scum'd from the Common-wealth:

Idleness banish'd all excess repress'd,

And Riots check'd by Sumptuary Laws.

O, Conscript Fathers, 'tis on these Foundations

That Rome shall build her Empire to the Stars. . . .(1) Lee's editors identify IV.i.17 1ff. of the play as derived from Bacon's essay |Of Death'; however, it has not so far been noted that the lines just quoted draw on the following passage from |Of Seditions and Troubles':

The Causes and Motives of Seditions are;

Innovation in Religion; Taxes; Alteration of

Lawes and Customes; Breaking of Priviledges;

General Oppression; Advancement of

unworthy persons; Strangers; Dearths; Disbanded

Soldiers; Factions growne desperate;

And whatsoever in offending People, joyneth

and knitteth them in a Common Cause.

For the Remedies; There may be some

generall Preservatives, whereof wee will

speake; As for the just Cure, it must answer to

the Particular Disease: And so be left to

Counsell rather then Rule.

The first Remedy or prevention, is to

remove by all meanes possible, that materiall

Cause of Sedition, whereof we spake; which

is Want and Poverty in the Estate. To which

purpose, serveth the Opening and well Ballancing

of Trade; The Cherishing of Manufactures;

the Banishing of Idlenesse; the

Repressing of waste and Excesse by Sumptuary

Lawes; the Improvement and Husbanding

of the Soyle; the Regulating of Prices of

things vendible; the Moderating of Taxes and

Tributes; And the like.(2) Those contemporaries who recognized the source of the words must have experienced a sense of shock at the apologist of Jacobean absolutism and the hounder of the Protestant hero Raleigh being enrolled as a supporter of republicanism. But the younger Bacon had been very different in this respect from the place hunter of subsequent years. He had certainly no objection to democracies as such, noting in |Of Nobility' that they |are commonly, more quiet, and lesse subject to Sedition, than where there are Stirps of Nobles'.(3) More significantly he shared Lee's admiration for the analysis of Roman republicanism presented in the Discorsi of Machiavelli.(4) (1) V.ii.42-61; from The Works of Nathaniel Lee, ed. Thomas B. Stroup and Arthur L. Cooke (New Brunswick, 1955). For two current but conflicting views of the play's political aims, see J. Peter Verdurmen, |Lucius Junius Brutus and Restoration tragedy: the politics of trauma', European Studies, xix (1989), 81-98, and Sue Owen, |"Partial tyrants" and "freeborn people" in Lucius Junius Brutus', SEL, xxxi (1991), 463-82. The considerable earlier literature on this topic is listed in Verdurmen, nn. 1 and 2 (pp. 95-6) and Owen n. 1 (pp. 478-9). (2) Sir Francis Bacon, The Essays or Counsels, Civill and Morall, ed. Michael Kiernan (Oxford, 1985), 46-7. (3) Essays, 41. Switzerland and the United Provinces are praised in this respect. (4) Lee, Works, 321; Bacon, |Of Sedition', lines 44-7 (pp. 44, 202).
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Author:Love, Harold
Publication:Notes and Queries
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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