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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 148

              [newspaper clipping]
		She
pressed a great desire to go to England and I told her
she could go and pay all her expenses by her historical
lessons.  Belonging to a religious sect in which her
family held distinguished place, she would be well re-
ceived by the same denomination in England, and have
the best of assistance in obtaining classes.  After
talking this up for some time, I perceived that I
was talking in vain.  She had no notion of going to
England to teach history; all she wanted to go for was
to obtain proof of the truth of her theory.  that Shakes-
peare did not write the plays attributed to him, but
that Lord Bacon did.  This was sufficient to prevent
me ever again encouraging her going to England, or
talking with her about Shakespeare.  The lady whom she
was visiting put her copy of his works out of sight, and
never allowed her to converse with her on this, her fa-
vorite subject.  We considered it dangerous for Miss
Bacon to dwell on this fancy, and thought that, if in-
dulged, it might become a monomania, which it subse-
quently did.
   She went from Cambridge to Northampton, and spent
the Summer on Round Hill, as a boarder at hydropathic
establishment.  Separated from all who knew her, she
gave herself up to her favorite theme.  She believed
that the plays called Shakespeare�s contained a double
meaning, and that a whole system of philosophy was
hidden in them, which the world at that time was not
prepared to receive, and therefore Lord Bacon had left
to posterity thus disguised.  At Round Hill she spent
whole days and weeks in her chamber, took no exer-
cise, and ate scarcely any food, till she became seriously
ill.  After much suffering she recovered and went to
New-York.  To pay her expenses she was obliged to
give a course of lessons on history; but her heart was
not in them, � she was meditating a flight to England,
Her old friends and her relations would not of course
furnish her with the means of doing what they highly
disapproved; but some new acquaintances in New-
York believed in her theory, and were but too happy to
aid her in making known her grand discovery.
A handsome wardrobe and ample means were
freely bestowed upon her, and kind friends
attend her to the vessel which was to
carry her to England on her Quixotic expedition.
Her mind was so devoted to the genius of Lord Bacon
that her first pilgrimage was to St. Albans, where he
had lived when in retirement, and where she supposed
that he had written all those plays attributed to Shakes-
peare.  She lived there a year, and then came to Lon-
don.  All alone and unknown, to seek a home there.  She
thus describes her search after lodgings: �On a dark
December day, about one o�clock, I came into this me-
tropolis, intending, with the aid of Providence to select
between that and nightfall, a residence in it.  I had
copied from The Times several advertisements of lodg-
ing-houses, but none of them suited me.  The cab-
driver, perceiving what I was in search of, began to
make suggestions of his own, and finding that he was a
man equal to the emergency, and knowing that his
acquaintance with the subject was larger than mine, I
put the business into his hands.  I told him to stop at
the first good house which he thought would suit me,
and he brought me to the door, where I have been ever
since.  Any one who thinks this is not equal to Elijah
and his raven, and Daniel in the lion�s den, does not
know what it is for a lady, and a stranger, to live for a
year in London, without any money to speak of, main-
taining all the time the position of a lady, and a dis-
tinguished lady too: and above all, such a one cannot
be acquainted with the nature of cab-drivers and lodg-
ing-house keepers in general. The one with whom I
lodge has behaved to me like an absolute gentleman.
No one could have shown more courtesy and delicacy.
For six months at a time he has never sent me a bill;
before this I had always paid him weekly, and I believe
that is the customary.  When after waiting six months I
sent him ten pounds, and he knew that it was all I had,
he wrote a note to me, which I preserve as a curiosity,
to say that he would entirely prefer that I should keep
it.  I have lived upon this man�s confidence in me for a
year, and this comparatively pleasant and comfortable
home is one that I owe to the judgment and taste of a
cab-driver. . . . Your ten pounds was brought me
two or three hours after your letter came, and I sent it
immediately to Mr. Walker, and now I am entirely re-
lieved of that most painful feeling of the impropriety of
depending upon him in this way, which it has required
all my faith and philosophy to endure because he can
now very well wait for the rest, and perceive that the
postponement is not an indefinite one.  Your letter has
warmed my heart, an that was what had suffered
most.  I would have frozen into a Niobe before I would
have asked any help for myself, and would sell ginger-
bread and apples at the corner of a street for the rest
of my days before I could stoop, for myself, to such
humiliations as I have borne in behalf of my work,
which was the world�s work, and I knew that I had a
right to demand aid for it.�
   In her first interview with Carlyle she told him of
her great discovery in regard to Shakespeare�s plays.
so called, and he appeared to be interested in her, if not
in her hypothesis; but he treated that with respect, and
advised her to put her thoughts on paper.  She accord-
ingly accepted an arrangement, kindly made for her
by Mr. R.W. Emerson with the editors of a Boston
magazine, worked very hard, and soon sent off eighty
pages.  A part of this was published, and she received
eighteen pounds for it.  Had this contract been carried
out, the money made by it would have supported her
comfortably in London, but there arose some misunder-
standing between her and the editors, owing, perhaps,
to her want of method and ignorance of business.  She
considered herself very ill-used, and would have nothing
more to do with them.  Her theory should be set forth
in a book.
   She now found an excellent and powerful friend in
Mr. Hawthorne.  He kindly undertook to make an
agreement with a publisher, and promised her that her
book should be printed if she would write it.  Deprived
of her expected emolument from writing articles for a
periodical, she was much distressed for want of funds,
and suffered many privations during the time that she
was writing her book.  She lived on the poorest food,
and was often without the means of having a fire in her
chamber.  She told me that she wrote a great part of
her large octavo volume sitting up in bed, in order to
keep warm.
   It was when her work was about half done that she
wrote to me the letter from which I have made the
foregoing extract.  Her life of privation and seclusion
was very injurious to both body and mind.  Hew great
that seclusion was, in seen in the following passage
from another of her letters to me.
   �I am glad to know that you are still alive and on
this side of that wide sea which parts me from so much like
a departed spirit, looking back on the joys and sorrows
of a world in which I no longer have any place.  I
have been more than a year in this house, and have had
but three visitors in all that time, and paid but one visit
myself, and that was to Carlyle, after he had taken the
trouble to come all the way from Chelsea to invite me,
and though he has since written to invite me, I have
not been able to accept his kindness.  I have had calls
from Mr. Grote and Mr. Monckton Milnes; and Mr.
Buchanan came to see me, though I had not delivered
my letter to him.�
   All the fine spirits who knew Miss Bacon found in
her what pleased and interested them, and had not that
one engrossing idea possessed her, she might have had
a brilliant career among the literary society of London.
   One dark Winter evening, after writing all day in
her bed, she rose, threw on some clothes, and walked 
out to take the air.  Her lodgings were at the West
End of London, near to the Sussex Gardens, and not far
from where my mother lived.  She needed my address,
and suddenly resolved to go to the house of Mrs. R��
for it.  She sent in her request and while standing in
the doorway she had a glimpse of the interior.  It
looked warm, cheerful, and inviting, and she had a
strong desire to see my mother; so she readily accepted
an invitation to walk in, and found the old lady with
her daughter and friend just sitting down to tea.  Hap-
pily my sister remembered that a Miss Bacon had been
favorably mentioned in my letters from Cambridge, so
she had no hesitation in asking her to take tea with
them.  The stranger�s dress was such an extraordinary
dishabille that nothing but her ladylike manners and
conversation could have convinced the family that she
was the person whom she was of her appearance that
evening; she had intended going only to the door, but
could not resist the inclination to enter and sit down at
that cheerful tea-table, which looked so like mine in
Cambridge.
   The next Summer I was living in London.  The death
of a dear friend had just occurred in my house; the
relatives were collected there, and all were feeling very
sad, when I was told by my servant that a lady wished
to see me.  I sent word that there was death in the
house and I could see no one that night.  The servant
returned, saying, �She will not go away, ma�am, and
she will not give her name.�
   On hearing this I went to the door, and there stood
Delia Bacon, pale and sad.  I took her in my arms and
pressed her to my bosom; she gasped for breath and
could not speak.  We went into a vacant room and sat
down together.  She was faint, but recovered on drink-
ing a glass of port wine, and then she told me that her
book was finished and in the hands of Mr. Hawthorne,
and now she was ready to go to Stratford-upon-Avon.
There she expected to verify her hypothesis, by opening
the tomb of Shakespeare, where she felt sure of finding
papers that would disclose the real authorship of the
plays.  I tried in vain to dissuade her from this insane
project; she was resolved, and only wished for my aid
in winding up her affairs in London and setting her off
for Stratford.  This aid I gave with many a sad mis-
giving as to the result.  She looked so ill when I took
leave of her in the railroad carriage that I blamed my-
self for not having accompanied her to Stratford, and
was only put at ease by a very cheerful letter from her,
received a few days after her departure.
   On arriving at Stratford she was so exhausted that
she could only creep up to bed at the inn, and when she
inquired about lodgings it was doubtful to herself, and
all who saw her, whether she would live to need any.
One person expressed this to her, but her brave heart
and strong will carried her out the next day in search
of a home, and here as in London she fell into good
hands.  She entered a very pretty cottage, the door of
which stood open, found no one in it, but sat down and
waited for some one to appear.  Presently the owner
entered, an elderly lady, living on her income, with
only one servant.  She had never taken any lodger, but
she would not send Miss Bacon away, because she was
a stranger and ill; and she remembered, she said, that
Abraham had entertained angels unawares.  So she
made her lie down on her sofa, and covered her up, and
went off to prepare some dinner for her.  Miss Bacon
says in her letter to me: �There I was, at the same
hour when I left you, the day before, looking out upon
the trees that skirt the Avon, and that church and
spire only a few yards before me, but so weak that I
did not expect ever to go there.  I know that I have
been very near death.  If anything can restore me it
will be the motherly treatment I have here.�
   She remained for several months in Stratford, but I
believe she never attempted to open the tomb of Shakes-
peare; and when she left that place she returned home
to die in the bosom of her family.  Thus ends the his-
tory of a highly-gifted and noble-minded woman.               
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