Originator of the Shakespeare-Bacon Theory: Delia Bacon Part 2

Delia Bacon and her life as she moves towards publishing her theories on Shakespeare and Bacon.

DELIA BACON (1811-1859). Originator of Shakespeare-Bacon theory.

Moving about New England, peddling her Shakespeare-Bacon convictions, she stumbled upon the much respected sage of Concord, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was at once charmed and impressed. By 1853, armed with Emerson's encouragement and his letters of introduction, Delia Bacon sailed for England.

In London, however, dizzied by the nearness of the 17th century, Delia gradually began to abandon scholarship for intuitive rhapsodies. This change in attitude filled her few backers with concern. Emerson had given her a warm letter to Thomas Carlyle, author of The French Revolution, and he had welcomed her as a friend, prepared to assist her in every way. When Carlyle suggested Delia consult original Shakespearean sources, she hedged. Annoyed, Carlyle dropped her.

Shortly thereafter, Putnam's Magazine dropped her too. After publishing one of her pieces, they rejected the rest, presumably because the articles were devoid of authentic research. Delia's disregard for facts, her growing monomania, finally alienated even the faithful Emerson.

Without funds or supporters, Delia dwelt on in an unheated room, in the home of a Stratford shoemaker, often not knowing where her next meal would come from, feverishly bent to her new task of putting her Shakespeare-Bacon theory to paper. She worked so hard, with so little nourishment, that finally, in the summer of 1855, she fell seriously ill. Her doctor, who happened also to be the Mayor of Stratford, wrote posthaste to the American consulate in Liverpool asking "advice or suggestions" about this ailing, destitute American lady. "She is in a very excited and unsatisfactory state, especially mentally," wrote the doctor, "and I think there is much reason to fear that she will become decidedly insane."

The American consul in Liverpool, at the time, was none other than Nathaniel Hawthorne who, at 52, already had The Scarlet Letter behind him. Promptly, Hawthorne thanked the Stratford physician for his "kind attention to my countrywoman" and authorized full care for the patient.

Briefly, Delia rallied. She had completed the writing of her book, The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded. She needed a publisher. Again, Hawthorne came to her rescue. He did not approve of her theory, but he felt it deserved a public hearing. He penned a foreword to her manuscript and, after she had alienated one English publisher, he found another, Groombridge and Sons, to bring it out.

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