Bacon, Montagu (DNB00)

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BACON, MONTAGU (1688–1749), scholar and critic, was the second of the three sons of Nicholas Bacon, Esq., son and heir of Sir Nicholas Bacon, of Shrubland Hall, Coddenham, Suffolk, who was one of the sixty-eight knights of the Bath created, 19 April 1661, by Charles II, 'to attend his majesty's coronation' four days late (Salmon, Chronological Historian, 1747). Paternally he was descended from the lord keeper Bacon; and maternally from 'the Earl of Sandwich, who, next to Monk, had, I believe, the chief hand in the Restoration; for King Charles, on his first landing, gave him an earldom, a garter, and 4,000l. a year in land, besides places to the value of 10,000l a year more' (Bacon, Letter to the Rev. Philip Williams, 1734). Bacon's mother was the Lady Catherine Montagu, youngest daughter of Edward, first earl of Sandwich, who survived two husbands, and died 19 Jan. 1757 (Gent. Mag.), at the advanced age of 96, being at that time the widow of the Rev. Balthazar Gardeman, vicar of Coddenham. Her son Montagu was born in December 1688 at Coddenham, and baptised on the 13th of that month (Nichols, Illustrations, iv. 243). He was admitted a fellow-commoner of Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1704-5, but seems to have taken no degree until the year 1734, when he proceeded M.A. per literas regias, in which he is styled 'Edvardi primi comitis de Sandwich ex filiâ nepos.' It seems that, on the day before his admission to this degree, he wrote to Mr. Williams, as public orator of the university, the letter already cited, in which, on the ground that the restoration of the royal family was also the restoring of the church, he begs Mr. Williams officially to 'insist chiefly on the services of his family to the church as their greatest honour,' and, if one more word must be said of himself personally, entreats that it might be 'barely this — that he had always been a lover of learning and learned men.' Previous to his graduation. Bacon had resided in Leicestershire, where, as Mr. Nichols surmises, he may have been curate of Newbold Verdun (Illustrations, iv. 243), ' the ancient inheritance and seat of the Crewes and Montagues' (Bibliotheea Topographica Britannica, viii. 886); to his residence there Bacon refers in the first of three letters to George Jeffreys, Esq., dated from 'Cambridge, 6 Oct. 1732, at Quarles's coffee-house,' in which the writer complains of the university as 'a very dull place,' and professes himself 'mortally sick of all college news.' In the last of these letters, 10 Dec. 1732, Bacon vindicates the genius and character of Malebranche against his detractors, and chiefly those who would charge that philosopher wdth atheism (Duncombe, Letters, &c., ii. 17-33). In 1743 Bacon was presented by the university of Cambridge, in whose gift it then was, in consequence of the disability of the proper patron, the Duke of Norfolk,' to the rectory of Newbold Verdun. 'But he did not long enjoy the rectory, being soon after afflicted with contemporary derangement of intellect, which occasioned his removal to lodgings in Chelsea for the convenience of proper medical assistance; and he relinquished his clerical garb, though he was permitted to retain the rectory till his death, which happened at Chelsea, 7 April 1749' (Nichols, Illustrations, iv. 243). He was buried at Coddenham on the 19th of the same month. A 'note' by the Rev. Thomas Martyn, botany professor at Cambridge, records the circumstance that Montagu Bacon's last lodgings were in Manor Street, Chelsea, 'before which he had been in Duffield's madhouse at Little Chelsea, where he was attended by his [Martyn's] father. . . . Mr. Bacon always appeared as a layman. ... I never apprehended that he was in orders' (Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, viii. 417). The wide range of Mr. Bacon's studies in poetical literature may be estimated from his statement to Dr. Zachary Grey, that 'not many English or foreign poets had escaped him' (Letter dated 3 April 1746, in Nichols's Illustrations, iv. 244). His literary work was small in quantity, and may be found in a volume published after his death, entitled 'Critical, Historical, and Explanatory Notes upon Hudibras, by way of Supplement to the two Editions published in the years 1744 and 1745, by Zachary Grey, LL.D. To which is prefixed a Dissertation upon Burlesque Poetry by the late learned and ingenious Montagu Bacon, Esq. And an Appendix, in which is a Translation of Part of the first Canto into Latin Doggrel,' 8vo, London, 1752.

[Davy's MS. additions to Graduati Cantabrigienses; Bacon's Letter to the Public Orator, 1734, in Gent. Mag. Jan. 1781, and in Nichols's Illustrations, iv. 242; Duncombe's Letters of several Eminent Persons deceased, 1773; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, viii. 417; Collins's Peerage of England, 1812, iii. 467-8.]

A. H. G.