It is the object of the writer to give to the readers of Baconiana a report of his investigations of the work of Dr. 0. W. Owen, of Detroit, U.S.A., who claims to have found the true method of deciphering various writings by Francis Bacon concealed in his acknowledged works, in the Folio of 1623, and the works of Spenser, Marlowe, Peele, and Green. As a subscriber to Baconiana, and one intensely interested in whatever may possibly lead to a more extended knowledge on the subject, the writer has felt that any publications which claimed so boldly the attention of all students of Shakespeare and Bacon ought to be carefully and impartially looked into, and the results as impartially stated in Baconiana. Therefore, the visits to Dr. Owen’s workshop in Detroit have been more frequent and more prolonged than they would have been for mere personal satisfaction. It is one thing to understand a matter like this, and quite another to present it as it should be, and tell others what they are to think. As to the latter I make no pretensions; but it seems best to present the case just as it is, as before an open court, and permit every one to
be his own judge and draw his own conclusion.
The first volume of “Sir Francis Bacon’s Cipher Story,” by Dr. 0. W. Owen, appeared in 1893, and has been followed by a number of other volumes. All these Dr. Owen claims to have deciphered by the same method, aided by two or three assistants who have been trained by him. The first book created a great deal of interest; comparatively few found the book acceptable. Belief, confidence, faith, were of course enormously overmatched by disbelief, incredulity, doubt, and suspicion. The great majority of readers said nothing, probably fearing to be committed. A large number rushed into print to iudignantly and scornfully reject the book; to name its author as a madman and a swindler, desirous of selling his wares in a sensational manner, and to warn people against what he had done or might ever do. Much of the correspondence was from avowed Baconians who wished to protect Bacon’s reputation from being sullied with publications in his name which they considered in every respect unworthy of him, unlike him, and in the highest degree improbable. If public attention could have been concentrated on the method rather than the results, in the writer’s opinion it would have been better for Dr. Owen the discoverer of the cipher.
The doctors say that inflammation means heat, and that there is no inflammation without a cause for it. It was the “heat” displayed that attracted the writer’s attention. Evidently so much inflammation could not be caused by a splinter. The indications were so numerous and so persistent as to create the conviction that there must be unusual strength either in the book or its author. An absolute humbug would have died easily, while in this case opposition and conference were openly invited. Therefore it seemed worth while to read the book, and open a correspondence with the author. This led to an invitation to visit his “workshop,” and to see the “wheel” and the exact methods employed. Accordingly, in February, 1893, the writer went to Detroit. Dr. Owen made no hesitation in answering questions and in explaining anything that seemed obscure. The writer stated the purpose of his visit—-namely, that, having read Yol. 1, he wished to ascertain how much was true or false; and if he found it necessary to proclaim the affair a sham, he should unhesitatingly do so; he wished especially to ask Dr. Owen whether it would not have been an evidence of better faith to have made public his cipher method at the start, and thus have forestalled criticism?
Dr. Owen accepted the conditions, stating that later on the writer should answer his own question, and at once introduced him to the room where stands the “wheel.” Here three assistants (two being typewritists) were engaged in deciphering in accordance with Dr. Owen’s method. The “wheel” and the cipher method (key-words and their concordents) have been explained in Baconiana of April, 1895. Dr. Owen was at that time doing no work beyond criticising results, for two of his assistants had long since become perfectly familiar with the method. To test the accuracy of the method, the key-word relating to the “Story of the Spanish Armada” (afterwards published by Dr. Owen) was given to the writer, who was shown how to proceed.
With pencil in hand he copied about one hundred lines from various parts of the wheel, following the key-words, and then put these disconnected sentences and parts of sentences together in such a way as to make an intelligible statement without adding a word. Having finished, he was about to read aloud the result, when Dr. Owen stopped him, and taking from a drawer a type-written manuscript (the existence of which the writer did not know), read it also aloud. The two copies corresponded almost exactly, and the differences proved to be slight errors in copying on the part of the writer. Other shorter tests were made, and the writer soon after left, reserving his opinion “ until he had time to think it over,” and had found opportunity to investigate independently as to whether some new law of rhetoric were not involved. The thing was, at all events, extremely puzzling; and, if a fraud, there were at least six persons living up to an ingenious and elaborate lie, and committed to this attitude for some time to come. That any considerable number of reputable people should be party to so gigantic a lie is almost beyond belief; assuming that Dr.
Owen could (as he, of course, stoutly maintains) prove the existence of his method to any impartial mind beyond a doubt.
Vol. 1 made it plain that one of two things was true: either Dr. Owen invented the matter contained in that book, and then proceeded to hunt for scattered sentences all through the Folio, Bacon’s acknowledged works, Spenser, Peele, Green, and Marlowe, laboriously fitting these sentences together so as to make continuous sense (which sense must also conform to the plot of the book he was inventing), or else he had a method which enabled him in some mechanical way to find these sentences and put them together. Either fact was of sufficient importance to bring down showers of applications for more light. Hitherto Dr. Owen had explained his methods to but a few trusted friends and to his co-workers, being satisfied beyond a doubt he would have run a great risk—-that of having some other decipherer, using the disclosed method, bring out rival books. So little being generally known, there always has been a “plentiful lack” of faith; of course, most people disbelieve in Dr. Owens.
Since his first visit the writer has devoted much time to cipher
methods, has investigated Dr. Owen’s method in a number of directions; and, notwithstanding the fact that Dr. Owen’s results are in some degrees astounding and unconformable with history, there still remains no escape from the above conclusion. Every candid reader, however great his indignation at statements controverting history or preconceived notions of his own, must admit that one of the two above statements is a statement of facts. There is no middle course.
With this in mind, and having explained the result of the first visit to a number of friends who impatiently reviled the whole affair, to others who refrained from doing so from motives of politeness, and to a few who followed Dr. Owen, the writer determined, about two years after his first visit, to make another trip to Dr. Owen’s workshop. During these two years Dr. Owen had been constantly under fire; the newspapers gave great prominence to the fact that they did not accept his discoveries. Some frequently expressed their opinion that, though his methods were not capable of being readily explained, they could not be disposed of with a word—yet that his published books seemed in many ways ridiculous. Some few people who were denied access immediately became violently antagonistic.
The first impulse, in almost every case in the writer’s experience, has been to disbelieve in Dr. Owen’s results so thoroughly as to give their words and manners every appearance of personality. Much in the same way, “rabid and bigoted” Shakcspearians answer a Baconian’s arguments by calling him a lunatic. It was to be expected that some people would, without enquiry, regard Dr. Owen’s whole career with adamant suspicion; but many thoughtful readers will be more fair-minded.
In spite of abuse, and of the fact that merely from a financial
aspect the difficulty of carrying on the work was stupendous, Dr. Owen kept on with it. This task of constantly defending himself while spending many hours at the “workshop,” was a tremendous strain, and his health gave out under it. Finally he was obliged to give up work, and to go to Colorado to recruit his health. He was absent from his workshop for several months, and after his return to Detroit did not revisit it or superintend the work oftener than once or twice during several months; but his assistants went on deciphering without consulting him.
This fact is so startling that it deserves further attention. It is, therefore, proper for the writer to say, that he was in a position to know when and how long Dr. Owen was in Colorado. On the writer’s third visit to Detroit (December, 1895), he was at once admitted to the workshop, and spent several hours there before Dr. Owen made his appearance. During that time he was permitted to see anything that he asked to see, all questions that he asked were answered freely, and explanations made. He satisfied himself from the testimony of the clerks, and the members of the publishing firm, as well as from the testimony of individuals in Detroit personally known to him (and familiar with Dr. Owen’s movements) that formally months Dr. Owen had nothing whatever to do with the deciphering, which was going on in his ollice, but that this work was actually done by two and sometimes three of his assistants, one of whom had been with him from the beginning, and two others who had been taught later. From all this it follows that Dr. Owen’s method is capable of being readily explained to others, and it does not require that they should be familiar, as Dr. Owen is, with Shakespeare’s plays or Bacon’s acknowledged works.
A part of the work upon which Dr. Owen’s assistants were engaged at the time of the writer’s last visit, was the deciphering of the translation of the Iliad from the “wheel.” The writer has always been, since his university days, familiar with Homer, both in the original and translation, and it required but a few moments to find out that Dr. Owen’s assistants were none of them in the least conversant with the Iliad. Upon examining a large pile containing about 2,000 sheets of large foolscap covered with extracts made from the various works above mentioned, the writer became satisfied, much to his surprise, that these notes contained many passages from the Iliad, some obscure and not to be recognized by any one unfamiliar with the Iliad from beginning to end, unless that person had some guide like a key-word to go by. The writer readily satisfied himself that Dr. Owen’s assistants were not capable from their own knowledge of picking out these different quotations or extracts from the Iliad, and in point of fact, it is improbable that there are many people in the world who could take up Bacon’s works, and the folio of 1G23, and run a pencil around extracts from the Iliad often, or wherever they appear. The knowledge necessary for such a task is obviously far above that of the average reader.
This demonstration is a difficult one to deal with from the standpoint of any one disinclined to accept the existence of such a cipher method, but a change of mind may perhaps come from the consideration of the facts here presented as they appeared to the writer, who endeavoured to conduct the investigation as impartially as possible.
In this particular portion of the investigation, there is no question of partiality or impartiality, but merely of facts.
There seems no escape from the conclusion that Dr. Owen has discovered a method of deciphering which, in the case of the translation of the Iliad, at all events, is producing something which can be compared with an accepted work, and which, therefore, will bring the question upon a higher plane. Thus far, the world has been asked to accept as a demonstration of his method, books or “decipherings” which conflict with history, with public prejudices, and which were for most people absolutely beyond possible acceptance. If, however, Dr. Owen is able later, as he expects to be, to make a translation of the Iliad in which as marginal notes he proposes to give the source of every quotation, naming the chapter and page, or the act and scene, he will then have placed in the hands of all readers a demonstration which each may investigate in his own way. It is expected that this work will appearsome time during the present year. An example of it (all that the writer could obtain permission to publish) is given in the following translation, and along side of it other translations of a similar portion of the poem * :—
- The references to tho lines in the various plays are not given by Mr. Millet. We have traced the following :—
“ No sooner lmd god Phoebus’ brightsome beams Begun to dive within the western seas,
And darksome Nox had spread about the earth Her blackish mantle, but a drowsy sleep
Did take possession of the Grecian youths, (Greene)
And all the night in silver sleep they spent. (Spenser) But all so soon as the all cheering sun
Should in the farthest East begin to draw
The shady curtains from Aurora’s bed, (Romeo and Juliet) The Greeks have wind at will, the waters rise, (Pcclc)
For has not the divine Apollo said : ( Winter’s Talc)
‘ Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast, (Henry IV.) The sails of scndal spread unto the wind, (Greene)
I promise you calm seas, auspicious gales,
And sail so expeditious, that shall catch Your royal fleet far off.* (Tempest)
But Peleus* valiant son, the great Archilles, (Peele) The ornament of great Jove’s progeny, (Spenser) Wrath kindled in the furnace of his breast, (Marlowe) That now no more of arms this warrior would, (Peele) Nor this so noble and so fair assembly
Of noble heroes frequent.” (Shakespeare)
—(Bacon’s translation according to Dr. Owen).
[If the reader will compare this with half a dozen accepted transla tions, he will find that they all differ very largely in the degree of freedom. The use of the word “frequent” will be found in but one other case, namely, Buckley’s translation—which we give.]
"That day was held divine...
And spent in peans to the Sun, who heard with pleased ear;
When whose bright chariot stoop’d to sea, and twilight held the clear,
All soundly on their cables slept, even till the night was worn,
And when the lady of the light, the rosy finger’d morn,
Rose from the hills, all frest arose, and to the camp retired,
Apollo with a fore-right wind their swelling bark inspired.
The topmast hoisted, milk-white sails on his round breast they put,
. . That day was held divine,
And spent in peans to the Sun, who heard with pleased ear;
Line 6. Fairy Queen, vi., Canto is., Stanza 22.
„ 7—9. Rom. Jul., i. 1, 139— 141.
Lino 14—16. The Tempest, v. 1, 314— 316.
„ 10. ,. 11. „ 12.
The Talc of Troy. p. 554. Winter’s Talc, v. 1, 37.
2 Hen. IV. iii. 1,18.
„ 28. „ 21. „ 22.
Part2. Tamburlaine, . 1.
Talc of Trot/.
Hen. VIILi. 4, 67. All’s Well,i. 1,39.
The mizens strooted with the gale, the ship her course did cut
So swiftly that the parted waves against her ribs did rore.
- * * * *
But Pelcurs’ son, swift-footed Achilles, at his swift ships sate,
Burning in wrath, nor ever came to councils of estate
That men make honor’d never trod the fierce embattail’d field.”
—(Chapman’s translation, 1598).
“But when the sun had set, and darkness came on, then they slept
near the hawsers of their ships. But when the mother of dawn, rosy- fingered morning, appeared, straightway then they set sail for the spacious camp of the Aehmans, and to them far-darting Apollo sent a favourable gale. But they erected the mast and expanded the white sails. . . . But the Jove-sprung son of Pilcus, swift-footed Achilles, continued his wrath, setting at his swift ships, nor ever did he frequent the assembly of noble heroes, nor the fight.”
-—(Literal translation by Theodore Alois Buckley).
In regard to Dr. Owen personally, the writer has entire confidence in his honesty and in his earnestness. Opportunity was taken during his first visit to Detroit in 1893 to meet, unknown to him, a number of his friends and acquaintances, and to ascertain what was his reputation with people not his friends. This was done for the reason that a number of persons in the East, writing for newspapers, had openly asserted that lie was a charlatan and an impostor, aud it therefore seemed proper that the writer should inform himself. It was found without exception that the highest character of honesty and probity was given to Dr. Owen by all who had had any dealings with him ; the only thing said against him was that he was a Baconian, and therefore a “crank.”
In closing, the writer would ask the reader to refer once more to the two facts which every investigator will ultimately have to face—- namely, either Dr. Owen is inventing these books, making up out of his own head the plans of them, or else he has found a cypher method. If the reader wishes to assume that all that the writer has ascertained is a mistake; that the writer is not, for any reason, capable of investigating and making an impartial and intelligent report, such a reader may be assured that the writer will not quarrel with his conclusion, but will in turn request such a reader to take up the only remaining conclusion—-namely, that Dr. Owen invented these various books. A few moments spent on that proposition with two or three of Dr. Owen’s decipherings on the table will satisfy the reader that any man who can construct these books by putting together disconnected sentences from the various works named, is indeed a marvel.
That he could also teach his assistants to do this would be still more
marvellous. That lie could teach them, for example, to quickly select in any one of about 800 references to “honor” in the concordance of the Folio of 1623, that particular one which will exactly fit into the sentence then being constructed, would be certainly very extraordinary. The further the reader investigates this proposition the more he will be amazed; for if it be true, Dr. Owen is to be credited with intellectual powers so remarkable as to amount to genius, and he should be accredited accordingly and judged by the same standard as other geniuses. One critic who had been particularly severe was invited to Detroit by Dr. Owen, with expenses paid, and he was challenged to expose the “fraud.” He declined the challenge, not wishing to travel so far with so little confidence; he should, however, (in fairness) have taken it.
When the writer is asked whether he accepts all Dr. Owen has written, he says unhesitatingly that he does not. He furthermore is of the opinion that it is not necessary that these decipherings should be accurate statements of fact, as it is possible that the decipherings should contain a double meaning, which, when found, would be the main statement of fact. This was the common way. The writer does, however, feel as sure as it is possible for anyone to feel in a matter of this land, that Dr. Owen has discovered a method which can be taught to his assistants, and which is so mechanical that they, although ignorant of the “Iliad,” are enabled to pencil extracts from it the moment they see them in the works above mentioned.
It will be remembered that the “Omnia per Omnia” cipher invented by Francis Bacon, was made up entirely of the use of two letters—- “a” and “b.” It was a very laborious task to write a long letter by this method, because five letters were used to indicate one letter of the alphabet. Dr. Owen’s cipher, depending entirely upon key-words, or concordents and key-words growing out of them, is such a method, as can be readily conceived, Francis Bacon would naturally have invented as a sequel to the “Omnia per Omnia.”
It grows out of it. The practicability of this method has been very thoroughly illustrated by the work of several amateurs in Detroit, who, in response to a prize offered by a Detroit newspaper, wrote a series of live stories in which was concealed a sixth, and this sixth story was to he found by the use of Dr. Owen’s cipher method. It was required of the successful competitor to write out the sixth story without any assistance, and a number were able to do so, thus demonstrating that without alterating the sense, without changing the construction, or without hampering himself in any way apparent to the reader, the author of these five stories was able to conceal in them a sixth, readily deciphered after the method was known, but entirely different in construction and meaning. In this particular case the sixth, or hidden story, was a poem of some length.
(signed) J.B. Millett
Tm-: key to Mr. Millet’s “ Concealed Statement ” in his article on Or. Orville Owen’s Cipher, Baconiana, April 181H5, pp. 02—101 :—
“ In the writer’s opinion it would have been better for Or. Owen, the discoverer of the cipher, to have made public his cipher method at the start, and thus have forestalled criticism. Assuming that Or. Owen could (as he, of course, stoutly maintains) prove the existence of his method to any impartial mind beyond a doubt, he would have run a great risk—that of having some other decipherer, by using the disclosed method, bring out rival books, lie should, however, have taken it. Most people disbelieve in Or. Owen’s method so thoroughly as to give their words and manners every appearance of personality, but many thoughtful readers will be more fair minded.”