Delia Bacon
1811 – 1859

This is a story about an Ohio school teacher who was the first person to publish the theory that the works attributed to William Shakespeare were actually written by Sir Francis Bacon. Her theory stated that Francis Bacon wanted to establish a new philosophic system but felt that he could not assume that responsibility. He then credited this plays to an obscure writer and actor named William Shakespeare. Delia Bacon (no relation to Francis) spent five years in England studying the writings of Shakespeare and in 1857 had a 600 page book published called "The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded."
Miss Delia Bacon was born in
Tallmadge, Ohio, (founded by her father) and taught school in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. Until 1852, she lectured and conducted classes for women in history and literature using methods she had devised. Before traveling to England at the age of 41, she wrote two books: Tales of the Puritans (1831), and The Bride of Fort Edward (1839)
The most remarkable aspect of this story is the way prominent individuals on both sides of the Atlantic were attracted to Delia Bacon. Nathaniel Hawthorne was so moved by her desperate desire to get her magnum opus into print and by her financial plight, that he advanced her $1,100 for the American publication.
Other luminaries such as William Cullen Bryant and Washington Irving sponsored her lecture series. James Buchanan called on her in London while President and Mrs. Polk entertained her at the White House. She was often the guest of the wives of Harvard and Yale professors and relatives of the Cabots and the Lowells. Delia met the V.I.P.s of the day, including Samuel F.B. Morse, who spoke with her of his experiments with the telegraph.
Here was a frail young women with only one year of formal education who began her career as teacher, writer and lecturer at the age of 15. Delia’s instructor that one year was Catherine Beecher who stressed original thinking as well as self-expression. A fellow scholar was Catherine’s sister, Harriet, who later went on to write
Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Reviews in 1857 of Delia’s book were dishearting. Critics either ridiculed or ignored it. Her “discovery” stirred no clamor from the world. Weakened physically from her intense preoccupation, with no longer a goal to challenge her, she collapsed. Delia’s fine mind tipped and her doctor placed her in a private sanitarium.
A nephew traveling in England heard of his favorite aunt’s difficulties and paid for her passage to America – to a sanitarium in Hartford, Connecticut. There she died at the age of 48 and was buried in the Grove Street Cemetery, a far distance from her birthplace in the Ohio.

Editor’s Comments:
Controversial theories are slow to be accepted by the General Public and are always severely criticized. Delia Bacon’s theory that Francis Bacon wrote all the Shakespearian plays is still being debated. Two other theories that will not be resolved in my lifetime are Global Warming and Evolution. It is known that Charles Darwin lived in England when Delia studied there. Perhaps the two had an opportunity to meet each other.