Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Edward de Vere, Jonsonian Iconoclasm and the Kalon

The tomb of the 15th Earl of Oxford rests in St. Nicholas' Church in Castle Hedingham. Unlike some of the details on the outside of the Church which appear to have been smoothed and gently effaced by time, the tomb appears to bear the marks of some kind of attack.

I think of the 'authorship problem' as the result of a form of iconoclasm. Oxford was an exemplar of the excellence of the traditional 'nobility', and as such, he became a target for proponents of 'reformed' nobility. Oxford's forms of sociability and 'play', no matter how erudite or sophisticated, were often lightened by witty improvisations and broad, relaxed forms of humour, and thus were subject to charges of scurrility and obscenity. Reformers considered them to be ignoble and common. Aristocratic associations, the leisure of educated and polished men, were recast as ignorant men upholstered in silk and velvet - empty 'pictures', hollow molds, beautiful signs that signified falsely.

The ammunition for this attack on the hereditary nobility and its social forms was taken in part from classical literature. Humanist scholars championed a reformed vision of nobility, with the love of virtue (kalon) being held up as the only true mark of nobility. The most stark example of the attack on the public image of Oxford is not Gabriel Harvey's _Speculum Tuscanismi _  (although that is an excellent example itself) - the most severe attack is Fulke Greville's depiction of Oxford as the self-loving, emotionally incontinent, blustering image of false nobility. Each line Greville wrote was a hammer-blow. Greville smashes the image of the Earl of Oxford, immortalizing his lack of worth and his unfitness to hold his place. It is a remarkable act of iconoclasm. And in the place of Oxford, Greville substitutes his image of true worth, Sir Philip Sidney, a man of aristocratic descent but born a commoner. It is truly remarkable what Greville does in this passage. Actually quite outrageous. Oxford is portrayed as out of control, impassioned - an example of the arrogance and insolence of unreformed nobility.  Sidney, a commoner, is depicted as a man of such learning, judgement, and personal virtue that he prefers the good (kalon) to nobility itself.
Oxford remains unnamed, not to preserve his dignity but because men of questionable virtue are not worthy to be named and  immortalized. They are to be forgotten.

Attacked and defaced by men such as Greville, Harvey, Chapman and Jonson - I believe Oxford abandoned his fame and his Book, preferring obscurity to the disfigured and blemished fame that these men raised for him.

I do not think Oxford was a 'bad' man - I believe he was liberal and progressive force. But he was vulnerable to the attacks of moral reformers who substituted their increasingly strict definitions of virtue for his more generous and tolerant ones.

The Vexed Question of Hamlet

Hamlet is a reformer. He is the embodiment of the iconoclastic energies, the new nobility and the bookish idealism that destroyed the Earl of Oxford. The destruction of the nobility of Denmark, Hamlet's careless disposal of Danish sovereignty are all evidence of his unfitness to rule. Books and theories and declarations of virtue are no substitute for experience.

I think of Oxford as one of the bodies left on the stage at the end of Hamlet. Who sympathizes with them? Who tells their story? How did they pay for loving/knowing Hamlet? Hamlet overwrites all, he blots out other perspectives. I'm not surprised that Hamlet is admired by Protestant scholars and critics - but what would a sixteenth-century royal court have made of him? How can you trust the safety and security of the world to men who despise the 'corruption' of the world and despise even themselves? Hamlet is possessed by a strange and deadly form of discontent.

The English Civil War was on the horizon. Essex' rebellion. The reformer Milton smashed the image of the King in Eikonoklastes. The Droeshout was the figurative defacement of Oxford, the First Folio a scaffold. King Charles was attacked and literally defaced - the image of the good king replaced by the bad.



'Tis better to be vile than vile esteem'd,
When not to be receives reproach of being,
And the just pleasure lost which is so deem'd
Not by our feeling but by others' seeing:
For why should others false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?
No, I am that I am, and they that level
At my abuses reckon up their own:
I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown;
Unless this general evil they maintain,
All men are bad, and in their badness reign.


Jonson, Volpone, Dedication to the 'two famous Universities':

Ever (most Equal Sisters) had any Man a Wit so presently Excellent, as that it could raise it self; but there must come both Matter, Occasion, Commenders, and Favourers to it. If this be true, and that the Fortune of all Writers doth daily prove it, it behoves the Careful to provide well toward these Accidents; and, having acquir'd them, to preserve that part of Reputation most tenderly, wherein the Benefit of a Friend is also defended. Hence is it, that I now render my self grateful, and am studious to justifie the Bounty of your Act; to which, though your meer Authority were satisfying, yet it being an Age wherein Poetry and the Professors of it hear so ill on all Sides, there will a Reason be look't for in the Subject. It is certain, nor can it with any Forehead be oppos'd, that the too much Licence of Poetasters in this Time, hath much deform'd their Mistris; that, every day, their manifold and manifest Ignorance doth stick unnatural Reproaches upon her: But for their Petulancy, it were an Act of the greatest Injustice, either to let the Learned suffer, or so Divine a Skill (which indeed should not be attempted with unclean Hands) to fall under the least Contempt. For, if Men will impartially, and not asquint, look toward the Offices and Function of a Poet, they will easily conclude to themselves the Impossibility of any Man's being the good Poet, without first being a good Man. He that is said to be able to inform young Men to all good Disciplines, inflame grown Men to all great Vertues, keep old Men in their best and supream State, or as they decline to Childhood, recover them to their first Strength; that comes forth the Interpreter and Arbiter of Nature, a Teacher of Things Divine no less than Humane, a Master in Manners; and can alone (or with a few) effect the Business of Mankind: This, I take him, is no Subject for Pride and Ignorance to exercise their failing Rhetorick upon. But it will here be hastily answer'd, That the Writers of these Days are other Things; that not only their Manners, but their Natures are inverted, and nothing remaining with them of the Dignity of Poet, but the abused Name, which every Scribe usurps; that now, especially in Drammatick, or (as they term it) Stage-Poetry, nothing but Ribaldry, Prophanation, Blasphemy, all Licence of Offence to God and Man is practis'd. I dare not deny a great part of this, (and I am sorry I dare not) because in some Mens abortive Features (and would they had never boasted the Light) it is over-true: But that all are imbark'd in this bold Adventure for Hell, is a most uncharitable Thought, and, utter'd, a more malicious Slander. For my particular, I can (and from a most clear Conscience) affirm, That I have ever trembled to think toward the least Profaneness; have loathed the use of such foul and unwash'd Bawd'ry, as is now made the Food of the Scene: And, howsoever I cannot
escape from some the Imputation of Sharpness, but that they will say, I have taken a pride, or lust, to be bitter, and not my youngest Instant but hath come into the World with all his Teeth; I would ask of these supercilious Politicks, What Nation, Society, or general Order or State I have provoked? What Publick Person? Whether I have not (in all these) preserv'd their Dignity, as mine own Person, safe? My Works are read, allow'd, (I speak of those are intirely mine) look into them: What broad Repoofs have I us'd? Where have I been particular? Where Personal? Except to a Mimick, Cheater, Bawd, or Buffon, Creatures (for their Insolencies) worthy to be tax'd? Yet to which of these so pointingly, as he might not either ingenuously have confest, or wisely dissembled his Disease? But it is not Rumour can make Men guilty, much less entitle me to other Mens Crimes. I know, that nothing can be so innocently writ or carried, but may be made obnoxious to Construction; marry, whilst I bear mine Innocence about me, I fear it not. Application is now grown a Trade with many; and there are that profess to have a Key for the decyphering of every thing: But let Wise and Noble Persons take heed how they be too credulous, or give leave to these invading Interpreters to be over-familiar with their Fames, who cunningly, and often, utter their own virulent Malice, under other Mens simplest Meanings. As for those that will (by Faults which Charity hath rak'd up, or common Honesty conceal'd) make themselves a Name with the Multitude, or (to draw their rude and beastly Claps) care not whose living Faces they intrench with their petulant Styles, may they do it without a Rival, for me: I chuse rather to live grav'd in Obscurity, than share with them in so preposterous a Fame.

The Kalon

What does an ordered life look like? It looks beautiful. Note the order and harmony in a beautiful work of art. A person who has brought order to his life is one who is noble of character. Now the purpose of moral reflection is to determine the kalon, that is, the morally right, or the noble. "Morally right" does not seem to fully translate the kalon as Aristotle understood it. The kalon is the morally good, or the morally beautiful, that is, the noble. Some actions are noble, others are ignoble. The morally good person will choose what is most noble, that is, he will choose in accordance with reason (with what is highest in us).



O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide
Than public means which public manners breeds.
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
And almost thence my nature is subdued
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand:
Pity me then and wish I were renew'd;
Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink
Potions of eisel 'gainst my strong infection
No bitterness that I will bitter think,
Nor double penance, to correct correction.
Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure ye
Even that your pity is enough to cure me.


But man is not an angel, that is, a pure spirit. Man is a rational animal (a psychosomatic unity). He has a host of powers in common with brutes. This is where difficulties of the moral life come into play. Man has to contend with two sensitive appetites, namely the concupiscible and irascible appetites. The concupiscible power has as its object a sensible good simply apprehended as such, i.e., a steak or a cold drink. Often, however, we experience difficulty in achieving a good (the steak is very expensive). The good then becomes a difficult good, and it is this difficult or arduous good that is the object of the irascible appetite. The concupiscible appetite gives rise to the emotions of love, desire, complacency, hate, aversion, and sadness; while the irascible appetite gives rise to the emotions of hope, despair, daring, fear, and anger.


Bartholomew Fair: Jonson


I N D u C T I O N


S T A G E.

It is further covenanted, concluded and agreed, That how great soever the expectation be, no Person here is to expect more than he knows, or better Ware than a Fair will afford: neither to look back to the Sword and Buckler-age of Smithfield, but content himself with the present. Instead of a little Davy, to take Toll o' the Bawds, the Author doth promise a strutting Horse-courser, with a leer-Drunkard, two or three to attend him, in as good Equipage as you would wish. And then for Kind- heart, the Tooth-drawer, a fine Oily Pig-woman with her Tapster, to bid you welcome, and a Consort of Roarers for Musick. A wise Justice of Peace meditant, instead of a Jugler, with an Ape. A civil Cutpurse searchant. A sweet Singer of new Ballads allurant: and as fresh an Hypocrite, as ever was broach'd, rampant. If there be ne- ver a Servant-monster i' the Fair, who can help it, he says, nor a Nest of Antiques? He is loth to make Nature afraid in his Plays, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like Drolleries, to mix his head with other Mens Heels; let the CONCUPISCENCE of JIGS AND DANCES, reign as strong as it will amongst you: yet if the Pup-pets will please any body, they shall be entreated to come in.

Jonson, _The Alchemist_


If thou beest more, thou art an understander, and then I trust thee. If thou art one that takest up, and but a pretender, beware of what hands thou receivest thy commodity; for thou wert never more fair in the way to be cozened, than in THIS AGE, in poetry, especially in plays: wherein, now the CONCUPISCENCE of DANCES and of ANTICS so reigneth, as to run away from nature, and be afraid of her, is the only point of art that tickles the spectators. But how out of purpose, and place, do I name art? When the professors are grown so obstinate contemners of it, and presumers on their own naturals, as they are deriders of all diligence that way, and, by simple mocking at the terms, when they understand not the things, think to get off WITTILY with their IGNORANCE. Nay, they are esteemed the more learned, and sufficient for this, by the many, through their excellent vice of judgment. For they commend writers, as they do fencers or wrestlers; who if they come in robustuously, and put for it with a great deal of violence, are received for the braver fellows: when many times their own rudeness is the cause of their disgrace, and a little touch of their adversary gives all that boisterous force the foil. I deny not, but that these men, who always seek to do more than enough, may some time happen on some thing that is good, and great; but very seldom; and when it comes it doth not recompense the rest of their ill. It sticks out, perhaps, and is more eminent, because all is sordid and VILE about it: as lights are more discerned in a thick darkness, than a faint shadow. I speak not this, out of a hope to do good to any man against his will; for I know, if it were put to the question of theirs and mine, *the worse would find more suffrages: because the most favour common errors*. But I give thee this warning, that there is a great difference between those, that, to gain the opinion of copy, utter all they can, however unfitly; and those that use election and a mean. For it is only the disease of the unskilful, to think rude things greater than polished; or scattered more numerous than composed.




IN so thicke, and darke an IGNORANCE, as now almost couers the AGE, I craue leaue to stand neare your light: and, by that, to be read. Posterity may pay your benefit the honor, and thanks; when it shall know, that you dare, in these JIG-GIVEN times, to countenance a legitimate Poƫme. I must call it so, against all noise of opinion: from whose crude, and airy reports, I appeale, to that great and singular faculty of Iudgment in your Lordship, able to vindicate truth from error. It is the first (of this RACE) that euer I dedicated to any Person, and had I not thought it the best, it should haue beene taught a lesse ambition. Now, it approacheth your censure chearefully, and with the same assurance, that Innocency would appeare before a Magistrate.

Your Lo. most faithfull Honorer. Ben. Ionson.


To his worthy beloued friend Mr. BEN. IONSON.

HAD the great thoughts of Catiline bene GOOD,
The memory of his name, streame of his bloud,
His plots past into acts, (which would haue turn'd
His Infamy to Fame, though Rome had burn'd)
Had not begot him equall grace with men,
As this, that he is writ by such a Pen:
VVhose inspirations, if great Rome had had,
Her good things had bene better'd, and her bad
Vndone; the first for ioy, the last for feare,
That such a Muse should spread them, to our Yeare.
But woe to vs then: for thy laureat brow
If Rome enioy'd had, we had wanted now.
But, in this AGE, where JIGS and DANCES moue,
How few there are, that this pure worke approue!
Yet, better then I rayle at, thou canst scorne
Censures, that die, ere they be throughly borne.
Each Subiect thou, still thee each Subiect rayses.
And whosoeuer thy Booke, himselfe disprayses:

Nat. Field.

Ignorant Age:

FALKLAND, _Jonsonus Virbius_

...How in an IGNORANT, and learn'd AGE he [Jonson] swaid,
(Of which the first he found, the second made)
How He, when he could know it, reapt his Fame,
And long out-liv'd the envy of his Name:


Soul of an Ignorant Age


Jonson, Discoveries

De Poetica. - We have spoken sufficiently of oratory, let us now make a diversion to poetry. Poetry, in the primogeniture, had many PECCANT HUMOURS, and IS MADE TO HAVE MORE NOW, through the levity and inconstancy of men' s judgments. Whereas, indeed, it is the most prevailing eloquence, and of the most exalted caract. Now the discredits and disgraces are many it hath received through men' s study of depravation or calumny; their practice being to give it diminution of credit, by lessening the professor' s estimation, and making THE AGE afraid of their liberty; and THE AGE is grown so tender of her fame, as she calls all writings aspersions.

That is the state word, the PHRASE OF COURT (placentia college), which some call PARASITES PLACE, the INN OF IGNORANCE.


Peccant \Pec"cant\, a. [L. peccans, -antis, p. pr. of peccare to

sin: cf. F. peccant.]

1. Sinning; guilty of transgression; criminal; as, peccant
angels. --Milton.

2. Morbid; corrupt; as, peccant humors. --Bacon.

3. Wrong; defective; faulty. [R.] --Ayliffe.



I remember, the Players have often mentioned it as an honour to
Shakespeare, that in his writing, (whatsoever he penn'd) hee never
BLOTTED out line. My answer hath beene, would he had BLOTTED a
thousand. Which they thought malevolent speech. I had not told
posterity this, but for their IGNORANCE, who choose that circumstance
to commend their friend by, wherein he most FAULTED...


Horace, of the Art of Poetrie

transl. Ben Jonson

If to Quintilius, you recited ought:
Hee'd say, Mend this, good friend, and this; "Tis naught.
If you denied, you had no better straine,
And twice, or thrice had 'ssayd it, still in vaine:
Hee'd bid, BLOT ALL: and to the anvile bring
Those ill-torn'd Verses, to new hammering.

Then: If your fault you rather had defend
Then change. No word, or worke, more would he spend
Alone, without a rivall, by his will.
A wise, and honest man will cry out shame
On artlesse Verse; the hard ones he will blame;
Blot out the careless, with his turned pen;
Cut off superfluous ornaments; and when
They're darke, bid cleare this: all that's doubtfull wrote
Reprove; and, what is to be changed, not:
Become an Aristarchus. And, not say,
Why should I grieve my friend, this TRIFLING WAY?
These trifles into serious mischiefs lead
The man once mock'd, and suffered WRONG TO TREAD.


The RACE of Shakespeare's Mind and Manners:


TO THE Most Learned, and my Honour'd Friend,

Mr. C A M B D E N,

C L A R E N T I A U X.


T Here are, no doubt, a Supercilious RACE in the World, who will esteem all Office, done you in this kind, an Injury; so Solemn a Vice it is with them to use the Authority of their IGNORANCE, to the crying down of Poetry, or the Professors: But my Gratitude must not leave to correct their Error; since I am none of those that can suffer the Benefits confer'd upon my Youth to perish with my Age. It is a frail Memory that remembers but present things: And, had the Favour of the times so conspir'd with my Disposition, as it could have brought forth other, or better, you had had the same proportion, and number of the Fruits, the first. Now, I pray you to accept this; such, wherein neither the Consession of my MANNERS shall make you blush; nor of my Studies, repent you to have been the Instructer: And for the profession of my thankfulnes, I am sure it will, WITH GOOD MEN, find either Praise or Excuse.

Your True Lover,



Shakespeare/Scurra - The 'Bumpkinification of the Earl of Oxford'
_Mirth Making_, Chris Holcomb

In his Ethics, Aristotle suggests that changes in stylistic and substantive predilections indicate advances in civilization. While enumerating the differences between the jesting of a buffoon and a witty gentleman, Aristotle compares each character type to Old and New Comedy, respectively: "The difference (between a buffoon and a gentleman) may be seen by comparing the old and modern comedies; the earlier dramatists found their fun in obscenity, the modern prefer innuendo, which marks a great advance in decorum; (4.8.6). This comparison suggest that smutty humor is less civilized than the more refined humor delivered through innuendo. (footnote pp. 199-200)


William Cartwright

...Shakespeare to thee was dull, whose best jest lyes
I'th Ladies questions, and the Fooles replyes; [70]
OLD FASHION'D WIT, which walkt from town to town
In turn'd Hose, which our fathers call'd the CLOWN;
Whose wit our nice times would obsceannesse call,
And which made Bawdry passe for Comicall:
Nature was all his Art, thy veine was FREE
As his, but without his SCURILITY;


Mirth Making. The Rhetorical Discourse on Jesting in Early Modern England

Chris Holcomb

...Associations between social status and certain forms of jesting appear as early as the Nicomachean Ethics, where Aristotle classifies different modes of jesting according to three social types: the boor, the buffoon, and the witty man of tact. Aristotle has little to say about boorish men except that they never say "anything funny themselves and take offense at those who do" (4.8.3) Instead, Aristotle dwells on differences between the buffoon and man of wit, and in differentiating these two social types, he associates indecorous jests with those of the lower-class buffoon and decorous ones with those of a gentleman. 'Those who go to excess in ridicule are thought to be buffoons or VULGAR FELLOWS, who itch to have their joke at all costs, and are more concerned to raise a laugh than to keep within the bounds of decorum' (4.8.3). The buffoon often jests in a 'servile' and often obscene fashion (4.8.5-6), he 'cannot resist a joke,' he will 'not keep his tongue off himself or anyone else, if he can raise a laugh,' and he 'will say things which a man of refinement would never say' (4.8.10). Those 'who jest with good taste,' by contrast, will say 'only the sort of things that are suitable to a virtuous man and a gentleman; (4.8.5). They prefer to jest by way of 'innuendo, which marks a great advance in decorum,' and they will never stoop so low in their jesting as to say anything 'unbecoming to a gentleman' (4.8.6-7). The line Aristotle draws here is not simply one between the indecorous and decorous; it is also one between the lower and upper classes. And while Aristotle couches his distinctions in more or less descriptive (although elitist) terms, they do have prescriptive force. If a speaker is to show himself as a 'man of refinement,' he must limit his jesting behaviours and avoid the excesses of the buffoon.

Cicero and Quintilian adopt Aristotle's method of classifying decorous and indecorous jests along class lines, and they both use the buffoon and well-bred man of tact to define forms of jesting befitting an orator (the boor, as often happens in everyday life, is left out of their discussions of jesting). But they add to the ranks of the buffoon (or SCURRA, in Latin) a cast of characters familiar from the Roman stage, street performances, and entertainments provided at a gentleman's dinner party - characters including the mime (mimus), pantomime (ethologus), and clown (sannio). Cicero says that 'an orator must avoid each of two dangers: he must not let his jesting become buffoonery or mere mimicking (scurrilis...aut mimicus)' (2.58.239). Like Aristotle's buffoon, the Latin scurra violates proprieties of time. Cicero says he jests "from morning to night, and without any reason at all" (2.60.245). He also shows no restraint in his selection of objects of ridicule, and his jests, like a scattergun, will often strike 'unintended victims' (2.60.245). He will even turn himself into an object of ridicule if he thinks he can raise a laugh (Quintilian, 6.3.82). Most important, the scurra is a member of the lower classes, a parasite who would often perform at a gentleman's dinner party for table scraps, and his antics almost always bespoke his lowly position. For all of these reasons, especially the last, Cicero and Quintilian repeatedly insist that orators avoid all likeness to buffoons, and toward this end, they offer a set of strictures limiting the jesting practices of orators so that those practices accord with the orator's gentlemanly status. With respect to proprieties of time, Cicero says, "Regard then to occasions, control and restraint of our actual raillery, and economy in bon-mots, will distinguish an orator from a buffoon (oratorem a scurra)" (2.60.247). As we have seen, orators should also be careful in their selection of comic butts and avoid targeting the excessively wretched or wicked and the well-beloved. Moreover, they must never turn themselves into objects of laughter for, as Quintilian says, "To make jokes against oneself is scarcely fit for any save professed buffoons and is strongly to be disapproved in an orator" (6.3.82). Presumable, orators should keep the audience's laughter off themselves and direct it only at their opponents. Above all, the orator should only jest in ways that befit a gentleman or liberalis. He should avoid obscenities in his jesting, which are 'not only degrading to a pubic speaker, but also hardly sufferable at a gentleman's dinner party (convivio liberorum)' (De oratore, 2.61.252), and 'scurrilous or brutal jests, although they may raise a laugh, are quite unworthy of a gentlman (liberali)' (Quintilian, 6.3.83). In an allusion to his famous formulation or the orator as a GOOD MAN, or vir bonus, skilled in speaking, Quintilian sums up his attitudes toward buffoonery, a summation that will serve for Cicero's views on the subject as well: 'A good man (vir bonus) will see that everything he says is consistent with his dignity and the respectability of his character (dignitate ac verecundia); for we pay too dear for the laugh we raise if it is at the cost of our own integrity (probitatis)' (6.3.35). (Holcomb,pp.39-40)



Latin probitas HONESTY, probity, uprightness.


"To My Book" by Ben Jonson

It will be looked for, book, when some but see
Thy title, Epigrams, and named of me,
Thou should'st be bold, licentious, full of gall,
Wormwood, and sulphur, sharp, and toothed withal;
Become a petulant thing, hurl ink, and wit,
As madmen stones: not caring whom they hit.
Deceive their malice, who could wish it so.
And by thy wiser temper, let men know
Thou are not covetous of least self-fame.
Made from the hazard of another's shame:
Much less with lewd, profane, and beastly phrase,
To catch the world's loose laughter, or VAIN gaze.
*He that DEPARTS with his own HONESTY
For VULGAR PRAISE, doth it too dearly buy.*


E P I G R A M S .


PLAYWRIGHT me reads, and still my verses damns,
He says I want the tongue of epigrams ;
I have no salt, no bawdry he doth mean ;
For witty, in his language, is obscene.
Playwright, I loath to have thy MANNERS known
In my chaste book ; profess them in thine own.


O, lest the world should task you to recite
What merit lived in me, that you should love
After my death, dear love, forget me quite,
For you in me can nothing worthy prove;
Unless you would devise some virtuous lie,
To do more for me than mine own desert,
And hang more praise upon deceased I
Than niggard truth would willingly impart:
O, lest your true love may seem false in this,
That you for love speak well of me untrue,
My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me nor you.
For I am shamed by that which I bring forth,
And so should you, to love things nothing worth.


Fulke Greville – Hereditary Recorder of Stratford-upon-Avon – Trophaeum Peccati

_A Dedication to Sir Philip Sidney_

Neither am I (for my part) so much in love with this life, nor believe so little in a better to come, as to complain of God for taking him [Sidney], and such like exorbitant WORTHYNESS from us: fit (as it were by an Ostracisme) to be divided, and not incorporated with our corruptions: yet for the sincere affection I bear to my Prince, and Country, my prayer to God is, that this WORTH, and Way may not fatally be buried with him; in respect, that both before his time, and since, experience hath published the usuall discipline of greatnes to have been tender of it self onely; making HONOUR a triumph, or rather TROPHY OF DESIRE, set up in the eyes of Mankind, either to be worshiped as IDOLS, or else as Rebels to perish under her glorious oppressions. *Notwithstanding, when the pride of flesh, and power of favour shall cease in these by death, or disgrace; what then hath time to register, or fame to publish in these GREAT MENS NAMES, that will not be offensive, or infectious to others? What Pen without blotting can write the story of their deeds? Or what Herald blaze their Arms without a blemish? And as for their counsels and projects, when they come once to light, shall they not live as noysome, and loathsomely above ground, as their Authors carkasses lie in the grave? So as the return of such greatnes to the world, and themselves, can be but private reproach, publique ill example, and a fatall scorn to the Government they live in. Sir Philip Sidney is none of this number; for the greatness which he affected was built upon TRUE WORTH; esteeming Fame more than Riches, and Noble actions far above NOBILITY it self.


Rewards of Earth - Greville

REWARDS of earth, Nobility and Fame,
To senses glory and to conscience woe,
How little be you for so great a name?
Yet less is he with men what thinks you so.
For EARTHLY power, that stands by FLESHLY WIT,
Hath banished that truth which should govern it.

Nobility, power's golden fetter is,
Wherewith wise kings subjection do adorn,
To make man think her heavy yoke a bliss
Because it makes him more than he was born.
Yet still a slave, dimm'd by mists of a crown,
Let he should see what riseth, what pulls down.

Fame, that is but good words of evil deeds,
Begotten by the harm we have, or do,
Greatest far off, least ever where it breeds,
We both with dangers and disquiet woo;
And in our flesh, the vanities' false glass,
We thus deceiv'd adore these *calves of brass*.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Can't Write

Last fall when I learned the release date for the upcoming movie 'Anonymous' I decided that I wanted to spend some time in Castle Hedingham while it was still a quiet place. The authorship problem doesn't seem to be a big topic of conversation there - even in The Bell and The Wheatsheaf they hadn't heard that there was a movie about Edward de Vere being released, and the owner of the cottage we stayed in didn't know anything and she's a second or third generation villager.

I also wanted to go to Warwick to see St Mary's Church and Fulke Greville's monument, and Greville's one-time possession, Warwick Castle.

We had a great time - I enjoyed living in the village for a few days, wandering around the village in the middle of the night, and ended up spending an inordinate amount of time at The Bell. (I blame that on my 'real ale'-loving husband and my cousin, who travelled with us).

While we were in Warwick, we went to Stratford-upon-Avon. All of my imaginative energies must have been expended, because the place had almost no significance for me. For me it is a place of scorn - where Oxford's fame lies buried. It is the place held by the Cipher.

Yet it is also THE place for giftshops. I knew what I wanted for a souvenir - a poster of the Droeshout Engraving. I'd recently received some comments about my home decorating skills and had been given the well-meaning advice that I should show more of my 'self' or personality in my rooms. I think this meant that I was to remove some of the stacks of books and start investing in throw pillows. I'm not sure a two foot high poster of the dopey-looking Droeshout was what she had in mind.

But if I'm supposed to show more of my 'self' in my rooms, then I thought I ought to have a picture of the particular angel that I wrestle with.

As a compromise, I thought I'd get it professionally framed - so I took it to a local artist. Now I have become an expert at not talking about what I do in my (considerable) spare time. As every Oxfordian knows TOO WELL, people who have not read a single play of Shakespeare's become authorities when it comes to knowing who wrote them. It is plain and simple, as all the best facts are. His name is on the plays. End of. And in the face of this certainty any attempt on my part to suggest otherwise has the potential to activate another cultural judgement - that of  'conspiracy theorist'.

One friend, who has read quite a number of the plays, began to say something to me about Shakespeare and then suddenly stopped himself.

'Oh, I forgot, you don't like Shakespeare.'

Don't like Shakespeare? Whaaaaat?

In order to survive as an Oxfordian, I've developed a healthy sense of the absurd. And I've learned to keep my mouth shut.

Yet as I unrolled the poster of the Droeshout engraving I couldn't resist.  After all, didn't I have a live artist - an expert in drawing - standing next to me? Was I going to waste his skills on deciding on a frame with beading or without?

But I was pretty cagey. I asked him his opinion of the engraving. The proportion. The shading. The buttons. He observed that the head appeared to be floating. He agreed that the figure was odd, that the eyes were strangely made - in fact, he said that artistically speaking, it had so many things wrong with it that it was difficult to point them all out.

And then I played my big card - the doublet. The mismatched front panels. The two left arms. He conceded that the artist had made an error in the doublet. But there were many errors in drawings from this period. There could be distortions from the enlargement of the poster. He said something about folds in the material. He gave many good reasons.

But such was my mania...

I think I controlled myself pretty well. I said that other work by Droeshout shows that he was a very accomplished artist - and did he think it was strange that anyone could make this number of errors in a relatively simple figure? Was it possible that these errors were deliberate? Could anyone screw up the pieces of a man's jacket so badly? Nabokov wrote that the figure had two left arms, I wanted to say. An author with two left arms is incapable of right or correct writing, I wanted to say. The man who approved this drawing was a classicist, who worshipped correct form, order and proportion, I wanted to say.

By now, and this is only a five minute discussion, I'm feeling like I've seriously overplayed my hand and he's thinking that someone had better adjust my medication. But I couldn't help myself. I bit again. Hard. I had to ask this question:

"If there is a message behind this figure, what would it be?"

He studied the figure quite seriously for a few moments, bless him, and then stated --

"I can't draw."

I stared at him, and then I laughed. Really laughed. Delighted laugh. Because what I heard was Ben Jonson saying of Shakespeare, for Shakespeare, and about Shakespeare -  'I can't write'.


And in moments like that it's like being hit with a huge wave. You stand in a moment of clarity and understanding, and then you are smashed by a wave - a wave made up of the massive impossibility of what you have just thought. The impossiblity that ANYONE could have thought that SHAKESPEARE could not write. A thought that even other Oxfordians might not entertain.

But I'm used to the wave. It knocks you topsy-turvy for a moment, and your heels end up where your head was for awhile. But the wave recedes and all you can do is laugh. Because the world is absurd and I am absurd, and language and figures and symbols will always breed confusion and error. And I don't share Ben Jonson's faith in Reason; that if we discipline ourselves to write correctly and to rule, and control our use of figurative language we can control error (because of course Shakespeare could write but the faults in the Droeshout indicate that he did not write rightly or correctly). But I do see hope in Shakespeare, who seems to have believed that although man is a 'giddy' thing prone to confusion and error, he can take steps to ensure that these errors can be safely laughed at, lived with and even loved, and that they are not permitted to grow uncontrolled into something antagonistic and deadly.

And yet.
1623 - Publication of First Folio
1642 - King Charles raises royal standard at Nottingham
1642 - Battle of Edgehill

Casualties English Civil War:
As usual in wars of this era, disease caused more deaths than combat. There are no accurate figures for these periods, and it is not possible to give a precise overall figure for those killed in battle, as opposed to those who died from disease, or even from a natural decline in population.

Figures for casualties during this period are unreliable, but some attempt has been made to provide rough estimates.[112][113] In England, a conservative estimate is that roughly 100,000 people died from war-related disease during the three civil wars. Historical records count 84,830 dead from the wars themselves. Counting in accidents and the two Bishops' wars, an estimate of 190,000 dead is achieved.[114]

Figures for Scotland are more unreliable and should be treated with greater caution. Casualties include the deaths of prisoners-of-war in conditions that accelerated their deaths, with estimates of 10,000 prisoners not surviving or not returning home (8,000 captured during and immediately after the Battle of Worcester were deported to New England, Bermuda and the West Indies to work for landowners as indentured labourers[115]). There are no figures to calculate how many died from war-related diseases, but if the same ratio of disease to battle deaths from English figures is applied to the Scottish figures, a not unreasonable estimate of 60,000 people is achieved.[116]

Figures for Ireland are described as "miracles of conjecture". Certainly the devastation inflicted on Ireland was unbelievable, with the best estimate provided by Sir William Petty, the father of English demography. Although Petty's figures are the best available, they are still acknowledged as being tentative. They do not include the estimate of 40,000 driven into exile, some of whom served as soldiers in European continental armies, while others were sold as indentured servants to New England and the West Indies. Many of those sold to landowners in New England eventually prospered, but many of those sold to landowners in the West Indies were worked to death. Petty estimates that 112,000 Protestants were killed through plague, war and famine, and that 504,000 Catholics were killed, giving an estimated total of 618,000 dead.[117]

These estimates indicate that England suffered a 3.7% loss of population, Scotland a loss of 6%, while Ireland suffered a loss of 41% of its population.