Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Henry de Vere and Shakespeare's Book - Sibling Rivalry?


In Eng- lish law. Scandal or slander of great men or nobles. Words spoken in derogation of a peer, a judge, or other great officer of the realm, for which an action lies, though it is now rarely resorted to. 3 Bl. Comm. 123; 3 Steph. Comm. 473. This offense has not existed in America since the formation of the United States. State v. Shepherd, 177 Mo. 205, 76 S. W. 79, 99 Am. St. Rep. 624.

Censuring the Earl of Oxford was tricky; that he was near the Queen as one of her Great Officers of State made it positively dangerous.  Criticisms had to be offered covertly - the outward form or sound of praise could (Silenus-like) conceal the inner censure. So, if Oxford was perceived to be self-indulgent, whimsical, irregular and extravagant and all around setting a bad example - then these things had to be suggested obliquely.

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant...

Now that I have almost recovered from the shock of reading Holland's elegy to Henry de Vere (18th Earl), with its description of Oxford's heir being crowned in Elysium by the Oxford's mighty opposite Sir Philip Sidney (placing Henry de Vere in the Sidneian/Essexian camp of militant Protestant proto-Whig-types), now that I have almost recovered I have an image in my mind of the two offspring or heirs to Oxford: one a human child, and the other a book. The legitimate son, resenting his father's excessively indulgent attitude towards the literary heir, declared it a bastard.

As Holland says - in Elysium, it is Philip Sidney who sings to Henry de Vere.

Not Shakespeare. Apparently.

I've reread Gervase Markham's 'Honour in his Perfection' in light of the Holland elegy, and I find it makes a bit more sense. Markham's praise always seemed comic to me, with its description of Edward de Vere's 'infinite' spending, that the alms Oxford gave away could feed his heirs and its mention of the debts he left to clog his survivors (praising that they were 'safe' debts!). That he was known to be religious because he would enter a church and nothing could get him out of it sounds like a humourous account of Oxford seeking refuge in a church from creditors or enemies!

The Markham text appears to have been written in part as an attempt to get more money from King James to prosecute the recovery of the Palatinate. Henry de Vere was not wealthy; they almost closed the shop on the Oxford earldom after Henry's death, when his cousin and heir, Robert de Vere, was determined to have an inadequate estate. So it would not be surprising if Henry was disappointed in his father, who had inherited one of the largest estates in England and had passed on very little of it to his son.

I'm sure that there are many who would say if the Oxford estates contributed to the making of 'Shakespeare' - then it was money well spent. But Henry appears to have identified himself as a soldier and a militant Protestant in the Sidney/Essex/Southampton line: a man of action. Plays and poems were not swords and spears.

Abraham Holland makes it crystal-clear that Henry may have been his father's son in 'letter' - but not in spirit:

...The soft inticements of the Court, the smiles

Of Glorious Princes the bewitching wiles
Of softer Ladies, and the Golden State
That in such places doth on Greatnesse waite
And all the shadie happinesse which seemes
To attend Kings and follow Diadems
Were Boy-games to his minde: to see a Maske
And sit it out, he held a greater taske
Than to endure a Siege: to wake all Night
In his cold armour, still expecting fight
And the drad On-set, the sad face of feare,
And the pale silence of an Army, were
His best Delights; among the common rout
Of his rough Souldiers to sit hardnesse out
Were his most pleasing Delicates: to him
A Batter'd Helmet was a Diadem:
And wounds, his Brauerie: Knowing that Fame
And faire Eternitie could neuer claime
Their Meeds without such Hazards:

from (AN ELEGIE VPON THE DEATH OF THE RIGHT NOBLE and Magnanimous Heroƫ, HENRY Earle of Oxford, Viscount Bulbec, Lord Samford, and Lord great Chamberlaine of England.

WHO SICKENED IN SERVICE OF HIS KING and Countrie, in defence of the States. And died at the Hagh in Holland. Aprill 1625.


Those last lines say it all - Henry de Vere the soldier knew that fame could only be earned the hard way.

Knowing that Fame

And faire Eternitie could neuer claime
Their Meeds without such Hazards:

According to Henry's standards, his father's soft, bookish sort of fame was unworthy, and I think his anger at the loss of his ancestor's lands, and the subsequent hindrance to the pursuit of his own noble aims, can only be imagined.

After Henry's death, the peers petitioned the crown to support the Oxford earldom when there was some question about Henry's second cousin Robert de Vere's financial position:

"We hold it for a constant maxim that (virtue and merit being the only means to attain hereditary honours at first) it doth nearly concern your Majesty and the whole state, to keep such families as have attained it in an honourable means of upholding hte same; and to put it out of the power of an unworth sucessor to destroy the foundation; those persons who have both the honour of their ancestors, and good estates, being double engaged to give a good and faithful account to your majesty and the state of their employment (quoted in Daphne Pearson, Edward de Vere, The Crisis and Consequences of Wardship, p.52)

The above description of noble support is very similar to that support which I was suggesting was the object of the Markham tract, Honour in his Perfection. Henry needed money to fight his war; without money he could not adequately express his virtue and honour. And it was his father's 'infinite expense' that helped to create this problem.

Could it be true that Shakespeare, the glory of the English-speaking world, was the shame of the Earls of Oxford?

Hurled headlong flaming...no good fame for the unworthy.

One of my main questions may have been answered by the Holland Elegy. Why was the Folio published with such questionable front matter - the ridiculous and irregular Droeshout Figure, Jonson's absurdly extravagant mock encomium and the dedication to Oxford's foe's (Sidney) nephews. If the criticism implicit in the Droeshout's two left arms was perceived to be true, then why publish the Folio at all?

Things make more sense if Shakespeare is understood to have been a creature of the English court (the decadent English court in the Sidneian/Essexian formulation). The republican Milton places Shakespeare's Book next to King Charles as he composed his corrupt and deceptive book, Eikon Basilike, as he awaited trial and his eventual execution. Shakespeare's Book, a sophisticated pleasure and a great advocate for (absolute? hereditary?) monarchy, may have been extorted from his son by the Stuarts during the period of Henry's imprisonment during the Spanish Marriage Crisis.

Sermon Preached at the Court:
 Author: Meriton, George, d. 1624.
Title: A sermon of nobilitie· Preached at VVhite-hall, before the King in February 1606. By George Meriton Doctor of Diuinity, one of his Maiesties chaplaines in ordinary; and parson of Hadleigh in Suffolke.
Date: 1607

...Est virtus Generis, et alicuius familiae con|gruens quedam facultas procreandi viros inge|nuos, et ad vertutem faciles, sucessione confir|mata. It is a power incident vnto a stocke, or a certayne congruent ability, of a house or famely, to beget an ingenuous progeny, apt
to imbrace honorable vertues, and confirmed by succession. This Kind then, is not so much in one indiuidual to be considered, as in a con|tinued race or line of many; and such is the na|ture of it, as that it may, and is many times, retayned without the other three, it is not impossible to bee Noble by birth, and thereby procliveto honest, and honorable designes, and yet bad education, to fall to vice, and thereby become voyd of Morall and deuine nebility: yea and some times of that also which co~meth by Fortune. Such as be vicious staine the noblenes of their hou|ses, yet doe they not altogether extinguish there Nobility, because being noble by Na|ture, still they retaine a power, to beget others which are procline to morall honesty. For as Laban will either be a Laban, or a Nabal, or Nabal either a Nabal, or a Laban, turne them backwards, and forwards they will re|maine rude rustickes, ether a foolish clowne, as Nabal, or a frowning clowne, as Laban, for Mercury cannot be carued out of euery blocke. So is it with Nobility by birth, it will not soone degenerate: as one man cannot well be sayd to get it vnto his stocke, so bee|ing once gotten, it cannot be ouerthrowne or lost, by the wicked life of one. Now as on the one side, Vice doth greatly blemish it, so on the other, Vertue in a Noble perso|nage by nature is farre more excellent and worthier estimation, then in a man by birth ignoble: for in him, it is more firme, and constant, more deepely rooted, and as it were wreathed, and strengthened with the virtues of his Auncestors, so as by a kind of necessity, he is constrayned to tread in their steps: yet in this, is virtue more admirable, more properly his, and formed in him with greater difficultie.

Oblique critique:
Milton, L'Allegro

139: Or sweetest Shakespeare, FANCY'S child,
140: Warble his native wood-notes wild.

Fanciful \Fan"ci*ful\, a.

1. Full of fancy; guided by fancy, rather than by reason and
experience; whimsical; as, a fanciful man forms visionary

2. Conceived in the fancy; not consistent with facts or
reason; abounding in ideal qualities or figures; as, a
fanciful scheme; a fanciful theory.

3. Curiously shaped or constructed; as, she wore a fanciful

Gather up all fancifullest shells. --Keats.

Syn: Imaginative; ideal; visionary; capricious; chimerical;
whimsical; fantastical; wild.

Usage: Fanciful, Fantastical, Visionary. We speak of
that as fanciful which is irregular in taste and
judgment; we speak of it as fantastical when it
becomes grotesque and extravagant as well as
irregular; we speak of it as visionary when it is
wholly unfounded in the nature of things. Fanciful
notions are the product of a heated fancy, without any
tems are made up of oddly assorted fancies, aften of
the most whimsical kind; visionary expectations are
those which can never be realized in fact. --

Fan"ci*ful*ly, adv. -Fan"ci*ful*ness, n.


Fanciful - Conceived in the fancy; not consistent with facts or reason...irregular in taste and


Alas! 'tis true, I have gone here and there,

And made my self a motley to the view,
Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,
Made old offences of affections new;
Most true it is, that I have looked on truth
Askance and strangely; but, by all above,
These blenches gave my heart another youth,

Blench \Blench\, v. i. [imp. & p. p. Blenched; p. pr. & vb. n.

Blenching.] [OE. blenchen to blench, elude, deceive, AS.
blencan to deceive; akin to Icel. blekkja to impose upon.
Prop. a causative of blink to make to wink, to deceive.

But know that in the Soule

Are many lesser Faculties that serve
Reason as chief; among these FANSIE next
Her office holds; of all external things,
Which the five watchful Senses represent,
She forms Imaginations, Aerie shapes,
Which Reason joyning or disjoyning, frames
All what we affirm or what deny, and call
Our knowledge or opinion; then retires
Into her private Cell when Nature rests.
Oft in her absence MIMIC FANSIE wakes
To imitate her; but misjoyning shapes,
WILDE WORK produces oft, and most in dreams,
Ill matching words and deeds long past or late.
Som such resemblances methinks I find
Of our last Eevnings talk, in this thy dream,
But with addition strange; yet be not sad.
Evil into the mind of God or Man
May come and go, so unapprov'd, and leave
No spot or blame behind:

Milton, _Paradise Lost Book V_


_Comus_, John Milton

745: COMUS. Why are you vexed, Lady? why do you frown?
746: Here dwell no frowns, nor anger; from these gates
747: Sorrow flies far. See, here be all the pleasures
748: That FANCY can beget on youthful thoughts,
749: When the fresh blood grows lively, and returns
750: Brisk as the April buds in primrose season.
751: And first behold this cordial julep here,
752: That flames and dances in his crystal bounds,
753: With spirits of balm and fragrant syrups mixed.


837: LADY. I had not thought to have unlocked my lips
838: In this unhallowed air, but that this juggler
839: Would think to charm my judgment, as mine eyes,
840: Obtruding false rules pranked in reason's garb.
841: I hate when vice can bolt her arguments
842: And virtue has no tongue to check her pride.
843: Impostor! do not charge most innocent Nature,
844: As if she would her children should be riotous
845: With her abundance. She, good cateress,
846: Means her provision only to the good,
847: That live according to her sober laws,
848: And holy dictate of spare Temperance.
849: If every just man that now pines with want
850: Had but a moderate and beseeming share
851: Of that which lewdly-pampered Luxury
852: Now heaps upon some few with vast excess,
853: Nature's full blessings would be well dispensed
854: In unsuperfluous even proportion,
855: And she no whit encumbered with her store;
856: And then the Giver would be better thanked,
857: His praise due paid: for swinish gluttony
858: Ne'er looks to Heaven amidst his GORGEOUS feast,
859: But with besotted base ingratitude
860: Crams, and blasphemes his Feeder. Shall I go on
861: Or have I said enow? To him that dares
862: Arm his profane tongue with contemptuous words
863: Against the sun-clad power of chastity
864: Fain would I something say;--yet to what end?
865: Thou hast nor ear, nor soul, to apprehend
866: The sublime notion and high mystery
867: That must be uttered to unfold the sage
868: And serious doctrine of Virginity;
869: And thou art worthy that thou shouldst not know
870: More happiness than this thy present lot.
871: Enjoy your dear wit, and gay rhetoric,
872: That hath so well been taught her DAZZLING FENCE;
873: Thou art not fit to hear thyself convinced.
874: Yet, should I try, the uncontrolled worth
875: Of this pure cause would kindle my rapt spirits
876: To such a flame of sacred vehemence
877: That dumb things would be moved to sympathise,
878: And the brute Earth would lend her nerves, and SHAKE,
879: Till all thy MAGIC STRUCTURES, reared so high,
880: Were SHATTERED into heaps o'er thy FALSE HEAD.


Comus speaks:

162: Hail, goddess of nocturnal sport,
163: Dark-veiled Cotytto, to whom the secret flame
164: Of midnight torches burns! mysterious dame,
165: That ne'er art called but when the dragon womb
166: Of Stygian darkness spets her thickest gloom,
167: And makes one blot of all the air!
168: Stay thy cloudy ebon chair,
169: Wherein thou ridest with Hecat', and befriend
170: Us thy vowed priests, till utmost end
171: Of all thy dues be done, and none left out,
172: Ere the blabbing eastern scout,
173: The nice Morn on the Indian steep,
174: From her cabined loop-hole peep,
175: And to the tell-tale Sun descry
176: Our concealed solemnity.
178: In a LIGHT FANTASTIC round.

Jonson, _Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue_, 1618 - masque including dancing BOTTLES and TUNS:

Do you hear, my friends? to whom did you sing all this now? Pardon me only that I ask you, for I do not look for an answer; I'll answer myself. I know it is now such a time as the Saturnals.for all the world, that every man stands under the eaves of his own hat and sings what pleases him; that's the right and the liberty of it. Now you sing of god COMUS here, the Belly-god. I say it is well, and I say it is not well.


Beware of dealing with the belly; the belly will not be talked to, especially when he is full. Then there is no venturing upon Venter; he will blow you all up; he will thunder indeed, la: some in deri- sion call him the father of farts. But I say he was the first inventor of great ordnance, and taught us to discharge them on festival days.


Munday's Acrostic Poem: Edward de Vere, Earle of Oxford


Eche one dooth knowe no fables I expresse,
As though I should encroche for priuate gayne:
Regard you may (at pleasure) I confesse,
Letting that passe, I vouch to dread no paine.
Eche where, gainst such as can my faith distaine.

Or once can say, he deales with Flattyre:
FORGING his tales to please the FANTASYE.

Cynthia's Revels, Jonson
Play of the Poetomachia
(Jonson satirizes fanciful Earl of Oxford as Amorphus?)

MER. Go, Dors, and you, my madam COURTING-STOCKS,

Follow your scorned and derided mates;
Tell to your guilty breasts, what mere GILT BLOCKS
You are, and how unworthy human states.

CRI. Now, sacred God of Wit, if you can make
Those, whom our sports tax in these APISH GRACES,
Kiss, like the fighting snakes, your peaceful rod,
These times shall canonise you for a god.

MER. Why, Crites, think you any noble spirit,
Or any, worth the title of a man,
Will be incensed to see the enchanted veils
Of self-conceit, and servile flattery,
Wrapt in so many folds by time and custom,
Drawn from his wronged and bewitched eyes?
Who sees not now their shape and nakedness,
Is blinder than the son of earth, the mole;
Crown'd with no more humanity, nor soul.

CRI. Though they may see it, yet the huge estate
FANCY, and FORM, and SENSUAL PRIDE have gotten,
Will make them blush for anger, not for shame,
And turn shewn nakedness to impudence.
Humour is now the test we try things in:
All power is just: nought that delights is sin.
And yet the zeal of every knowing man
Opprest with hills of tyranny, cast on virtue
By the light fancies of fools, thus transported.
Cannot but vent the Aetna of his fires,
T'inflame best bosoms with much worthier love
Than of these outward and effeminate shades;
That these vain joys, in which their wills consume
Such powers of wit and soul as are of force
To raise their beings to eternity,
May be converted on works fitting men:
And, for the practice of a forced look,
An antic gesture, or a fustian phrase,
Study the native frame of a true heart,
An inward comeliness of bounty, knowledge,
And spirit that may conform them actually
To God's high figures, which they have in power;
Which to neglect for a self-loving neatness,
Is sacrilege of an unpardon'd greatness.

MER. Then let the truth of these things strengthen thee,
In thy exempt and only man-like course;
Like it the more, the less it is respected:
Though men fail, virtue is by gods protected. --
See, here comes Arete; I'll withdraw myself. [EXIT.]
Author: Clarendon, Edward Hyde, Earl of, 1609-1674. [ Author page in Literature Online ]

Title: Tvvo speeches made in the House of Peeres, on Munday the 19th. of December, for, and against accomodation. The one by the Earl of Pembroke, the other by the Lord Brooke. The latter printed by the desire of the House of Commons

Date: 1643

My Lords, that Lord shall not finde fault with me for concealing my intentions, I will deale freely with him, I am with all my heart against this Accommodation, against any whisper or thought of Accommodation, till His Majestie shall submit to our 19 Propositions, and to all the Propositions wee have since made; and delivered up all those wicked evill Counsellors, who have saucily told him, 'tis lawfull for him to deny us any thing: I know we have many difficulties to wrastle with, and that many fall from us daily; they who have much to lose (as that Lord said) will be quickly weary of us, and yet some men of good fortunes will not leave us; they who have a sense of gratitude, of pass'd obligations, or future hopes from His Majestie, will be startled at our Resolution: yet I see many here the most notoriously obliged, indeed as much as servants can be to a master, in this good cause have mastered those vulgar considerations, and had the courage almost to despise him to his face; besides, the wisest men will not thinke themselves incapable of future favours, if they use their utmost power to reduce him to a necessity of granting: they who are transported with naturall affection to their Fathers and Brothers, Kindred, Friends, will not keepe us company; yet this troubles me the lesse, whilest I see those noble Lords in my eye, (upon whom I can never looke enough) who banishing those womanish and effeminate fancies, cheerfully undertooke to serve against that Army, wherein they knew their owne Fathers were; and on my conscience (I speake it to their honour) had they met them alone, would piously have sacrifized them to the commands of both Houses. They who thinke that humane Lawes can binde the conscience, and will examine the oathes they have taken, according to the Interpretation of men, will in time fall from us: But such who religiously consider that such morall Precepts are fitter for Heathens then for Christians, and that we ought to leade our lives according to the rule of Gods Word; and that the Lawes of the Land (being but mans invention) must not check Gods children in doing the worke of their heavenly Father, will not faint in their duty.


 Author: Jones, William, b. 1581 or 2.
Title: A treatise of patience in tribulation first, preached before the Right Honourable the Countesse of Southampton in her great heauines for the death of her most worthy husband and sonne: afterward inlarged for the helpe of all that are any way afflicted crossed or troubled. By William Iones B. of D. and P. of Arraton in the Isle of Wight. Herevnto are ioyned the teares of the Isle of Wight, shed on the tombe of their most noble Captaine Henrie Earle of Southampton and the Lord Wriothesly his sonne.
Date: 1625

To the Right Honourable, HENRY, Earle of Southampton

VII. To the young Lord. [James Wriothesley]

by W. P.

BRight starre of Honour, what celestiall fires
Single illegible letter thy youthfull bloud; that thy desires
Mount vp so fast to Glories highest Spheres,
So farre beyond thine equalls and thy yeares?

Whil'st others Noblie borne, ignoblie staine
Their bloud and youth with manners base and vaine,
Thou to thy Fathers holie lessons lending
Thine eare; and to his liue's faire patterne bending
Thy steps; did'st daily learne for sport or need
Nimblie to mount and man thy barbed steed;
Fairelie thy serious thoughts to write or speake,
Stoutlie vpon thy foe, thy lance to breake.
It did not with thine actiue spirit suite
To wast thy time in fingring of a Lute,
Or sing mong'st Cupids spirits a puling Dittie
To moue some femall Saint to loue or pittie.
T'was Musick to thine eare in ranged batle
To heare sad Drums to grone, harsh Trumpets ritle:
Or see, when clouds of bloud do rent in sunder,
The pouders lightning, and the Canons thunder.

And when thou might'st at home haue liued free
From cares and feares in soft securitie,
Thou scorning such dishonorable ease,
To all the hazards both of land and sea's,
Against Religions and thy Countries foes,
Franklie thy selfe and safetie did'd expose.

O Sacred virtue thy mild modest glances,
Rais'd in his tender heart, these amorous trances,
For thy deare loue so dearely did he weane
His youth from pleasures, and from lusts vncleane:
And so in thy straight narrow paths still treading,
He found the way to endlesse glorie leading.