“The Living Record” – Chapter 34 – “Thou art All the Better Part of Me … Mine Own Self”

Here is the introduction to Sonnet 39 in my edition THE MONUMENT:

Fifty-year-old Edward de Vere, earl of Oxford records his father-son relationship with Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton as clearly as he can in this diary [February 20, 1601], writing that the younger earl is “all the better part of me” and, in fact, that 27-year-old Southampton is “mine own self.” Nevertheless they must remain “divided” and “lose name of single one” because of Oxford’s bargaining to save his son’s life – a deal that requires total “separation” of them in public.  Meanwhile they remain physically separated [Southampton is in the Tower, having been tried, convicted of high treason and sentenced to be executed]; but Oxford enjoys the presence of his royal son in his mind and heart and in these private sonnets.

I urge you to try reading it in the context of a father writing to his son and royal prince, under these terrible circumstances:

Sonnet 39

O how thy worth with manners may I sing,
When thou art all the better part of me?
What can mine own praise to mine own self bring,
And what is’t but mine own, when I praise thee?
Even for this, let us divided live,
And our dear love lose name of single one,
That by this separation I may give
That due to thee which thou deserv’st alone.
Oh absence, what a torment wouldst thou prove,
Were it not thy sour leisure gave sweet leave
To entertain the time with thoughts of love,
Which time and thoughts so sweetly dost deceive,
And that thou teachest how to make one twain
By praising him here who dost hence remain.   (Emphases added)

When Oxford was in Paris at age 25 in March 1575, he wrote to Lord Burghley, his father-in-law and Queen Elizabeth’s chief minister, that he hoped the child his wife was carrying would be “a son of mine own” — a distinct phrase, often used by Shakespeare for one’s child — and here we have “mine own praise to mine own self” who is the “better part” of him.

“Thou hast lived to kill a son of mine” – 3 Henry VI, 5.6.36

“To mine own children” – The Taming of the Shrew, 1.1.99

If he please
To give me conquered Egypt for my son,
He gives me so much of mine own as I
Will kneel to him with thanks
Antony and Cleopatra, 5.2.18-21

More later!  Cheers from Hank

Published in: Uncategorized on June 15, 2009 at 2:05 am  Leave a Comment  

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