Reason No. 18 is Henry Peacham’s Unidentified Writer Behind the Curtain: “By the Mind I shall be Seen”

"Minerva Britanna" by Henry Peacham, Master of Arts (1612) - "Or a Garden of Heroical Devices, furnished, and adorned with Emblems and Impresa's of sundry natures, Newly devised, moralized, and published."

If there’s a single Elizabethan or Jacobean picture that cries out “Secret author,” well, take a look at the title page of Minerva Britanna by Henry Peacham, published in London in 1612:  Shown is the proscenium arch of a theater, with the curtain drawn back so we can see the right hand and arm of a writer using a quill pen to complete a Latin inscription:

MENTE.VIDEBORI — “By the Mind I shall be Seen” — the identity of this writer is hidden and therefore exists only in the mind!

A Closer Look Reveals the Dot between "E" and "V" to created E.V., the initials of Edward Vere

The upside-down inscription indicated a hidden meaning; and Eva Turner Clark in 1937 saw it as a Latin anagram reading TIBI NOM. DE VERE or “The Identity of this Author is  De Vere” – that is, Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford.

A closer look reveals that the “dot” in the inscription has been placed right between the “E” and the “V” to create E.V., the initials of Edward Vere.

Oxford’s death is recorded as occurring on June 24, 1604, the same year the authorized and full-length version of Hamlet was first published, after which no new authorized “Shakespeare” plays were printed for nineteen years, until the First Folio of his dramatic works in 1623.     

"The Compleat Gentleman" by Henry Peacham, 1622

In 1622, just one year before the folio, the same Henry Peacham published a treatise entitled The Compleat Gentleman, in which he calls the Elizabethan reign a “golden age” that produced poets “whose like are hardly to be hoped for in any succeeding age.”  With that he lists those “who honored Poesie [poetry] with their pens and practice” in this order:

Edward Earle of Oxford, the Lord Buckhurst, Henry Lord Paget, the noble Sir Philip Sidney, M. Edward Dyer, M. Edmund Spenser, Master Samuel Daniel, with sundry others whom (together with those admirable wits yet living and so well-known) not out of envy, but to avoid tediousness, I overpass.” [My emphasis]

Ben Jonson and George Chapman were “still living” and “well-known” as writers in 1616, so Peacham did not name them – but although William Shakspere of Stratford on Avon had died back in 1616, The Complete Gentleman is utterly silent when it comes to “William Shakespeare,” the writer to whom the greatest credit must be given for that “golden age” of Queen Elizabeth; and at the head of the list, where the name of the Bard of Avon should be expected, he placed Oxford’s name instead.

Henry Peacham (circa 1578-1644) must have known that Oxford and “Shakespeare” were one and the same.

Louis P. Benezet, Chairman of the Department of Education at Dartmouth College, wrote in 1945 that the above paragraph “contains one of the best keys to the solution of the Shakespeare Mystery.”

A sketch of a scene of "Titus Andronicus" in 1595, apparently by Peacham when he was seventeen

And it appears that Peacham had been interested in the theatrical world early on, because a surviving sketch of a scene of Titus Andronicus, thought to have been made in 1595, was signed “Henricus Peacham” – generally identified as the man who would go on to produce Minerva Britanna of 1612 and The Compleat Gentleman of 1622.

Peacham would have been about seventeen when he drew the sketch.  In the scene, Queen Tamora is pleading for the lives of her two sons; at right is Aaron the Moor, gesturing with his sword.

Oxford's arms with the blue boar on top

Oh, yes – in Minerva, one of the emblems shows a boar, which plays a crucial role in Ovid’s story of Venus and Adonis as well as in Shakespeare’s poem of that name, published in 1593; and the boar was also Oxford’s heraldic symbol.

One of the Emblems of "Minerva Britanna" -- about "Venus and Adonis" featuring the Boar

Below the emblem Peacham writes, “Who liketh best to live in Idleness” – and in an early poem by Oxford in The Paradise of Dainty Devices in 1576 he wrote:

That never am less idle lo, than when I am alone

Was Henry Peacham bringing “Shakespeare” and Oxford together on the same page?

In any case, such is Reason No. 18 in terms of evidence that Oxford was Shakespeare.

The two English stanzas read this way [modern spelling]:

I much did muse why Venus could not brook [break]

The savage Boar and Lion cruel fierce,

Since Kings and Princes have such pleasure took

In hunting: ‘cause a Boar did pierce

Her Adon fair, who better liked the sport,

Then spends his days in wanton pleasure’s court.

Which fiction though devised by Poet’s brain,

It signifies unto the Reader this:

Such exercise Love will not entertain,

Who liketh best, to live in Idleness:

The foe to virtue, Canker of the Wit,

That brings a thousand miseries with it.

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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “Edward Earle of Oxford, the Lord Buckhurst, (…), M. Edmund Spenser, Master Samuel Daniel, with sundry others whom (together with those admirable wits yet living and so well-known) not out of envy, but to avoid tediousness, I overpass.”

    Not Shakespeare there, true.

    But–Spencer is there, and his works are full of Oxford as well.

    So…, they seem to be two distincts persons.

    As Bob Dylan said, and Jimi Hendrix repeated, and I quote:

    “There must be some way out of here,
    Tell the joker to the thief…”

  2. I am polishing my book, and I would like to add something important:

    Do you know how can I get the title page of Hamlet (Q1604) where the Tudor cote of arms is displayed…?

    Who has the rights of the photograph…?


  3. Thank you…

    I thought it was on the title page of the 1604 quarto
    but didn’t see any resemblance…

    But with your assistance I have seen that is at the top
    of the first page. And it is there, indeed…!

    The Tudor coat of arms!

  4. The picture of Aaron the Moore with the sword is interesting as it goes against the view of Titus Andronicus’s Aaron as read in our day, that is as a devil. In our day Aaron is seen as part of the captured war prize. He manipulates an almost equal, almost as manipulative captured Queen Tamora. In our day, while reading this play it is very unlikely under any circumstance we would see Aaron armed. A different play. Aside from political correctness of not performing this play due to portrayal of a black man (although Moors are of Spanish not African derivation, which a number of modern or near modern Shakespeare sholars point out including Lilian Winstanley and Isaac Asimov. Moors and Africans were viewed as all dark, as well as Jews not being viewed that much morally different. We don’t capture the “mindset” of that early audience for various reasons due to among the more famous chapters of world history we refer to as The US Civil War and Hitler’s Holocaust) as the devil, as well as the not so subliminal racism of NOT showing a captured black slave impregnating a white queen (albeit captured and the sex/love making occurs off stage/ but narrated in script), it is a different play. Oxford would have known how to communicate this via Peacham’s art. After Oxford’s death and certain compromises we have what we have today, some truth and a lot of unexamined bull.

    Occam’s razor might be applied here. Yes we must go to Lilian Winstanley’s book on Othello, the other Moor. Othello, according to Dr. Winstanley, represents the Spanish empire. In the play Othello, that late 16th early 17th century audience would see the title character as about to rape (Spanish empire about to conquer Italy, not sexually violate) Italy because the Venetian doge et al needed to compromise with the Spanish in order to defeat the Muslim/Ottoman empire (the sacrifice of Brabianto’s daughter Desdemona for the greater Christian good). Now whereas our great lady Winstanley did not line up with either Stratford or Oxford, she did know her history and literature. The English audience or viewer of that sketch would see the Moor here, given LW’s analyis of Moor=Spanish empire, as a fight between England and the Spanish empire. 1594 nearly saw a huge war between these powers over survival, empires, and the nature of Christian (what we would now refer to Protestantism and Catholicism. For our Orthodox readers, I am refering to the West without the necessary analysis of “what went wrong” by Greek Othodox Father John Romanides, a different discussion)

  5. If Oxford’s name was hidden in the First Folio presumably because it would be harmful to his family, why did Peacham in The Compleat Gentleman openly declare Oxford’s name to the public only one year before?

    • Peacham in 1622 did what others in the past had done — Webbe, 1586; Art of Poisie, 1589; Meres, 1598; i.e., singled out Oxford as a great writer, even the best. Peacham’s omission of Shakespeare might well have been noticed by readers, but that’s not (technically) the same as naming Oxford as Shakespeare. Those who knew, knew. And I think that was true of the folio of 1623; i.e., they never directly said that Shakespeare was Shakspere of Stratford; they really didn’t identify him at all, did they? Those glances at Sweet Swan of Avon and Stratford moniment were, in my opinion, too minimal and indirect. We’re told by Stratfordians that those phrases identify their man, but would any readers come to that conclusion? I’d say not. I’d say they wouldn’t bother with identifying Shakespeare at all; but, again, those who knew, knew, and they would nod their heads, saying, well, they have preserved Oxford’s work. So in both cases, it was clever work.

  6. Late 16th century intelligence agency’s “maximum plausible deniability”?

    There is little doubt that Oxford had plenty to worry about given the fate of Christopher Marlowe
    who died under mysterious circumstances (1593) after writing Massacre of Paris which names the names, as well as more worry from the fate of Thomas Kydd who died the following year after his The Spanish Tragedy. Among other interesting and extremely relevant features is that one of the murderers in this play is named Balthazar. An important figure in world history for a late 16th century audience is William the Silent (aka William of Orange) who is murdered by Balthazar Gerard in 1584. It would be William the Silent’s great grandson who would rule England in the later part of the next century. William the Silent’s last wife was the daughter of Admiral Gaspar de Coligny, the admiral in Marlowe’s Massacre play, (the admiral identified in part as the father of France/murdered by Catherine de Medici and her Catholic League/and the character that is King Lear in that play).

    So Oxford while obvious something of lose cannon, among other things, had some high level protection and a bit of “Dragnet” (name changed to protect the innocent).

    (from Wikipedia) The Lord Strange’s Men acted a play titled The Tragedy of the Guise, thought to be Marlowe’s play, on Jan. 26, 1593. The Admiral’s Men performed The Guise or The Massacre ten times between June 21 and Sept. 27, 1594. The Diary of Philip Henslowe marks the play as “ne,” though scholars disagree as to whether this indicates a “new” play or a performance at the Newington Butts theatre. The Diary also indicates that Henslowe planned a revival of the play in 1602, possibly in a revised version.[1] A possible revision may have something to do with the surprising number of Shakespearean borrowings and paraphrases in the text.[2]

  7. “Ne” means “no.”

    Look into “The Faerie Queene”:
    there are repeated expresions of
    “Ne euer,”
    “Ne euer,”
    “Ne euer.”

    The poet does not say “Neuer,” but “Ne euer.”
    Which points to a poetical mind obsessed with “euer”,
    word that is, in fact, all over “The Faerie Queene.”

  8. I am always amazed at the importance that Oxfordians
    place on Eva Turner Clark’s purported anagram:


    while simultaneously totally ignoring the Sonnets Dedication (near)
    anagram from John Michell’s _Who Wrote Shakespeare_ book :


    There is, in fact, a standard for Oxfordian
    anagrams given in Francis Davison’s (1603)
    _Anagrammata in Nomina Illustrissimorum Heroum_

    ____ *EDOUARUS V(e)IERUS*
    ______ per anagramma
    ____ *AURE SUR(d)US VIDEO*
    which translates into:

    _______ *EDWARD VERE*
    ______ by an anagram
    ____ *DEAF IN MY EAR, I SEE*
    Francis Davison:
    1) actually has Oxford’s name IN LATIN!
    2) and does allow for a single letter to be altered.

    TIB(I) NOM. DE VERE not only does not have Oxford’s name
    in Latin but has only abbreviated/surmised Latin in TIB(i) NOM.

    It is not even clear if “TIB(i) NOM. DE VERE” has
    anything to do with Shakespeare itself for that matter!

    “By the Mind I shall be Seen” sort of goes
    nicely with *DEAF IN MY EAR, I SEE* but
    Eva Turner Clark’s purported anagram is
    no stand alone substitute for the far more
    impressive Michell (near) anagram IMO.

    • Thanks for this one, Art, and I agree with you! It would be great to know the relationship between Davison and De Vere. I wonder if he had anything to do with the sonnets dedication — ? Much food for thought and study. Best to you – Hank

  9. One is tempted to rename
    “The Faerie Queene” as
    “The Faerie Euer,”
    such is the abuse of that word in that work.

  10. In the Ogburns “This Star of England” page 1204: “Peacham had set himself to record, by means of Emblems, etc. the secret identity and dramatic prestige of the man he was later to accord first place among those who had made the reign of Elizabeth `a golden Age.”’

    (Here is mention the title picture from
    Minerva Britanna with the words at the bottom–>) VIVITUR INGENIO and CAETERA MORTIS ERUNT

    “These Latin sentences have been translated by Mr. John L. Astley-Cock thus: `His genius abides’ and, `Everything else will be obliterated by death.”’ The Ogburns’ footnote here show Astley-Cock’s allowing the middle tense translation of VIVITUR INGENIA to also mean “`By his genius he is brought to life’: Latin verbs inflected with the sense of a Greek middle (being) common in Elegaic poetry.”

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