Part Two of Reason 20 — The Dedications Reveal Oxford’s Personal Relationships with Authors Whose Works Would Lead to “Shakespeare”

This part of Reason No. 20 includes several of the many public dedications to Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford, to indicate the scope of his personal relationships with other writers.  The way I see it, anyone who would eventually create the works of “Shakespeare” could not have grown and developed as an artist in a vacuum; on the contrary, he must have been part of a group or even a “community” of fellow authors, poets and playwrights.

Oxford was not only part of such a community; their tributes make clear that he was their leader.  

Arthur Golding (Histories of Trogus Pompeius) wrote to him in 1564: “It is not unknown to others, and I have had experiences thereof myself, how earnest a desire your Honor hath naturally grafted in you to read, peruse, and communicate with others as well the histories of ancient times, and things done long ago, as also of the present estate of things in our days, and that not without a certain pregnancy of wit and ripeness of understanding.”

Thomas Underdowne (Aethiopian History) told him in 1569 that “matters of learning” were good for a nobleman, but then warned the earl that “to be too much addicted that way, I think it is not good.”

(In that same year 19-year-old Oxford ordered “a Geneva Bible gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, with other books and papers” as well as “Tully’s and Plato’s works in folio, with other books.”  Sounds indeed like a young man “addicted” to learning!)

When Thomas Bedingfield dedicated his translation of Cardanus Comforte to Oxford in 1573, he told him that “I do present the book your Lordship so long desired,” confirming that the earl had been personally involved in this publication [for which he contributed both a Letter to the Reader and a poem].   He reminds Oxford of “the encouragement of your Lordship, who (as you well remember), unawares to me, found some part of this work and willed me in any wise to proceed therein.”

Also in 1573 the distinguished physician Thomas Twyne (Breviary of Britain) referred to Oxford as being “in your flower and tender age” before inviting him to bestow  upon his work “such regard as you are accustomed to do on books of Geography, Histories, and other good learning, wherein I am privy your honour taketh singular delight.”

One of Oxford’s secretaries, Anthony Munday (Mirror of Mutability), told the earl in 1579 that he looked forward to “the day when as conquerors we may peacefully resume our delightful literary discussions.”

Munday was apparently referring to the rivalry between the Euphuists under Oxford and the Romanticists who included Philip Sidney and Gabriel Harvey.  His reference to “our delightful literary discussions” offers a glimpse of Oxford personally engaged with other writers who were developing a new English literature and drama leading to “Shakespeare.”

And the works created by members of this circle (such as John Lyly, another of his secretaries) would later become known as “contemporary sources” upon which “Shakespeare” drew.

Thomas Watson (Hekatompathia, or The Passionate Century of Love) in 1580 reminded Oxford that he had “willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand.”  He cited Oxford as a kind of literary trend-setter, one whose approval would move others to approve as well; and because of this influence he had, his acceptance of Watson’s work in manuscript meant that “many have oftentimes and earnestly called upon me to put it to the press.”

Angel Day (The English Secretary) wrote in 1586 to Oxford about “the learned view and insight of your Lordship, whose infancy from the beginning was ever sacred to the Muses.”

Robert Greene (Card of Fancy) wrote publicly to Oxford in 1584 that he was “a worthy  favorer and fosterer of learning [who] hath forced many through your excellent virtue to offer the first-fruits of their study at the shrine of your Lordship’s courtesy.”

In other words, Oxford encouraged young writers who were working on their very first works to be be published, guiding them to the press.

In 1591 the composer John Farmer, who apparently lived in Oxford’s household, dedicated his first songbook (Plain-Song) to the earl, saying he was “emboldened” because of “your Lordship’s great affection to this noble science” (music) – which, of course, must be said also of Shakespeare.  In his second dedication (First Set of English Madrigals, 1599), Farmer told Oxford that “using this science as a recreation, your Lordship have over-gone most of them that make it a profession.”

So it’s not just the dedications, per se, that are impressive here; it’s also that the comments and praises appear to be absolutely genuine and heartfelt.   Oxford may have had many faults of character, such as a tendency to be jealous and vengeful, but among his fellow writers and other artists he must have been unusually spirited and generous.  Perhaps his relationship with them was akin to Prince Hamlet’s relationship with the players:

“You are welcome, masters!  Welcome, all!  I am glad to see thee well.  Welcome, good friends … Masters, you are all welcome.  We’ll e’en to it like French falconers, fly at anything we see.  We’ll have a speech straight.  Come, give us a taste of your quality.  Come, a passionate speech!”  

[All added emphases above are mine.]

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Robert Greene is getting me into many problems, as Chettle seems to have had something to do with “Groatsworth of Wit” (Ogburn) and other works with Greene’s name after Greene “died.” I think they seem to be written by Nashe.

    Anyway, I find Greene’s dedication to de Vere in “Gwydonius” pretty intriguing. There is an introductory poem in this work which points to de Vere: “tuo vere iam V E R E dicandus honori.”

    I think I am going to take Greene’s out of the canon, as his plays are not by de Vere at all (they are boring for sure).

  2. You are not going to believe it.

    Apart from the “Beowulf evidence” I have found in the Faerie Queen,
    a copy of which only Nowell, de Vere and Cecil could have read (see Anderson), right now I have found that “Edw. Spenser” translated from the greek (!) the platonic dialogue “Axiochus,” which was annexed a “sweet discourse” by the page of the right honorable Earl of Oxenforde [i.e. Anthony Munday], to commemorate the victory at Whitehall.

    Look at the entry “Axiochus” in the Spenser Enciclopedia:

    The victory of Whitehall is the one of november, 1581, months after de Vere was released from the Tower by the Vavasor scandal.

    Why that translation? Because he did it while he was in the Tower, like Socrates is doing when talking about the shortness of life and the different results of the good and bad… Of course, we know de Vere knew Greek, but not the that Spenser…

    This is huge, don’t you think?

    Finishing my book I just found this big huge evidence.

    Tell me what you think, please…

  3. As Beauclerk says: the page who gave the “sweet discourse” on behalf of the Knight of the Tree of the Sun (Oxford) could have been Southampton.

    In any case, as Anderson says, “De Vere’s challenge was, in fact, one of the most elaborately conceived Elizabethan tiltyard productions ever recorded.”

    This is something great…!

  4. I have, really, really BIG news.

    Could you give me a private e-mail to share my discovery to you?

    Yours faithfully,

    Ricardo Mena.

  5. The KJV of 1611 was written by a poet.

    But he was not Shakespeare.

    Thanks to my late investigations, I have a powerful reason to defend the authorship of the hidden poet.

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