Thomas Watson, Poet: He’s a Link of Many Facets between Edward de Vere and “Shakespeare” – Part One of Reason No. 35 to believe Oxford became the Bard

AUTHORSHIP QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“In our conclusion that these Sonnets were addressed to Southampton, we have the full support of the great majority of authorities on the subject.” –  J. Thomas Looney, 1920

The lyrical poet Thomas Watson (1556?-1592) has the honor of being “one of the direct forerunners of Shakespeare (in Venus and Adonis and in the Sonnets) and of being the leader in the long procession of Elizabethan sonnet-cycle writers.”  [NNDB] And Watson is linked to “Shakespeare” through Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) in some startling ways:

Watson's Sequence of 100 Sonnets Dedicated to Edward de Vere (1582) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW

In 1582, Watson published his most celebrated work The Hekotompathia or Passionate Century of Love, a sequence of 100 or a “century” of numbered eighteen-line sonnets [“passions”], with “prose headers” demonstrating his knowledge of works by some fifty classical or renaissance authors in their original languages; and he dedicated it to Edward de Vere, testifying that the earl “had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand.”

[We may not be wrong in suggesting that Oxford himself contributed the “prose headers” accompanying each Watson sonnet, commenting on their contents and sources.]

In 1589, the year after Oxford sold his London mansion Fisher’s Folly to William Cornwallis (whose daughter Anne apparently found some verses written by De Vere and others, including a poem to appear in 1599 as by Shakespeare), Watson became employed in the Cornwallis household.  [That September, when playwright Christopher Marlowe was attacked by an innkeeper’s son named William Bradley for failure to pay a debt, Watson came to his aid and killed Bradley, for which he spent six months in prison – See Marlowe Society.]

Francis Walsingham, the spymaster (1530?-1590)

(Marlowe acted as a spy for the English government and it seems that Watson did, too.  His association with Francis Walsingham, head of the growing secret service during wartime buildup in the 1580’s, brings him into probable contact with Oxford from this direction as well.   On June 21, 1586, William Cecil Lord Burghley urged Walsingham to confront the Queen about financial assistance to Oxford; and on June 26 Elizabeth awarded Oxford his annual grant of 1,000 pounds that would be continued even by King James in 1603 until Oxford’s death in 1604.)

In 1590, Watson published Italian Madrigals –most of them composed by Luca Marenzio, while Marenzio was staying in Mantua with the Gonzaga family from 1568 to 1574 – which Watson put into English and composer William Byrd set to music. Yet Watson had never traveled to Italy, while Oxford had apparently stayed with the Gonzaga family while visiting Mantua in 1575!  [See the work of Dr. Michael Delahoyde of Washington State University, discussing “Oxford and Music” – a topic to be reserved for another “reason” in this series.]

In 1593, the year after Watson died, his collection of sixty numbered fourteen-line sonnets [in the later-known “Shakespearean” form] was published as The Tears of Fancie, or Love Disdained (but with no name on the title page and only “Finis T.W.” after the final sonnet, No. 60, which was a slightly different version of Oxford’s early sonnet Love Thy Choice, which he had written back in the 1570’s [if not earlier] to express his devotion to Queen Elizabeth.)

In 1609, when the sequence of numbered verses SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS was printed, one sonnet in the Dark Lady series (no. 130) was quite clearly a takeoff, satiric or otherwise, on one of the sonnets printed under Watson’s name (no. 7) in the Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love of 1582.  [For example, whereas Watson’s sonnet had “Her lips more red than any Coral stone,” Shakespeare wrote, “Coral is far more red than her lips’ red,” and so on.]

Also in Shakespeare’s sonnets there is a string of 100 verses or a “century” of them (nos. 27 to 126) between two equal segments of twenty-six sonnets apiece (nos. 1-26 and 127-152); and this central Shakespeare sequence is divided into two parts, of eighty and twenty sonnets, exactly as the Watson’s century had been divided.  [I’ll treat this link between Watson and Edward de Vere separately, as part two of “Reason No. 35” to believe Oxford was “Shakespeare.”]

And those who like acrostics or hidden messages (on which I take no position), here are six lines (5 to 10) in the exact center of Sonnet 76, which itself is the key to unlocking the entire sequence:

Why write I still all one, ever the same,

And keep invention in a noted weed,

That every word doth almost tell my name,

Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?

O know sweet love I always write of you,

ANd you and love are still my argument

Well, I know … it would be better to find an “N” as the last letter of “WATSON,” but I just figured to pass on what came from the Marlovian researcher John Baker and later from Oxfordian researchers Dr. Eric Altschuler and Dr. William Jansen, who suspect that “Thomas Watson” may have been “the primary pseudonym [of Edward de Vere] immediately preceding the use of ‘Shakespeare’ [in 1593].”

[My take would be that Oxford would have used Watson’s name in order to publish certain works.  Watson’s death was recorded as September 26, 1592; his Tears of Fancy was published the following year, 1593, when the name “Shakespeare” made its first appearance in print [on Venus and Adonis].

Here is the Watson dedication to Oxford in Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love in 1582:

To the Right Honorable my
very good Lord Edward de Vere, Earle
of Oxenford, Viscount Bulbecke, Lord
of Escales, and Badlesmere, and Lord High
Chamberlain of England, all
happinesse.

Alexander the Great, passing on a time by the workshop of Apelles, curiously surveyed some of his doings, whose long stay in viewing them brought all the people into so great a good liking of the painter’s workmanship, that immediately after they bought up all his pictures, what price soever he set them at.  And the like good hap (Right Honorable) befell unto me lately concerning these my Love Passions, which then chanced to Apelles for his Portraits.  For since the world hath understood (I know not how) that your Honor had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand, many have oftentimes and earnestly called upon me to put it to the press, that for their money they might but see what your Lordship with some liking had already perused.

And therewithal some of them said (either to yield your Honor his due praise, for soundness of judgment; or to please me, of whom long since they had conceived well) that Alexander would like of no lines, but such as were drawn by the cunning hand, and with the curious pencil, of Apelles.  Which I set not down here to that end, that I would confer my Poems with Apelle’s Portraits for worthiness; albeit I fitly compare your Honor’s person with Alexander’s for excellence.  But how bold soever I have been in turning out this my petty poor flock upon the open Common of the wide world, where every man may behold their nakedness, I humbly make request that if any storm fall unlooked-for (by the fault of malicious high foreheads or the poison of evil-edged tongues) these my little ones may shroud themselves under the broad-leafed Platane [plant] of your Honor’s patronage.

And thus at this present, I humbly take my leave; but first wishing the continual increase of your Lordship’s honor, with abundance of true Friends, reconciliation of all Foes, and what good soever tendeth unto perfect happiness.

Your Lordship’s humbly at command

Thomas VVatson

Here is Watson’s Sonnet No. 7:

Hark you that list to hear what saint I serve:
Her yellow locks exceed the beaten gold;
Her sparkling eyes in heav’n a place deserve;
Her forehead high and fair of comely mold;
Her words are music all of silver sound;
Her wit so sharp as like can scarce be found;
Each eyebrow hangs like Iris in the skies;
Her Eagle’s nose is straight of stately frame;
On either cheek a Rose and Lily lies;
Her breath is sweet perfume, or holy flame;
Her lips more red than any Coral stone;
Her neck more white than aged Swans that moan;
Her breast transparent is, like Crystal rock;
Her fingers long, fit for Apollo’s Lute;
Her slipper such as Momus dare not mock;
Her virtues all so great as make me mute:
What other parts she hath I need not say,
Whose face alone is cause of my decay.

And here is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, (satirizing?) the lines above:

My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the Sunne;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen Roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such Roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my Mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My Mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Here is Oxford’s sonnet Love Thy Choice (circa early 1570’s):

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart ?
Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint ?
Who filled your eyes with tears of bitter smart ?
Who gave thee grief and made thy joys to faint ?
Who first did paint with colours pale thy face ?
Who first did break thy sleeps of quiet rest ?
Above the rest in Court who gave thee grace ?
Who made thee strive in honour to be best ?
In constant truth to bide so firm and sure,
To scorn the world regarding but thy friends ?
With patient mind each passion to endure,
In one desire to settle to the end ?
Love then thy choice wherein such choice thou bind,
As nought but death may ever change thy mind.

And here is No. 60 of Tears of Fancy attributed to Watson, 1593:

Who taught thee first to sigh Alasse sweet heart? love
Who taught thy tongue to marshall words of plaint? love
Who fild thine eies with teares of bitter smart? love
Who gave thee griefe and made thy joyes so faint? love
Who first did paint with coullers pale thy face? love
Who first did breake thy sleepes of quiet rest? love
Who forst thee unto wanton love give place? love
Who thrald thy thoughts in fancie so distrest? love
Who made thee bide both constant firme and sure? love
Who made thee scorne the world and love thy friend? love
Who made thy minde with patience paines indure? love
Who made thee settle stedfast to the end? love
Then love thy choice though love be never gained,
Still live in love, dispaire not though disdained.

Stay tuned for Part Two of Reason No. 35 — How Oxford borrowed the Watson “century” structure for the “century” within the Shakespeare sonnets.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Life is a Journey not a DestinationThomas Watson, Poet: He’s a Link of Many Facets between Edward de Vere and “Shakespeare&… […]

  2. Thanks for some other informative website. Where else may just I get that type of info written in such a perfect
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    • Thanks for you kind words. The Shakespeare Fellowship site has great essays, etc., and links. If you have specific topics you can always ask in a comment here, and I’ll do my best to steer you to a site or sites. Best wishes!

  3. You state that “Watson had never traveled to Italy.” In section 1.3.2 of his dissertation, “Thomas Watson: New Biographical Evidence and His Translation of Antigone,” Ibrahim Alhiyari asserts that it is likely that Watson “stayed in Italy prior to his appearance in the four Douai College records between 1576 and 1577.” He may have even earned his BA degree at an unidentified Italian university.

    • Thanks for mentioning this dissertation. I would note that, according to your comment, it is “likely” that Watson was in Italy and he “may” have earned a degree in Italy — and these statements could be motivated, in all good faith, by the need to explain Watson’s obvious familiarity with Italian literature, etc. This is what is also needed by authors of the standard Shakespeare biographies. They need explain Shakespeare’s deep familiarity with so many subjects. But I’ll try to delve further; if Watson did go to Italy, I would love to know that and never attempt to deny or hide it. Thanks again.


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