Part Two of Reason 51: Images of “The Defense of the Military Profession” Dedicated to Edward Earl of Oxford

I thought I’d add to Reason 51 by sharing facsimiles of some of the pages from The Defense of Militarie Profession (1579), dedicated to Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford by Geffrey Gates.  (Cover page at left.)

The volume was printed by Henry Middleton for publisher John Harrison, who would go on to publish Venus and Adonis in 1593, introducing “William Shakespeare” with a narrative poem personally overseen by the author.

Immediately inside the book, on the first lefthand page, is the coat-of-arms usually used by Oxford, with his earldom motto VERO NIHIL VERIUS or Nothing Truer than Truth displayed along the bottom.

On the first righthand page begins the dedication “TO THE RIGHT honorable, Edward de Vere, Earle of Oxenford, vicount Bulbecke, Lord of Escales and Baldesmere, and Lord great Chamberlaine of England.”

Experience bears such a sovereignty over all things human and divine,” it begins [modern English], “that without it the quality or power either of word, deed, devise, or matter, cannot make itself known to the understanding of men: for the heavenly truth justifies itself by the effects of his nature and power, made apparent to the eyes & capacities of earthly creatures…”

The sixty-three-page treatise begins [also modern English]:  “It has been an old controversy in the opinions of the English nation what profession of life is most honorable in worldly states…”

My feeling is that Edward de Vere not only acted as patron but financed the publication himself; and beyond that, I am sure he took great interest in this work and probably contributed a great deal to it behind the scenes.

When the Northern Rebellion began in November 1569, Oxford wrote to his guardian William Cecil, the future Lord Burghley, asking for military service against the northern Catholic earls.  To the nineteen-year-old earl, such service was the most honorable course.  He told Cecil that “at this time I am bold to desire your favour and friendship that you will suffer me to be employed by your means and help in this service that now is in hand … ” 

He reminded Cecil that “heretofore you have given me your good word to have me see the wars and services in strange and foreign places … Now you will do me so much honour as that by your purchase of my License I may be called to the service of my prince and country …”

In September 1572, after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacrre of Protestants in France, Oxford wrote to Burghley saying he would be eager to serve the Queen abroad, on the Continent:  “I had rather serve there than at home where yet some honor were to be got; if there be any setting forth to sea, to which service I bear most affection, I shall desire your Lordship to give me and get me that favour and credit, that I might make one.  Which if there be no such intention, then I shall be most willing to be employed on the sea coasts, to be in a readiness with my countrymen against any invasion.”

Oxford never lost his eagerness to serve as a military man.  He connected that activity with honor.  It’s easy to imagine him composing Hamlet and having Ophelia cry out, “O what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!  The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword, the expectancy and rose of the fair state…”

Edward Earl of Oxford was all of that … and much more.

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hank, again a great work.
    However, as to the Hamlet, the more I read it the more I feel that in the character of Hamlet de Vere created a ‘mixture’ of himself and Southampton. Do you have this feeling, either?

    • Hi Sandy — yes, absolutely. Actually I see Oxford using the latter part of the play to morph Hamlet into Southampton and then depict the rebellion, the trial, the deal to pardon Southampton, and finally the succession of the outsider, Fortinbras of Norway (King James of Scotland). I gave a talk on this once and probably didn’t communicate it very well:-) Thanks and best from Hank

      • Hank, it would be great joy for me to hear/read that talk. Is it available in any form?
        Thanks! Sandy

      • I have to look in my files. I gave a talk on it that may not have been written out completely. But I can reconstruct a lot, especially regarding the final act of Hamlet Q2 1604.

        Laertes, brother of Ophelia, would become Robert Cecil, brother of Oxford’s wife Anne Cecil. Hamlet, now morphed into Southampton, begs Laertes-Cecil for “pardon” more than once in his speech that includes admitting that he shot the arrow o’er the house and hit my brother, that is, for leading the Essex rebellion, which was in fact aimed at getting rid of Robert Cecil.

        I’ll see what I can dig up and reconstruct, in upcoming weeks, and post it on the blog.

  2. But prior to that, just to be safe, he’d killed William Cecil behind the curtain 🙂 It was William’s mistake: why did he shout so loudly that ‘SoutHamlet’ was going to kill his mother, the queen 🙂
    Thank you Hank, I’m waiting dor it eagerly. Sandy

  3. I thought Richard Field published Venus and Adonis. Or is that he printed it? What would be the difference? Strats make a big deal of this because Field came from Stratford.

    • Thanks for bringing up this most interesting topic! You are correct that it’s commonly held that Richard Field was both publisher and printer of the first edition of “Venus and Adonis” in 1593. The title page reports:

      “Imprinted by Richard Field, and are to be sold at the sign of the white Greyhound in Paules Churchyard – 1593”

      The White Greyhound was the sign of the publisher and bookseller John Harrison (the Elder).

      Now amid the huge sales of this immediate bestseller, Field for some reason sold or gave the copyright to John Harrison and then the next year came the second edition of “Venus and Adonis” and the title page reports:

      “Imprinted by Richard Field, and are to be sold at the sign of the white Greyhound in Paules Church-yard – 1594”

      No change! Yet as Oscar Campbell writes in the Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare, “A second edition was published in 1594 by John Harrison, who had secured the copyright from Field. Field remained the printer, however.”

      Clearly John Harrison was involved in the publication from the beginning. The book is sold out of his shop from 1593 onward. Meanwhile, along with the second edition of “Venus” in 1594, we have the first edition of “Lucrece,” and the title page reads:

      “Printed by Richard Field, for John Harrison, and are to be sold at the sign of the white Greyhound in Paules Church yard – 1594.”

      I’m far from an expert in this matter, but if you follow the money, clearly any income must come first from the paying customer to Harrison the bookseller and then to Field, in each of these three cases. I’ll stop here, although there’s more to it, and it does seem that Field is commonly held to have been the “publisher” of the first edition of Venus and held the copyright.

      I should add that my thinking is that Cecil is involved in Venus with Oxford and Field and Harrison. Cecil’s secretary Clapham in 1591 or 92 issued the Narcissus poem and dedication to Southampton, about a selfish young man on an island ruled by a virgin queen. Now comes Field, the printer, who started out in the shop of Vautroller, who printed three Arthur Golding books (with Oxford and/or Cecil helping?). Field had inherited his employer’s business by marrying his widow … smart move:-)

      So Field gets involved but Harrison is there from the beginning and is commonly known as publisher of the 1594 Venus and 1594 Lucrece, with Field still printing.

      Where is Charlie Chan or Colombo?

  4. Sometimes I don’t know if to laugh or to cry at the shakespearean arguments. Did de Vere live where Golding’s books were on the shelves? Yes, surely. Could he take the Ovid’s translation from the shelf each day, could he discuss it with Golding as his uncle almost daily? That is did de Vere live, did he grow up, WHERE this spirit was and breathed? Yes. Well, it doesn’t matter. What REALLY matters that there were horses and carts and Shakspere COULD sit on a cart, and if he wanted, he could go to London to Field… Never ever any mention of such an occasion, but the victorious conclusion is ready: yeah, if he could, he surely did. There are tens of thousands of people who lived back then in London and Stratford, of course more than likely that whoever ever came across Field in the street, later popped up in his shop, just like Shaksper, why not? If they could, they did…How many books must have been on thes shelves of Field as a publisher, and Shakspere could read all…. and THEY laugh at Oxford grown up within reach of the Metamorphoses… Are they normal?

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