What did Charles Dickens Think about the Shakespeare Authorship Question?

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

What did Charles Dickens think about the Shakespeare Authorship Question?  Well, on 13 June 1847 he wrote to Mr. William Sandys, who is best remembered for his publication Christmas Carols Ancient and ModernIt is a great comfort, to my thinking, that so little is known concerning the poet.  It is a fine mystery; and I tremble every day lest something should come out.”

Dickens imagined (seriously, but in a humorous vein) what would have happened if someone had trailed around after Shakespeare, taking notes, the way the eighteenth-century biographer James Boswell kept a diary of his time spent with English literary figure Samuel Johnson.

A Phrenology map

People would have opened Shakespeare’s grave, Dickens wrote, and his skull would have been exhibited by practitioners of phrenology – an analytical method based on the belief that configurations of the skull indicate certain mental faculties and character traits.

What if a Boswell of the Elizabethan age had kept a diary of time spent with William Shakspere of Stratford upon Avon?  And what if another Boswell had trailed around after Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford?  For one thing, we would not have any Shakespeare authorship question!

The letter:

Charles Dickens to Mr. William Sandys
1, Devonshire Terrace, June 13th, 1847.

Dear Sir,

Many thanks for your kind note. I shall hope to see you when we return to town, from which we shall now be absent (with a short interval in next month) until October. Your account of the Cornishmen gave me great pleasure; and if I were not sunk in engagements so far, that the crown of my head is invisible to my nearest friends, I should have asked you to make me known to them. The new dialogue I will ask you by-and-by to let me see. I have, for the present, abandoned the idea of sinking a shaft in Cornwall.

I have sent your Shakesperian extracts to Collier.* It is a great comfort, to my thinking, that so little is known concerning the poet. It is a fine mystery; and I tremble every day lest something should come out. If he had had a Boswell, society wouldn’t have respected his grave, but would calmly have had his skull in the phrenological shop-windows.

Believe me,
Faithfully yours.

  • John Payne Collier (1789-1883), the English Shakespearean critic who was also found to have committed a great amount of forgeries.

What Winston Churchill Said About Questioning the Shakespeare Authorship

A favorite story among Oxfordians, which may or may not be apocryphal, is about what Sir Winston Churchill is said to have replied when it was suggested by someone – perhaps at the table during one of those talk-filled dinner parties, at which Churchill loved to hold forth – that he take a look at the 1920 book “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford by John Thomas Looney.  Churchill shook his head and retorted:  “I don’t like to have my myths tampered with!”

Sounds familiar!  Churchill was well aware of Shakespeare’s importance as a symbol of English national pride.  In A History of the English-Speaking Peoples he concludes his chapter on the Spanish armada with the stirring final words of the Bastard in King John:

Come the three corners of the world in arms,

And we shall shock them.  Nought shall make us rue

If England to itself do rest but true.

The photo of Churchill reprinted here was taken by Yousuf Karsh of Canada, whom I interviewed for PARADE magazine in 1978, when the great photographer was seventy.  Here’s a summary of what Karsh told me about how he had created this world-famous portrait, which became a symbol of Britain’s fighting spirit:

It was December 30, 1941, when an embattled Churchill gave a rousing speech to the Canadian Parliament and, afterward, marched into an anteroom where Karsh, then thirty-three, was waiting to take his picture.  The British prime minister glared at the camera.

“You may take one,” he growled, clamping a freshly lit cigar in the corner of his mouth.

“Sir, here is an ashtray,” the young photographer said.

Churchill dismissed the offer with a frown.  Moments passed.  Then suddenly Karsh snatched the cigar from the Great Man’s lips.  Scowling, Churchill thrust his head forward in anger and placed his hand on his hip as if in defiance.  At that moment, the photographer clicked his shutter.

The portrait was published on the cover of LIFE magazine and won Karsh international attention.   The real story is that this marvelous symbol of Britain’s fighting spirit, staring down his enemies, was actually the picture of a man who was angry at the theft of his cigar!

“All your writers do consent that ‘ipse’ is he: now, you are not ‘ipse’,’ for I am he” — No. 58 of 100 Reasons Why Edward, 17th Earl of Oxford = “Ipse” = “Shakespeare”

One scene in the Shakespeare plays, viewed through the lens of Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford as the dramatist, is so starkly illuminating that it quickly shatters the myth that the author could have been William Shakspere of Stratford upon Avon: Act 5, Scene 1 of As You Like It (reprinted below).

“As You Like It” appeared in print for the first time here, in the First Folio of Shakespeare plays, in 1623

Set in the Forest of Arden, it has no function in the plot and appears to be one of several late additions inserted into the play.  In this short scene the courtier-clown Touchstone confronts William, the country fellow (who appears in no other scene of the play) and orders him to stop claiming possession of Audrey, the country wench.

Orthodox scholars and teachers are constrained to treat the scene seriously, trying to make sense of it in the context of the rest of the play, and they often come up with interesting explanations – except for the most obvious one, that the scene represents the author speaking directly to his audience and trying to tell us the truth by means of allegorical fiction.

Touchstone the courtier-clown stands for the playwright, Oxford, the courtier who was called “best for comedy” at Queen Elizabeth’s royal court; Audrey the country wench stands for the body of Oxford’s plays, regarded by the Puritans as immoral; and William the country fellow is William of Stratford, who came to London  from the Warwickshire countryside.

In this short allegorical scene, Oxford accuses William Shakspere of trying to claim credit for the Shakespeare plays (or to gain profit by selling them), and tells him to abandon all pretensions as author:

“All your writers do consent that ipse is he (All the writers who have worked under my patronage and guidance know that he himself is the master writer); now, you are not ipse, for I am he (now, you, William, are not he himself, the great author, because I am)!”

Touchstone is one of Oxford’s clear self-portraits.  Just as Edward de Vere in the 1570’s and 1580’s had enjoyed the Queen’s license to write and produce plays satirizing members of her court, Touchstone is an “allowed fool” (as Olivia calls Feste in Twelfth Night) who can say what he wants and get away with it.  He’s brilliant, insightful, witty and argumentative.  He can laugh at the madness of the world and at himself.  Above all, he is a “touchstone” or identifier of truth and true value (or the lack of it) beneath appearances on the surface.

We are prepared in Act 3 Scene 3 to recognize Touchstone as the dramatist.  In the forest with Audrey (the plays), he tells her:

“I am here with thee and thy goats, as the most capricious poet, honest Ovid, was among the Goths.” 

Ovid, the ancient Roman poet and Shakespeare’s favorite source, was banished to the land of the Goths, just as Oxford was prevented from taking credit as author.

Then Touchstone sets up the truth as told best by “feigning” or being deceptive:

Touchstone – When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a man’s good wit seconded with [acknowledged by] the forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.  Truly, I would the gods had made thee poetical.”

Audrey – I do not know what poetical is.  Is it honest in deed and word?  Is it a true thing?”

Touchstone – No, truly; for the truest poetry is the most feigning …”

The best (or only) way for Oxford to tell the truth is by means of symbolism and allegory in his dramatic works, which are otherwise fictional…

But, he warns, if you fail to understand my “hidden” meanings you will be denying my existence; you might as well kill me in the little room of a torture chamber.   

William, Touchstone and Audrey

Here is Act 5, Scene 1 with some of my comments inserted:

The Forest of Arden [which, in real life, lay between Stratford upon Avon and Oxford’s estate on the Avon known as Bilton.]

TOUCHSTONE [Oxford] and AUDREY [the plays] are onstage … Enter WILLIAM [of Stratford]

WILLIAM – Good even, Audrey.

AUDREY – God ye good even, William.

WILLIAM – And good even to you, sir.

TOUCHSTONE – Good even, gentle friend. Cover thy head, cover thy head; nay, prithee, be covered. How old are you, friend?

WILLIAM – Five and twenty, sir.

[William Shakspere of Stratford was 25 in 1589, by which time Oxford would have completed the original versions of all the plays; but he would have written and inserted this scene no earlier than 1599, when the “Shakespeare” name had just begun to be printed on the plays, and possibly not until 1603.]

TOUCHSTONE – A ripe age. Is thy name William?

WILLIAM – William, sir. [If the playwright’s name was William, would he decide to give that name to this country bumpkin?]

TOUCHSTONE – A fair name. Wast born i’ the forest here?

WILLIAM – Ay, sir, I thank God.

TOUCHSTONE – ‘Thank God;’ a good answer.  Art rich?

WILLIAM – Faith, sir, so-so. [William Shakspere appears to have been a pretty good money-maker.]

TOUCHSTONE – ‘So-so’ is good, very good, very excellent good; and yet it is not; it is but so-so.  Art thou wise?

WILLIAM – Ay, sir, I have a pretty wit. [Maybe Will of Stratford was naturally witty.]

Touchstone in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of 1996-97

TOUCHSTONE – Why, thou sayest well. I do now remember a saying, ‘The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.’ The heathen philosopher, when he had a desire to eat a grape, would open his lips when he put it into his mouth; meaning thereby that grapes were made to eat and lips to open. You do love this maid?

WILLIAM – I do, sir. [He wants to marry the plays, i.e., claim them for himself.]

TOUCHSTONE – Give me your hand. Art thou learned?

WILLIAM – No, sir. [Not educated ; perhaps illiterate.]

TOUCHSTONE – Then learn this of me: to have, is to have; for it is a figure in rhetoric that drink, being poured out  of a cup into a glass, by filling the one doth empty the other; [By filling Shakspere with credit for the plays, Oxford is being emptied of credit — Alex McNeil article, linked below] for all your writers do consent that ipse is he: now, you are not ipse, for I am he.

WILLIAM – Which he, sir?

TOUCHSTONE – He, sir, that must marry this woman. [He who deserves to be associated with the plays.] Therefore, you clown, abandon,–which is in the vulgar leave,–the society,–which in the boorish is company,–of this female,–which in the common is woman; which together is, abandon the society of this female, or, clown, thou perishest; or, to thy better understanding, diest; or, to wit I kill thee, make thee away, translate thy life into death, thy liberty into bondage: I will deal in poison with thee, or in bastinado [beating with sticks], or in steel; I will bandy with thee in faction [engage in controversy with you]; I will o’errun thee with policy [conquer you with cunning strategy]; I will kill thee a hundred and fifty ways: therefore tremble and depart!

AUDREY – Do, good William.

WILLIAM – God rest you merry, sir. (Exit)

My own guess (which comes from William Boyle, former editor of Shakespeare Matters) is that Oxford wrote this scene in 1603, after he had agreed to the complete obliteration of his identity as author of the “Shakespeare” works.  He may have inserted it into the play for a private performance at Wilton in December 1603 — and for those who knew the truth, it must have been wildly funny and yet profoundly sad.

So this is No. 58 of 100 reasons why Oxford must have been “Shakespeare.”

[I recommend a superb article by Alex McNeil – As You Like It: Is Touchstone vs. William the First Authorship Story?” – which appeared in the Spring 2003 issue of Shakespeare Matters, the newsletter of the Shakespeare Fellowship, and reprinted online.]

The Shakespeare Dedications and the Daughters of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford — a “Family Affair”: No. 57 of 100 Reasons Why Edward de Vere was the Great Author

Only three men received dedications of Shakespeare works and each man was engaged to one of the Earl of Oxford’s three daughters.

Elizabeth de Vere (1575-1627) was engaged to Southampton but married William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby

Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton, to whom Venus and Adonis (1593) and Lucrece (1594) were dedicated, was then engaged to Oxford’s eldest daughter Elizabeth de Vere.

He refused to marry her despite pressure from William Cecil Lord Burghley, the girl’s grandfather and his guardian.  Elizabeth de Vere married William Stanley Earl of Derby at Greenwich Palace on January 26, 1595, when A Midsummer Night’s Dream was performed for guests.

The only other “Shakespeare” work directly dedicated to anyone was the First Folio in 1623, with thirty-six plays in over nine hundred pages, offered to “the most noble and incomparable paire of brethren”– William Herbert Earl of Pembroke and his brother Philip Herbert Earl of Montgomery.

William Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke (1580-1630)

Pembroke  had been engaged in 1597 to Oxford’s second daughter Bridget de Vere.

Montgomery married Oxford’s youngest daughter Susan de Vere in 1604.

The Folio of 1623 appeared nineteen years after Oxford’s death and seven years after the death of William Shakspere in Stratford-on-Avon.  The front matter, supervised by Ben Jonson (who also wrote the main introductory epistles), never explicitly identified the Warwickshire man; instead it contained a reference to “sweet Swan of Avon” and a mention of “thy Stratford moniment,” leaving it to people in the future to conclude that Shakspere was the great author and to build an entirely fictional “biography” based on that conclusion.

Philip Herbert the first Earl of Montgomery (1584-1650) at age 25 in 1609

Oxfordian researcher Ruth Loyd Miller (1922-2005) called the Shakespeare folio “a family affair” that began with the marriage of Susan de Vere and Philip Herbert during the 1604-05 Christmas-New Year season, six months following Oxford’s death on June 24, 1604.  Court festivities for the wedding included performances of seven “Shakespeare” plays – an unspoken tribute to the absent author.

The first two plays were “The Moor of Venice” (Othello) and The Merry Wives of Windsor.  Two more were performed, before and after the main event:

December 26: Measure for Measure

December 27: Wedding of Susan de Vere and Philip Herbert

December 28: The Comedy of Errors

In January the performances continued with Love’s Labour’s Lost, hosted by Southampton, followed by Henry the Fifth and The Merchant of Venice, the latter presented twice.

Susan de Vere dancing in Ben Jonson’s “Masque of Blackness” on January 6, 1605 at Whitehall in the Old Banqueting House

In addition there was Masque of Blackness by Jonson at Whitehall Palace; and the performers included the bride and groom, Susan and Philip; Elizabeth de Vere and her husband Derby; and Bridget de Vere’s former fiancé William Herbert Earl of Pembroke.

“This was the beginning of a long and intimate association between the daughters of the Earl of Oxford and their families, and Ben Jonson, climaxed in 1623 with the publication of the First Folio,” Ruth Miller wrote.  Jonson would remain “particularly close” to Susan de Vere and the Herbert brothers, Pembroke and Montgomery, with Pembroke bestowing on Jonson twenty pounds at the beginning of every new year “with which to purchase books.”

It was also the start of “an active, determined and intense campaign by Pembroke for the position of Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household,” Miller continued, noting the position “had purview over the office and properties of the Revels Office” and those of the Lord Chamberlain’s Company, which had become the King’s Men.

In 1616 Ben Jonson published a folio of his own works (the first of its kind in England), listing Shakespeare as having acted in two of his plays, Every Man in His Humour of 1598 and Sejanus of 1603 (without mentioning the Bard as a writer!).

Ben Jonson’s 1616 Folio of his Collected Works

Jonson’s costly folio was dedicated to Pembroke, his patron, who may have financed it.  Pembroke arranged at that time for Jonson to receive a pension of one hundred marks a year.  Jonson’s folio was issued just a few months after the death of Shakspere of Stratford in April 1616 – an event that occurred without any public comment.  Jonson’s identification of Shakespeare an actor would be repeated in the Folio of 1623.

In 1621 Pembroke temporarily increased Jonson’s pension to two hundred pounds.  Having become the Chamberlain, now “all he wanted to do was retain” his position, Miller wrote, “and under no conditions was he willing to accept more lucrative posts unless he might leave his place to his brother Montgomery.”  Obviously Pembroke was fiercely committed to publishing Shakespeare’s plays in folio.

(It may be that Pembroke was simply determined to preserve the great plays before they could be lost or destroyed.  But Katherine Chiljan suggests in Shakespeare Suppressed (2011) that Pembroke may have wanted to obscure the Bard’s connection to Southampton, whose identity as the son of Oxford and Queen Elizabeth posed a potential threat to King James and, in turn, endangered Pembroke’s own wealth and political power that came from the Stuart monarch.  In fact the First Folio in 1623 emphasized the great author as an actor, far from the nobility, and it contained none of the Shakespeare poems or sonnets and no mention of Southampton at all.)

Number 57 of 100 reasons why Oxford was the great author is simply that the Shakespeare dedications all lead back to Edward de Vere and his daughters and other relatives.  To repeat Ruth Miller’s phrase, what we have here is “a family affair.”

Jonson the Man … Shakespeare the Mask

Ben Jonson, the Man

The portrait of Ben Jonson reveals a flesh-and-blood man whose emotional life is palpable:

But the portrait of “Shakespeare” reveals only a mask, whose edge follows the hairline all the way down to the chin…

The true author’s eyes peer out, through the holes of the mask…

What Charles Dickens Wrote About James VI of Scotland – James I of England

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Here is just some of what Charles Dickens wrote in A Child’s History of England (1851-53) about James VI of Scotland, who became King James the First of England upon the death of Queen Elizabeth on March 24, 1603:

“’Our cousin of Scotland’ was ugly, awkward, and shuffling both in mind and person. His tongue was much too large for his mouth, his legs were much too weak for his body, and his dull goggle-eyes stared and rolled like an idiot’s.  He was cunning, covetous, wasteful, idle, drunken, greedy, dirty, cowardly, a great swearer, and the most conceited man on earth.

“His figure – what is commonly called rickety from birth – presented a most ridiculous appearance, dressed in thick padded clothes, as a safeguard against being stabbed (of which he lived in continual fear), of a grass-green color from head to foot, with a hunting-horn dangling at his side instead of a sword, and his hat and feather sticking over one eye, or hanging on the back of his head, as he happened to toss it on.

King James (1566-1625)

“He used to loll on the necks of his favorite courtiers, and slobber their faces, and kiss and pinch their cheeks; and the greatest favorite he ever had [Buckingham] used to sign himself in his letters to his royal master, His Majesty’s ‘dog and slave,’ and used to address his majesty as ‘his Sowship.’

“His majesty was the worst rider ever seen, and thought himself the best.  He was one of the most impertinent talkers (in the broadest Scotch) ever heard, and boasted of being unanswerable in all manner of argument.  He wrote some of the most wearisome treatises ever read – among others, a book upon witchcraft, in which he was a devout believer – and thought himself a prodigy of authorship.

King James

“He thought, and wrote, and said, that a king had a right to make and unmake what laws he pleased, and ought to be accountable to nobody on earth.

“This is the plain true character of the personage whom the greatest men about the Court praised and flattered to that degree, that I doubt if there be anything much more shameful in the annals of human nature.”

Well, you might say that Dickens had a less-than-favorable opinion of this monarch, whose occupation of the English throne was engineered by Secretary Robert Cecil during the final two years of Elizabeth’s reign (when Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton was imprisoned in the Tower of London).

Dickens concluded his history of the reign of King James (1603-1625) by writing:

“I know of nothing more abominable in history than the adulation that was lavished on this King and the vice and corruption that such a barefaced habit of lying produced in his Court … a creature like his Sowship set upon a throne is like the Plague, and everybody receives infection from him.”

“The Earl of Oxford and Master Edwards of Her Majesty’s Chapel, for Comedy and Enterlude” – No. 56 of 100 Reasons Why Oxford Was “Shakespeare”

“For Tragedy, Lord Buckhurst and Master Edward Ferrys do deserve the highest praise: the Earl of Oxford and Master Edwards of Her Majesty’s Chapel, for Comedy and Enterlude.” The Arte of English Poesie, 1589

Richard Edwards, the Elizabethan musician and poet, was thirty-eight in 1561 when he became Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal, the director of the choirboys who entertained the Queen with plays and concerts.  In the following year, Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford arrived in London at age twelve as the first of Elizabeth’s royal wards.  The young earl’s father had maintained his own acting troupe, which had performed at the family home of Castle Hedingham in Essex, and Oxford’s childhood love of plays and theatrical productions never left him.  During the rest of his life he would actively patronize the Chapel Children and the Children of St. Paul’s (known in the countryside as Oxford’s Boys), and an adult acting company as well.

Although “Damon and Pithias” was written and performed for Queen Elizabeth in the Christmas season of 1564, it was first printed in 1571 and attributed to Richard Edwards, who had died in 1566.

In the Christmas season of 1564-65 a play attributed to Richard Edwards was performed by the Chapel Children for Elizabeth and the Royal Court at Whitehall Palace.  The play, Damon and Pithias, was the first “tragicomedy” in England and the high-water mark of English drama up to then.  It was set in the Greek Court of Dionysius, but its closing songs expressed loyalty to the Queen by name, revealing that the royal Court of Elizabeth had been intended all along – an early example of Shakespeare’s habit of using foreign settings to reflect England itself.

The prologue of Damon and Pithias, referring to its author, stated that “to some he seemed too much in young desires to range.”  Then it switched to the plural “Authors” of the play, adding, “I speak for our defense.”   Did Edward de Vere collaborate on Damon and Pithias with Master Edwards, as the The Arte of English Poesie suggests?  Or, in fact, was the teen-age royal ward the sole author of this youthful, highly spirited play?

The closing song evoked Oxford’s motto Nothing Truer than Truth:

True friends talk truly, they gloss for no gain…

True friends for their true prince refuseth not their death.

The Lord grant her such friends, most noble Queen Elizabeth!

Decades later Sonnet 82 by “Shake-speare” would echo those lines:

Thou, truly fair, wert truly sympathized

In true plain words by thy true-telling friend

Christ Church Hall – yes, used in a scene for Harry Potter…

In August 1566 the Queen visited Oxford University and presented Edward de Vere, now sixteen, with his honorary MA degree.  [The young earl studied mainly with private tutors.]  During her Majesty’s historic visit she arrived at Christ Church Hall for the student performance of Palamon and Arcyte, a new play attributed to Edwards, dramatizing Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale.

This performance on two separate nights became a major event of campus lore.  Word-of-mouth from rehearsals and previews had served to build up tremendous excitement and anticipation, so that once Elizabeth and her Court were seated, the incoming crowd swelled to the point that a wall by the stairs ripped away, crushing three individuals to death and injuring five others.  Elizabeth sent for her own doctors to help and, after all the hurt or dead had been carried off, the show went on as scheduled.

“The Two Noble Kinsmen” as by Fletcher and Shakespeare, printed in 1634, was probably based on surviving parts of the “lost” play “Palamon and Arcyte” by sixteen-year-old Edward de Vere in 1566

Palamon and Arcyte is now a “lost” play, but it’s often cited as a source of The Two Noble Kinsman, printed nearly seventy years later in 1634 as by John Fletcher (1579-1625) & William Shakespeare.  Scholars have identified the “Shakespearean” sections as well as lesser stuff by Fletcher; but they are baffled as to why the Bard, near the very end of his illustrious career, would decide to collaborate with an inferior writer.

The logical answer is that he did nothing of the sort; on the contrary, the “young Shakespeare” wrote Palamon and Arcyte, at sixteen in 1566 – and some of his text survived over the ensuing decades, into the next century, when Fletcher filled in the missing parts (with his own inferior writing) to create The Two Noble Kinsmen.

During the performance, with Oxford in attendance, the Queen was thrilled by the staging of a “cry of hounds” for Theseus, Duke of Athens.  Reacting to the realism of the scene, students began “hallooing” and Elizabeth is reported to have shouted, “O excellent!  Those boys are ready to leap out at windows to follow the hounds!”  Perhaps the author of Hamlet recalled Her Majesty’s delight at the naturalness of it all when he wrote the Prince’s statement that “the purpose of playing” is “to hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature.” 

“Hounds at Full Cry” – the oil painting by Thomas Blinks

In the future A Midsummer Night’s Dream by “Shakespeare” would also present Theseus, Duke of Athens, who says: “My love shall hear the music of my hounds … My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind … A cry more tuneable was never holloo’d to nor cheered with horn.”  When the Queen attended the Dream at Court, did she suddenly realize that Oxford must have inserted the hounds as a private, shared recollection of those earlier hounds?

The alleged playwriting career of Richard Edwards lasted just two years.  His death on October 31, 1566 occurred only weeks after Palamon and Arcyte had been staged for the Queen at Oxford.  Then, however, a decade later in 1576 came publication of The Paradise of Dainty Devices, a collection of ninety-nine poems (and/or song lyrics) that Master Edwards had compiled “for his private use” before he died, according to the printer Henry Disle.  Ten of the verses were attributed to “M. Edwardes,” with eight signed “E.O.” for the Earl of Oxford.

If in fact Edwards had compiled the poems ten years earlier, Oxford would have composed his contributions by age sixteen; but if the earl had done the compiling, he might have written his own poems at any time up to when he was twenty-six in 1576.  Of the nine contributors with their names or initials on the title page, only Oxford and Lord Vaux were noblemen, and the latter was deceased.

(There are many unanswered questions about The Paradise, not least of which is how many other verses in the volume might have come from Oxford’s pen.  Alexander B. Grosart in the Fuller Worthies’ Library of 1872 identified twenty-two Elizabethan poems by Edward de Vere, remarking that “an unlifted shadow lies across his memory.”)

“Shakespeare” would later use part of a song, attributed in The Paradise to Master Edwards, entitled In Commendation of Music (“Where griping grief the heart would wound,” etc.).  The excerpt appears in Romeo and Juliet (4.5):

When griping grief the heart doth wound,

And doleful dumps the mind oppress,

Then mustic with her silver sound…

Hyder Rollins, in his edition of 1927 for Harvard University Press, reports that The Paradise of Dainty Devices was “the most popular miscellany printed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth” and that by 1606 it had “reached at least a tenth edition.”  Additional poetry was included with many of the new printings.

As stated before in this series of blogs, none of the above material is suggested as “proof” that Edward de Vere Lord Oxford was the writer of the works attributed to “Shakespeare.”  What we have been collecting, instead, is a growing body of circumstantial evidence so overwhelming that it might compel a jury to “convict” Oxford of having written those works.

Richard Edwards, who is No. 56 of 100 Reasons why Oxford was the great author, comprises a striking example of such evidence.  Rather than the traditional Bard of Stratford having to get acces to these sources and digest them for his creative use, we find the teenage Edward de Vere in relationship to the Master of the Chapel Children in terms of an intensely shared interest in music, lyrics, poetry, players and plays – strands of which are all intertwined with, and connected to, the future “Shakespeare” works.

Once the Stratfordian paradigm is dismissed, and the Oxfordian perspective adopted in its place, the pieces immediately start fitting together and making perfect sense.  Here is the stuff of genuine biography, as opposed to the heavily padded but empty life-story the Stratfordians are doomed to keep dishing out — until enough people, undoubtedly students of a new generation, see that the traditional assumptions contradict each other and will not ever work.  Then, once the world realizes where the true treasure is buried in plain sight, the amount of riches to come forth will be blinding.

Important sources for this blog post include:

Dictionary of National Biography on Richard Edwards (1523?-1566)

Frederick Boas: University Drama in the Tudor Age, 1914 (see online link p. 89 +)

Hyder Rollins, The Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1927

Katherine Chiljan, “Oxford and Palamon and Arcite,” Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, Spring 1999

Nina Green in her “Edward de Vere Newsletter” No. 18, August 1990, February 2001

For Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford: A Sonnet in the Shakespearean Form

Edward de Vere


Professor Emeritus

Nasson College

Never was such injustice done a name,

Nor such a dubious cloud obscured a star,

Or such a mockery done deserved fame,

The world long blind to who you really are.

Arise, Great Oxford, let the world see

Who immortal Shakespeare really was,

Though lingered long to be or not to be.

Now time at last has recognized your cause.

Many long have doubted Stratford’s claim,

A man so far unfitted to the part,

So much unlived experience to explain

For such a man to reach the peak of art.

No man was ever born to shake a spear

More to the manner born than was De Vere.

(Dr. Herberger sent this sonnet without any thought of having it published on the blog – until I asked his permission, which he granted.)

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