“A NEVER WRITER TO AN EVER READER: NEWS!” — No. 63 of 100 Reasons Why Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

In 1603 the play Troilus and Cressida was mysteriously “blocked” from publication by James Roberts, who had issued a number of other Shakespeare quartos.   And after the publication of Hamlet in 1604, no more yet-unpublished Shakespeare plays came into print (until the First Folio in 1623 added eighteen more plays), at least not from the hands of those who possessed most of them.  It was as if the author had died.

The Historie of Troylus and Cressida finally appeared in quarto six years later, in 1609.  Midway through its printing, however, the cover page was altered; and also, the book now contained a sharp, angry warning that other yet-unpublished Shakespeare works were in danger of being suppressed by “the grand possessors” of them.  The remarkable epistle began with this heading: A NEVER WRITER TO AN EVER READER – NEWS

"Troilus and Cressida"(2nd Title Page 1609)

“Troilus and Cressida”
(2nd Title Page 1609)

"Troilus and Cressida" (first title page 1609)

“Troilus and Cressida” (first title page 1609)

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In the same year Pericles was issued, again in defiance of the unnamed “grand possessors.”  Also SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS Never before Imprinted was published in 1609, only to disappear for more than a century until 1711.  Inside was a strange dedication referring to the author as:

OUR EVER-LIVING POET

Calling someone “ever-living” meant the person was no longer walking around on Earth.  This was 1609 and the poet of the Sonnets was “ever-living” or dead (although the Stratford man, who would get credit for the works in the future, remained alive until 1616).

You might say these uses of NEVER and EVER are, at the least, intriguing … no orthodox scholar has been able to explain them … but surely the two words were inserted consciously and deliberately:

NEVER WRITER … EVER READER … EVER-LIVING POET … [And maybe should throw in NEVER BEFORE IMPRINTED]

SonnetsDedicationSonnets title page

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, had died at fifty-four on June 24, 1604.  In his body of youthful, signed poetry that he left behind, there is an “echo” poem in which the “fair young lady … clad all in color of a nun, and covered with a veil,” cries out her questions and receives answers from the echo.  She plays upon “ever” for E. Ver and as an anagram of Vere; and the Echo replies with that name (my emphases added):

Oh heavens!  Who was the first that bred in me this feverVere.

Who was the first that gave the wound whose fear I wear for ever?  Vere.

What tyrant, Cupid, to my harm usurps thy golden quiver?  Vere.

What wight first caught this heart and can from bondage it deliver?  Vere.

So it’s beyond doubt that Edward de Vere used “ever” and variations of it in relation to his own name.  In 1575 he inscribed a Latin poem on a blank page of a Greek New Testament sent to his wife, Anne Cecil, while he was away in Europe; and in one line, translated into English, he wrote that he hoped her motto would be EVER LOVER OF THE TRUTH/VERE. 

In 1598 the satirist and playwright John Marston wrote the following lines (with my emphases added):

Fly far thy fame,

Most, most of me beloved!  whose silent name

One letter bounds.  Thy TRUE judicial style

I EVER honour; and if my love beguile

Not much my hopes, then thy unvalued worth

Shall mount fair place when Apes are turned forth.

If Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare,” it follows that his own name was “silent”; and, of course, “Edward de Vere” is bounded by one letter … E.

Also in 1598 the poet Richard Barnfield wrote a verse in which he speaks directly to “Shakespeare thou, whose honey-flowing vein (pleasing the world) thy praises doth obtaine” (again with my emphases):

Live EVER you, at least in Fame live EVER:

Well may the Body die, but Fame dies NEVER.

Clearly for certain members of society, notably writers, the issue of the great author’s actual “name” was already in play; and it appears that these folks already knew that EVER and NEVER could be used to identify him (silently) as Edward de Vere.  Wits Recreation of 1640 contained an anonymous epigram that began:

To Mr. William Shake-spear   

Shake-speare, we must be silent in thy praise…

Venus and Adonis appeared in 1593 with the name “William Shakespeare” printed for the first time (on the dedication to the Earl of Southampton); and Lucrece was published in 1594 with another dedication by Shakespeare to the young earl.  Also in that same year, the poetical work Willobie His Avisa was published.  This enigmatic work has been attributed to Edward de Vere by the highly respected Oxfordian researcher Barb Flues, through stylistic tests; and in fact it contained the first reference to “Shakespeare” other than his printed signature:

Yet Tarquyne pluckt his glistering grape,

And Shake-speare, paints poore Lucrece rape.

[I would note first the hyphenation “Shake-speare,” indicating the likelihood of a pen name.  Also I would note the mention of Shakespeare in connection with his Lucrece, which was being issued simultaneously.  Who else, at that time, would know about the second Shakespeare poem but the author himself?]

Willobie His Avisa winds up with a long poem The Praise of a Contented Mind, containing a passage about the historical Troilus and Cressida; and at the end of the poem, concluding Willobie itself, is the author’s printed signature in large italicized typeface:

Ever or Never

In Hamlet it seems we can hear the author’s own voice in many of the Prince’s speeches; and at the end of the first act are these famous lines with “ever” and “I” spoken together (with my emphases):

The time is out of joint.  O cursed spite

That EVER I was born to set it right!

In two scenes of the play the Prince uses “ever” in connection with his “name.”  Both involve Horatio, the character that Oxfordians feel is based on Edward de Vere’s cousin Horatio Vere:

Hamlet: I am glad to see you well.  Horatio – or I do forget myself!

Horatio: The same, my lord, and your poor servant EVER.

Hamlet: Sir, my good friend – I’ll change THAT NAME with you.  (1.2.168-70)

At the end of the full text of the play, printed in 1604 after Oxford’s death that year, the words “ever” and “name” again appear with Horatio involved, as the dying Hamlet tells him:

O good Horatio, what a WOUNDED NAME!

(Things standing thus unknown) shall live behind me!

If thou didst EVER hold me in thy heart,

Absent thee from felicity awhile,

And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain

To tell my story.  (5.2.367-71)

It’s in the Sonnets where, in my view, Oxford speaks not through a character but, rather, in his own words; and here the signature words EVER and NEVER are difficult to avoid (with my emphases):

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?  (76)

And in Sonnet 116 the words appear to be an insistent identification; first, speaking of love:

O no, it is an EVER-fixed mark,

That looks on tempests and is NEVER shaken…

And in the concluding couplet:

If this be error and upon me proved,

I NEVER writ, nor no man EVER loved.

Once again, of course, none of this proves that Oxford was OUR EVER-LIVING POET, but it certainly adds to the evidence.  And I offer it here as No. 63 of 100 reasons to believe he was the NEVER WRITER (never acknowledged as the great author) addressing the EVER READER (those of us who have been thrilled and moved, to hilarity and tears, by his words).

TO BE CONTINUED — With a post about Oxford as “Ever or Never” in A Hundredth Sundry Flowres of 1573.

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