More on Edward de Vere as “Ever or Never”: Part Two of Reason No. 63 Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

Continuing our discussion of A Never Writer to an Ever Reader, the following post merely touches upon a tremendous amount of evidence that can be pulled together to form a complete picture…

Let us begin by recalling that a translation of Cardanus Comforte  was published in 1573 according to the “commandment” of twenty-three-year-old Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who contributed an eloquent prefatory letter and also a poem of several stanzas.  In the latter, Oxford defied his own social class by complaining that “the laboring man” does all the painful work while “the lord” gets all the benefits of it:

The laboring man that tills the fertile soil,

And reaps the harvest fruit, hath not indeed

The gain, but pain; but if for all his toil

He gets the straw, the lord will have the seed…

For he that beats the bush the bird not gets…

a hundredth - smaller

In the same year appeared what has been called the first English poetry anthology, entitled A Hundredth Sundrie Flowres, with verses attributed to various pen names (such as Ever or Never) plus the real name of Oxford’s friend George Gascoigne.  In one verse are these lines:

Thy brother Troilus eke, that gem of gentle deeds,

To think how abused he was, alas my heart it bleeds:

He beat about the bush, while others caught the birds,

Whom crafty Cresside mocked too much, yet fed him still with words…

Two years later the volume was drastically altered under the title The Posies of George Gascoigne, and to this day most scholars attribute both versions to Gascoigne.  It was not until Edward de Vere was identified as “Shakespeare” in 1920 that it became possible to see that Queen Elizabeth’s government saw fit to have Flowres censored, mangled and republished.

In 1926 B.M. Ward identified Oxford as the editor of Flowres and as the contributor of some sixteen of its poems; but in succeeding years, much more of the anthology has been seen as from his pen – including the eight poems attributed to Ever or Never.  Such insights, in turn, have revealed a great deal of evidence that Flowres was the creation of the young man whose genius would give the world the great works attributed to William Shakespeare.

Most of the early signed poetry of Edward de Vere and also in A Hundredth Sundry Flowres of 1573 was about his relationship to the Queen, with whom he had become passionately and intimately involved.  This was the highly sensitive part – that Oxford and Elizabeth were lovers; and her fickleness and lies had devastated him.  [The same theme is in the Dark Lady sonnets to Elizabeth, deepened by the bitterness and pain that grew within him over the years until her death in 1603, not to mention expressed by the same man in the fullness of his maturity as a writer.]

In “nearly all” the poems in Flowres, the late Charlton Ogburn Jr. wrote, “we read of the ups and downs of the fortunes of love.  In them the lover is paired with a gentlewoman explicitly or implicitly of high degree … I’d settle for most of its being addressed by Oxford to Elizabeth.  One is written to a ‘Gentlewoman’ for whom the poet has been unable to show his affection … Other verses reflect bitterly on the poet’s treatment at the hands of his lady.”

The poems by Ever or Never include lines such as:

My secret parts are so with secret sorrow soken,

As for the secret shame thereof, deserves not to be spoken…

My lord (quod I) this lady here,

Whom I esteem above the rest

[Oxford’s signed sonnet to Elizabeth, written about this time, asked rhetorically:  “Above the rest in Court who gave thee grace?”]

Down fell I then upon my knee,

All flat before dame beauty’s face,

And cried, Good Lady, pardon me,

Which here appeal unto your grace,

You know if I have been untrue,

It was in too much praising you…

[In the Shakespeare sonnets Oxford would continue to use “beauty” for Elizabeth  and/or her Tudor blood.]

Yet let your pity first be placed,

To save the man that meant you good,

So shall you show yourself a Queen,

And I may be your servant seen…

Thus am I Beauty’s bounden thrall,

At her command when she doth call…

[In a signed poem Oxford wrote, “And shall I live on th’earth to be her thrall?/ And shall I sue and serve her all in vain?/ And kiss the steps that she lets fall…”]

There is no cloud that can eclipse so bright a sunne as she…

I smile sometimes although my grief be great…

[In another of his early poems Oxford writes, “I am not as I seem to be,/ Nor when I smile I am not glad:/ A thrall although you count me free,/ I, most in mirth, most pensive sad.”]

In one line by Ever or Never, he writes:  “My muse is tied in chains” and in another verse of Flowres he writes, “My tongue is tied by one constraint” – just as “Shakespeare” will write in Sonnet 85 of “My tongue-tied Muse” and in Sonnet 66 about his art made “tongue-tied by authority.”

We can now draw a line spanning more than three decades connecting Flowres (1573), when the young Oxford who is Ever or Never is already likening himself and Elizabeth to Troilus and Cressida; to Ever or Never writing of himself as Troilus and the Queen as Cressida in Willobie his Avisa (1594); to the Never Writer addressing the Ever Reader of Troilus and Cressida (in the epistle written in 1603, the year before Oxford’s own death, and published in 1609 as by Shakespeare), in which Troilus declares:

True swains in love shall in the world to come

Approve their truths by Troilus: when their rhymes,

Full of protest, of oath and big compare,

Want similes, truth tired with iteration,

As true as steel, as plantage to the moon,

As sun to day, as turtle to her mate,

As iron to adamant, as earth to the centre,

Yet, after all comparisons of truth,

As truth’s authentic author to be cited,

‘As true as Troilus’ shall crown up the verse,

And sanctify the numbers.

A Hundredth Sundrie Flowres

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hank, Sandy – My last word (promises, promises) ) on “fel” or “sel” in Sonnet 66. Question: whether the author intended tell, spell, or fell, might the deletion of the last letter have been the author’s playful indication that one could spell his name if one dropped the last letter from that word EVERY ? (or as he wrote “that EVERY word”) … Now, Hank, I promise to stop chewing on this bone, especially since there is a huge amount of meat to digest in your Part Two of Reason 63. Many thanks for all the pleasure and interest that your posts give us. Peter

    • Hi Peter,
      it’s not chewing I think 🙂 Maybe you’re right, but checking the original text of the Quarto, these words like ‘tell’ are sometimes written without the second letter, seemingly without any special purpose. The link below also shows, that :
      ‘sel: a simplified spelling of sell.’

      Nevertheless we’ll not see, just guess, and come up with ideas – it’s a good thing 🙂

    • Thanks, Peter, for this suggestion and the kind words. I love this idea because he says that every word doth “almost” fel-sel-tell-spell-fell my name….!

  2. Dear Hank – Yes, that’s very helpful, thank you. Sad to tel I fear I fel under the spel of the code-breakers for a while there, but your generous indulgence of this amateur has cured me of that dangerous disease, and I’ll stop clogging your blog. I can’t remember now why I thought I could improve on “That every word doth almost tell my name”. That’s quite clear enough to those that have eyes to see. Best Wishes Peter

  3. At the link below one can see that the ‘f’ and ‘s’ were so much similar, especially at the 11th line of the 75th sonnet, possessing:

    It could be seen as posseffing or even poffeffing.. Also, at more places in this 75th the ‘s’ seems to be a bit ‘f’.

    So what is seen ‘fel’ I’m more and more sure is sel(l), with my explanation at the other link.

    • All very interesting, work, Sandy! Let the explorations continue!

      • Hank, just as I’ve read through the ‘very center’ of the sonnets in the original Quarto, something hit my eyes. The beginnings of the four central sonnets, 75, 76, 77, 78 – as it is, the first two letter capitalized:

        75 SO – Southampton
        76 WH – Wriothesley Henry
        77 TH – Tudor Henry
        78 SO – Southampton.

        It might be by mere chance, of course 🙂

      • Sandy, that’s very good! First time I’ve seen that. If you look at the original orthography, those letters really stand out. Well, who knows? Maybe we’ll suddenly bump into the proof of it:-)

        It has been noticed that in Sonnet 76 the first letters of lines 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, plus the first two letters of line 10, spell: W-A-T-S-O-AN … close.

        If it’s meant to refer to Thomas Watson, then I believe it’s a clue to look back at the Passionate Century of Love (Hekatompathia) of 1582, as by Watson, dedicated to Oxford, with its 100 consecutively numbered sonnets (not the Shakespearean form), with no. 81 in the same high position as Sonnet 107, the eighty-first sonnet of the central 100 of the Shakespeare sonnets. I believe perhaps it’s a clue, at the center, to check back to Watson for guidance as to what is going on here.

  4. What a fool I am 🙂 I DID notice Watsoan, but I didn’t find any possible meaning to it. I’m less than half-educated in Oxford, alas. Yes, it’s a real hidden meaning, great discovery and addition to the Oxford case 🙂

    • Yes, it seems so. Credit goes to Drs. Eric Altschuler and William Jansen for noticing that Watson is imbedded in Sonnet 76.

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