Gardens & Gardening: Re-posting No. 54 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

“One occupation, one point of view, above all others, is naturally his, that of a gardener; watching, preserving, tending and caring for growing things, especially flowers and fruit.  All through his plays he thinks most easily and readily of human life and action in the terms of a gardener … it is ever present in Shakespeare’s thought and imagination, so that nearly all his characters share in it.” – Caroline Spurgeon, Shakespeare’s Imagery and what it tells us (1935)

Edward de Vere was a ward of Queen Elizabeth for nine years, living at the London home of William Cecil. “One of the chief features of Cecil House was its garden,” B.M. Ward writes. “The grounds in which the house stood  must have covered many acres, and were more extensive than those of any of the other private homes in Westminster.  John Gerard would become Sir William Cecil’s gardener for twenty years (1578-1597); and Sir William evidently took a great pride in his garden … Cecil imbued his sons and the royal wards under his charge with his own keenness in horticulture.” 

We can easily imagine the teenage lord roaming through the great Cecil gardens, examining and smelling the flowers and learning about them.

John Gerard’s landmark book (1597)

Referring to Cecil’s country seat of Theobalds, Charlton Ogburn Jr. writes that gardens “were laid out on three sides of the mansion by the horticulturalist John Gerard … Trees and shrubs seen rarely if at all in Britain were imported from abroad.  The gardens were widely known in Europe.”

O, what pity is it
That he [the king] had not so trimm’d and dress’d his land
As we this garden! We at time of year
Do wound the bark, the skin of our fruit-trees,
Lest, being over-proud in sap and blood,
With too much riches it confound itself:
Had he done so to great and growing men,
They might have lived to bear and he to taste
Their fruits of duty: superfluous branches
We lop away, that bearing boughs may live:
Had he done so, himself had borne the crown,
Which waste of idle hours hath quite thrown down.

— The Gardener in Richard II (3.4)

The gardener sows the seeds, whereof flowers do grow,

And others yet do gather them, that took less pain I know.

So I the pleasant grape have pulled from the vine,

And yet I languish in great thirst, while others drink the wine.

— Oxford, The Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576

O thou weed,

Who art so lovely fair and smell’st so sweet

That the sense aches at thee…

When I have plucked the rose,

I cannot give it vital growth again,

It must needs wither: I’ll smell it on the tree.

John Gerard, 1545-1612

— Othello in Othello (4.2 & 5.2)

“What doth avail the tree unless it yield fruit unto another?  What doth avail the rose unless another took pleasure in the smell?  Why should this tree be accounted better than that tree, but for the goodness of his fruit?  Why should this vine be better than that vine, unless it brought forth a better grape than the other?  Why should this rose be better esteemed than that rose, unless in pleasantness of smell it far surpassed the other rose?  And so it is in all other things as well as in man.” – Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford, prefatory letter to Cardanus’ Comfort, 1573

“Shakespeare’s Imagery” by Caroline Spurgeon, 1935

The laboring man that tills the fertile soil

And reaps the harvest fruit, hath not indeed

The gain but pain, and if for all his toil

He gets the straw, the Lord will have the seed.

The machete fine falls not unto his share,

On coarset cheat, his hungry stomach feeds.

The landlord doth possess the finest fare,

He pulls the flowers, the other plucks but weeds.

– Oxford’s poem for Cardanus’ Comfort, 1573

Oxford was uniquely positioned to assume the point of view of the gardener, as well as to acquire the love and knowledge of seeds, plants, flowers and trees exhibited by Shakespeare.

(This reason is number 65 in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford)

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Alexander Waugh has some great thoughts on John Gerard’s book cover (shown above) in conjunction with Edward De Vere. It’s worth a few moments of one’s time to watch his you tube video. If we keep our minds open and our hearts tied to the mast, we can steer through the sirens and get a clearer picture of what went down 400 years ago. Keep digging, miners to golden payoff is all around us.

  2. Is there a hyperlink to a high resolution verion of the color title page? Here it appears in miniature only.

    • Not sure if the above is what you need. All I know is to use Google Image Search.
      If nothing else works, maybe try reaching Alexander Waugh through the De Vere Society, London, home page.


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