Re-Posting No. 20 (part one) of 100 Reasons why Oxford was “Shakespeare” – The Many Dedications to Him

As far as I can determine, at least twenty-eight publications can be verified as dedicated (wholly or in part) to Edward de Vere by name during his lifetime. To that list we might add three more items: in 1592 Thomas Nashe apparently dedicates Strange News to Oxford, using another name for him; in 1603 Francis Davison includes him in a curious political broadsheet or circular; and in 1619 Anthony Munday dedicates a book to Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford, with warm posthumous praise for Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, his father, this bringing a tentative total to thirty-one.

Spenser’s dedicatory sonnet to Oxford referred to “the love which thou dost bear/ To th’Heliconian ymps [offspring from Helicon, the Greek abode of Apollo and the Muses), and they to thee,/ They unto thee, and thou to them most dear”

These dedications appear in works that range from Greek history to English literature, geography, military matters, music, medicine, astrology, translations from Italian and French, the Psalms, and so on — mirroring the wide range of subjects that Shakespeare was interested in from the European renaissance; they were very much part of the new age of English literature of which Edward de Vere was a central — perhaps the central — moving force prior to Shakespeare’s entrance in 1593.

The dedications to Oxford were not merely public bids for patronage; they were not the usual stuff of obsequious praise. On the contrary, they came from writers who worked with Oxford in developing common political and artistic goals.  Over and over they thanked him personally for taking time to read their works and give his advice.  He was not some lofty noble keeping his distance; instead, he rolled up his sleeves and became involved — personally, artistically and financially — in their varied works that covered so many subjects and forms of literary expression.

Here is a list of authors and their books with dedications to Oxford:

1/ 1564: Arthur Golding, Histories of Trogus Pompeius (Translation)

2/ 1569: Thomas Underdowne, An AEthiopian History Written in Greek by Helidorus (Translation)

3/ 1570: Edmund Elviden, Pesistratus and Catanea (Poetry)

4/ 1571: Arthur Golding, Psalms of David (Translation)

5/ 1573: Thomas Bedingfield, Cardanus’ Comforte (Translation)

6/ 1573: Thomas Twyne, Breviary of Britain … (Translation) [“Containing a Learned Discourse of the Variable State and Alteration thereof, under Divers as well as Natural, as Foreign Princes and Conquerors, together with the Geographical Description of the same…”]

“The New Jewell of Health” (1576) by Dr. George Baker, who dedicated two other books to Oxford

7/ 1574: George Baker:  Oleum Magistrale (medical; translation of Aparico de Zubia’s pamphlet) [“The Composition or Making of the Most Excellent and Precious Oil called Oleum Magistrale …” (Baker was surgeon to Oxford)]

8/ 1577: John Brooke, The Staff of Christian Faith, [translation of Guido’s French work into English) [“…profitable to all Christians … Gathered out of the Works of the Ancient Doctors of the Church…”]

9/1578: Gabriel Harvey, Gratulationum Valdenis (a book in Latin) [Celebrating the queen’s visit that year to Audley End; includes dedications in the first three parts to Elizabeth, Leicester and Burghley; and in part four to Oxford, Hatton and Sidney]

10/ 1578 (?): Anthony Munday, Galien of France (a book, now lost, that Oxford’s servant Munday, in The Mirror of Mutability, says he had dedicated to Oxford)

11/ 1579: Anthony Munday, The Mirror of Mutability (verses) [to serve as a religious companion to “The Mirror of Magistrates” – presenting a series of metrical tragedies “selected out of the sacred Scriptures,” illustrating the Seven Deadly Sins with biblical stories.]

12/ 1579: Geoffrey Gates, The Defense of Military Profession (a book in English) [An argument for the acceptance of the military man, and the military profession, as an essential and reputable member of society.]

13/ 1580: Anthony Munday, Zelauto, the Fountain of Fame (prose fiction) [This is the fifth or sixth Elizabethan novel, three of which are associated with Oxford: The Adventures of Master F.I., anonymous, part of A Hundredth Sundry Flowres, 1573; Euphues, The Anatomy of Wit (Lyly), 1578, and Euphues and his England (Lyly), 1580 (next on this list)].

Click on Image to Enlarge

14/ 1580: John Lyly, Euphues and His England (novel) [His first novel, Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) was dedicated to Sir William West; the connection between them is not known.]

15/ 1580: John Hester, A Short Discourse … Upon Chirurgerie (Surgery) (translation) [Italian medical work by Leonardo Phioravanti (Fioravanti) Bolognese, rendered in English]

16/ 1581: Thomas Stocker, Diverse Sermons of Calvin (translation)

17/ 1582: Thomas Watson, Hekatompathia, or The Passionate Century of Love (100 sonnets, in English)

18/ 1584: John Southern, Pandora (compilation of verses) [Contains four epitaphs attributed to Oxford’s wife, Anne Cecil, written upon the death of their infant son; also one by Queen Elizabeth.]

19/ 1584: Robert Greene, Gwydonius: The Card of Fancy (“wherein the Folly of those carpet Knights is deciphered”) [Romance novel in English]

Title Page of “The English Secretary,” first edition, 1586, with a dedication to Oxford referring to his “exceeding bounty” or generosity

20/ 1586: Angel DayThe English Secretary (“wherein is contained a Perfect Method for the inditing of all manner of Epistles and familiar letters”) [Instructions on how a particular type of letter should be written, followed by sample letters.]

21/ 1588: Anthony MundayPalmerin d’Olivia Pt. 1 – The Mirror of Nobility, (translation of a Spanish chivalric romance)

22/ 1588: Anthony MundayPalmerin d’Olivia Pt. 2 (translation) [More of his “romances of chivalry” from the Spanish]

23/ 1590: Edmund SpenserThe Faerie Queen (book-length narrative poem) [One of the seventeen dedicatory sonnets is to Oxford, with reference to him as a poet.]

24/ 1591: John FarmerPlainsong Diverse & Sundry (songbook) [Full title is “Divers and Sundry Waies of Two Parts in One to the Number of Fortie upon One Playn Song.” A collection of forty canonic pieces written by him, plus one poem.]

1592 (Not part of list): Thomas NasheStrange News (polemical pamphlet) [In response to Gabriel Harvey’s attack on Greene, dedicated to a prolific poet he calls by the pseudonym “Gentle Master William, Apis Lapis,” saying to him, “Verily, verily, all poor scholars acknowledge your as their patron” — with “verily, verily” as an apparent play on Oxford’s name “Vere” and describing his unique role as a patron of poets, writers and scholars needing his support.]

25/ 1597: Henry LokThe Book of Ecclesiastes (book of verse) [Published by Richard Field, who had published Venus and Adonis in 1593 as by “William Shakespeare”; in this work, Lok addresses a dedicatory sonnet to Oxford — perhaps originally written in manuscript in a gift copy of the book for the Earl.]

26/ 1599: John FarmerThe First Set of English Madrigals (songbook)

27/ 1599: Angel Day, The English Secretary (new edition, revised)

28/ 1599: George Baker,The Practice of the New and Old Physic (medical book) [Originally printed in 1576 under the title New Jewel of Health, then dedicated to Oxford’s wife, Anne Cecil, who died in 1588; now Baker is one of the Queen’s physicians; the dedication to the Countess of Oxford is slightly altered to suit the Earl.]

In addition, these explicit mentions of him:

1603: Francis Davison, Anagrammata (broadsheet) [With curious writings in Latin to/about Oxford and Southampton and other nobles, with political overtones, some apparently related to the Essex rebellion of 1601.]

1619: Anthony Munday: Primaleon of Greece (translation) [“Describing the knightly deeds of armes, as also the memorable adventures of Prince Edward of England. And continuiong the former historie of Palmendos, brother to the fortunate Primaleon” — dedicated to Henry de Vere, the 18th Earl of Oxford, who was Edward’s son by Elizabeth Trentham, with warm praise from Munday for the father.]

These authors, and their books dedicated to the Earl of Oxford, have been cited as specific “sources” upon which “Shakespeare” drew. Yet we know of no book or literary work of any kind that was dedicated to Shakespeare.

[This post is now Reason 37 in the book 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.]

[Once again thanks to editor Alex McNeil; also to Brian Bechtold with editorial help; and to Jonni Koonce Dunn for her Master of Arts thesis of 1999 at the University of Texas.]

The Literary Patronage of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford – Excerpts from a Master’s Thesis

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Following are excerpts from Jonni Koonce Dunn’s Master of Arts in English thesis The Literary Patronage of Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, presented in 1999 at the University of Texas, Arlington.  I attended Ms. Dunn’s talk that year at the Shakespeare Authorship conference at Concordia University, Portland OR, and since then she has made her 93-page thesis available to an Oxfordian group on Facebook.  These excerpts merely scratch the surface of an important work that, in my view, deserves the widest circulation:

“With nearly forty percent of [the Earl of Oxford’s] patronage expended on fiction with an Italian flavor, de Vere provided the late sixteenth century with a body of source works to which the literature of the English Renaissance is sorely indebted.”

“By the end of his life in 1604, some thirty-three dedications had been made to him, an unusually large proportion of which were literary as opposed to utilitarian or devotional in nature.”

[The actual count is elusive, depending on how a “dedication” is defined; my own total so far is twenty-five dedications plus three more quasi-dedications, or twenty-eight, which accords with the number indicated by Franklin Williams in his Index. – HW]

“It is … likely that, because of his being put forward as a candidate for authorship of the Shakespeare plays, some scholars feel called upon to savage his reputation and overlook his patronage rather than assess its scope and influence.”

“Stephen W. May notes concerning the body of de Vere’s patronage that its focus was literary. Thirteen … books which were presented to him were either original or translated works of literature.  Edwin H. Miller adds that there is not a strong tradition of rewards to poets and creative artists in the history of Elizabethan patronage since the emphasis was placed on utilitarian works, and that ‘propagandists of the government’s political and religious policies were more generously rewarded.’ …

“The Earl of Leicester, certainly in a position to bestow favor on authors whom he favored, was the dedicatee of more than ninety works, and yet of that number only a small percent was literary. The Second Earl of Essex was also a greater patron in volume than de Vere, but only eighteen percent of it was literary.  Though fewer total works were presented to de Vere, a surprising forty percent was literary rather than utilitarian.”

Minerva Britanna - 1612

Minerva Britanna – 1612

“As is the case again and again with the works patronized by de Vere [such as Thomas Underdowne’s translation of An Aethiopian Historie by Heliodorus, dedicated to nineteen-year-old Oxford in 1569], the author’s voice is fresh, new, and often never witnessed from that same pen again once the relationship with de Vere ends.

“Such is not to suggest that de Vere was, in fact, the ghost author of all the works dedicated to him. Rather, perhaps it is time that scholarship at least acknowledged that coming into de Vere’s circle of influence resulted in similar positive results for the creative process which flourished under his protection.  Shakespeare undoubtedly knew Heliodorus, probably from the Underdowne translation…” [Citing a direct reference to Theagenes and Chariclia in Twelfth Night*].

“Although there was no calculated plan for the scope of his patronage, beginning as it did when he was a mere boy, his preference for literary work over the devotional or practical became obvious. Such works lent themselves to being models for adaptation for the forerunners of the novel as well as being instrumental in the development of English drama.  His early boldness in writing introductions to such works as the Latin translation of Il Cortegiano [The Courtier] or Bedingfield’s Cardanus Comfort suggests his desire to be instrumental in shaping what was read by the university student and the courtier, thus in a roundabout way to transform the Elizabethan court into the cultured society depicted at Urbino in Castiglione’s work…

“It would eventually come to pass that William Shakespeare would benefit from the works de Vere patronized, for his plays came to make use of practically every one of the literary number in some fashion.”

Without such patronage, Dunn concludes, many of those Shakespearean sources “might not have been available for inspiration” – a realization which, by itself, “should ensure Edward de Vere the gratitude of every student of English literature.”

  • “Like to the Egyptian thief at point of death, Kill what I love?” – Twelfth Night, 5.1

Sources Cited Above:

May, Stephen W., “The Poems of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford and of Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex,” Studies in Philology, Early Winter, 1980

Miller, Edwin H., The Professional Writer in Elizabethan England, Harvard, 1959

Williams, Franklin W., Jr., Index of Dedications and Commendatory Verses in English Books before 1641 (1962)

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