“SHAKESPEARE REVEALED” – Articles and Letters of J. Thomas Looney, who identified Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford as “Shakespeare” in 1920

Congratulations to James Warren for his immense effort in collecting, arranging and making available “The Collected Articles and Published Letters of J. Thomas Looney” in “SHAKESPEARE” REVEALED! 

Reason 98 Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” – He’s the Only Playwright on the Meres List in 1598 Whose Plays are all “Lost”

“We have at least some dramatic material from all twenty-nine authors, except the politician Ferrers and the courtier De Vere.” – MacDonald P. Jackson, Determining the Shakespeare Canon, 2014, p. 119

Palladis_Tamia_1598 (2)

In the above excerpt from his new book to be published on August 19 this year, Professor Jackson of New Zealand refers to the English dramatists listed by Francis Meres in Palladis Tamia (1598) as best for tragedy or comedy or both. And he points out that for only two of them, George Ferrers and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, no plays or even records of their plays are extant — despite the statement in The Arte of English Poesie, published less than a decade earlier in 1589:

“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.”

Although Meres also included Edward Ferris (whose identity has been uncertain), he actually meant Ferrers, citing him for the poetry collection Mirror for Magistrates; but Ferrers was not a playwright, which leaves Oxford as the one and only bonafide dramatist on the Meres list whose plays have vanished — as mentioned by the seventeenth-century antiquary Anthony Wood in Fasti Oxonienses (1692), Vol. 1, p. 727:

“This most noble Earl of Oxon was … an excellent poet and comedian, as several matters of his composition, which were made public, did show – which, I presume, are now lost and worn out.”

This is the more famous section of the Meres book, announcing that "Shakespeare" was author of a dozen known plays

This is the more famous section of the Meres book, announcing that “Shakespeare” was author of a dozen known plays

The contemporary record clearly states that Oxford was highly regarded for writing some of the most popular stage works of his time, which would have included the 1570s and 1580s, so his standing as the sole writer for the English stage on the Meres list without any surviving play (or even any record of having written one) is a glaring anomaly that cries out for explanation. The answer from here, of course, is that this is just what to expect if all his “comedies and interludes” were originally anonymous, or credited to others, and later revised for publication under the “Shakespeare” name. This would explain why all his stage works were “lost” or unrecorded and how the author of Sonnet 81 could predict that “I, once gone, to all the world must die.”

John Thomas Looney, who identified Oxford as the Bard in 1920, wrote in Shakespeare Pictorial of November 1935:

“In Edward de Vere we have a dramatist, recognized by all contemporary authorities as belonging to the first rank, yet the whole of his dramas are missing. ‘The lost plays of the Earl of Oxford’ had become an outstanding reality of dramatic history many a year before the Shakespeare problem had even been thought of.

“De Vere is the only dramatist in the long list compiled in 1598 by Francis Meres of whose work no trace has been found. On the other hand, we have in the ‘Shakespeare’ plays a set of dramas of the highest class attributed to a man [William Shaksper of Stratford-upon-Avon] whose personal records have been found by modern historical research to be in direct conflict with all the outstanding and indisputable implications of such authorship. We have therefore an ever-growing mass of evidence that he was but a cover for some unnamed dramatist.

John Thomas Looney 1870-1944

John Thomas Looney 1870-1944

“Briefly, then, we have in Edward de Vere the only first-class dramatist the whole of whose plays are missing, and in the Shakespeare plays the only complete set of first-class dramas the author of which, on the strength of probabilities amounting to a practical certainty, is also supposed to be missing. These facts alone, each in its own way so amazingly strange and wholly unique, being contemporary and complementary, would justify, without further proof, a very strong belief that the Shakespeare plays are ‘the lost plays of the Earl of Oxford.’”

On the premise that Oxford wrote the “Shakespeare” works, the plays cited by Meres represent mature versions of earlier texts dating as far back as the 1570s or even earlier, when they were recorded as performed at Court under different titles. In those decades Oxford’s plays would have been anonymous.

Meres listed these individuals as Best for Tragedy: “The Lorde Buckhurst, Doctor Leg of Cambridge, Doctor Edes of Oxford, Master Edward Ferris, the author of the Mirror for Magistrates, Marlow, Peele, Watson, Kid, Shakespeare, Drayton, Chapman, Decker, and Beniamin Iohnson.”

He listed these as Best for Comedy: “Edward, Earle of Oxforde, Doctor Gager of Oxforde, Master Rowley, once a rare scholler of learned Pembrooke Hall in Cambridge, Maister Edwardes, one of Her Maiesties Chappell, eloquent and wittie Iohn Lilly, Lodge, Gascoyne, Greene, Shakespeare, Thomas Nash, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Mundye, our best plotter, Chapman, Porter, Wilson, Hathway, and Henry Chettle.”

The title page of Minerva Britannia of 1612 by Henry Peacham -- a dramatic visualization of a writer for the stage who remains unknown behind the curtain...

The title page of Minerva Britannia of 1612 by Henry Peacham — a dramatic visualization of a writer for the stage who remains invisible behind the curtain…

Only Shakespeare and Chapman are included in both lists. Oxford had been personally connected to many of them; for example: John Lyly and Anthony Munday were his secretaries who dedicated works to him, as did Thomas Watson and Robert Greene; he and Richard Edwards were connected through the Children of the Chapel and as fellow poets; George Gascoigne was an acquaintance from earliest years; George Peele and Thomas Lodge, among others on the list, were in his circle of writers during the wartime years of the 1580s; Chapman wrote about meeting him in Europe – and so on.

Following is the entire list, with my inclusion of one stage work for each individual, except for the non-playwright Ferrers and Oxford, the only dramatist on the list with no known play:


THOMAS SACKVILLE, LORD BUCKHURST (1536-1608) – Gorboduc (1561) with Norton
THOMAS LEGGE (1535-1607) – Richard the 3, The Destruction of Jerusalem (both plays named by Meres)
RICHARD EDES (1554-1604) – a play of Julius Caesar, no longer extant; and manuscript fragments of a court entertainment in 1592
GEORGE FERRERS (1500-1579) – (Mistakenly called Master Edward Ferris by Meres) – he may or may not have written plays for court; known for his contributions to the famous collection of poems Mirror for Magistrates, which Meres cites by name
CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE (1564-1593) – Tamburlaine the Great, Part 1 (1587)
GEORGE PEELE (1556-1596) – The Arraignment of Paris (performed for the Queen in 1581; printed in 1584)
THOMAS WATSON (c. 1556-1592) – a Latin version of Antigone by Sophocles (pub. 1581); no original play extant
THOMAS KYD (1558-1594) – credited, on uncertain grounds, with The Spanish Tragedy (conjectured writing in 1584-1589)
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE – Six tragedies named by Meres
MICHAEL DRAYTON (1563-1631) – Sir John Oldcastle (1599), with Richard Hathway
GEORGE CHAPMAN (c. 1559 – 1634) – Bussy D’Ambois (1603-07)
THOMAS DEKKER (c. 1572 – 1632) – nearly twenty plays published during his lifetime; worked with many other writers, for Henslowe, from 1598 – Lust’s Dominion, or The Spanish Moor’s Tragedy, 1600, with Day, Marston, and Haughton
BEN JONSON (1572-1637) – (spelled Benjamin Johnson by Meres) – The Case is Altered, a comedy, possibly the earliest play written, in 1597; but no known tragedies until after the citation by Meres in 1598 (such as Sejanus, 1603)


EDWARD DE VERE, LORD OXFORD (1550-1604) – All his plays said to be “lost”
WILLIAM GAGER OF OXFORD – (known for Latin plays) – Rivales, a comedy (1583)
RALPH ROWLEY (d. 1604?) – “Once a rare scholar of learned Pembroke Hall in Cambridge” – but likely Meres may have been confused about the identity of this man, of whose writings nothing appears to be known; the only Rowley at Pembroke Hall during the period was Ralph Rowley, afterward Rector of Chelmsford
RICHARD EDWARDS (1525-1566) – “One of Her Majesty’s Chapel” – Damon and Pithias, performed in 1564 for the Queen; Palamon and Arcite, performed for Elizabeth at Oxford in 1566
JOHN LYLY (1554-1606) – “eloquent and witty John Lyly” – Endimion: The Man in the Moon (1580s; printed in 1591)
THOMAS LODGE (c. 1558-1625) – A Looking Glass for London and England (1590, pub. 1594), with Robert Greene
GEORGE GASCOIGNE c. 1535-1577) – Supposes, a prose comedy based on Ariosto’s Suppositi, performed in 1566 at Gray’s Inn.
ROBERT GREENE (1558-1592) – Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (1588-92)
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE – Six comedies named by Meres
THOMAS NASHE (1567-c. 1601) – Summers Last Will and Testament (circa 1592)
THOMAS HEYWOOD (Early 1570s-1641) – Edward IV (printed 1600)
ANTHONY MUNDAY (1560? – 1633) – “our best plotter” – The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntington, on the Robin Hood legend (1598)
GEORGE CHAPMAN (c. 1559-1634) – The Blind Beggar of Alexandria (1596; pub. 1598)
HENRY PORTER (d. 1599) – The Two Angry Women of Abington (pub. 1599)
ROBERT WILSON (flourished 1572-1600) – The Three Ladies of London (pub. 1584)
RICHARD HATHWAYE (fl. 1597-1603) – Sir John Oldcastle (with Michael Drayton)
HENRY CHETTLE (c. 1564-c. 1606) – The Tragedy of Hoffmann (played 1602; pub. 1631)

Reason No. 44 Why Oxford = “Shakespeare” – Part Two: Their Lines of Poetry Suggest a Common Source

Here’s are the lines of poetry I listed in Part One, but this time with their attributions to “Shakespeare” or Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford:

Who taught thee how to make me love thee more

The more I hear and see just cause of hate?

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 150, lines 9-10

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure

= Oxford, Rawlinson MS, “Earl of Oxenforde”

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 152, line 10

In true plain words by thy true telling friend

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 82, line 12

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

= Oxford, Rawlinson MS, “Earl of Oxenforde”

If women would be fair, and yet not fond

Or that their love were firm and not fickle still

= Oxford, Britton’s Bower of Delights

For if I should despair, I should go mad

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 140, line 9

And shall I live on th’earth to be her thrall?

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, “E.O.”, 1576

A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 133, line 8

And since my mind, my wit, my head, my voice, and tongue are weak

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, “E.O.”, 1576

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 102, line 1

If care or skill could conquer vain desire

Or reason’s reins my strong affection stay

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, “E.O.” in 1577 edition

Past cure I am, now reason is past care

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 147, line 9

My death delayed to keep from life the harm of hapless days

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, “E.O.”, 1576

Desire is death, which physic did except

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 147, line 8

I saw a fair young lady come, her secret fears to wail

= Oxford, “Verses made by the Earle of Oxforde,” Rawlinson MS

A plaintful story from a sistering vale

= Shakespeare, A Lover’s Complaint, line 2

I have many notes indicating similarities between the writings attributed to Oxford and “Shakespeare” — for example —

Here are the first two lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66:

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry:

As, to behold desert a beggar born

And Oxford, whose motto was “Nothing Truer than Truth,” wrote this line:

Experience of my youth, made think humble truth

In deserts born

Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 89:

As I’ll myself disgrace; knowing thy will,

I will acquaintance and look strange,

Be absent from thy walks, and in my tongue

Thy sweet beloved name no more shall dwell.

And Oxford wrote:

Thus farewell, friend: I will continue strange,

Thou shalt not hear by word or writing aught.

Let it suffice, my vow shall never change;

As for the rest, I leave it to thy thought.

Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 114:

And my great mind most kingly drinks it up

And Oxford wrote:

My mind to me a kingdom is 

I could cite hundreds of such examples of similar words or themes.

Question: What is it that blocks the scholars and teachers of Shakespeare from delving into this material and exploring its riches?  Even if they cannot bring themselves to allow for even the possibility that Oxford and Shakespeare were the same man, what stops them from trying to find the links from one (Oxford in the 1560’s, 1570’s and 1580’s) to the other (Shakespeare in the 1590’s onward)?

Answer: Consciously or unconsciously, they are afraid to run smack into a nasty paradigm shift, in which case the Shakespearean world they have known will look entirely different in the morning….

The Second of 100 Reasons Why Oxford was Shakespeare: Uncle Golding & Ovid!

“Ovid, the love of Shakespeare’s life among Latin poets, made an overwhelming impression upon him, which he carried with him all his days: subjects, themes, characters and phrases haunted his imagination. The bulk of his classical mythology came from the ‘Metamorphoses,’ which he used in the original as well as in Golding’s translation.” –A.L. Rowse, “Shakespeare, The Man” (1973)

I’ve always loved this one.  It was one of the first things I’d tell people around the dinner table, whether they gave a damn or not:

The favorite classical source of the author “Shakespeare” was the literary work of the ancient Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C.-A.D. 18).   As our two experts (quoted above) tell us, he drew upon the stories and rhythms and language of Ovid, from the original Latin text and, heavily so, from the English translation of the Metamorphoses by Arthur Golding (1567).  And this same Golding was the young Earl of Oxford’s uncle, living under the same roof with him at Cecil House in the early 1560’s, just when the translating of Ovid’s 15-book masterpiece would have been carried out!

“I mean … come on,” I’d say at the dinner table.  “Ain’t that a hoot? Why are you all looking at me like I’m speaking a foreign language?  Oh, well…”

A lot of times these things are astounding only because of the way in which you come upon them.  In this case, the British schoolmaster J. Thomas Looney put forth hypothetically that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) wrote the Shakespeare works, which are filled with material drawn from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in both the original and the Golding translation of the 1560’s — and then he discovered that Oxford had been physically present at Cecil House in London during the 1560’s, when his Uncle Golding had been acting as his “receiver” for financial affairs and apparently translating the Ovid work.

Hedingham Castle (what’s left of the original), childhood home of Edward de Vere

(John de Vere, the sixteenth Earl of Oxford, died in 1562, when his twelve-year-old son Edward, the future seventeenth earl, left his home at Hedingham Castle in Essex and went to London to live as a royal ward of Queen Elizabeth in the custody of her chief minister William Cecil, the future Lord Burghley.)

I say Golding was “apparently” translating the Ovid because it’s far more likely that it was done by the young earl himself.  Golding was a puritanical sort who translated Calvin’s Psalms of David (which he dedicated to Oxford, his nephew) and would not have been crazy about translating Ovid’s tales of passion and seduction and lovemaking as well as incest by pagan gods and goddesses.  No, he was in every way incapable of it.

Here’s what I wrote about this in 1996, viewing the teenage Edward de Vere as “the young Shakespeare” at work:

“J. Thomas Looney used the phrase ‘long foreground’ for Shakespeare’s formative years, a period of necessary artistic growth and development which has always been totally missing from Stratfordian biography.  Unless he was a god with miraculous powers, the sophisticated English poet who wrote ‘Venus and Adonis’ went through much trial and error, creating a
substantial body of apprenticeship work beforehand.  By all logic Shakespeare must have begun translating Ovid in his earliest years, becoming thoroughly grounded in his old tales.  He would have labored over the original texts and ‘tried on’ various English nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, inventing new ones along the way; and in the process he would have acquired his astounding vocabulary of some 25,000 words, more than twice the size of Milton’s.”

The ancient Roman poet Ovid

And here is what Looney wrote in 1920 about the nature of some “discoveries” such as this one about Edward de Vere and Shakespeare’s favorite poet Ovid:

“The force of a conviction is frequently due as much to the intrinsic value of the evidence.  For example, when a theory, what we have formed from a consideration of certain facts, leads us to suppose that certain other facts will exist, the later discovery that the facts are actually in accordance with our inferences becomes a much stronger confirmation of our theory than if we had known these additional facts at the outset.  We state this principle in matters of science when we affirm that the supreme test and evidence of the soundness of a scientific theory is its power of enabling us to foresee some events as a consequence of others.  The manner, therefore, in which facts and ideas have been arrived at becomes itself an important element in the evidence.”‘Shakespeare’ Identified, 1920

“Shakespeare” Identified by J. Thomas Looney, 1920

So that’s the second of the first 100 reasons I conclude that Oxford was Shakespeare…

If there was any evidence of this kind in the life of William Shakspere of Stratford, would there be an authorship question?  I doubt it.  But such is the power of traditional thinking that, despite the fact that such evidence exists in Oxford’s life, the academic folks in the ivory tower won’t even consider it.

Another thought — which I should bring up in a separate blog, but I’d rather deal with it right here.  The orthodox camp loves to say that the doubters of Shakspere’s authorship are “creationists.”  Well, that’s ridiculous.  If anything in that metaphorical equation we’re evolutionists. The biblical creationists came first, as did the traditional Stratfordians; the evolutionists came later, just as we Oxfordians came later.

Stratfordians, echoing creationists, believe in the miracle of genius when it comes to Shakespeare’s vast knowledge and skill; we Oxfordians, echoing evolutionists, know that such amazing knowledge, skill and insight can be acquired — even by a genius — only through long development based on much learning and experience and painfully acquired artistic growth.  That they would stoop to calling us a name that should actually be applied to themselves is a measure of their growing desperation…

Cheers from Hank!

2011 – The Big Year for Edward de Vere?

Happy New Year!  Many of my friends and colleagues (I include myself) in the “Oxfordian” world are starting to feel that this is going to be the “big year” for us — that is, for those of us who have concluded that Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) was the true author of the works printed under the name — the pen name, that is — of William Shakespeare.

Why has this ridiculously optimistic feeling come over us?  Well, let’s see…

First and foremost is that producer-director Roland Emmerich’s feature film Anonymous is set to open in theaters this fall — on Friday, September 23, 2011.  Here’s the idea of Oxford as “Shakespeare” finally on the big screen — for the first time in the ninety-one years since the earl was “identified” in 1920 (by British schoolmaster J. Thomas Looney) as the greatest writer of the English language.

Film director Roland Emmerich on the set of "Anonymous," due in theaters in September

Whatever any critic will say about this film, or however any individual viewer reacts to it, or to what extent it does or does not come close to the true history, is beside the point — which is simply that the Shakespeare Authorship Question itself will finally be brought out of hiding … out of the dark cave of censorship and suppression … into the daylight where everybody can see it and evaluate the subject for themselves.

You think this might be a bit of hyperbole?  A little over the top?  Well, when my friend Charles Boyle introduced me to the topic in 1987, I was stunned to hear about it.  Even though I’d gone through the University of Notre Dame in the Theater Department and the Great Books Program, no one had ever even mentioned that there might be a Shakespeare problem, much less that there had been a real-life eccentric, mysterious individual at the Court of Elizabeth the First who could have served as the model for Prince Hamlet.

Mark Rylance as Hamlet

How could not one of my professors or play directors have ever mentioned this to me?  Even if they thought the whole subject was nonsense, why wouldn’t they bring it up?  I ran to the public library (in Portland, Maine, where I lived at the time) and discovered to my shock that right there were at least a dozen books questioning the traditional attribution of Shakespearean authorship — and some fascinating books putting forth the theory that Edward de Vere was the true poet and playwright.

How could I not have known this before?  Over the ensuing years I would discover that many others had experienced the same wonderment — intelligent, educated, well-read men and women who had gone through more than half their lives without an inkling that William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon (1564-1616) might not have been the writer known as William Shakespeare.

I recalled having played the part of Laertes in our production of Hamlet at Notre Dame, and how I’d stood in the wings watching and listening to the late great actor Richard Kavanaugh playing the lead role — and I remembered a specific moment when I heard these lines spoken by the Prince to his young girlfriend Ophelia:

“I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me.  I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in.  What should such fellows as I do, crawling between earth and heaven?”

Right then it struck me that this was very candid stuff, and very modern in terms of the protagonist of a play, the so-called hero, being so self-critical.  More than that, within those words or behind them seemed to be the voice of the author himself, this great dramatist about whose identity and life I had never given any thought whatsoever!

And a few minutes later, during a break in rehearsals, I walked onto the stage and asked co-director Fred Syberg, “What do we know about Shakespeare?”

“Well,” Fred replied, “he was a guy who went to London and became an actor and started writing plays.  That’s about it.”

Uh-hunh, I thought.  Okay.  Sureand then pushed that little kernel of curiosity back into its cave, back into that darkness where it continued to be hidden from most of the world….

I’ll be back here soon, to continue the subject of why many Oxfordians feel that 2011 is going to be “the big one” for the Shakespeare Authorship Question … a year different from all the other years.  As Bette Davis tells the folks as Margo Channing at the party in All About Eve:  “Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night!”

The Asbourne Portrait of "Shakespeare"

The so-called Ashbourne Portrait of Shakespeare (note the skull, as in the picture of Hamlet above) “was first brought to light by Clement Usill Kingston in 1847. The painting bore the date 1611 and purported to show William Shakespeare at the age of 47. Subsequently, it was widely reproduced during the 19th century, having entered the canon of Shakespeare portraits.  The identity of the artist is unknown.  It was subsequently altered to cater to
public demand for more pictures of the bard, and conform to 19th century ideas of Shakespeare.  In 1940, Charles Wisner Barrell made a searching investigation of the portrait using modern technologies and concluded the painting was a retouched portrait of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Art historian William Pressly, who catalogued the Folger’s paintings, and directed the 1988 restoration of the work, states that the controversy surrounding the sitter’s identity was resolved in 1979, when restorative work on the painting revealed conclusively that it had been begun as a portrait of Sir Hugh Hamersley.  [Well, now … “conclusively”? – Hmmm– H.W.] The Folger Library dates the painting to 1612, and while stating that most researchers identify the painting’s subject as Sir Hugh Hamersley, notes that some Oxfordians contend it depicts Edward de Vere. It currently hangs in the Folger Shakespeare Library.”  (From Wikipedia – emphases added)

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