Thomas Watson, De Vere and “Shakespeare”: Re-posting No. 35 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was Edward de Vere the Earl of Oxford

The poet Thomas Watson is a direct forerunner of the poet of Venus and Adonis and the Sonnets. A leader in the long procession of Elizabethan sonnet-cycle writers, he is linked to “Shakespeare” through Edward de Vere in some startling ways.

Watson’s Sequence of 100 Sonnets Dedicated to Edward de Vere (1582) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW

In 1582, Watson published Hekotompathia or The Passionate Century of Love, a sequence of 100, or a “century,” of numbered eighteen-line sonnets or “passions”, with “prose headers” demonstrating his knowledge of works by some fifty classical or renaissance authors in their original languages. He dedicated it to Oxford, testifying that the earl “had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand.”

It appears likely the “prose headers” were also written by Oxford, who may well have written all of this poetical sequence.

In 1589, the year after de Vere sold his London mansion Fisher’s Folly to William Cornwallis, Watson became employed in the Cornwallis household.  That September, when Christopher Marlowe was attacked by an innkeeper’s son, William Bradley, for failure to pay a debt, Watson came to his friend’s aid and killed Bradley – an act for which he spent six months in prison.

Francis Walsingham, the spymaster (1530?-1590)

Marlowe served as a spy for the English government and it would seem that Watson did, too.  His association with Francis Walsingham, head of the secret service, brings him into probable contact with Oxford from this direction as well. On 21 June 1586, Burghley urged Walsingham to confront the queen about financial assistance to Oxford; five days later Elizabeth awarded de Vere his annual grant of 1,000 pounds, which would be continued by King James in 1603 until the earl’s death a year later.

The fact that Burgley appealed to Walsingham on Oxford’s behalf indicates that the latter’s grant was somehow connected to intelligence activities at the highest level, perhaps involving Catholics among the English nobility as well as diplomatic contact with foreign rulers and courts.

Watson’s Italian Madrigals was published in 1593, the year after his death. Most of its contents had been composed originally by Luca Marenzio while Marenzio was in Mantua living with the Gonzaga family from 1568 to 1574. Watson had never traveled to Italy, but Oxford had apparently stayed with the Gonzaga family while visiting Mantua in 1575.

Also in 1593, Watson’s posthumous sequence of sixty numbered sonnets (in the later-known “Shakespearean” form of fourteen lines) appeared in print as The Tears of Fancie, or Love Disdained (with no author’s name on the title page and only “Finis T.W.” after the final sonnet, which was clearly a version of Oxford’s early sonnet Love Thy Choice, written in the 1570s to express his devotion to the queen.)

When SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS was printed in 1609, one verse in the so-called Dark Lady series (no. 130) was clearly a takeoff on one of the sonnets printed under Watson’s name (no. 7) in the Hekatompathia of 1582. For example, Watson wrote,“Her lips more red than any Coral stone,” and Shakespeare turned it inside-out: “Coral is far more red than her lips’ red.”

Hekatompathia, or the Passionate Century of Love attributed to Watson is often cited as paving the way for the Shakespearean sonnet sequence published twenty-seven years later; the two are related through Oxford himself. In the SHAKE-SPEARE volume there is also a series of exactly 100 verses or a “century” (nos. 27 to 126) between two equal segments of twenty-six sonnets apiece (nos. 1-26 and 127-152); this central 100-sonnet sequence contains two sections, of eighty and twenty sonnets, respectively, exactly as Watson’s earlier century had been “divided into two parts” (as indicated on the title page) in an eighty-twenty format.  Watson’s dedication begins:

“To the Right Honorable my very good Lord Edward de Vere, Earle of Oxenford…

“Alexander the Great, passing on a time by the workshop of Apelles, curiously surveyed some of his doings, whose long stay in viewing them brought all the people into so great a good liking of the painter’s workmanship, that immediately after they bought up all his pictures, what price soever he set them at.  And the like good hap (Right Honorable) befell unto me lately concerning these my Love Passions, which then chanced to Apelles for his Portraits.  For since the world hath understood (I know not how) that your Honor had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand, many have oftentimes and earnestly called upon me to put it to the press, that for their money they might but see what your Lordship with some liking had already perused…”

(This updated post, reflecting the help of editor Alex McNeil and other editorial work by Brian Bechtold, has become no. 36 of the book 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.)

Sonnet 130 — a Venomous and Treasonous Blast at Queen Elizabeth, the Dark Lady

Sonnet 130 within SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS of 1609 presents a tangible link to Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, adding more evidence that the tyrannical and deceitful Dark Lady is none other than Elizabeth the First of England.

An allegorical portrait of Elizabeth I painted after 1620

An allegorical portrait of Elizabeth I painted after 1620

The story of Sonnet 130 begins in 1582, when Oxford was in banishment from court and trying to regain her favor.  That year Thomas Watson published Hekatompathia, or the Passionate Century of Love, a sequence of 100 consecutively numbered eighteen-line sonnets.  He dedicated this work to Oxford, his patron, thanking him for “perusing” the work in manuscript and giving it his blessing.  Some Oxfordians suggest it was the earl himself who crafted the “prose headers” explaining the poems; others speculate that he wrote the entire work.  Whatever the case, Oxford was deeply involved in Watson’s sonnet sequence and took a personal interest in its contents and publication.

And while Oxford used court plays of the 1580s attributed to his secretary John Lyly as a way of flattering the Queen, it appears he was using the Watson-attributed poems for the same reason; for example, Sonnet 7 of the 1582 series is obviously directed at Elizabeth, its opening line referring to “what saint I serve” – that is, the “divinely anointed” female monarch whose loyal subjects “serve” her with devotion.  As Oxford wrote to his father-in-law Burghley two years later, “I serve Her Majesty…”

Passionate Century’s Sonnet 7 amounts to a gorgeous rendering of effusive tributes to Elizabeth:

Hark you that list to hear what saint I serve:

Her yellow locks exceed the beaten gold;

Her sparkling eyes in heav’n a place deserve;

Her forehead high and fair of comely mold;

Her words are music all of silver sound;

Her wit so sharp as like can scarce be found;

Each eyebrow hangs like Iris in the skies;

Her Eagle’s nose is straight of stately frame;

On either cheek a Rose and Lily lies…

One of the Queen’s mottos was Rose without a Thorn; and, for example, Archbishop Cranmer in Henry VIII (5.5) predicts that the infant Elizabeth will be “a most unspotted lily” in later life.  Her grandfather, Henry VII, had created the House of Tudor by combining the red and white roses of Lancaster and York: “The red rose and the white are on his face, the fatal colors of our striving houses” — (Henry VI, 2.6.97-98); and this red-and-white Tudor theme is blatant in the 1582 sonnet as it now proceeds:

Her breath is sweet perfume, or holy flame;

Her lips more red than any Coral stone;

Her neck more white than aged Swans that moan;

Her breast transparent is, like Crystal rock;

Her fingers long, fit for Apollo’s Lute;

Her slipper such as Momus dare not mock;

Her virtues all so great as make me mute:

What other parts she hath I need not say,

Whose face alone is cause of my decay.

After twenty-six months Elizabeth finally lifted Oxford’s banishment, in early June 1583, when Roger Manners reported that de Vere “came to her presence, and after some bitter words and speeches, in the end all sins are forgiven, and he may repair to the Court at his pleasure.”  (For him to engage in “bitter words and speeches” with this supremely vain monarch, he must have felt mighty close to her!)

Now we jump nearly two decades ahead, to the weeks following the failed Essex Rebellion of 8 February 1601, when Elizabeth was holding Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton in the Tower of London to await his execution for high treason; and Oxford must have believed that Southampton was about to follow Essex to the chopping block.

As demonstrated in The Monument, the so-called Dark Lady series (Sonnets 127-152) corresponds to the period of Southampton’s imprisonment up to the Queen’s death on 24 March 1603.  Here he expresses his fury at Elizabeth, for not (yet) commuting Wriothesley’s death sentence; and in Sonnet 130 of the 1609 quarto Oxford completely reverses Watson’s sonnet number 7.

[It is doubtful, though not impossible, that Oxford circulated a single one of the Dark Lady sonnets to anyone, much less to the aged Queen.   All sonnets related to 1601-03 are part of Oxford’s “monument” for “eyes not yet created” (81) in posterity, a monument to contain “the living record” (55) of Southampton, i.e. his true history, which otherwise was being obliterated.]

When placed together, the earlier lines of 1582 and the later lines of 1601 are akin to a bold “rhyming match” between the worshipful earlier voice and the seething, vicious, even treasonous later voice:

1582: “Her sparkling eyes in heaven a place deserve”

1601: “My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the Sunne”

///

1582: “Her lips more red than any Coral stone”

1601: “Coral is far more red than her lips’ red”

///

1582: “Her neck more white than aged Swans that moan … Her breast transparent is, like Crystal rock”

1601: “If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun”

///

1582: “Her yellow locks exceed the beaten gold”

1601: “If hair be wires, black wires grow on her head”

///

1582: “On either cheek a Rose and Lily lies”

1601: “I have seen Roses damasked, red and white,/ But no such Roses see I in her cheeks”

///

1582: “Her breath is sweet perfume, or holy flame”

1601: “And in some perfumes is there more delight/ Than in the breath that from my Mistress reeks”

///

1582: “Her words are music all of silver sound”

1601: “I love to hear her speak, yet well I know/ That Music hath a far more pleasing sound”

///

Here is the full verse as by “Shake-speare” in the Dark Lady series, surely a reversal by Oxford of his own early feelings toward his sovereign:

Sonnet 130

My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the Sunne

Coral is far more red than her lips’ red.

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun:

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head:

I have seen Roses damasked, red and white,

But no such Roses see I in her cheeks,

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my Mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That Music hath a far more pleasing sound:

I grant I never saw a goddess go.

My Mistress when she walks treads on the ground,

And yet by heaven I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare.

///

[In the couplet above, he is stating that any comparison of “she” (the Queen) with the “rare” qualities of “my love” (Southampton) is false; that is, she can’t compare with him.]

POSTSCRIPT

A volume of thirty-eight sonnets about “Diella” (as distinguished from Samuel Daniels’ “Delia” sonnets), published in 1596 and thought to have been written by Richard Linche, contains three sonnets (numbers 3, 22 and 31) with similarities to Watson’s number 7 of Passionate Century of Love, 1582.  As Alexander Waugh has pointed out, Oxford must have seen that sonnet, too, and even drawn upon it for his reversal.

The list of Dark Lady references to date, compiled by sonnet number:

In the Fair Youth series:

1 – Sonnet 1: “Beauty’s Rose” – the Queen’s dynasty of the Tudor Rose

2 – Sonnet 2: “Proving his beauty by succession” — the succession to Elizabeth 

3 – Sonnet 19: “The Phoenix” – the Queen’s emblem

4 – Sonnet 25: “The Marigold” – the Queen’s flower

5 – Sonnet 76: “Ever the Same” – the Queen’s motto in English

6  – Sonnet 107: “the Mortal Moon” – Queen Elizabeth as Diana, the chaste moon goddess

7 – Sonnet 125: “Were’t Ought to Me I Bore the Canopy” – Elizabeth’s funeral

In the Dark Lady series:

8 – Sonnet 128: “Those Jacks that Nimble Leap” – recalling the Queen at her virginals

9 – Sonnet 130: “My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the Sunne” – Oxford’s anger at her as Southampton faces execution

10 – Sonnet 131: “Commanded by the Motion of Thine Eyes” – to a monarch

11 – Sonnet 151: “I Rise and Fall” – the courtier as sexual slave to his Queen

12 – Sonnet 152: “Thy love, thy truth, thy constancy” – Echo of Oxford’s sonnet to Elizabeth

The Bath Epilogue:

13 – Sonnet 153: “Against Strange Maladies a Sovereign Cure” – the Queen’s touch

14 – Sonnet 154: “Sleeping by a Virgin Hand Disarmed” – the Virgin Queen

The Madrigal Composer John Farmer: Part Three of No. 37 of 100 Reasons Why the Earl of Oxford = “Shakespeare”

To shallow rivers, to whose falls/ Melodious birds sing madrigals!

– Song in The Merry Wives of Windsor (3.1) by Shakespeare

The celebrated madrigalist John Farmer dedicated his most important work, The First Set of English Madrigals of 1599, to “my very good Lord and Master, Edward Devere Earle of Oxenford,” praising his “judgment in Musicke” and declaring that “using this science as a recreation, your Lordship have over-gone most of them that make it a profession.”

John Farmer (c. 1570 - 1601)

This is high praise indeed for Oxford, to whom Farmer had also dedicated his previous work, Plainsong Diverse & Sundry of 1591, telling the earl he presented it to him because he knew “your Lordship’s great affection to this noble science.”

“Nothing is more astonishing in the whole history of music than the story of the English school of madrigal composers,” writes Dr. Michael Delahoyde of Washington State University, noting that the adapter of a key publication First Sett of Italian Madrigals Englished in 1590 was Thomas Watson, who had dedicated his 100-sonnet sequence Hekatompathia: or Passionate Century of Love in 1582 to Edward de Vere, his patron.

Inserted in that song-book [title page at left] are “two excellent Madrigalls of Master William Byrd, composed after the Italian vaine, at the request of the sayd Thomas Watson.”   So we have Oxford connected personally and professionally to Farmer, Byrd and Watson, not to mention his company of musicians and the fact that his many youthful poems turn out to be lyrics for songs.  It would appear that he was a driving force, or even the driving force, behind the sudden rise of the entire English Madrigal School.

Farmer has the distinction of composing one of the most popular and fun pieces of the period, the madrigal Fair Phyliss I Saw Sitting All Alone, telling the story of the shepherdess Phyllis and her lover, who searches the hills before finding her:

What does all this have to do with Oxford as Shakespeare?  Well, the point is that he was an expert in the musical field, just as “Shakespeare” shows himself to be — although orthodox scholars, well aware that the man William Shakspere of Stratford was no such expert, tend to play down or ignore the actual contents of “Shakespeare” works in that regard.  The only way to maintain that the Stratford man was the Greatest Writer of the English Language is to keep “dumbing down” the works themselves!

Elizabethan Musical Instruments

Well, he was an expert in the musical field, as the Earl of Oxford was an expert.  In Shakespeare’s England (1916) we are given the honest truth that “in no author are musical allusions more frequent than in Shakespeare,” whose musical terms include:

Accord, Air, Anthem, A-re, Bagpipe, Bass, Base, Bass viol, Bear a part, Breast, Broken, Broken Music, Burden (Burthen), Cadence, Carol, Catch, Chant, Chittern (Cithern), Clef, Cliff, Close, Compass, Concent, Concert, Consort, Concord, Cornet, Crotchet, Cymbols, Dead March, Descant, Diapason, Discord, Division, Drone, Drum, D-sol-re, Dulcimer, Ear, E-la-mi, Fa, False, Fancy, Fiddle, Fiddler, Fiddlestick, Fife, Fingering, Fit, Flat, Flute, Fret, Gamut, Good-night, Govern, Government, Ground, Harmony, Harp, Hautboy, Holding, Hornpipe, Hymn, Instrument, Jack, Jar, Kettle(drum), Key, Knock it, La, Lesson, Lute, Madrigal, March, Mean, Measure, Mi, Minim, Mode, Mood, Music, Musician, Noise, Note, Organ-pipe, Part, Peg, Pipe, Plain-song, Play, Point, Prick-song, Proportion, Psaltery, Re, Rebeck, Record, Recorder, Reed-voice, Relish, Rest, Round, Sackbut, Scale, Sennet, Set, Sharp, Singing-man, Sol, Sol-fa, Soundpost, Speak, Still Music, Stop, Strain, String, Strung, Tabor, Tabourine, Three-man-song, Time, Tongs, Touch, Treble, Triplex, Troll, Trump, Trumpet, Tucket, Tune (melody), Tune (to adust tone), Ut, Ventages, Viol, Viol da gamba, Virginals, Virginalling, Wind, Wind up, Wrest… 

All these terms, and more, appear in the Shakespeare works. They are often technical, always accurate.  They come bursting freely and spontaneously from the pen of the poet-dramatist, flowing from his very being, and never inserted as information from research.  The terms come cascading forth not to instruct or impress or do anything other than lend greater power, beauty, humor and meaning to a character’s speech of the moment, mostly by way of metaphor: “What, to make thee an instrument and play false strains upon thee?  Not to be endured!”As You Like It (4.3)

Part Two of Reason No. 35: The Unique “Centuries” of Sonnets by Watson (with Oxford’s help) and “Shakespeare”

(Click on for Larger View)

On the title page of Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love by Thomas Watson (1582), dedicated to Edward Earl of Oxford, the reader is informed about the architecture of the “century” of one-hundred sonnets:  “Divided into two parts: whereof, the first expresseth the Authours sufferance in Love: the latter, his long farewell to Love and all his tyrannie.”

The two parts have eighty and twenty sonnets respectively.  Part One comprises Sonnets 1 – 80 and Part Two comprises Sonnets 81 – 100:

1————————-80 81———100

When we get to Sonnet 80 at the end of the first part, we are told that the next verse, Sonnet 81, beginning the second part, is shaped “in the form of a pillar” that quite obviously makes it unique and gives it considerable importance:

Sonnet 81 of Watson's sequence, in the form of a pillar, starting Part Two (81-100); and Shakespeare's Sonnet 107 is also the eighty-first verse of his "century," starting Part Two (107-126)

“All such as are but of indifferent capacity, and have some skill in Arithmetic, by viewing this Sonnet following compiled by rule and number, into the form of a pillar, may soon judge how much art and study the Author hath bestowed in the same.”

While working on The Monument it became apparent that the one hundred and fifty-four verses of SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS (1609) contain the same architecture.  The first step is to remove the epilogue of the Bath sonnets, 153-154; and then separate the main body of one hundred and fifty-two sonnets by means of the two envoys, Sonnets 26 and 126.

The result is a central sequence of a hundred sonnets between two series of twenty-six:

1—–26 27—————————-126 127—–152

It came as a surprise to me, after completing The Monument, to find that Edgar I. Fripp in Shakespeare, Man and Artist of 1938 had already discovered the same hundred-sonnet sequence and even related it to Watson’s earlier sequence:

“Centuries or ‘hundreds’ of literary pieces were in fashion,” Fripp wrote, citing “hundreds” of songs, sonnets, prayers, sermons, hymns, flowers, emblems, medical facts and so on.  “The Hekotompathia or Passionate Century of Love by Thomas Watson, otherwise a century of passions, may have served as a model for Shakespeare’s century of sonnets,” he continued, adding, “Shakespeare’s Sonnets 27-126 are a century.”

But Fripp had seen no significance in Watson’s dedication to Oxford, who had helped with the manuscript; nor had he realized that Shakespeare’s century is itself divided into two parts, exactly as Watson’s century is divided, that is, Part One with eighty sonnets and Part Two with twenty:

Thomas Watson: 1———————————-80 81————-100

Shake-speare’s: 27——————————–106 107————126

Sonnet 107 is the eighty-first verse and the “pillar” that begins Part Two. 

And of course Sonnet 107 is both unique and important as the so-called “dating sonnet,” viewed by most critics as celebrating the release on April 10, 1603 of Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton after being “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” in the Tower.  Sonnet 107 also refers to the death of Queen Elizabeth, the “mortal Moon,” a few weeks earlier on March 24, 1603, when King James VI of Scotland was quickly proclaimed King James I of England – without the civil war around succession that had been both predicted and feared.

As shown in The Monument, the eighty sonnets of Part One begin with Sonnet 27 upon Southampton’s arrest on the night of February 8, 1601 and continue until Sonnet 106 upon his final night in the Tower on April 9, 1603; and the twenty sonnets of Part Two begin with his liberation on April 10, 1603 and continue with one sonnet per day until Sonnet 125 upon the Queen’s funeral on April 28, 1603 followed by Sonnet 126, the envoy of farewell.

So it appears that Watson’s century of 1582 had “served as a model” for Shakespeare’s century even more closely than Edgar Fripp had known.  And given that Oxford had been so intimately involved in the Watson sequence, we might logically conclude that he repeated its structure in the Shakespeare sequence.

In other words, if “Shakespeare” was borrowing from Watson, as now seems clear, then the view here is that he was borrowing from himself!

Thomas Watson, Poet: He’s a Link of Many Facets between Edward de Vere and “Shakespeare” – Part One of Reason No. 35 to believe Oxford became the Bard

AUTHORSHIP QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“In our conclusion that these Sonnets were addressed to Southampton, we have the full support of the great majority of authorities on the subject.” –  J. Thomas Looney, 1920

The lyrical poet Thomas Watson (1556?-1592) has the honor of being “one of the direct forerunners of Shakespeare (in Venus and Adonis and in the Sonnets) and of being the leader in the long procession of Elizabethan sonnet-cycle writers.”  [NNDB] And Watson is linked to “Shakespeare” through Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) in some startling ways:

Watson's Sequence of 100 Sonnets Dedicated to Edward de Vere (1582) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW

In 1582, Watson published his most celebrated work The Hekotompathia or Passionate Century of Love, a sequence of 100 or a “century” of numbered eighteen-line sonnets [“passions”], with “prose headers” demonstrating his knowledge of works by some fifty classical or renaissance authors in their original languages; and he dedicated it to Edward de Vere, testifying that the earl “had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand.”

[We may not be wrong in suggesting that Oxford himself contributed the “prose headers” accompanying each Watson sonnet, commenting on their contents and sources.]

In 1589, the year after Oxford sold his London mansion Fisher’s Folly to William Cornwallis (whose daughter Anne apparently found some verses written by De Vere and others, including a poem to appear in 1599 as by Shakespeare), Watson became employed in the Cornwallis household.  [That September, when playwright Christopher Marlowe was attacked by an innkeeper’s son named William Bradley for failure to pay a debt, Watson came to his aid and killed Bradley, for which he spent six months in prison – See Marlowe Society.]

Francis Walsingham, the spymaster (1530?-1590)

(Marlowe acted as a spy for the English government and it seems that Watson did, too.  His association with Francis Walsingham, head of the growing secret service during wartime buildup in the 1580’s, brings him into probable contact with Oxford from this direction as well.   On June 21, 1586, William Cecil Lord Burghley urged Walsingham to confront the Queen about financial assistance to Oxford; and on June 26 Elizabeth awarded Oxford his annual grant of 1,000 pounds that would be continued even by King James in 1603 until Oxford’s death in 1604.)

In 1590, Watson published Italian Madrigals –most of them composed by Luca Marenzio, while Marenzio was staying in Mantua with the Gonzaga family from 1568 to 1574 – which Watson put into English and composer William Byrd set to music. Yet Watson had never traveled to Italy, while Oxford had apparently stayed with the Gonzaga family while visiting Mantua in 1575!  [See the work of Dr. Michael Delahoyde of Washington State University, discussing “Oxford and Music” – a topic to be reserved for another “reason” in this series.]

In 1593, the year after Watson died, his collection of sixty numbered fourteen-line sonnets [in the later-known “Shakespearean” form] was published as The Tears of Fancie, or Love Disdained (but with no name on the title page and only “Finis T.W.” after the final sonnet, No. 60, which was a slightly different version of Oxford’s early sonnet Love Thy Choice, which he had written back in the 1570’s [if not earlier] to express his devotion to Queen Elizabeth.)

In 1609, when the sequence of numbered verses SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS was printed, one sonnet in the Dark Lady series (no. 130) was quite clearly a takeoff, satiric or otherwise, on one of the sonnets printed under Watson’s name (no. 7) in the Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love of 1582.  [For example, whereas Watson’s sonnet had “Her lips more red than any Coral stone,” Shakespeare wrote, “Coral is far more red than her lips’ red,” and so on.]

Also in Shakespeare’s sonnets there is a string of 100 verses or a “century” of them (nos. 27 to 126) between two equal segments of twenty-six sonnets apiece (nos. 1-26 and 127-152); and this central Shakespeare sequence is divided into two parts, of eighty and twenty sonnets, exactly as the Watson’s century had been divided.  [I’ll treat this link between Watson and Edward de Vere separately, as part two of “Reason No. 35” to believe Oxford was “Shakespeare.”]

And those who like acrostics or hidden messages (on which I take no position), here are six lines (5 to 10) in the exact center of Sonnet 76, which itself is the key to unlocking the entire sequence:

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?

O know sweet love I always write of you,

ANd you and love are still my argument

Well, I know … it would be better to find an “N” as the last letter of “WATSON,” but I just figured to pass on what came from the Marlovian researcher John Baker and later from Oxfordian researchers Dr. Eric Altschuler and Dr. William Jansen, who suspect that “Thomas Watson” may have been “the primary pseudonym [of Edward de Vere] immediately preceding the use of ‘Shakespeare’ [in 1593].”

[My take would be that Oxford would have used Watson’s name in order to publish certain works.  Watson’s death was recorded as September 26, 1592; his Tears of Fancy was published the following year, 1593, when the name “Shakespeare” made its first appearance in print [on Venus and Adonis].

Here is the Watson dedication to Oxford in Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love in 1582:

To the Right Honorable my
very good Lord Edward de Vere, Earle
of Oxenford, Viscount Bulbecke, Lord
of Escales, and Badlesmere, and Lord High
Chamberlain of England, all
happinesse.

Alexander the Great, passing on a time by the workshop of Apelles, curiously surveyed some of his doings, whose long stay in viewing them brought all the people into so great a good liking of the painter’s workmanship, that immediately after they bought up all his pictures, what price soever he set them at.  And the like good hap (Right Honorable) befell unto me lately concerning these my Love Passions, which then chanced to Apelles for his Portraits.  For since the world hath understood (I know not how) that your Honor had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand, many have oftentimes and earnestly called upon me to put it to the press, that for their money they might but see what your Lordship with some liking had already perused.

And therewithal some of them said (either to yield your Honor his due praise, for soundness of judgment; or to please me, of whom long since they had conceived well) that Alexander would like of no lines, but such as were drawn by the cunning hand, and with the curious pencil, of Apelles.  Which I set not down here to that end, that I would confer my Poems with Apelle’s Portraits for worthiness; albeit I fitly compare your Honor’s person with Alexander’s for excellence.  But how bold soever I have been in turning out this my petty poor flock upon the open Common of the wide world, where every man may behold their nakedness, I humbly make request that if any storm fall unlooked-for (by the fault of malicious high foreheads or the poison of evil-edged tongues) these my little ones may shroud themselves under the broad-leafed Platane [plant] of your Honor’s patronage.

And thus at this present, I humbly take my leave; but first wishing the continual increase of your Lordship’s honor, with abundance of true Friends, reconciliation of all Foes, and what good soever tendeth unto perfect happiness.

Your Lordship’s humbly at command

Thomas VVatson

Here is Watson’s Sonnet No. 7:

Hark you that list to hear what saint I serve:
Her yellow locks exceed the beaten gold;
Her sparkling eyes in heav’n a place deserve;
Her forehead high and fair of comely mold;
Her words are music all of silver sound;
Her wit so sharp as like can scarce be found;
Each eyebrow hangs like Iris in the skies;
Her Eagle’s nose is straight of stately frame;
On either cheek a Rose and Lily lies;
Her breath is sweet perfume, or holy flame;
Her lips more red than any Coral stone;
Her neck more white than aged Swans that moan;
Her breast transparent is, like Crystal rock;
Her fingers long, fit for Apollo’s Lute;
Her slipper such as Momus dare not mock;
Her virtues all so great as make me mute:
What other parts she hath I need not say,
Whose face alone is cause of my decay.

And here is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, (satirizing?) the lines above:

My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the Sunne;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen Roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such Roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my Mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My Mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Here is Oxford’s sonnet Love Thy Choice (circa early 1570’s):

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart ?
Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint ?
Who filled your eyes with tears of bitter smart ?
Who gave thee grief and made thy joys to faint ?
Who first did paint with colours pale thy face ?
Who first did break thy sleeps of quiet rest ?
Above the rest in Court who gave thee grace ?
Who made thee strive in honour to be best ?
In constant truth to bide so firm and sure,
To scorn the world regarding but thy friends ?
With patient mind each passion to endure,
In one desire to settle to the end ?
Love then thy choice wherein such choice thou bind,
As nought but death may ever change thy mind.

And here is No. 60 of Tears of Fancy attributed to Watson, 1593:

Who taught thee first to sigh Alasse sweet heart? love
Who taught thy tongue to marshall words of plaint? love
Who fild thine eies with teares of bitter smart? love
Who gave thee griefe and made thy joyes so faint? love
Who first did paint with coullers pale thy face? love
Who first did breake thy sleepes of quiet rest? love
Who forst thee unto wanton love give place? love
Who thrald thy thoughts in fancie so distrest? love
Who made thee bide both constant firme and sure? love
Who made thee scorne the world and love thy friend? love
Who made thy minde with patience paines indure? love
Who made thee settle stedfast to the end? love
Then love thy choice though love be never gained,
Still live in love, dispaire not though disdained.

Stay tuned for Part Two of Reason No. 35 — How Oxford borrowed the Watson “century” structure for the “century” within the Shakespeare sonnets.

Part Two of Reason 20 — The Dedications Reveal Oxford’s Personal Relationships with Authors Whose Works Would Lead to “Shakespeare”

This part of Reason No. 20 includes several of the many public dedications to Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford, to indicate the scope of his personal relationships with other writers.  The way I see it, anyone who would eventually create the works of “Shakespeare” could not have grown and developed as an artist in a vacuum; on the contrary, he must have been part of a group or even a “community” of fellow authors, poets and playwrights.

Oxford was not only part of such a community; their tributes make clear that he was their leader.  

Arthur Golding (Histories of Trogus Pompeius) wrote to him in 1564: “It is not unknown to others, and I have had experiences thereof myself, how earnest a desire your Honor hath naturally grafted in you to read, peruse, and communicate with others as well the histories of ancient times, and things done long ago, as also of the present estate of things in our days, and that not without a certain pregnancy of wit and ripeness of understanding.”

Thomas Underdowne (Aethiopian History) told him in 1569 that “matters of learning” were good for a nobleman, but then warned the earl that “to be too much addicted that way, I think it is not good.”

(In that same year 19-year-old Oxford ordered “a Geneva Bible gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, with other books and papers” as well as “Tully’s and Plato’s works in folio, with other books.”  Sounds indeed like a young man “addicted” to learning!)

When Thomas Bedingfield dedicated his translation of Cardanus Comforte to Oxford in 1573, he told him that “I do present the book your Lordship so long desired,” confirming that the earl had been personally involved in this publication [for which he contributed both a Letter to the Reader and a poem].   He reminds Oxford of “the encouragement of your Lordship, who (as you well remember), unawares to me, found some part of this work and willed me in any wise to proceed therein.”

Also in 1573 the distinguished physician Thomas Twyne (Breviary of Britain) referred to Oxford as being “in your flower and tender age” before inviting him to bestow  upon his work “such regard as you are accustomed to do on books of Geography, Histories, and other good learning, wherein I am privy your honour taketh singular delight.”

One of Oxford’s secretaries, Anthony Munday (Mirror of Mutability), told the earl in 1579 that he looked forward to “the day when as conquerors we may peacefully resume our delightful literary discussions.”

Munday was apparently referring to the rivalry between the Euphuists under Oxford and the Romanticists who included Philip Sidney and Gabriel Harvey.  His reference to “our delightful literary discussions” offers a glimpse of Oxford personally engaged with other writers who were developing a new English literature and drama leading to “Shakespeare.”

And the works created by members of this circle (such as John Lyly, another of his secretaries) would later become known as “contemporary sources” upon which “Shakespeare” drew.

Thomas Watson (Hekatompathia, or The Passionate Century of Love) in 1580 reminded Oxford that he had “willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand.”  He cited Oxford as a kind of literary trend-setter, one whose approval would move others to approve as well; and because of this influence he had, his acceptance of Watson’s work in manuscript meant that “many have oftentimes and earnestly called upon me to put it to the press.”

Angel Day (The English Secretary) wrote in 1586 to Oxford about “the learned view and insight of your Lordship, whose infancy from the beginning was ever sacred to the Muses.”

Robert Greene (Card of Fancy) wrote publicly to Oxford in 1584 that he was “a worthy  favorer and fosterer of learning [who] hath forced many through your excellent virtue to offer the first-fruits of their study at the shrine of your Lordship’s courtesy.”

In other words, Oxford encouraged young writers who were working on their very first works to be be published, guiding them to the press.

In 1591 the composer John Farmer, who apparently lived in Oxford’s household, dedicated his first songbook (Plain-Song) to the earl, saying he was “emboldened” because of “your Lordship’s great affection to this noble science” (music) – which, of course, must be said also of Shakespeare.  In his second dedication (First Set of English Madrigals, 1599), Farmer told Oxford that “using this science as a recreation, your Lordship have over-gone most of them that make it a profession.”

So it’s not just the dedications, per se, that are impressive here; it’s also that the comments and praises appear to be absolutely genuine and heartfelt.   Oxford may have had many faults of character, such as a tendency to be jealous and vengeful, but among his fellow writers and other artists he must have been unusually spirited and generous.  Perhaps his relationship with them was akin to Prince Hamlet’s relationship with the players:

“You are welcome, masters!  Welcome, all!  I am glad to see thee well.  Welcome, good friends … Masters, you are all welcome.  We’ll e’en to it like French falconers, fly at anything we see.  We’ll have a speech straight.  Come, give us a taste of your quality.  Come, a passionate speech!”  

[All added emphases above are mine.]

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