The Holder of this blog uses no cookies and collects no data whatsoever. He is only a guest on the Blogger platform. He has made no agreements concerning third party data collection and is not provided the opportunity to know the data collection policies of any of the standard blogging applications associated with the host platform. For information regarding the data collection policies of Facebook applications used on this blog contact Facebook. For information about the practices regarding data collection on the part of the owner of the Blogger platform contact Google Blogger.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Edward de Vere Changes the Course of History: Christmas, 1580.


The Christmas festivities of 1580 were a fateful moment for the Vere-Howard Court faction and for Catholics in the realm of England.  The history of it and all that followed tends to be viewed by historians through a wide variety of lenses representing political interests to this day.  What can be said with certainty is that the events of those festivities marked the end of religious tolerance in England under Queen Elizabeth.

I quote from my Edward de Vere was Shakespeare by way of setting the scene:

126.  However much his move to London and turn toward literary matters may have comforted him, De Vere was still as much courtier as writer.  On the 16th of December, he reacted with violent words to a perceived affront at Court from Phillip Howard, the Earl of Arundel, and threatened to be revenged on all the Howard clan.  His fury may have calmed by Christmas night but fate would keep the feud alive.  During the Court celebrations, De Vere informed Charles Arundel, a close member of the Vere-Howard faction, that a warrant had been issued for Charles Arundel’s and Henry Howard’s arrests.  Henry Howard seems already to have assumed that this might be a result of De Vere’s threatened revenge and had begun encouraging his fellow crypto-Catholics to turn the spotlight on their adversary, and away from themselves, by colluding to bear witness to every “monstrous” activity they could declare or contrive.[1]
What wasn’t contrived was Vere’s accusation that Howard and Arundel were secretly practicing Catholics.  Seven years before, their faction’s leader, the Duke of Norfolk, had been executed for planning to marry the Catholic Mary Stuart and to usurp the throne.  Now the two were supplying information to the French ambassador, Mauvissiere, representative of her Catholic frenemy, Mary's brother-in-law, the French King.

Among the accusations that were contrived, was that Edward, too, was a Catholic.  He admitted to having tried the Catholic mass once or twice but only to find out what it was about.  He assured the Queen that he remained an Anglican.  He was turning state’s evidence on his friends.  It was they who tempted him and they were dedicated Catholics.

First Secretary to the Queen, Sir Francis Walsingham, had been pressing the Queen since at least the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, in France, in 1573, to recognize that Catholicism was, by its nature, unalterably inimical to her person and her throne.  She had remained remarkably tolerant in spite of his dire warnings.  Catholics continued to go about their lives so long as they recognized that, in England, they owed their allegiance to their  monarch who was the unchallenged head of the true church.




Vere escaped punishment for his brief flirtation with the Catholic host.  In the process, however, he was revealed to have deflowered one of Elizabeth’s ladies-in-waiting, Anne Vavasour.  Vavasour was soon delivered of a child.  Vere was briefly imprisoned following which he was exiled from Court for 2+ years.

The Christmas affair and investigations to follow finally convinced the Queen that Walsingham was wise to advise her to actively pursue Catholics as traitors by virtue of their religion alone. While she continued to be blind to the religion of some members of the nobility and of her chapel musicians, so long as they remained absolutely silent about their faith, the rest of her subjects stood to lose everything including their lives.

Earlier in 1580, Walsingham’s fierce rooting out of all “treason” had resulted in the arrest of William Carter, a Catholic printer, for publishing “A Treatise of Schism”.  The book contained a call to all “catholike gentlewomen” to follow the Biblical example of Judith that

…they might destroye Holofernes, the master hereticke, and amase all his retinew, and never defile their religion by communicating with them in anye smale point.
In this passage, Walsingham detected a tropological directive for the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting of Catholic leanings to look for an opportunity to murder her. 

Already, in 1579, Pope Gregory XIII had sent an invasion force to support insurrection in Ireland in hopes of a base from which to harry, if not invade, England and remove the “heretic Queen”.  Walsingham and Burghley’s European informants were reporting continuous planning to assemble a Spain invasion force with sufficient power to destroy the English navy and march on the Cinque Ports and London.  At that time, the Spanish navy was considered far-and-away the most powerful in the world.

Under these conditions Elizabeth’s desire for toleration was swept away.  Walsingham’s every word became scripture.  Every publication and play was closely checked for hidden calls to depose the Queen.  The author and publisher of a work in which such a call was detected was in grave danger of suffering a horrifying fate.

Carter was found guilty and executed, in 1583, by hanging and drawing and quartering.  The delay occurred because Walsingham sought to gain names of Catholic plotters and details of their networks and plans from him under protracted torture before trying him.  For two years Thomas Norton, the co-author of the seminal play Gorboduc, but later famed throughout England and Europe as “the rack-master,” oversaw his continual torture.




[1] Purdy, Gilbert Wesley. Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: at long last theproof.  Richmond, VA: The Virtual Vanaprastha, 2013. 126.


  • Why Did Queen Elizabeth Fear Richard II So? September 10, 2018.  Interestingly, the infamous “deposition scene” in the play, in which Richard concedes his unfitness for the crown, did not appear in the 1597 first quarto.  It did not appear until after Queen Elizabeth’s  death when the third quarto was published in 1608.
  • Shakespeare on Gravity. August 26, 2018. “So carelessly does Shakespeare throw out such an extraordinary divination. His achievement in thus, as it were, rivalling Newton may seem in a certain sense even more extraordinary than Goethe's botanical and osteological discoveries;…”
  • Shakespeare’s King Richard II as Prequel. August 06, 2018. “It is for the same reason, more or less, that we must accept that Richard II was written before Henry V.  When the players replied to the Essex conspirators “that of King Richard as being so old and so long out of use” would not attract an audience, they were indeed referring to Shakespeare’s Richard II.  And they knew what they were talking about.”
  • Amurath III and The True Tragedy of Richard III. June 11, 2018. “So then, when Professor Mott honed this information, in his 1921 paper, the shock it created was not because verities were shattered.”
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Why Did Queen Elizabeth Fear Richard II So?

I have previously gone over evidence supporting an early date for Shakespeare’s Richard II in my “Shakespeare’s King Richard II as Prequel” [link]. There are other mysteries surrounding the play that are every bit as suggestive of a date of 1587 or ‘88.

Interestingly, the infamous “deposition scene” in the play, in which Richard concedes his unfitness for the crown, did not appear in the 1597 first quarto.  It did not appear until after Queen Elizabeth’s  death when the third quarto was published in 1608.  When the play was performed before the Essex plotters, however, the deposition scene was by no means new.  As many have noticed:

The " new additions " in the third quarto, which appear also in the succeeding editions, occur in act iv., scene 1, lines 154-318 inclusive. Though not printed during the life of Elizabeth, there can be little doubt that they formed part of the play as originally written; for they agree with the act in style and rhythm, and are the natural introduction to the Abbot's speech (line 321) : "A woeful pageant have we here beheld." Their suppression in the earlier editions was probably for fear of offending Elizabeth, who was very sensitive upon the subject of the deposition of an English sovereign.[1]

After Richard II was played before the  plotters Elizabeth is recounted to have told William Lambarde, the keeper of the records in the Tower, " I am Richard the Second; know ye not that?"

By all appearances, the Queen had somehow suffered a very unpleasant experience around the comparison of Richard to herself.  The arguments against his fitness for the crown would not necessarily have been the reason for her ferocious defensiveness.  That he could be deposed at all may have established an unbearable precedent.  Throughout her reign the fact that she was a woman had suggested to a wide range of Englishmen that she was unfit to rule and must be removed.




Two years before the Essex Rebellion

In 1599, Sir John Haywarde was severely censured in the Star Chamber, and committed to prison, for his "History of the First Part of the Life and Reign of King Henry IV.," which contained an account of the deposition of Richard.[2]

It was dedicated to the Earl of Essex.  In it he described Richard’s faults, the foremost of which is the foremost accusation of the nobles in Shakespeare’s play.

to priuate men it was sufficient if themselues abstaine from wrong, but a prince must prouide that none do wrong vnder him: for by mainteining, or wincking at the vices of his officers, he maketh them his owne, and shal surely be charged therewith when first occasion doth serue against him.[3]

Richard’s fault, his usurpers repeatedly made clear, was that his advisers were egregiously corrupt personal friends who he had failed to correct.  In 1599, such passages could be (as they soon would be) construed as a demand that the Queen dismiss Robert Cecil, her right hand man, and replace him with the far more popular Essex.  In the end, this, Essex claimed, was the purpose of his rebellion.  Not to depose the Queen but to remove her corrupt advisers.

But Hayward was not likely the source of Elizabeth’s comment to Lambarde.  The first quarto of Shakespeare’s Richard II had been published some two years before Hayward.  That Hayward’s work agrees so completely with the play even suggests that he may have had the text beside him as he wrote.

What he didn’t have from the quarto was the deposition scene.  For some reason, two years before, the scene was already understood by the author to be too dangerous to publish.  It was so dangerous that it could only be published at the price of severe punishment.  Presumably, it could not be played at court, with or without the deposition scene, and could only be played in public with great care and without the scene.

But was it the cause of Elizabeth’s confidence that she was equated with Richard II among the intelligentsia of her kingdom?  Had the play so offended and frightened the Queen that Hayward suffered for it at a later date?  Had the Earl of Essex’s cohorts known the story of the fury the play caused upon its first being performed, and of the specific nature of the connection, real or imagined, between the Queen’s actions as monarch and those of Richard II?




[1] Shakespeare's Works. Edited by William J. Rolfe. Vol. VI. King John. King Richard II. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1884. 10.
[2] Ibid., 11.
[3] Hayward, John. The First Part of the Life And raigne of King Henrie the IIII. London: John Woolfe, 1599. 8-9.


  • Frederick Fleay's Metrical Table of Shakespeare's Plays. September 3, 2018. “What follows is the metrical table he presented to the New Shakespeare Society in an 1874 paper.[1]  The paper appears in the annual publications of Transactions for that year.  It is one of the great works of Shakespeare scholarship.”
  • Shakespeare’s King Richard II as Prequel. August 06, 2018. “It is for the same reason, more or less, that we must accept that Richard II was written before Henry V.  When the players replied to the Essex conspirators “that of King Richard as being so old and so long out of use” would not attract an audience, they were indeed referring to Shakespeare’s Richard II.  And they knew what they were talking about.”
  • Amurath III and The True Tragedy of Richard III. June 11, 2018. “So then, when Professor Mott honed this information, in his 1921 paper, the shock it created was not because verities were shattered.”
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.




Monday, September 03, 2018

Frederick Fleay's Metrical Table of Shakespeare's Plays

Frederick Fleay is one of the great names of Shakespeare scholarship.  But he had peers.  The 19th (and early 20th) century was a golden age of Shakespeare scholarship.  He shared the heights with the likes of John Halliwell, Frederick Furnival, Charlotte Stokes, and Sidney Lee.  In the wider Elizabethan and early Stuart scholarship fields there is the towering Rev. A. B. Grosart, the carefully precise A. H. Bullen and W. W. Greg, many more.

Fleay was the data guru of the bunch, a hundred and fifty years before his time.  As the result of his work and influence the amateur scholar has an amount of data available without having him- or herself to undergo the weeks and months of tedious counting and creation of tables.

What follows is the metrical table he presented to the New Shakespeare Society in an 1874 paper.[1]  The paper appears in the annual publications of Transactions for that year.  It is one of the great works of Shakespeare scholarship.



This is not to say that his data led to perfect reasoning.  Fleay’s own interpretations amount to highly educated guesses as to what his data revealed.  The guesses had considerably a better chance of being correct, overall, but they remained guesses.

As for myself, I would argue with quite a lot of them.  Nevertheless, the data remains for what support it can give my alternative explanations.  For whatever answer will prove to be correct, in any related question, will have to agree with the data.

It is this that Fleay’s tables provide us.  They provide a precise, unassailable stock of evidence from which to begin a wide range of debates — against which to test one’s own theories. 

The replies of the other members of the Society that are printed together with Fleay’s paper make an important point.  Some members are careful to limit the damage the data might do to their favorite theories.  Others more disinterestedly probe the tables and the idea of data itself for weaknesses and limitations.

Alexander J. Ellis, of President of the Philological Society, is reported to have “dwelt upon”
the necessity of consulting the Quartos as well as the Folios, and not basing statistical inquiries upon any one critical edition—or, at least, separating the points relating to doubtful lines. He considered that we owed a great deal, indeed, to Mr Fleay; but more for initiating than for completing the work.

This is, of course, is something that all of us who avail ourselves of Fleay data cannot help but feel.  We need more.  We will always need more.  Fleay added to his original paper in his books.  Others were impressed with the method it all suggested and provided more data from their own tedious efforts at counting and categorizing.  They tend to write the best scholarly introductions — works that one keeps on a special shelf.  But still, what is clearest from the work of Frederick Fleay is how much the field suffers for the lack of readily available data.





[1] The New Shakespeare Society’s Transactions, 1874. 



  • Shakespeare on Gravity. August 26, 2018. “So carelessly does Shakespeare throw out such an extraordinary divination. His achievement in thus, as it were, rivalling Newton may seem in a certain sense even more extraordinary than Goethe's botanical and osteological discoveries;…”
  • Let the sky rain potatoes! December 16, 2017. "In fact, the sweet potato had only just begun to be a delicacy within the reach of splurging poets and playwrights and members of the middle classes at the time that The Merry Wives of Windsor (the play from which Falstaff is quoted) was written.  The old soldier liked to keep abreast of the new fads."
  • Sir Anthony Bacon: a Life in the Shadows. January 25, 2016.  "Somehow Sir Anthony had the habit of ingratiating himself in circles of the highest historical interest and most questionable mores."
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.



Sunday, August 26, 2018

Shakespeare on Gravity

John Dee before Elizabeth I
by Henry Gillard Glindoni
In his William Shakespeare: A Critical Study (1898), Brandes inadvertently made more than one point in favor of a highly educated playwright, William Shakespeare.  Last week I posted his comments upon Shakespeare’s knowledge of circulation of the blood [link]. This week, I conclude the topic, for present purposes, with Brandes on Shakespeare’s understanding of gravity and geology.  While his comments make clear that he chose to accept the Stratford man as the author, his assessment that “several of the men whose society Shakespeare frequented were among the most highly-developed intellects of the period” implies, in particular, Dee, Burghley, Digges and co. That is to say, the company in which Edward de Vere passed his formative years.  Presumably, Brandes would have been slightly more impressed to know that Shakespeare had, in fact, died in 1604, still twelve years earlier, and slightly less impressed for the fact that De Vere also “enjoyed a very different education from [the Stratford man’s], and had, moreover, all desirable leisure for scientific research.”

 

Another point which some people have held inexplicable, except by the Baconian theory, may be stated thus: Although the law of gravitation was first discovered by Newton, who was born
in 1642, or fully twenty-six years after Shakespeare's death, and although the general  conception of gravitation towards the centre of the earth had been unknown before Kepler, who discovered his third law of the mechanism of the heavenly bodies two years after Shakespeare's death, nevertheless in Troilus and Cressida (iv. 2) the heroine thus expresses herself:—

"Time, force, and death,
Do to this body what extremes you can,
But the strong base and building of my love
Is as the very centre of the earth,
Drawing all things to it."                                        

So carelessly does Shakespeare throw out such an extraordinary divination. His achievement in thus, as it were, rivalling Newton may seem in a certain sense even more extraordinary than Goethe's botanical and osteological discoveries; for Goethe had enjoyed a very different education from his, and had, moreover, all desirable leisure for scientific research. But Newton cannot rightly be said to have discovered the law of gravitation; he only applied it to the movements of the heavenly bodies. Even Aristotle had defined weight as " the striving of heavy bodies towards the centre of the earth." Among men of classical culture in England in Shakespeare's time, the knowledge that the centre point of the earth attracts everything to it was quite common. The passage cited only affords an additional proof that several of the men whose society Shakespeare frequented were among the most highly-developed intellects of the period. That his astronomical knowledge was not, on the whole, in advance of his time is proved by the expression, " the glorious planet Sol " in Troilus and Cressida (i. 3). He never got beyond the Ptolemaic system.


Another confirmation of the theory that Bacon must have written Shakespeare's plays has been found in the fact that the poet clearly had some conception of geology; whereas geology, as a science, owes its origin to Niels Steno,[1] who was born in 1638, twenty-two years after Shakespeare's death. In the second part of Henry IV. (iii. i), King Henry says:—

"O God! that one might read the book of fate,
And see the revolution of the times
Make mountains level, and the continent,
Weary of solid firmness, melt itself
Into the sea ! and, other times, to see
The beachy girdle of the ocean
Too wide for Neptune's hips; how chances mock,
And changes fill the cup of alteration
With divers liquors!"

The purport of this passage is simply to show that in nature, as in human life, the law of transformation reigns; but no doubt it is implied that the history of the earth can be read in the earth itself, and that changes occur through upheavals and depressions. It looks like a forecast of the doctrine of Neptunism.


Here, again, people have gone to extremities in order artificially to enhance the impression made by the poet's brilliant divination. It was Steno who first systematised geological conceptions; but he was by no means the first to hold that the earth had been formed little by little, and that it was therefore possible to trace in the record of the rocks the course of the earth's development. His chief service lay in directing attention to stratification, as affording the best evidence of the processes which have fashioned the crust of the globe.[2]




[1] Nicolas Steno (née Niels Steensen) 1638 – 1686.
[2] Brandes, George. William Shakespeare: A Critical Study (1898), I. 113-4.


  • Shakespeare On Blood-Flow. August 19, 2018, “For all of the obvious examples, such as Hamlet’s mention of the supernova that held the attention of all the world, in 1572, and the description of St. Elmo’s Fire in The Tempest, however, the answer lies much more quietly woven into the text of the poems and plays as a whole.”
  • Stratford Shakespeare’s Undersized Grave.  July 22, 2018.  “Mr. Coll’s considers this evidence to support an old rumor that Shakspere’s head had been stolen in 1794.  But I submit that he is merely making his observation based upon a coincidence.”
  • Shakespeare's Apricocks.  February 21, 2017.  "While he may never have been a gardener, he does seem more than superficially knowledgeable about the gardens of his day.  One detail of such matters that he got wrong, however, is as much to the point as any."



Sunday, August 19, 2018

Shakespeare On Blood-Flow


Not long ago, a member of a popular Facebook group queried his fellows as to the extent of Shakespeare’s scientific knowledge.  It is an interesting question and well worth investigation.

For all of the obvious examples, such as Hamlet’s mention of the supernova that held the attention of all the world, in 1572, and the description of St. Elmo’s Fire in The Tempest, however, the answer lies much more quietly woven into the text of the poems and plays as a whole.

Scholars have already created a literature of The Bard’s empirical knowledge of nature.  George Brandes, begins his commentary on the subject, in his William Shakespeare A Critical Study, by recognizing that the knowledge in the works goes beyond mere country-boy knowledge:

Shakespeare's knowledge of nature is not simply such as can be acquired by any one who passes his childhood and youth in the open air and in the country. But even of this sort of knowledge he has an astonishing store.[1] 110

The tendency to discover Stratford-upon-Avon as a locus for the plants, animals, and such, in the plays, has been proven to be unfounded again and again, but the temptation to announce such “new discoveries” has proven irresistible.  The knowledge is real, the localization imaginary.

The great 19th century flood of Shakespeare scholarship could only notice so obvious a fact as that the plays contain vast amounts of knowledge some of which the playwright got from works in other languages than English.

Shakespeare seems, in certain instances, to be not only abreast of the natural science of his time, but in advance of it. People have had recourse to the Baconian theory in order to explain the surprising fact that although Harvey, who is commonly represented as the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, did not announce his discovery until 1619, and published his book upon it so late as 1628, yet Shakespeare, who, as we know, died in 1616, in many passages of his plays alludes to the blood as circulating through the body.

It was only one of the many facts that seemed to argue against the work being written by a marginally educated (if that) yokel from a small provincial town.



Before the supporters of Bacon as author of the plays began to devolve into endless, ever more insupportable ciphers, it was becoming ever more popular to assert that only a man of elite education could have brought such knowledge to the work.  Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, seemed the man to fit the bill.

But the ciphers were ever more necessary because Bacon’s biography just didn’t match up without them.  Yes, the plays powerfully suggest a highly educated author, of wide experience, but, upon closer inspection, they don’t suggest Bacon.

Still, Shakespeare’s ease with astronomy, blood-flow and a great deal else remains:


Thus, for example, in Julius Caesar (ii. i), Brutus says to Portia—

You are my true and honourable wife ;
As dear to me as are the ruddy drops
That visit my sad heart.

Again, in Coriolanus (i. i) Menenius makes the belly say of its food—

I send it through the rivers of your blood,
Even to the court, the heart, to the seat o' the brain ;
And, through the cranks and offices of man,
The strongest nerves, and small inferior veins,
From me receive that natural competency
Whereby they live

But apart from the fact that the highly gifted and unhappy Servetus, whom Calvin burned, had, between 1530 and 1540, made the discovery and lectured upon it, all men of culture in England knew very well before Harvey's time that the blood flowed, even that it circulated, and, more particularly, that it was driven from the heart to the different limbs and organs; only, it was  generally conceived that the blood passed from the heart through the veins, and not, as is actually the case, through the arteries. And there is nothing in the seventy-odd places in Shakespeare where the circulation of the blood is mentioned to show that he possessed this ultimate insight, although his general understanding of these questions bears witness to his high culture.[2]

This seems a valid assessment.




[1] Brandes, George. William Shakespeare A Critical Study (1898), I. 110.
[2] Brandes, I. 112.

  • Stratford Shakespeare’s Undersized Grave.  July 22, 2018.  “Mr. Coll’s considers this evidence to support an old rumor that Shakspere’s head had been stolen in 1794.  But I submit that he is merely making his observation based upon a coincidence.”
  • Enter John Lyly.  October 18, 2016.  "From time to time, Shakespeare Authorship aficionados query after the name “John Lyly”.  This happens surprisingly little given the outsized role the place-seeker, novelist and playwright played in the lives of the playwright William Shakespeare and Edward de Vere."





Sunday, August 12, 2018

Shakespeare Scholarship in the Internet Age.


Shakespeare scholar, Edward Dowden.
Just recently, a friend, and fellow member of the Edward De Vere was Shake-speare Group, on Facebook, informed me that he had happened upon a reference that might interest me: 

"How Shakspere became acquainted with  the poem of Marianus we cannot tell,  but it had been translated into Latin : “Selecta Epigrammata”, Basel, 1529 and again several times before the close of the sixteenth century"
Shakespeare's Poems: Venus and Adonis, Lucrece, SONNETS, ETC." William J. Rolfe, 1890.[1]
The comment followed a link I had posted to my 2014 essay “Shake-speare's Greek” where I asserted that no translation of the Greek epigrams of Marianus exists before those that we call Shakespeare’s sonnets 153 and 154.

I love to be presented with a legitimate challenge to any of my work.  This does not change the  fact that such challenges are followed by an unpleasant sinking feeling. Had I missed something?  It’s all part of the game, as it were, but still I take a  certain pride in getting a thing right before I present it to the world.

A couple of years ago,  now, I promised another fellow scholar, in my Edward de Vere, Shakespeare and Elizabethan Subjects Information Exchange Facebook group, to provide him citations for my claim, in Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: at long last the proof, that

Her [Queen Elizabeth’s] words will be recorded, almost verbatim, in Shake-speare’s rewrite of his Troublesome Raigne of King John which was surely written shortly afterwards:…[2]
I’ve found my original basis for all but one part of the claim.  But “all but one” is not acceptable and the matter waits until I will trip over the remaining citation.

“For now,” I told myself, "the Selecta Epigrammata of 1529 would have to wait."  I was in hot pursuit of another book.  And then, of course, I just took a peek at who else might have cited the book.  And then, of course, it was all over.  It was the book that would have to wait.


The reference to the Selecta Epigrammata reference had appeared in above a dozen Shakespeare related volumes between 1881 and 1912 (about half of them edited by Rolfe, whose work I highly respect).  Still, there was the (rhetorical) question: “Where did all of these editors/authors find copies of the Selecta Epigrammata of 1529?”  The answer, of course, is that they didn’t. “I see the ref all over the place,” I informed my friend:

but that happens from time to time. There was no Internet in those days. A citation could be highly popular, and, because it was so hard to verify, originally have been taken on someone's word who was wrong.
Not much later, I found the following by Churton Collins (also a scholar who I trust):

"The earliest Latin version I can find is in the Florilegium, edited by Lubinus, Heidelberg, 1603. It is not included in the Selecta Epigrammata, published at Basel, in 1529, as Mr. Sidney Lee asserts, following apparently Dr. Brandes, a perilous guide in Shakespearean matters."[3]
Collins’s aspersion upon Dr. Brandes would prove to be unfounded.  But the general idea that the reference had become “common knowledge” through repeating the error of the original source was correct.

Collins was almost certainly correct but there was only one way to be perfectly certain. There seemed to be nothing to do but to launch a “hail Mary” search for a digitized version of the highly obscure Selecta Epigrammata, Basil, 1529.  Living in the Age of the Internet has its miraculous aspects.  While the 19th century scholars had to take their best guess, and, in this instance, make a huge collective mistake, which became part of the historical record, I could enter a matrix of search terms  and find two facsimile copies of the 1529 volume.

Less fortunately, the old style typeface did not allow confidence in the search function.  I would have to search the pages of the book manually little by little as I returned to my book project (searching on the Greek alphabet is not yet an available miracle).  I am about halfway through as I write this.

In parallel, I did a search-provenance on the citation. The original source would seem to have been The Sonnets of William Shakspere (1881)[4] edited by Edward Dowden.  Professor Dowden may have had some command of ancient Greek but it is more likely that he assigned one or more classical languages grad students the task of chasing down “the translation  by which Shakespeare read the epigrams of Marianus” that provided the text of sonnets 153 and 154.  More likely still, he probably tapped the memory of his brother John, who seems to have had some level of fluency in the language.[5]  Needless to say, John’s memory was not a perfect one.




[1] Shakespeare's Poems: Venus and Adonis, Lucrece, Sonnets, Etc. William J. Rolfe, ed. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1890. 183.
[2] Purdy, Gilbert Wesley. Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: at long last the proof. Richmond, VA: The Virtual Vanaprastha, 2013. 179.
[3] Collins, John Churton.  Studies in Shakespeare. New York: Dutton & Co, 1904. 44.
[4] The Sonnets of William Shakspere. Edward Dowden, ed. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1881. 305.
[5] Letters of Edward Dowden and His Correspondents.  London: J. M. Dent & Sons, LTD., 1914. 152.

Last night I was at the closing meeting of the Hellenic
Club at Professor Blackie's. The invitation ran—
Homer, Iliad, I., at 7.45.
Song and Supper at 9.30.
The Club has existed for thirty years. It meets once a
fortnight during the winter, to read Greek.


  • Stratford Shakespeare’s Undersized Grave.  July 22, 2018.  “Mr. Coll’s considers this evidence to support an old rumor that Shakspere’s head had been stolen in 1794.  But I submit that he is merely making his observation based upon a coincidence.”

  • Shakespeare's Apricocks.  February 21, 2017.  "While he may never have been a gardener, he does seem more than superficially knowledgeable about the gardens of his day.  One detail of such matters that he got wrong, however, is as much to the point as any."