Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Enter John Lyly

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.  So pronounced a link between the names of the Earl and the playwright makes Lyly as important as any figure in the debate.

But still, few seem to have taken the time to read (much less study) his works.  Only a small number of the facts of his life are widely known.   Some have even suggested that the name was an alias for Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

The best source of information on Lyly is the exceptional introduction to Warwick Bond’s edition of The Complete Works of John Lyly (Clarendon Press, 1902).  Little new information has been added over the years regarding Lyly.  The references to the Earl of Oxford, though dated, remain helpful.

Bond tells us that the first certain information about the man comes from registrars’ rolls for Magdalen College, Oxford, where his B.A. and M.A. degrees were duly entered in 1573 and 1575 respectively.  Between the two we also have a Latin letter, dated May 16, 1574, written by Lyly to “Viro illustrissimo, et insignissimo Heroi Domino, Burgleo, totius Angliae Thesaurario, Regiae Maiestatis intimis a consilijs, et patron suo colendissimo J. L.[1]

Most illustrious man, and most distinguished Heroic Lord, Burgley, Treasurer of all England, privy councilor to the Queen, and most attentive patron of John Lyly.
He gives the English translation in a footnote.  The young scholar requests that “his patron,” Lord Burgley, intervene with the Queen in his behalf, such that she might order the Magdalen College to bestow a fellowship upon him.


What the letter makes clear is that William Cecil, the Baron Burgleigh, and Lyly already have some sort of relationship.  Some have written that the young man was the son of a distant cousin.  I’ve never been favored with a source for the claim.  Whatever the basis of their relationship, it is strong enough that a mere scholar could think of asking “his patron” to interceded in his behalf with the Queen.  That Burgley has already been supportive in unspecified ways is also made clear.

The Queen’s order was not forthcoming and the documentation for Lyly’s life 1575-79 consists only of an entry in Cambridge University records incorporating his Oxford M. A. there in 1579.[2]  A reference from Gabriel Harvey’s Pierce’s Supererogation places the two adversaries both living and first meeting in The Savoy Hospital complex in about 1578.


During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, The Savoy Hospital had been stripped of the lands the rents from which had previously supported its Hospital and charitable operations.  It was forced to make up as much as it could by renting out the buildings in its modest complex for apartments.  After a crisis, due to mismanagement, Burleigh had come to control it through the hospital manager.  The Savoy being not far from the Burleigh House, on the Strand, the Lord Treasurer may have deposited his young charge there in order to have him on hand for piece work of one sort or another.

It is likely, then, that Lyly wrote Euphues, the Anatomy of Wyt (1578) while living in The Savoy.  It was a grand and immediate success.  Many of the readers that lauded it to the literary world of the Court and London surely also lived at or regularly availed themselves of bed and board at The Savoy.

A number of documents show that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, lived and received guests at The Savoy when in London, in 1573.  Moreover an entry was made in the Savoy records that he was found in arrears of rent in that year for two tenements.  His floor space, then, was considerable.  By various estimates he continued there perhaps as late as 1578.  The overlap between the probable Savoy timelines for the two men make all but certain that they met there in 1577 or 1578.  Again Harvey informs us that Lyly became secretary to the Earl at about that time.  The dedication of Euphues and his England to the Earl in 1580 suggests that year as the latest possible start date for their arrangement.



[1] Lansdowne, MS. xix. No. 16.
[2] Bond takes this piece of information from Charles and Thompson Cooper’s Athenae Cantabrigienses which does not give exact information on the whereabouts of the entry in the university records.


  • Desperately Seeking Bridget (de Vere).  August 24, 2014.  "Even most people who assert that the Earl of Oxford was the poet and playwright Shake-speare (a group to which I resoundingly belong) do not seem to know that she was engaged, in 1598, to William Herbert, soon to inherit the Earldom of Pembroke,..."
  • Shake-speare and the Influence of Ronsard.  May 22, 2014.  "If Shake-speare were actually born in 1564, the question should naturally arise as to why so many of the sources for his works were written between 1560 and 1580,..."

Sunday, October 02, 2016

The Herbert Brothers' Other First Folio Dedication. (Page 2)

...Muses of this latter Age, then that which is owing to your Familie; whose Coronet shines bright with the native luster of its owne Jewels, which with the accesse of some Beames of Sydney, twisted with their Flame presents a Constellation, from whose Influence all good may be still expected upon Witt and Learning. 
At this Truth we rejoyse, but yet aloofe, and in our owne valley, for we dare not approach with any capacity in ourselves to apply your Smile, since wee have only preserved as Trustees to the Ashes of the Authors, what wee exhibit to your Honour, it being no more our owne, then those lmperiall Crownes and Garlands were the Souldiers, who were honourably designed for their Conveyance before the Triumpher to the Capitol. 
But directed by the example of some, who once steered in our qualitie, and so fortunately aspired to choose your Honour, joyned with your (now glorified) Brother, Patrons to the flowing compositions of the then expired sweet Swan of Avon SHAKESPEARE; and since, more particularly bound to your Lordships most constant and diffusive Goodnesse, from which, wee did for many calme yeares derive a subsistence to our selves, and Protection to the Scene (now withered, and condemn'd, as we feare, to a long Winter and sterilitie) we have presumed to offer to your Selfe, what before was never printed of these Authours. 
Had they beene lesse then all the Treasure we had contracted in the whole Age of Poesie (some few poems of their owne excepted, which already published, command their entertainement, with all lovers of Art and Language) or were they not the most justly admir’d, and belov’d Pieces of Witt and the World, wee should have taught our selves a lesse Ambition. 
Be pleased to accept this humble tender of our duties, and till we faile in our obedience to all your Commands, vouchsafe, we may be knowne by the Cognizance and Character of 
MY Lord, 
Your Honours most bounden






*
It bears mentioning that, in 1647, the plays of John Fletcher (Beaumont had died much earlier) were far more popular than those of Shakespeare.  Bringing The Bard into the dedication and two of the dedicatory poems would not have been designed to add to the luster of Fletcher.  Quite the opposite was the case: mentioning Shakespeare’s name together with Fletcher’s could only bring more luster to the name of the (at the time) only moderately popular Shakespeare.

So then why even bring Shakespeare and the First Folio up in a dedication to Philip Herbert?  Why even dedicate the Fletcher First Folio to Philip?  Perhaps the dedication celebrates an unusually intimate Shakespeare connection between the playwright and the Herberts.  Perhaps Fletcher had veen all too well aware during his life that in the sentiments of the Herberts, Shakespeare could never possibly be outshone by another.  His name must always be given first place.



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The Herbert Brothers' Other First Folio Dedication.

Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke.
A copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays is traveling the country by way of celebrating what tradition says is the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare.  That tradition identifies a Stratford businessman as the author of the works of Shakespeare.

As I and others have pointed out, the Folio is dedicated to William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, and his brother Philip Herbert, the Earl of Montgomery, two men with close ties to Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.  Oxford died in 1604.  The Folio appeared in 1623.  Between the two dates, William had risen to the office of Lord Chamberlain to King James the First.  Philip had married Oxford’s daughter Susan and been created Earl.

William died in 1630 and his Earldom of Pembroke also fell to Philip.  During William’s service as Lord Chamberlain many literary works were dedicated to him.  I do not find many dedications to Philip.  The First Folio is the only dedication of which I am aware to the two brothers together while they both lived.

The introduction to my Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: at long last the proof  revives a letter written in 1637 by Philip recalling William’s earlier injunction, under his authority as Lord Chamberlain, against  printing any plays that had ever been the property of the players called the King’s Men.  The King’s Men had earlier been known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, and, thus, had once owned the rights to most of the plays of William Shakespeare.  A collected plays of Shakespeare was being produced just after 1620 and the project coincidentally abandoned.  The First Folio soon began production under the aegis of the Lord Chamberlain without fear of prosecution.

Among the arguments Stratfordian scholars (scholars supporting the authorship of the man from Stratford) forward most boldly in their candidate’s behalf is the fact that the first recorded appearance of a number of Shakespeare plays occurred after the Earl of Oxford’s death.  Most of these plays have long been understood to show unmistakable signs of having been co-written with one or more co-authors.  The Stratfordian position is that the author had retired to his home town and greatly reduced (but not ended) his literary output.  It was a phase, they say, when he had rather layout the structure and write a few key passages of his plays and leave the rest to one or another amanuensis from among the more talented young playwrights of the time.

My own particular Oxfordian position is that Edward de Vere’s daughter Susan, the wife of Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery, and a very active player in the Court masques of her day, came into the possession of the uncompleted manuscripts of De Vere upon his death.  Those manuscripts were farmed out largely (but not entirely) to John Fletcher, the man in their judgment, best able to bring the manuscripts to successful and respectable completed plays.  Thus “new” Shakespeare plays continued to appear for a time.



All Shakespeare scholars, of all stripes, widely agree that John Fletcher’s hand is clear in many of the late plays.  Other playwrights' signature stylistic traits can be seen in some late plays, as well, but to a much smaller extent.  Fletcher’s fellow playwright, Francis Beaumont, for one, is strongly suspected of having contributed passages.

Philip Herbert did, it  turns out, receive at least one literary dedication after his brother’s death.  Actually, the dedication is to both he and his “(now glorified) Brother”.  It is a second dedication of a First Folio, that is to say, to the Herbert brothers.  The First Folio in question is of the Works of John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont, published in 1647.   I provide a transcription:

TOTHE RIGHT HONOURABLE
PHILIP
Earle of Pembroke and Mountgomery:
Baron Herbert of Cardiffe and Sherland,Lord Parr and Ross of Kendall; Lord Fitz-Hugh,
Marmyon,and Saint Quintin; Knight of the most noble Order of
the Garter; and one of His Majesties most Honourable Privie Councell:
And our Singular Good Lord.

MY LORD, THere is none among all the Names of Honour, that hath more encouraged the Legitimate... 



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