Saturday, January 1, 2011

Our Ever-Living Poet: A Personal Interpretation of the Title Page of Shake-speare's Sonnets by Isabel Gortázar

SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS
Never before Imprinted:
By G. Eld for T.T. 1609

TO.THE.ONLY.BEGETTER. OF.
THESE. INSVING. SONNETS.
Mr W.H. ALL. HAPPINESS.
AND. THAT. ETERNITIE.
PROMISED.
BY.
OVR. EVER.LIVING. POET.
WISHETH.
THE. WELL.WISHING.
ADVENTURER. IN.
SETTING.
FORTH.
T.T.

It seems presumptuous to propose yet another interpretation to this Dedication, as T.T. (presumably the publisher Thomas Thorpe), seems decided to thwart our attempts. For reasons that we may try to guess, Thorpe created this riddle, which must however have a solution, if only we can find it.

Starting with the title: SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS: As we know, the book contains a series of 154 sonnets which, according to this title, had been written by somebody calling himself SHAKE-SPEARE. Academia has therefore concluded that the author was William Shakespeare of Stratford.

However, the Dedication (1609), says the sonnets were written by OUR.EVER.LIVING.POET. An ever-living poet is meant to be a dead poet and William Shakespeare did not die until 1616; therefore, this SHAKE-SPEARE must be another Shakespeare. The use of the hyphenated name also suggests a pseudonym, which means we need to find a famous poet, dead, but ever-living (because famous), who may have used the alias of SHAKE-SPEARE, and who therefore has at least a reasonable chance of being also the author of other works published under the same hyphenated name: for example, six out of the nine Quartos, including King Lear, published between 1603 and 1608, and later attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford.

Luckily, my candidate, Christopher Marlowe, could be said to be “ever- living," as he was officially dead and famous, and nevertheless (in my opinion) still alive in 1609. Since I personally believe many of the sonnets point directly at Marlowe’s predicament in, and after, 1593, I am persuaded that the EVER.LIVING.POET, Christopher Marlowe alias SHAKE-SPEAR, was the author of the sonnets (as well as the 36 plays in the First Folio).

In his dedication Thomas Thorpe appears to be doing two things: a) Dedicating the sonnets to “the only begetterMr WH; and b) Wishing the best of luck to some adventurer on his setting forth. I shall deal with a) here, and leave b) for another day.

So, who is Mr W.H. and what does Thorpe mean by calling him “the only begetter”?

In theory, the “begetter,” Mr WH, should be the author of these sonnets, but in this case the author already has an alias: Shake-speare. It would have been perverse on the part of Thomas Thorpe to give two different aliases to the poet in the same book. So we must look for another possible meaning for the word “begetter.” The OED gives us “Begetter: 4 (fig and transit): To call into being." So not necessarily the author, nor the inspirer, but someone so essential to bring about the act of creation, that the author is bound to recognize this person as the only/real originator of such act.

The rhetorical device of adding the word only emphasizes this. If Thorpe had been referring to the author he could have said so: To the author; but no, he uses the ambiguous word begetter and emphasizes its ambiguity by adding a rhetorical only. The idea that this only has something to do with the sonnets being all by the same hand is not convincing. The begetter of all these sonnets might have been the author, but the only begetter is the person who caused the sonnets to exist; he is the only reason why the sonnets were written at all.

Shakespeare uses this rhetorical device in Henry V (IV, 8):

King Henry:
Come, go we in procession to the village.
And be it death proclaimed through our host
To boast of this or take the praise from God
Which is his only.


According to this, King Henry obtained the victory at Agincourt, but only God caused the victory to happen. God was, therefore, the only begetter of the victory, and all praise was due to him.

So, Mr W.H is someone inextricably connected with the creation of the sonnets, and his identity is being masked, probably on purpose. Apparently Mr W.H does not wish to be identified either with the sonnets, or with the ever-living poet, which may be understandable if the poet was the embarrassingly ever-living, Christopher Marlowe.

And here we come up against the fact that the 154 sonnets are definitely not all dedicated to, or written for, the same person. There is no way we can defend the possibility that Mr W.H is the Dark Lady, for example. But what about the redundant word INSVING? Why did Thorpe not write simply: TO THE ONLY BEGETTER OF THESE SONNETS?

Agreed, all 154 sonnets are in a way ensuing, but the word is redundant, so I propose that the unnecessary word INSVING means that the sonnets dedicated to Mr WH are only the first seventeen sonnets, those immediately ensuing the dedication page, all seventeen of which clearly constitute an item, or “collection,” in themselves. (OED: To ensue, 4, intr: to be immediately subsequent, etc.1485). The word ensuing is the origin of the expression en-suite, implying immediacy.

So, Mr WH could be the only begetter of the ensuing first seventeen sonnets, perhaps because it was on account of Mr WH that the sonnets were written at all. These first seventeen sonnets are dedicated to a young man, encouraging him to marry and beget children; it has been suggested that the occasion was the said young man’s seventeenth birthday.

There are two favourite candidates for the role, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton and William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. Southampton was already an earl on his seventeenth birthday, in 1590, so that calling him Mr W.H, even at that time, would be impertinent and incorrect. Also, had the sonnets been written by Marlowe in 1590, Thorpe could not have published them in 1609 under the name of Shake-speare without spilling a lot of beans.

Whereas, William Herbert was seventeen in 1597, before he had succeeded to the earldom, so he was at that time plain Mr W.H. As it happens, in 1597, William Herbert had entered in negotiations with Lord Burghley to marry Bridget De Vere, Lord Burghley’s granddaughter and the Earl of Oxford’s second daughter. The negotiations were unsuccessful, as Herbert seems to have demanded that the full dowry be paid in advance. Although Lord Burghley was trying to marry his granddaughters into the aristocracy, it seems that Herbert made excessive difficulties and the marriage did not take place.

Focusing on William Herbert as Mr WH, let us imagine that in 1597, Marlowe (perhaps prompted by the boy’s mother, Mary Sidney) wrote those seventeen sonnets to William, encouraging him to marry Bridget De Vere. The boy was the reason why the sonnets were written. The event of his seventeenth birthday “called the sonnets into being”; had it not been for this anniversary, the sonnets would not have been written.

So maybe, in 1597, the author dedicated the seventeen sonnets to William Herbert with the words:

TO THE ONLY BEGETTER OF THESE SONNETS: Mr W.H. ALL HAPPINESS AND ETERNITIE.

The sonnets insistently advise the youth to marry and beget children in order to obtain happiness and “eternity” (immortality); thus, Mr WH would be immortalized both in the poet’s rhyme and in the life of his descendants:

But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice, in it and in my rhyme
.” (Sonnet 17)

Another indication that this may be the case is the reference that Francis Meres makes in his pedantic Palladis Tamia 1, published in 1598 (so within a year after William Herbert’s birthday on April 8, 1597). In his work, Meres refers to Shakespeare’s “sugared sonnets.” Now, it would be difficult to think of the bulk of Shakespeare’s sonnets as “sugared.” In those 154 sonnets we find lines of love, envy, despair, regret, disappointment, etc.; in other words, Shake-speare's sonnets encompass the whole gamut of human emotions.

Whereas the first seventeen sonnets could well be described as “sugared.” The author is writing them for a young man of whom he is obviously fond, to be read during a private party, probably a family gathering, on occasion of his birthday and in reference to the marriage prospects about which he is making such difficulties. This seems to be confirmed by Meres’s clarification: his sugared sonnets among his private friends. Indeed, if the sonnets were NEVER BEFORE IMPRINTED, a private reading, possibly at Wilton House, in April of the previous year, was the only chance for anyone like Meres to have been acquainted with their “sugared” contents.

Eventually, Herbert seems to have rejected the sonnets as well as the proposed bride, so perhaps Marlowe left the batch (possibly with its dedication) either to Thorpe or to Edward Blount (or to Mary Sidney), who waited for the first opportunity to publish them.

Obviously, if a powerful man like Pembroke did not wish to be connected with the sonnets, Thorpe had to make his identification difficult (but eventually not impossible), and, just as the best place to hide a man is in a multitude, the best place to “hide” seventeen sonnets is among over one hundred sonnets dedicated to various people.

Pembroke must have been furious when the sonnets were published, especially because I suspect there are several, later, sonnets dedicated to the same man.2

Thorpe’s book seems to have disappeared shortly after publication. Daryl Pinksen quotes3 Kenneth Muir (1979) on this subject: “But as very few copies are extant, it seems possible that the volume was suppressed; (…) the publisher would not have withdrawn a profitable volume because of complaints from the author, but he would doubtless have succumbed to pressure from a member of the aristocracy.”

And now I would need to tie this first part of the Dedication to the second. Who is the well-wishing adventurer, setting forth?

With the reader’s permission I will deal, as I said, with this second part in a separate instalment.

© Isabel Gortázar, December 2010

Isabel Gortázar is an independent scholar, specializing in Shakespeare and Marlowe studies. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Marlowe Society (UK) and a founding member of the International Marlowe Society. She divides her time between London and Bilbao, Spain.
who wrote shakespeare's sonnets?emmerichdevere
Notes
1Meres, Francis. 1598. Palladis Tamia: Wit's Treasury.
2See Gortázar, Isabel: Tamburlaine's Sonnets
3Pinksen, Daryl. 2008. Marlowe's Ghost. p. 202.

39 comments:

DresdenDoll said...

I read this piece a few times; very convincing that "ensuing" pertains to the first 17 sonnets.

The dedication is beginning to makes sense!

VasantK said...

greeting from new delhi! a credible interpretation...

Isabel said...

Many thanks to Dresden Doll and VasantK.
Happy New Year!

CCZuppa8 said...

Why the darn riddles? People often use riddles when they're hiding something, right? Same with S's monument.

Maureen Duff said...

This all makes sense to me. Very good, Isabel!

Alex said...

Isabel offers an elegant solution to a vexing literary problem. Her solution seamlessly unifies four strands that are riddles in their own right: 1) the identify of the “ever-living poet”; 2) the use of the hyphenated name SHAKE-SPEARE suggesting an alias; 3) the identity of the “only begetter,” Mr W.H.’ and 4) the meaning of “insving” (ensuing).

I find her reasoning in respect to William Herbert more compelling than Walsing-Ham, the candidate that an older generation of Marlovians tended to identify with Mr W.H.

My only quibble is with identifying “sugared” with the first 17 sonnets to the young man. In 1599, a year after Meres’s use of this word appeared, two Shakespearean sonnets were published in The Passionate Pilgrime. These were variations of Sonnet 138 and 144 that subsequently appeared in Thorpe’s 1609 edition. These are both Dark Lady sonnets, not young man sonnets, and may have been rushed into print by William Jaggard to capitalize on Meres’s mellifluous tribute. Both sonnets are amorous or Ovidian. Sonnet 138 has faint echoes of Marlowe’s poem “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love,” a version of which was also published in The Passionate Pilgrime. Sonnet 144 invokes the “bad” and “good” angels familiar from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, and conventional critics commonly note the strong Marlovian parallel in their commentaries on the Sonnets.

As for publication of the Sonnets, as John Baker has pointed out, they were entered by Thorpe at the Stationers’ Register on May 20, 1609 (New Style May 30), the anniversary of Marlowe’s arrest in Scadbury and “death” in Deptford. Earlier, in 1600, Thorpe published Marlowe’s translation of Lucan’s First Book.

I await eagerly Isabel’s answer to the concluding riddle of “the well-wishing adventurer, setting forth.”

Alex Jack

Peter Farey said...

Well done, Isabel, there are several interesting ideas here. I had come across some of them before but not all - for example your argument justifying the use of the title "Mr." for a nobleman who would not have been an Earl when those sonnets were written was a new one to me! I would certainly not rule out your interpretation as a possibility, and have even provided stylometric evidence in support of the first seventeen sonnets having been written for William Herbert's 17th birthday rather than Southampton's.

As you know, however, I do find it strange that here we have yet another interpretation by a Marlovian who, it seems to me, is attempting to solve things which really aren't problems for us, but which certainly are for Stratfordians.

1) According to the most commonly used extended metaphor in such dedications at the time, a literary work was presented as the offspring of the author, who was therefore the begetter, father, sire, etc. This is of course a big problem for Stratfordians, since they cannot accept an author with the initials "W.H.". For us, on the other hand, these may very well have been the initials of the name under which Marlowe was living at the time.

2) In an attempt to solve this, commentators tend to ignore this almost universal 'rule' and claim that it must mean the 'inspirer' of the sonnets instead. This then causes a further problem, which is that the Sonnets are clearly not the result of any inspiration by one person, whereas the dedication says that "W.H." was the "only" begetter. That there was only one author, causes no difficulty for Marlovians. And Alex provides a very good reason for that word "only", given such pirated anthologies as The Passionate Pilgrim.

3) By far the most likely meaning of an "adventurer setting out" that May would have been anyone involved in the second Virginia Company, and particularly the first two names on the list of its Council members. The identification of the "begetter" as one of these two means that one has to take someone else, usually "T.T.", as the "well-wishing adventurer" which is a real struggle - one which Marlovians don't have to face.

I note that you will be coming back with your ideas concerning the well-wishing adventurer, and look forward to reading them. Meanwhile, I am intrigued by your claims that "the Dedication (1609), says the sonnets were written by OUR.EVER.LIVING.POET." which I certainly don't see, and that the dedication is "Wishing the best of luck to some adventurer on his setting forth" when the adventurer seems fairly clearly to be the subject rather than the object of the verb "wisheth". If not, who is?

Peter

Peter Farey said...

Oops. My mistake. The words "rather than the object" should be deleted, since the the object is of course "all happinesse... etc.". That the adventurer must be the one doing the wishing remains!

Peter

Isabel Gortazar said...

Thanks Maureen. Happy New Year!

I will reply to Peter separately.

Alex:
Indeed Meres might have had access to Sonnets 138 and 144 before they were published, although neither of them qualifies as "sugared". Nor do I find it likely that those two sonnets would have been read "among his private friends"; unlike the Herbert Sonnets, 138 and 144 seem too intimate for a public/private reading.

While I can easily imagine Meres being invited to Wilton House for WH's 17th Birthday Festivities, I cannot so easily envisage Marlowe reading his intimate sonnets to Meres, and there was no printed copy of those two sonnets until a year after Palladis Tamia appeared.

Also, as both sonnets were published, as you say, in 1599 (albeit in slightly different versions), if we include them in Thorpe's dedication, we would have to question not just Meres' qualification of the sonnets as "sugared", but also Thorpe's specification that the INSVING sonnets were NEVER BEFORE IMPRINTED.

If Thorpe is dedicating the "Shake-speare sonnets" to "Mr WH" (as I propose he is), my surmise is that his dedication is based on the seventeen sonnets only. Those are precisely the Sonnets that promise Happiness and Eternity to Mr WH, if only he would get married and beget children.

Those are also the only sonnets in reference to which Mr WH could be considered to be "the only begetter", as the occasion of his birthday was the only reason that "caused the sonnets to exist".

isabel Gortazar said...

Peter:
Many thanks for your comments. I must reply to each point separately. Here is the first batch.

A) PF: “As you know, however, I do find it strange that here we have yet another interpretation by a Marlovian who, it seems to me, is attempting to solve things which really aren't problems for us, but which certainly are for Stratfordians.”

Solving the puzzle of T.T’s Dedication is important to Marlovians in that it clarifies to Stratford why “Shake-speare” was referred to as Our ever-living poet. It may also help to support the theory that Marlowe may have had a close avuncular relationship to young William Herbert, which would also explain the “lame sonnets”, as I have said elsewhere.

B) PF: “justifying the use of the title "Mr." for a nobleman who would not have been an Earl when those sonnets were written was a new one to me!”

That is a tricky one, I agree, but I would need to consult a book of etiquette to answer it. Off the top of my head, I would say that as the son of an Earl he would be The Honorable Mr WH. I doubt he would be called “lord William Herbert” or Lord WH, but I admit I don’t know. All I can promise is to do some further research.

Though not a proper justification, I may add that if Thorpe was trying to keep the connection under wraps, the addition of the word “Honorable” would have given the game away.

In any case, at least William Herbert's bare initials (unlike Southampton's) were WH, and you agree that those first 17 sonnets were probably dedicated to him.

Isabel Gortazar said...

Second batch for Peter

PF:1) According to the most commonly used extended metaphor in such dedications at the time, etc:

Sorry; the “most commonly used metaphor” does not give us much joy in this case; fortunately there is another interpretation for the expression “only begetter” as I have explained. I simply cannot believe that Thorpe would be giving yet another alias to the author, whom he already calls “Shake-speare” and Our Ever Living Poet. These two pseudonyms are perfectly compatible in the context, and support each other in a Marlovian scenario. The idea that Marlowe may have been using a name with the initials WH at the time is, of course, not impossible, but my own reading of the rhetorical expression ·”the only begetter” sounds (to me) more logical.

PF: 2) In an attempt to solve this, commentators tend to ignore this almost universal 'rule' and claim that it must mean the 'inspirer'"etc:

I never said that “the only begetter” in this particular case, means the “Inspirer”. In my example of Agincourt, the “inspirer” of the invasion was the Archbishop of Canterbury; the “victor” was Henry V, but “the only victor” was God.

I must insist that the addition of the word "only" changes the meaning of the noun. In the song: "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine" the lover is dismissing any possible joy provided by the sun shining, as the girl he loves is his "only" sunshine.

PF: 3) By far the most likely meaning of an "adventurer setting out" that May would have been anyone involved in the second Virginia Company, etc:

Yes, I will address that second part later. My next piece on this issue will be called “The Well-Wishing Adventurer”.

Peter Farey said...

Hi Isabel,

Re your "first batch":

I said "As you know, however, I do find it strange that here we have yet another interpretation by a Marlovian who, it seems to me, is attempting to solve things which really aren't problems for us, but which certainly are for Stratfordians."

Your reply was: "Solving the puzzle of T.T’s Dedication is important to Marlovians in that it clarifies to Stratford why "Shake-speare" was referred to as Our ever-living poet..."

But this doesn't really deal with my point does it? This is that whereas one can come up with countless examples at that time of an author portrayed as the begetter, father, sire or parent of his work, there is apparently not a single surviving example of the interpretation which you offer. Since we Marlovians are virtually alone in not finding the initials "W.H." a problem, why go to such lengths to try and solve this puzzle for the other candidates?

The interpretation which I offered a year ago on this blog (http://marlowe-shakespeare.blogspot.com/2009/11/mr-wh-and-well-wishing-adventurer-by.html) gave the same reading of "ever-living poet" as yours without the need to depart from the usual meaning for begetter.

I should perhaps point out that I was not actually arguing against your solution to the "Mr." question, only saying that it was one that I had not come across before. However, you are of course right to say that more research is needed. I do note, for example, that in Herbert's DNB entry it says "By the autumn of 1599 he had made remarkable progress: ‘My lord Herbert is exceedingly beloved at court of all men’, wrote his uncle's man Rowland Whyte...".

Since your suggestion is that the "Mr.W.H." first appeared in the 1597 dedication, I don't think that the question of using the "Mr." to conceal the true identity really applies.

I'll get back to your "second batch" when I have time, but that probably won't be today.

Peter

Peter Farey said...

Hi Isabel,

I did find time to look at the second batch after all.

Before that, however, I have found the following in "Shakespeare's Patrons & other essays" by Henry Brown: "He was a lover of poets and the drama, of a fine presence, handsome, a skilful horseman, and of a martial character, so much so that Robert Barret prepared and published a folio volume on "The Theory and Practice of Modern Wars " expressly for the young lord in 1598. There are two dedications to the volume ; the first is to the Earl of Pembroke, the other to his youthful son William Lord Herbert."

"William Lord Herbert"? I still feel that for Thomas Thorpe to address the young lord as "Mr." would be unbelievably cheeky, whether for purposes of concealment or not.

However, to your second batch:

PF:1) "According to the most commonly used extended metaphor in such dedications at the time, etc:"

IG: "Sorry; the "most commonly used metaphor" does not give us much joy in this case; fortunately there is another interpretation for the expression "only begetter" as I have explained."

PF: It works perfectly well in a Marlovian context, so it just seems very strange to me for Marlovians to jettison it in favour of what is basically a Stratfordian argument. Whilst the "ever-living poet" is very useful for our case, it is by no means essential and is easily explained under any authorship scenario. Again I must point out that you are making use of an unprecedented interpretation of "begetter" instead of the one which was commonly understood at the time when (unlike Stratfordians) we just don't have to.

IG: I simply cannot believe that Thorpe would be giving yet another alias to the author, whom he already calls "Shake-speare" and Our Ever Living Poet.

PF: He certainly doesn't "call" the author "our ever-living poet", the identity of whom is left deliberately vague. For example both God (for whom Foster presents a pretty good argument) or Ovid (in relation to the elegy in his *Amores* arguing for a poet's immortality through his works) could just as easily be the intended overt meaning. I see no problem with "Shake-speares Sonnets" being really written by someone living under a current identity having the initials "W.H." and would expect the general public at the time to have assumed this was just an error, as they would a few years later with the word "SIEH" on the monument.

PF: 2) In an attempt to solve this, commentators tend to ignore this almost universal 'rule' and claim that it must mean the 'inspirer'"etc:

IG: I never said that "the only begetter" in this particular case, means the "Inspirer"...

PG: I know you didn't. I was saying what Shakespearean commentators have been forced into concluding.

...In my example of Agincourt, the "inspirer" of the invasion was the Archbishop of Canterbury; the "victor" was Henry V, but "the only victor" was God.

PF: Fair enough. I can't say that I see it that way, but it's not worth arguing about.

IG: I must insist that the addition of the word "only" changes the meaning of the noun. In the song: "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine" the lover is dismissing any possible joy provided by the sun shining, as the girl he loves is his "only" sunshine.

PF: Of course there is a reason for it being there, and I have suggested what I think it is. However the definition of "beget" (not "begetter") that you offer - "to call into being" - is (I would have thought) exactly the opposite of what William Herbert would have done as regards such a present for his 17th birthday! "Forget the 17 Arab steeds, Mum, what I would really really like for my birthday is a collection of 17 sonnets urging me to get married".

Peter

Isabel Gortazar said...

Hi Peter: Your comments between "
“(...) whereas one can come up with countless examples at that time of an author portrayed as the begetter, (...) of his work, there is apparently not a single surviving example of the interpretation which you offer. "

Nevertheless, there are countless examples of words with an accepted meaning having that meaning altered by the addition of the rhetorical “only”.

"Since we Marlovians are virtually alone in not finding the initials "W.H." a problem, (...)"

By "we Marlovians", I think you must mean "some Marlovians". As I don’t believe Mr WH is the author, my problem as to who he may be is essential to my understanding of the dedication.

"(...) ‘My lord Herbert is exceedingly beloved at court of all men’, wrote his uncle's man Rowland Whyte...".

This is interesting but hardly final. I can easily believe that the servants, menials, tutors, etc would have called an earl’s son “my lord Whatever”. I am, however, not at all sure that would be strictly his due title. An irritating problem is that we cannot trust any post-Jacobean book of etiquette. In my contemporary readings I find the “handle” is usually left out and the men in question are mentioned by their full names.

One specific example from the mid seventeenth Century; a Courtier is writing about Philip Herbert, thus: “Philip Herbert, later to be Earl of Montgomery, etc.” Admittedly, he does not say "Mr Philip Herbert", but neither does he say "Lord Philip Herbert", as one might have expected, had he the right to be so called.

In theory, the Sir came with a knighthood, either inherited or bestowed directly, and the Lord came with a title, idem. In the cases where a secondary title existed (at least in later years), such secondary title was granted to the heir as a “courtesy title”, in which case, such heir would become a “lord” ipso facto. But I have no evidence that in cases where no courtesy or personally-bestowed title existed, the heir to an earldom would “officially” be anything but “Mister”. I am not swearing on this; all I am saying is that I have not found such evidence.

“Since your suggestion is that the "Mr. W.H." first appeared in the 1597 dedication, etc"

My suggestion was that the 1597 dedication of the 17 sonnets, NEVER BEFORE IMPRINTED, was privately circulated among friends, therefore hardly a give away for buyers of the book twelve years later.

Isabel Gortazar said...

Hi Peter:
I cannot quote your words or this becomes too long, so the readers will have to refer to your comment.

1) There are countless examples of words with an accepted meaning having that meaning altered by the addition of the rhetorical “only”.

2) By "we Marlovians", you must mean "some Marlovians". As I don’t believe Mr WH is the author, finding out who he may be is essential to my understanding of the dedication.

3) I can easily believe that the servants, tutors, etc would have called an earl’s son “my lord Whatever”. I am, however, not at all sure that would be strictly his due title. It is irritating that we cannot trust any post-Jacobean book of etiquette. In my contemporary readings I find the “handle” is usually left out and the men in question are mentioned by their full names.

One specific example from a courtier writing in the mid seventeenth Century: “Philip Herbert, later to be Earl of Montgomery, etc.” He does not say "Mr Philip Herbert", but neither does he say "Lord Philip Herbert", as one might have expected, had he the right to be so called.

The "Sir" came with a knighthood, either inherited or bestowed directly, and the "Lord" came with a title, idem. In some cases where a secondary title existed, such secondary title was granted to the heir as a “courtesy title”, in which case, such heir would become a “lord” ipso facto. But I have no evidence that in cases where no courtesy or personally-bestowed title existed, the heir to an earldom would “officially” be anything but “Mister”. I am not swearing on this; all I am saying is that I have not found such evidence.

Finally: My suggestion was that the 1597 dedication of the 17 sonnets, NEVER BEFORE IMPRINTED, was privately circulated among friends, therefore hardly a give away for buyers of the book twelve years later.

isabel Gortazar said...

PF: "Forget the 17 Arab steeds, Mum, what I would really really like for my birthday is a collection of 17 sonnets urging me to get married".

I don't think that's what happened, Peter.
I like this better:

On April 8th 1597, the Earl and Countess of Pembroke organized a private party at Wilton House to celebrate the 17th birthday of their eldest son, the Honorable Mister William Herbert (having previously presented the boy with 17 Arab studs; his father's idea).

The festivities probably lasted several days, as was customary in those days. Knowing the Herbert-Sidney family, we can take for granted that several literary figures would have been included among the guests. Young William’s tutors, for example, Samuel Daniel and his brother-in-law John Florio, as well perhaps as Florio’s nephew, that notorious name-dropper, Frances Meres.

On the politico-social side, Lord Burghley and his son Robert could also have been invited, particularly as in 1597 negotiations were taking place between Pembroke and Lord Burghley for William to marry Bridget de Vere, second daughter of the Earl of Oxford and grand-daughter of Lord Burghley.

With all these guests staying at Wilton House for several days, Masks, Plays and Concerts would have been provided for the evenings’ entertainment, and possibly sessions of poetry reading. Poems dedicated to the youth would be an obvious choice for the professional and amateur poets attending the festivities.

Sensing perhaps the boy’s reluctance to the proposed marriage (that pleased both families, but would never take place), his mother had the idea of commissioning some Sonnets to her favorite poet, the officially “dead” Kit Marlowe, now living in the Continent as Agent of the Earl of Essex, an old friend of the Sidney family. Seventeen wonderful sonnets by the Great Master should have pleased young Herbert, himself a poet of some merit, who had known Marlowe as a child. Perhaps neither the Countess nor Kit Marlowe could guess that the boy would consider the contents of the Sonnets an impertinence.

But it is in this context that I imagine Mary Sidney, raising her glass to toast her son’s health, announcing that she would now read out-loud these 17 of sonnets, written for William by the “new star” in the literary firmament. (Because of course, for the benefit of the guests, the author’s name given would have been Marlowe’s alias since his “death” in May 1593.)

“I shall read the Sonnets myself -she said- here is the dedication”:

To the Only Begetter of These Sonnets:
The Honorable Mr. William Herbert,
All Happiness and Eternitie,
Wisheth
W. Shake-speare

Peter Farey said...

Hi Isabel

"...the 17th birthday of their eldest son, the Honorable Mister William Herbert..."

I have now checked the Debrett's website, and the interesting thing is that whereas this form of address would have been almost right for the younger son, Philip, it would be quite wrong for William who, as the eldest son and heir of an Earl, would have been given a "peerage title by courtesy" of a rank below that of his father, such as Viscount or Lord. In this case, he would appear to have been William, Lord Herbert (and definitely not "Mr."). Philip, on the other hand - assuming the 'rules' haven't changed since then, which they almost certainly haven't - would before 1605 have been The Hon Philip Herbert, Mr. Philip Herbert or Mr. Herbert according to the circumstances.

"...But I can imagine Mary Sidney, raising her glass to toast her son’s health, announcing that she would now read out-loud these 17 of sonnets..."

I am entirely sympathetic to the idea of these being read out at a 17th birthday bash of the sort you describe. In fact about ten years ago it was suggested on the HLAS newsgroup that each of the 17 might have been written for a specific guest at the party to read out. This made so much sense to me that I even made a stab at guessing who was the intended reader for each of them (see http://tinyurl.com/sonnets-1-17). Unfortunately we were working on the assumption that the addressee was Southampton, but the same principle applies, and even some of the same people would have probably been involved!

So it isn't the idea of the Sonnets as a "birthday present" I was criticizing, only your trying to make the word "begetter" appropriate in that situation, which I really don't think it is.

Peter

Peter Farey said...

Hi Isabel:

"But I have no evidence that in cases where no courtesy or personally-bestowed title existed, the heir to an earldom would "officially" be anything but "Mister". I am not swearing on this; all I am saying is that I have not found such evidence."

I have found the following, concerning not our William Herbert but his nephew - another William Herbert who was first son of an Earl- on the City and County of Swansea website at http://www.swansea.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=20123 and concerning a 1666 deal in the estate of the Earls of Pembroke: " Abstract of a copy bargain and sale with feoffment in consideration of £300, annual rent 3s.4d and duties as according to the custom of the manor of Neath Ultra [copied 17 Jan 1750] dated 10 Nov 1666; i) Rt. Hon. Phillip, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery etc. and his son William Lord Herbert...".

Peter

Isabel Gortazar said...

Peter:
The trouble with Debrett and modern etiquette is that it is just that: modern; certainly post Elizabethan. It includes non-Royal Dukes (which did not exist between 1485 and 1623, when James granted to Buckingham the title of duke) and women Peers "suo jure" (in their own right).
So we can't take Debrett as source of information.

As for your "Ultra [copied 17 Jan 1750] dated 10 Nov 1666; i) Rt. Hon. Phillip, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery etc. and his son William Lord Herbert..."

You notice we are already in the Restoration, so once again the information is not to be trusted for 1597.

I realize this is a tricky point, but as Pembroke never gave a courtesy title to his son William, and as he had not been knighted in 1597, I cannot see how he could have been called anything but Mister WH or, at a pinch, The Honorable Mister WH:

Peter Farey said...

So let's take stock.

Debrett, whose sole purpose is to ensure that such etiquette is changed as little as possible unless there are new circumstances to be dealt with (such as the non-royal Dukes you mention) say:
"The eldest (or only) son of an earl will use a peerage title by courtesy (of a rank junior to his father) and should be addressed accordingly." There is no reason at all to assume that this would have changed over time, nor is there any mention of such a title being "given", just that this is what happens.

The DNB reports it said of William Herbert:
"(...) ‘My lord Herbert is exceedingly beloved at court of all men’, wrote his uncle's man Rowland Whyte...".

Henry Brown, in his book "Shakespeare's Patrons & other essays" apparently quoting from the dedication in question tells us:
"Robert Barret prepared and published a folio volume on "The Theory and Practice of Modern Wars " expressly for the young lord in 1598. There are two dedications to the volume ; the first is to the Earl of Pembroke, the other to his youthful son William Lord Herbert."

And in the Swansea records we read of his nephew (as far as I know never "granted" this title either) referred to in the following:
"i) Rt. Hon. Phillip, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery etc. and his son William Lord Herbert...".

I'm sorry, Isabel, but if you don't accept this as sufficient evidence to cast serious doubt upon your idea that "Mr. W.H." would have referred to William Herbert in 1597, then I can only assume that no evidence whatsoever will do so!

Peter

Peter Farey said...

Isabel,

Two more pieces of evidence which I think must clinch it.

In the DNB entry for his grandfather the First Earl, another William, we find: "In 1551 he was made lord lieutenant for all the Welsh counties, and it was far from inappropriate that having been ennobled as Baron Herbert of Cardiff on 10 October that year, he should have been further promoted to become earl of Pembroke on the following day."

Both titles were hereditary, which means that Henry was also Baron Herbert of Cardiff, a lesser rank which could be used by our William. This explains why in the ninth volume of The Walpole Society (http://tinyurl.com/walpole9) we find "It is hard, however, to believe that the bearer in the foreground can represent a youth of barely twenty years old. William, Lord Herbert of Cardiff, known in later years as the friend of Shakespeare, was born in April, 1580."

Peter

Isabel Gortazar said...

If that is the case, Peter, then it would have been an impertinence on the part of both Marlowe and Thorpe to call him Mr WH.

That said, I still prefer the impertinent solution to the proposal that Mr WH is meant to be the author.

I have another possible candidate but need permission from my "informer" to disclose it and work on the hypothesis.

Otherwise I find "impertinence" the lesser evil.

Peter Farey said...

Isabel,

I'm bewildered.

We know that in dedications at that time the conceit that an author's works were his "children" was widely known, understood, and used. The author was therefore the "father", "sire", "parent" or "begetter", and patrons were "godfathers" or "foster parents" etc. Yet you prefer to ignore this.

In contrast with every other significant authorship candidate, the "begetter" being referred to "Mr.W.H." need cause no difficulty for Marlovians, since Marlowe's new identity may well have had those initials. In fact the Sonnets already suggest that (quite apart from his "Will Shakespeare" front) his own first name was also now Will. There was also a William Hall whom Sam has identified as a possible *nom de guerre* of Marlowe's before and after 1593. Yet you prefer to ignore this.

As we have now seen, the appellation "Mr. W.H." would have been highly impertinent for either Southampton or Pembroke, whether it was used on their 17th birthday or in 1609. Yet you apparently prefer to ignore it.

As Foster found, the syntactical order of the epigraph is most unusual, having "To [the addressee], happiness and eternity wishes [the epistler]," rather than the usual "To [the addressee], [the epistler] wishes happiness and eternity." The effect of this is make it appear that the "well-wishing adventurer" is "T.T." (even though the use of the words "adventurer setting forth" in this context are quite inappropriate) whilst still allowing it not to have been him. Yet you prefer to ignore this.

We know that within only a few days of "Shake-speares Sonnets" appearing on the bookstalls the nine ships of the Virginia Company's "third supply" set sail for America. The Earls of Southampton and Pembroke (both of whom have been proposed as the "fair youth" of the Sonnets) were the first two names on the list of its Council members, appointed as adventurers "whether they goe in their persons to be planters there in the said plantacion, or whether they goe not, but doe adventure their monyes, goods or chattels". Yet you prefer to ignore this.

The syntax of the epigraph make it quite clear that the subject of the verb "wisheth" is the "well-wishing adventurer", but from what you have said earlier you prefer to ignore this.

It is understandable why Marlovians may like the idea of "our ever-living poet" being Marlowe, but this is not the only possible answer, with both God and Ovid being just as likely meanings. Yet you prefer to ignore this.

I have suggested a single interpretation which either makes use of or explains every one of these issues, in which "T.T." (Thomas Thorpe) is dedicating the volume to the only author of the poems on behalf of the "well-wishing adventurer" who was the addressee of most of them. You apparently prefer to ignore this too.

As I said, I'm bewildered!

Peter

Isabel Gortazar said...

Peter:
I am bewildered too. Not for the first time, alas, I find our minds process the very same information in opposite ways, to reach opposite results.

Let me repeat this for the last time:

I don't believe Mr WH is the author because the author is Shake-speare, Our Ever Living Poet.
I have agreed that it might have been impertinent to address William Herbert in 1597 as Mister; but that would only lead me to try and find some other suitable addressee, such as William Hall, the Master Printer, to take his place, but not for a split second to accept that Mr WH was Marlowe.

I don't believe the appellation "only begetter" in this context means the author, because the word "only" qualifies the word "begetter" in a way that practically opposes its normal meaning; in rhetorical terms, "the only begetter" would be almost by definition someone different from "the begetter".

Since you have not read my interpretation of the second part, The Well-Wishing Adventurer, (not that I expect you to accept it) you shouldn't waste your time telling me I am mistaken about it yet.

It was helpful to see the results of your research on the titles, even if I don't find it conclusive, but it will lead me to do more research on this specific matter.

Apart from that, I don't think it serves any purpose to continue with this discussion, so once again we must agree to disagree.

Peter Farey said...

Isabel,

If you really don't want to continue the discussion that's OK, although I find our disagreements immensely helpful, and come away from this one with a very much clearer (and new) understanding of just what the epigraph is all about. In particular, you have forced me to reconsider such things as the reasons for the words 'onlie' and 'insving' which I had certainly been guilty of glossing over or actually ignoring before. So thank you.

I therefore very much look forward to reading your ideas on the "well-wishing adventurer" whether I accept them or not. Just to clarify one thing though. My remark concerning it referred only to your having already said that the dedication is "Wishing the best of luck to some adventurer on his setting forth" when the adventurer seems fairly clearly to be the subject rather than the object of the verb "wisheth". I was in no way meaning to prejudge what your actual interpretation will be.

Peter

Isabel Gortazar said...

Peter:
Thank you for your generous words. if my essay has been of any use to you, I am glad; your work has often been of great use to me.

I honestly think we should stop the argument now and get with other things.

My comment "Wishing the best of luck to some adventurer on his setting forth" , is misleading, and perhaps I should modify that for the future, as I actually believe (and propose) the well-wishing adventurer to be Thorpe.

I will send The WWA to the blog asap, and await the INSVING wrangle between us with courage and a double dose of Vitamins.

daver852 said...

Isabel and Peter, this is a most interesting debate! I hope it isn't presumptuous of me to venture an opinion. When we moderns see the abbreviation "Mr." we automatically assume it stands for "mister." But couldn't it stand for "master" instead? As William Herbert had not attained his majority by 1597, it would have been entirely proper in Elizabethan times to address him as Master William Herbert. To this day, the heir of a Scottish earl is addressed as "master."

Isabel Gortazar said...

Absolutely, daver852. Thank you for your comment.

I had thought of the possibility of the MR meaning "Master" but I felt unsure.

After Peter’s objections, I reconsidered the matter and changed Mister for Master in the second half of the essay, which I hope to finish within the next couple of days. Your comment is reassuring.

Thanks again.

Peter Farey said...

daver852 said...
"When we moderns see the abbreviation "Mr." we automatically assume it stands for "mister." But couldn't it stand for "master" instead?"

I must confess that I had always assumed that it meant "master", not even being sure that the word "mister" as such even existed as a different word at that time. I see from the OED that it did, however, as "A title of courtesy prefixed to the surname or first name of a man without a higher, honorific, or professional title."

daver852 said...
"As William Herbert had not attained his majority by 1597, it would have been entirely proper in Elizabethan times to address him as Master William Herbert."

The only OED definition of "master" which might support this is "22.a. With reference to a boy or a young man. (a) Applied [subsequent to the phonetic separation of mister n.2] as a prefix to the name of a boy or young man not considered old enough to be called 'Mr.'; (b) applied, esp. by servants, to the sons of noble families or of the gentry (usu. in little master, (my) young master; sometimes without modifier as a form of address) (now arch.); (c) a person addressed as 'master' in this sense; a boy, a young man (now rare)."

(a) Would apply only if "Mister" would have been appropriate in the first place, which we have seen not to be so.
(b) Doesn't really describe a similar situation, and the earliest example of Master followed by both names was not until 1775.
(c) Earliest example is in Dickens.

daver852 said...
"To this day, the heir of a Scottish earl is addressed as 'master'."

Indeed he is. Debrett has a whole section on it, and the OED has "21. Used as a title by the male heir apparent or presumptive to a Scottish peerage; usu. with 'of' and the specific title of the family." It looks as though in Scotland they used the word as "Lord" was used (e.g. by William Herbert) in England.

Peter

Isabel Gortazar said...

Peter:
I’d say b) does describe a similar situation: (b) applied, esp. by servants, to the sons of noble families or of the gentry (usu. in little master, (my) young master; sometimes without modifier as a form of address) (now arch.)

A tutor, or similar, would have been considered a servant of sorts. The OED is misleading; the word “servant” does not, to modern ears, include qualified “servants” such as lawyers, tutors, clerks, chaplains, etc.

The "retinue" of a nobleman when traveling, for example, would include all sorts of "servants" of this kind. Whatever role Marlowe played in a relationship between himself and William Herbert, he would be expected to maintain a servant's distance, so Master would be appropriate.

The fact that there are no examples in literature previous to Dickens does not really prove the epithet was not used, particularly if the usage is maintained in Scotland.

Peter Farey said...

No I'm sorry, Isabel, it would not have been appropriate. The appropriate way for a poet to address the son and heir of the Earl of Pembroke in such a dedication (and given no reason at all for hiding the young lord's identity) would have been "William Lord Herbert", possibly also "of Cardiff". Had the poet been a tutor for him (for which there is of course no evidence) he might possibly have referred to him informally as "young master William", maybe even as just "master William", but never as "master William Herbert" and certainly not as either "Mr." nor "W.H.". The OED provides no exception to what I say here, and I am quite sure that you won't be able to find one either.

Peter

Isabel Gortazar said...

Agree to disagree again, Peter?
Never mind, it gets worse.

Peter Farey said...

Yes OK, Isabel.

As long as you understand that by continuing to argue about such matters we must inevitably learn things we didn't know before, whereas by yet again accepting your "agree to disagree" formula neither of us, nor any of our readers, has a chance of learning anything new.

I await your Part Two with considerable apprehension!

Peter

Anonymous said...

Since my curiousity was aroused by this subject, I went to archive.org and read a very long, very boring book called "An Anthology of Elizabethan Dedications and Prefaces," which was published in 1933. I was hoping to find some work dedicated to the eldest son of a peer, and see what form of address was employed. I was unsuccessful, but in the course of my research (if it can be called that), I discovered that William Herbert was a Master Mason. If Thorpe was also a Mason, he might have addressed Herbert as "Master" in that sense. There are many people who believe that Marlowe was connected with the Masons. I also found a very striking similarity between the dedication of Shakespeare's Sonnets and the dedication of a pamphlet called "A Good Speed to Virginia," which was published just a few weeks earlier. Don't know if this is of any significance, but I found it interesting.

Ricardo Mena said...

If Marlowe was Shake--speare, then how can it be that "Dido, queen of Carthage", is about Oxford and Southampton legitimacy?

I have written the essay myself, and would very much appreciate your comments on it.

My essay is at:

http://shakespearemelodijo.blogspot.com/2011/01/ensayo-1-eliza-queen-of-carthage_5003.html

Ricardo Mena said...

Again, I had these questions:

Marlowe dissapeared in 1593.

So did Robert Brooke in 1569 when "he" wrote "The tragedy of Romeus and Juliet".

So did Lyly when he left Oxford's position as secretary.

So did Robert Greene in his flamboyant passing moment in 1593.

So did Marlowe in 1593.

So did Edmund Spencer in 1598 when not even his wife and children seem to have been taken care of by the nobility of London.

One question: in the Sonnets dedication there are full stops. Weird. Ok. Edward.De.Vere has these words: 6.2.4.

Now, select the sixth word: you have "These".

Select the second next: "Sonnets".

Select the forth next: "All".

Select the sixth again: "By".

Select the second next: "Vere".

Select the forth next: "The".

Select the sixth next: "Forth".

Thus: THESE.SONNETS.ALL.BY.VERE.THE.FORTH

If you see the signature of Oxford in Charles Beauclerk's book about Shakespeare, you will see that he signed with a crown, not a coronet, with 7 dashes, as future king to follow forth against Elizabeth.

RosBarber said...

Ricardo, you say:

'If Marlowe was Shake--speare, then how can it be that "Dido, queen of Carthage", is about Oxford and Southampton legitimacy?
I have written the essay myself, and would very much appreciate your comments on it.'

Just because you say that Dido is about Oxford and Southampton legitimacy ("I have written the essay myself") doesn't mean that it is. Find any appropriately educated scholar who shares your opinion and I'll give you a bag of sweets.

Dido was written by Marlowe because Nashe says it was. And we have proper primary source evidence testifying that Nashe and Marlowe were friends (the Nashe-Harvey quarrel).

If you really want our comments on your essay (I don't think you do)I will happily contribute mine: it is complete made-up nonsense. You have built a marvellous mansion on sand and without foundation.

If Oxford wrote any these great works, tell me how did he allow such drivel to be published under his own name?

And answer Peter Farey's question relating to the post-1604 cannon, if you please: http://marlowe-shakespeare.blogspot.com/2009/09/questions-all-oxfordians-must-answer-by.html

Ros Barber said...

All to the classic Oxfordian 6.2.4 "solution" to the Sonnets dedication, two points sprint immediately to mind.

1.The fifth word one pulls out is not 'Vere', it is 'Ever'. I appreciate that to an Oxfordian every single occurrence of 'ever' or 'every' is taken as an anagram for your candidate but 'ever' is such a common and useful word you must forgive us for being somewhat sceptical of your claim and suggesting that the actual meaning of the words - Ever-living - was the reason the author of the inscription chose them.

2. A code-cracking key that necessitates the code-breaker knowing the answer before they can receive confirmation of that answer is no code-cracking key at all. You must 'know' that the author of the Sonnets is "Edward de Vere" before you can apply the letters of his name and receive the answer the the author of the Sonnets is ... "Edward de Vere". Point me towards any other cipher system in which the key and the message are the same and, again, I will give you a bag of sweets.

Confirmation bias is a function of human neurology and none of us can escape it, but we should at least be aware of it and try to extricate ourselves from examples of circular reasoning as blatant as this one.

Isabel Gortazar said...

For R. Mena:
"Thus: THESE.SONNETS.ALL.BY.VERE.THE.FORTH"

As well as sharing the opinions of my colleagues in this discussion, I have yet one more question for Oxfordians:

If Edward de Vere was the Queen's son, his "real" name was not VERE, that being the name of his putative, not his biological, father.

If the whole point of all those codes and ciphers was to allow the secret of his life, including his royal descent, to be revealed in the centuries to come, why would he have used a name that was not really his own as the basis for decoding the codes?