Sunday, January 3, 2010

"Mr. W.H.” and the Well-Wishing Adventurer by Peter Farey

Around this time last year, in an answer to one of Carlo's questions on this blog, I briefly referred to the question of who the “Mr. W.H.” of the Sonnets really must have been, and the implications this might have for the Marlovian theory. Although this is covered fairly fully in my essay “Hoffman and the Authorship” (from which I have unashamedly cut and pasted some of what appears below) it occurs to me that it might be helpful if I say a bit more on that question here.

The book of Shake-speares Sonnets was registered with the Stationers' Company on 20th May 1609: “Tho. Thorpe. Entred for his copie under the hands of master Wilson and master Lownes Wardenes,” and was printed “By G.Eld for T.T.,” who is naturally assumed to be the Thomas Thorpe who registered it, and also the “T.T.” who signed the well-wishing message printed after the title page, as shown below.

Calvin Hoffman took the “only begetter ... Mr. W.H.” to be the inspirer of the Sonnets, claiming that it was Thomas Walsingham—the “W.H.” coming from the, if hyphenated, name "Walsing-Ham." This wasn’t all that improbable if it is assumed (as E.A. Webb’s Walsingham pedigree has it)1 that Walsingham was a few years younger than Marlowe. As is now clear, however, Thomas was born in 1560/61, and was therefore some three or four years older than the Sonnets' author.2

Yet throughout the Sonnets before the “Dark Lady” ones (i.e. all those up to Sonnet 126), there are references to how much older the writer is to the man he is addressing, such as:
How can I then be elder then thou art? (S 22)

T'is thee (my selfe) that for my selfe I praise,
Painting my age with beauty of thy daies, (S 62)

Against my loue shall be as I am now
With times iniurious hand chrusht and ore-worne, (S 63)

Some say thy fault is youth, some wantonesse,
Some say thy grace is youth and gentle sport, (S 96)

O thou my louely Boy who in thy power,
Doest hould times fickle glasse, his fickle, hower: (S 126)
By far the most popular candidates for the “W.H.” mantle have been either the third Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley (born between nine and ten years after the author), or the third Earl of Pembroke, William Herbert (born some sixteen years after him), both of whom seem far more suitable because of the age factor. This assumes that what Thorpe calls


must be the inspirer of them, and therefore the person to whom at least most of them must have been addressed. Opponents of this theory have pointed out that to address a belted earl as “Mr.” at that time would have been inconceivable, and that Wriothesley's initials were the wrong way round anyway.

This Gordian knot was cut by Donald Foster, however, in his “Master W.H., R.I.P.”, where he made the following comments concerning the phrase “to the only begetter”:
As it happens, Thorpe's contemporaries had precise notions of what constituted “begetting” a text. According to this popular conceit, only the (pro)creative author may be called a “begetter,” and then only if the textual offspring was self-begotten, upon the author's own “Fancy” or “Mind” or “Brain” or “Invention.” Translators do not qualify—nor do commentators, publishers, patrons, paramours, scribes, inspirers of poetry, or purloiners of manuscripts. With but one unremarkable exception, nowhere do I find the word begetter, father, parent, or sire used to denote anyone but the person who wrote the work.3
As far as I can discover, nobody has ever challenged this actual statement, or managed to find a single example of an exception other than one he had discussed. Subsequent editors tend to have either rejected or ignored it, presumably because it is difficult to see how “Shakespeare's Sonnets” could have been written by a “Mr W.H.” Most of the commentators, as is clear, also take the meaning to be that of “inspirer” instead.

G. Blakemore Evans4 does take issue with Donald Foster's solution (that the “W.H.” is a misprint), and makes much of that one exception (from Samuel Daniel's Delia), even though Foster made it quite clear that the normal usage is being consciously reversed by claiming that the inspirer rather than Daniel himself was the real author. As far as I can discover, however, his is the only objection to Foster’s claim. So Thorpe must really be saying that the one and only author of the Sonnets is “Mr W.H.”

This is of course not the problem for Marlovians that it would be for others. As Foster puts it,5 “One hypothesis, which I leave for others to expound, is that Shakespeare was not the author of Shake-speare's Sonnets.” If Marlowe had indeed survived and was now living under an assumed identity, then there is no reason at all why his name could not have had the initials “W.H.”, even with the first name "Will." As Sonnet 135 puts it:
Who euer hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will too boote, and Will in ouer-plus,
Nor need there be any problem with “our ever-living poet” either. As Foster points out, “In a fairly extensive search, I have not found any instance of ever-living in a Renaissance text to describe a living mortal.”6 To use it to describe someone whom the world believed to be dead, but who in fact was not, would therefore be nicely ironic. What this is doing is wishing the poet not eternal bliss, but the same immortality he has promised to the addressee in sonnets such as Sonnet 81:
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall ore-read,
And toungs to be, your beeing shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead,
You still shall liue (such vertue hath my Pen)
Where breath most breaths, euen in the mouths of men.
All of this may seem rather over the top if it is Thomas Thorpe actually writing it, however. His being the adventurer who is “setting forth” also depends upon a rather awkward requirement that the transitive meaning, “publishing,” be used without any object. But is he the actual well-wisher, or could he instead be just passing the message on for someone else?

Seldom mentioned in this context is the fact that the Sonnets were entered in the Stationers' Company Register on Saturday 20th May 1609, and just three days later, Tuesday 23rd May, the second Virginia Charter was granted:
...and that suche counsellors and other officers maie be appointed amonngest them to manage and direct their affaires are willinge and readie to adventure with them; as also whose dwellings are not so farr remote from the cittye of London but that they maie at convenient tymes be readie at hande to give advice and assistance upon all occacions requisite.... And further wee establishe and ordaine that Henrie, Earl of Southampton, William, Earl of Pembrooke, [followed by fifty other named people] shalbe oure Counsell for the said Companie of Adventurers and Planters in Virginia.”7
Note those "adventurers." This must have been quite big news, and it seems most unlikely that anyone other than those members or the voyagers themselves would, without good reason, have spoken of himself as an “adventurer ...setting forth” that May.

Given that the two most popular candidates for the Sonnets' “fair youth” are the first two names on that list, might not the “well-wishing adventurer” in fact be one of them? If we take it, as seems quite likely, that the poet had been sending them to his friend over many years, is it not possible for the latter to have had them published as a gift to him now, whilst taking care to protect his own identity? The strange order of the dedication makes it look as if the adventurer is Thorpe, but with the poem split at the only space there is, between “W.H.” and “ALL," and the blocks of text before and after “WISHETH” swapped to the more usual order that Foster indicated,8 the true message is clarified.



I am not saying that this is something that is necessary to do, only that it makes the meaning clearer. In which case a message is being sent via Thorpe to the “onlie begetter” (author) Marlowe, on behalf of “the well-wishing adventurer” — the Sonnets’ original addressee. You know it makes sense!

Peter Farey

© Peter Farey, 2009

Peter Farey's essay “Hoffman and the Authorship” is the 2007 recipient of the Calvin & Rose G. Hoffman Prize, administered annually by The King's School in Canterbury for a "distinguished publication on Christopher Marlowe." He is a founding member of the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society.

1See A.D. Wraight & Virginia F. Stern, In Search of Christopher Marlowe. McDonald & Co., 1965. p.280.
2Ibid., p.282.
3Foster, Donald W. "Master W. H., R. I. P." Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 102, 1987. p.44.
4Evans, Gwynne Blakemore. The Sonnets. New Cambridge Shakespeare, 1996. p.115.
5Foster, op. cit., p.48.
6Ibid., p.46.
7Text from
8Foster, op. cit., p.44.

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AllanW said...

How could "beget" not mean the creator? What are Statfordians thinking?

Rado Klose said...

This is the first time the pesky thing has made any sense. In its printed form it must have been as opaque to contemporaries as to later readers. Jacobeans were perfectly capable of straightforward writing, if a thing was obscure I imagine it was intended to be. I doubt also that many at the time would have said " should be W.S. shocking proofreading". A typo in the middle of a text is one thing but on the title page of the collected poems of Englands finest? The one page surely that Thorpe would have wanted just so, he would have inspected it as it came off the printing press.
I have seen it suggested that God on occasion operated under the sobriquet of the ever living Poet, which sits much more comfortably in Peters' rearrangement than in the original, rounding the whole thing off with a fine flourish.

Mikael said...

Hi Peter

It might be of interest to you to hear an oxfordian reaction to this post. Sorry about my english, I am scandinavian, but I hope you will (under)stand it.

Stratfordian J.L. Hotson found the dedication so "preposterous" that it could only be "a cryptogram". This idea was taken further by Dr. J. M. Rollett, who has made some remarkable findings, presented recently by David L Roper. Here is a (very) short version.

Why is the text presented in three upside down pyramids, consisting each of six, two and four lines respectively? And why are all words, except those hyphenated, separated with full stops?


This is the key to the encryption. Now read the dedication according to this pattern and follow the full stops; the sixth word of the dedication is THESE, the second from THESE is SONNETS etc. You will get this result:


Note that EVER is a perfect anagram for Vere, but also possible to read as E Ver, ie Edward de Vere. Though the decoded sentence does not contain a verb it is still completely clear regarding its meaning, and it has therefore been shown that the criteria for a genuine encryption has been met.

But what does "THE FORTH" mean? Rollett had problem with this, so he almost renounced his own finding, but he went on to examine about 20000 sentences to see if the 6-2-4 code could generate genuine sentences just BY CHANCE. He only found one that "even remotely made sense at all... 'London was not built before' " (out of Boswell's Life of Johnson). His conclusion was that the expectation of his discovery occuring by chance was ca "1 in 100 million".

Well, what Dr Rollett did not know, Mr Roper has found out. THE FORTH simply means "the fourth" and is a further clue to the earl of Oxford, since he was the fourth ranking member of Queen Elizabeth's Privy Council. For example, his name was fourth on the proclamation of King James' succession. This positioning was considered of great importance. First on this list was the Archbishop of Canterbury, second the Lord Keeper and third the Lord Treasurer. Since Oxford was the highest ranked nobleman his name was next on the list.

But we are not finished here. Give the 6-2-4 code another thought. Why did "T.T." choose exactly this code? Because it is another pointer to Oxford, and a very obvious one at that:

Edward (6 letters)
de (2)
Vere (4)


This means that Oxford is "named" twice, in the 6-2-4 key as well as in the decoded sentence.

This is, of course not all that is to be said about this controversial dedication. There is, for example, ANOTHER CODE in the text, making it a DOUBLE CRYPTO. Apart from the 6-2-4 code the text is also a perfect Cardano Grille, revealing the name of our mysterious Mr.W.H. But let me save that for another occasion.

Cheers from Sweden

Mikael Kjellgren

Peter Farey said...

Thanks Mikael. John Rollett's decryption (which was first brought to my attention in 1998) is a very interesting one, and certainly one of the most convincing I have come across. The main point in its favour, which is almost universally lacking in other so-called ciphers revealed by non-Stratfordians, is the presence of a clear key which if followed leads to the solution. However, there are a few things which mean that I nevertheless find it unconvincing.

1. The unnecessary hyphens in "ever-living" and "well-wishing" have the effect of converting what need to be counted as two words into one. Why weren't periods (full stops) used as they are everywhere else to define what should and should not be counted?

2. Nobody (other than the occasional Oxfordian by circular reasoning) has as yet been able to find any example of de Vere being referred to as "ever", and there is no indication that an anagram of just that part of his name is required.

3. There is no example of the word "fourth" ever being spelt "forth". The two words were in fact even at that time distinguished by the way in which they were spelt. For example, this was written in 1594: "They divide every whole thing that had no usuall parts into 60 minutes, and every minute into 60 seconds, and every second into 60 thirds, and so forth into 60 fourths, fifths, sixths [etc.]."

4. Even if that spelling were acceptable, the words "E. Vere the fourth" clearly mean the fourth person of that name, unless there were some other indication of it referring to his membership of the Privy Council (which had in any case ended with his death five years earlier!)

5. For me, however, the greatest problem is the one that we find in almost every other non-Stratfordian attempt to find a cipher of some kind - a failure to look at it from the cryptographer's point of view, which is that you start off with the message you want to hide. This means that the words will be grammatical, since there is no reason for them not to be, and this one (just like all the others) is not.

Rollett's finding of "Henry Wriothesley" in it (if that is what you are referring to) really is a non-starter, though.

Peter Farey

Rado Klose said...

Oh dear.
The text isn't 6 2 4 at all is it ? It is actually 5 1 1 1 4 or perhaps 5 3 4 at a stretch. You should look at Peters work on the Stratford tomb
where he deals with the text exactly as set out before attempting this sort of thing.

Mikael said...

Peter: interesting points! Here are some short answers, but first a comment regarding the "non-starter", on which I couldn't agree less. That the dedication is a genuine Cardano Grille revealing the names WRIOTHESLEY (using an equidistant letter sequence of 18) and HENRY (ELS of 15) is beyond every possible doubt. If you put the 144 letters of the dedication in a bag and draw 11 by random you will probably not end up with the letters WRIOTHESLEY in this order. The chance for this is less than 1 in 17 600 000 000 000. In combination with the difficulty in creating HENRY (especially since there is only one Y altogether, which has to be used in both words) this inevitably leads to the conclusion that there is an intelligent design behind this. Sir Sidney Lee wrote that the dedication is written in words "fantastically arranged and in odd grammatical order". The reason for this is obvious: "T.T." had a hard job putting this together. Note for example the rare spelling of ONLIE. Had he chosen the more expected ONELIE the first E in "ESLEY" would not have fallen into place. Etc.

I don't find this question so important though (but sure fascinating!), since the Sonnets are already saturated, from beginning to end, with Southampton's motto. So now on to your comments.

1. A good point, but I think the answer is the visual picture of the text. In this particular case the hyphens look very much like the periods on the paper. They are very short and not placed very much higher than the periods, sending the message to the decrypter that they are to be counted as full stops. Maybe (or maybe not, I'm not an expert on your language) the meaning would have been even clearer if written EVER.LIVING. and WELL.WISHING. but our "T.T." obviously didn't want to have it that way. If he wanted (as is obviously the case) them as single words he couldn't have done it without hyphens, or he would have destroyed the code. But the main point is this: We have to find a reason for the strange design, i.e. the full stops and the 6-2-4 trapeziums. Rollett's decryption is simple and beautiful and gives a nice explanation to this question. It's also the ONLY solution we have seen yet.

2. de Vere was evidently fond of wordplaying on his own name:

Oh heavens ! who was the first that bred in me this fever ?                Vere

Who was the first that gave the wound whose fear I wear for ever ?  Vere.

What tyrant, Cupid, to my harm usurps thy golden quiver ?               Vere.

What sight first caught this heart and can from bondage it deliver ?    Vere.
(From Ann Vavasour's Echo).

Myriads of examples from the canon (specially the Sonnets of course) is obviously what you would label circular reasoning, but they are there still and they do not, in any case, strengthen anyone else's canditature to the authorship. 8 (or so) of the poems in "A Hundredth Sundrie Flowres" from 1573 are signed "Ever or Never", a signature that also pops up in Willobie His Avisa 1594. Whether or not this is an authentic early pseudonym for de Vere, he is by far the most serious candidate to it, and it is mirrored in the Sonnets, for example nr 116:
"If this be error and upon me proved/ I never writ, nor no man ever loved",
and in the strange salutation from "A Never Writer to an Ever Reader" in the 1609 quarto of Troilus and Cressida. Anyway, no other candidate to the Authorship wrote poetry in 1573, so if this, in anyone's opinion, does not lead us to de Vere we have to seek for someone hitherto unknown for a connection.

Mikael said...


3. The OED has a multitude of forms of 'fourth', e.g 'fowerth', 'feorthe', foerth', 'forthe', 'furth', 'firth'. Nobody seemed to care in those days. It reminds me of Douglas Adams innovative spellings of "Gin and Tonic" in "The Hitchiker's Guide".

4. I agree, this is a weak spot. If we were given "the Seventeenth" we would be much more happy, wouldn't we? Taken as a whole though, considering the double crypto including the Grille, we must realize the immense difficulty in creating a perfect coded message. That the author was dead is already shown twice, in "OVR.EVER-LIVING.POET", a description never applied to a living person, as well as in the title: "SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS", which tell us that we are definitely not to expect anything more in this vein from this author. Something like "SONNETS BY SHAKE-SPEARE" would be more appropriate from a living author (but again, I'm not the English expert here).

5. I would agree, were it not again for the absolutely proved presence of the Cardano Grille, which makes the task almost impossible for the cryptographer. He managed what was possible, or actually, in my opinion, much more than that, in creating this ingenious piece of text, where everything, including the full stops and the trapeziums, make complete sense when decoded. If not restricted by the Grille (giving a clear clue to the 18 X 8 rectangular that is needed for the solution by making it 144 letters in all) I am sure that "T.T." would have produced something easier and grammatically more convincing.

Cheers /Mikael

Mikael said...

Rado Klose: You were a little bit too quick there. Take another look. I am of course talking about the trapezium shape of the text (or upside down pyramids).
It is 6-2-4 and nothing else.


Rado Klose said...

My point is that it is perfectly possible to see the text as two triangular shapes with a diamond shape between them. To my eye the three central lines belong as one group indicated by the increased line spacing with closer spaced blocks above and below. The problem is there is nothing in the text to indicate that one should choose one view over the other, or that any significance attaches to it. Look on Peters' site to see how the inscription on on the memorial issues an unambiguous challange "read if thou canst"

isabel Gortázar said...

Various comments:
In his "Shake-speare's Voyage to America", Chris Gamble makes the point that the Sea Venture, a flagship belonging to the Virginia Company, sailed towards an ill-fated wreck in the Bermudas shortly before the Sonnets appeared in print. One of the cryptograms described by Gamble gives us the following sentence: HE IS IN THE SEA VENTURE SETTING FORTH. Don't ask me how that result is achieved because I could not read a cryptogram to save my life, but I thought I'd mention it. HE, of course, is supposed to be Marlowe, THE EVER LIVING POET, who is not dead, but "ever living".
This interpretation, by the way, doesn't seem to me any odder than the cyphers proposed by our Oxfordian friends.

This matter of Oxford's name, which Oxfordians see all over the place as long as it's only in cyphers, is most mysterious. I am still to receive a reply to my question as to why was the Earl of Oxford's historical presence in Agincourt deleted in Henry V. The suggestion I had heard that maybe the "Earl of Oxford" who had written "Shakespeare" was not really Earl of Oxford because he was an illegitimate child of the Queen, does not seem to bother them when they find the name De Vere encoded everywhere, and yet, they must be aware of the fact that, if he was not earl of Oxford, neither would he have been a De Vere.

But, I guess they'll wriggle out of that one too. So let us give them their VER, VERE, EVER, etc, as long as they are prepared to see the word VER not just when encrypted, but also when in plain view.

Here is the VER Song in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (V.2):


The following stanza, after the first four lines mentioning shepherds and maidens, repeats the refrain:

We all know that the earl of Oxford had accused his wife, Anne Cecil, of adultery branding his eldest daughter, Elizabeth de Vere as illegitimate. In view of this fact, one wonders how can the Oxfordians escape the obvious reference of this VER SONG to their chap.

Of course, a man who would torture his ego to the extent of describing himself as the spineless Bertran de Rousillon, might just as well admit he is a cuckold and forsake the glories of Agincourt. Particularly because he was doing all this penitential washing of his very dirty linen not for an elite group of intimate friends, but for the lumpen-proletariat that attended the plays in the London theaters.
It all fits.

Mikael said...

Rado Klose

It is of course possible to see different patterns. Maybe it is a cat with a big head standing on one leg (the T.T. signature is the leg)? The point with an encryption though is that it has to bring out a clear, unambiguous message, otherwise you haven't solved the problem. It would be most interesting to see another solution that takes into account all strange aspects of the dedication: the full stops, the triangular shapes, Mr. W.H.'s identity, the poet's identity etc. The Cardano Grille and 6-2-4 code presented by me here gives a clear answer to all this.

If you are right about the shape we have two triangles and one diamond, making a 5-3-4 pattern. The upper triangle is now not longer so much of a triangle and it is certainly most illogical to allow the sixth line, 'BY.', the shortest line in the text, to be a new start, but O.K. Where does this take us? Let us try the same method as with 6-2-4. We get the following sentence:


Not so much of a message. Neither can I find a possible meaning of the 5-3-4 code itself, and certainly not one that has correspondence with the nonsensical sentence above.

In contrast, the 6-2-4 code is logical and simple, since it depends on three figures of SAME character (i.e. triangular shapes), and it gives, as shown, a DOUBLE solution to the question of the name of the author of the sonnets, thereby giving the solution absolute credibility.


I am very much aware of the challenge inscribed on the Stratford Monument, but let us save that discussion for another day, shall we?

Anthony Kellett said...


Since you wish us to accept, "That the dedication is a genuine Cardano Grille revealing the names WRIOTHESLEY (using an equidistant letter sequence of 18) and HENRY (ELS of 15) is beyond every possible doubt", please can you (for example) show the derivation of the ELS of 18 that reveals "WRIOTHESLEY"?

I am not being cynical (as I genuinely wish to check your claims), but I just cannot accept such a statement without seeing the calculation. You quote a statistical probability comparable with pulling letters from a bag, but how am I supposed to check that probability without the calculations to compare. For all I know, the probability may just be equivalent to the chances of W-R-I-O-T-H-E-S-L-E-Y being found in a random sample of 144 letters; which would obviously be far more probable.

Also, whilst writing, could you explain why one would need to create two different ‘grilles’ to decode the message? Is that usual with these solutions? I would have thought that a single code would have been used to understand each message; otherwise, how would one ever know when the full message had been received? If this is normal, then surely there must be something to indicate that the solution is complete. I can envisage a secret message from Cardinal Richelieu saying, “Monsieur Duval must die” and this instruction being carried out immediately; before it is later discovered there was a further ‘grille’ required to discover, “…a natural death in old age”…oops!

Peter Farey said...

Cheers Mikael,

Thanks for your comments. I note that you didn't actually refute any of the 5 points I made.
As for the hiding of HENRY, WR, ESLEY, and HTOI at different places in differently proportioned "cardano grilles", I refer you to Terry Ross's 1999 post at

The great thing about Carlo's blog, however, is the opportunity it provides for discussion of relatively new ideas (such as the one which was the subject of my post) and not old ones which have been gone over time and time again at other discussion groups in the past. Did you in fact have anything to say about my post?

Peter Farey

Rado Klose said...

Thank you for answering my points. I wish you hadn't mentioned the cat
If you navigate to this page (sorry I don't know how to easy click links) you will find exactly the same decoding procedure (squaring the text ) to make the case for Henry Neville.
(Perhaps ,awful thought, Thorpe gave the text to his printer who gave it to his typesetter who simply made what he thought an visually pleasing page.)

Mikael said...


A good point (since I was very approximate last time), here's a description:

Certain anomalies in the text suggest (odd grammar, strange spellings etc.) that it might well be a so called Cardano Grille, carrying a secret message. The symmetrical number of letters, 144, might lead us to think that a 12X12 grid could be the solution, but it's not. 144 is still a clue though, since 18X8 also equals 144, and what we need here is a rectangular sized 18 (in the horizontal) X 8 (vertical). Now, fill up this grid with the dedication as it is written, from the upper left to the right, "TOTHEONLIE" etc (everytime starting from left) until the end. This done, now read the tenth column from left vertically from the top. The five first letters are "ESLEY". In the adjacent column, the 11th, you will find "IOTH" (letters 3-6 from bottom). At the moment of this finding, Rollett "knew with absolute certainty that [he] would find the letters 'WR' somewhere." He was right, "WR" occurs vertically in the text, though away from the main cluster (Column 2).
Observe that 'Wriothesley' is long, it would be impossible to encode it in one piece, and the rules for a real encryption are not violated with the word being in three parts.
Since there is only one 'Y' in the dedication it was completely impossible to include "HENRY" in this grid, but if you reshape the rectangular, giving it 15 columns, you will be able to read HENRY vertically in the seventh column.
Now we have the name "HENRY WRIOTHESLEY", but as you said; "there must be something to indicate that the solution is complete". There is actually a numerical and rather beautiful answer to this, since:

18+15=33 and
Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton = 33 letters and
18-15=3 which is the number of Southampton's earldom.

There is still one finding to be done to support our solution: the author's signature. The dedication is not signed "Thomas Thorpe" but 'T.T.' The reason for that is that 'TT' is to be found vertically in both grids to give further strength.

Now let's do the maths: 'WR' appears approximately in 1 grid out of 4, 'IOTH' : 1 in 207, 'ESLEY' : 1 in 28 224. So, the chance for these three combinations to appear in the same grid is less than 1 in 23 000 000. Add to this the name 'HENRY', which appears in 1 grid out of approx 16 000. Though, since there is only one 'Y', 'HENRY' has to be connected with 'ESLEY' in exactly the right way. The odds for this to happen is 1 in ca 500 000 000.

This gives us a total odds of 1 in > 400 billion.

I hope this answer is satisfying enough for you.


Mikael said...


According to Ms James' "cryptology" we are allowed to change the order of the letters in almost any fashion we desire. Her method is not going to make success among people in the spy business. But it is a good way to produce "secret messages" of any fashion you like. Look at her matrix on her site and you will find a myriad of "secret messages". In the fourth line e.g. 'Mr Hal's .. hew'. Interesting, maybe it has something to do with sonnet nr 20. I easily read 'Despite Wu' further down, reminding me of a nice Steely Dan tune. In the last line we read 'Hot Ref'. What's that? Pierluigi Collina in Playboy, maybe. And so on. I'm sorry to say, but this is an example of that kind of nonscientific quasi 'cryptology' that has given the Authorship Question such a bad reputation.


ps sorry about the cat ;-)

Peter Farey said...

If I had been Thorpe, and wanted to encode the name "Henry Wriothesley" in this way, I would have created a grille with sufficient room vertically to contain the whole name (or the two names in adjacent columns starting on the same line). I would then have placed the name accordingly.

Given that I had complete control over the words I chose to use for the "dedication" I would then have written something appropriate using that set letters as a template around which the words would fit.

In other words, there would be no need for me to adjust the proportions of the grille in any way, nor to split the suname into three separate pieces, nor to vary the direction in which the letters should be read.

Why didn't he do that? (And please don't give me the old "because he had to be able to deny that this was what he meant" rubbish. That simply wrecks the whole case.)

Now, about my essay...?

Peter Farey

Rado Klose said...

I'll try again with the link (Copy and paste)
I would have thought the fact that playing the same numbers game but with a minor rule change produces the name of different contender would at least give you pause for thought. Since there are no instructions in the text to show how these mathematical games are to be played then surely the Neville approach is as valid as yours. He, at least, has not disqualified himself by publishing, under his own name, poems that show him to be, at best, a well- bred trier. To put it very politely.

Mikael said...


I really appreciate your interest in these discussions. My problem is that I write very slowly in English and I am pretty busy for the moment so I cannot delve into these things as much as I might have wished. I promise to come back to you more seriously whenever my schedule permits.

For the moment: thanks for the link! Interesting to get a glimpse of the state of things 10 years ago. Terry Ross really had me laugh here, though he of course has missed the significance of the Grille. But of course, being a stratfordian he was probably already used to believe in miracles. The point is of course that strange words and names occurs all the time by chance in a grid like this, but if they don't relate to the question at hand they can easily be dismissed. The dedication sort of asks us a question: "Who is Mr W. H.?" The answer must be a person with some sort of relation to the Sonnets. Their are billions of names in the history of mankind, but only a few that is relevant to the "question" at hand. If one of these few names pops up in a Grille like this we simply HAVE to pay attention.

When we realize that this person during a certain period of his life (namely the years 1601-03 when inprisoned) was bereft of his privileges and titulated Mr Wriothesley, Henry, we simply have to realize the fact.

There shouldn't be any real cause for controversy on this matter. Shakespeare dedicated two works to this man, the only works he ever brought to print himself, and his motto was found in the Sonnets early in the 19th Century. The real problem for Ross, and maybe for others as well, is not the significance of this Grille, but for the consequences in a bigger context.

Regarding your article it gave me some really interesting information that I would like to consider and come back to later, even if I suspect that consensus between us is pretty far away. I do, however really appreciate the open discussion athmosphere here.


The Cardano Grille was a well established way to conceal a message. Brenda James' style of changing the order of the original message can in the end produce almost any 'secret'. It's simply a Bacon chiffer. If you don't recognize the mathematical difference, there is nothing more I can say.

More seriously, correctly or not, I find in your latest replay, as in Isabels commentary earlier, a strange form of personal aversion towards Oxford. I don't understand this. This is not, in my opinion, a contest between good guys and bad. I know that Oxford killed at least one man, but so did Hamlet also. Maybe Will-of-Strat was an angel on earth, it doesn't make him a poet.

Oxford is not my man because I like him. It's just because it is a historical fact that he wrote Shakespeare, like it or not.

This is my last post here, at least for a while. Take care everyody.


Peter Farey said...


Having recently experienced how so-called "guests" are treated on the Shakespeare Fellowship forum I must say that your remark about the the "open discussion atmosphere" here is much appreciated. Thanks.

However, I believe that if there is one thing which indicates why our particular authorship theory will eventually prove to be the longest-lasting it is that (almost alone among the proponents of such theories, including Stratfordians) mainstream Marlovians find such statements as "it is a historical fact that he wrote Shakespeare", whoever "he" might be, as quite alien to their way of thinking!

Peter Farey

Anthony Kellett said...

First, I agree with Peter that, if I were the compiler, I would not have made the construction so difficult. You go to great lengths to explain the fact that a single letter ‘Y’ was a handicap; so why not put two in the dedication? ‘Eternitie’ (spelt as it was in Sonnets 122 and 125) would be the obvious place.

Second, your explanation of how the decoder was able to tell the puzzle was solved (since a second grid was required) is rather unsatisfactory. You say the proof it is ‘solved’ is when we have 33 letters (which is the sum of two figures from the two grids) which equals the number of letters in “Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton” AND 18-15 equals 3 (as in 3rd Earl). Is that a serious suggestion? The decoder knows nothing other than the message. He may not know that Henry Wriothesley is the Earl of Southampton, for one thing. At the point that he has that name decoded, you suggest he adds the two grids together and gets 33, he has the name with 16 letters, so he is 17 letters short and he thinks, “well, if we add ‘Earl of Southampton’ we get the 33…that’ll do!”. Why would he not think, “hmm…17 letters missing, there must be another grid”

Third, you say it is signed TT because that appears in the grid. Does that matter? I am at a loss on that one.

Though this is not a complete list of my concerns, I will finish with (perhaps) a more contentious point. You say (elsewhere) that: “The answer must be a person with some sort of relation to the Sonnets”. How is Southampton related to the Sonnets for the decoder? At best, he is only related to some of them; and then, only if you are privy to the theory that he was the ‘fair Youth’. You see Southampton because you are looking for him (or one of the other ‘modern contenders’). What if the answer is a name for which you are NOT looking? In these circumstances, I would think it was all but impossible to come up with Henry Wriothesley, based on the disjointed jumble of the solution. What is the standard method that the decoder must use to compile the solution AFTER the solution is obtained (and this excludes the fact that we have to compile two separate grids). It seems that the solution must be a person known by the decoder; which also seems most unsatisfactory. Then again, perhaps these codes were only meant to be decoded by someone with such an insight; I am not in a position to judge that possibility.

All-in-all, I remain a little sceptical, at this point.

Peter Farey said...

Mikael may have gone, but there is something which I would nevertheless like to point out about Rollett's "Henry Wriothesley" cipher.

The major flaw in it is that the name is split into chunks, reads in different directions, and requires two different "grilles" for it to be seen. What its supporters seem unable to understand is that the cryptographer is in complete control of what is said, so (for example) Mikael's argument that the second was needed because there was only the one "Y" in the dedication misses the point. Just rewrite it so that it has more than one!

The following was knocked off in less than half an hour, but I am sure that it could be greatly improved given the sort of time that would have been available to the cryptographer in this case. It should be centred, but the software won't let me!





Now lay it out in the form of a 15-wide Cardano Grille, including the *s too and read down the second column.

T H O M A S * T H O R P E * T
H E * W E L L - W I S H I N G
* N O B O D Y * P R A Y S * F
O R * B L E S T * E T E R N I
T Y * A N D * H A P P I N E S
S * T O * T H E S E * F O L L
O W I N G * S O N N E T S ' *
T R U E * B E G E T T E R * W
H I C H * W A S * E V E R * P
R O M I S E D * B O T H * B Y
* T H E * P O E M S * A N D *
T H E * E V E R - L I V I N G
* E D I T O R * H I M S E L F
* S O * M A Y * A L L * M E N
* L I V E * O U T * S U C H *
Y E A R S * O F * E T E R N I
T Y * G O D * W I L L I N G *

That Rollett's cryptographer didn't do something like this shows quite clearly to me that no such person and no such hidden name ever existed.

Peter Farey

Isabel Gortazar said...

Michael: There seems to be a misunderstanding as to what my comments mean. Of course this is not about good or bad guys. It is about whether any reasonably intelligent normal guy, let alone a genius, would go out of his way to present himself as an arrogant, cheating liar like Bertram de Rousillon, and would insert songs to cuckolded husbands, such as he had declared himself to be, while erasing his name from the most extraordinary battle described in the Histories.
A bad guy may be an excellent poet; an excellent poet who is also an Elizabethan earl does not write such things about himself for the enjoyment of the London theatre goers.
A genius may describe himself as Falstaff, but not as Bertram. Goodness or badness have nothing to do with it.

Unknown said...

Isabel Gortázar said...
> "I am still to receive a reply to my question as
> to why was the Earl of Oxford's historical
> presence in Agincourt deleted in Henry V. "

In fact, this issue was dealt with in some
detail by Charlton Ogburn in his Mysterious
W.S." He suggests that, after going over-
board in his juvenile depiction of his
ancestor in "The Famous Victories", Oxford
went the other way in Henry V, mainly to
conceal or obscure his authorship.

Isabel refers to All's Well:
> " . . this penitential washing of his very
> dirty linen not for an elite group of intimate
> friends, but for the lumpen-proletariat that
> attended the plays in the London theaters.

All's Well, Loves Labours Lost and the
other canonical plays) were not, of
course, written for the illiterate or
barely literate masses. This fact can
be gleaned from the merest glance at
any of the texts.

Isabel also refers to
> . . the VER Song in Loves Labours Lost (V.2):
> "The cuckoo then, on every tree,
> Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
> Cuckoo;
> Cuckoo, cuckoo: O word of fear,
> Unpleasing to a married ear!
> "We all know that the earl of Oxford had accused
> his wife, Anne Cecil, of adultery branding his
> eldest daughter, Elizabeth de Vere as
> illegitimate. In view of this fact, one wonders
> how can the Oxfordians escape the obvious
> reference of this VER SONG to their chap.
> "Of course, a man who would torture his ego to
> the extent of describing himself as the spineless
> Bertran de Rousillon, might just as well admit he
> is a cuckold . . "

LLL was written for the visit of the
French Commissioners in May/June 1581
- about the only period when Henri of
Navarre was on speaking terms with his
wife Magaret (the "Princess of France")
and when any such portrayal would have
been diplomatically acceptable.

In early 1581, Oxford was still in
"loud complaint mode" about the
supposed behaviour of his wife, Anne.
Given his noble but quite impoverished
state, his further social disgrace
following his denunciation of his
Catholic cousins and their libels
against him, his utter dependence
on royal favour, and the political
power of his father-in-law, how else
was he likely to react?

Here's an Oxfordian challenge:
. . . Name any other author (at any
time) who would have been as likely to
compose a roughly similar complaint
about his wife.

Or to approach this from another angle:
The quarto of LLL was published in 1598
over the name "W.Shakespere". In it,
we have (a) a clear pointer to De Vere
(with the name 'VER'), and
(b) to him being cuckolded -- as was
well known at the time.

Why should and how could a commoner
(the Stratman or someone using him
as a front, or both) make fun of the
17th Earl of Oxford on the public
stage? (Of course, that is in the
wider context of the permissibility
of a comic portrayal, on the public
stage, of the monarch of an allied
country during a long and bitter war.)

I don't expect answers to these
questions -- any more than Peter got
them on the Fellowship site. When your
theoretical framework does not match
the historical facts, little can make
sense, and silence is your best

Paul Crowley

Sothis said...

Fascinating article. I've heard the suggestion that the "Onlie begetter" and the "ever-living poet" is actually God. I'm intrigued by this idea; what do you think?

Mikael said...

I felt a bit rude not to answer so here I go...


Sorry for misunderstanding you, I suddenly felt the Alan H. "de Vere could not have been a literary genius since he was a man without moral" Nelson smell. My mistake.

Peter and Anthony

Of course, Peter, your solution is much superiour to the one chosen by "T.T." when it comes to clearness, so from the aspect of literary criticism I can see your point. But you are doing a mistake here, since what we are talking about here is not the QUALITY of the hidden message, but the question of the EXISTENCE of a hidden message, put there by intelligent design. What you must try to achieve, if you want a fair comparison, is a dedication written the way you want it without thoughts of a hidden message (since this is what Thorpe did according to you). THEN start to look for hidden words in it! Maybe you will find "KIT" somewhere in the grid, and "MAR-...LOWE" somewhere else, but more probably not. The truth is that even after billions of constructed dedications and grids you will most probably NOT find neither Kit Mar-lo-we, nor Henry Wr-ioth-esley nor anyone else connected to this story.

What you actually say is that Thorpe was a lousy cryptographer. If you want to say that he was no cryptographer at all you need other ammunition. But the only one that will do is to say that you believe in miracles.

You both misunderstand what I was trying to say about the single 'Y' in the dedication. You are again talking about the construction of the message where I am talking about odds. IF there had been another 'Y' in the text providing en easy way to form the word 'HENRY', that would in fact have been an argument for YOUR position, since it lowers the odds. As it stands now, the single 'Y' forced Thorpe to put all the letters ESLEYRNEH in line, every position determined by that single'Y'. The odds for this is astronomical. It can be illustrated in the following way (I add stops just to fool the software):


So, I'm not evaluating Thorpe's work as cryptographer (for the moment), as you actually are, just proving, with maths, that he really was one.


Anthony Kellett said...

Hi Mikael,

Therefore, in effect, you are saying that Thorpe made the answer a nonsensical jumble of groups of letters to ‘prove’ it was a code? Surely, having Wriothesley written out as one continuous word would be far more convincing; wouldn’t it?

It can also be illustrated in the following way (I just add the stops to fool you):

………………………....….L…………… .IVIN
……GP……………… O…..E….TWISHET

This grid is 32 by 8. Therefore 32+8 equals 40 which must be “Christopher Marlowe; sole writer of the sonnets” and 32 divided by 8 is exactly four which, as everyone knows, was the number of people at the fateful Deptford meeting.

I’m sorry for being flippant, Mikael; I’ve been working for some time, trying to disprove Peter Farey’s solution to the ‘Stratford Monument Riddle’. There, I am up against a solution that not only spells ‘Christofer Marley’ (as Marlowe was referred to by himself and the Privy Council) but is in that precise order AND is grouped (roughly) in syllables (Christ - ofer – Mar – ley). Your ‘solution’ is a poor second by comparison, in my opinion.

Anthony Kellett said...

I like this better;


Mikael said...


I actually posted an answer to your earlier list of remarks, but that seems to have disappeared in cyberspace. In case you still care, I add it at the end of this post instead.

Your last opus was pretty funny, but it also shows that you simply don't care about mathematical fundamentals. Again, expressing an OPINION of Thorpe's ability as cryptographer ("Surely, having Wriothesley written out as one continuous word would be far more convincing; wouldn’t it?") doesn't prove that he was none, does it?. What he DID was to write out the name HENRY very clear in one piece and to cut WR-IOTH-ESLEY into three parts. The odds that he didn't do this on purpose is, as I told you, less than 1 in 400 billions.

The REASONS for this tearing apart of the second name is of course open to discussion, and I have given several options here (and one more in the comments below): he wanted a short dedication, he wanted several cryptos to "work together", maybe he didn't want it to be easily detected etc. You and Peter have expressed the opinion that it was a bad idea. I can agree or not, but we all three have to admit that there is an intelligent design behind it, or we have to believe in a mathematical miracle.

In your last paragraph you are again compairing apples with pears (as we sometimes say in Sweden). I have in my comments here tried to strictly stay with the theme of the dedication, since this was the subject of Peter's essay. When it comes to the Stratford Monument and the solution to its riddle, let me be very short; the Monument is, in opposite to the dedication which is rather poorly done, a brilliant example of a genuine Cardano Grille composed by a true master of the game, namely the editor of the Folio, Ben Ionson. It reveals the name of the true author of the Shakespeare Canon.

Best regards, Mikael

Mikael said...

(and here is what disappeared earlier:)

Anthony, now to your points

1: I think I just answered this one, but anyway. I actually think Thorpe DID it a little too complicated, the reason being that he wanted to put everything in it, and as compact as possible as well. Had he written 'eternity' instead, everything else had to be changed as well.
I have already showed you the solution to the full stops and the 6-2-4 code. There is actually STILL another solution, if you make a Grille using an ELS of 19 (which is actually the number of letters in the title 'SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS'). You will now see the name VERE in the 9th column, and it is possible, though a bit awkward, to find the message; TO VERE HIS EPIGRAM W.S. (W.S. clearly standing for William Shakespeare). I am not clear about my opinion about this one though. But the reason could very well be that Thorpe, as I said, just tried to catch a fish too big for him.

2: If the decoder knows nothing more than the message he is not in the position to solve the riddle. As a decoder you have to make an educated guess of what it's all about, otherwise you are lost. That's the whole point of it; someone is hiding esoteric knowledge which is not for anyone's eye. Only someone with a knowledge of what to look for will find the answer, otherwise the riddle is too easy. The scientific process of finding a hidden word in a Cardano Grille is not described here by me, but anyway it involves trying out words that you suspect are there. You must sort of 'ask a question' to the text and see what result you get.

3: It doesn't really matter more than it strengthens what is already found. By signing the dedication 'T.T.' and making the same letters reappear vertically in both the 15 ELS grid and the 18 is just a sign that Thorpe 'signed' the solution, nothing more.

4: The poet William Shakespeare (who-ever he was) only made two non-fiction statements in the whole of his career; both are dedications to Southampton, making the relation between these two men crucial to all aspects of the Authorship Question. Southampton's motto (in English One for All, All for One) is quoted in Lucrece (dedicated to S.) and is frequently, in different forms, appearing in the Sonnets as well. Therefore, the first name we should check when looking for the real 'Fair Youth' is Henry Wriothesley. I see nothing strange in this. It is the simplest and most logic solution. AND, it is also confirmed by the solution of the riddle in the dedication that this assumption is correct.

Mikael Kjellgren

Rado Klose said...

Peters' point that the encrypter starts with a coherent message or phrase is surely the overriding one. At the start of the process the dedication we have does not exist, only the message to be hidden does, Don't tell me that that these fantastically cunning people could not have written a fine sounding dedication containing the the message in plain view once squared. .If chopping the message up was meant as a further layer of concealment it failed as the great secret yielded itself to the 20th centuries' cryptographers rather easily. Then one must ask with whom did Thorpe imagine he was communicating? From whom was he concealing ? The unwashed masses who rushed down to Waterstones? Presumably in the secretive and paranoid atmosphere of his times plenty of people were familiar with these procedures. "Look funny shaped text let's square it up shall we"
Mikael mentioned that the monument inscription similarly treated yields further confirmation of Oxford ( unless, of course you are looking for Bacon or whoever else),
What it actually yields, given that u has to be taken to be v is ungrammatical gibberish. This from Ben Johnson , master

Rado Klose said...

Another thought. Leaving out any alternative Shakespeare candidates and the whole 624 534 thing. Your problem is that the name Wriothsley is chopped for no reason whatever if it is the start point of a text. If however Thorpes' real purpose was to pass on a greeting in the way Peter is suggesting here then compromises had to be made. Mainly to his concealed name, but also to the word order of the dedication somewhat . Perhaps we should admire the dedication as an elegant little conceit of which Thorpe was probably rather proud.

Rado Klose said...

And finally:
An inverted triangle seems, at that time , to have been a very fashionable way to set out type . It crops up all over the place sometimes singly sometimes one triangle on top of another. Thorpe was just using a popular convention.

Dan Sayers said...

Ha ha, Peter's new dedication / grille is brilliant, and hilarious!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that I've found this site. I'm so surprised by your way of thinking and writing. Have you thought about writing a book?

Deneb said...

"Mr. W.H" was most likely a code used by Francis Bacon (which he had learned from his mother, Anne Bacon.) She used it when she wanted to write freely about risky subjects.

It involved using greek letters instead of european letters. W and H are the only letters that will get new meaning in this way. W=omega=o, H=Eta=e.

Check out Petter Amundsen's work on this subject. He has done his homework. (He was also the subject of a Norwegian documentary in 2009, in which he traveled to Oak Island to dig for what he hoped would be Shakespeares manuscripts.)

DavidDavid said...

Instead of asking who the ‘onlie begetter of these isuing sonnets Mr. W.H.’ is, ask who is the ‘well-wishing adventurer in setting forth’. The adventurer refers to an investor in the second Charter of Virginia 23 May 1609, who is set fourth in this list of adventurers? In the order as they appear in the charter: Robert, Earl of Salisbury, Thomas, Earl of Suffolk, Henry, Earl of Southampton, William, Earl of Pembroke. ‘Well-wishing’ would be appropriate for an adventurer in the second charter as a well is what these investors wished for. The winter of 1609 was the Starving Time for Jamestown. Excavations dated the Jamestown well to 1609.

ElviraCardigan said...

Mikael missed the major clue here.

The text makes two TRIANGLES, right?

And where were the Adventurers heading?

AMERICA, right?

And what island is off the coast of America?


Coincidence? I think not!

Obviously Oxford/Shakespeare was really a half-breed alien who didn't die but returned to the mothership via that infamous trans-dimensional portal where so many mariners have been lost!

"Ever the Forth" is a phonetic spelling of the name he goes by on Zeta Reticuli

And all those portraits of the Bard were retouched to conceal his huge almond-shaped eyes which would just have been a give away.

ElviraCardigan said...

Meant to add, P - your reading of the dedication does render it sensible for the first time! It looks inevitable that WH is the author, though gaaawd knows what that does to the debate! I mean, is it a typo? (seems massively unlikely). Is it an admission Shakespeare had or was a pseudonym? (seems most obvious but also ridiculously perverse; I mean what point in having a pseudonym and then telling everyone that's what it is?) And if Marlowe was living under the name 'William Harrison' or similar, why couldn't he then have published his works under that name? Why involve Shakespeare at all?)

Mr WH seems to make no sense in any scenario, and yet - there he is!

Peter Farey said...

ElviraCardigan said..."I mean what point in having a pseudonym and then telling everyone that's what it is?) And if Marlowe was living under the name 'William Harrison' or similar, why couldn't he then have published his works under that name? Why involve Shakespeare at all?)"

First of all, thanks for the kind comments you made, both here and at the "Prosecute it to the full" thread.

In the period between when the "Shakespeare" deal was first set in motion (1593) and the publication of the Sonnets 16 years later, I imagine that Marlowe would have had several different identities, including whatever "W.H." might have stood for at that particular time. Why change a system which seemed to be working and if, by doing so, long silenced awkward questions might result?

Despite whatever the usual usage was, it seems fairly clear that most people have always assumed that the begetter "Mr. W.H." was the inspirer of the Sonnets, just as they have always assumed that the "Tombe" mentioned on the monument is the monument itself. Why? Because it just doesn't seem to make sense otherwise.


ElviraCardigan said...

Hi Peter -

why make a deal with Shakespeare at all though?

Before anyone says anything, I get the analogy with McCarthy-era Hollywood, which is valid, but let's not forget the important differences. The blacklisted writers were living at a time, and in a studio system when some sort of frontman would have been essential. They'd have needed to sign contracts, receive pay checks etc. They needed someone flesh and blood to be a stand-in, didn't they?

How does this apply to Shakespeare's time? Payments would have been in cash, and easily passed on through intermediaries. Engaging a real-life stand-in was highly risky (what if he talked, got careless, *died* inconveniently??). Why go to all this risk and trouble when M's works could have been published anonymously, or under a simple nom de plume?

And - another thought - if Hero and Leander could be published under his own name after his death, then why not Venus and Adonis?

I'm Devil's Advocating here, you know, not offering definite opinions!

Any thoughts?

Edward Clybourn said...

Peter's post cites the opening lines of Sonnet 135, first of the two "Will" sonnets, as a hint that Marlowe went by the first name "Will" as well. (An article on his website suggests the name William Hall.) I see more hints, in the form of references to Will the author and Will the public face, throughout Sonnets 135 and 136:

"to hide my will in thine"

- one Will hiding behind the name of the other

"Shall will in others seeme right gracious, / And in my will no faire acceptance shine:"

- contrast of "will in others" being recognized vs. "my will" being unrecognized

"Thinke all but one, and me in that one Will."

- The multiple Wills are but one person, and it's me, the author says.

"In things of great receit with ease we prooue,
Among a number one is reckon'd none.
Then in the number let me passé vntold,
Though in thy stores account I one must be,"

- A number of phrases here are quite curious:
What could "one is reckon'd none" possibly mean? Perhaps that a living person is reckoned to be dead: Marlowe. Further this is a thing "with ease we prooue" - perhaps a reference to the official record "proving" Marlowe's death. Then the author accepts this: "let me passé vntold". But finally he asserts his being alive: "I one must be".

That makes me very curious about the phrase "in thy stores account". If only we knew for sure who the "Dark Lady" was, and where her store's account was!

[Here is a highly speculative theory: given the repeated references to "thy Will/will" and "my Will/will", and given that the latter refers to the author himself...could the "Dark Lady" be the actual William Shakespeare himself? But more likely the "Dark Lady" was the lover of both Marlowe and Shakespeare. An actor and theatre impresario could be just as attractive as a poet and playwright, after all.]

daver852 said...

I have been doing a lot of reading lately - always a dangerous thing - and have come up with what I believe is a more simple explanation of the dedication. I don't remember seeing this suggested before, but if it has, I apologize.

Suppose "Mr. W.H." is Thomas Walsingham? If the surname is hyphenated, i.e., Walsing-Ham, then it is easy to make sense of it. It would simply mean something along the lines of: "To the only inspiration of these poems, [Thomas Walsingham] we wish all the happiness and that eternity promised by the author." And the second part would just be "So I [Thomas Thorpe] wish, in adventuring to set forth these poems in print."

Peter Farey said...

Well, Dave, it is an interesting theory, but I'm afraid it has been suggested before – by Calvin Hoffman, no less! For me, however, it fails on two counts, neither of which he could have known. Firstly, he was unaware of what Foster's research would reveal concerning what the word 'begetter' would have meant at the time, i.e. the author. Second, he thought that Thomas Walsingham was younger than Marlowe (which many sonnets would have reflected) whereas he was in fact a few years older. In fact I thought that I had covered all of this my article!

Peter Farey said...

I have been looking again at the words of "T.T.", and think I now have a better idea of who "our ever-living poet" was (although this wouldn't necessarily prevent my original thoughts also being true, of course).

On the title page of Venus and Adonis is Latin couplet, which comes from Ovid's Amores. Marlowe had translated this as:

Let base-conceited wits admire vilde things,
Fair Phoebus lead me to the Muses' springs.

This appears in Elegy 15, right at the end of Book One, an elegy with the description Ad invidos, quod fama poetarum sit perennis (To the envious, that the fame of poets lasts forever) and the lines which complete it are:

About my head be quivering myrtle wound,
And in sad lovers' heads let me be found.
The living, not the dead, can envy bite,
For after death all men receive their right:
Then though death rakes my bones in funeral fire,
I'll live, and as he pulls me down, mount higher.

I think it is this sort of "eternity" he has in mind, and therefore that Ovid is probably the best bet for "our ever-living poet".