Sunday, December 12, 2010

The pen, the spear... and the temptation! - part 1

Recently, a reader emailed to draw attention to a most curious new piece of literary evidence. If the discoverer was right, it would constitute powerful and fascinating new further proof of Elizabethan writers associating Edward de Vere with "Shakespeare".

For several days, I was persuaded. After doing more digging, however, I made an about-face. I no longer think it relates to Edward de Vere or "Shakespeare."

All the same, I want to share the process of getting from there to here.

It may be useful, in other words, to share a story of a fish that got thrown back in the pond. Not every catch is a keeper. And a lot more get away than are worthy of keeping.

The evidence in this case comes from a book written in 1604 by the courtly soldier and poet Barnabe Riche (c.1540-1617). As pointed out in "Shakespeare" By Another Name, Riche arguably knew about (maybe participated in) the Falstaffian good times at de Vere's pleasure palace Fisher's Folly in the 1580s.

Then sometime during the year de Vere died, 1604, Riche wrote a book dedicated to King James's son Prince Henry. And in that book, Riche appealed to England's king -- or at least to an earthly representative of the ideal philosopher-king -- to pay homage to an unnamed individual who "with one hand [holds] the speare... and the other hand [holds] the pen."

Heady stuff, right?

This seemingly explosive discovery actually appears in a footnote in the latest edition of the online Shakespeare authorship journal Brief Chronicles. Footnote 96 (!) of Robert Prechter's paper "Hundreth Sundrie Flowers Revisited" says the following:

"[I]n A Souldiers Wishe from 1604 Rich wrote a heartfelt commentary requesting
King James to honor a certain unnamed person who was able 'with one
hand to holde the Speare... and with the other to hold the pen.' Barnabe
Rich. A Souldiers Wishe to Britons welfare, (London: T. Creed for Jeffrey
Chorlton, 1604), 61."

Here, then, is temptation by another name.

The year 1604, of course, is the year Edward de Vere shuffled off this mortal coil. And it'd be a curio worth crowing about if a soldier-poet from rival Philip Sidney's circle urged King James to commemorate de Vere's passing using punning references to the "Shakespeare" name.

Not only would another suggestive allusion to de Vere as the Bard be added to the hopper -- but also this one would further solidify the point that "Shakespeare" died in 1604.

What's that line about being especially careful when something seems too good to be true?

Yep. Pretty much.

In the next post, the above lovely edifice of Oxfordian handiwork will be taken apart.

(My one regret here lies not with the investigation of the evidence itself. Research is the steady accumulation of such disappointments -- and, with any luck and lots of hard work, an occasional breakthrough. Instead, I regret stating off-handedly in the latest "Shakespeare" By Another Name email bulletin that I would be blogging about a great new discovery connecting de Vere to "Shakespeare." For that bit of premature celebration I do apologize. Please pass the crow!)

Creative Commons images by sean_hickin and neil conway.


Michael Prescott said...

Two questions:

1. Are we ever going to hear the rest of the story?

2. Why isn't SBAN available on Kindle? (Put the ebook out there for a low price, say five bucks, and you could find a whole new audience.)

Mark said...

Hello, Michael. Both are answered by my current book, which has been consuming all idle hours lately. I will be posting on the second half of this story soon. And we are indeed investigating all ebook options for SBAN. Hope to have some announcements on that front early next year.

Sorry for the delay, and thank you for the suggestions! Wise words indeed.