Robert Thistlethwayte

January 7, 2010

From C.S.L. Davies’s ODNB article on Robert Thistlethwyate (1690-1744), wardon of Wadham College, Oxford:

Thistlethwayte’s wardenship of a college that was, and had been for some time, at a low ebb would doubtless have been undistinguished had he not become involved in accusations of sexual impropriety, which led him to resign. On 3 February 1739 an undergraduate, Philip French, was found by his colleagues in great distress; he eventually revealed that he had been sexually assaulted by the warden. His father was sent for and counsel’s opinion sought. French resisted strenuous attempts by Thistlethwayte and others to get him to drop the charges. On 19 February the vice-chancellor, the decidedly tory master of Balliol College, Theophilus Legh, acting as a justice of the peace, bound over French to make good his allegation at the next assize and ordered Thistlethwayte himself to appear there on a bond of £200. Thistlethwayte resigned the wardenship on 22 February, and left Oxford six days later. There were rumours that he had committed suicide; alternatively, that he was about to marry ‘Carew Reynold’s sister … a buxom lass with a small fortune and that [he] hopes to wipe off the stain by this means’ (Hants. RO, MS 9M73/9627/3). He did not appear at the assize, held on 9 March, when the grand jury found a true bill against him. He resigned his Westminster prebend on 25 April, and his Winterslow benefice at about the same time. On 5 July he was at Dover, where he drew up his will, evidently en route for the continent. Meanwhile George Baker, a scholar of Wadham College, proceeded to a further accusation of homosexual activities against John Swinton, fellow of the college. This accusation was dismissed by the vice-chancellor, but led to the publication of a pamphlet, A faithful narrative of the proceedings in a late affair between the Rev. Mr. John Swinton, and Mr. George Baker (1739), which included an account of the evidence against Thistlethwayte in lascivious detail. Robert Langford, the college butler, told of repulsing several attempts to kiss and fondle him, until Langford had ‘wondered why gentlemen of his fortune did not provide themselves with women, or wives’; Thistlethwayte answered that ‘he would not give a farthing for the finest woman in the world; and he loved a man as he did his soul’. William Hodge, a barber, similarly claimed to have been attacked while he was shaving the warden (Faithful Narrative, 15–18). A burlesque poem, College-Wit Sharpen’d, added to the amusement of the reading public by recycling the same material.

Thistlethwayte seems to have spent the next four years in exile, probably at Boulogne, where he died in or about January 1744. He was buried at St Mary the Virgin, Dover, on 4 February 1744.

Alice Barnham the City Wife

June 27, 2009

Forthcoming review

Lena Cowen Orlin, Locating Privacy in Tudor London (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Lena Cowen Orlin’s new book is a multifaceted treat. At its heart is the excavation of a forgotten Tudor woman, Alice Barnham.  Between four chapters on the archival traces of Barnham and her family are four further chapters, that use Barnham’s life to interrogate some key foci of early modern architectural history.  And taken as a whole, the book aims to provide a challenge to some slightly lazy données that we’ve come to accept about privacy in early modern England.

The catalyst for Orlin’s investigation is the ‘search for Lady Ingram’, the female figure apparently at the centre of one of England’s earliest group portraits, dated 1557, now in the Berger collection at the Denver Art Museum.   Faced with this iconic image, Orlin’s approach is typical.  Nothing is accepted at face value:  every critical assumption is challenged, and every possible line of enquiry pursued doggedly, and in exhaustive detail. By the end of the chapter, ‘Lady Ingram’ is obliterated, exposed as a seventeenth-century misidentification by someone at Boughton Monchelsea Place of a half-remembered family forebear.   In her place,  though, we have Alice Barnham, née Bradbridge, daughter of a Chichester mercer and mayor, wife of draper Francis Barnham, who rose to become Alderman and Sheriff of London, and mother of four Barnham sons.   She was also an early Protestant, a notable city wife with her own role to play in civic life, and in later years something of a philanthropist.  Orlin makes no attempt to deny that she prefers Barnham to  Ingram: ‘As an urban wife of the mid-sixteenth century, the historical Alice Barnham is immediately more remarkable than a mythical “Lady Ingram” could ever have been’ (p. 23). This is perhaps not such a surprising statement from a scholar whose work has memorably examined the middling classes caught up in the Arden of Faversham murder case (Private Matters and Public Culture in Post-Reformation England, Cornell University Press, 1994), and the physicality of the urban in the edited collection Material London, ca. 1600 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000).   But by the time Orlin has finished her new portrait of Barnham’s life and milieu, one is bound to agree that the dense archival tapestry provided by London’s myriad archives is indeed ‘remarkable’.  Yet the remarkable quality comes not from anything extraordinary in her subject, but rather the opposite: ‘If Alice Barnham’s life cannot be said to have been ordinary, it may yet be termed in many ways representative’ (p. 12).

This understanding of Barnham as ‘in many ways representative’ allows Orlin to move beyond the biographical and to think more broadly about urban life as families like Barnham’s experienced it.  Her alternating chapters rethink ‘rebuildings’, ‘boundaries’, ‘galleries’ and ‘closets’ in early modern England, key concepts in recent architectural history (and beyond).   In each case, Orlin’s signature move is to question dominant tropes about her subject, and challenge them with an avalanche of material evidence: the closet may have been represented in one way, but the existence of these n closets argues to the contrary.  For Orlin, archival research is clearly a labour of love: she gives as a possible alternative title, ‘The Pleasures of Finding Things Out’.   The exploration necessarily goes beyond the papers of the National Archives, the London Metropolitan Archives, the Corporation of London Records Office, and the Drapers’ Company of London.   For Orlin’s abiding interest is in the material life lived by Barnham and her peers—the ways in which the physical shape of the domestic shaped and organized their lives.   The opening footnote of chapter 2 (a reconsideration  of the so-called ‘Great Building’) gives some idea of the thoroughness of the research: following a dutiful name-check of the eighteen academic studies which have served as ‘important sources for this chapter’ (p. 66), Orlin lists the country ‘houses I have visited’ to gather evidence—over two hundred of them.  These are the really important sources; they provide Orlin with the ammunition required to take on some of the sacred cows of sub-disciplines that are not strictly her field, and her readers with the necessary confidence in her ability to do so.

Some may find it odd that a noted literary scholar—Orlin teaches in the Department of English  at Georgetown University, and is the executive director of the Shakespeare Association of America—has undertaken what is, to all intents and purposes, ‘a records-based study’, as she admits (p. 15).   While her previous monograph had the play Arden of Faversham as a literary referent, Locating Privacy has no comparable ‘pay-off’ reading of  Alice Barnham The City Wife to justify its literary credentials.  In her introduction, Orlin is remarkably honest about the limitations of her training, a theoretically-informed close reading: ‘while theory has informed my approach, showing me how to read closely and also, often, against the grains of my documents, I find that they lead me to quarrel with some of theory’s most familiar paradigms, especially about gender and power’ (p. 15).  This quarrel is usually to the book’s advantage.  Perhaps the least successful section is what Orlin dubs ‘the argument’ (p. 9), in which she takes on some major scholars’ influential notions of what constitutes privacy in the early modern period (notably Philippe Ariès, but also, from architectural history, W.G. Hoskins, and Mark Girouard).  While received wisdom suggests that ‘personal privacy is something desirable and something progressive’ (p.10), Orlin counters that instead ‘privacy inspired an uneasy mixture of desire and distrust’ (p. 11).   Her evidence suggests she is right to assert this.  But when the book occasionally reaches, as here, towards the abstract or theoretical, much of its force is dissipated.    It is at its best when detailing with the muddled reality of Tudor life, in which privacy has, as Orlin puts it, ‘a history of competing priorities, of overriding suspicions, of social prohibitions, and of compulsory betrayals’ (p. 324).

Locating Privacy in Tudor London is a dense, deeply informed, and wonderfully entertaining study.  Oxford University Press have done a wonderful job with its presentation, providing over forty photographic illustrations, including several portraits.  Orlin’s book is indeed ‘a records-based study’ in every sense, whose power derives from the depth of its archival research, but one where the records have been studied by a gifted, and wonderfully clear-eyed reader.

SAA paper 2009

March 18, 2009




Columbia University

This paper grows out of my current editorial work on the early writings of Francis Bacon, from c. 1584 to 1596. It concerns a discourse written by Bacon in 1589, An aduertisemente touching the Controuersies of the churche of England, [i] which addressed the debate of the emergence of Martin Marprelate, and the counter-attack “he” triggered.[ii] This tract circulated in manuscript at the time of the controversy: it was not printed until 1640, and then anonymously, as A wise and moderate discourse concerning church-affaires;[iii] it was not claimed in print as Bacon’s until 1657.[iv] I suggest that a consideration of the Marprelate controversy through the prism of An aduertisemente can open up our discussion, and point to some elements of the Marprelate affair that are marginalized in the existing discussions. This tract has generally been viewed as a moderate and moderating intervention into a polarised debate: Bacon is praised for his even-handed condemnation not only of the Marprelate pamphlets but also the response from the established Church and its allies.. I shall argue that Bacon’s discourse is in fact more complex, and needs to be viewed as a pointed—and pointedly manuscript–intervention into a highly topical, multi-faceted debate.

* * *

The immediate target of the 9000-word Aduertisemente, Bacon’s most substantial tract to date, is the “imodest and deformed manner of writing lately intertayned whereby matter of Relligion is handled in the stile of the stage” (6r). Although Bacon refuses to name names, his reference to the “first Pamphlett of this kind” being responded to by a bishop (6v), makes it clear that he is speaking of the “Martin Marprelate” pamphlets and the counter-attack by the established Church, whether officially sanctioned or not. Bacon states that he is at pains not to enter into the fray: instead, he denounces both the Marprelate attacks and the Church’s response. Bacon’s contribution has often been ignored by Marprelate scholars (e.g. Pierce, Arber, Clegg) but when it is considered, it has been praised as a non-partisan intervention, either taking the via media between the established church and its puritan critics, or standing aloof from an unsavory exchange. Ronald McKerrow saw it as “a careful and temperate balancing of the opposing views;”[v] in Joseph Black’s estimation, An aduertisemente is “the most sophisticated analysis of the controversy.”[vi] Among Bacon scholars, Julian Martin notes “both [Bacon’s] stout commitment to moderate, as opposed to Presbyterian or more radical, religious reform and also his support for the Church hierarchy and government.”[vii] I propose that these evaluations miss the nature of Bacon’s intervention.

To appreciate the nature of Bacon’s intervention, we first need to date the composition and initial dissemination of An aduertisement. Dating of the discourse has tended to favour the latter months of 1589, but estimates go as late as 1593. Among Bacon scholars, James Spedding suggests ‘the Summer of 1589’;[viii] Julian Martin suggests ‘during the latter part of the year [1589]’;[ix] Brian Vickers, on the basis that the first allusion to An aduertisement dates from 1591 (to which I’ll return), asserts that ‘until more information emerges we can only date it approximately, to the period 1589-91’;[x] recently, Joseph Black has offered ‘c. 1589-90’.[xi] It is my contention, however, that An aduertisement may date to as early as April 1589, and as such importantly constitutes one of the earliest interventions into the debate.

To recap on events: in October 1588 Robert Waldegrave published The epistle to the terrible priests of the convocaton house with its fictitious imprint: ‘printed oversea, in Europe, within two furlongs of a Bouncing Priest, at the cost and charges of M. Marprelate, gentleman’. The Epistle, addressed to leading churchman, opened by attacking John Bridges, dean of Salisbury, who had in 1587 published a Defence of the government established in the church of Englande.[xii] The Epistle set the tone for a series of pamphlets, their authorship still uncertain, which became known as the Martin Marprelate tracts; it was followed first at the end of November 1588 by The epitome, dealing in a more sustained way with Bridges’ Defence.[xiii] In January 1589, the first official response to the Marprelate tracts came in An admonition to the people of England which set out to answer “the slaunderous vntruethes, reproachfully vttered by Martin the Libeller” and the “many other crimes by some of his broode, obiected generally against all bishops.”[xiv] It was signed “T.C.,” a familiar set of initials that prompted some to identify the author as the Puritan Thomas Cartwright,[xv] but the Marprelate writers soon realised ‘T.C.’ was Thomas Cooper, bishop of Winchester. This response prompted two further retorts from Martin, first a broadsheet (which could be printed quickly), Certain mineral and metaphysical schoolpoints, probably in late January or early February;[xvi] and then, in March, the more substantial. Hay any worke for Cooper,[xvii] whose title proclaimed Martin’s target of choice as the bishop of Winchester.

Beyond the immediate print controversy, pressure on Marprelate increased in February 1589. On the 4th, Sir Christopher Hatton used his opening address to parliament to attack not only the usual targets (the pope, the king of Spain, English Catholics), but also Marprelate.[xviii] On the 9th, Richard Bancroft, a canon of Westminster and (not coincidentally) Hatton’s chaplain, delivered a sermon at Paul’s Cross, taking as his text 1 John 4:1 (‘Deerly beloved, beleeve not every spirit, but trie the spirits whether they be of God: For manie false prophets are gone out into the world’), attacking the ‘false prophets’ of separatists and schismatics, and defending the episcopal order of government as divinely ordained.[xix] On the 13th, the queen issued a proclamation denouncing the Puritan writings condemning them as ‘in railing sort and beyond the bounds of all good humanity’, and threatening to introduce a monstrous and dangerous innovation, ‘to dissolve the estate of the prelacy, being one of the three ancient estates of this realm’.[xx] By the end of March, Bancroft’s sermon was in print,[xxi] and as the year progressed, there followed a steady stream of anti-Martinist tracts, ballads and broadsides, among them pieces penned by John Lyly and Thomas Nashe.

Early in An aduertisemente, Bacon claims, with some self-righteousness, that “The controversies themselues I will not enter into, as iudginge that the disease requireth rather rest then any other cure” (5r). While historians have generally taken Bacon at his word, and characterized his work as neutral, in reality Bacon makes intertextual references to key texts throughout his discourse. He speaks admiringly of “the wisdome and religion of that Bishopp, which replied to the first Pamphlett of this kind, whoe remembred that a foole was to be answeared, but not by becomming like vnto him, and considered the matter which hee handled and not the person with whome hee dealt” (6v). As is pointed out by marginal note in a manuscript copy now in the Jones collection at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, this must allude to “T:C: supposed verely to be the bishop of Winchester in his answer to Martines first booke”:[xxii] that is, Thomas Cooper, bishop of Winchester, who published An admonition to the people of England in January 1589. While Bacon praises Cooper for the tone of his Admonition, he conversely attacks “some indiscreete persons [who] have been bould in open preachinge to vse dishonorable and derogatory speech and censure of the Churches abroad” (11v-12r). Once again, the annotating early reader provides a possible identification for Bacon’s attack: “I thinke he meaneth doctor Bancrafte in his sermon preached at the C[r]osse & afterwards printed,”[xxiii] of course a reference to Richard Bancroft’s 9 February sermon at Paul’s Cross.

Openly supportive of Cooper’s Admonition, Bacon replicates several four scriptural allusions used by Cooper.[xxiv] But equally he reworks citations used by publications that he condemns. Bacon thus engages with John Udall’s The state of the Church of Englande, a pro-Marprelate tract probably printed late in 1588.[xxv] He charges that “The Church never wanteth a kind of persons which loue the salutacion of Rabbi, Master, not in ceremony or complement but in an inward authority which they seeke over mens mindes, in drawinge them to depend vpon their opinions and to seeke knowledge at their lipps. Thes men are the true successors of Diotrephes, the lover of preheminence, and not Lord Bishops” (9r). The invocation to Diotrephes—a reference to 3 John 9: “I wrote vnto the Churche: but Diotrephes which loueth to haue the preeminence among them, receaueth vs not”—would in 1589 lead readers to Udall’s pamphlet, in which the “state of the Church of Englande” was “laide open in a conference betweene Diotrephes a bishop, Tertullus a papist, Demetrius an vsurer, Pandocheus an in-keeper, and Paule a preacher of the word of God.”[xxvi] Further, on four occasions, Bacon introduces allusions used in Bancroft’s Sermon, and on one occasion quite explicitly challenges a charge made by Bancroft: “They haue sorted and coupled them [the English Puritans] with the family of love whose heresies they haue labored to destray and confute” (13r). The Family of Love, a sect founded c. 1540 in Emden by Hendrik Niclaes based on a mystical reading of Paul, had been banned in England by royal proclamation in 1580. Although later anti-Marprelate writers also made the slanderous connection between the Marprelate writers and the Family of Love,[xxvii] it was Bancroft’s Sermon which first hinted at a parity between them: “many false prophets now remaine amongst us: Arrians, Donatists, Papists, Libertines, Anabaptists, the Familie of love, and sundrie other.”[xxviii]

From these references we can also infer a date of composition for Bacon’s discourse. If An aduertisement is attacking Bancroft’s position, then it must postdate the Paul’s Cross sermon of 8 February 1589; Bacon’s engagement with specific allusions in Bancroft’s piece makes it more likely was working with a printed copy (available before 25 March 1589). The first possible reference to An aduertisement comes in The first parte of Pasquils apologie, dated 2 July 1590,[xxix] providing us with a terminus ad quem. It would seem likely, then, that An aduertisement was written between April 1589 and June 1590. However, gravitating towards an earlier date is the presence of a copy of the tract among the papers of the politician (and founder of Emmanuel College, Cambridge) Sir Walter Mildmay in the archives of the earls Fitzwilliam of Milton, Northamptonshire, now at the Northamptonshire Record Office.[xxx] Mildmay’s possession of this manuscript is significant since he died on 31 May 1589.[xxxi] Bacon knew Mildmay, and indeed, had worked with him closely during the parliament of February-March 1589: Mildmay introduced the subsidy bill, and Bacon was charged with writing the preamble for the act (although ultimately Burghley seems to have written it himself).[xxxii] It would have been entirely natural for Bacon to choose Mildmay as one of the earliest readers of his Aduertisemente. This consideration might lead us posit that Bacon wrote the tract in April 1589, after he had finished work for the parliament on 29 March, and circulated it by May. This does mean, of course, that Bacon “would have been answering [Bancroft] almost immediately,” as Brian Vickers has objected.[xxxiii] I would argue that this would not in itself be surprising. Perhaps more than any previous debate, the Marprelate affair relied on swift, topical response and counter-response, producing a new type of media controversy that was dependent on short tracts printed outside the usual channels, and (in Bacon’s case) manuscript writings disseminated to targeted audiences.

The case for an earlier date is strengthened by two sentences in An aduertisement: “I hope assuredly that my Lords of the Clergie have none intelligence with this other libeller, but doe altogeather disallowe that theire Creditt should bee thus defended. For though I observe in him many gloses whereby the man would insinuate himselfe into their favours ….”. In later copies of the tract, “this other libeller” becomes “interlibellinge,” and “in him many glosses” becomes “in one of them many glosses.” This suggests that An aduertisemente was first written when there was only one “other [anti-Marprelate] libeller”; in later versions this singular intervention was revised to become plural.[xxxiv]

* * *

When he printed An aduertisemente in 1861, Bacon editor James Spedding admitted that “What use Bacon made of this paper at the time, to whom he sent copies, or whether he put his name to it, I have not been able to discover,” but he could “hardly doubt that he showed it to [Lord Treasurer] Burghley and [Secretary of State] Walsingham, who would naturally concur in his views and wish to spread them.”[xxxv] Julian Martin suggests that “the careful structure and polished style’ of the tract suggest that ‘Bacon intended to circulate it.” [xxxvi] Work on the present edition can fill in some of these blanks. The range of surviving manuscript witnesses confirms that the tract had considerable circulation, always anonymously: indeed, it could be said to have been “published” in manuscript form. We now know it to have been read by, among others, Sir Walter Mildmay; an inhabitant of late Elizabethan Oxford; Richard Bancroft; the separatist Henry Barrow; and the author of an anti-Marprelate tract, possibly Thomas Nashe.

In 1591, the anonymous A petition directed to her most excellent Maiestie, believed to be the work of the imprisoned separatist Henry Barrow,[xxxvii] referred to An aduertisemente as the last of six examples of how even “The Defenders of the state of Bishops expect further Reformation:” [xxxviii]

6 A learned man and friend of the Bishopsg noteth as abuses, Their vrging of Subscription, Their oth ex officio, Their excommunication for trifles, and easie silencing of ministers.

The marginal note ‘g’ directs the reader to “Aduer. to the church of England, not printed.”[xxxix] Later, in summarizing his argument, Barrow evinces a detailed knowledge of An aduertisemente:

To be short, I haue shewed that my Lord of Canterburie, and the other Bishops That Doctor Cosins and the aduertiser, doe in writing reproue many things countenanced by law, as excommunication by lay Chauncellours, Nonresidence, Ignoraunt ministers, the milde punishment of Adultery, Subscription, and such like, and yet these men be not deemed, indited, conuict or attaint as diffamers of her maiesty, and felons by this statute. Such be our times, that Iisdem de causis alij plectantur, alij ne appellentur quidem.[xl]

Another clear reference occurs in A svrvay of the pretended holy discipline, a work by Richard Bancroft, published anonymously by John Wolfe in 1593.[xli] By now one of Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift’s household chaplains at Lambeth, Bancroft used the Svrvay to expand on his 1589 sermon and provided a historical narrative for the rise of puritanism in England, a case for episcopacy based in scripture and historical precedent, advancing the bishops “well beyond the status of ecclesiastical civil servants that had been Burghley’s and the earl of Leicester’s preferred model for the early Elizabethan episcopate.”[xlii] In the letter “To the Reader,” the writer opens:

There are many in England I perceiue, that are so addicted vnto their own opinions, as concerning the pretended holy Discipline, and such a reformation, as they themselues haue deuised: that they cannot with anie patience endure, to heare either contradiction or argument to the contrarie. I knowe some of them (saith a certaine aduertiser touching the controuersies of the Church of England) that would thinke it a tempting of God, to heare or read what might bee saide against them: as if they could be at quod bonum est tenete, without an omnia probate, going before. Which maner of persons, the Prophet Dauid resembleth vnto the deafe Adder, that stoppeth his eare, and will not heare the voyce of the inchaunter, though he be expert in charming. S. Augustine writing vpon these wordes, saith: that the serpent delighting in the darknesse, wherewithall hee hath inclosed himselfe, clappeth one of his eares very hard to the ground, and with his taile stoppeth the other: least hearing the Marso, he should be brought forth to the light. And so do a great number of these Serpentine persons, whereof the aduertiser made mention: [xliii]

Notably, in common with Barrow, Bancroft dubs the writer of this tract the “aduertiser,” “a certaine aduertiser touching the controuersies of the Church of England:” Bacon’s identity may not be known, but he, like Martin, now has a persona as an author: the Advertiser.

But the most intriguing reference to An aduertisemente comes in The First parte of Pasquils apologie,[xliv] often attributed to Thomas Nashe,[xlv] dated 2 July 1590.[xlvi] After nearly a year’s absence from the debate, “Pasquil,” author of The countercuff of Martin Junior and The return of Pasquil, returns to the fray, on the side of the archbishop of Canterbury, “to cast out the foule spirit of the Faction, with Dauids Harpe.”[xlvii] He notes that, since the archbishop “strooke off the head of the serpent long agone,” “it is nothing but the tayle that mooueth now.” Nevertheless,

Some small rubs haue been cast in my way to hinder my comming forth, but they shall not profit. It is reported, that a student at the Lawe, hath vndertaken to be a stickler betweene vs all, his booke is not in print, and I came a day short of the sight of the coppie of it. For any thing I heare, he quencheth the strife with a pinte of water and a pottle of fire. I little thought his leysure would haue suffered him, to haue any more then a common kinde of knowledge, in matters so farre remoued from the course of his studie, place, and calling.[xlviii]

Pointing out that the Church has men trained in scripture, Pasquil asserts that “if I doubt of any matter there, I may not knocke for it at the Chamber-dore of a common Counseller, but haue recourse vnto them, whom God himselfe appointed to teach Iacob before any Inne of courte was reard.”[xlix] The reference to a “student at the Lawe” at an “Inne of courte”—Bacon was by this time a Reader at Gray’s Inn–the fact that the “booke” is “not in print” and the description of the book’s self-positioning as a “stickler” (moderator) all point to An aduertisemente, and to “Pasquil”’s knowledge that its author was a “student at the Lawe” at an “Inne of courte,” even if his identity were not fully known.

It is quite remarkable that no fewer than three printed texts bother to cite and quote a discourse that circulated in manuscript. Furthermore, what is particularly suggestive about Nashe’s remarks is his admission that he has not actually seen the manuscript. He “came a day short of the sight of the coppie of it:” his intelligence on the matter is “any thing I heare.” This suggests an economy in which the manuscript Aduertisemente is a hot property, a prized commodity—and presumably not one that circulates easily in Nashe’s circles. This might lead us to ask further questions of Bacon’s tract: how was it “published”? While we know of 26 extant copies of Cooper’s Admonition and 28 extant copies of Bancroft’s Sermon in their 1589 editions,[l] a remarkable seventeen manuscript witnesses of Bacon’s Aduertisemente survive. Ten of these are “separates,” that is, copies that circulated individually (rather than being, say, copies transcribed into personal miscellanies). Was Bacon’s decision not to enter into print with this piece a deliberate attempt to control the composition and nature of his readership?

There are still many questions to be answered about An aduertisemente. But I would suggest that our (natural) focus on the printed books can perhaps lead us to misrepresent the Marprelate controversy. Bacon’s intervention indicates that we might more fruitfully consider the phenomenon not only in terms of print, but as a controversy working across a multitude of media: proclamations, sermons, parliamentary speeches, printed books (both official and unoffficial), and circulated manuscript tracts. While the Marprelate debate has become a set piece in discussions of early modern English print culture, it may yet have much more to say beyond those debates.

[i] I quote from the text I have edited for the forthcoming volume 1 of the Oxford Francis Bacon: Bacon’s Early Writings 1584-1586 (Oxford University Press). The copy-text is British Library, Harley MS 1893, fos. 5r-17r: folio references are to this manuscript.

[ii] The Marprelate story is well known, and needs no further elaboration to members of this seminar. See now Joseph L. Black ed., The Martin Marprelate tracts: a modernized and annotated edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. For earlier studies, see Edward Arber, An introductory sketch to the Martin Marprelate controversy, 1588-1590 (London: Archibald Constable, 1895); William Pierce, An historical introduction to the Marprelate tracts (London: Archibald Constable, 1908); William Pierce ed., The Marprelate tracts, 1588, 1589 (London: James Clarke, 1911); Ronald McKerrow, “The Marprelate controversy,” in The works of Thomas Nashe, 5 vols (London: A.H. Bullen, 1904-1910), V, pp. 34-65; J. Dover Wilson, ‘The Marprelate controversy’ in Cambridge history of English literature ed. A.W. Ward and A.R. Waller, 14 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1907-1916), III, pp. 425-52; Leland H. Carlson, Martin Marprelate, gentleman: Master Job Throckmorton laid open in his colors (San Marino CA: Huntington Library, 1981); Raymond A. Anselment, ‘Betwixt jest and earnest’: Marprelate, Milton, Marvell, Swift & the decorum of religious ridicule (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979), pp. 33-60; Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan puritan movement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), esp. pp. 391-404; Joseph Black, ‘Pamphlet wars: the Marprelate tracts and “Martinism”, 1588-1688’ (unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Toronto, 1996); Cyndia Susan Clegg, Press censorship in Elizabethan England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 170-97.

[iii] A wise and moderate discourse concerning church-affaires (London: printer unknown, 1641) (Wing B343).

[iv] In Francis Bacon, Resuscitatio or, bringing into publick light severall pieces, of the works, ed. William Rawley (London: Sarah Griffin for William Lee, 1657) (Wing B319), Y1v– 2A2r (pp. 162-79).

[v] The Works of Thomas Nashe ed. by Ronald B. McKerrow, reprinted from the original edition with corrections and supplementary notes, ed. by F. P. Wilson, 5 vols. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1966), V, p. 40.

[vi] Joseph Black, ‘The rhetoric of reaction: the Martin Marprelate tracts (1588-1589), anti-Martinism, and the uses of print in early modern England’, Sixteenth Century Journal 28 (1997), pp. 707-26 at p. 722.

[vii] Julian Martin, Francis Bacon, the state, and the reform of natural philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 38.

[viii] Letters and the Life of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding, 7 vols (London, 1861-1874), I, p. 73.

[ix] Martin, Francis Bacon. 38.

[x] Brian Vickers ed., Francis Bacon: a critical edition of the major works (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 497.

[xi] Black, Martin Marprelate tracts, p. lxxii.

[xii] Black, Martin Marprelate tracts, pp. 3-45.

[xiii] Black, Martin Marprelate tracts, pp. 49-86.

[xiv] The Admonition was entered into the Stationers’ Register ‘vnder the Lord Archbishop of CANTERBURIES hand’ on 10 January 1588/9. Arber, II, p. 513.

[xv] See for example, BL copy C.37.d.38.

[xvi] Black, Martin Marprelate tracts, pp. 89-94.

[xvii] Hay any worke for Cooper; Black, Martin Marprelate tracts, pp. 97-139.

[xviii] J.E. Neale, Elizabeth I and her parliaments 1584-1601 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1957), pp. 194-9.

[xix] Millar MacClure, rev. Jackson Campbell Boswell and Peter Pauls, Register of sermons preached at Paul’s Cross 1534-1642, Dovehouse Editions: Ottawa, 1989, p. 67; Richard Bancroft, A sermon preached at Paules Crosse the 9. of Februarie, being the first Sunday in the parleament, anno 1588, E. B[ollifant]: London, 1588 [i.e. 1589], STC 1346.

[xx] Proclamation, 13 February 1589.

[xxi] The printed version was entered in the Stationers’ Register on 3 March 1589 (Arber, II, p. 517) and presumably printed before 25 March, since it bears the date 1588. See also Babbage, Puritanism and Richard Bancroft, pp. 27-8.

[xxii] Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Jones 27.

[xxiii] Bodleian MS Jones 27.

[xxiv] ‘I can condemne none, I am noe Iudge of them that belonge to soe high a Master neither haue I twoe witnesses’, echoes Cooper, Admonition, C2v (p. 12) quoting I Tim. 5:19: ‘What meant Saint Paul, when he saide, Against an elder, receive no accusation vnder two or three witnesses? ‘The holy Angell would give noe sentence of Blasphemy against the common Slaunderer but said Increpet te Dominus; the Lord rebuke thee’ echoes ‘But Martin remember that saying, Vae homini per quem scandalum venit, and that Iude saith, that Michael when he disputed with the Deuill about the body of Moses, the Angel gaue no rayling sentence against him, but said, the Lord rebuke thee, Satan’ (I1r, p. 57). Onely Cham purchased his curse by revealinge his fathers disgrace’ (Genesis 9.25) is used by Cooper in Admonition, D1r (p. 17).

[xxv] John Udall, The state of the Church of Englande (London: R. Waldegrave, 1588) (STC 24505).

[xxvi] Udall, State of the Church, titlepage.

[xxvii] Other anti-Marprelate polemicists alleged an explicit connection. ‘Caualiero Pasquill of England’ claimed: ‘I haue there sette down all the vpstart Religions in this Land. The Anabaptists, the Family of Loue; the seuen capital haeresies for which som haue beene executed of late yeeres in Suffolke; the diuersities of Puritans and Martinists, with a number more which you shall heare of when that Booke is Printed’; ‘since God led his Church in this Land out of the bondage of Rome… there neuer yet wanted Papist, Atheist, Brownist, Barowist, Martinist, Anabaptist, nor Familie of Loue to bid them battaile’. The returne of the renowned caualiero Pasquill of England ([London: John Charlewood]: 1589) (STC 19457), A3v, C4v. Similarly, T.T. in his Myrror for Martinists, and all other schismatiques (London: J. Wolfe, 1590) (STC 23628), writes of men ‘such as are in the Papists, Heretiques, Brownists, the familie of Loue, Martinistes, and all Schismatiques, which neuer cease peruerting the truth?’(A2v); men ‘gathering themselues together into corners and in secret conuenticles, as the Family of Loue, the Brownists, the Martinists, and others like vnto them’ (D4r).

[xxviii] Bancroft, Sermon, B2r.

[xxix] The first parte of Pasquils apologie ([London: John Charlewood, 1590]), STC 19450. The tract ends, ‘From my Castell and Collours at London stone the 2. of Iuly. Anno. 1590.’ First parte of Pasquils apologie, E1v. There is no entry in the Stationers’ Register.

[xxx] While Mildmay’s books were bequeathed to his son Humphrey (c. 1552-1613), other papers went with his secretary Sir William Fitzwilliam (d 1618), in whose family collection they remained. L.L. Ford, ‘Mildmay, Sir Walter (1520/21-1589)’, ODNB.

[xxxi] This was first suggested by Patrick Collinson: “Hooker and the Elizabethan Establishment,” in Richard Hooker and the Construction of Christian Community ed. Arthur Stephen McGrade (Tempe, AZ: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1997), pp. 149-89, at p. 172 n.55.

[xxxii] Neale, Elizabeth I and her parliaments 1584-1601, pp. 204-05.

[xxxiii] Vickers objects to Spedding’s suggested dating of ‘the Summer of 1589’ on these grounds. Vickers, Francis Bacon, p. 497.

[xxxiv] The contemporary annotator proposes that the unnamed pamphlet is ‘Papp with a hatchet or some suche Lyke’, but Pappe with an hatchet dates probably from September 1589, and was by no means the first of its ilk. Joseph Black places as the first anti-Marprelate tracts the verse pamphlets Mar-Martine and A whip for an ape: or Martin displaied, from ‘early summer 1589’, but these do not feature anything that might be construed as the kind of ‘gloses’ Bacon mentions. Martin Dzelzainis and Annabel Patterson forward the anonymous Latin tract Antimartinvs, which was entered into the Stationers’ Register on 3 July 1589; this ‘was not only licensed, but beautifully printed by George Bishop and Ralph Newbery. It defended the bishops and claimed to be working in the interest of the universities, the State, and the Church’ (Marvell, Prose works, I, p. 433 n. 1136). However, it may be that Bacon refers to an earlier, lost publication.

[xxxv] Letters and Life of Bacon, I, pp. 73, 95.

[xxxvi] Martin, Francis Bacon, pp. 38-9.

[xxxvii] [Henry Barrow] A petition directed to her most excellent maiestie … (Middelburg: [R. Schilders? 1591]), STC 1521.

[xxxviii] [Barrow], Petition, A3r.

[xxxix] [Barrow], Petition, A3v.

[xl] [Barrow], Petition, E3v.

[xli] [Richard Bancroft], A svrvay of the pretended holy discipline (London: John Wolfe, 1593), STC 1352.

[xlii]Nicholas W.S. Cranfield, ‘Bancroft, Richard (bap. 1544, d. 1610)’, ODNB; see also Babbage, Puritanism and Richard Bancroft, pp. 34-6.

[xliii] [Bancroft], Svrvay, *2r. Bancroft’s quotation here is in line with six witnesses of An aduertisemente: B2, B3, C, D, Ha1, U.

[xliv] The first parte of Pasquils apologie ([London: John Charlewood, 1590]), STC 19450.

[xlv] McKerrow concludes that ‘we are not justified in concluding Nashe to be the author of the “Pasquil” tracts’. Works of Thomas Nashe ed. McKerrow, V, pp. 55-8 at p. 58.

[xlvi] The tract ends, ‘From my Castell and Collours at London stone the 2. of Iuly. Anno. 1590.’ First parte of Pasquils apologie, E1v. There is no entry in the Stationers’ Register.

[xlvii] First parte of Pasquils apologie, A3v.

[xlviii] First parte of Pasquils apologie, A4r.

[xlix] First parte of Pasquils apologie, A4r.

[l] See ESTC citation nos S105063, S111158, S100663 and S108234.

RSA paper 2009

March 18, 2009



From around 1588, Francis Bacon, then an up-and-coming Grays’ Inn lawyer and junior parliamentarian, became associated with Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex. Bacon was something between a client and a friend: the earl acted as a patron for Bacon, attempting to secure him the posts of Attorney General and Solicitor General, while Bacon undertook a variety of duties for the earl, most notably offering him counsel in the latter part of the 1590s through a series of widely-circulated letters. Later, however, Bacon’s involvement in the earl’s life came to be regarded as more thoroughgoing: two important editors of Bacon’s work, Thomas Birch in the 1760s and James Spedding in the 1860s, identified various writings previously attributed to Essex as being the work of Francis Bacon.[i] These included a device written for the 1595 Accession Day celebrations; and letters of advice sent from Essex to Fulke Greville and to Roger Manners, the young earl of Rutland. Since the 1860s, scholars have been generally happy to write about these works as Bacon’s, identifying continuities in theme, content, and style between these late Elizabethan writings, and Bacon’s later, more significant publications such as the Essayes, the Advancement of Learning, and the New Atlantis.

This changed, when in a series of articles published from 1994, Paul Hammer, a leading expert on Essex, took issue with this attribution of authorship to Bacon.[ii] Hammer showed that Essex was building a team of academic secretaries to compete with the secretariat of the father and son team of the Cecils in order to ‘establish himself as the natural successor to Burghley as Elizabeth’s leading councilor,’ secretaries including Thomas Smith, Edward Reynolds, Henry Wotton, Edward Jones, and even the Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford, Henry Cuffe, who was lured away from the university for a salary of twenty pounds per annum.[iii] In addition to these paid secretaries, Essex had an array of scholarly friends on whom he called for some quasi-secretarial duties, including Anthony and Francis Bacon. Hammer writes of ‘the product of a cooperative effort between Essex, his secretaries and, perhaps, Francis Bacon’, with Essex at the helm: ‘Essex himself had a major part in composing these productions but he also used the assistance of his secretariat and possibly also of Francis Bacon.’ Although he allows that Bacon may have ‘had a hand’ in some of the works emanating from the Essex circle, to Hammer these works remain Essex’s – commissioned by him, and bearing his name, and his imprimatur.[iv]

Hammer’s assertions provoked a spirited response from Bacon specialist Brian Vickers, who argues that the various devices and letters of advice were ‘interlinked in many ways, mirroring the development of Bacon’s thought in the 1590s, and reflecting characteristic methods of composition’. [v] In Vickers’ model, ‘Essex seems to have called on [Bacon’s] help when he needed some particularly delicate piece of writing, such as an eloquent or tactful composition involving the queen’. Therefore, Vickers retorts, ‘Instead of Paul Hammer’s image of Bacon as a subsidiary helper in Essex’s campaign of reinstatement, grudgingly admitted to the same level as the men in Essex’s employ, I should like to propose a different scenario: Bacon, already an experienced lawyer and politician, expending much energy between 1595 and 1600 as a private counselor’.[vi]

What’s important to note here is that Hammer and Vickers in fact share an understanding of a working relationship between Essex and Bacon whereby Bacon would draft written materials for Essex’s use. The difference between them lies solely in attribution: the relative credit for authorship that each should receive. My contention is this paper is that both Hammer and Vickers are absolutely right in their assertions: what we need to address is how they can both be right at the same time, and what this means for our understanding of authorship. In order to answer this, I propose we have to reassemble the mechanics of what happened when Bacon ‘wrote’ a piece. Thanks to the labours of Harold Love, Peter Beal, and Henry Woudhuysen we know a good deal about scribal culture and scribal publication, but their interest is in the copying and dissemination of works that have already been composed, rather than composition per se.[vii] Work on secretaries, men known to have written for their masters, has tended to focus on the notional relationship of secretary and master rather than to the detail of how the secretary worked with his master.[viii] And this lack of scholarship is quite understandable: there are precious few traces in the archive to suggest how even a figure as prominent as Essex might have worked with his team of secretaries, but we do have a few.

I turn first to an undated letter (probably 1593) from Essex to Bacon, now at Lambeth Palace Library.[ix] Essex explains that he is under pressure from the queen to produce, at short notice, ‘a draft of an Instruction’ on intelligence concerning Rheims and Rome, home to two English seminaries. Although the premise of this demand is that Elizabeth intends to send one of her Privy Council on a mission, Essex doubts this is the case: instead, the queen ‘doth it rather to try my judgement in it.’ In other words, the writing produced is a test of the capabilities of the earl. Faced with this challenge, however, Essex does not sit down and pen a tract himself. Instead, he seeks out the expertise of two men: Thomas Phelippes, a noted cryptographer who worked closely with the late Secretary of State, Francis Walsingham, and Francis Bacon:

Master Phellipes hath known Master Secretary’s courses in such matters; so as I may have counsel from you [Bacon] and precedents from him [Phelippes]. I pray you, as your leisure will serve, send me your conceipt as soon as you can; for I know not how soon I shall be called on. I will draw some notes of mine own which I will reform and enlarge by yours.

Phelippes will provide ‘precedents’; Bacon will supply ‘counsel’ in the form of written ‘notes’; Essex will then ‘reform and enlarge’ his own draft incorporating anything useful from Bacon’s. The work will clearly stand as Essex’s: the earl here commissions the piece, suggests the mechanism for its composition, perhaps – although this is not clear – polishes the final product himself, presents it to the queen himself, and takes credit for it. Here we see the kind of process that Hammer envisions, with Bacon providing only part of the process, and Essex in control. The collaborative process here produces as Essex as author, the hierarchy of master and scribal servants playing itself out. But there are other circumstances where the same collaborative process emphatically does not produce the same author.

Among Essex’s sorry succession of military exploits of the 1590s, perhaps the most successful was his sacking of Cadiz in June of 1596. Needing to publicize his success back in England, the earl despatched his secretary Henry Cuffe armed with Essex-eulogising accounts of the victory to oversee their publication in print.[x] Falling ill en route, Cuffe was obliged to send the materials on to another Essex secretary Edward Reynolds, with a covering letter which provides a rare and detailed glimpse into the mechanics of manuscript production.[xi] The letter’s second half describes how the report should reach print. Cuffe asks Reynolds to replace his preface, if he considers it necessary, write a better one, and prefix it so that the tract would appear to be a letter sent from Cadiz to a ‘gentleman in Court’ back in England. The publication should then take place under someone’s initials, with that person claiming that they had received the discourse from Cadiz from, say, D.T., but they don’t know who D.T. is: Cuffe suggests that they use the initials of either Essex’s friend at court Fulke Greville, or Privy Council clerk Robert Beale (with whom the Essex circle had quarrelled). These are all apologetic ploys familiar from print culture, but Cuffe’s letter also tells us much of the often hidden processes by which a commissioned discourse or speech or letter came to be written. The discourse, he writes, was

penned very truly according to his Lordships Large enstructions, by which besides my owne knowledge he enformed me of sundry particulers of moment in the processe therof. And after I had penned it as plainely as I might alteringe little or nothinge of his owne drawght, I caused his Lordship to peruse it on[c]e againe and to adde extremam manum, which he hathe donne, as you may perceve by the enterlyneinge. his Lordship[es] purpose is that it should with the soonest be sett in print, both to stopp all vagrant Rumors, and to enforce those that are well affected of the truth of the whole, yet so that in any case nether his Lordships name nor myne nor any other my Lord be ether openly named used or soe insinuated that any slender guesse may be drawen who was the penneman. / My opinion is that the best course is presently to cause a fair transcript to be made and so ether by Mr Temple or some other Lesse to be supported [suspected?] (in which point I knowe Sir Anthony Asheley will most willinging Lend you his helping hand) to cause it to be deliuered to some good printer in good Characters and with diligence to publish it

The account was ‘physically written (‘penned’) by Cuffe following general (‘large’) instructions from Essex, also drawing on Cuffe’s ‘own knowledge’, while Essex added in ‘sundry particulars of moment in the process thereof’. After Cuffe had penned with as little elaboration as possible of Essex’s draft, he ‘caus[es]’ his master ‘to peruse it once again, and to add extremam manum’, the finishing touch, visible in ‘the interlining’. Essex adds to Cuffe’s writing, by interlining Cuffe’s text, his own finishing touches, the final hand. The next part of this operation requires that these hands, so recognizable to Reynolds, be obscured, so that neither Essex, Cuffe, or any of the earl’s followers is ‘ether openly named used or soe insinuated’ as ‘the penneman’. Cuffe suggests that ‘a fair transcript’ should be made by someone unlikely to be suspected, proposing William Temple, another of Essex’s secretariat, or Sir Anthony Ashley, a Privy Council clerk serving as secretary of war for the Cadiz mission, who, Cuffe says, ‘most willinging Lend you his helping hand’ – literally. They should then ‘cause it to be deliuered’ to a printer. So who writes this letter? Is the letter Essex’s, or Cuffe’s, or Reynoldes’s, or the man who will provide the fair transcript, perhaps Temple or Ashley? Here we have five possible candidates, and none of them will have their name associated with the product–a further two possibilities, Fulke Greville and Robert Beale, are suggested for that honor. So in all we have seven men associated with this writing – a necessity, because the aim is to distract attention from the author, to produce an effect of anonymity.

Bacon knew this culture well. He is now believed to be the author of several anonymous or pseudonymous pieces that were published, either in manuscript or print, from 1589 onwards, on such topics as the Martin Marprelate controversy, the Catholic attacks on Lord Burghley, the alleged conspiracy on the queen’s life by Dr Roderigo Lopez, and the two arraignments of the earl of Essex in 1600 and 1601. One of these publications in particular is very similar to the Cadiz letter concocted by Essex and Cuffe: the 1598 A Letter written out of England to an English Gentleman remaining at Padua, containing a true Report of a strange Conspiracie, contriued betweene Edward Squire, lately executed for the same treason as Actor, and Richard Wallpoole a Iesuite, as Deuiser and Suborner against the person of the Queenes Maiestie, an account of the last of the alleged Catholic plots againt Elizabeth (this one focussed on a poisoned pummel).[xii] Its anonymity or pseudonymity did not stop people wondering who wrote it: the following year a Catholic pamphleteer attributed this ‘smooth penned pamphlet’ to ‘M. Smokey-swynes flesh, at the instance of Sir R.C.’.[xiii] Once again, we have two names: Bacon as smooth penman, secretary of state Sir Robert Cecil as commissioner. Both names are needed to identify what we might call the authorship of the Letter written out of England.

The Cadiz letter and the Letter written out of England hint at something vital to our understanding of the politics of authorship in the 1590s. Essex, Cuffe, Bacon and Cecil do not want their involvement to be traced; while the trickeries of print paratext facilitate this for a reading public, Cuffe is equally concerned that the text going to press does not bear his or Essex’s own handwriting. This is quite clearly because they recognize that handwriting has value as evidence: that one is held responsible for what one physically writes. This understanding underpins most of the criminal investigations of the 1590s. Documents in an identifiable hand are used to support arrests and arraignments; those being interrogated are required either to write confessions in their own hand or—in those cases when they are no longer able to write—to make an effort to sign the confession in their own hand, with witnesses observing the fact. Fully cognizant of these facts, conspirators would go out of their way not to pen letters or memoranda.

All of these manoeuvres come to a head in the final trial of the earl of Essex, following his abortive uprising in February 1601. Although there is little debate about what happened during the uprising, and Essex never seeks to defend his actions, a surprising amount of court time is given over to establishing what was planned about taking the court. And it’s not about whose idea this was, but quite literally, who wrote it down. Prosecuting Essex in court was none other than Francis Bacon, who also produced the anonymous official printed report on the affair, A Declaration of the Practices and Treasons ofthe Earl of Essex. Bacon was keen to establish that the conspirators were ‘not met together by constellation,’ but purposely ‘assembled upon summons and letters sent’—he wanted material, written evidence. Turning to Sir John Davis, he said: ‘in this consultation … you were clerk of that council-table and wrote all.’[xiv] Sir John objected. ‘If with good manners I might,’ he interjected, ‘I would long since have interrupted you, and saved you a great part of labour: for my intent is not to deny anything I have said or excuse that I have done, but to confess myself guilty of all, and submit myself wholly to the Queen’s mercy. But in that you call me clerk of the council, let me tell you that Sir Charles Davers was writing, but his hand being bad, I was desired to take the pen and write. But by-and-by the Earl said he would speed it himself; therefore we being together so long and doing so little, the Earl went to his house and set down all with his own hand, which was formerly set forth, touching the taking and possessing of the Court.’[xv] The pen should have been in Sir Charles Davers’ hand, but since his hand was ‘bad,’ it passes to Davies, but Davies writes too slowly and so Essex takes the pen and ‘set[s] down all with his own hand.’ So the culmination of this remarkable scribal incompetence is that the plan is penned by the earl himself, and what’s more at his house, and by himself—this is a way of making the written evidentiary responsibility cohere with the actual responsibility. The only reason this debate takes place, of course, is that Essex took pains to burn the paperwork as soon as he realized that the uprising was doomed.

But perhaps the oddest moment in the trial is the showdown between Essex and his erstwhile client Francis Bacon. The earl suddenly interrupted Bacon, ‘sayinge that the speache of Master Bacon gaue him occasion to plead himself against himself’. He recounted how

Master Bacon beinge a dailye Courtier, and havinge Accesse to her Maiestie vndertooke to goe to the Queene in my behalfe, he drewe a Letter verie artificiallye, which was subscribed with my name: And another Letter was drawen to occasion the former, which other Letter should come from his Brother Master Anthonie Bacon, both which he shoulde haue showen vnto the Queene; Gosnold brought them both to me, and in my Letter he did plead for me as feelinglie, and pointed out my greevances as plainelie as was possible:/

Although one Essex sympathizer claimed that “Bacon was so nypte one the heade, & it did so quiette & amase him that he had nothing to replye,”[xvi] most of the accounts of trial show Bacon far from being embarrassed by this revelation. Instead, Bacon claimed that ‘he had spente more houres to make him [Essex] a meete servante to her Maiestie, then euer he deserued’ and that ‘as for any thinge contayned in those lettres, yt would not blushe in the Clearest light’, [xvii] a these letters would make him appear a good friend to Essex, an interpretation he maintained in his 1604 Apologie.[xviii]

What should emerge from these incidents is an appreciation that our current notions of authorship are ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of writing in the world occupied by Essex and Francis Bacon in the 1590s. One might want to be the author of one text, and absolutely to eschew the authorship of another. The moments I’ve just discussed are all about wishing to attract or to avoid attribution, to take or to evade responsibility. They testify to a sophisticated knowledge of the role of the writer, the penman, and how to manipulate documentary evidence. So the question of ‘who is the author’ of any given text—the question Hammer, Vickers, indeed all of us tend to pose—is not necessarily the most helpful. We might ask, who is produced as the author of this text? and then, in a related but separate investigation, ask who was involved in the creation of the text. The Hammer-Vickers debate is a symptom of the circumstances under which Essex’s and Bacon’s writings were produced—a thoroughly collaborative process in which piecemeal divisions of labour were impossible, and in which the author of a text might well not be the man who wrote it.

[i] Letters, speeches, charges, advices, &c. of Francis Bacon, ed. Thomas Birch (London: Andrew Millar, 1763); The letters and life of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding, 7 vols. (London, 1861-74), vols 1 and 2.

[ii] Paul E.J. Hammer, ‘The uses of scholarship: the secretariat of Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, c. 1585-1601,’ English Historical Review 104 (1994), pp. 26-51; idem, ‘The earl of Essex, Fulke Greville and the employment of scholars,’ Studies in Philology 91 (1994), pp. 167-80..

[iii] Hammer, ‘Essex, Greville and the employment of scholars’, p. 175 n.40.

[iv] Hammer, ‘Essex, Greville, and the employment of scholars’, p. 172.

[v] Brian Vickers, ‘The authenticity of Bacon’s earliest writings’, Studies in Philology 94 (1997), pp. 248-96.

[vi] Vickers, ‘Authenticity’, p. 263.

[vii] Harold Love, Scribal culture in seventeenth-century England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993); Peter Beal, In praise of scribes: manuscripts and their makers in seventeenth-century England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998); H.R Woudhuysen, Sir Philip Sidney and the circulation of manuscripts, 1558-1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).

[viii] Jonathan Goldberg, Writing matter: from the hands of the English Renaissance (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990); Richard Rambuss, Spenser’s secret career (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Alan Stewart, Close readers: humanism and sodomy in early modern England (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), ch. 5.

[ix] Essex to Francis Bacon, [after February 25, 1593]. LPL MS 653 art. 2, holograph. Modernized transcription by Spedding: Letters and the life of Franics Bacon, vol. 1, p. 251.

[x] See Hammer, ‘Myth-making: politics, propaganda and the capture of Cadiz in 1596,’ Historical Journal 40 (1997), pp. 621-42.

[xi] Henry Cuffe to Edward Reynoldes, [1] July 1596. LPL MS 658, fo.88 (art. 61). I am grateful to Andrew Gordon for this transcription.

[xii] Anon., A letter written out of England … (London: deputies of C. Barber, 1599).

[xiii] Anon, ‘An Addition to the Reader,’ appendix to M[artin] A[day], The Discoverie and Confvtation of a Tragical Fiction, devysed and played by Edward Squyer (1599).

[xiv] William Cobbett and T.B. Howell eds, Cobbett’s Complete Collection of State Trials …, 33 vols (London: T.C. Hansard, 1809-1823), 1: col. 1438.

[xv] Cobbett and Howell, State Trials, 1: col. 1438.

[xvi] BL Sloane MS 756, fo. 11v, as quoted in Andrew Gordon, “‘A fortune of Paper walls’: The Letters of Francis Bacon and the Earl of Essex,” ELR vol (2007), pp. 319-36.

[xvii] British Library, London [hereafter BL] Harley MS 4289, fo. 28v.

[xviii] ‘I did draw with my Lords priuitie, and by his appointment, two letters, the one written as from my brother, the other as an answer returned from my Lord, both to be by me in secret maner shewed to the Queene, which it pleased my Lord very strangely to mention at the barre’. Bacon, Apologie, D5v-D6v.

Introduction to the third letter of advice to Rutland

August 21, 2008


This letter was written from Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, to Roger Manners, fifth earl of Rutland (1576-1612), on the occasion of his delayed departure to Europe (see introduction to AdR1). The letter is dated 16 October, and refers to Rutland’s imminent departure (‘at the verie instant of your goinge’) for Europe in the autumn of 1595. On 6 September Rutland approached Sir Robert Cecil for assistance in ‘procuring her Majesty’s hand to my licence’ to travel abroad. He received licence from the Queen to travel for three years with two other men, Robert Welby and Griffith Maddockes, and eight servants) on 26 September; on 4 October it was reported that ‘My lord of Rutland is ryd post to Petworth to take his leave’; and on 25 October, he rode to the coast. Arriving at Flushing (Vlissingen) in early November, he was escorted by Sir Robert Sidney to The Hague before travelling on to Amsterdam.
Essex was intimately involved in Rutland’s plans at this point in his life. Essex’s cousin Robert Vernon was summoned from Oxford to accompany Rutland on the early stages of his tour which led him through the Low Countries, Germany, Switzerland, Padua (at whose university he matriculated in 1596), and Venice, where he was noted by Essex’s agent there as ‘an affectionate dependant of my most honorable good lorde’. By 1597 Rutland was in France; the tour ended in June of that year when Rutland returned to England to join Essex at Plymouth for the Azores expedition.

Spedding printed AdR3 from witness Ln, which was undated; since he had dated AdR1 as January 1595/6, he assumed that the third letter came from a similar period, and maintained the running head of ‘1595-96’. When Walter Dunn Macray printed the letter from witness F for the Historical Manuscripts Commission in 1891, he included the date ‘16 October’ and suggested 1595 for the year.
All the evidence points to the year being 1595. In addition to Rutland’s imminent departure (detailed above), Essex states that ‘This was written yesternight att St Albans butt so ill written as I was fayne to use my mans hand to copy yt out.’ This suggests that a draft, or perhaps an intended letter, was prepared at St Albans on 15 October; it has now been rewritten by Essex’s man. Essex rode to St Albans, perhaps to visit the royal stables there as part of his duties as Master of the Horse, sometime before 15 October 1595: Rowland White noted on that date that ‘My lord of Essex is gone to St. Albons’, but noted that ‘he willd me to attend hym at Court upon Friday next’, which would have fallen on 17 October. On the 17th, White reported ‘I am going to Lord Essex at Court to attend what he may say’, and on 18 October, from court, he reported that ‘My Lord Essex promises to write’. On either 17 or 18 October, therefore Essex arrived back at court (perhaps the latter, since he missed a privy council meeting on 17 October), so the reference of the letter to being in St Albans on 15 October 1595 is in keeping with Essex’s known whereabouts.

What is the case for Bacon’s authorship of AdR3? Spedding printed the letter but notes, ‘I add it merely to complete the set: for there is nothing either in the style or sustance which would lead me to suspect in it any other hand than Essex’s own’. Vickers, however, sees another hand at play. In his addition to the letter, Essex writes ‘This was written yesternight att St Albans butt so ill written as I was fayne to use my mans hand to copy yt out’ (verso). Vickers argues that, ‘Since the Bacon family house was at Gorhambury, near St Albans, and Essex’s note implies that the treatise was written for him by someone else, this provides an external argument for Bacon’s authorship’. Against this interpretation, Paul Hammer has claimed that Vickers’ dating of the letter to October 1596 is incorrect; and that Bacon was not near St Albans in October 1595, when the letter was in fact written. (It should be noted that, pace Hammer, Vickers does not in fact discuss the dating of AdR3).
It is unlikely but not impossible that Bacon was at Gorhambury or St Albans on 15 October 1595. He was certainly at his house at Twickenham Park, near Richmond Palace, on 11 and 14 October 1595, when he wrote letters to the Lord Keeper, stating ‘I am now at Twicknam Park, where I think to stay.’ Hammer argues that ‘It was therefore physically impossible for Bacon to have written this letter to Rutland, which was clearly penned in some haste by Essex himself.’ This overstates the case somewhat: it was easily possible to reach St Albans from Twickenham Park within a day, although Bacon evidently did not anticipate making such a journey. However, while the weight of the evidence suggests that Bacon was not at St Albans, we should keep separate the composition of the letter, and its final penning. In his own hand, Essex states that the sent letter has been copied out by ‘my man’s hand’ because a previous draft was ‘so ill written’. This could be a standard courtesy trope, to explain why Essex himself had not taken the time to write the entire letter in his own hand to a social equal. Alternatively, it could tell the truth – although what truth that might be is still unclear. Essex may have written the earlier draft himself, as Hammer insists; or he may have had Reynoldes copy out a letter previously drafted by someone else – perhaps Bacon? – in preparation for the long-anticipated moment of Rutland’s departure.
Vickers turns to stylistic evidence to further his case for Bacon’s authorship. While noting that the ‘second’ and third letters to Rutland ‘belong more to the traditional genre of travel-literature’ than the ‘first’, Vickers sees a resemblance between AdR3 and Bacon’s essay ‘Of Travaile’ in the recommendation to use ‘your note booke’, and detects a characteristic Baconian interest in law: ‘by what lawes or Customes it [a country] is governed’ and ‘what is the execucion of iustice in peace’, a concern, Vickers claims ‘not to be found in the average travel-book’. His strongest claim is for the concluding paragraph:
The first thing your lordship must seeke in all this course, is industrie. for as greate difference is betwixt it and idlenes, or betwixt an actiue sprightfull man, and a slothfull, as betwixt a lyving man, and a dead. The second is to dirrect that industrie to good thinges. for els the more you do, the more yll you do, and the faster you goe, the farther you go owt of the way.
Vickers notes that this is a variation on the sententia ‘Melior claudus in via quam cursor extra viam’ (‘better is the lame man in the right way, than a swift runner out of the way’), twice noted by Bacon in the Promus (PFE, # 233, 1240), and later put to use in The Advancement of Learning and Novum Organum, ‘in both cases with considerable moral and emotional emphasis’. To Vickers’ observations, I would add what seems to me a Baconian use of the word ‘inducement’ (see cmts on Page 000, line 000).
However, it must be admitted that Bacon’s claim to authorship here is much less sturdy than in the case of the ‘first’ letter. Hammer suggests, ‘Essex may well have had some “Baconian” ideas in mind when he wrote this letter, but the idea that Bacon was its author cannot be sustained’. I would conclude that, while Bacon’s immediate involvement seems unlikely, it cannot be ruled out; and that the letter is valuable as the conclusion of an intellectual programme, the ‘advice to Rutland’, in which Bacon certainly played a significant part.

Three witnesses of AdR3 are known to survive:
British Library, Additional MS 37232, fo. 97r-v (Ad)
Folger Shakespeare Library, Additional MS 1039 (F)
British Library, Lansdowne MS 238, fos. 158r-159r (La)

British Library, Additional MS 37232, fo. 97r-v (Ad)
Additional 37323 is a very miscellaneous volume, containing materials from as late as the nineteenth century. Ad is part of a sequence (Section Q) of three items, all copies, relating to the earl of Essex, which runs from fo. 94r to fo. 99v, comprising copies of AdR1 (fos. 94r-97r), this letter (fo.97r-v) and a discourse entitled ‘The Omissions of Cales voyage in Anno 1596 – by Robert Devorex Earle of Essex’ (fos. 97v-98v). Fo. 99 is completely blank, but is conjugate with fo. 98. A cover page for this section dates these copies to ‘circ. 1600’. The volume was purchased by the British Museum from Ernest B. Pope, Esq. on 23 August 1905. No further information on provenance is available.

Ad omits the contribution in Essex’s hand: it may be that its source was not the letter as sent, but another draft, perhaps the poorly written draft that Essex ordered to be rewritten?

Folger Shakespeare Library, Additional MS 1039 (F)
The Folger witness is the letter as sent, now unbound. It is a bifolium, folded in the usual manner to form a letter. The letter text covers the first two sides of the four. It is superscribed ‘To the right honorable my verye good lord & Cousin the Earl of Ritland’, and endorsed, in a contemporary hand, ‘ThEarle of Essex to thEarle of Rutland then in his travail’. There is evidence that a seal has been detached. The body of the letter has been identified by Paul Hammer as the hand of Edward Reynoldes (d. 1623), Essex’s personal secretary; it concludes with a few valedictory sentences, subscription and sign manual in Essex’s own hand.
Additional 1039 was previously included in the ‘Hulton manuscript’, as fo. 147. This collection was part of the estate of Robert Devereux, third earl of Essex (1591–1646), the eldest son and heir of AdR3’s signatory. The Essex papers passed into the hands of William Jessop (1603-1675) of Gray’s Inn, clerk to the council of state and to the House of Commons, probably when Jessop acted as legal agent for the executors of the third earl; on Jessop’s death, the papers passed to his only child Anne, who married William Hulton alias Hulton (d. 1694). The papers were still in the possession of the Hulton family, at Hulton Park in Lancashire, when they were calendared for the Historical Manuscripts Commission by Walter Dunn Macray in 1891; most are now at the county record office at Preston and in the British Library. Macray noted that this letter was ‘found amongst confused miscellaneous papers’, and identified it as the ‘third’, ‘hitherto unknown’ letter of which AdR1, printed in Walter Bourchier Devereux’s Lives of the Earls of Essex, was the ‘first’, printing it in full. (Macray was unaware of Spedding’s earlier printing of this letter). For a time the Hulton Manuscript was Loan 23 at the British Library. It was auctioned at Sotheby’s on 14 December 1992; a facsimile of the second page of letter text is included in the catalogue (p. 26).

British Library, Lansdowne MS 238, fos. 158r-159r (Ln)
Lansdowne 238 is described by its cataloguers as ‘a Volume of Miscellanies’. Ln is part of item 3, a long sequence of Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline letters copied in the same hand (fos. 80v-161v), many of them related to either Essex or Bacon. It is believed to have been ‘made by some person in the service of Sir Gervas Clifton’ (fo. 80). The letter immediately preceding AdR3 is a copy of a letter by Henry Wootton, dated ‘17. of August 1629’; it is followed by another, undated letter by Wootton. This suggests that La can be no earlier than late 1629. Since Ln contains an extract from the contribution in Essex’s hand, it is probable that this is copied or derived from F.

Choice of copytext
My copytext is the holograph letter F, written by Edward Reynoldes, with autograph additions by Essex. Essex’s comments imply that the body of the letter had existed in a previous copy, but this has not been located. Both Ad and Ln contain variants, none of which improves on F; they have both been collated here.

Essex’s players 17 November 1595

August 16, 2008

Rowland Whyte identifies some of the actors: ‘Thold Man was he, that in Cambridg plaied Giraldy, Morley plaied the Secretary, and he that plaied Pedantius, was the Soldior, and Toby Matthew acted the Squires Part’. Whyte is referring to a performance of the Latin comedy Laelia, at Queens’ College, Cambridge, witnessed by several peers, including Essex, in late February or early March 1595. Laelia featured among its characters Gerardus, an old man, played by George Meriton, and Petrus Pædagogus, a pedantic schoolmaster, played by George Mountain (Montaigne), both fellows of Queens’. John Weever immortalized the performances of Meriton and Montaigne in one of his 1599 Epigrams, ‘In Georgium Meriton, & Georgium Mountaine’:

Your entertaine (nor can I passe away)

Of Essex with farre-famed Laelia;

Nor fore the Queen your service on Queens day

When such a Maister with you beareth sway,

How can Queenes College euer then decay?

Mountain became a chaplain to Essex and accompanied him on the Cadiz mission; Meriton (c. 1567-1624) later became dean of York, and Mountain (1569-1628) rose to the archbishopric of York, succeeding Tobie Matthew, father of another player here, Tobie Matthew, junior.  The younger Matthew (1577-1655), who later and scandalously converted to Catholicism, would become a close friend of Bacon, and a trusted early reader of his work. The Secretary was played here by Morley, who has been identified as the composer Thomas Morley (1556/7-after 1602); perhaps a more likely choice would be Christopher Morley (1563?-1596), a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, who would die on 18 April the following year, and whose elegy by William Alabaster opens suggestively, ‘Squallet scena, silent linguæ, nec Musica garrit …’ (‘The stage is hung with mourning, tongues fall silent, nor does music warble, since our darling Morley has died’).

My Lord of Essex device

August 15, 2008

On November 22, 1595, Rowland White reports to Sir Robert Sidney about the Accession Day device of the earl of Essex:

My Lord of Essexs Deuise is much comended in these late Triumphes, some pretty While before he came in him self to the Tilt, he sent his Page with some Speech to the Queen, who returned with her Majesties Gloue. And when he came himself, he was mett with an old Hermitt, a Secretary of State, a braue Soldier, and an Esquier. The first presented him with a Booke of Meditations; the second with pollitical Discourses; the third with Oracions of braue fought Battles; the fourth was but his own Follower, to whom thother three imparted much of their Purpose, before his Coming in. Another devised with hm, persuading him to this and that Course of Liffe, according to their Inclinations. Comes into the Tilt Yard vnthought vpon, thordinary Post Boy of London, a ragged Villain all bemired, vpon a poor leane Jade, galloping and blowing for Liff, and deliuered the Secretary a Packet of Lettres, which he presently offred my Lord of Essex; and with this dumb Shew our Eyes were fed for that Time. In thafter Supper, before the Queen, they first deliuered a well pend Speach to moue this worthy Knight, to leaue his vaine following of Loue, and to betake him to hevenly Meditacion; the Secretaries all tending to haue him follow Matters of State, the Soldiers persuading him to the Warr; but the Esquier answeed them all; and concluded with an excellent, but to plaine English, that this Knight wold neuer forsake his Mistresses Love, whose Vertue made all his Thoughts Deuine, whose Wisodm tought him all true Pollicy, whose Beauty and Worth, were at all Times able to make him fitt to comand Armies. He shewed all the Defects and Imperfections of all ther Times, and theirfore thought his Course of Liffe to be best in seruing his Mistres. Thold Man was he, that in Cambridg plaied Giraldy, Morley plaied the Secretary, and he that plaied Pedantiq, was the Soldior, and Toby Matthew acted the Squires Part. The World makes many vntrue Constructions of these Speaches, comparing the Hermitt and the Secretary, to two of the Lords, and the Soldier to Sir Roger Williams; but the Queen said, that if she had thought their had bene so moch said of her, she wold not haue bene their that Night, and soe went to Bed.

Shakespeare and … Humanism

August 3, 2008

The relationship between Shakespeare and humanism has always been a vexed one. Depending on the critic, he is the ultimate humanist, the arch-critic of humanism, the perfect product of humanism, or its inventor: as Harold Bloom influentially asserted, Shakespeare “invented the human as we continue to know it.” With equal ease, Shakespeare’s humanism shifts its meaning, from a particular educational program to an all-purpose package of humanitarian humaneness – or a combination of the two in which Renaissance humanism is rooted in a belief in essential human nature, since, as Robin Headlam Wells has claimed, Renaissance humanists, including Shakespeare, “believed that if you want to build a just society you must begin with the facts of human nature.” These problems of definition are nothing new: humanism is the studia humanitatis, but humanitas is linked both to philanthrôpia, a love for mankind, and paideia, education. So when Thomas Cooper came to define “humanitas” in his 1565 Latin-English Dictionary, he wrote “Humanitie: mans nature: gentlenesse: courtesie: gentle behaviour: civilitie: pleasantnesse in maners: doctrine: teaching: liberall knowledge.” “Teaching” and “liberall knowledge” are part of humanitas, then, but must take their place in a wider understanding of the term.

In its educational form, Renaissance humanism was the teaching of the classical auctores to recover the values of classical civilization, with a special emphasis on oratory and eloquence, since speech was what divided man from beast. By the mid-sixteenth century, each grammar school in England followed a variation on an identifiably humanist curriculum, largely Latin, but with some Greek, developed by such northern humanists as Desiderius Erasmus [ed.] of Rotterdam and John Colet, founder of St Paul’s School. Latin grammar and vocabulary were only the beginning of this study: the goal was that students would be able to think, and more importantly to speak, from any viewpoint in any situation, through the close study, translation, and imitation of classical writers. From the records of Eton, Westminster, and other schools, we know that, starting from Cato, Aesop and Terence, the grammar-school boy would in time move onto Cicero, Ovid, Martial, Catullus, Horace, Virgil, and Lucan, as well as various modern collections, selections and redactions. Although the relevant records don’t survive, William Shakespeare is believed to have attended Stratford-upon-Avon’s King’s New School and received such an education. But for centuries after his death his learning was downplayed, as admirers stressed Shakespeare’s “natural” affinity for language and character. They had ammunition in Ben Jonson’s reminder to Shakespeare in the 1623 Folio that he was a great writer “though thou hadst small Latine, and lesse Greeke. But when in 1944 T.W. Baldwin completed his two-volume, 1,500-page tome, naughtily titled Shakspere’s Small Latine & Lesse Greeke, the Jonsonian portrait was convincingly challenged. Shakespeare, Baldwin claimed, was not an uneducated force of nature, but identifiably one of the better products of the grammar school curriculum, even a “learned grammarian.”

One does not need to look far to see the fruits of Shakespeare’s grammar school education. One of his earliest plays, The Comedy of Errors, is based on, but usefully complicates, Plautus’ play Menechmi. His first published work, Venus and Adonis, is a reworking of a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses; its titlepage quotes a line from the same poet’s Amores, establishing the poet’s claim to literature’s higher ground: “Vilia miretur vulgus: mihi flauus Apollo | Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua,” or as Marlowe put it, “Let base conceited wits admire vilde things, | Faire Phoebus leade me to the Muses springs.” Venus and Adonis was followed into print by Lucrece, drawn from Ovid’s Fasti and Livy’s Roman histories. Titus Andronicus directly refers to Latin lierature: Lavinia and Young Lucius together read “Tully’s Orator” and Ovid’s Metamorphoses (4.1.14, 42); Demetrius finds a Latin quotation, which is recognized by Chiron as ‘a verse in Horace’ (4.2.22), although he read it ‘in the grammar long ago’ (4.2.22-3)—a reference to William Lily’s sixteenth-century school textbook, the Brevissima institutio. Less obviously, like The Comedy of Errors, Titus Andronicus was modelled on a classical play, this time Euripides’ tragedy Hecuba. Shakespeare repeatedly returned to ancient Rome for his subject matter, fuelled by the stories told by Plutarch and Suetonius, in Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra, and Rome’s special relationship with ancient Britain sparked the telling of Cymbeline.

This is not to say that Shakespeare spent his life reading texts in Greek or Latin: indeed, there is every sign that he read many of his sources in English translation: Thomas North’s 1579 translation of Plutarch’s Lives, for example, and Philemon Holland’s 1606 englishing of Suetonius’s Historie of Twelve Caesars of Rome. But the overt references to classical literature, culture and history are negligible in comparison with the thoroughgoing impact of that Shakespeare’s humanist training had on his practice as a writer. From classical drama, Shakespeare took his plays’ five-act structure; from the exercises of controversiae, he learned how to present multiple viewpoints; and of course from oratorical studies derived his most persuasive rhetoric [ed.], of which the contrasting orations of Brutus and Mark Antony in Julius Caesar are only the most obvious examples. Through rote learning Shakespeare inculcated the grammar school’s habits: as Emrys Jones defines them, “the cultivation of idiom, a skill in varying phrases by saying the same thing in as many different ways as possible, translating from Latin into English and back again – and in the process discovering the finer potentialities of one’s own vernacular” (p. 10). Beyond the classical texts themselves, he developed a deep familiarity with such sixteenth-century textbooks as Erasmus’ De copia, Adagia, and Colloquies [ed,], treasure-houses of images and phrases for early modern readers. Some of Shakespeare’s most memorable lines would have been familiar, in Latin, to his fellow schoolboys from Erasmus’ Adagia: Jones spots Hamlet’s “sea of troubles” in Erasmus’s “mare malorum” (originally from Euripides); Goneril’s “dearer than eyesight” and Othello’s “Make it a darling like your precious eye” from Erasmus’s “Nam oculo nihil carius [for nothing is dearer than eyesight]” (commenting on Euripides); Cleopatra’s “His delights | Were dolphin-like” from Erasmus’ “Delphino lascivior [more lascivious than the dolphin].” As Jones puts it, “without humanism, in short, there could have been no Elizabethan literature: without Erasmus, no Shakespeare.”

And yet humanist education comes in for some criticism in Shakespeare’s work. The pedagogical process is gently mocked with the Welsh parson Sir Hugh Evans testing the Latin of the boy William Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Educated men can be pedantic boors like the curate Nathaniel and the schoolmaster Holofernes in Love’s Labour’s Lost. They can use their training to nefarious ends, as in The Taming of the Shrew when Lucentio woos Bianca while ostensibly teaching her lines from Ovid’s Heroides. Hamlet’s student years at Wittenberg – a university led by the leading humanist Philipp Melanchthon – seem to have ruined his capacity for proper action. And learning can lead to disaster: in Henry VI Part Two, Jack Cade’s men accuse Lord Say of corrupting the youth of the realm by building a grammar school and a paper-mill, and associating with people “that usually talk of a noun, and a verb, and such abominable words as no Christian ear can endure to hear” (4.7.37-9). When Say comments on Kent and its habitant, “Bona terra, mala gens,” the four words seal his fate: “Away with him! away with him!” shouts Cade, “he speaks Latin” (4.7.55)

Perhaps the most extended examination of humanism, its strengths and pitfalls, is to be found in The Tempest. Prospero is a learned man, but he is an ineffective ruler. Rather than putting his learning into action, he gives himself over to “the liberal arts” (1.2.73) handing over “The manage of my state” (1.2.70) to Antonio, abdicating responsibility: “And to my state grew stranger, being transported | And rapt in secret studies” (1.2.75-6). Even on the island, while representing himself to Miranda as “thy schoolmaster” (1.2.172), he is a harsh master, unabashed at calling Ariel and Caliban “slave.” Ultimately, Prospero’s salvation comes through a realization that book-learning alone is not enough: his declaration that “I’ll burn all my books” may be a rejection of all he has read, or it may be his appreciation that he has to move on from his books and put his learning into a new form of action. In Jonathan Bate’s analysis, The Tempest is a “humanist critique of humanism,” a description that might serve to describe Shakespeare’s works as a whole.


Baldwin, T.W. Shakspere’s Small Latine & Lesse Greeke. 2 vols. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1944.

Bate, Jonathan. “The Humanist Tempest,” in Shakespeare: La Tempête: Etudes critiques ed. Claude Peltrault. Besançon: University of Besançon Press, 1993: 5-20.

Curtis, Mark H. “Education and Apprenticeship,” in Shakespeare in his Own Age, Shakespeare Survey 17, ed. Allardyce Nicoll. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964: 53-72.

Jones, Emrys. The Origins of Shakespeare. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.

Pincombe, Mike. Elizabethan Humanism: Literature and Learning in the Later Sixteenth Century. Harlow: Longman, 2001.

Rhodes, Neil. Shakespeare and the Origins of English. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2004.

Wells, Robin Headlam. Shakespeare’s Humanism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Shakespeare and … Catholicism

August 3, 2008

The perceived importance of Roman Catholicism to Shakespeare’s works has derived largely from the possibility that Shakespeare himself, or his family, had sympathies with the Catholic faith. This theory is of long standing: at the end of his notes on Shakespeare’s life (written between 1688 and 1708), the Gloucestershire vicar Reverend Richard Davies affirms “He died a papist.” This statement has encouraged the construction of biographical narratives that look again at Shakespeare’s family, account for his “lost years” between his Stratford-upon-Avon childhood and his acting career in London, and have suggested potential readings for several of his plays. In Samuel Schoenbaum’s words, “it marks the starting-point for a tortuous debate nourished by few facts and an abundance of inferences.”

John Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born six years after Elizabeth came to the throne, and so at the historical moment when the “Elizabethan settlement” of a Protestant orthodoxy was being established. Throughout his life, Protestantism was England’s official religion, attendance at Church of England ceremonies was mandatory, and adherence to Roman Catholicism was penalized. In a string of high-profile cases, Catholic sympathizers were found of guilty of conspiracies against the queen’s life, and executed. Despite this, there is ample evidence of strong sympathy for the Roman Catholic church in many areas of England throughout Shakespeare’s lifetime.

Among those who may have remained loyal to the Catholic church was Shakespeare’s father John. In 1592 he was listed as an obstinate recusant, that is, someone who did not attend church services – however, he was specifically identified as not attending “for feare of process for debt” (i.e. to avoid being served legal papers) rather than for doctrinal reasons. More compelling is a document that Stratford poet and historian John Jordan offered to The Gentleman’s Magazine in June 1784 that he boasted to be the “Spiritual Last Will and Testament” of John Shakespeare. It was, he claimed, found on 27 April 1757, by a master bricklayer named Joseph Moseley whie retiling the Shakespeare house in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, then owned by Thomas Hart, a descendant of Shakespeare’s sister Joan. Between the rafters and the tiles, he found a document of six small leaves stitched together, which he passed to Jordan, who transcribed it into his notebook. The document was a “writing of protestation,” a declaration of faith in fourteen articles, following a model by St Charles Borromeo, the cardinal archbishop of Milan, and apparently disseminated to the Catholic faithful in England by Jesuit missionaries. In these articles, the testator identifies himself as “an unworthy member of the holy Catholic religion,” asks for extreme unction, appoints the Blessed Virgin Mary as his chief executrix, and asks for the (illegal) celebration of the Catholic mass by those who survive him.

The Gentleman’s Magazine declined to publish it, believing it spurious, and doubts have remained as to its authenticity to this day. Jordan’s account of its discovery, and his dealings with it, changed several times in the telling. By the time the original was sent to Edmond Malone in 1789, its first page was missing; the document has now disappeared completely, so its ink or paper watermark cannot be subjected to modern dating techniques. Most recently, even the standard account that Jesuits distributed these documents in the late sixteenth century as come under attack. Whatever the case, all this evidence relates only to John Shakespeare, but has been allowed to ground the case for his son’s possible Catholicism.

The lost years

Over the past decades, a great deal of attention has been paid to the possibility that Shakespeare spent his “lost years” as part of a Catholic circle. The seventeenth-century biographer John Aubrey noted that William Beeston, son of Christopher Beeston of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, told him that Shakespeare “had been in his younger yeares a Schoolmaster in the Countrey.” The most popular location for this vague “Countrey” is now Lancashire.

The case for the Lancashire connection centers on a will dated 3 August 1581 in which Alexander Hoghton of Lea Hall near Preston, Lancashire, named a “William Shakeshafte” as residing at Hoghton Tower. Hoghton asks for Sir Thomas Hesketh “to be frendlye unto Foke Gyllome & William Shakshafte nowe dwellynge with me & eyther to take theym unto his servyce and or els to helpe theym to some good mayster”. This sentence comes immediately after Hoghton makes arrangements for his brother Thomas Hoghton, that “all my instrumentes belonginge to mewsyckes, & all maner of playe clothes yf he be mynded to keppe & doe keppe players,” suggesting that “Shakshafte” may have a link to players. If, however, Thomas Hoghton “wyll not and keppe & mayntene players” then Hesketh “shall have the same instrumentes & playe clothes.” Sir Thomas Hesketh was twice arrested as a disaffected papist in 1581 and 1584; he is also known to have patronized an acting troupe. The “good mayster” that Hesketh is encouraged to “helpe” the servants to is thought to be Henry, 4th earl of Derby (1532-1593), or his son, Ferdinando Lord Strange (c.1559-1594), and indeed “Sir Thomas Hesketh plaiers” are recorded in the earl of Derby’s household book for 1587. What ths theory provides is a plausible trajectory for Shakespeare’s eventual move to London, since we know that Lord Strange’s Men acted in some of Shakespeare’s early plays–the sequence would then have Shakespeare moving from Hoghton to Hesketh or Derby to Strange’s Men.

Other links between Shakespeare and Lancashire’s Catholic circles have been noted. John Cottom, a Catholic schoolmaster in Stratford from 1579 to 1581, was a neighbor of the Hoghton family; his younger brother was a Catholic priest who was executed alongside Edmund Campion. Thomas Savage, a trustee for Shakespeare and his colleagues when they bought the Globe in 1599, came from the Lancashire village of Rufford. In 1599, John Weever included a sonnet dedicated “Ad Gulielmum Shakespeare” (in Shakespeare’s distinctive sonnet style) in his Epigrammes, which he dedicated to Sir Richard Hoghton, Alexander Hoghton’s nephew and successor. All these facts, it is suggested, link Shakespeare with a very particular region in Lancashire between Hoghton Tower and Knowsley, the seat of the earls of Derby.

Against this Lancaster theory, skeptical scholars have noted that “Shakeshafte” was a common name in the Preston area, and that no known variant on Shakespeare’s name approximates to “Shakeshafte;” and that the bequest made to Shakeshafte suggests an older or more valued servant than Shakespeare would have been at seventeen, recently entered into Hoghton’s service.

If Lancashire seems unlikely, then there are also possible Catholic acquaintances closer to home. In Henry VI Part Three, as the earl of Warwick receives news reports while defending the walls of Coventry, he asks one messenger, “Say Somervile, what says my loving son?” (5.1.7). Somervile–a name that does not occur in Shakespeare’s sources–was a Warwickshire surname that was in the 1580s newly infamous through the recusant Catholic and alleged traitor John Somerville, who had been found dead in his Newgate cell while awaiting trial for treason in 1583. Could it be possible that the reference is a fleeting criticism of the fate of John Somerville?

The Evidence of the Plays

Whereas Christopher Marlowe [ed.] physically attacks and humiliates Catholic priests and even the pope in his plays, Shakespeare generally shies away from such displays of partisan religion. In the drama set in pre-Reformation England, little is made directly of the characters’ religion. The one play that depends on a Catholic setting–the Vienna of Measure for Measure, with its convent life and confessor-duke–refuses to laud or condemn any of its Catholic elements, as warring critical interpretations continue to testify. Malvolio is glancingly identified as “a kind of puritan” (2.3.140) in Twelfth Night, but Maria clarifies that he is really nothing but a “time-server” (2.3.148): her complaint is not doctrinal. Even in the play that deals specifically with the English Reformation, Henry VIII or All is True, both Catholic and Protestant figures are depicted as spanning the range of human strength and frailties.

The one real site of contention comes in Shakespeare’s depiction of Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, executed during the reign of Henry V and adopted by Henrician Reformers as a proto-Protestant martyr. It has long been known that the chararcter we know as Sir John Falstaff was originally called Oldcastle, but Shakespeare changed the name, possibly to avoid the displeasure of the present Lord Cobham, William Brooke, the Lord Chamberlain. Contemporaries knew Shakespeare’s Falstaff to be Oldcastle, however, and not all were happy to see the Protestant hero travestied as a “pampered glutton” as the authors of the 1599 play Sir John Oldcastle put it. In 1611, the historian John Speed attacked a recent comment by Father Robert Persons (writing as N.D.), that painted Oldcastle as “a Ruffian, a Rober, and a Rebell” and mocked that “his authority [was] taken from the Stage-plaiers.” If we assume that he was referring to Shakespeare’s plays, then the comment that follows throws interesting light on Shakespeare: “his slanderous report being only grounded from this Papist and his Poet, of the like conscience for lies, the one euer faining, and the other euer falsifying the truth.”

While Speed is here clearly critical of Shakespeare (if indeed Shakespeare it is), and links his “faining” to that of Persons, it must be said that he does not identify Shakespeare as a “papist.” Still, as Gary Taylor argues, “the possibility that Shakespeare deliberately lampooned Oldcastle can hardly be denied.”

More nuanced readings have been led by Stephen Greenblatt’s analysis of the role of residual ritual Catholic elements in Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. Most particularly, he has tracked the persistence of ideas of purgatory – abandoned by the Church of England, but still very much in evidence in Hamlet, where Hamlet’s father claims he is “Doom’d for a certain time to walk the night, | And for the day confin’d to fast in fires, | Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature | Are burnt and purg’d away” (1.5.10-13).

More controversially, Shakespeare has been openly identified as not simply a Catholic sympathizer, but an apologist and even activist. Scholars such as Peter Milward and Richard Wilson have identified “secret” Catholic subtexts in his plays. In a popular book, Clare Asquith has argued that Shakespeare deliberately wrote into his plays his “hidden politics and coded politics” in a Catholic (and especially Jesuit) allegory in which, for example, “dark” stood for the “the ‘dark’ new religion, associated with black print and sober dress” and while “fair” was a “coded attribute on Catholicism, taken from the stress placed by Catholics on outward beauty.” Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel forwards perhaps the most strenuously active Catholic Shakespeare: she presents him as being sent abroad to be trained at the English College at Rheims using a variety of aliases; and sees the 1613 purchase of the Blackfrairs Gatehouse as an arrangement by the Catholic underground, to benefit priests and sympathizers.

As literary critics pay increasing attention to the once neglected world of English Catholics under Protestantism, we can expect the debate to continue.


Dutton, Richard, Alison Findlay and Richard Wilson eds, Region, religion and patronage: Lancastrian Shakespeare. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003.

Dutton, Richard, Alison Findlay and Richard Wilson eds. Theatre and religion : Lancastrian Shakespeare. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003.

Greenblatt, Stephen. Hamlet in Purgatory. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Honigmann, E.A.J. Shakespeare the “lost years”. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985; 2nd edition, 1998.

Schoenbaum, S. Shakespeare’s Lives, new edn. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991.

Milward, Peter. The Catholicism of Shakespeare’s Plays. Tokyo: Renaissance Institute, Sophia University, 1997.

Wilson, Richard. Secret Shakespeare: studies in theatre, religion, and resistance. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004.


Certain Observations on Certain Observations

July 31, 2008

Hopefully, the full witness list:

Ad BL Additional 4263, fos. 145-66

C1 CUL Add. 7958, fos. 83v-7

C2 CUL Mm.5.5, fos. 66-98

CC Corpus Christi College, Oxford, C.C.C. 200, fos. 80-118v

Cg U. Calgary, Osborne Collection,Accession no. 25/72.1.4, item 1, ff. 1-8v

Ct1 BL Cotton Titus C.VII, fos. 59v-61v

Ct2 BL Cotton Julius F.VI, fos. 164-6v

Eg BL Egerton 3876, fols. 163r-190v

El1 Huntington, EL 34 B 64

El2 Huntington, EL 1604, ff. 51r-86r

Ha1 BL Harley 537, fos. 26-49v, 71r-v

Ha2 BL Harley 859, fos. 39-43

Ha3 BL Harley 6401 fols 1r-64r

Ha4 BL Harley 6854, fos. 203-30v

Hn Huntington, HM 267, 3rd series, ff. 1-27v

Hw1 Hardwick 51, item 7

Hw2 Hardwick 55, ff. 86r-127r (item 7)

I Inner Temple, Petyt 538, Vol. 39, no.1, pp. 1-57

K Meisei U., Kodama Library Crewe MS, pp. 1-58

L University of London Library, 312, fos. 198-231

Lm Lambeth Palace 2076

NA NA SP 12/242/18 — fair draft of an intended introduction.

57 Resuscitatio ed. Rawley

The “long” version of OL is found in the following:

Ad El1 El2 Ha1 [incomplete] Ha3 Ha4 Hn Hw1 I K Lm 57

The “short” version of OL is found in the following [at least]

C1 [incomplete] CC Eg L

An ‘epistle to the reader’, possibly written for OL is in


In addition,

Ct 1 contains section 2 only

Ct 2 contains part of section 4, and all of section 6 only