Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0184. Friday, 4 March 1994.
From: William Robinson <
Date: Thursday, 03 Mar 1994 18:06:36 -0500 (EST)
Subject: First Heir
First Appeal to the Reading Public
April 18,1593 Richard Field, the printer, obtained a license for the
publication of VENUS AND ADONIS, with a dedication to Henry Wriothesley, Third
Earl of Southampton. The Earl was twenty years old and the handsomest man at
"But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed,
I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather..."
This dedication to Southampton has over the centuries thrown scholars off the
path. The author of the poem was actually warning the young Earl to beware of
the ills of Queen Elizabeth. The timing was perfect: Southampton was heralded
as the most handsome Courtier in Elizabeth's Court. The author was more than
aware of the dangers, being a victum himself, 16 years ago at his father's
estate when the Queen paid a visit. He knew from personal experience the
Queen's fascination for younger men and her desire to indulge herself in her
Concerning Queen Elizabeth:
The gossip of the court, as reported by Ben Jonson to Drummond of Hawthornden,
held that "she had a membrane on her which made her incapable of man, though
for her delight she tried many.... A French surgeon undertook to cut it, yet
fear stayed her." Table Talk from Ben Jonson to Leigh Hunt-J.C. Thornton
Elizabeth enjoyed perennial adulation and savored it insatiably. Lords ruined
themselves to entertain her: masques and pageants allegorized her glory; poets
smothered her with sonnets and dedications; musicians strummed her praise. A
madrigal celebrated her eyes as war-subduing orbs, and her breast as "that fair
hill where virtue dwells and sacred skill." Raleigh told her that she walked
like Venus, hunted like Diana, rode like Alexander,sang like an angel, and
played like Orpheus. She almost believed it. She was as vain as if all the
merits of her England were the blessed fruit of her mothering; and to a degree
they were. Distrustful of her physical charms, she robed herself in costly
dresses, varying them almost every day; at her death she left two thousand. She
wore jewelry in her hair, on her arms and wrists and ears and growns; when a
bishop reproved her love of finery she had him warned not to touch on that
subject again, lest he reach heaven aforetime.... Her manners could be
alarming. She cuffed or fondled courtiers, even foreign emissaries.
The Age of Reason-Wil Durant pg.11
In England, moreover, we have to note the very important fact that, precisely
at the time when the Renaissance began to bear literary fruit, the throne was
ocucupied by a woman, and one who, without possessing any delicate literary
sense or refined artistic taste, was interested in the intellectual movement.
Vain, and inclined to secret gallantries, she demanded, and received, incessant
homage, for the most part in extravagant mythological terms, from the ablest of
her subjects- from Sidney, from Spencer, from Raleigh- and was determined, in
short, that the whole literature of the time should turn towards her as its
central point. Shakespeare was the only great poet of the period who absolutely
declined to comply with this demand.
William Shakespeare- Georg Brandes
Anthony Bacon, son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Seal, and older
brother to the famous philosopher Francis, was the author of the poem. How do I
know? Entirely by comparison and conjecture utilizing his letters that have
survived the centuries, and the plays and poems attributed to Shakespeare.
I could not understand how it were possible that a man, however gifted with the
intuition of genius, could have written what was attributed to Shakespeare,
unless he had been in touch with the great affairs of state, behind the scenes
of political life, and also intimate with all the social courtesies, and
refinements of thought, which in Shakespeare's time were only to be met in the
Prince Otto von Bismarck
The character of the man is best seen in his writings.
Fiction never lies; it reveals the writer totally.
The most prodigious wit that ever I knew of my nation and of this side of the
sea is of your Lordship's name, though he be known by another.
Sir Tobie Matthew to Francis Bacon
Although Anthony did not publish Venus and Adonis until the spring of 1593,
when he was 35 years old, the poem must certainly have been conceived and
written ten years earlier while he was in France. The influence of Ronsard and
the Pleiades shows throughout the poem.
Still there is a character in language -as in handwriting- which it is hardly
possible to disguise. Little tricks of thought, like tricks of the hand
-peculiarities of which the writer is unconscious, -are perceptible by the
Spedding, Bacons' Works IX pg.5
I commend you to your own content- He that commends me to my own content
commends me to the thing I cannot get.
Comedy of Errors i,2,32
Valor and Virtue
The composition that your valour and fear makes in you is a virtue of a good
All's Well i,l,218
...how much in heart I have always honored your virtue and valour.
Anthony Bacon to Lord Willougby
The principal motive of his coming hither was to make his eyes no lesse happy
and contented with the light of as so noble an object the beames of whose
valour and virtue shined throughout all Christendome.
Anthony Bacon to the Earl of Essex
His virtue shinning uppon others Heat them and they retort that heat again.
Troilus and Cresada ii,3,100
His brandished sword did blind men with his beams;
His arms spread wider then a dragon's wings;
His sparkling eyes, replete with wrathful fire,...
Henry VI pt1.
To be continued: