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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Elizabeth's Nicknames
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0600  Wednesday, 31 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 10:55:26 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0583 Re: Elizabeth's Nicknames

[2]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 19:49:47 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0583 Re: Elizabeth's Nicknames

[3]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 07:51:32 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.058 Re: Elizabeth's Nicknames


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 10:55:26 -0800
Subject: 10.0583 Re: Elizabeth's Nicknames
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0583 Re: Elizabeth's Nicknames

Many thanks to Carol Barton for her citations.

I think there's more to say. It's a tricky matter to complain on a list
that serves several different kinds of purposes for different
participants, but I think it's important to say that many tales get told
about our common subject, by novelists, scholars, biographers, and
others, that don't stand up very well to questions about documentation.
We only need look at the recent films about Shakespeare and Elizabeth to
watch how fictions can find their way into the mind as "history" (if
fears about what students will make of these movies have any
justification at all). I'm extremely interested in Elizabethan popular
culture(s), esp. those that emanate from the scene of the court (or the
court as envisioned by those near but not at it), and have some
experience in the difficulty of rooting up anything like original
documentation. Lots of this material is preserved in letter collections
and other such sources, difficult of access and ill-indexed if at all. I
understand too about answering email while away from one's books, and
about not wanting to burden the list.

However, I also think about the flood of dubious data published (but
often not peer-reviewed) on the net. Just as there's a place for SIL, so
too there is a place for careful scholarship (as the recent Miola case
shows, to put it very mildly). This list is for both purposes, right?
(This is peer review.) I think that many listmembers are precisely
interested in the specific history of such tales (often providing it),
and would welcome hard data (though I can certainly see an argument for
keeping your material to yourself if you're aiming for publication and
need it a lot, as any junior scholar must). Many reviewers have raised a
lot of hell about the new-historical use of the anecdote. If anecdotes
are to get tested properly, if they are to earn legitimately what folks
use them for in scholarship, strong documentation is essential. The
Elizabeth nicknames discussion seems to me a prime specimen of the
anecdotal. People like me who work a lot with the anecdotal need to be
especially careful.

Speaking for myself, I am pretty reluctant to accept undocumented
"factual" statements by biographers, even well-placed ones such as
Neville Williams. Everyone knows how oft-repeated dicta can get morphed
beyond recognition, esp. in biographies based on a long string of
predecessors and shooting for a popular audience. Williams makes for
fascinating reading, but is cavalier about notes, and this produces both
envy (of his sources) and suspicion-or at least wariness-in me, at least
if I'm thinking about using the item in teaching or writing.

Obviously, popular-oriented scholars are often very smart and say many
useful things. (We professionalist scholars-for want of a better term-
certainly have things to learn from them, not least in presenting our
own field(s) of study as not just stupidly esoteric, the sort of
caricatures the NY Times loves to carp about.) Nonetheless, I think it's
fair to subject the reports of such tales to the same criteria we'd use
in evaluating a grad seminar paper, say, and I'd certainly say to such a
student writer about Elizabeth's nicknames, "how do you know?" If the
burden of proof lies on those who assert, then our list's discussion
about which (if any) of Elizabeth's "men" got called her "moor" (what a
fascinating detail) needs more data. Just because Williams is popular
(that is, undocumented) doesn't make him wrong, but neither does it make
him right. Whichever he may be (and maybe the terms are wrong, or maybe
we can't decide), at least we can go look at what he says and how he
says it, and think about it. This is an important start.

One more thing. The sources for the study of our period are many and
long and thick. One can't simply "go look it up" easily. All of us have
read differently, and different things. That's at least one reason why
page numbers and other clues are so precious.

Anyway, thanks again for your response, Carol.

Frank Whigham

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 19:49:47 +0100
Subject: 10.0583 Re: Elizabeth's Nicknames
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0583 Re: Elizabeth's Nicknames

>My frog is from the Frog Prince fairy tale

The Frog Prince is from the brothers Grimm's collection, and I don't
+think+ existed, even in analogue form, in England that early.

Robin Hamilton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 07:51:32 +0000
Subject: 10.058 Re: Elizabeth's Nicknames
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.058 Re: Elizabeth's Nicknames

>Just a random suggestion as to what 'spirit' may have meant in reference
> to Burghley.  Wouldn't that nickname refer to his all-seeing eye in the
> kingdom, i.e. to some ubiquitous network of spies ?
>
> Francois Laroque

She called Leicester her "Eyes" and Hatton her "Lids." The first
suggests spying, or knowing all, the second might suggest keeping such
knowledge private. Hatton did function for the Queen as an agent in
Parliament; he portrayed himself as her knight, which would mean
possibly carrying out private missions of various sorts. She called
Raleigh her "Oracle," which also suggests knowledge of matters beyond
ordinary ken. Francois suggests that Burghley's nickname may have had
the same intent, an intriguing suggestion, as it could mean that all
four of these nicknames were aimed at encouraging these important men to
keep her informed.

>Spiritus in Latin means "inspiration."
>According to Richard A. Spears' "Slang and Euphemism," spirit in the
>1600s meant "semen," "mettle," "spunk."
>I guess he bucked up her courage when she needed it.

Actually, his unhappy job was often to frighten her by reporting to her
all the conspiracies that he saw forming against her, or thought he
saw.  He had to talk her into doing things she didn't want to do, like
sign the death warrants for members of her family, and stop her from
doing the things she did want to do, like marry Leicester.  There's no
doubt but she frequently saw him as a kill joy. (Somehow I doubt that
"semen" had much to do with it.)

Again, I think it would be helpful to know when she used these names.
Was such naming something that went on for a long time? Her entire
reign? Or just for a few years, perhaps during her spirited youth? Thus
the intent of the names might be associated more closely with a certain
period of her life, of history, and that might be more to the point than
her personal feelings towards the individual, or at least as relevant.

Stephanie Hughes
 

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