The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0404  Thursday, 22 August 2013


[1] From:        Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         August 12, 2013 8:55:02 AM EDT

     Subject:     Saul Frampton on the Dark Lady of the Sonnets 


[2] From:        William Sutton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         August 14, 2013 12:49:15 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: Florio Again 




From:        Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 12, 2013 8:55:02 AM EDT

Subject:     Saul Frampton on the Dark Lady of the Sonnets


The British newspaper The Guardian published on Saturday last a piece by Saul Frampton identifying the historical person he supposes to have been the model for the Dark Lady of the Sonnets.


Frampton’s piece is full of errors of fact. He thinks that by searching Early English Books Online (EEBO) he is searching “128,000 books from the 15th the 17th century” and that when, in doing that searching, he fails to find a word or phrase he has thereby established that no-one in the period used that word or phrase. He seems not to understand what his searches are really doing, since he must in fact be searching the Text Creation Partnership (TCP) add-on to EEBO, which holds not 128,000 but 40,000 searchable books.


Moreover, Frampton’s summaries of the results of his searches treat as identical the following two assertions:


1) this word/phrase was not used by Shakespeare or Marlowe or Jonson


2) this word/phrase was not used by Shakespeare’s contemporaries


So, when Frampton finds that a word/phrase was not used by Shakespeare, Marlowe or Jonson but was used by Florio, he asserts that Florio was being unusual in using that word/phrase. By this method he identifies the following words as the “linguistic fingerprints” of Florio: 


storming (1115)

defiling (2033)

maund (844)

blend (473)

blazoned (672)

outwards (1746)

gouty (1111)

amorously (362)

oblations (6087)

plenitude (1502)

laugher (32)

weepingly (24)

unshorn (189)


The number that I’ve put in brackets after each word is how many times that word appears in the EEBO-TCP collection of full-text searchable books of the period. So, far from being the linguistic fingerprints of Florio, these are all common words in the period.


Frampton’s argument about Florio being the author of ‘A Lover’s Complaint’ and his wife being the Dark Lady rests upon these entirely mistaken assertions about word preferences and should be ignored as error.


I have trouble convincing myself that in his experiments with EEBO-TCP Frampton first went looking for certain words in the Shakespeare, Marlowe and Jonson canons rather than just seeing how often those words come up in all books from the period. It’s considerably easier to do an all-books search than a canon-specific search, and my suspicion is that Frampton applied the latter restriction only after he’d found, as I have, that his supposed Florio-only words are in fact common outside the Shakespeare/Marlowe/Jonson canons. If that’s true, then Frampton is not merely inept in his method but is in fact a charlatan who knows that his method does not work and in his writing up he deliberately blurred the distinction between “not common in the period” and “not found in Shakespeare/Marlowe/Jonson” to conceal the problem and fool the newspaper into publishing his work.


Gabriel Egan



From:        William Sutton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 14, 2013 12:49:15 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Florio Again


Hi All,


Giulia Harding daughter of John Harding is carrying on her father’s investigations on John Florio. The website Shakespeare and Florio has some interesting speculative pdf’s: http://www.shakespeareandflorio.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=12&Itemid=32


It’s not an authorship site per se as is the johnflorioisshakespeare website. It sees Florio as a collaborator with Shakespeare and he as a plagiarist of Florio.


Giulia’s pdf’s on Florio and the sonnets pose the 19th June 1609 as the publication date. This being the date that Edward Alleyne recorded as having bought his copy. Coincidentally it was also King James birthday and her novel suggestion is that Queen Anne wrote A Lover’s Complaint. Florio of course being her private secretary and tutor in poesy. The stigma of print forces this marriage of minds and birthday surprise for James.


She goes on to say that Florio, who on January 18th that same year published A discovery of a New World with Thorpe, solicited funding from William Herbert (i.e. the WH of the dedication) also in on the Discovery publication, and collaborated with Shakespeare to produce the 154 sonnets.


Her best ‘proof’ of Florio’s involvement with the quarto lies in the world of printing itself. I quote:


Take a look at the decorative strap which ornaments the title page of ‘Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ . . .


The identical ornament had appeared across the dedication pages of Florio’s translation of Montaigne’s essays just a few years earlier . . . 


I have searched the microfilm archives of books published by the parties involved in both publications and can find no other use of this decorative device anywhere. If the block from which it was printed did not belong to any of the printers or publishers, one must conclude it belonged to the author, and indeed we know that Florio owned a magnificent set of expensive, German-made engraved copper blocks of this type. He used them repeatedly through work with different publishers and printers during his career. At the end of a print-run, they would have been cleaned, wrapped and returned to him for future use. The splendid frontispiece we find at the opening of ‘First Fruits’ (a folio sized volume) he also owned in a Quarto version as it re-appeared in ‘Second Fruits’, the smaller work. Banners and headings were also re-used and this elaborate device in the Sonnets is obviously one of his. The band which heads the first sonnet is from the same set, although a slightly different design, this time with griffins; each resembles a pair of stylised letters ‘A’ in mirror image; like twisting and elaborate ladders in one version, floral skeins form the design in the other . . .


Take a closer look at the strap and study the faces of the cherubs, they suggest a much earlier date than 1609. Depictions of the human face are the most obvious clue to dating artwork of this type and these faces suggest a date at least half a century earlier than the Sonnets. The inclusion of a pair of hares in the design is typically German, a magical symbol of good fortune in their folk-lore and one of their favorite motifs in popular art. English printers and publishers generally used English made blocks, carved from wood which soon suffered from being relentlessly soaked in ink and crushed in the press.



The pdf can be downloaded here: http://www.shakespeareandflorio.net/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=11&Itemid=27&limitstart=35


Florio is then everywhere in the period and more ubiquitous amongst the players than Eddie de Vere ever was. There’s another beautiful pdf showing Florio’s connection to the Earl of Leicester’s Men in the 1570’s where indeed four of them commend his first fruits of 1578.  Hopefully some reactions will follow.





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