4.4.1. Preface and Contents

 

THE SEVENTEENTHEARL OF OXFORD 1550-1604

FROM CONTEMPORARY DOCUMENTS

BY B. M. WARD

 

 

"For genuine illustration of history, biography, and manners, we must chiefly rely on ancient original papers. To them we must turn for the correction of past errors; for a supply of future materials; and for proof of what hath already been delivered unto us."

EDMUND LODGE, Illustrations of British History (1791)

 

PREFACE

Of all the great Elizabethans who made the Sixteenth Century the heroic age of English History both in action and letters, there is not one so little known and so universally misjudged as Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford. At the hands of his contemporaries he received both scurrilous abuse and unstinted praise, and therefore it is perhaps not surprising that posterity should have accepted the first and doubted the second. To most Englishmen nowadays he is little more than a name. Even to specialists in Elizabethan history he is hardly more than "Burghley's ill-conditioned son-in-law," as Froude described him, an eccentric of doubtful character and boorish manners, whose contemporary fame as a courtier poet and dramatist was sadly tarnished by his rudeness to his famous rival Sir Philip Sidney on the occasion of the well-known Tennis Court quarrel. Such is his reputation at the present day, but a close examination of the manuscript records of the period, contained in the British Museum, the Public Record Office, and at Hatfield House, reveals a very different story from the one which has been almost universally accepted by historians of the period.

Most of the stories told against the Earl are shown to be without foundation. He did not make away his estate in order to spite his father-in-law because the latter either would not or could not prevent the Duke of Norfolk's execution. The criminal charges made against him in 1581 by Charles Arundel have been generally taken as proved. Not only were they "not proved, but strictly speaking they were not charges at all, being really random accusations made in self-defence by the traitor Charles Arundel, whose treasonable dealings with Spain had been brought to light by the Earl of Oxford himself.

Research into original manuscripts of the period not only shows up the falsity of most of the popular legends that have grown up round Lord Oxford, but it throws a new light on the importance of the part played by him throughout Queen Elizabeth's reign. From 1570 to 1580 he was perhaps second only to the Earl of Leicester as the chief favourite of the Queen. During the same period his reputation as a man of letters was second to none. Although the accusations brought against him by Charles Arundel gave a handle to his rivals to supplant

him in the Queen's favour, yet the fact remains that only four years afterwards, i.e. in 1585, he was selected to take charge of the important mission to the Netherlands. In the following year-1586---he received a still more striking proof of Royal favour in the form of £1,000 a year which he received regularly from the Exchequer in four quarterly payments until his death in 1604.

In 1588 he fitted out at his own expense a ship in which he went to sea and played his part in the dramatic victory over the Spanish Armada, indignantly refusing the command of the naval base at Harwich, as a position involving neither service nor credit. On November 24th of that year, when the Queen made a Royal Progress to St. Paul's through the streets of London to render thanks to God for the great victory, Lord Oxford and the Earl Marshal'rode on either side of the Queen's chariot through the thronging multitude, and the same two noblemen carried a golden canopy over the Queen's head as she walked up the nave of St. Paul's to take her part in the historic thanksgiving service.

In 1589 Oxford received the most striking testimonial to his literary abilities that was ever bestowed on an Elizabethan man of letters by one of his contemporaries. Although after this date until his death in 1604 he vanishes from the public view except for an occasional appearance -e.g. at the trial of the Earl of Essex in 1601, and as Lord Great Chamberlain at the coronation of King James in 1603-we cannot doubt that his life in retirement was occupied in cultivating those literary and musical talents which were so highly praised by the men of his day.

A posthumous tribute, written soon after his death in King James's reign, stating that he was "a man in mind and body absolutely accomplished with honourable endowments," is sufficiently impressive to make it well worth while to glean every record that may have survived in order to enable us to realise something of the accomplishment on which so brilliant a reputation must have been founded.

During the course of my study of the period I have carried out certain investigations as to matters of publication and authorship which have led me to arrive at conclusions somewhat at variance from the opinions hitherto held on these points. I have already published my reasons for adopting these opinions, and in order to avoid lengthy discussions in the text of this biography and at the same time to permit of the verification or criticism of these opinions by students, I give below a couple of conclusions I have arrived at, together with a reference in each case to the publication in which the question is discussed.

1. That the Earl of Oxford was the editor of an anthology entitled A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres, published in 1573, and was himself the author of sixteen of the poems published in the book. (Vide Introduction to A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres, published by Etchells and Macdonald in 1926.)

2. That Oxford's cousin John, Lord Lumley (1532- 1608) was the author of The Arte of English Poesie, published in 1589. (Vide Review of English Studies, July 1925.) The authorship of this work has hitherto been attributed to one of the two, Puttenhams, Richardor George.

The following chapters are the result of nearly five years' search among unpublished manuscript records of the time, every known source of information having been thoroughly examined during that period. The bulk of the biography is based upon contemporary manuscript records. A few questions relating to literature and the drama which cannot be settled on recorded evidence alone have been relegated to a series of Interludes, inserted in the biography proper, but at the same time independent of it. Readers who wish to know the ascertained facts of Lord Oxford's life, and are not interested in subsidiary questions which cannot be definitely settled without further research and criticism, may thus without loss of continuity confine themselves to the biographical chapters, omitting the subsidiary Interludes.

It is my pleasant duty here to acknowledge my indebtedness to the Marquess of Salisbury for permission to examine his unique collection of manuscripts at Hatfield House, and to publish for the first time many important letters which have never before been printed. My thanks are also due to his librarian, the Rev. W. Stanhope-Lovell, for every assistance in transcribing these documents. To Professor Abel Lefranc of the Collège de France I am indebted for very kindly checking my list of French Ambassadors in England with information derived from the records of the French Foreign Office, and to Dr. van Biema of The Hague for consulting the Dutch State Archives for records of the military expedition of 1585. I should like also to acknowledge my indebtedness to the officials of the British Museum, the Public Record Office, and the Bodleian Library for their courtesy and assistance in my researches through the State Papers, as well as the Lansdowne, Harleian, Rawlinson, and other manuscript collections.

B. M. WARD.

WYVENHOE,FARNHAM ROYAL,BUCKS.

February 28, 1928.

 

 

CONTENTS

 

BOOK THE FIRST

THE ROYAL WARD

 

CHAPTER I

1066-1561

1. THE HERITAGE

II. CASTLE HEDINGHAM

 

CHAPTER II

1562-1571

I. CECIL HOUSE

II. CAMBRIDGE, OXFORD, AND GRAY'S INN

III. THOMAS CHURCHYARD

IV. TWO OLD ACCOUST BOOKS

V. THE RISING IN THE NORTH

VI. PARLIAMENT

VII. A TOURNAMENT

VIII. MISTRESS ANNE CECIL

 

CHAPTER III

1572-1576

I. THOMAS HOWARD, 4TH DUKE OF NORFOLK

II. WARWICK CASTLE

III. CHRISTOPHER HATTON

IV. IL CORTEGIANO

V. THOMAS BEDINGFIELD

VI. THE Low COUNTRIES

VII. FRANCE AND ITALY

VIII. THE CRISIS OF 1576

 

BOOK THE SECOND

THE COURTIER

 

CHAPTER IV

1577-1580

I. HER MAJESTY'S LETTERS PATENT

II. "THE BRAVE LORD WILLOUGHBY"

III. GABRIEL HARVEY

IV. PHILIP SIDNEY

 

INTERLUDE

LORD OXFORD'S EUPHUISTS. 1579-1588

 

CHAPTER V

1580-1586

I. LORD HENRY HOWARD

II. CHARLES ARUNDEL

III. HER MAJESTY'S DISPLEASURE

IV. ELSINORE

V. THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE

VI. THE WAR WITH SPAIN: THE Low COUNTRIES

VII. HER MAJESTY'S PRIVY SEAL

 

INTERLUDE

LORD OXFORD'S ACTORS. 1580-1602

 

CHAPTER VI

1587-1588

I. DEATH OF THE COUNTESS OF OXFORD

II. THE W.A.B. WITH SPAIN: THE ARMADA

 

BOOK THE THIRD

THE RECLUSE

 

CHAPTER VII

1589-1595

I. RETIREVENT

II. MISTRESS ELIZABETH TRENTHAM

 

INTERLUDE

WILLIAM STANLEY. 6TH EARL OF DERBY. 1595-1599

 

CHAPTER VIII

1597-1604

I. THE PASSING OF THE TUDORS

II. THE COMING OF THE STUARTS

III. "THE REST IS SILENCE"

 

APPENDIX A  THE EARL OF OXFORD AND THE HOUSE OF LORDS (1571-1601)

APPENDIX B  THE EARL OF OXFORD'S LANDS (1571-1608)

APPENDIX C  THE EARL OF OXFORD'S ANNUITY (1586)

APPENDIX D  "WILLY" AND THE" GENTLE SPIRIT" IN SPENSER'S TEARS OF THE MUSES" (1591)

APPENDIX E   THE EARL OF OXFORD'S TOMB

APPENDIX F   AN ELIZABETHAN COURT CIRCULAR

APPENDIX G   A LONDON AND WESTMINSTER DIRECTORY

APPENDIX H   ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

APPENDIX K  BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

NOTES: