Smother'd in Surmise
— Edward de Vere — Resolution and more resolution
But when the breezes blow,
I generally go below,
And seek the seclusion that a cabin grants.
And so do his sisters, and his cousins, and his aunts!
And so do his sisters, and his cousins, and his aunts!
And so do his sisters, and his cousins, and his aunts!
His sisters and his cousins,
Whom he reckons up by dozens,
And his aunts!
HMS Pinafore, Gilbert and Sullivan
This may be false, this may be true, I can't deny it all
Mattie Groves, Child 81

Duchess:You're thinking about something, my dear, and that makes you
forget to talk.  I can't tell you just now what the moral of that is,
but I shall remember it in a bit.
Alice: Perhaps it hasn't one.
Duchess:Tut, tut, child!  Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it.
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

An accidental discharge?

In the Resolution chapter of The De Vere Code Jonathan Bond provides an explanation of how one copy of the de Vere composed dedication to the Sonnets was passed to William Herbert and another copy was passed to Henry Wriothesley.  In his Epilogue chapter he details the 12 year passage of the dedication from William Herbert to its appearance, signed by Thomas Thorpe, at the head of Shakespeare's sonnets.

Bond's view of logical process may differ here from that of his critics.  He opens the Resolution chapter "Having established that de Vere wrote the sonnets ... it is now possible to consider ... to whom was the dedication addressed: when was it composed and how did Thorpe come into possession of the manuscript in 1609?" (JB87) He opens his Epilogue chapter "Of the many puzzles with which this book began, only two remain to be unravelled.  Firstly, why did this personal gift to Herbert come to be in the hands of Thomas Thorpe in 1609?  Secondly ..." These opening passages have a touch of "having established that John Smith shot Daphine de Griers, it is now possible to determine how he did that while he was in London and she was in Paris" about them.  Points that seem to be merely academic to Bond are crucial to supporting his claim of de Vere as the author of the Sonnets.

From the second paragraph of the Resolution chapter we are to understand that it is a given that de Vere composed the dedication.  This understanding resolves one niggle – it didn't necessarily follow that if the dedication fingered de Vere that the dedication was written by de Vere.  The same paragraph and its successor present an argument that the Mr WH of the dedication is William Herbert who "seems to be determined to be part of the story."  There is some discussion to show that de Vere could address some younger persons, "regardless of whether it was strictly [Bond's emphasis] true at the time", as "Mr." (JB87)

There follows a dozen pages of detailed, though unstructured, argument concerning interactions between "sisters, and his cousins, and his aunts" – well, between the families of de Vere, Herbert, Wriothesley and Burghley along with several other people including the Queen.  Some of the material in these pages is fact, a considerable amount is conjecture.  Drystone can't deny it all.  Here is a summary (as best I can manage it) of the points directly relevant to the passage of the dedication to the Sonnets as advanced by Bond.

The dedication to the Sonnets was composed by de Vere in 1597. De Vere had two daughters, Bridget and Elizabeth, as a result of his first marriage to Anne Cecil. (JB90) Elizabeth de Vere was "Wriothesley's intended" (JB90) however Henry Wriothesley married Elizabeth Veron. (JB93,4) Nevertheless de Vere gave a copy of the Sonnets together with the dedication bearing the notation "Mr HW" to Henry Wriothesley, his past lover, as marriage gift. (JB100) (There is no record as to Elizabeth's view of the gift.)  About the same time de Vere gave another copy of the Sonnets together with the dedication (this time bearing the notation "Mr WH") to William Herbert to flatter him into marrying his daughter, Bridget. (JB100)

The moral:

Should you seek a moral in Bond's version of events it is this:

If you are a father hunting husbands for your daughters, then don't give prospective son-in-laws copies of your poetry.

Elizabeth de Vere was engaged to Henry Wriothesley and Edward de Vere gave him copies of some of the Sonnets.  Wriothesley responded enthusiastically to the procreation sonnets and his girlfriend, an Elizabeth Veron, became pregnant.  He married her, not Elizabeth de Vere, in 1597.

De Vere gave another copy of the Sonnets together with a copy of the dedication to William Herbert in order to flatter him into marrying his second daughter, Bridget.  Perhaps Herbert was confused by the dedication, perhaps he decrypted it and was surprised.  In any case the upshot was that he decided not to marry into the de Vere family and married elsewhere in 1604.

Now we enter the final chapter of The De Vere Code, the Epilogue, to discover, we understand, how this personal gift of the Sonnets to Herbert came to be in the hands of Thomas Thorpe twelve years after its composition and four years after de Vere's death, and why Thorpe affixed his initials to a dedication that he did not write.

Bond proposes that Thorpe was directed by whoever supplied the dedication to him to use his own initials.  He was to do this "to encourage a reader to accept the dedication at face value, and not to enquire any further into its meaning."  This explanation illustrates a well established feature of the dedication – its nature is a chameleon to its context.  As required it can be mysterious or bland, suggestive of deeper meaning or innocent of suspicion.  This flexibility in the dedication is not uncommon across authors writing on the Shakespeare authorship question.  So Bond draws our attention to several suspicious features of the dedication (JB46) yet later explains that the simple addition of initials would dissuade a reader from further inquiry. (JB103)

Herbert we are told gave, though it's not clear why, the work to Ben Jonson (JB105) with instructions about the dedication.  (For modesty William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, wished to be presented as "Mr WH.")  Jonson instructed Thorpe to notate the dedication with his own initials.  The question arises as to why would Herbert would bother with the de Vere dedication at all?  It was not beyond him (or Thorpe) to write a fresh dedication.  The use of the original dedication would place Henry Wriothesley, with whom Herbert had a business relationship, at risk of exposure of having being intimate with de Vere.

Bond has an explanation which, as I read it, places him perilously close to inadvertently inflicting a firearm injury on the extremity of one his lower limbs.

Three years prior to the publication of the Sonnets the London Company had been formed to establish viable colonies in the New World.  The company's capital came from stockholders.  Stockholders in the London Company were formally known as adventurers.  Wriothesley and Herbert were the third and fourth largest stockholders.  Nine vessels, the lead vessel being the Sea Adventure, set sail for the New World in the same year as the Sonnets were published, 1609. (JB104,5)

Herbert organised the publication of the Sonnets as a souvenir.  Bond tells us "[Herbert] would have enjoyed a coincidence of language [Drystone emphasis] in the dedication that was a perfect – if slightly convoluted – fit for the occasion." (JB104) By way of explanation Bond follows with a bowdlerised version of the dedication.  But let's look at the actual dedication.  It reads:


Besides establishing provenance, (and here I tread carefully as it's not Drystone's intent to surmise), someone is wishing the well-wishing adventurer (all happiness?) in setting forth.  The earlier part of the dedication is open to speculation, however "the well-wishing adventurer in setting forth" would seem to be, as Bond implies, a very neat fit for stockholders, formally known as adventurers, setting forth for the New World.  This is the "coincidence of language" Bond draws our attention to.

Drystone wonders if some readers might light upon an alternative explanation for the existence of the dedication.  In this alternative explanation the dedication was written in 1609 (clearly not by de Vere who died in 1605) as (here we pick up on Bond's suggestion (JB105)) a souvenir publication.  Bond's concept of a limited release seems feasible, we still see similar practice still – clubs and schools produce specially labelled bottles of port or recipe books.  As with the Sonnets (JB9) there is commonly hoarding (especially with the port) or a surplus (especially with the recipe books) of these releases.  This alternative explanation is attractive because the phrase "adventurer setting forth" is so particular and yet so apt to the 1609 circumstances.  If a reader is uncomfortable with the form of the dedication her/his objections might be better pursued in the 1609 context rather than the 1597 context.

Bond, who is generally not supportive of coincidence, argues that the term adventurer (formalized in the London Company Charter in 1606) was introduced incidentally to the dedication by de Vere in 1597 and its "perfect" fit with the souvenir concept was a "coincidence of language."  The only (relatively!) quantitative fresh data Drystone can suggest to evaluate the degree of coincidence is to consider the scant use of the word, adventurer, prior to 1606.  It does not appear anywhere in the complete works of Shakespeare (884,647 words, HCS) nor in the King James Authorized Bible (774,746 words, BDPF).

To Edward de Vere Index
Mal Haysom    initial posting 22/06/2011     last update January 31, 2014