Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship

Published on 22 Jan 2018

Click on this link to watch the video on the SOF site.


Tin was big business in early modern England. It was used in English pewter and was a lucrative commodity that English merchants exported throughout Europe. Several series of letters survive that deal with Oxford’s petition to Queen Elizabeth for the monopoly of tin that was mined in Cornwall. This presentation will look closely at the eight letters that are archived in the Ellesmere manuscripts in the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California, and the six letters in the Public Record Office, now the National Archives at Kew. William Plumer Fowler did not include Oxford’s tin letters in his book Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford’s Letters, and it has been generally thought that they are not as interesting as his more personal correspondence. Alan Nelson has furthered the impression that they were merely dull business letters, describing them as “utilitarian” and “dreary reading.” However, a closer look shows that there are many parallels between Oxford’s vocabulary and the Shakespeare canon. Moreover, the Shakespearean themes of deceit and false appearances occur regularly as Oxford tries to convince the Queen that she is being taken advantage of by unscrupulous merchants.

This talk was presented at the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Conference in Chicago on October 14, 2017.

Bonner Cutting is a regular presenter at authorship conferences, having researched a variety of subjects dealing with the Shakespeare Authorship Question. Her work on the Last Will and Testament of William Shakspere of Stratford and her transcript of his will are published in the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition’s Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? Exposing an Industry in Denial. Additionally, she has lectured on Lady Anne Clifford’s Triptych, the Van Dyke portrait of Susan Vere at Wilton House, censorship and punishment in early modern England, Edward de Vere’s £1,000 annuity, and the 16th century feudal system known as wardship. Bonner holds a B.F.A. degree from Tulane University in New Orleans and a Masters of Music in piano performance from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

00:10 I'm gonna talk on the tin letters is you
00:12 so it seemed when I first started out on
00:10 You know, know pretty simple topic
00:12 so it seemed when I first started out on
00:14 this study to give you an overview of
00:17 about (too loud?) oh now I'm to health
00:20 okay and too fast ah okay an overview of
00:25 Oxford's letters he wrote -- we have extant
00:30 seventy seven letters written by Edward
00:32 de Vere. 28 of these letters are on the
00:35 subject of his suit for the tin
00:37 monopolies which means that over a third
00:40 of his surviving letters are this -- the
00:43 series that deal with this particular
00:45 subject. 37 of his other letters have
00:48 been studied by William Plumer Fowler
00:50 we'll be talking about that in a minute
00:52 which leaves 12 letters that have been
00:54 looked at only by Alan Nelson something
00:56 that I hope in the future to remedy. Of
00:59 the ten letters thirteen of them are
01:02 archived in the Cecil papers in Hatfield
01:04 House one letter is in the British Museum
01:07 in the Lansdowne collection, six letters
01:09 are in the PRO now the National
01:12 Archives at Kew and eight letters are in
01:15 the Huntington Library in California in
01:18 the Ellesmere collection. The letters are
01:21 in Oxford's handwriting most are signed
01:24 the CP and PRO letters are dated but
01:27 the Ellesmere letters are not and this
01:30 has been a little bit of a stumbling
01:31 block for me here and there because I've
01:33 been trying to figure out exactly how
01:35 they fit into the big picture.
01:37 Unsurprisingly most of the letters that
01:40 are at Hatfield House in the National
01:41 Archives were addressed were written to
01:44 William Cecil Lord Burley, one letter
01:46 was written to Burleigh's Secretary,
01:48 Michael Hicks, one to Robert Cecil and
01:50 one to the Queen herself. In the
01:53 Ellesmere letters only one opens to is
01:57 addressed to my very good lord but it is
02:00 agreed after some people have studied
02:02 this and my very good lord was Thomas
02:05 Egerton who later became Lord Ellesmere
02:09 however in this series are two letters
02:11 that are clearly meant for the Queen
02:13 herself and one of those letters is very
02:16 very interesting so we'll be taking a
02:18 little closer look at that
02:21 I've been asked how did these letters
02:23 get from England in the 16th century to
02:26 the Huntington Library in the 20th century
02:28 Well Henry Huntington who made his
02:30 fortune in the railroad business as all
02:32 many of you have been to the Huntington
02:34 Library and you know he embarked on what
02:36 he hoped would be and turned out to be a
02:37 fabulous collection of books and
02:39 manuscripts and in 1917 he purchased the
02:43 Bridgewater House library pretty much
02:45 lock stock and barrel. This collection
02:47 had been begun by Thomas Egerton and
02:50 added to by his descendants or Thomas
02:55 Egerton became Queen Elizabeth's Lord
02:57 keeper of the Great Seal and that's one
03:00 of the reasons so but in 1596 so at that
03:03 point forward he had her ear and that is
03:05 really why I think Edward de Vere's
03:08 addressing these letters to Lord Egerton
03:10 (Lord Ellesmere) and later he was Lord
03:12 Ellesmere The collection contains more
03:15 than 4,000 books and over 13,000
03:18 manuscripts among the books is a Chaucer
03:21 and Shakespeare first folio and
03:23 according to one of the librarians at
03:26 the Huntington "when one considers that
03:28 the Bridgewater house library crossed
03:30 the Atlantic during World War one when
03:33 German U-boats were patrolling the ocean
03:35 one must pause to reflect on the
03:39 protection of divine providence because
03:42 they would be without a Chaucer to First
03:44 Folio as well as these letters but in
03:47 the timeline of the ten letters is about
03:50 five years it appears that Oxford was
03:53 first trying to petition for the
03:54 monopoly in March of 1594 however a year
03:58 later he he renewed his suit and really
04:01 pushed hard to try to get the monopoly
04:03 and we have letters from March April and
04:05 June of 1595 and these are the letters
04:08 that are to Lord Burghley, Lord Burleigh
04:11 wrote a harsh letter that we actually
04:12 have on June 16th where he basically
04:15 said "cease and desist you're not gonna
04:18 get it. Give up". I'm paraphrasing a little
04:22 bit it was just an amazingly ferocious
04:24 letter that we assess the Lord Burghley
04:27 wrote to Oxford but Oxford always
04:29 irrepressible wrote one more letter in
04:32 August of that year. It seems that it was
04:35 about a year later now we're getting to
04:37 the Ellesmere letters and Lord Ellesmere
04:38 comes in or
04:40 but Egerton as he’s—no, Sir—Egerton
04:42 as he’s known at that point, and so Oxford is
04:45 addressing this last series of eight
04:48 letters which apparently began in 1596
04:51 and end in 1598. In October 1599, the
04:55 Queen made her decision to award the tin
04:57 monopoly to a mining engineer named
04:59 Sir Bevis Bulmer—what an interesting
05:02 name for those who are—who know about
05:04 Ashland Arden—and then ultimately the
05:07 tin monopoly went to Sir Walter
05:09 Raleigh. I chose to study closely for the
05:14 purposes of this talk the eight
05:15 Ellesmere letters and the six PRO
05:17 letters. The reason for this is that I
05:19 had photocopies of these letters in
05:22 Oxford's handwriting in the Miller file.
05:24 Ruth Lloyd Miller is given credit—and I
05:27 think I can say this—for actually
05:29 discovering these eight letters
05:30 among the 13,000 manuscripts in the
05:34 Ellesmere collection. After she
05:36 discovered them she contacted William
05:38 Plumer Fowler up in New England who at
05:40 that point was working on his book and
05:42 she bought these letters to his
05:44 attention. Now he did not include them in his
05:45 absolutely fantastic book Shakespeare
05:48 Revealed in Oxford's Letters. How many of
05:51 you know about this book? Shakespeare—?
05:52 Many of you know about it, many of you
05:54 have it. Good good good. So it's—the study of
05:58 letter—These letters aren't included in
05:59 it, but he did work with ma—with mom, and
06:02 I guess those of you know who my mother
06:05 was—they work together to transcribe
06:07 them. And I have the file where it's back
06:11 and forth, where one or the other make
06:13 corrections as they were going along. Now
06:16 Allen Nelson in his monstrous book
06:19 allocates three and a half pages to
06:24 these letters. He calls them—needless to
06:27 say he doesn't have much nice to say
06:28 about—about them. He calls them dreary
06:30 reading, utilitarian, and prosaic
06:34 character. And if you want—but I urge you
06:39 though to get them—to call up his
06:40 website where he has transcribed them.
06:42 Now he transcribed them in the original
06:44 spelling and of course the Miller Fowler
06:47 file I have them both in the original
06:49 spelling and and modernized spelling
06:52 but Nelson does some things that if you
06:55 read them on his website it will make
06:56 them rather difficult to follow.
06:58 First of all Oxford uses a fossil thorn,
07:01 often just called a thorn, which is a Y
07:03 and the Y stands for th. Well Nelson
07:08 takes that literally in translates every
07:10 time you see this he translates
07:12 transcribes yes for this and yet for
07:16 that so you've got all this yes all over
07:19 the place these letters appear to be
07:22 very spontaneously written—Oxford and
07:25 I'm going to show you later that Oxford
07:27 is writing down words it appears to me as
07:29 fast as he possibly can as fast as these
07:32 words are coming into his head and so of
07:35 course is we have today he has stricken
07:36 out words—he’s going along he didn't
07:38 like that word, strikes it out.
07:39 Nelson adds back in the stricken-
07:42 out words and he does put little brackets
07:45 on it to show that these are added back
07:47 in but it still makes the thoughts in
07:49 that particular passage disjointed. Then
07:52 he clarifies some words and again he
07:55 does this little bracket and he puts the equal sign and then he drops in his own
07:57 equal sign and then he drops in his own
07:59 definition. But all of these things muddy
08:01 the waters when you’re reading it with Alan
08:04 Nelson’s transcription. Now this is one of
08:08 the shortest of the letters. This is from
08:10 the PRO series and I can't get my–I’m just
08:15 gonna have my pointer working here let
08:17 me see if I can do this because what I
08:19 did when I first started out is I read
08:22 through all of the Ellesmere and PRO
08:24 letters and I used—I was reading them in
08:26 Oxford's original for these photocopies
08:29 and I used the the modern-day
08:31 translation, the present-day English to
08:33 be sure that I was getting the words
08:35 right because I was trying to acclimate
08:36 my eye to Oxford's handwriting. Just
08:39 reading through it at this point I
08:40 wasn't really making much of any notes
08:42 but just reading through it when I got
08:43 to this one there is something that hit
08:46 me like a ton of bricks. And this is it.
08:54 Oxford writes: "yet since I have engaged
08:56 myself so far in her majesty service to
09:00 bring the truth to light."
09:03 My goodness! It’s bringing it to my mind “times
09:07 glory,” that wonderful quote from Lucrece:
09:09 “Times glory is to calm contending
09:12 Kings,
09:13 to unmask falsehood and bring truth to
09:17 light.” Now if I had been reading it in
09:20 Alan Nelson's transcript this is what I
09:23 would have seen and—sorry I can't point—
09:25 but “to bringe the trwithe too [=to] lyght.” I don't know if I’d’ve picked up on it
09:31 know if I picked up on it.
09:32 “Trwithe,” is that a nonsense word? What—what’s
09:35 going on here and then Nelson clarifies—
09:37 see the little clarification—he
09:38 clarifies “too,” just to be sure we get it
09:42 that t-o-o is t-o but he doesn't clarify
09:44 the more odd and considerably possibly
09:48 more important word. Now I do not want
09:51 you to take my word for this and I
09:53 didn't know if this would show up but—
09:56 yes it does pretty well—it's in the
09:58 third line from “My”—after “My good Lord ... to
10:00 bringe the trwithe too lyghte.” T-r-w-i-t-h-e. Would
10:06 anybody in this room have got it? Might not
10:08 have thought about the quote from Lucrece
10:10 and gotten the parallel—parallelism
10:14 out of it. So that's what you would see.
10:18 Now this is what you see in the letter
10:21 and I blew it up really big so you can
10:24 see this is Oxford's handwriting: to
10:26 bring the t-r-w-t-h-e. Now there is no “i” in
10:32 that word that is definitely a w, for t-r-w—
10:35 that's a w-t-h-e. That’s a w but I defy
10:40 you to find an i. There’s not even a
10:43 somethin—This is important because this
10:45 is really very misleading for him to put
10:48 the i in it. Now what I wondered is: is
10:52 this the way Oxford spelled “truth”?
10:55 Did he frequently use w’s for u’s and
10:58 the answer to that is yes, they're all
11:00 over the place.
11:01 Here’s just one passage and Roger
11:04 Strittmatter notes that because he's
11:05 looked at this for a long time, this hand
11:07 writing. Thought t-h-o-w-g-h-t, “I thowght my
11:12 good lord.”
11:13 He always spelled “your’ almost always y-
11:15 o-w-
11:16 r-e and he almost invariably spelled you
11:19 instead of y-o-u he spells it y-o-w,
11:21 and these are all over the place.
11:23 He used Ws for Us. This is not an
11:26 idiosyncrasy to Oxford. Once I became
11:28 aware of this,
11:29 I started looking at other letters and
11:31 paying more attention and none other
11:34 than Sir Thomas Smith himself used
11:36 w’s for u’s, so in one of his
11:38 letters we've got y-o-w and “doubt” d-o-w-
11:41 t-e instead of d-o-u-w-t [sic] and of course
11:44 Thomas—Thomas Smith—this is the Sir
11:46 Thomas Smith that directed the boyhood
11:48 education of Edward de Vere, Other
11:51 notables—as I said I started to notice a
11:53 little bit—and other notables who use
11:55 w’s for u’s are the Earl of
11:57 Ormond, Dr. Richard Master, Sir Walter
12:00 Mildmay who was the Chancellor of the
12:02 Elizabethan Exchequer, Dr. Thomas Wilson
12:05 who was the Secretary of state and the
12:08 author of the Art of Rhetoric, so this is
12:11 really not an uncommon idiosyncrasy as
12:14 it might seem to us as we first look at
12:16 it. Now when I began this project about a
12:22 year ago, I thought I would do what I
12:26 assumed
12:27 William Plummer Fowler did in his
12:29 phenomenal book where he basically got
12:32 the Harvard concordance and just went
12:33 back and forth looking up words in the
12:35 letters and words in the concordance to
12:36 compare them, but I noticed as I was
12:39 going back through his book that he—he
12:41 mostly focused on words that he thought
12:43 were common words and he'd have a word
12:46 in a phrase in the letter and then it
12:49 would appear 28 times in Shakespeare's
12:51 plays, and—and lots and lots of times and
12:54 I decided, well if it's lots of times in
12:56 the plays then it's bet—may—maybe lots
12:58 of time out and about in the general
13:00 population. So I decided that I would
13:03 focus on rare words. If it was rare—
13:06 here's a letter or not—here’s a
13:08 word in a letter, here's the word in a
13:10 play, and for my own working definition
13:13 of a rare word I decided that it would
13:15 be a rare word if it was used—if it
13:17 popped up less than 10 times in the
13:20 Shakespeare Canon. I had a game plan too,
13:25 that I would use the Harvard concordance
13:27 which everybody in this room knows about.
13:29 For those of you who aren't an academic—
13:32 in academia—you may not know about the
13:34 historical thesaurus of the Oxford
13:39 English Dictionary. I learned about this at
13:41 the Rice University library where I go
13:44 to study, and this is a—the blue is a
13:47 fantastic resource for words. What you
13:50 can get out of this is when a word came
13:53 into the English language and what it
13:55 meant, and it is phenomenal for tracing
13:59 word origins and how they shifted around
14:02 and evolved through time. However it does
14:05 not give you who. For that you can go
14:09 back into the Oxford English Dictionary
14:11 but better than that I think the—your
14:14 best bet that I found is—is EEBO Early
14:18 English Books Online. Now the nice thing
14:20 about EEBO is you can get—you—you can get
14:24 everything that has been published in
14:26 books and—and from—from that timeframe.
14:28 That’s great. But I—in this study I'm
14:32 comparing letters with literature. I have
14:36 two different genres here and so I
14:39 needed, I thought, to find out what letter
14:42 writers of the time were writing alike.
14:44 What was their conversational types of
14:47 vocabulary and how did they frame things,
14:49 and you know and—when you’re—when you're
14:52 in literature you're you're removed from
14:55 this more immediate type of
14:57 communication. And so I had—in the past I
15:00 have gotten into a volume or two of the
15:03 Cecil papers. I found a link and I've
15:07 only found one they're bound to be more
15:09 but I found one link that gets me into
15:11 all seventeen volumes and so if you
15:13 can't find it just shoot me an email and
15:16 I’ll be glad to send you this link.
15:18 This is a treasure trove needless to say.
15:21 It spans—the volumes span the
15:24 timeframes of about 1570 and run to 1605.
15:27 There may be later volumes but for this—
15:30 purposes of this link—this is what I got
15:32 and this is what I needed so I was very
15:34 happy about that. I guestimated that
15:38 there are about 20,000 letters that you
15:41 can access—
15:42 oh and yes they're accessible on the
15:44 internet of course—that you can get and
15:47 each—each volume has a very nice index
15:49 and each volume has a word search. Isn’t that wonderful! That I
15:56 could get right in my own—my own little
15:59 computer to start finding out what words
16:01 and phrases other people were using and
16:04 of course the nice thing is—this is the
16:06 Ce— these are the Cecil papers and
16:08 everybody who is anybody up and down the
16:10 social spectrum were writing letters,
16:13 had some reason to petition or
16:15 send a —or communicate with William Cecil
16:17 Lord Burghley or his son Robert Cecil. But
16:20 another thing that I had not realized
16:22 before is these volumes contain a lot of
16:26 correspondence from other people to
16:29 other people. It’s got quite a bit of
16:31 correspondence from the Earl of Essex—to
16:33 and from the Earl of Essex and
16:34 other people, and how all of this became
16:37 encompassed in the Cecil papers at Hatfield
16:40 House I don't know, but they got their
16:42 hands on a lot of other people's
16:44 correspondence and then too, it's more than
16:46 just letters, there’re reports and
16:48 ambassadorial
16:49 reports and a lot of information is in
16:52 here, so it's just overall as I said, it's
16:55 a treasure trove, but I was mostly
16:57 interested in the language and who was
16:59 saying what. Now getting finally to the
17:03 tin letters after all this introduction.
17:05 Uh, the tin letters—these 28 letters—do all
17:09 deal with the business of tin, and the big
17:13 money—this is something I really had to
17:15 gnash my teeth over to kind of figure out—
17:17 the big money in tin was in transporting
17:21 tin—the transportation of tin out of the
17:23 realm and Oxford refers to it as the realm
17:27 and selling it other countries in Europe:
17:29 France, Italy,
17:31 Turkey's a big market but getting to
17:34 other markets—um, one I learned and I can't
17:38 really point but I'll just try to give
17:40 you an idea at this bottom of—the bottom
17:42 of the pile of course—I put it in this
17:44 sort of pyramid—are the tin miners
17:46 themselves called the pioners. They’re
17:47 not doing very well, but the owners of
17:50 the tin miners [sic]—from here on up—the owners of
17:52 the—the owners of the tin mine, masters
17:54 they’re called, they’re doing
17:55 well. Where the real problems are at—well
17:59 every one of these junctures is mischief.
18:01 The queen is being cheated to use a
18:04 pretty harsh word or deceit which is the
18:06 word Oxford is—you'll find very soon
18:08 he's usin. He’s losing money at this
18:12 stage where the—where the coinage and
18:14 the tin after it’s been mined has to be
18:16 coined, it has to be put into blocks so
18:18 that it can be shipped out of the
18:19 country. Then the merchants get their
18:22 hands on it and then the customers—the
18:23 customs have to be paid and whatever—we
18:26 might say duties or taxations to the
18:28 Queen, but at the very top of the—
18:30 actually the queen is not getting—for a
18:33 number of reasons that you'll soon see—
18:35 she's not really getting her fair share
18:37 or what she—what she might want to
18:39 think of the—of the profits from all of
18:42 these goings-on,
18:44 but the middlemen in the middle are
18:46 doing extremely well. Now when I started,
18:51 after I had grasped some of these basic
18:53 things, by my strategy—my methodology was
18:57 to list every word that I thought might
18:59 hopefully have a chance to be a rare
19:01 word and the very first word that I
19:04 wrote down when I made the list was
19:06 “tin.” “To the benefit of 500 poor people
19:10 who shall be there set a work,” writes
19:13 Oxford. Shakespeare only used “set a work”
19:17 and he uses it exactly the same word “set
19:19 a work” five times. “How earnestly are
19:22 you set a work.” Very next paragraph
19:26 Oxford describes the commodity of tin as
19:29 “more richer.” Well, that caught my eye
19:32 because as we know you're either more
19:33 rich or you're richer, so I thought I'd
19:35 look that up, and by golly, Shakespeare
19:38 uses that phrase only two times. “Your
19:40 wisdom should show itself more richer” in
19:43 Hamlet and the wonderful and extremely
19:47 important speech of Cordelia opening
19:49 King Lear: “my love's more richer than my
19:54 tongue.” Now at this point I thought, by
19:58 golly, this can't be this easy. I've got
20:03 two for two here! This must just be
20:06 beginner's luck.
20:08 So I've written a little bit further
20:11 down the word “juggle,” never thinking that
20:13 would be a rare—a rare word. Oxford
20:14 right but what attracted me to this
20:16 passage is the—the–such an interesting
20:18 sentence. Oxford now, he's talking about
20:21 the merchants and he's talking about the
20:22 merchants getting that tin out of England.
20:24 He says “they [the merchants] can carry it
20:27 so cunningly that they will juggle it so
20:32 clean out of Her Majesty's fingers and
20:35 she shall never have any sense or
20:39 feeling thereof.” Looked up “juggle.”
20:43 Shakespeare only uses it one time. “The
20:46 spells of France should juggle men into
20:49 such strange mysteries.” And it is a
20:51 word that Shakespeare clearly thinks is
20:54 a very—is not a flattering word. It’s a
20:57 pejorative word. I looked up some of the
20:59 variants of it. “Jugglers,” Shakespeare only
21:01 uses one time, “nimble jugglers can
21:04 deceive the eye,” and “juggling” only five
21:07 times: “be these juggling friends no more
21:10 believed” in Macbeth. Next letter and I'm
21:16 I'm going fast there's lots and lots of it in
21:19 all of these letters that are really
21:20 well worth talking about, but I'm just
21:22 trying to pick things that I think will—
21:23 not only give you a sense of the
21:25 language but also a sense of what he—his
21:27 point of view and things. This was a very
21:30 striking paragraph. Oxford writes:
21:32 “Secondly, there is a statute, I take it, in
21:36 Edward the Third's time, that for such a
21:39 quantity of Tin transported the Merchant
21:43 ought to bring in another such—another
21:46 quantity or proportion of gold Bullion
21:48 and deliver it into the Tower; it is so
21:52 long ago that I did peruse that statute,
21:56 thinking this matter had no more to be
21:59 revived, that till I look it over again, I
22:03 cannot certainly set it down.” Now what I
22:08 get from that is—we have been—several of
22:12 us in this room have been taken to task
22:14 by someone whose name I previously
22:16 mentioned—won’t say it again—
22:17 but just because the 17th Earl of
22:20 Oxford's name was on a
22:20 registry for Gray's Inn, which was the
22:22 law school, that did not mean that he
22:24 actually attended Gray's Inn. Okay but
22:29 listen to this paragraph. Oxford writes—
22:31 I think it's a good indicator that he
22:33 did attend law school— “it is so long ago.”
22:35 That would fit with the passage of
22:37 several decades since Oxford had been at
22:39 Gray’s Inn reading law and where else in
22:44 the world but law school is someone
22:47 going to read an arcane, an obsolete
22:51 statute from the time of Edward the
22:53 Third. [Applause]. Thank you, thank you. Okay. Thank you, thank you.We’ll have to
23:06 remember that. He finishes this very
23:10 paragraph with a—with a wonderful
23:13 statement. “They”— he's still talking about
23:15 the merchants—“have no doubt incurred the
23:18 danger of this statute.” Now looked up
23:23 “incurred.” He—Shakespeare only uses it four
23:26 times—it’s a rare—four times—rare word. In
23:28 fact, “incur” only seven times and one of
23:31 these times is in the Merchant of Venice
23:33 and by golly it's in the trial scene! Portia:
23:40 “thou hast incurred the danger formerly by
23:44 me rehearsed.” Is Portia referring to
23:47 the laws of Venice, what was "formerly"? You
23:48 look up a few lines and you get this.
23:50 Shylock asks “Is that the law?” and Portia
23:54 replies: “Thyself shall see the Act.”
24:00 That’s a parallelism.
24:02 It was so striking because to get a good
24:04 parallelism I felt like I had to have
24:06 two things. I had to have not just a
24:08 similar language but I had to have exact
24:10 words and then you also had—I had to
24:13 nail down the context. I wanted both of
24:15 these things so I went out to see how
24:18 common this was in EEBO and I found that
24:21 this phrase had been used four times
24:22 before 1600. However three of those times
24:25 was in a religious context, in fact it
24:28 was incurred the danger of the Pope,
24:30 which is not exactly quite the
24:33 same context.
24:34 Then I looked in the Cecil papers and
24:36 this was one of the ones I went through
24:38 all 17 of those volumes that I had
24:40 showed you, and one little problem with
24:43 the word search is that you have to pull
24:44 up each volume separately. You don't get
24:46 the word search on all of them so I
24:48 didn’t—as times gone by I’d been looking up
24:51 more and more words, but at any rate for
24:55 this I looked up the word “danger” and
24:57 there were lots of dangers out there but
24:58 there was only one “incur the danger of
25:01 the law” one time before 1600. I think
25:03 that is a very rare rare phrase to occur
25:07 both in the the letters and the play. Now
25:12 later on in this very same letter is the
25:15 word "obscurement," which Oxford writes of
25:18 "small impositions" which "serve for an
25:21 obscurement." According to the historical thesaurus
25:24 it means "keeping from knowledge" and it
25:28 came into the language in 1658, if that
25:32 nice blue volume book is correct. But
25:36 here it is in one of Oxford's letters
25:37 more than 60 years earlier. Now
25:40 Shakespeare does not pick up on the word
25:42 "obscurement," but I think it—for one
25:45 thing there I have several words that
25:46 are really great words that Oxford uses
25:48 and Shakespeare doesn't. But if anything,
25:50 at a minimum, I believe it shows that Oxford—
25:52 Oxford was quite interested in
25:54 new—new words bringing them into the
25:56 English language, and he was a wordsmith.
25:58 This is something he cared about. However
26:02 I got interested—became interested in
26:05 "obscure." Oxford uses "obscured," and as I
26:09 went through the historical thesaurus,
26:10 "obscured" had a lot of subtle meanings
26:12 to it at different time frames. Oxford
26:15 writes "and all such as have obscured
26:17 from your Majesty this matter.
26:20 Shakespeare uses "obscured" only ten times:
26:23 "and so the prince obscured his
26:27 contemplation." And interestingly the
26:31 Oxford English Dictionary credits
26:33 Shakespeare with using this "obscured" in
26:36 the past tense "to make obscure," as in
26:38 "made obscure," and they gave—they give
26:41 the date of 1590 for Comedy of Errors,
26:45 and—and—and he is credited in the Oxford
26:48 English Dictionary, such as it is, But
26:50 Errors wasn't published until 1623. Who know—
26:54 who knew? "Obscurity" has a number of
26:58 subtle variations. Oxford writes: "this
27:01 great matter is condemned to obscurity."
27:04 Shakespeare uses this variant two times
27:07 "so vast obscurity or misty veil" and "if
27:12 thou destroy them not in dark
27:15 obscurity." Here's another one that—you
27:17 know, one of the things about tracing—
27:19 tracing these rare words is words that
27:21 seem really common to us today were rare
27:23 back then, so I found only one use of
27:26 "obscurity" in the Cecil papers and
27:27 one use in EEBO prior to this time frame.
27:30 Very interesting that it would pop up in
27:32 a letter and a can—and a canon of work,
27:36 body of work. Oxford ends this with a cute
27:40 little note. He's ending on a little
27:43 bit more of a chipper note, I guess you
27:44 might say.
27:45 "As for the caveat in the end I will say
27:48 little but by it a starting hole is left
27:52 for a good excuse, if ever hereafter the
27:55 absurdity of yielding just so great a
27:58 guile should come in question."
28:01 Shakespeare uses "starting hole" only one
28:03 time, in Henry the Fourth part 1 when
28:06 Falstaff is trying to cover up his
28:08 cowardly behavior and the prince will
28:11 have none of it. Prince: "What a slave
28:14 thou art to hack thy sword as
28:17 thou hast done and then say it was in
28:20 fight? What trick? What device?
28:22 What starting hole? canst thou now find
28:26 out to I hide thee from this open and
28:29 apparent shame?" The next Ellesmere letter
28:35 in the series—this had to be a whale of
28:38 a scene!
28:39 Now remember Oxford is now relating this
28:42 scene which apparently happened with—he
28:45 was with the Queen and Lord Burghley and
28:47 the pewterers are there, which tells me
28:49 that the Queen has apparently tried to
28:52 look into this matter, and she's having a
28:53 face-to-face meeting with the—with the
28:55 pewterers, and he's relating this to
28:58 Thomas Egerton, Lord Ellesmere, and he's
29:01 really telling him—at this point he
29:02 really knows—he's reconciled that he's
29:04 not gonna get the—the preemption of tin,
29:07 he's not going to get the monopoly, but
29:10 he's telling her about this—he's telling
29:11 Lord Ellesmere about this thing. He's
29:15 been offered—he's offered the Queen
29:17 £3,000 for the same amount of tin
29:21 that she'd only been getting a thousand
29:23 marks from the pewterers for. According to
29:26 Oxford: "They seem to answer that sure I
29:29 mistook it in writing,
29:31 and for haste had missed the number of
29:34 my ciphers, for I had written it 3,000
29:38 and they thought I meant but 300.
29:41 Whereupon Her Majesty caused the Lord
29:45 Treasurer to send unto me ... I affirmed the
29:49 £3000." And now what we know is that at
29:53 least Oxford's letter had gotten to the
29:55 Queen, the Queen showing it to the
29:56 pewterers, the pewterers are coming up with
29:58 this rationale, and I have just—it's not
30:01 explained, but how in the world did Lord
30:03 Burghley send—the Lord Treasurer send to
30:05 Oxford? Did he send a messenger from the
30:07 court to wherever—to Oxford's home in
30:09 Hackney at this point in time? Who knows?
30:11 But at any rate I do believe that this
30:14 made Oxford very very angry with the
30:18 pewterers, that they're trying to misinform
30:20 and misinterpret what he's done, and so
30:23 the rest of this letter he is just
30:26 thrashing away at the pewterers. He has
30:30 apparently had information that he
30:32 believes the pewterers are
30:33 understating the weight of tin in order
30:36 to invade [sic] they're called impositions (we
30:39 would call them taxes) that should be
30:41 paid by them to Her Majesty.
30:43 Oxford writes: "the deceit lies where the
30:48 tin is transported and when the blocks"—
30:52 that's they have to be made into blocks
30:53 of tin—"are underrated." Then Oxford goes on
30:58 "Blocks ought to be 250 pounds apiece, but
31:02 now they cast few under 400 pounds
31:05 apiece and most at five, six, and seven
31:08 hundred pounds." So
31:11 this tin is leaving the country under the
31:13 guise of being 250 pound blocks. He
31:19 continues and he's going to close out
31:21 this letter with this: "Now I thought my
31:23 good lord, the case standing thus, that
31:25 there was nothing so fit to be done as
31:27 to acquaint your lordship with the whole
31:30 cause. That you being fully possessed
31:33 therewith by the knowledge of Her
31:35 Majesty's right in law, the examination
31:38 of what number of tin is transported, may
31:41 easily and perfectly discern what the
31:44 weight or lightness of the matter
31:46 imports." And this had me think of the
31:49 Hamlet "fine"—you know—"the fine pate full of fine
31:52 dust." Oxford, or excuse me, Shakespeare,
31:54 Shakespeare, whoever he is, uses words in
31:57 different contexts. He spent this whole
31:58 letter talking about the weight of the
32:01 tin blocks and now he's speaking
32:03 metaphorically as for the weight of the
32:06 matter and the information that he is
32:08 giving to Lord Ellesmere. He continues:
32:11 "the sudden cannot give me opportunity to
32:14 gather up so many remembrances as it's
32:18 necessary to unfold a matter." And listen:
32:21 "unfold a matter." Isn't that a modern sort
32:25 of phrase that we would all use? "To
32:27 unfold a matter so full of objections
32:31 deceits, and false appearances." And by
32:35 golly! What on earth are Shakespeare plays
32:37 all about? Another thing just to take a
32:41 look at: it's the word "sudden," here, as in
32:43 short notice, is another indicator that
32:46 these letters are really written spur of
32:48 the moment, and as you're going to see in
32:51 the next letter that I'm going to show
32:52 you—I think it's what's on next—yes it
32:54 is—
32:55 is that Oxford is just writing, he's
32:58 dashing these things off as fast as he
33:00 can. Now this letter is Oxford's letter
33:05 to the Queen, and to me a letter from a
33:09 courtier, someone in her court.
33:10 It's a long letter. There's a lot of
33:13 words here, that this letter in and of
33:16 itself should be looked at very closely.
33:17 This is a courtier speaking to his
33:20 monarch and it is archived as best I
33:23 could tell under the words
33:24 tin mining dash Cornwall. We need to know a
33:28 little bit more about this letter. Now
33:30 one of the things that I want to point
33:33 out to you is—you can see when—can you?—
33:36 when you—when he starts at the top—and
33:38 this is true in a lot of his letters—the
33:41 words are widely spaced. He has words but—
33:44 lots of even—the handwriting is very
33:45 neat and—and beautifully set out and
33:49 there's space between the words and
33:51 space between the lines and then as he
33:53 goes down the page it starts to get more
33:55 compressed and more and more cramped and
33:57 usually by the time he's getting to the
33:59 bottom of the pages—He starts on the
34:01 second page very spacious and then he's
34:03 cramming in the words to get as many on
34:05 the page as he possibly can, as he's
34:07 thinking more and more of all I've got
34:09 to say this. You could just see him
34:10 thinking as he's writing these letters.
34:12 The third page especially, he starts nice
34:14 and more a spacious—spaced out if it's a—
34:17 spaced out, heh—kind of spaced at the top and
34:19 then it gets more crammed at the bottom
34:21 and finally, mercifully I suppose, he
34:24 calls—comes to an end at the fourth
34:27 page. What I want to call to your
34:30 attention about this is actually the
34:33 tone. A few little details—How are we
34:38 doing, time? Oh we're doing pretty good, we
34:40 got—we'll have to wrap, we'll close this—
34:42 aha fine,
34:43 thank you, John. Okay, I'm nearly there. At
34:47 the tone. Oxford is strong in these—in
34:50 his assertions that are in this letter,
34:51 and sometimes he is really overbearing. I
34:55 wrote "almost overbearing," but sometimes
34:56 he really is, and he is not speaking to
34:59 her in a manner that it's the least
35:01 obsequious. Quite surprisingly, and now
35:04 I'll show you what I mean by that. Here
35:06 he is writing: "in granting to them"—and
35:08 remember he's—I think he's still mad at
35:09 the pewterers for trying to cheat him and
35:12 trying to cheat the Queen, whatever—"in
35:14 granting to them that they shall have
35:17 the authority of setting the prices and
35:19 that none should buy before them without
35:22 their leave, in this you grant away for
35:25 that commodity your preemption, which by
35:29 prerogative"—and of course he knows that
35:31 the Tudor monarchs love their
35:32 prerogative—"which by prerogative without
35:35 contradiction is your own.
35:38 Whereby hereafter, when your majesty may
35:40 be certainly informed how great a
35:42 commodity you may make it unto you, then
35:46 it will be too late,
35:48 having barred and excluded yourself by
35:51 this your grant to the pewterers to make
35:53 any profits thereof"—and then it's almost
35:55 as if he catches himself —"if so you
35:58 should be disposed." And then another
36:03 place: "to the intent when you see it
36:05 plainly proved and set down, that it
36:07 cannot be contradicted, then your majesty
36:10 may proceed according to your pleasure."
36:13 Just if he tries to soften it a little
36:15 bit. A few more things here in this
36:20 letter—and when I was first starting out
36:23 I thought if I found three rare words in
36:25 a single letter that I would be doing
36:26 really very well, and of course I'm
36:29 finding dozens all over the place in
36:30 all of the letters, but in this
36:32 particular letter I found three rare
36:33 words in a single sentence. "And as for
36:38 the Detriment"—and he capitalizes "the
36:41 Detriment," he capitalizes important words
36:43 that are important to him, with concepts
36:44 that are important to him:—"and as for the
36:46 Detriment which it importeth to your
36:48 Majesty, it concerns your whole profit
36:51 which is to redound unto you by this
36:54 commodity." Shakespeare uses "detriment" one
36:58 time: "brought by deep surmise of others'
37:00 detriment." Shakespeare uses "importeth"
37:02 two times—you'd think "importeth"—but
37:04 "importeth" two times—would be used more,
37:06 but that's it: "it importeth none here"
37:08 and "what else more serious importeth thee
37:11 to know." And he uses "redound" one—one time
37:14 and even picks up the whole phrase as "all
37:16 things should redound unto your good."
37:23 Um. We're almost—I guess we need to—I have a
37:25 few more things but I think we can—oh I
37:27 just wanted to run this one thing by you,
37:29 and then we're gonna put—call—call an
37:31 end to it. In one of the sonnets, and it
37:33 already been mentioned, Oxford—oh excuse
37:36 me, Shakespeare—writes "so all my best is
37:39 dressing old words new." And as I tracked
37:42 so many words through that historical
37:45 thesaurus that I showed you, it is
37:47 amazing how up to date both Oxford and
37:51 Shakespeare—Oxford in this letter,
37:52 Shakespeare in the canon—are using the
37:54 most recent word usage. The word itself
37:57 may be old but its most recent evolution
38:00 is what they both pick up on, and here's
38:03 just an example. Oxford points out the
38:04 plight of the tin miners: "they pretend it
38:06 should nourish 3,000 poor people I went
38:09 to the word nourish and after
38:12 Shakespeare they that show contain and
38:15 nourish all the worlds the word nourish
38:17 had had was an old word and it meant a
38:21 lot of other things but by 1560 it took
38:23 on a broader context of main maintenance
38:25 supplying the general needs and wants of
38:28 people which I believe is what Oxford
38:30 and Shakespeare using here and then he
38:32 it's an interesting sentence because at
38:34 the bottom if she's seen read for
38:36 whereas they pretend it should nourish
38:38 £3,000 poor people I can assure your
38:40 majesty it is but the work of threescore
38:43 persons which the company uses in
38:45 several places as in some 20 and others
38:48 10 and 15." So here he is again, pointing
38:51 out the deceit that's going on all over
38:52 the place in her tin—in the matter of tin.
38:56 I will—There—occasionally there is a
39:00 beautiful line here and there, and this
39:02 is one of them that I think's very
39:03 musical: "But thus it is, and so must be, if
39:06 she let her gift proceed." And now I want
39:12 to ask you if you think these letters
39:14 were "utilitarian," "dreary," "prosaic," and to
39:19 this end I prepared a rant and calling
39:25 it the tin rant, I used the words and
39:27 phrases sent and passages from the
39:29 letters and put them together and sent
39:31 them to Michael delahoy because I've
39:33 heard for those of you who've heard his
39:34 Shakespeare rant you know he does I
39:36 mean rant and he has graciously agreed
39:38 to give us the tin rant
39:48 [Applause]
39:57 through the pretense of the small Matt
39:59 of the commodity would be wholly
40:00 frustrated by people who carry so
40:02 cunningly that might keep this secret
40:04 again the merchants have divided the
40:06 great departs to shatter the profit and
40:08 quench the heat thereof they've obscured
40:09 from her majesty the stock which might
40:12 have redeemed to herself it is a
40:13 disgrace and the Queen should not suffer
40:16 by the cunning authority of subtle means
40:17 to be suppressed the others under
40:19 devised pretenses may steal away Her
40:20 Majesty's profit this foul abuse has
40:23 been cunningly plotted in your lordship
40:25 must know how unfit it is that our
40:26 Majesty should deal into this matter
40:27 this man has run a double course and I
40:29 do the less regardest treachery and the
40:31 war trust to the truth of mine actions
40:34 you vows manifest in intolerable
40:37 untruths and for that I will they open
40:39 his evil and corrupt service it is no
40:40 small Bridal to insulate an obstinate
40:41 people who was so great a guile have
40:43 done so much uh turley MAME the great
40:45 mater the pewter errs pewter errs suit
40:49 is a suit so blemished and that truth is
40:51 smothered up by false appearances it
40:53 will be a ruin and manifest lost to Her
40:56 Majesty if she let her gift proceed to
40:58 this usurped and encroached Authority
40:59 there and they speak ignorantly and many
41:01 abuses creep in with counterfeit
41:02 objections this great matter is
41:04 condemned to obscurity and former trusts
41:06 are now in the instruments of Her
41:07 Majesty's infinite loss herein is the
41:10 deceit under such collar colorable shows
41:13 these inferior suits are masked and
41:15 visored the Queen should not be
41:17 negligent in this behalf or she will
41:19 only enrich others and defraud herself
41:21 and I would be loath that Her Majesty
41:22 being drawn on with frivolous devices
41:25 should have her profit pulled out as it
41:27 were from her purse you know maybe
41:29 that's enough but I sure would like to
41:31 say that each of these pewter errs our
41:35 swag belly jugglers Scots knaves Rascals
41:38 each is an eater have broken me a bass
41:40 proud shallow beggarly three suited 100
41:42 pound filthy worsted stockings little
41:43 Guilford action taking horse and grass
41:45 gazing super surface will pinnacle one
41:47 drunken Hackney Road one that should be
41:50 a bought in the way of good service and
41:52 nothing but the composition of a knave
41:54 beggar coward pander and the horse and
41:56 son of a mongrel bitch a blazing face
41:58 varlet slave a Cullen Lee barber Mart
42:01 hmm but man is a patched fool if he
42:04 speaks such truth but that last part to
42:09 make it the more richer I'll put in a
42:11 play
42:14 [Applause] English (auto-generated) Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Published on 22 Jan 2018
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