Following up on this speculation about the identity of Shakespeare's sonnets and their dedicatee, Mr W.H.
, I have been in a more-or-less desultory manner searching for any other dedications to William Howard from the 1590s and 1600s. I haven't found any, but I did find this
. It is a 1592 edition
of Florence of Worcester's Chronicon ex chronicis
(from the early 12th-century), edited by 'William Howard'. Is it my man?
Now the William Howard I'm
interested in (eldest son of the Lord High Admiral, Baron Howard of Effingham) was born in 1577. That means he turned seventeen in 1592, when this book was published. Accordingly it is unlikely, to say the least, that this is the same William Howard. Except, except! Could editing the Chronicon ex chronicis
have been, as it were, a scholar's task given to a bright schoolboy by his tutor?
The book is dedicated to William Cecil, Lord Burleigh
. One relevant context here has to do with the main factions at Elizabeth's court. One such faction comprised supporters of Burleigh, amongst the most prominent of whom was Charles Howard -- his company of players, the Admiral's Men, was known for its pro-Burleigh bias. Another consisted of supporters of Essex, to whom Shakesperare's Lord Chamberlain's men are sometimes thought to have inclined. Given that the bibliophilic Burleigh was a family friend of the Howards, it would perhaps make sense for a young W.H. to dedicate his project to 'GULIHELMO CECILIO, BARONI DE BURGLEGH'
Cum nuper, vir honoratissime, nonnulli venerandae antiquitatis admiratores, mihi cupidius instarent, ut hunc libellum apud me latentem, non tam quidem stylo tersum, ac oratione politum, quam inventu rarum et lectu jucundum divulgan pateret, nimis inhumanum videbatur tam aequum flagitantibus non annuere, praesertim cum publica multorum utilitas, privatae meae solius voluptati merito sit praeferenda. Horum precibus, quas pro postulati aequitate repudiare non debui, et pro necessitudinis vinculo diutius sustinere non potui, jam tandem victus concessi. Jamque operi e tenebris in lucem prodituro patronus defuit. Unus occurrebas eo nomine inprimis dignus. Hoc igitur qualitercunque elaboratum, umbra tuae amplitudinis, tanquam praecipui literarum Maecenatis, tegere ausus sum, tum ob solidissimum tuum in iisdem judicium, tum propter eximium amorem, quo id genus studii fautores prosequi semper dignatus es. Nec dubito quin pro tua solita et singulari bonitate, quae mihi nunquam defuit, conatus hosce meos in alienis vigiliis edendis, quum nihil dignum oculis, dignum auribus tuis meo Marte proferre valeo, tanquam grati animi et summorum tuorum erga me beneficiorum non obliti pignus sis accepturus: pro quibus, quod solum possum, semper et ubique me tui observantissimum fore et polliceor et praestabo.
Amplitudinis tuae deditissimus, GUIELMUS HOWARDUS.
It is only recently, my most honourable lord, that various admirers of venerable antiquity eagerly brought this little book out of its hiding place and pressed it upon me, not only, indeed, on account of its polished oration, but that I am always keen to find such rare works for the delight both of reading them and (my pen cleaned and ready) of disseminating them to the world; so that it seemed to me a cruelty to deny their request [to publish it], especially since the work in question tends not only towards private pleasure but towards the public good. I could not reject the fairness of the petition or ignore their entreaties, on account of the bond of solidarity I hold with them; and unable to hold out any longer, I have at last now acceded to them. So that now only a patron is lacking to help the work emerge from the darkness and into the light. Your name was the first to present itself: one most worthy to the task. Therefore, whether the work be well done or not, I have taken the liberty of hiding it beneath the ample shade cast by your mighty name, as important to literature as was Maecenas himself; you yourself being as renowned for your fine judgement as for the love with which you support this manner of study. I have no doubts concerning your singular virtue, and never have doubted it whilst I laboured editing these efforts; that where my sense of gratitude, though unworthy of your eyes and ears, my great Mars, can at least pledge my indebtedness to the high honour of serving you, the honour of which is always and everywhere most evident to me, and I promise so to continue.
Your most devoted WILLIAM HOWARD
Which is so far, so conventional. What about the epistle to Howard's 'candid readers'?
Ecce, benigne lector, tot evolutis saxulis prodit in lucem, et censurae tuae se subjicit opusculum: si auctorem quaeris, Florentii eruditi Wigoruiae monachi: si originem, ab ipsis mundi incunabulis ad Henrici Primi, regis Angliae, tempora deductum: si materiam, tam extra quam domestica gesta continens: et nisi multorum, quod vix fieri posse arbitror, erret judicium, quod praelo mandetur inprimis dignum. Hoc cum jamdiu intra privatos parietes conclusum latuisset, quorundam bortatu animum induxi meum, sumptus aliquos et operam meam in eodem divulgando impendere: maxime in eorum gratiam, qui se totos huic nunquam satis laudato studio devoverunt. Ut autem ad hujus operis pleniorem cognitionem, tanquam Theseo filo, ducaris, liceat mihi bona tua cum venia te prагmonere, auctorem in sua annorum computatione duas observare series, unam secundum Dionysium, cui in vertice paginae haec nota S. D. prаsfigitur: alteram secundum Evangelium, cui ex adverso S. E. indicis loco praeponuntur. Quas quidem series xxn. annis inter se discrepare invenies. ******** Quantum ad historiam spectat, ab antiquo exemplari ne latum quidcm unguem discessi; quo factum est ut nonnuuquam coactus fuerim aliqua manca et mutilata relinquere, cum nullum aliud adesset exemplar quod istius lacunas supplere posset. Hujus operis, ut ante dixi, auctor fuit Florentius, ecclesiae cathedralis Wigorniae monachus, qui historiam suam ab initio mundi ad annum a partu Virginis M.cxviii. deduxit, in quo vitatn una cum opere finivit, quod inde postea ab alio ejusdem ceenobii viro, anonymo, usque ad annum M.cxLi. fuit continuatum: quanto vero ulterius ac nostro saeculo vicinius illa se extendat historia incertus sum, propterea quod libellus unde continuationis illius pars desumitur, aliud est ejusdem auctoris opus, sed imperfectum in fine: quem libellum mihi utendum tradidit dominus Gulielmus Lambardus, cujus multiplicis et non vulgaris eruditionis passim extant pulcherrima testimonia. Quod solum restat, hortarer te, amice lector, nisi eo te duceret naturae tuae candor, ut errata, quae inter excudendum irrepserunt, studio et ardore meo placendi tibi condones. Quod si feceris, sumptui ac operae meae, si quae fuit, abunde satisfacies: et alios pariter incitabis, ut majorum nostrorum lucubrationes, tenebris obductis, quarum quamplures adhuc extant, ad publicam potius utilitatem divulgent, quam ad suam voluptatem sibi detineant. Vale. Calend. Aug. м.dxcii.
Behold (gracious reader) how after the lapse of so many years this little work is produced into the light, and submits itself to your censure. You ask me how it can be that Florence, one of the learned monks of Worcester, was correctly able to lay out things from the very cradle of the world to the time of Henry the First, King of England: and how he was able correctly to record both domestic and also continental affairs.
It only remains to urge you, dear reader, to draw on the excellence of your own nature and pardon any mistakes which may have crept into the printing, excusing them as marks of my enthusiasm and eagerness to please you. If you do, the cost and labour expended on this work will be amply repaid if only it encourage others to look again at the lucubrations of our ancestors (many of which are yet extant, though obscured in darkness) in order to publish them for the public good, rather than be occupied only by their own pleasure. Goodbye. Aug. 1592.
Does this sound like a young and eager scholar? Could
it be this William Howard
? Hints in that direction: a 'stylus tersus', a wiped or cleaned pen, is something a schoolboy might use. The exaggerated respect for 'venerable ancestors' reads, perhaps, like a youngling sucking up to his elders, as does the reference to 'studio et ardore meo
' in the epistle. The reference in the dedication to the book being brought to
him, even of its being pressed upon him, rather than it being something he himself discovered, reads to me like a student recording the imposition of a scholarly task.
. A piece of evidence from this Book Auction catalogue from 1904
, which records the sale of a copy of this very edition, inscribed on the cover: 'Gulielmo Lambardo dedit dominus Gulielmus Howardus', which is to say: 'Lord William Howard gave this to William Lambarde.' (The catalogue dates the book to '1570' in error). William Lambarde (1536-1601) was this fellow
: he knew Elizabeth personally, and was a family friend of the Howards'.
. Here's another piece of evidence, not only that our William Howard (ie the son of the Lord Admiral) was the editor of this edition, but that he was sometimes addressed, his nobility notwithstanding, as 'Mr': it's
William Cave's Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Historia literaria
(1688), where the edition of 'Florence of Worcestor's Chronicon ex chronicis
is recorded as having been edited for publication by 'nobilissimus Vir Gulielmus Howardus, postea Comes Northamptonensis'; 'the most noble Mr. William Howard, afterwards Earl of Northampton' (the capital 'V' of 'Vir', there, shows that Cave doesn't mean 'that most noble man ...' but rather 'the most noble Mr. W. H.').
PS. Howard's edition was printed by 'Thomas Dawson for Richard Watkins'. Watkins' apprentice, Richard Bonian, published a licensed edition of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida in 1609
(the year the Sonnets
were published). As for Thomas Thorpe, publisher of those sonnets and author of the dedication to Mr. W.H.: well, Sidney Lee's 1905 life of Shakespeare
, quoting Arber’s Transcripts of the Registers of the Stationer’s Company
, tells us that Thorpe was an innkeeper’s son from Barnet, who was in ‘midsummer 1584 ... apprenticed for nine years to a reputable printer and stationer, Richard Watkins. Nearly ten years later he took up the freedom of the Stationers’ Company, and was thereby qualified to set up as a publisher in his own right.’ That means that William Howard very likely had dealings with Thomas Thorpe in 1592, as he brought his schoolboy Latin project to the press.
. All for nothing! Turns out this edition has nothing to do with the Admiral's son, whatever William Cave thought in 1688. It was edited by a different, much older Lord William Howard (1563-1640)
. Judging by his DNB article
, he was something of a dangerous fellow, politically. But none of this is of any use to me; for this W.H. is too old for the Sonnets