JONSON’S FOLIO POEM-PUZZLE SOLVED:©Eric L. Miller, 3/4/2006/; 2015
Ruth Miller’s Important Contribution
Ruth Miller has made many seminal pioneer contributions to the Oxfordian movement. One of the most important contributions that she made was her noting that “Ignoto” had an important poem that was published with Spenser’s FQ (1590), a fact overlooked by Looney and not even included in his Ignoto poems, which he opined were written by Lord Oxford. More than that, Miller further correlated Ignoto’s FQ poem with Ben Johnson’s panegyric to Shakespeare included in the First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s complete works in 1623. Miller observed that Jonson’s poem was actually an “undisguised and unashamed paraphrase” of the Ignoto poem—indicating, while not overtly stating it, that Jonson intended his poem to link the authorship of the Shakespeare poems with Lord Oxford. Numerous commentators have since Miller remarked on her discovery and it is all but accepted doctrine in Oxfordian circles that the Ignoto poem in FQ was written by Lord Oxford—this, despite the fact that there is no proof of the matter, and such belief hitherto appears to rest upon mere opinion and accepted conjecture. But more proof of the proposition, we offer, is here at hand.
The Obvious Paraphrase: Jonson and Ignoto
Miller indicated the obvious paraphrase of Jonson’s panegyric to Shakespeare in the 1623 Folio involved two especial points in relation to Ignoto’s poem in FQ. Miller quoted and underlined the second stanza of the poem thus:
Thus then to show my judgment to be suchAs can discern of colours black and white,
As alls to free my mind from envy’s touch,
That never give to any man his right:
I hear pronounce this workmanship is such
As that no pen can set it forth too much.
And then Miller quotes the opening lines of Jonson’s poem:
To draw no envy, Shakespeare, on thy name,Am I thus ample to thy book and fame;
While I confess thy writings to be such,
As neither man nor Muse can praise too much.
[R.Miller it should be noted, did not follow the punctuation and capitalizations of the original—but the issue is not material to our discussion.]
Neither Looney, nor Miller nor any of the following commentators, that this writer knows of, is aware of the fact that the important couplet at issue from Ignoto poem in FQ is itself derivative. And the derivation connects us directly to Lord Oxford.
Harvey’s Poem Written For Lord Oxford
Sometime in April, 1580, Gabriel Harvey wrote a letter to his great friend, Edmund Spenser. Harvey and Spenser were particularly affectionate with one another and exchanged a number of letters before and after the completion of Spenser’s first published book, Shepheard’s Calendar. The series of their letters were collected and published in tandem with SC, under Familiar Letters. In one of the letters
wrote a poem, supposedly at the request of a “Country Gentleman.” The title of
the poem was: To my good Mistresse Anne:
The very lyfe of my lyfe, and onely beloved Mystresse.” The poem was written,
in actuality, in a mocking manner, and it is highly dubious that Harvey was ever requested
to write it. Harvey and Spenser had secret communications going on at the time,
often wrote to each other in double
entendres, mocks, jests, and insinuations. Harvey
The poem, supposedly written for the Country Gentleman for his lover, was nonetheless dispatched to Spenser with obvious alacrity. The poem opens thusly (the language is mostly modernized):
Gentle Mistress Anne, I am plain by nature:I was never so far in love with any creature,
Happy were your servant, if he could be so Anned,
And you, not unhappy, if you should be so manned.
I love not to gloss, where I love indeed,
Now God and good Saint Anne, send me good speed.
Such goodly Vertures, such amiable Grace,
But I must not fall a praising: I want time and place.
Oh, that I had mine old wits at commandment:
I know what I could say without controlment:
But let this suffice: thy desert are such:
That no man in this world can love thee too much.
[blank space and italics added for emphasis]
There is more in the poem that merits examination, but before turning to it, it should be noted that in his introduction to the poem, addressed to Spenser, Harvey says that he needs must be revealing “my friends secrets, now an honest Country Gentleman, sometimes a Schollar: At whose request, I bestowed this pawlting bongrely Rime upon him, to present to his Maistress withal.” [pawlting=paltry (Harvey, Letters, 1579;1580); bongrely-good will].
The poem to “Mistress Anne” by Harvey comes from the same section of Familiar Letters that contains the famous satire Speculum Tuscanismi, universally accepted as an attack on Lord Oxford (Harvey himself labels it a “satirical libel”). It will be noted that
Spenser had been in love with Anne Vavasor and felt betrayed by her and Menalcas [another name for Lord Oxford]. But the point here is that the poem to Mistress Anne, allegedly penned for the Country Gentleman, was nothing but another satirical stab at Lord Oxford and his troubled relationship with Anne Vavasor.
Even without detailed analysis of the letters as mentioned above, we can turn to Ruth Miller’s work on the subject and see that she, also, suggests that the “Country Gentleman” is Lord Oxford. After presenting the text of Speculum Tuscanismi Miller continues:
Already addressed a certaine pleasurable and Morall Politique Naturall mixte devise, to his most Honourable Lordshipppe, in the same kynde, whereunto my next Letter, if you please mee well, may perchaunce make you privie. . .
At the end of this particular section of the letter, following the many allusions and out-right references to Lord Oxford, Harvey returns to the “Rosalind” theme in The Shepherds Calendar with
And yet because you charge me somewhat suspitiouslye with an olde promise, to deliver you of that jealousie, I am so farre from hyding mine owne matters from you, that loe, I must needs be revealing my friendes secreates, not an honest Country Gentleman, sometimes a Scholler: At whose request, I bestowed this pawlting bungrely Rime upon him, to present his Maistresse withal. The parties shall bee namelesse: saving, that the Gentlewoman’s true, or counterfaite Christen name, must necessarily be bewrayed. (Emphasis added.)
Miller then observes that there then follows the poem to Mistress Anne, “While the ‘honest Country Gentleman’ remains nameless.” Miller clearly implies, in context, that the “Country Gentleman” is Lord Oxford. She does not say so directly, but she does the next best thing, she immediately turns her attention to the subject of Anne Vavasor and states, “
statement about the name of the Gentlewoman suggests that the poem is actually
addressed to a person whose Christian name is Anne, confirming that the original of Spenser’s Rosalind was Anne
Vavasor.” (italic in the original). Miller says that by divulging the name
of “Anne” that Harvey confirmed that “Rosalind” was Anne Vavasor because in the
Gloss to SC it is stated that “Rosalind is also a feigned name, which
being well ordered will bewray the very name of his love and mistress, whom by
that name he coloureth. . .a common custom of counterfeiting the names of
secret personages.” A modest note by Miller explains and clarifies the meaning:
“Note that the first four letters of Rosalind
are the last four, reversed of Vavasor,
not an uncommon way of bewraying a name.” Harvey
The fact of the matter is there is only one person, of whom we are aware, that Spenser had an acute jealousy for in 1579-80, a jealously that he got Harvey to promise to rid him of, and that was “Rosalind” or Anne Vavasor. For Harvey to have any influence on the matter he would, it seems, have to have been in contact with one or both parties—i.e., Anne Vavasor and/or Lord Oxford.
Clearly we do not have an Anne Vavasor at the heart of all this business without the “Country Gentleman” being Lord Oxford. It is Lord Oxford who is the “Honourable Lordshippe,” the “Italian Master” and “Emperor Justianian” mentioned in the text in the Familiar Letters.
But, let us return to the poem to Mistress Anne, there are other clear indications that Lord Oxford is the “Country Gentleman” who supposedly requested Harvey to write him a poem for her—a joke all by itself. Those of us who have studied the text of Lord Oxford’s allusions he makes, and allusions made about him, are aware how often his name is played upon to give an intensification of his family name and identity as a True/Vere. Those of us who accept the identity of Lord Oxford with “Shakespeare” see in phrases such as occur in the sonnets “that every word doth almost tell my name” indications of the word-play with his name whose root is Truth. Thus,
own word-play with his own name involuntarily comes to mind, especially in the
poem to his wife, Lady Anne Vere, while he was traveling abroad, the first
stanza of which is: Oxford
TRUTHS/VERES teach the TRUE/VERE woman:
And only TRUE/VERE things last:
Other things fly away.
By faith of true Love and by my truest Truly,That shall never put forth thy love to greater usary.
As we can see three Vere roots in one line!
And he ends his poem:
He that longeth to be thine ownInseparably, for ever and ever.
Two E.Vers in conclusion!
Envy: Ignoto, Ben Jonson and Shakespeare
John M. Rollett, in a recent article, questions that Miller’s observation that there was a veiled reference by Jonson to Shakespeare’s identity and Ignoto “because he wanted to suggest covertly some connection between ‘Ignoto’ and Shakespeare, a connection which very few people would make, given the 33-year gap between the two poems.” I disagree. Indeed, I proffer that Jonson was not only making a covert connection between Shakespeare and Ignoto but also directly with Lord Oxford—albeit, it is true, it was certainly a veiled allusion, no doubt intended for the delectation of those who were already “in the know.”
The publication of FQ was a monumental event in the history of English letters and one which the literati would be, then, as they are now, quite familiar with. Indeed, one would say that someone of Jonson’s stature and education would be particularly cognizant of the importance of the occasion to English letters and Spenser lovers, and especially so if he believed Ignoto was Shakespeare. Thirty-three years is nothing in this history of such matters. Swarms of scholars and would-be scholars are to this day passionately involved in the mysteries of Spenser and Shakespeare and their antecedent roots.
Rollett also takes issue, with feint praise, with Ogburn’s paraphrase of the first couplet of Jonson’s panegyric. “Charles Ogburn paraphrases the first couplet as follows: ‘To bring no harm upon your name, I shall be liberal, unstinting, to your plays and fame,’ which is fine, but leaves one wondering why Ben Jonson brought in ‘envy’ in particular?” After noting that Harvey appears to be identifying ‘Envy’ with Lord Oxford in his remark that in Harvey’s throwaway line, “Nashe, the Ape of Greene, Greene, the Ape of Euphues, Euphues, the Ape of Envy. . .” he was evoking or echoing “Oxford’s” commendatory poem in FQ [obviously as ‘Ignoto’] and states, “so it is a reasonable deduction that Harvey in calling Lyly the ‘Ape’ of Oxford, who may therefore be identified with ‘Envie”. Rollett then querries:
And why would
by the word ‘Envie’? Clearly, because Oxford Oxford’s
commendatory poem to Spenser’s Faerie
Queene harps on the ‘Envie’ which Spenser’s sonnet urges to defend him from. Harvey would have
had particular reason to remember these two poems, since (as a close friend of
Spenser’s) he had himself written one of the commendatory poems, under the name
‘Hobynoll’, printed only a page or two away from Oxford’s. Oxford
Rollett continues a rather contorted discussion of how the word “Envy” came to be applied to Oxford (he takes it as fact that Ignoto of FQ is Oxford) : “In the course of this investigation, it occurred to me to wonder whether there might be some additional reason for the word ‘envy’ to be associated with Oxford. Since nothing plausible in English springs to mind. . .” and Rollett launches into highly conjectural speculation concerning the colors that the Romans associated with the word “envy” and its association to Oxford’s crest featuring a blue bore, the Latin word for blue being livor.
In accordance with the principle of Ockam’s Razor, however, it seems to me that all Rollett’s speculation is superfluous. The simple fact seems to be that the reason Ignoto mentioned “envy” in his FQ poem and that Jonson mentioned it in his panegyric to Shakespeare is because they were both ‘Envious’ people. Jonson is famous for his envy of Shakespeare and Ignoto himself admits to it. Numerous of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (to say nothing of many of his speeches in his plays) indicate that he was, indeed, an envious person—hard though it may be to believe.
“When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyesI all alone beweep my outcast state. . .
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope
With what I most enjoy contended least. . .”
There could hardly be a more elegant confession of envy than that given above by “Shakespeare.” In Sonnet 70 he speaks of his desire to “tie up envy evermore enlarged.”
Ignoto in his FQ poem says that if he did not yield Spenser the “deserved prise” for the excellence of his “workman’s” work he would be showing either poor judgment or “envy.” Ignoto says that he shows his judgment is free of envy by pronouncing that Spenser’s “. . .workmanship is such/As that no pen can set it forth too much.” The mere mention (twice in the poem) of the issue of envy raises the septre and assumption that Ignoto was an envious person and was showing that his judgment could rise above such things and give Spenser his due.
And, Rollett himself produces the quote from Harvey indicating that Lyly was aping the personification of Envy itself, reasonably thought to be a reference to Oxford. Envy is a sister of conceit and
Oxford is widely painted with the brush of “self-love,”
both by Shakespeare and ’s
detractors. Indeed, envy may well be seen to be the reason why Ignoto of the FQ poem obviously begrudgingly gives
“deserved prise” not for a work of genius, a poem for the ages, but calls him a
mere “workman” his poem the product of “workmanship” and the book itself “this
workmanship.” Modest enough praise it would seem for an epic generally regarded
as the greatest poetic epic in English. Oxford
Neither Man nor Muse
Jonson begins his panegyric to Shakespeare in the First Folio with the lines:
To draw no envy (Shakespeare) on thy name,Am I thus ample to thy Booke, and Fame:
While I confess thy writings to be such,
As neither Man, nor Muse, can praise too much.
With these words, Jonson not only echoes Ignoto’s words, but
well. Recall that Harvey
But let this suffice: thy deserts are sucheThat no one in this world can love thee too much.
In all cases (i.e., Ignoto, Jonson and Harvey) “just deserts” is the subject of the relevant passages, as well as praise or love that can “never be too much.”
says “no one in this world” can love thee too much, considering the just
deserts of the loved one. Jonson, goes a step farther and states that neither
Man nor Muse, can praise too much—neither praisers in the natural nor
supernatural world can praise him too much. Harvey
Is it too far a stretch to assume that Jonson was not only echoing the words of Ignoto/Oxford but also was echoing the words of
Harvey, words put into the mouth of
in the famous publication Familiar
Letters, which was a companion piece to SC?
Perhaps. But Jonson was a scholar, passionately involved in the career of “Shakespeare,” intimately connected with the publications of his works in the First Folio of 1623, dedicated to family members of
’s. Of one thing we
can be certain, however, and that is that Harvey and Spenser—Harvey whose own
poem appeared in SC under the name of
Hobbynoll and Spenser who was the honored poet of the publication—well knew
that Ignoto was sounding echo’s of Harvey’s poem, written for the “Country
Gentleman,” alias Lord Oxford. Oxford
Related Note On Lord Oxford’s Envy:
Some years ago, I discovered two poems which I believe were written by Oxford. I noted it in the book where I found them, Spenser’s Poetical Works, ed. Smith & Silencourt, 1912, but did nothing with them as far as writing a commentary on it. Inspired working on the above piece, it came back to me, because of the issue of “envy” which Rollett’s article helped me to focus on. The first stanza of the first poem is very revealing and if I can only get to it now I want to communicate it to you. The first poem is entitled: An Epitaph upon the right Honourable sir Phillip Sidney knight: Lord governor of Flushing. It reads [text modernized by me]:
To praise thy life, or wail thy worthy death,And want thy wit, thy wit, high, pure, divine,
Is far beyond the power of mortal line,
Nor any one hath worth that draweth breath.
Yet rich in zeal, though poor in learning’s lore,And friendly care concealed in secret breast,
And love that envy in thy life supprest,
Thy dear life done, and death hath doubled more.
And I, that in thy time and living state,
Did only praise thy vertues in my thought,
As one that seld the rising sun hath sought,
With words and tears now wail thy timeless fate.
The poem goes on and there is a sequel attached. Another of the same.
The theme of envy is more than once brought up both in the first and second poem. We must pause and read the words carefully. I have added italic to the poem for emphasis. What an amazingly complicated poem for an epitaph. Once again, we see Oxford advancing himself, to speak of himself, in a poem commemorating the death of a notable person, just as he did in his Elegy to Queen Elizabeth! It is remarkable how
has no scruple to use an occasion to praise someone—even in their death—to
speak of himself, his concerns, and his effects! And with brutal honesty he
confesses that his own love for Oxford
was suppressed because of his envy. Not only that, but that Sidney ’s death has even
“doubled” his envy (later we shall see it is because he is sick of living and
himself wants to die). Moreover, he confesses that in Sidney ’s living days he never publicly
praised him but only praised his virtues in his thought.. Recall Ignoto’s poem in FQ that he was accused (or was guilty of)—“As alls to free my mind
from envies tuch/That never gives to any man his right.” Sidney
It is clear in the poems that he, the “secret” poet of the epitaph was indeed a close friend of Sidney’s at one time and that they shared many wonderful times together. But, he does not shrink from saying that there was envy and gall between them that death finally left (“Envie her sting, and spite hath left her gall/Malice herself a mourning garment wears.”) And in the follow-on epitaph he says, before Jonson credits Sidney with being “the Wonder of our age.” He is not just an admirer of Sidney’s, he is his friend, “Sidney is dead, dead is my friend, dead is the worlds delight.” Indeed, the poet says that “his life was my spring time. The poet speaks of his wishing himself to die, he is one “Who tied to wretched life, who looks for no relief/Must spend my ever dying daies, in never ending grief.” Yes his ever dying days and never ending grief!
And another eccentric feature of the poem, and its own self-absorption, he writes that “Yet, for not wronging him, my thoughts, my sorrow’s cell/Shall not run out, though leake they will, for liking him so well.” And the poem ends with a truly Shakespearean finale:
Farewell to you my hopes, my wonted dreams,Farewell sometimes enjoyed joy, eclipsed are they beams,
Farewell self pleasing thoughts, which quietness brings forth,
And farewell friendships sacred league, uniting mind’s of worth.
And farewell merry heart, the gift of guiltless minds,
And all sport, which for lives restore, variety assigns,
Let all that sweet is void; in me no mirth may dwell,
Phillip, the cause of all this woe, my life’s content, farewell.
Now rime, the son of rage, which art no kin to skill,
And endless grief, which deads my life, yet knows not how to kill,
To seek that hapless tomb, which if ye hap to find,
Salute the stones, that keep the limbs, that held so good a mind.
AND I have another epitaph, from A.W., for Sidney, which contains the same kinds of sentiments! Who but
would have written such a poem to ?
He writes it “obscured in secret heart”—he can’t even give his identity and the
poem was published with no name attached to it, though it is acknowledged by
everyone that it is not the work of Spenser. Sidney
So, not only do we have a man who takes to the stage of public grieving to tell at least as much of his own personal woes as he laments the honored deceased, but he admits to envy and that he never gives a man his due! This is a unique psychological profile!
story on Such/Much, Ignoto, Jonson, etc.
I went through all of APR, A Paradyce of Dainte Devises, most of Sidney, Shepherd's Calendar (spelled so many different ways, orig. Shepheardes) and numerous of other of Spenser's longer poems, and found only a handful of "such. . .much" couples, or rhymes. One would think it is such an obvious rime that there would be many examples of it, but not so. But, diligence willing out, I was able to find in Spenser's Astrophell (in the section of poems not by Spenser) this additional example, from a poem entitle "An Elegie, or friends passion, for his Astrophill. Written upon the death of the right Honourable sir Phillip Sidney Knight, Lord Gouernour of Flushing" (published in Astrophell, 1595):
Of him you know his merit such,
I cannot say, you heare too much.
Of course "you heare too much" is equivalent to "cannot praise too much."
Rather interesting, don't you think? The poem was publishing without
ascription but it is credited, allegedly on "internal evidence" to Mathew
Roydon. Wonder where he got it from? Ha, ha.
But the lead-in to that couplet I cannot hold back from you.
"You knew--who knew not? Astrophill
That I should live to say I knew,
And have not in possession still!)
Things knowne permit me to renew;
Of him you know his merit such
I cannot say, you hear, too much.
The phrase in SC and one of the most famous lines, certainly in regard to
Rosalind is "who knew not Rosalind"--which indicated "knew" in the Biblical
sense, had sexual relations with. The lead in line to the couplet is most
interesting, "THINGS KNOWN PERMIT ME TO RENEW" There is the crux of the
matter, he is renewing lines sounded to Spenser by Ignoto!!!