I’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to my good friend and mentor for over twenty years, a man who kindled my interest in poetry and the works of William Shakespeare. His name is Thomas Hood (not to be confused with the poet of the same name) of Portland, Oregon, USA and after revealing the identity of the author as well as the critical analysis of the Shakespeare Folio of 1623 he inspired me to write a book about the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy entitled “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”.
Unfortunately he died a few months before the publication of my book “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”. His patience and unerring guidance in establishing the identity of the author is without doubt a selfless and generous undertaking, at least to me a mere novice on the subject. Yet he persevered and I continued to amass the facts and continued to write. Sadly, in March 2021 he emailed me to say that he had contracted the covid 19 virus and given his age at 82 he thought he might not survive its impact. He died some two weeks later and his death was a shock and grief to me personally. Perhaps some members of this group knew or heard of him for he was an ardent and passionate Oxfordian who had thoroughly researched the points of contention and then transferred them to me in great detail?
I remember when he first proposed the idea that Edward de Vere was the real author of Shakespeare’s canon I recall being aware of the sensation of suddenly becoming a literary orphan, that is whereas all the published facts about William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon were in actual fact a bed of lies cleverly contrived to deceive the entire world. The intellectual vacuum created by his supposition was difficult to come to terms with initially and I was determined to reconstruct the jig-saw into some semblance of truth. Before he died he mentioned that he was planning to plant some rosemary in his garden for its’ medicinal and horticultural merits. So, I am planning to plant some rosemary in my garden in remembrance of him and his life.
Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb whose name means “dew of the sea” imported into Britain by the Romans. It was a funerary herb to both Greeks and Egyptians who thought it brought peace and contentment to the deceased. Essentially Rosemary is a herb of remembrance, and strongly connected to the Virgin Mary (Stella Maris to the Phoenicians, Isis to the Egyptians) but it is used in cooking, medicine and even some cosmetics such as shampoo. There are white, pink and blue flower varieties and others with variegated leaves, and has a reputation as a hair tonic as well as being used in love charms. It has acquired a reputation as an all round tonic and stimulant. Particularly good for digestive complaints, energising, an aid to rheumatism, useful for headaches and fevers.
It is a dense, fragrant evergreen shrub with sharp needle-like leaves being native to the whole of the Mediterranean, S. America, India, China that can grow in colder or mild climates. Propagation can be made from seed (which is slow), cuttings, or layering. The leaves and wood contain high levels of essential oil used in medicine, cosmetics, culinary purposes and herbalism. It flowers twice a year.
Rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis albus) was introduced into England by the Romans where it grew well and was mentioned in several Anglo-Saxon herbals and “leech books” and was harvested so extensively that by 1,000 AD it was virtually extinct. It was re-introduced by the wife of Edward III, Queen Phillipa of Hainhault and recorded growing wild in Lancashire and Yorkshire where it was harvested for its cosmetic, culinary and medical properties. It is somewhat fragile as a horticultural plant because if cut back too vigorously it will die out. It only flowers on the previous year’s growth. However, as its name suggests (lit. Ros– meaning dew or foam and marie-sea) the dew or foam of the sea, the plant being sacred to the goddess Venus or Greek Aphrodite. It was said in mythologies that Venus was born out of the foam in the sea. The blue-flowering variety is mentioned in Biblical stories whereby it was said that the Virgin Mary laid her blue cloak over a bush of white-flowering rosemary and when she removed it, the flowers had miraculously turned to blue (rosmarinus officinalis). It was believed that Rosemary grew to the same age (33 years) and the same height as Jesus Christ. In popular fairy tales it was used in vain to awaken Sleeping Beauty because it was said to drive away evil spirits, or remove spells and curses. Medically, it was employed to strengthen the memory, clear the brain, eyes, nasal passages, aid digestion, and cleanse the blood and skin. In fact it was listed long ago by Apuleius, Pliny, and Dioscorides as a singularly potent herb and grew extensively in the Mediterranean region, in Egypt, N. Africa, Syria and Babylon. In England where it was used in cooking for many years it was favoured with several meat dishes as well as a flavouring tonic in bread, sack, beers, wine and mead. It was also favoured for use at marriages and funerals. It was mentioned in the “Shephearde’s Calendar” by Edmund Spenser, by the poet Robert Herrick, and by the author and statesman Sir Thomas More who wrote:
“As for Rosemarine, I let it runne all over my garden walls, not onlie because the bees love it, but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance, and therefore, to friendship; whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language that maketh it the chosen emblem of our funeral wakes and in our burial grounds.”
In the symbolic language of flowers (Florigraphy) when one sends the flower to a friend or lover it means “fidelity in love”, or in remembrance of you. In his Four Books On Husbandry Barnaby Googe writes:
This common rosemary is so well known through all our land, being in every woman’s garden, that it were sufficient but to name it as an ornament among other sweet herbes and flowers in our garden.
William Langham writes of the herb; “Seethe much rosemary, and bathe therein to make thee lusty, lively, joyful, likeing and youngly” (The Garden of Health, 1579). “The Feminine Monarchy,” written by Charles Butler and published in the same year as Shakespeare’s 1623 Folio mentions the Queen’s love of rosemary in wine and mead, giving a recipe for metheglin. The astrologer William Lilly and the gardener John Gerard lists its extensive medicinal properties in his “Herbal & General History of Plants” (1579). William Shakespeare mentions it no less than on three occasions in his plays; in Romeo & Juliet when the nurse points out that Rosemary and Romeo both begin with an r; or in the Winter’s Tale, Act 4, scene 3 Perdita says: “For you there’s rosemary and rue; these keep seeming and savour all the winter long: Grace and Remembrance be to you both”. While Ophelia mentions the plant in Hamlet, Act 4, scene 5: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you love, remember…”. So in the brief analysis of the word rosemary we have numerous interpretations to embrace in decipherment. Firstly, remembrance of someone, then as an aid to memory, fidelity, good health, marriage/death and averting a bad smell or as a prophylactic to curses and spells. In another scene in the play reference is made to the significance or mere importance of letters by Juliet’s nurse;
Doth not rosemary and Romeo begin both with a letter?
Ay, nurse; what of that? Both with an R.
Ah. Mocker! That’s the dog’s name; R is for
the–No; I know it begins with some other
letter:–and she hath the prettiest sententious of it,
of you and rosemary, that it would do you good
to hear it.
The word sententious means pompous moralising, so is Juliet’s nurse saying that Juliet, like the Virgin Queen Elizabeth, is hypocritical and unworthy of true love? Clearly, Romeo is an anagram of MOREO – or the surname Moore and if spelt without the double O merely ROME. One is also tempted to ask what letter could be substituted for R? According to the nurse it is the so-called dog’s name (ie: r-r-r-r, the sound an angry dog makes when threatened or about to bite). Could the nurse be about to reveal the word POPE or possibly Prig? In fact because the sentence breaks off speculation runs riot as the names Robert Dudley, Robert Cecil, David Riccio (secret advisor/lover of Mary Queen of Scots) or King Richard II begins with an R, as well as Lady Penelope Rich, the supposed “Stella” of Sir Phillip Sidney’s poem. Or possibly even Richard Rich the prosecutor to Sir Thomas More who assisted in the dissolution of the monasteries. Extrapolating further perhaps Lady Mary, Countess of Pembroke (the muse of Samuel Daniel’s “Delia”) is the rosey-mary (ie: pot pourri) that Juliet’s nurse is alluding to? One can imagine all manner of satirical and lewd responses from an enlightened Protestant audience, such as calls of “Popery!”, (pot pourri used to avert an unpleasant stench) and furthermore; could it be that Mary Queen of Scots, like the majority of hypocritical aristocrats, was far from being wholly aromatic and wholesome in her own duplicitous sexual encounters.
Now according to the cryptographic precepts of Trithemius and his pupil Cornelius Agrippa a code could be analogous when a certain word is employed in a text say such as rosemary-a herb or the name of a person.
Finally, Thomas Hood’s untimely death was equally a disappointment as I have dedicated my book Shakespeare’s Qaballah to him as a token of gratitude for all the support and guidance he had given me while researching my book. Furthermore, he did not live long enough to see the completion of my book. I decided therefore to write an eulogy to Thomas Hood entitled “Weep Not For Me” in remembrance of a great and wise man:
Now age has set me free,
Now know I’m gone from thee,
Into eternity, weep not for me.
Freed from this mortal frame,
In stars you’ll see my name,
Like an eternal flame,
Now I’m at liberty, weep not for me.
Emblazoned in the sky,
Like jewels within your eye,
I’ll end with one last sigh;
Imbued with ecstasy, weep not for me.
Nay, not a day too late,
I am at heaven’s gate
Nor dare I hesitate;
I shall be free, weep not for me.
It’s time to wear the crown,
The crown of least renown,
To give up all I own;
Now I am free, weep not for me.
God bless his soul for without his help and support my research projects would never have seen the light of day.