Looney’s Revelations

In the year 2020 the De Vere Society and the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship celebrated the 150th anniversary of the work and revelations by the academic researcher J. Thomas Looney. The prime reason being that in the 1920’s the 17th Earl of Oxford was identified as the most probable author of Shakespeare’s canon by J. Thomas Looney in his book “Shakespeare Identified” where he posits Edward de Vere as the secret author of the 1623 Folio. and William Shakspere as his “mask” That academic revelation then led to Charlton Ogburn publishing his own theory on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy entitled “The Mystery of William Shakespeare” (1984). In 1975, the Encyclopedia Britannica wrote that, “Edward de Vere became in the 20th century the strongest candidate proposed for the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays”. De Vere used eleven different metrical and stanzaic forms in the two dozen poems attributed to him, including fourteener couplets, the English sonnet form, as well as tetrameters, and trimeters. Thomas J. Looney identified several aspects of Shakespeare’s dramatic and poetic style that set him apart from other possible candidates for authorship of the 1623 Folio namely:

  1. Of recognised genius and secretive
  2. Apparent eccentricity
  3. Unconventional status
  4. Apparent sense of inadequacy
  5. Of pronounced literary tastes
  6. Enthusiasm for drama
  7. A talent for lyricism in poetry
  8. Of extraordinary education

Furthermore, Thomas Looney ascertained that the author of the 1623 Folio would have been:

  1. A man with strong feudal connections
  2. A member of the higher aristocracy
  3. A supporter of the Lancastrian cause
  4. A man who had visited Italy and France
  5. A man of sporting ability
  6. A man who loved music
  7. Improvident in financial matters
  8. Ambivalent towards women
  9. Of Catholic belief, but touched with scepticism

Later Looney added that the author also had a significant and personal knowledge of horsemanship, meaning he probably owned, raced and rode in battle and in jousts on numerous breeds of horse, in particular the Barbary Roan. However, despite his literary achievements and recognition by other authors and playwrights of his talent at the time and subsequently there appears to be very little evidence available today of his activity in poetic literature or as a playwright in the theatre. The Oxfordian case for Edward de Vere is hampered by the assertion by the Stratfordian camp that he was long dead when plays were still being written, performed and published. This assertion remains unchallenged by academics because of the inaccurate dating of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry (See Dates of Plays). Now was this the result of sloppy research, the numerous misapprehensions of previous biographers or a deliberate attempt to disassociate the Earl from the works wrongly attributed to the Stratford actor from Warwickshire, William Shakspere. It may be that the Earl himself wished to remain anonymous and even while writing the plays and poetry left false trails to disassociate himself from the poetry and plays. In one particular poem he writes:

So he who takes the pain to pen the book
Reaps not the gifts of goodly Muse;
But those gain that on the work shall look,
For he that beats the bush, the bird not gets,
But those who sit and holdeth fast the nets.

Despite the fact that Edward de Vere wrote a great deal of poetry and patronised other writers and playwrights the Cambridge Guide to Literature in English fails to record him as a poet, writer or playwright. What has confounded many biographers when listing details of Shakespeare’s life is that Edward de Vere lived in the London district of Stratford and that there is in actual fact another river Avon running into the Bristol straits through Bath and perhaps the Earl was for a time living nearby in one of his landed estates. Similarly, after his marriage to Elizabeth Trentham (1591) he retired from the turmoil of the Royal court and the threat of plague to Billesley Hall, which was owned by his relative Elizabeth Trussel and just a few miles away from Stratford-upon-Avon. This “foxhole” is situated off the Roman road and a short walk from the Forest of Arden, part of the Arden’s of Stratford estate which is thought to be the inspiration for the play “As You Like It” (dated: 1599) although the play supposedly takes place in the region of Ardennes, France. He had actually visited there in 1580, soon after his abortive attempt to escape to the continent and when he took over the management of the Earl of Warwick’s Men incorporating them into his own drama group. This was the period when the Earl suspected that his wife’s child was not his own, when he began his affair with Anne Vavasour and the time when he sold several estates, having employed John Lyly ensconced at the Savoy, and after his quarrel with Sir Phillip Sidney. No doubt a time of great emotional and mental turmoil for the Earl despite the fact that he must have been drafting early versions of Twelfth Night, the Merchant of Venice and Sir Thomas More. It should be noted that in 1584 Fulke Sandells, who was an executor in 1582 for William Shakspere to surreptitiously acquire a marriage licence by posting surety of £40 from the diocese of Worcester for the 18-year old Will Shakspere and Anne Hathwaye of Shottery, was in fact testifying in London for the Earl of Warwick in a claim to some land in Shottery. How long the Earl of Oxford remained in Billesley Hall on that occasion is uncertain but perhaps long enough to familiarise himself with the local townsfolk and the plight of John Shakspere and his son, William. If the Earl had been sympathetic to their circumstances, then perhaps he may have intervened at some later date to introduce Will Shakspere or engage him within Warwick’s Men? If this is the case then Edward de Vere already knew Will Shakspere before his departure to London and was in actual fact instrumental in his relocation to the capital. Nevertheless, the Stratford records indicate that in the previous year, 1579 Lord Strange’s Men had visited the town to stage a production for the townsfolk. They went on to tour Lancashire/Yorkshire and then returned. Whether Will Shakspere actually accompanied them is a matter of conjecture but quite feasible. According to Charlton Ogburn’s timeline in 1580 John Shakspere was bound over to keep the peace after an altercation and then failed to repay a debt of £40 from his brother-in-law forcing him to mortgage Anne Hathaway’s property at Wilmcote. In 1581 the Earl of Oxford stages a glorious return to court winning second prize in the tournament while his mistress, Anne Vavasour gives birth to his son, Edward. While Queen Elizabeth was considering her marriage to the Duke of Alencon, she summarily calls for Anne and Edward Oxenforde to be imprisoned in the Tower of London. The same year that Will Shakspere is granted his marriage licence (1582) the Earl, while now released finds himself challenged to a duel with Thomas Knyvett, Anne’s uncle and is badly wounded in the thigh. This contention along with several street fights in London involving Edward’s men and those of Thomas Knyvett continue for the next 12 months.

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