Lately there has been a lot of ink spilled about Sir Thomas North. In fact, a new book out, North by Shakespeare by Michael Blanding claims that William Shakespeare wrote every single word, but he plagiarized giant sections from the works of Sir Thomas North. If so, how does this relate to Edward de Vere’s authorship?
Please note, the co-author of North by Shakespeare is Dennis McCarthy who I met on Twitter. Dennis apparently researched North for over 15 years and then teamed up with author Michael Blanding to write the book. Actually, both guys are on Twitter, and here is the link to the book they posted on Twitter: sirthomasnorth book link.
On Twitter, Mr. McCarthy stated that some of the phrases about how the pope was coronated matched North’s journal, and if one were to do a Google search for these two phrases they would only lead to Sir Thomas North. Here are the phrases as I best recall them:
and “two officers next them with silver rods in their hands, then the cardinals having a cross borne before them”
Did these phrases lead me to Sir Thomas North’s travel journal? Not exactly. The Google search engine took me to this book: Miscellaneous State Papers from 1501-1726. It is a free book on Google and you can read it at this link. This book was first published in 1789 and apparently, North’s travel journal can be found in this book (pgs 62 -98 of the books pages.) However, although North may have penned the words, he is NOT named as the author. (No author’s name is given.) Apparently, during the reign of Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”) a trip to Rome for two British Ambassadors had been arranged by the state department which North was a part of, and he recorded the trip in his travel journal(s).
Who would have made the arrangements for this trip? Possibly Sir Thomas Smith or even John de Vere, the 16th earl of Oxford and father of Edward de Vere. Both seemed to be working together with William Cecil at this time.
Sir Thomas Smith who was succeeded in his position by Sir Francis Walsingham had worked in the royal court as did John de Vere. The 16th earl of Oxford was a staunch Protestant and Bloody Mary was Catholic, so John de Vere had insisted that his son Edward be raised in the household of the great Cambridge scholar, Sir Thomas Smith.
I mention this because doesn’t the title Miscellaneous State Papers remind you of papers that might have been considered “classified” during their time? These papers might not have been “Top Secret” but the King or Queen at the time did not want the general public to be privy to the information. In North’s case, he traveled to Italy with the two English Ambassadors to witness the coronation of the new pope. Queen “Bloody” Mary was Catholic, so it made sense to keep it on the down-low as not everyone in England was Catholic. Would North’s journal not be sent to the King or Queen to read them? Perhaps. Or perhaps to someone like William Cecil who would be tasked to read it and give a report on it?
The point I am trying to make is that it seems logical that the papers would have most likely been sent to Cecil House and Edward de Vere who lived at Cecil House would most likely be keenly interested in reading them. Also, the papers date from 1501 and in 1508, Oxford’s relative Aubrey de Vere served under King Henry at that time. They would be useful for setting the stage for a history play like Henry VI.
We recall that in King Henry VI, act 3 scene 3 who should appear? A character named “Oxford” who serves the king.
Yet, Dennis North and Michael Blanding are Stratfordians who claim that “Shakespeare wrote every word” of his plays and they claim the man from Stratford simply lifted passages word-for-word from North’s journals and plays. It would be as easy as taking candy from a baby. But if you think about it, how could an outsider be able to do this? They make it seem like any commoner from Stratford-upon-Avon could easily do this and no one would say anything. So, let me ask this obvious question: who in their right mind would risk their neck granting Stratford special access to view these “classified” documents?
Back in those days, the torture tool, “the rack” was still commonly used. Introduced into the Tower of London about 1420 by the duke of Exeter, the torture rack was known colloquially as “The Duke of Exeter’s Daughter” and was operated by a hooded yeoman to extract confessions and incriminating information from suspected traitors, heretics, and conspirators. Once a person was put on the device their limbs were literally pulled apart and they would die a horrible death.
Doing a quick Google search of my own, I discovered there had always been a suspicion that North himself did not translate the first thing he’s been credited with, the Dial of Princes. Also, his first translation of Plutarch’s Lives was also less than stellar because he had added Spanish letters to it’s ending. In other words, he claimed he had translated from the French version, it was actually a combination of French and Spanish. Here is the excerpt taken from the DNB bio:
As a bid for patronage, however, The Diall—for all that its title-page emphasized North
as ‘second sonne’ to Mary’s counsellor Lord North—was ill-, or at least unfortunately,
timed. It seems likely, moreover, from comments made by North in the second, revised
edition, The Diall (1568), that the first edition was not altogether well received for more
literary reasons: ‘detracting tongues’, he wrote, had given out that the translation ‘was no
woork of myne, but the fruit of others labor’ (sig. R1v). An existing translation, from an
abridged French translation of Guevara by Jean Bouchier, Lord Berners, had been
published in 1535 (it reached its ninth edition in 1557), but North does not seem indebted
to it. How long North remained as a student is not known, though in 1568 he recalled
with apparent fondness ‘the woorshipfull, and my beeloved compaignyons, and fellow
students of our house of Lyncolnes Inne’ (ibid.).
North’s father died on 31 December 1564; the will (20 March 1563) bequeathed him ‘the
patronage and Advowsons of the Churche Personage and Vicaredge’ of Melton, Suffolk
(TNA: PRO, PROB 11/48, fol. 54v). Whatever the disappointments of the reception
afforded his first translation, in the years following his father’s death North worked to
expand its fourth book (entered to Thomas Marsh in the Stationers’ register between July
1566 and July 1567), and to defend himself in the second edition, printed by Richard
Tottell and Marsh in 1568 (Marsh and Tottell registered ‘the hole boke of the Dyall of
prynces’ at some point between July 1567 and 1568). In the same year North was
presented with the freedom of the city of Cambridge.
North had signed his defensive ‘Epistle to the Reader’ in 1568 ‘From my lord Norths
house nere London’ (sig. R1v).
North’s translation of Plutarch’s Greek book, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes, is taken from the third edition of Bishop Jacques Amyot’s French translation. And North, living in London close to Cecil House, in 1668, claimed to give credit for his own revised version to his “worshipful companions.” (Was Edward de Vere one of them? He would have been 18 yrs old in 1668.)
Again, North himself admits he got help. His actual words: ‘the woorshipfull, and my beeloved compaignyons, and fellow students of our house of Lyncolnes Inne’.
The “To the Reader” introduction to Plutarch’s Lives, sounds like Edward de Vere wrote it, (not Thomas North) because in this paragraph, we find the word “love” in it. Edward de Vere was fond of using the words “loving”, “beloved” and “love”. North did not. Yet in this introduction to Plutarch’s Lifes we find the word “love”not once – but two times!
To the Reader
The profit of stories and the praise of the Author are sufficiently declared by Amyot in his epistle to the reader, so that I shall not need to make many words thereof. And indeed, if you will supply the defects of this translation with your own diligence and good understanding, you shall not need to trust him; you may prove yourselves, that there is no profane study better than Plutarch. All other learning is private, fitter for universities than cities, fuller of contemplation than experience, more commendable in students themselves than profitable unto others. Whereas stories are fit for every place, reach to all persons, serve for all times, teach the living, revive the dead, so far excelling all other books as it is better to see learning in noblemen’s lives than to read it in philosopher’s writings. Now, for the author, I will not deny but love may deceive me, for I must needs love him with whom I have taken so much pain, but I believe I might be bold to affirm that he hath written the profitablest story of all authors. For all other were fain to take their matter as the fortune of the countries where they wrote fell out; but this man, being excellent in wit, in learning, and experience, hath chosen the special acts of the best persons, of the famousest nations of the world. But I will leave the judgement to yourselves. My only purpose is to desire you to excuse the faults of my translation with your own gentleness, and with the opinion of my diligence and good intent. And so I wish you all the profit of the book. Fare ye well. The four and twentieth day of January, 1579. Thomas North
Here is a link that shows Edward de Vere using “loving”, “beloved” and “love” in his letters. Not one time. Not twice. But 27 times.
No other writer of this time period does this.
Also, another question for you: did Sir Thomas North write these lines below?
“And herein I am forced like a good and politic captain oftentimes to spoil and burn the corn of his own country, lest his enemies thereof do take advantage.”
Did Sir Thomas North write them? No, they are de Vere’s words. They are found in his Introduction to Cardanus Comforte, the book Hamlet allegedly was reading.
If you get a chance to read Shakey’s Madness, my theory would be that Edward de Vere at age 18, DID help North translate and rewrite Plutarch’s Lives written by Sir Thomas North.
If De Vere gave it away without taking any credit for himself, it makes sense why the words and phrases from North’s version of Plutarch’s Lives match words, lines, and verses found in Shakespeare so well: why? Because Edward de Vere wrote all of them! This sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Why would de Vere do such a thing? But more importantly, why would he give away his book of Sonnets and Venus & Adonis not to mention such masterpieces as Macbeth, King Lear, and Hamlet?
Find out in Shakey’s Madness!