PREFACE: “A never writer to an ever reader” (1609): 26 Letters and “TO.THE.ONLIE.BEGETTER.”

Troylus, Preface, 1609

Fig. 1:   Read the Introduction to Troylus and Cressida (Cresseid) first by clicking HERE.  

                                                       26 Letters

   The 1609 “Preface” above carries the attribution of William Shakespeare.  Addressed to the “Eternall Reader”, the “letter” follows upon one of the most oft quoted phrases cited to support Edward de Vere as (at the very least) a contributor, if the not the main writer, of the Shakespeare canon.  It states at the outset that William Shakespeare is the author of both the Preface and the play, and presents an epithet identifying who he is:  “A never writer to an ever reader.”  Or, presented another way:  “An E. Ver writer to an E. Ver reader”.  How probable is it this innuendo was missed by Crown cryptographers?  

   I believe the question is rhetorical.  Edward de Vere was virtually untouchable before the death of Elizabeth in 1603, and by James I from 1604 onward.  After all, after Elizabeth’s death, King James released Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earle of Southampton, from the Tower, despite his probable participation in treasonous actions against the Queen.  James then follows this with a short interview with Edward de Vere, drops his suspicions de Vere was also a conspirator in the plot to overthrow Elizabeth, and appears to have dropped the entire issue.  

   Several features, assuming the letter is Shakespeare’s, make it problematic, even in the absence of an authorship question.  Namely, and foremost, is the ‘feel’ and ‘tone’, of contempt and distain for the real addressees (secondarily and incidentally to the reading audience), pointing a finger instead at the “censors”, “the grand possessors”, who have (in Shakespeare’s opinion) too much power, and that when he (Shakespeare) dies, and his comedies are “out of sale”, they will “scramble” to get their hands on them, then set up a “new English Inquisition.”  He then says:  “Take this for a warning.”  

   Strong words from a writer without a title, such as “Duke”, “Earle”, or “Lord”.  Ben Jonson spent time in prison, as did other writers, for saying less.  Others had their hands cut off.  The contents of the 1609 letter could easily be considered treasonous.  The letter is not anonymous.  Shakespeare identifies himself.  An accusation of treason could and did bring death.  Not the death given to nobility with beheading or hanging, but to be brought before a gathered audience while executioners cut out his entrails, cast them to the ground, and burned them before him while he was still alive.  In some cases (again while the victim was still alive), the body was then lashed to horses, then dragged (drawn) along city streets.  Eventually, as horses were driven outward from the lashed body, the victim’s limbs were ripped from his torso (quartered).  In some cases, the head of the executed was stuck on a pole in a prominent place as a warning and demonstration to others the gruesome consequences for transgressors against the State. Who would take this kind of chance?  Who had the protection of the highest powers in England?    

  The tone is clearly one of entitlement and arrogance.  Shakespeare praises his own work as being on an equal footing with the best comedies of Terence or Plautus; ridicules the intelligence of the censors, the “grand possessors”, who have brains that “grind” rather than think; and, as critics, they are merely “heavy-witted wordlings, as were never capable of the witte of a Commedie.”  It stands to reason many of these brainless “censors” could easily have been (and were) those in considerable power.   

   The most striking feature of the 1609 Preface is its tone.  One of the most, if not the most protected person in Elzabethan England was Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.  The tone of entitlement is clearly identifiable as the arrogance of position and power.  This tone and entitlement is reminiscent of de Vere’s letters to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, written some thirty-five years before.  

   How probable is it that a commoner from Stratford-upon-Avon could have written with such impunity? Unless Elizabeth I and her counselors provided this impunity.   

   Are there internal clues within the plaintext of the Preface that point toward one or more  encryptions (letter-strings/codes) hidden within the plaintext; i.e., hidden “in plain (text) sight?  

Troylus, Preface, 26 LettersFig. 2:  (Or:  ” an E. Vere writer to an E. Vere reader.”)  

   In 1609, a collection of 154 sonnets was published in quarto and given the attribution of William Shakespeare.  The writer of the  Dedication page to this collection is unknown:

# 1 Begetter, Dedication Page  JPEGFig. 3

   As I have written previously in the section entitledTO.THE.ONLIE.BEGETTER., the 1609 Dedication is one of the most poured over and analysed plaintext in the Shakespeare canon.  The present section, however, is a discussion of internal clues in plaintexts that often help me find encryptions in the writing that are merely suspected of having them.  When the internal clues successfully point to and present a code, the validity and probability of being placed there by intelligent design is enhanced.

   Notice that there are thirteen lines in the 1609 Dedication page.  Line seven says:  “OVR. EVER. LIVING. POET.”  The 1609 date, coupled with the word “Ever.Living.” is provocative.  The word itself is a play on words, and can be interpreted in at least six ways:  (1)  “Ever. Living” :  this can imply that William Shakespeare (even though his name is not mentioned) is the putative name of the writer of the sonnets; (2)  “Ever.Living.”:  that the poet is Shakespeare, and that he is still living;  (3)  “Ever.Living.”:  that the “POET.” lives as “E. Ver”, that is Earle/Edward Ver(e); (4)  “Ever.Living.”:  if this refers to Edward Vere, then the Dedication is saying Edward de Vere is still living, and did not die in 1604;  (5) “Ever.Living.”: meaning his poetry and name shall live forever, regardless of the identity of the “poet”;  (6)  “Ever.Living.”: the two words (or one word hyphenated):  refers to the “begetter. of. these. ensving. sonnets”, “Mr. W.H.” This can be interpreted as:   Mr. W.H. is both the writer (“begetter”) as well as the ‘giver’ of the sonnets for publication.

   Note, however, that the phrase:  OVR.EVER.LIVING.POET has 17 letters.  The phrase appears to refer only to Edward Vere, but only if the phrase is seen as a deliberate play on words.  Further note “OVR. EVER. LIVING. POET.” is the seventy line, and “T.T.” follows six lines below.  Seven and six.  That is, 76.  Since the Dedication refers to sonnets, is the number 76 an internal design clue pointing to Sonnet 76 in the collection?  

Sonnet 76 PlaintextFig. 4

Sonnet 76, My name's DEVERE, Array 14Fig. 5

   To this writer, the internal clues in the 1609 Dedication (17 letters in OVR. LIVING. POET. and 7 and 6 pointing to Sonnet 76 with the encryption, My name’s DEVERE, are valid.  Further note that just as the phrase OVR. LIVING. POET.  identifies Edward Vere due to the 17 letter-count reflecting de Vere’s title as the Seventeenth Earle of Oxford, the implication that Mr. W. H. is perhaps identifying what many scholars claim are the initials of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earle of Southampton (suspected as well as being the love-child of Edward de Vere and Elizabeth I).  This appears to be accurate:

Sonnets Dedication, 1609, no punc., HENRY O. poetFig. 6  

Further note that the letter-count of  TO. THE. ONLIE. BEGETTER is 18.  The word-count, beginning with TO. and ending with BY. (the last word before the phrase in line seven, OVR. EVER. LIVING. POET.,  a phrase of 17 letters) is also 18.  “Mr. W. H.” , if these initials stand for Henry Wriothesley, (the man who the Dedication insinuates  is the person presenting the collection of sonnets for the 1609 publication), as the son of Edward de Vere and Elizabeth I, would be the 18th. Earl of Oxford.  The Dedication is remarkable and contains several earmarks of deliberate craft and design.

   So what does this have to do with the 1609 Preface to Troylus and Cressida (Cresseid)?

   First of all, the publication date of both the Preface and the play is 1609.  Both contain the surname of Vere.  Both claim (as we shall see below) that Edward de Vere and William Shakespeare are one and the same person.  But are there any internal clues that lead to this conclusion in the Preface.

   Return again to Figures 1 and 2 above, and the phrase a never writer to an ever reader.  The seven words have a letter-count of 26.  Is the number 26 an internal clue?  If it is, then we might be able to find an encryption involving this number:

Troilus, Preface, Vere, hid, 26 Letters, Array 26 #1Fig. 7

The letter-string cluster makes syntactic sense, bringing together both plaintext and ciphertext as direct and strong support for Oxford as the writer of Troylus and Cressida (Cresseid) for the following reasons:  (1)  Row One of Array 26 contains ONLY the famous phrase a never writer to an ever reader; (2)  this phrase is also the title address preceeding the body of the Preface itself;  (3) and has a letter-count of 26.  (4)  the Array cluster identifies Vere as the author; (5) that his presence is also encoded in the play, as suggested/implied by the word “HID” (hidden, secret,  concealed) and (6)  that the play is a “new play”.

Troylus, Dedication, combined, VERE, author, 26 lettersFigures:  8A and 8B

   Figure 8A (left) of Array 12 identifies VERE as the author.  Figure B brings into play the number 26.  The V at the top of Array 12 points downward to the second VERE in the array.  Starting with the first V at the top, and counting the letters below it, the T in AUTHOR is the 26th letter in the column.  Coincidence or intelligent design?  

   Since the 1609 Sonnets Dedication led me to Sonnet 76 (see above), I thought perhaps the Preface’s seeming emphasis on the number 26 was another internal clue to a connection with Sonnet 26:

Sonnet 26, FacsimileFig. 9       

Sonnet 26, Lord of my love, I, BESS, sent thisFig. 10

   I am persuaded the Sonnets, or many of them, are personal correspondence.  In order to protect the name of the the author as well as any personal messages, codes were encrypted within the plaintext.  Both parties to the correspondence had to know both how to encrypt and as well as how to decode.  A form of this type of correspondence, although in a different design form, was used as a sort of parlour game, an entertainment, in some Elizabethan circles.  In the case of the Sonnets, I believe the correspondence was predominately between (or amongst) Edward de Vere, Elizabeth I, and later, Henry Wriothesley.

   The Sonnets, however, are more clever in design, and therefore more protected.  For example, if I were Elizabeth I, and was accustomed to poets and writers in general who wished me to endorse or to subsidize their writing, to become their patron, I might choose to know whether or not the correspondence was truly from the purported author of the “letter” (in the present case, a sonnet).  The key word or words to look for might be agreed upon by both parties prior to any correspondence.  For instance, to those in the know, seeing such phrases as “TO. THE. ONLIE. BEGETTER.”, “a never writer to an ever reader”, or “OVR. EVER. LIVING. POET” would rings bells to those in the know.  The two corresponders may have agreed that an internal clue might be the counting of letters, or  plays-on-words, or puns, used; or both.  And, if I were Elizabeth I, and  needed confirmation as to the probable and  rightful corresponder, I would use a method (an equidistant letter sequence method) to look for a signature (say, “de Vere”), for verification of legitimacy.  At the same time, if I were Edward de Vere and received a letter, and  suspected it might be from Elizabeth, I would look for a “signature” letter-string for verification as well.  In the case of Sonnet 26, a cluster and letter-string addressed to “Lord of my love” combined with an encryption that, syntactically, can be in this form:  “I, Bess, send this love”, would have the force of being both valid and credible.    Notice that the “L” in “love” is in the same column as both “Bess” and “this”.  The protection of both writer and intended reader seems secure.  This “letter”, at the time of writing, was not intended for publication.  However, the content of any letter given to someone to give to the Queen or from the Queen to Edward de Vere was likely to be scrutinized.  Therefore, the presence of codes in the letter plaintexts makes sense.  And, as with all letter-strings and codes, in all plaintexts under discussion, the syntax is often clumsy and not visually appealing.

   Returning to Sonnet 26, and in particular to Array 13 of this plaintext, the following observations I believe provide reasonable support for the above:

   (1)  Coincidental or not (depending upon one’s degree of belief), Sonnet 26 appears to have been written by Queen Elizabeth I.  The first four words, “Lord of my love”, suggest the writing is to a male, even though a case can be made for the address to be a mere figure of speech, and therefore could have been written to a female.  (2)  Not surprising, then, is the presence of a letter-string “BESS”, “I send this” in a love letter written to a male about her love for him. (3)  The Sonnets carry the attribution of “William Shakespeare”.  It is unlikely the William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon is the addressee of a letter from his Queen.  Therefore, we must assume the letter to be to him from a “Bess” unknown to history, if we assume the man from Stratford to be the true author of the Shakespeare canon.    What does make sense, however, is the correspondents are de Vere and Elizabeth.  This seems all the more likely in the total context of the sonnets, the dedications (to Henry Wriothesley, for example) and the plays, and in the light of an authorship question that brings into doubt the true identity of Shakespeare as being from Stratford, and who is none other than this.  (4)  The coded contents of Sonnet 26 were found by this writer in a preface to the publication of a play (Troylus and Cressida) in 1609.  The date of the writing of this play is uncertain, but the attribution of the author has been given to Shakespeare.  In sum, I found the sonnet’s code by being referred to it from the opening title of the Preface:  “a never writer to an ever reader”, a title with a letter-count of 26.  (5)  The “BESS” letter-string is in Array 13:  13 is one-half of 26.  The 1609 Dedication to the Sonnets has 13 lines.

   (6)  Pushing conjecture to a possible extreme, reason 6 takes the following leap of logic:  Assuming the accuracy of reasoning from the 1609 Dedication to the number 76 (see above), and from this to Sonnet 76, the pattern, or more accurately the question, is:  since the numbers 76 and 26 appear to work together as the product of arguably the two most famous and oft-quoted phrases by those who take Edward de Vere to be Shakespeare, or at least  a contributor to the Shakespeare canon; (that is:  “OVR. EVER. LIVING. POET” and “a never writer to an ever reader”.  If this collaboration of factors mentioned above is reasonable, then is it possible that Edward de Vere wrote Sonnet 76 when he was 26 years old?  Since the date of Vere’s birth is given as 1550, then he would have been 26 in the year 1576.

Troilus, Preface, E.O. Vere witte, his commedie, #4Fig.11   

Troylus and Cressida (Cresseid) has comedic elements, and has  been variously classified as a history, comedy and tragedy.  The encrypted plaintext, throughout the frontispieces, the Preface and the play itself, consistently attributes the true authorship of this problematic play to Edward de Vere.  The play, however, is based on historical events as described by Homer:

Troilus, HOMER, Preface the action, this author, #6

Fig. 12    




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