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TOPIC: Sir Henry Neville?

Sir Henry Neville? 10 years 3 months ago #5

  • William Shakespeare
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Brenda James is the originator, researcher and author of the theory that Sir Henry Neville wrote the works of William Shakespeare. Her book, The Truth Will Out, was written in conjunction with Professor William Rubinstein, and explores some of the evidence in favour of Sir Henry Neville's authorship. The website provides supplementary background material which can then be read in conjunction with the book. More material will be added during the next few months, including details concerning the first issue of The Journal of Neville Studies together with links to other items of interest.

In our book, The Truth Will Out, Professor Bill Rubinstein and I chart the life events of Sir Henry Neville (1562 – 1615). But one thing which the first presentation of a 'lost' historical figure cannot afford space for is a subjective character-sketch of a man whose records had been so little viewed during the past century. Encountering Neville through his written remains was like meeting a completely new acquaintance and trying to come to some broad conclusions about his personality. And this particular new acquaintance was so complex that no simple, pre-emptive concepts were possible.

What Kind of Man was Sir Henry Neville?

Sir Henry was an enigmatic man: influential yet secretive. He seemed to be constantly re-inventing himself too. Intellectual, yet at the same time practical, he essentially reflected the two very different worlds of his parents’ origins: his father was the younger son of an aristocrat, while his mother stemmed from the Merchant classes. Thus his character combined romantic ideals of chivalric honour mingled with down-to-earth aims of running a business and supporting a large family.

He carried these combined strengths into his work as a politician. He became an M.P. at the age of 21, and was never far away from national politics through all his working life (though he failed by a whisker to reach the high office at which he aimed.) The essence of Neville's character therefore emerges as that of a generous, warm-hearted man, conscious of his protective role towards those less advantaged than himself, yet whose largesse and liberal outlook were tempered by the harsh times in which he lived. His main aims in life were to lay the foundations of greatness and progress in England, but in order to get anywhere near achieving these aims he had perforce to engage (when necessary) in the politics of Machiavelli.

© Brenda James 2005
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Sir Henry Neville? 9 years 1 month ago #1396

  • Howard Schumann
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There are some biographical coincidences with Neville's life but somehow the whole scenario just doesn't ring true. The personality of Neville comes through as being extremely calculating, lacking in the true sensibility of an artist. According to your account, one day he just decided that he wanted to write plays and out came fully formed masterpieces. There were no youthful trial and error, no adolescent love poems, no early works that would indicate a genius in the making.

Your dismissal of Edward de Vere is also extremely disingenuous. Your two main points indicating de Vere could not be the author are that:

1. He died in 1604, a date that does not match the accepted chronology of the plays. There may be several explanations: A) the accepted chronology is wrong; B) de Vere's incomplete works were completed by his son-in-law The Earl of Darby, himself a noted playwright; or C) de Vere did not die at the date mentioned but lived long enough to compose additional plays. My own guess would be B though there are certainly advocates for the other positions.

2. How could a friend of Southhampton vote to condemn him to death at the Essex trial?

De Vere was forced to be on the jury. There was no even-handedness or anything like innocent till proven guilty. So the fact that Essex and Southampton were arraigned for treason effectively meant they would be found guilty of treason. The place where mercy and justice were doled out was after the trial had concluded, in direct, informal pleadings with the monarch to rescind the death sentence. Essex was beheaded; Southampton's sentence was commuted to life in prison. This is where Oxford's relationship with Southhampton and with the Queen came to fruition.

The question could be turned around and phrased as such: How could a man who was the recipient of passionate love poems turn around and implicate his paramour in treason? It certainly does not compute.

Besides. you simply ignore Oxford's life and circumstances which are reflected in the plays.

Additionally, it is generally agreed that the majority of the sonnets were written in the early 1590s, a time when Sir Henry would have been in his late twenties or early thirties. The author complains of being old and tired and lame. The poet is "old," "beated and chopped with tanned antiquity," bearing "lines and wrinkles," in "age's steepy night."

He looks at the past with regret and to the future with the sense that his death is not far off. Time is running out for him. He likens himself to "a decrepit father" who "takes delight" in the Fair Youth as in his "child" (37), implying a gap of a generation. Again this fits Oxford (who was twenty-three years older than Southampton) but not the scholars' Shakespeare (who was only nine years older), nor Sir Henry.
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