Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Chisper Effect 12 : The Ripper Gang

    Continuing the weekly serialization of

chisper_effect

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

THE CHISPER EFFECT

In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved

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As we approach the end of my first chispological analysis of the most spectacular mysteries of mankind, we are about to enter what are for me our modern times. The difference between this age & those of the past, especially the deeper histories, is society’s ability to relay information to the masses with widespread rapidity. With this possibility comes the very real risk of media manipulation, of creating a factochisp on purpose, the veritable ‘Fake News’ of the Trump administration. Humanity is primarily a gossip-loving species, that is force-fed to a gluttonous, news-hungry people; if enough people read about, or see images of, a factoid then the widely spread belief moulds minds for whomever may benefit. ‘That never happened,‘ someone might say. ‘But I read it about,’ ‘but I saw it with my own eyes,’ will be the curt response.

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Such an illusion occurred in the case of the notorious Whitechapel prostitute killer, Jack the Ripper, said to stalk the dimly lit streets of London’s East End in the summer & autumn of 1888. Among eleven unsolved crimes contained in the dossier on the so-called Whitechapel Killer, there are five which form the unholy canon of victims. These poor unfortunate women were all found with their throats cut, with four of them being mutilated in the most abhorrent fashion. They were;

Mary Ann Nichols: 31 August, Buck’s Row
Annie Chapman: 8 September, 29 Hanbury Street
Elizabeth Stride: 30 September, 40 Berner Street
Catherine Eddowes: 30 September, Mitre Square
Mary Jane Kelly: 9 November, Millers Court

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What bother’d the police the most about the killer was the phantom-like way this sadistic slaughterer managed to avoid detection during his grisly butchering & subsequent flights to safety. The police were also perturbed by the statements of numerous witnesses who had been closest to the action, so to speak, with the vast majority offering differing descriptions of the murderer. Using chispology, these two enigmas can be reconciled into a single stream of thought; Jack the Ripper was in fact several people, a murder gang, whose members facilitated the slayings. The Ripper Gang is the bloody colour of red, but when we mix in the blue of media manipulation & their creation of the single maniacal murdered, the colour inevitably changes. As we look at this new colour, we can sense red is somewhere in the background, but our minds see only now the new colour, violet.

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The question we must ask is who turned the Ripper’s red to violet? Who in their right mind would be behind such a desperate & devious mission? Upon approaching a mystery such as this, one should apply to the problem Aristotle’s philosophies of causality; when all the dust has settled on an event, whomever benefits most from the final outcome of an event probably had something to do with its initiation. In the case of Jack the Ripper, two very significant prosperities induced by the killings can be connected to the famous Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, who was living & working in London in 1888. His name stands out a little ridiculously, almost scandalously, in the same way that Queen Victoria’s deranged eldest son was a popular suspect in the case. Instead, where Prince Albert Edward’s ‘claim’ is based on speculation only, upon investigating Mr Shaw, a certain number of tentacles of truth seem to penetrate the dark historical swamps of the Ripper case with ease.

A young George Bernard Shaw
A young George Bernard Shaw

One of Shaw’s jobs at that time was as a music critic for the Star newspaper, where he wrote under the pseudonym, ‘Corno di Bassetto.’ The Star was also the Victorian tabloid which printed for the first time the name of Jack the Ripper, selling millions of copies in the process. In 1888, newspapers were the perfect public medium upon which to launch the creation of a crazed serial killer in order to focus a global spotlight upon the capital slums. At the time of the killings, the East End of London had crammed almost a million outcasts into its poverty-stricken streets, a community that was either ignored or condemned to eternal destitution by the wealthier classes of the capital. With a flash of his midnight knife, the Ripper would change everything in an instant. The public outcry over the killer was so intense that there soon kicked in the process of urban renewal & poverty relief that George Bernard Shaw had been campaigning for for years. Social reform is the crucial motive behind the Ripper killings, at the height of which Shaw printed the following letter in the Star. As we read the extracts, let us imagine him as the actual architect behind the entire Ripper legend.

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BLOOD MONEY TO WHITECHAPEL
TO THE EDITOR OF THE STAR

SIR,– Will you allow me to make a comment on the success of the Whitechapel murderer in calling attention for a moment to the social question? Less than a year ago the West-end press, headed by the St. James’s Gazette, the Times, and the Saturday Review, were literally clamering for the blood of the people–hounding on Sir Charles Warren to thrash and muzzle the scum who dared to complain that they were starving–heaping insult and reckless calumny on those who interceded for the victims–applauding to the skies the open class bias of those magistrates and judges who zealously did their very worst in the criminal proceedings which followed–behaving, in short as the proprietary class always does behave when the workers throw it into a frenzy of terror by venturing to show their teeth. Quite lost on these journals and their patrons were indignant remonstrances, argument, speeches, and sacrifices, appeals to history, philosophy, biology, economics, and statistics; references to the reports of inspectors, registrar generals, city missionaries, Parliamentary commissions, and newspapers; collections of evidence by the five senses at every turn; and house-to-house investigations into the condition of the unemployed, all unanswered and unanswerable, and all pointing the same way. The Saturday Review was still frankly for hanging the appellants; and the Times denounced them as “pests of society.” This was still the tone of the class Press as lately as the strike of the Bryant and May girls. Now all is changed. Private enterprise has succeeded where Socialism failed. Whilst we conventional Social Democrats were wasting our time on education, agitation, and organisation, some independent genius has taken the matter in hand, and by simply murdering and disembowelling four women, converted the proprietary press to an inept sort of communism. The moral is a pretty one, and the Insurrectionists, the Dynamitards, the Invincibles, and the extreme left of the Anarchist party will not be slow to draw it. “Humanity, political science, economics, and religion,” they will say, “are all rot; the one argument that touches your lady and gentleman is the knife.”

The riots of 1886 brought in £78,000 and a People’s Palace; it remains to be seen how much these murders may prove worth to the East-end in panem et circenses. Indeed, if the habits of duchesses only admitted of their being decoyed into Whitechapel back-yards, a single experiment in slaughterhouse anatomy on an artistocratic victim might fetch in a round half million and save the necessity of sacrificing four women of the people.

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In his letter, Shaw essentially describes how social reformers had tried multiple manners of methods to highlight the plight of the impoverishment of London’s East End, to their ignominious collapse of their efforts. Yet, where failed, ‘humanity, political science, economics, and religion,‘ it was the brutal murders of prostitutes which finally managed to open the eyes of a hoary establishment. When reading through the letter, expressions such as ‘private enterprise‘ & ‘independent genius’ seem outstandingly brazen words of self-congratulation. There is also a startlingly curious & cold-blooded sense of self-righteousness about Shaw’s, ‘necessity of sacrificing four women of the people.’

William Morris
William Morris

A similar opinion to this was vaunted by one of Shaw’s companions in social reform, William Morris, who printed in his own newspaper (the Commonweal), ‘in our age of contradictions and absurdities, a fiend-murderer may become a more effective reformer than all the honest propagandists in the world.’ Morris knew the East End well, & was always exploring its dark alleys & experiencing its gin-soaked poverty at first hand. Along with Shaw & their fellow reformers, Morris had grown steadily disenchanted with the normal means of civic protestation. Things became intolerable after November 1887, when on that month’s ‘Bloody Sunday,’ the British government brutally killed a number of protesters in Trafalgar Square. It was becoming clear to Morris & Shaw that an alternative route to reform was required. Their solution was a ‘fiend-murderer,’ whose hunting grounds were the poorest parts of London, in order to shine a focus on that area’s deprivation. That the Ripper’s unfortunate victims came from the prostitute class was an act designed, in fact, to assist these looser ladies in the long run. In 1885, William Morris had declared; ‘the first thing that is necessary, is that all women should be freed from the compulsion of living Sin this degraded way.’ There is also a vague holy grail nugget that has been hinted at by Ripperologists that Morris was arrested at one point during the murders & in relation to them. This may be a factochisp or genuine truth, but I shall pursue it no further at this moment.

The murders began with the non-canonical slaying of Emma Smith, on the 3rd April 1888. Later that year, on August 7th, Martha Tabram was stabbed 39 times in the George Yard Buildings, George Yard, Whitechapel. Also at this time, the Lyceum Theatre was playing ‘Dr Jekyl & Mr Hyde’ whose fiend-murderer was the talk of all of London.’ It is roundabout this point that the Ripper plan, I believe, was put into place. Smith & Tabram may have been ‘Ripper’ victims, or were perhaps an opportunistic catalyst for the plan to begin. Either way, by the night of the killing of the Mary Ann Nichols, on the 31st August 1888, Morris received a visit from a certain Ernest Balfort Bax, another ardent social reformer & erstwhile Star journalist. I believe on this occasion they were discussing the Star’s role in the plot that was just about to unfold, for the next day the newspaper printed a passage which neatly planted in the public’s imagination the arrival a ‘Man Monster’ in London.

HAVE we a murderous maniac loose in East London? It looks as if we had. Nothing so appalling, so devilish, so inhuman – or, rather non-human – as the three Whitechapel crimes has ever happened outside the pages of Poe or De Quincey. The unravelled mystery of “The Whitechapel Murders” would make a page of detective romance as ghastly as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” The hellish violence and malignity of the crime which we described yesterday resemble in almost every particular the two other deeds of darkness which preceded it. Rational motive there appears to be none. The murderer must be a Man Monster

 What was needed was a group of individuals – a gang – who would carry out the deadly wishes of Shaw & Morris, to seek & slay those unlucky martyr-women to the cause. That several people were involved in the killings was much-opined at the time; The London Echo (1st September 1888) postulated, ‘one of the chief theories of the police with respect to the matter is that a sort of “High Rip” gang exists in the neighbourhood,’ while Percy Clark, a police surgeon in Whitechapel, told the East London Observer in 1910, ‘I think perhaps one man was responsible for three of them. I would not like to say he did the others.’ It has often been noted with some amazement how the Ripper managed to always elude capture, despite a modus operandi of killing in the open streets. On one occasion, a policeman patrolled a section of Whitechapel & found nothing untoward, then just ten minutes later returned to the same place to find a dead woman who had suffered a great deal of crude, organ-removing surgery. In the face of such risks, we may assume that a look-out system had been set in place to facilitate the plan.

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Witnesses at three of the murders placed a man & woman gently carousing in the immediate area of the body-finds. The clearest of these sightings is at the murder of Annie Chapman; where one witness describes hearing what sounded like a body dropping against a fence, while five minutes later another witness places a man & a woman cavorting on the street-side of that same fence. While Annie Chapman was being brutalized behind the fence, the couple must have been keeping an eye on the street. That a woman was involved, a veritable JILL THE RIPPER, has been half-proven in recent years by the pro-female DNA profiling of a stamp on a letter sent to Thomas Horrocks Openshaw on the 29th October 1888. Signed ‘Jack the Ripper,’ after the signature there appears a curious creochisp of an American folk song.

O have you seen the devle
With his mikerscope & scalpul
A-lookin at a kidney
With a slide cocked up
Openshaw

Did you ever see de devil wid his iron handled shovel
A-scrapin up de san’ in his ole tin pan
He cuts up mighty funny, he steals all yo’ money
He blinds ou with his san.’ He’s tryin’ to git you, man
American Folk Song

Bellsmith
Bellsmith

This North American connection to the Ripper Gang leads us to two of its main players; a religious-nut insurance clerk called Henry Wentworth Bellsmith & a quack doctor called Francis Tumblety. The first of these, Henry Wentworth Bellsmith, was born in London in 1849, then moved to Toronto in 1878 with his wife & children. Following a decade of obscurity, by early 1888 we see him separated from his wife & back living in London, where he was employed by the Toronto Trust Company. By the month of April he had taken up lodgings with a certain Mr and Mrs Callaghan of 27 Sun Street, Finsbury Square, on the fringes of London’s East End. As the Autumn killings got underway, Mr Callaghan began to suspect his lodger was actually the Ripper, but before he could properly raise his suspicions with the authorities, Bellsmith vacated his rooms & vanished. A year later, Callaghan finally reported his haunted thoughts to a British psychiatrist working on the Ripper case, Forbes Winslow. The salient points of the statement Callaghan gave Winslow can be summarized thus;

(i) Bellsmith told Callaghan he was visiting London from Toronto on business for a few months or maybe a year.
(ii) Callaghan said of Bellsmith, ‘we all regarded him as a lunatic, obsessed with women of the street, who he said should be drowned.’
(iii) Bellsmith kept loaded revolvers in his room.
(iv) Following the killing of Martha Tabram in early August, Bellsmith came home late & ‘washed his own shirt.’ Callaghan later noticed spots of blood on Bellsmith’s bedsheets.

When Bellsmith moved out of Finsbury Square in mid-August, he told Callaghan was returning to Toronto. Instead, he seems to turn up in another room in Whitechapel, when an un-named landlady would remember a man just like Bellsmith, who had been lodging with her during the murders. The story is best given by an Australian newspaper, the Port Philip Herald (22-11-1890), extracts of which read;

Mr Albert Backert, Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, has written the following letter to the Chronicle:

In connection with the late Whitechapel murders, the most remarkable and sensational statement was made to me this morning at my place. At eleven o’clock this morning a very respectable middle-aged woman called at my house, and wished to see me. She was asked in, and then made the following statement to me, which she declared was all quite true:

About two years ago, she said, she was living in the model dwellings close by here and had a bedroom to let, furnished. A young man called and engaged the room. After living some time with her he stated that he had been to sea, and that at the present time he was receiving £1 a week from his father, and was also receiving an allowance from his brother, who was a doctor, and that he did not work himself. She also noticed that he had plenty of clothes, including hunting breeches, revolvers, guns, and many other articles, which an ordinary working man would not have.
“The People”, a London Conservative paper, has the following remarkable statement 

She describes him as young, of middle height, well-built, with a small, fair moustache and light brown hair, although she had frequently remarked that he had means by which he made his moustache and eyebrows much darker on some occasions than others. His movements during the time the murders were occurring were very mysterious… His brother, who she understood was a doctor, visited him on two occasions and appeared much older than he. She has no doubt the man she suspects is English, but he spoke with a nasal twang, evidently affected, and used the word “Boss” very frequently in conversation. He usually rose at two in the afternoon, and would go out about five o’clock, invariably wearing a tall hat and dressed very respectably, but as he had a large number of suits of clothes, he often dressed differently, or as she puts it: “He was a man who could so alter his appearance that if you met him in the street once you would not know him again.”

 The strange man she describes an accomplished linguist and able to speak French and German fluently as she frequently heard him in conversation with some foreigners who lived on the same floor…. one brother, the doctor who visited him, residing in the neighborhood of Oxford street. He also told her he had travelled for several years in the United States and Canada… There was little doubt, too, that he sent communications to the Press Association and Central News, for she declares that she once saw either envelopes or postcards addressed to them, although she believes that those she saw were subsequently destroyed… before his departure he had sold all his belongings – including many suits of clothes and several revolvers – to a ship’s mate, who, a few days later, called and took them away… On Wednesday evening she was walking in Commercial road, when, to her astonishment, she recognised the man, standing on the kerb in conversation with a well-known tradesman of the district, whose name she declines to divulge, but who, she has ascertained, is a friend of his… She has seen his wife, and had entered into conversation with her. The latter she describes as a rather pretty young woman of about twenty five, but whose face wears a strange look.

Tumblety
Tumblety

This description of the ‘lodger’ being seen in London with his young wife, two years year after the killings, is a composite match to Bellsmith & Caroline Taylor, who were married in 1889, when she was 23 years old. It is onto the landlady’s remembrance of the lodger’s elder brother that we can project the physicality & doctor persona of Francis Tumblety, who was 56 in 1888. Though a prominent suspect at the time, his name was lost in the muddy depths of Ripperology, only to resurface a century later in a letter discovered by an English policeman named Stewart Evans. Written in 1913 by John J. Littlechild, Chief of CID Special Branch at the time of the murders, it stores some vital information.

I never heard of a Dr D. in connection with the Whitechapel murders but amongst the suspects, and to my mind a very likely one, was a Dr. T. (which sounds much like D.) He was an American quack named Tumblety and was at one time a frequent visitor to London and on these occasions constantly brought under the notice of police, there being a large dossier concerning him at Scotland Yard. Although a ‘Sycopathia Sexualis’ subject he was not known as a ‘Sadist’ (which the murderer unquestionably was) but his feelings toward women were remarkable and bitter in the extreme, a fact on record. Tumblety was arrested at the time of the murders in connection with unnatural offences and charged at Marlborough Street, remanded on bail, jumped his bail, and got away to Boulogne. He shortly left Boulogne and was never heard of afterwards. It was believed he committed suicide but certain it is that from this time the ‘Ripper’ murders came to an end.

The ‘unnatural offences’ ascribed to Tumblety were acts of homosexuality against five men, which had been conducted across the entire period of the canonical murders. The first of these incidents took place on the 31st August, the very date of the killing of Mary Ann Nichols. Perhaps he was indulging in his secret passions in order to deflect his mind from the horrors about to unfold. Tumblety was a man with a chequered past, including suspicion of having had a hand in the assassination of President Lincoln. He also had a reputation of being quite a vicious misogynist, as best recorded in the written account of a certain Colonel Dunham, who had once been invited to a dinner by Tumblety.

Someone asked why he had not invited some women to his dinner. His face instantly became as black as a thunder-cloud. He had a pack of cards in his hand, but he laid them down and said, almost savagely, ‘No, Colonel, I don’t know any such cattle, and if I did I would, as your friend, sooner give you a dose of quick poison than take you into such danger.’ He then broke into a homily on the sin and folly of dissipation, fiercely denounced all women and especially fallen women.
He then invited us into his office where he illustrated his lecture so to speak. One side of this room was entirely occupied with cases, outwardly resembling wardrobes. When the doors were opened quite a museum was revealed — tiers of shelves with glass jars and cases, some round and others square, filled with all sorts of anatomical specimens. The ‘doctor’ placed on a table a dozen or more jars containing, as he said, the matrices (uteri) of every class of women. Nearly a half of one of these cases was occupied exclusively with these specimens.

Hall Caine
Hall Caine

Tumblety was perfect for the job, & in the context of the Ripper Gang, where Bellsmith led the actual murders, Tumblety would have been the mastermind. We can link him directly to the private company of George Bernard Shaw through a collection of writers & thespians known as the ‘Beefsteak Club,’ of which Shaw was a frequent member. Tumblety admitted attending club meetings to a publication known as the New York World on the 29th January, 1889; when he boasted of frequenting ‘some of the best London clubs, among others the Carleton Club & the Beefsteak Club.’ One of the Club’s more prominent members was Thomas Hall Caine, whom as a young man in the 1870s had been seduced and manipulated by Tumblety. Caine would go on to become a successful writer, noted for the touches of realism he poured into his works, analysis of which writings shows how he poured the real world into his fictions. His third novel, A Son of Hagar, for example, begins with a suicidal girl & her illegitimate baby being dragged alive from the Thames, which reflects the birth of his own first child before he became married to its mother. Thusly, Caine’s own complicity in the Ripper conspiracy may ve secretly interwoven into a short story of his, ‘The Last Confession,’ which was published in 1893;

Father, do not leave me. Wait! Only a little longer. You cannot absolve me? I am not penitent? How can I be penitent? I do not regret it? How can I regret it? I would do it again? How could I help but do it again? Yes, yes, I know, I know! Who knows it so well as I? It is written in the tables of god’s law: Thou shall do no murder! But was it murder? Was it crime? Blood. Yes, it was the spilling of blood. Blood will have blood, you say, But is there no difference?

My life as a physician in London had been a hard one, but it was not my practice that had wrecked me. How to perform that operation on the throat was the beginning of my trouble, you know what happened. I mastered my problem, & they called the operation by my name. It has brought me fame it has made me rich it has saved a hundred lives, & will save ten thousand more… My work possessed me like a fever. I could neither do it to my content nor leave it undone.

Later in the Confession, Caine encounters a Tumbletyesque ‘American surgeon’ who proclaims how it was, ‘good to take life in a good cause, & if it was good for the nation, it was good for the individual man. The end was all.’ That Caine’s ‘fictional’ surgeon committed murders in secluded alleyways, & that he cut throats the throats of his victims, leaves little to the imagination.

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The Ripper Gang would leave its biggest trace on the night of September 30th, when two prostitutes were killed within an hour of each other. This famous ‘Double-Event,’ would be the next bloody step in sensationalizing the Ripper, whose ‘official’ birth had been cast by the Star only a few days previously. Dated to the 25th September, the Central News Agency received the following letter written in red ink;

Dear Boss:- I keep on hearing the police have caught me, but they won’t fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on ______, and I shan’t quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now? I love my work, and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle to write with, but it went thick, and I can’t use it. Red ink is fit enough, I hope. Ha! ha! The next job I do I clip the lady’s ear and send to the police officers, just for jolly. Wouldn’t you? Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp; I want to get a chance. Good luck-
Yours truly,
Jack T. Ripper
Don’t mind me giving the trade name. Wasn’t good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands. Curse it; no luck yet! They say I am a doctor now. Ha! ha!

In a journalistic flash, the Ripper name had been emphatically placed upon the lips of the news-hungry people of London & beyond. Of the matter, the investigation’s leader, Sir Robert Anderson, declared in his memoirs, ‘I will only add here that the ‘Jack-the-Ripper’ letter which is preserved in the Police Museum at Scotland Yard is the creation of an enterprising London journalist.’ In his own autobiography published a few years later, Sir Melville Macnaghten similarly observed; ‘I have always thought I could discern the stained forefinger of the journalist – indeed, a year later, I had shrewd suspicions as to the actual author!’ These two former police officers never actually got round to naming their suspected journalist, but we can see in the entire ruse the hand of George Bernard Shaw, who lecturing in 1892 revealed that, ‘in 1888 it only cost us twenty-eight postcards written by twenty-eight members to convince the newly-born Star newspaper that London was aflame with Fabian Socialism.

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The scene was set for the double-event, a cranking up of the horror, when two separate Ripper murders would occur within an hour or so of each other. The first, of Lizzie Stride, was almost witnessed by an immigrant Hungarian Jew called Israel Schwartz. His English was terrible, but he did manage to give a report to police through a translator in which the presence of two individual gang-members is clearly shown;

12.45 a.m. 30th. Israel Schwartz of 22 Helen Street, Backchurch Lane, stated that at this hour, on turning into Berner Street from Commercial Street and having got as far as the gateway where the murder was committed, he saw a man stop and speak to a woman, who was standing in the gateway. The man tried to pull the woman into the street, but he turned her round and threw her down on the footway and the woman screamed three times, but not loudly. On crossing to the opposite side of the street, he saw a second man standing lighting his pipe. The man who threw the woman down called out, apparently to the man on the opposite side of the road, ‘Lipski’, and then Schwartz walked away, but finding that he was followed by the second man, he ran so far as the railway arch, but the man did not follow so far.

Upon being taken to the mortuary, Schwartz identified the body as that of the woman he had seen. He thus describes the first man, who threw the woman down:- age, about 30; ht, 5 ft 5 in; comp., fair; hair, dark; small brown moustache, full face, broad shouldered; dress, dark jacket and trousers, black cap with peak, and nothing in his hands. Second man: age, 35; ht., 5 ft 11in; comp., fresh; hair, light brown; dress, dark overcoat, old black hard felt hat, wide brim; had a clay pipe in his hand.

Despite the darkness of the night, Schwartz gave police a fairly detailed description of the two Rippers. Analyzing these, we may observe three tallies between Schwart’s Man 2 (given first) & the description which Callaghan made of Bellsmith;

(i) Heights of 5’11 // 5’10
(ii) Healthy complexion // Dark complexion
(iii) Respectable dress // Respectable dress
(iv) Ages of 35 / 39

We may now assume that Bellsmith had at least one accomplice during the murders; the peak-capped, short & stocky thirty year-old we shall call THE SAILOR.  It was observed during the Autumn of Terror that the murders all took place upon weekends that certain ships were berthed in London, supporting the idea. He would also have been the ‘ship’s mate’ mentioned by Bellsmith’s landlady, who stated that before his departure, ‘he had sold all his belongings – including many suits of clothes and several revolvers – to a ship’s mate, who, a few days later, called and took them away.’

A link between Bellsmith & the murder of Lizzie Stride comes from a witness called Matthew Packer, who thought he had sold grapes to the murderer & his victim on the night of the killings. On the 15th November, The Daily News quoted Packer as saying; ‘on Tuesday evening two men came to my house and bought twelve shillings’ worth of rabbits off me. They then asked me if I could give an exact description of the man to whom I sold the grapes, and who was supposed to have committed the Berner-street and Mitre-square murders, as they were convinced they knew him, and where to find him. In reply to some questions by Packer, one of the men said ‘Well, I am sorry to say that I firmly believe it is my own cousin. He is an Englishman by birth but some time ago he went to America, stayed there a few years, and then came back to London about seven or eight months ago. On his return he came to see me, and his first words were “Well, Boss, how are you?” He asked me to have some walks out with him, and I did round Commercial-street and Whitechapel. I found that he had very much altered on his return, for he was thoroughly harem scare-em. We met a lot of Whitechapel women, and when we passed them he used to say to me, “How do you think we used to serve them where I come from? Why, we used to cut their throats and rip them up. I could rip one of them up and get her inside out in no time.”’ The an described here as the Ripper’s cousin is a perfect blueprint for Bellsmith, who spent a decade in America before returning to London in March or April 1888, those 7-8 months before the above news story appeared.

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During the Double-Event, the look-out couple can be seen as being present at both killings. At the Stride slaying, a resident of 36 Berner St, Fanny Mortimer, describes; ‘a young man and his sweetheart were standing at the corner of the street, about twenty yards away, before and after the time the woman must have been murdered, but they told me they did not hear a sound {Evening News, 1st October 1888}. An hour later, at the brutal murder of Catherine Eddowes (the worst yet) a man & woman were seen quietly conversing at the entrance of Mitre Square ten minutes before the body was found. The woman was described as standing facing the man with her hand on his chest, but not in any manner suggested she was resisting him. Some reports say that the clothes of this women were only similar to those of Catherine Eddowes, reinforcing the notion that the two women were not the same person. Who this woman was remains a mystery, but the man she was flirting with seems exceedingly familiar. An amalgamation of the witness descriptions of him gives us;

30-35 years old / 5 foot 6 inches tall / Fair complexion / Brown hair / Small, fair mustache (some said descriptions said big) with a medium build / He was wearing a loose-fitting pepper and salt colored jacket / He was wearing a grey cloth cap with a peak of the same color / He wore a reddish handkerchief knotted around his neck / Overall he gives the appearance of being a sailor

Let us now find the tallies between the description of this shadowy look-out figure, & that of THE SAILOR as described by Isaac Schwartz as being involved in the slaying of Elizabeth Stride.

                                                                    Sailor          Man at Eddowes Killing

30 years old // 30-35 years old
5 ft 5 in // 5 foot 6 inches tall
Fair complexion // Fair complexion
Dark hair // Brown hair
Small brown moustache // Small fair mustache
Respectable dress: dark jacket and trousers // Pepper and salt colored jacket
Black felt cap with peak // A grey cloth cap with a peak of the same color

The tallies between the two can be seen as simple creochisps based upon the true physical appearance of the SAILOR. We may, with some certainty, place him in Whitechapel a few minutes before the murder of Eddowes. The ‘Star’ newspaper of October 1 reports; ‘from two different sources we have the story that a man, when passing through Church Lane at about half past one, saw a man sitting on a doorstep and wiping his hands. As everyone is on the look-out for the murderer the man looked at the stranger with a certain amount of suspicion, whereupon he tried to conceal his face. He is described as a man who wore a short jacket and sailor’s hat.’ It may seem incongruous that the Star newspaper would give away such a vital clue, but in the heat of the moment with so many journalists submitting Ripper stories almost by the hour, it would have been impossible to check them all to a proper satisfaction, & that is even if the editors were actually parley to the ruse of Morris & Shaw.

With the passing of the Double-Event, this series of increasingly ghastly killings had crossed the police border from the Metropolitan department into the City of London district. Now two police forces were entrenched in the investigation, amplifying the clamour to either catch the killer or reform the slums in which he worked. The rich conversaziones of West London could not ignore the East End any more. The ante had been upped… Polly & Anne had ‘only’ been savagely disemboweled & lacerated; but to those wounds were added Catherine Eddowes facial mutilations. The fever & the fervour created by this devastatingly effective media sensation were boiling into open protestation. On the 26th October, The Times printed a letter to the editor from Mary J. Kinnaird, beginning; ‘I have begun to raise a fund, to which I invite contributions from your readers, with a view of powerfully bringing the teachings of Christianity to bear on that dark corner in Whitechapel which has been disgraced by such hideous crimes. If the Gospel sufficed to change the cannibal inhabitants of the Fiji Island into a nation of Christian worshipers, it is sufficient and alone sufficient, to turn the darkest spots in London into gardens of the Lord.’

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The next day, the East London Observer printed a petition made to Queen Victoria from the women of East London, who felt, ‘horror at the dreadful sins that have been lately committed in our midst, and grief because of the shame that that has fallen on our neighborhood. By the facts which have come out at the inquests, we have learnt much of the lives of those of our sisters who have lost a firm hold on goodness, and who are living sad and degraded lives. While each woman of us will do all she can to make men feel with horror the sins of impurity which cause such wicked lives to be led, we would also beg that your Majesty will call on your servants in authority and bid them put the law which already exists in motion, to close bad houses within whose walls such wickedness is done, and men and women ruined in body and soul. – We are, Madam, your loyal and humble servants.” And here follow the 400 or 500 signatures.

The petition was presented in due form, and Her Majesty has replied in the following gracious terms to the request of Her earnest and loyal, if humble subjects:-

“MADAM, – I am directed by the Secretary of State, to inform you that he has had the honour to lay before the Queen the petition of women inhabitants of Whitechapel, praying that steps may be taken with a view to suppress the moral disorders in that neighborhood, and that Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to receive the same. I am to add that the Secretary of State looks with hope to the influence for good that the petitioners can exercise, each in her own neighborhood, and he is in communication the Commissioners of Police, with a view to taking such action as may be desirable in order to assist the efforts of the petitioners, and to mitigate the evil of which they complain. 

The work of raising public consciousness so the community would finally take pity on the East End degradations was turning out to be a resounding success. Plans were already underway for a slum clearance to begin the following year, while the city of London would plunge pell-mell into wide-spread improvement schemes, a period of municipal eminence still reverberating through the capital to this day. On observing those terrifically terrible slums evaporating into modernity, our deadly masterminds of social reform would have watched on with a sense of vulgar pride. Innocent women had been sacrificed, yes, but the greater good was very much winning.

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MJK

There was to be one more murder; less a sacrifice to social reform, but more a mopping-up operation to ensure the Ripper Gang preserved its anonymity. The background to the slaying of the last canonical victim, Mary Jane Kelly, begins with the climax of Francis Tumblety’s love of lewd activities & his arrest for, ‘Gross Indecency,’ on the 7th November. Just over a week later he was bailed for £300, about £25,000 pounds in today’s money, which was paid for by person or persons unknown. Two days after his arrest, on the 9th, the most sadistic slaying of Mary Jane Kelly had taken place in her own private rooms on Dorset Street. It could well be the case that while Tumblety was being investigated for the Ripper murders, his fellow gang members orchestrated a new murder in order to exonerate him of the Ripper crimes.

The MJK murder was a different thing altogether, for we see the shifting of the killer’s M.O. from the open streets to a secluded room. Also notable is MJK’s fire-grate, which showed signs that female clothes had been burnt. These were probably the blood-soaked attire of the Gang’s female member, who donned MJK’s clothes in order to move through the London streets without any visible bloodstains. MJK died about 4AM, but as morning broke on London a certain Maurice Lewis swore he had seen her playing ‘pitch and toss’ in McCarthy’s Court at 8AM. The man he places with her with seems an exact match to THE SAILOR, a 5’5”, stoutly-built 30-year-old. It appears that this same man was also spotted hanging around MJK’s room before she was murdered, for at 2AM that night a witness described a short, stout man wearing a black ‘wideawake hat.’ This head attire match’d the ‘soft, felt hat,’ of another witness description, that of George, Hutchinson, who depicted the same man as, ‘looking up the court as if waiting for someone to come out.’ The date is also significant, one expects, for William Morris was able to discuss the latest Ripper murder during speeches he was giving for the first anniversary of the Bloody Sunday demonstration, on the 13th November.

Among the massive mess of mysteries that is the Ripper mythomeme, there is one clue that appears to have been missed by everyone. We begin with Catherine Eddowes, who on the night before her murder was speaking to the superintendent of the Mile End Casual Ward. In casual conversation she said that after a month or so of picking hops with her boyfriend in Kent, that she had returned to London & was ready to collect the reward on offer for information leading to the capture of the Ripper.
I think I know him,’ she told the superintendent.
‘Mind he doesn’t murder you too,’ he replied, jovially.
Oh, no fear of that.’

The easy familiarity with the Ripper which we detect in Eddowes statement leads us without much resistance to the possibility that her boyfriend, John Kelly, was involved in the Ripper Gang. Evidence for such initializes on the night of her murder, when Eddowes had been arrested for drunkenness. Surprisingly, she gave her name as Mary Ann Kelly, while the previous day she had used the name ‘Jane Kelly’ when pawning her boyfriend’s boots. Why do this? What was her connection to Mary Ann Nichols & Mary Jane Kelly? The answer begins with Catherine’s boyfriend, who just happens to have shared his name with MJK’s father! We learn of him through information given to the press by MJK’s boyfriend, Joseph Barnett, in which he stated that after being born in Ireland, MJK & her family moved to Wales, where her father John Kelly was, ‘a gaffer or a foreman in an ironworks in Caernarvonshire.’ This John Kelly turns up at the age of 36 in the 1871 census as living at 85 Mumforth Street in Flint, North Wales, close to his work-place in Caernarvonshire. The same census shows ‘Mary Jane’ as a seven year old – alongside her brothers Patrick & John – which seals the deal, for she was 24 at the time of her murder

The journey of John Kelly, father of MJK, to John Kelly, boyfriend of Catherine Eddowes begins by analyzing the 1871 & the 1881 Denbighsire census. In these we can see how the Kelly family was split up, for the 1881 census sees MJK & her brother Patrick appearing in a new Kelly family, headed by the Irish-born Hubert Kelly, a probable relation of John. In that same census we also see MJK in a family consisting of a sister (Elizabeth) & six brothers (including Patrick), an identical match to the sister & the ‘six or seven brothers’ that Joseph Barnett attributed to MJK. The seventh brother would be young John, who is absent from the Denbighshire census.

A sound reason for this turn of events is that John Kelly had lost his job, out of which hardship he was forced to break-up of the family home. After losing his job in Wales, John Kelly did what many working folk did in that era & headed to the capital of the Empire. This then connects to Catherine Eddowe’s John Kelly, who turns up in London in 1876 & works as a fruit-seller for the 12 years up until the murders. If John Kelly had something to do with the Ripper Gang, then his daughter, MJK, may have been involved, & what she knew would be silenced forever by JILL THE RIPPER & the SAILOR in the mopping up operation conducted by the Ripper Gang. That MJK was killed in her own rooms can be put down to the fact that the Gang had reduced in numbers, for on the 4th November, a certain George Wentworth Bellsmith had caught a steamship (the Fulda) to America from the English port of Southampton. This may or may not have been Henry Bellsmith, but as with everything in this mystery, but it is such tantalizing vagaries which is the hallmark of the Ripper mystery.

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What we can state more confidently is that another member of the Ripper Gang was fleeing to the United States, with Tumblety jumping his rather expensive bail & taking a passage to New York. His arrival in America invoked a massive amount of interest & press coverage, & the Americans really did feel that the Ripper was one of their own who had fled to the motherland for sanctuary.

Francis Tumblety, or Twomblety, who was arrested in London for supposed complicity in the Whitechapel crimes and held under bail for other offenses, arrived in this city Sunday, and is now stopping in East Tenth street. Two of Inspector Byrnes’ men are watching him and so is an English detective who is making himself the laughing stock of the whole neighborhood.
The New York Sun, December 4th 1888

The flames of suspicion burnt only for a short while, & nothing ever came of the British interest in Tumblety, even after they had requested samples of his handwriting from San Francisco. They could sense that something was up somewhere, but the Ripper Gang had cast a cloud of enough confusion, that Tumblety’s true complicity in the murders was completely masked, allowing him to continue the rest of his life unmlested by the earlier furore

We have already seen how Bellsmith spent only a little time in the United States, before returning to the East End of London with his new young wife. In that same period, the Eastern Post & City Chronicle (21-09-1889) reports how Dr Forbes Winslow, acting on the information of Callaghan, was; ‘certain that this man is the Whitechapel murderer… “I know for a fact,” said the doctor, “that this man is suffering from a violent form of religious mania, which attacks him and passes off at intervals. I am certain that there is another man in it besides the one I am after, but my reasons for that I cannot state. The police will have nothing to do with the capture. I am making arrangements to station six men round the spot where I know my man is, and he will be trapped.”’

 

This same religious mania would resurface in the writings of Bellsmith a decade later, when he penned a curious apocalyptical & cryptical book known as Henry Cadevere, in which we may read; ‘murder, adultery, selfishness, hypocrisy, everything we call evil or sinful are equally meritorious with the most spotless purity of soul and body … sin becomes a misnomer and crime another name for virtue.’ For Bellsmith, the Ripper murders had been a pseudo-religious mission to highlight the poverty in the East End slums; in his book he writes; ‘Oh, Liberty! What crimes are done in thy name! The work of Socialists?” mused Cadavere, bitterly. “This is the work of brotherhood and humanity?” Bellsmith’s ‘work’ was the murder of the underclass, & he even finds space in his book to praise the ‘prophetic vision of William Morris.’ As for Tumblety, upon his death in 1901 he guiltily left $1000 to the Baltimore home for Fallen Women. Also in his possession were two cheap imitation rings, exactly the same as those said to have gone missing from Annie Chapman’s fingers.

As for John Kelly, the last trace of him is on the 29th November 1888, when he was admitted to Whitechapel Workhouse infirmary suffering from laryngitis. From this moment on he disappears from the history, & is never seen or heard of again. Perhaps not, for when Bellsmith’s landlady stated that she saw him; ‘standing on the kerb in conversation with a well known tradesman of the district, whose name she declines to divulge, but who, she has ascertained, is a friend of his,’ this ‘tradesman’ may have been Mr Kelly, who we know had been employed by a fruit salesman called Lander ever since his arrival in London in 1876. Or then again, it might not, but that is the beauty of the Ripper case, a catacombe of chispers which infuriates & dazzles all at once.

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Next Wednesday, 24/01/17

The serialization begins of  my new book, CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1 : Exodus

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THE CHISPER EFFECT

Chapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang

The Chisper Effect 11 : The Dark Lady

    Continuing the weekly serialization of

chisper_effect

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

THE CHISPER EFFECT

In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved

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(Register with Completely Novel to…)

BUY A COPY OF THE BOOK HERE

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Chapter XI

In the last chapter we saw how the young Shakespeare was a companion for the slightly older nobleman, William Stanley, on a tour of the Continent in the middle of the 1580s. We last saw them in Venice, where I am convinced that somewhere within the vaults of the Venetian Archives lies some hitherto undiscovered reference to Shakespeare. He would have been included in a list of passengers made by the ship, or perhaps a list of arrivals/departures organized by the Venetian authorities. It is after scribbling his name down in such a log-book that he sailed out across the sultry seas of the Adriatic. Before him, a glassy liquid pane was sprinkled with white sails which puffed like clouds across the drifting blue waters. By Shakespeare’s side was Stanley, perhaps hand-in-hand in a gay kinda way, who together turned to face Venice as it slowly dwindled & merged into a thin, green line.

APRIL 1586
Shakespeare crosses the Adriatic

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That Shakespeare took to the whale-roads is reflected by an extremely accurate knowledge of both the sea & its sailing terms. Most scholars presume he got this from books, but seeing as Sir Henry Mainwaring released the first nautical dictionary only in 1644, this avenue may be precluded. Of Shakespeare’s sealore, AF Falconer declares that he, ‘must have learned it first hand for there was no other way,’ adding that the bard possessed, ‘an understanding of naval ceremony, naval strategy & the duties & characteristic ways of officers & men.’ One passage in particular contains a highly obscure sailing term;

Believe me, sir, she is the goodliest woman
That ever lay by man: which when the people
Had the full view of, such a noise arose
As the shrouds make at sea in a stiff tempest

‘It is a puzzle,’ writes WB Whall, ‘how Shakespeare, unless he had been a sailor, could have known enough of sea life to write such a magnificently apt simile as this. It could not have occurred to anyone who had not been at sea. The shrouds are the heavy ropes of the rigging which supports the masts of a ship on neither side so that they can carry sail.’ Another naval accuracy comes in Hamlet’s, ‘methought I lay worse than the mutinies in the bilboes,’ with the latter word being sea-slang for leg-shackles. One also gets the feeling that Shakespeare experienced a ship-wreck for himself. His plays are littered with them, as in;

After our ship did split,
When you and those poor number saved with you
Hung on our driving boat, I saw your brother,
Most provident in peril, bind himself,
Courage and hope both teaching him the practise,
To a strong mast that lived upon the sea;
Twelfth Night 1:2

Across the Adriatic lies the thousand-islanded lands of Croatia, or Illyria in more antique times. This locality is mentioned ten times by Shakespeare who set his Twelfth Night there, most likely after he had experienced the port of Ragusa, today’s Dubrovnik. That the term for that city’s ships – Argosies (after Ragosies) – was used by Shakespeare in the Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Henry VI, Part III and The Taming of the Shrew, may be based upon this visit. As one reads our Bard’s references to Illyria’s coasts, sailors, pirates, tall population & robust wines, one senses the snatch of time Shakespeare had with the country as he sailed south through the Adriatic.

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MAY 1586
Stanley & Shakespeare reach Egypt

Leaving ‘Illyria,’ our party sailed on to Egypt, & the sweaty flesh-pots of its capital, Cairo. While in this city they would have sought out the principle headquarters of the Levant Company, from which office emanated the tendrils of pre-imperial trade into the ports & courts of the eastern Mediterranean. Powerful cities such as Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Jerusalem, Damascus & Aleppo had all become secure stopping stations for the Levant Company, as was Constantinople, where Company man William Harborne had become the de facto English ambassador to the Ottomans. Within two decades the East Indies Company would be formed, the majority of its nucleus members being Levant Company men, & one could say that British India has its true roots in these Elizabethan mercantile expeditions to the east.

The connection between Stanley & the Levant Company begins with Barry Coward, author of a book on the history of the Stanley family, who states, ‘from 1584 to 1593 Earl Henry borrowed as he had never done before… the loans raised by Earl Henry & his son, Ferdinando, were all raised by bonds pledging a cash surety, made with important London merchant financiers, like John lacy, Richard Martin, Peter Vanlore, Michael Cornleius, William Cuslowe, Nicholas Mosley, & Sir Rowland Hayward.’ A key link here is Richard Martin, a two-time mayor of London & one of the founding members of the Levant Company in 1581. Earl Stanley’s financial embroilment with such a fellow could well have led to him sending his son to check in the family’s investments in the new markets.

nile-crocodile-16th-century-artwork-middle-temple-libraryStanley’s journey to Egypt is given more details by Thomas Aspen, who records; ‘afterwards he proceeded to Egypt, and with the assistance of a native guide, went to reconnoitre the River Nile. Whilst on their journey, a large male tiger suddenly appeared from behind a thicket, and with a hideous howl came rushing towards them. Sir William had two pistols, and discharged one as the tiger was making a spring at them. Unfortunately he missed his aim, and it was only by dexterously stepping aside that he eluded the grasp of the ferocious brute. Before the animal had time to take another spring, Sir William drew a second pistol, discharged the contents into the tiger’s breast, and as it reeled drew his sword and killed it.’ That our party visited the River Nile allows us to look deeper into one of Donne’s sonnets.

See, sir, how, as the sun’s hot masculine flame
Begets strange creatures on Nile’s dirty slime,
In me your fatherly yet lusty rhyme
For these songs are their fruits—have wrought the same.
But though th’ engend’ring force from which they came
Be strong enough, and Nature doth admit
Seven to be born at once; I send as yet
But six; they say the seventh hath still some maim.
I choose your judgment, which the same degree
Doth with her sister, your invention, hold,
As fire these drossy rhymes to purify,
Or as elixir, to change them to gold.
You are that alchemist, which always had
Wit, whose one spark could make good things of bad.

This sonnet’s opening lines really do invoke a definite sense of witnessing the Nile at first hand. The decisive evidence comes with the sonnet being placed among a sequence dedicated by Donne to a certain ‘E of D,’ implying William Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby. Meanwhile, Shakespeare’s own time in Egypt is reflected by two unusual eye-witness accounts found in two of his earliest plays;

Thou art more puzzled than the Egyptians in their fog
Twelfth Night

An Egyptian that had nine hours lien dead who was by good appliance recovered
Pericles

MAY 1586
Shakespeare writes sonnets to Stanley

Just as Donne was writing deliciously sensuous sonnets to & for Stanley so, it seems, was Shakespeare; with Egypt as likely a place as any to craft his lines. What happens on the Grand Tour stays on the Grand Tour, & here was our bard in Egypt, where the demands of a young family had been replaced by yearnings to see pyramids & sail the love-barges of Cleopatra. He was also traveling with a prominent member of his country’s royal family, & as we have discerned from the secret back story behind Venus & Adonis, Stanley actually fancied him. Sleeping your way to the top has always been a way to get ahead, & in Shakespeare’s case he did not seem to mind if it was with a member of the opposite sex. Indeed, on his return to England, Shakespeare never sired another child, implying perhaps he became fully LGBT on the Grand Tour.

It is Shakespeare’s love for Stanley that provides an important keystone in the dissemination of the many mysteries behind Shakespeare’s famous sonnet sequence. The form chosen for these poetical lovegasms is a short, 14-line photo-poem capable of storing some of the most refined & musical expressions of human thought. That Shakespeare was writing sonnets at such an early stage in his career was opined by his greatest biographer, & most ardent analytics, Sydney Lee, who said; ‘in both their excellences & their defects Shakespeare’s sonnets betray their kinship to his early dramatic work.’ Lee made comparisons of the sonnet’s bipolar passages, their, ‘highest poetic temper,’ & their, ‘unimpressive displays of verbal jugglery,’ comparing them with similar instances in the early plays.

Gay men in Egypt- it actually illegal in the country these days
Gay men in Egypt-  manlove is actually illegal in the country these days

Shakespeare’s sequence seems to be a collection of several individual sonnet-clusters, with each set of creative pulses being eternally crystalized & unified by generally gorgeous iambic pentameter. The exact order in which these mini-sequences were written is beyond the remit of this book, but a general impression is most definitely given by them of Shakespeare’s homosexual love for a young aristocratic man – but who? That the fellow is a member of the upper echelons of the aristocracy is suggested by sonnet 125, which begins, ‘were it ought to me I bore the canopy.’ The ceremonial material in question is that carried over the head of the incumbent monarch by England’s leading noblemen, in procession to Westminster Abbey & the coronation.

Over the past two centuries, the Bard’s corpse has been argued over & dissected so much, that hardly anything remains of the man: his flesh & bones have been shredded, flung & scattered across the ever-expanding wastelands of Shakespearean criticism. The one bonus of all these efforts is that the Elizabethan Age has been scrutinized to a near infinite degree by scholars hoping to turn up some precious new nugget of biographical detail concerning the Bard. There have been successes & among this vast sea of uncertainty one may find the following island of logical thinking;

A few years down the road, & increasingly mindful of Haines’ caution to Buck Milligan that Shakespeare’s sonnets are, ‘the happy hunting ground of all minds that have lost their balance,’ I nonetheless came to conclude from the evidence I accumulated that not only was Barnfield’s Ganymede the sixth Earl of Derby, William Stanley, but also that Barnfield published poems from 1594 (including over twenty homoerotic love sonnets) were in dialogue with some of Shakespeare’s own homoerotic sonnets to his Fair Youth... we hardly have reason to be very surprised if, after all, Shakespeare’s beloved & revered male addressee might turn out to be William Stanley

This passage was written by Leo Daugherty who, after surviving such a process of intense academic endeavour with his wits intact, stated in his brilliant book, ‘William Shakespeare, Richard Barnfield & the Sixth Earl of Derby’ that he had made, ‘conclusions of some enormity.’ The crux of his excited proclamation was that the identity of the Handsome Youth was a certain Elizabethan nobleman called William Stanley. That this was the same man who we have just placed in a holiday romance fashion with Shakespeare soared into my own theorizing like a bolt of divine lightning. It makes sense,especially when the ‘Dark Lady’ of the sonnet series was noted by Shakespeare for the blackness of her skin, a woman most likely to be encountered abroad.

 

JUNE 1586
Shakespeare joins the Levant Company fleet

We have now placed Shakespeare firmly among the buccaneering world of corsairs that constituted the Elizabethan navy, where men like Drake, Hawkins & Raleigh were the x-factor style idols of the day. Our young bard is about to board one of the Levant Company ships, with all five vessels having just made successful trading operations in Turkey, Egypt & Syria. Three of the ships had met up in the Egyptian port of Alexandria: The Toby, the Susan & the Edward Bonaventure; & by the June of 1586 they had combined with the remaining two Company ships off the Greek island of Zante. One of these was Company flagship, the Merchant Royal, under ‘acting Admiral’ Edward Wilkinson. The second vessel was the William and John, both of which ships had been dealing in Tripoli.

All five ships would have combined together for security reasons – the journey through the Straits of Gibraltar, a stone’s throw from hostile Spain, would be too treacherous for one or two vessels traveling on their own. It was a prudent move, for a very real danger was imminent; two separate squadrons of Spanish & Maltese galleys had left the Straits of Gibraltar & were hunting down the English like hungry, prowling wolves. Shakespeare must have been invigorated to the infinite degree at the prospect of very real military action.

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JULY 1586
The Battle of Pantelleria

Deep in the middle of a sultry summer, Shakespeare found himself sailing west through the Mediterranean as a passenger of the Levant Company fleet. After safely bypassing Malta, they were suddenly intercepted by a squadron of eleven Spanish and Maltese galleys under Don Pedro de Leyva. The engagement took place off the island of Pantelleria on the 13th July, a five-hour running battle which saw the massive devastation of Spanish ships like some prophetic glimmer of the Armada. A Venetian ambassador to Rome, Giovanni Gritti, recorded;

Between Sicily & the island of Pantalara the galleys of Naples & of Sicily fell in with nine English galleys returning form Constantinople, full of merchandise, & although they attacked the English ships they failed to take them. The galleys have returned to Naples for reinforcement & will sail again to search for the English. They have sent news of these English to Genoa, so that they may be on the look out for them in the waters of Corsica & Sardinia

After five hours of fighting it was all over & the Spanish galleys had been battered into submission. On the English side only two sailors had died, & handful more of men being wounded. The tough English sailors had simply outmaneuvered, & more importantly, outgunned the Spanish in battle. Remembrances of Shakespeare witnessing such a brutal sea-battle lies scatter’d throughout this plays. AF Falconer writes how he, ‘distinguishes between various types of ordnance & gun, understands how they work & are managed, & is familiar with gunnery terms & words of command.’ We can see for ourselves in examples, such as

The nimble gunner
With linstock now the devilish cannon touches
Henry V

Like an overcharged gun, recoil
And turn the force of them upon thyself
2 Henry VI

What’s this? a sleeve? ’tis like a demi-cannon
What, up and down, carved like an apple-tart?
Taming of the Shrew

JULY 1586
Shakespeare visits Linosa

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While stopping for provisions & water round about the time of the Battle of Pantelleria, Shakespeare took a stroll along the island of Linosa – anciently ‘Aethusa.’ In a great moment of creative fusion, the island became embedded in his mnemonic vaults, ready for the right moment to become the setting of one of his poems or plays. This eventually occurred when Shakespeare was writing the Tempest, which was the last to be performed publically in his lifetime. Linosa is an extremely pretty island, its three lofty cones being the spiky remnants of ancient volcanoes. In Shakespeare’s time Linosa was deserted, like the other islands of the Pelagian archipelago in which it lies. Of a possible Tempestesque shipwreck on the island, GD Gussone wrote; ‘before 1828 some travelers going to Linosa found three human skeletons on those mountains which, in his opinion, where the remains of men who were perhaps thrown by a storm on to the island and that miserably perished for lack of food.’

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Linosa’s position between Sicily & Tunisia fits neatly with the geography of the Tempest, in which Alonso, King of Naples, washes up on a deserted island on his way to see the King of Tunis. The island also plays host to the witch Sycorax, banished there from Tunisia’s neighbor, Algiers. The true Syrocrax is mentioned in John Ogilby’s ‘Accurate Description of Africa,’ in which she advises, soothsayer fashion, the commander of Algiers not to surrender the city to Emperor Charles V in 1541. The citizens did as they were bidden, & the fleet of Charles V was destroyed in a ‘terrible Tempest.’ Unfortunately for Syrocrax, ‘to palliate the shame and the reproaches that are thrown upon them for making use of a witch,’ she was exiled in a pregnant state on Linosa, & was perhaps one of the skeletons found on the island. According to the Tempest, she was dead by the events of the play, but her son Caliban was still alive. His character was probably based on a real meeting with Shakespeare, whose bones were laid to rest by his mother’s on the mountains.

AUGUST 1586
Shakespeare in Algiers

After the battle of Pantelleria, the Company fleet headed for Algiers in order to restock supplies & make any necessary battle-repairs. These movements fit neatly into the itinerary of William Stanley, who according to the Garland visited ‘the King of Morocco and his nobles all / Then went to the King of Barbary.’ A connection between Stanley & North Africa comes through the Barbary Company, formed in 1585. The Queen herself had invested in the project, alongside Stanley’s father. The Levant Company connection is tentative, but the presence of William Stanley at this particular emporium provides a stronger suggestion that he may have been working for his father: details on contracts needed to be fine-tuned, perhaps, or accounts checked.

Despite suffering little in losses & damage, the battle of Pantelleria would have shredded the nerves, & it is at this point that Stanley would have ordered his young charge, John Donne, to make his way back to England in the relative the safety of the armed Company merchantmen. With the help of a thick sea-mist, this little fleet avoided the waiting Spanish at Gibraltar, & would soon be happily unloading their wares at the London docks. John Donne would eventually return to the service of the Earl of Derby, where on the 13th May 1587, the Derby Household Books included a ‘Mr John Downes’ alongside the same six waiters who appeared on the 1585 retinue list with a certain ‘Mr John Donnes.’

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OCTOBER 1586
Shakespeare visits John Dee

According to the Garland, Stanley made a great geographical leap from Algeria to Russia, in order to spend some time with John Dee. This esoteric fellow was an extremely famous Elizabethan alchemist & academic from Manchester, & thus would have been a neighbor to the Stanleys in his youth. Memories of their relationship survives in Dee’s recording keeping, while Derby was instrumental in getting Dee appointed a director of Christ’s College, Manchester. The Garland’s account of the meeting is a factochisp for Dee’s actual residence at Trebona in Bohemia (in the modern-day Czech Republic), during which time he was making contact with the court of the Russian Tsar, but from hundreds of miles away. This is a perfect example of the Chisper Effect in action, of how the truth will distort into an alternate reality in which the main quintessence is still present. The quickest route for Shakespeare & Stanley to get from Algeria to Bohemia would have been by sailing up the Adriatic to Trieste. From there it would have taken an extra week of tough overland, Brokeback Mountain riding for Stanley & Shakespeare to reach Bohemia, during which time he may have etched the opening to sonnet 33;

Full many a glorious morning have I seen,
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye

On reaching Dee, the arch-magus would have filled them in on recent developments, of how at first he had been a valued guest of the court of Rudolf II, an intellectual hotbed centered on Prague. PJ French states, ‘Dee’s world view was thoroughly of the Renaissance, though it was one which is unfamiliar today, one of a line of philosopher-magicians that stemmed from Ficino & Pico della Mirandola & included, among others, Trithemius, Abbot of Sondheim, Henry Cornelius Agrippa Paracelsus. etc…. Like Dee, these philosophers lived in a world that was half magical, half scientific.’ Unfortunately, Dee fell on the wrong side of Rudolf, & after being banished from Prague was given shelter at in the household of Vilém of Rožmberk, in the town of Trebona. Shakespeare’s own brief stay in the region can be traced via three separate plays;

(i) Measure for Measure is set in Vienna.
(ii) The Winter’s Tale is set in ‘Bohemia’ in which Trebona is situated.
(iii) ‘The old hermit of Prague,’ is mentioned in Twelfth Night.

Dulwich_Picture_Gallery’s_Venus_and_Adonis

Also in Prague at that time was a copy of Titian’s Venus & Adonis – or perhaps even the original – commissioned by the Holy Roman Emporer, Charles V (d.1558), as discerned through a letter written by F. Mueller, the correspondent in Italy for the court of Bavaria. Now held in the Galleria Nazionale of Palazzo Barberini in Rome, what marks it out from all the other V&As painted by Titian (there were many copies made, usually completed by his students) was the hat which was worn by Adonis. In Shakespeare’s poem we actually have various mentions of such a hat, as in, ‘with one fair hand she heaveth up his hat,’ & ‘therefore would he put his bonnet on.’ It is possible that Stanley & Shakespeare were living the swancy-fancy life of art connoisseurs at this point & making an effort to study the work of evidently their favorite painter. Indeed, on their Italian itinerary they may have seen copies of the painting at the Palazzo Mariscotti in Rome, or in the possession of the Barbarigo-Guistiniani family in Padua

NOVEMBER 1586
Shakespeare sketches the Tempest

At this point in the Stanleyan Grand Tour the first outlines of the plot & structure of a play called the Tempest appeared in Shakespeare’s notebooks. It was first performed in public in 1611, yet a proto-version could have been one of the earliest creations of his blossoming mind, especially when the Tempest is the first play one comes to when entering the First Folio. A clue might be found in five consecutive lines of the Garland, where we observe quite succinctly the setting of the Tempest (Barbary is North Africa) & its principle subject Prospero, a dead-ringer for John Dee.

Within the Court of Barbary,
When two full years Sir William had been,
Into Russia he needs must go,
To visit the Emperor and his Queen,
One Doctor Dee he met with there

Where Prospero had his Ariel, Dee declared he possessed a benevolent angel called, ‘Uriel, the angel of light.’ One imagines Shakespeare actually hearing Dee discussing Uriel during our party’s stay in Trebona. Such an early date for the proto-Tempest is unwittingly hinted at by Sydney Lee’s; ‘the influence of Ovid, especially the Metamorphoses, was apparent throughout his earliest literary work, both poetic & dramatic, & is discernible in the ‘Tempest.’’ This play reflects the early experiences Shakespeare enjoy’d with Commedia dell’Arte; which sometimes featured a magician, his daughter & supernatural attendants. CDA also contained archetypical clowns known as Arlecchino and Brighella, on which the Tempest’s Stephano and Trinculo are clearly based, while its lecherous Neapolitan hunchback has a perfect correspondence in the Tempest’s Caliban. the Tempest is also one of only two of his plays that utilise the Classical Unities – a dramaturgical tradition of setting a play in a single place & time, with the other being the very early Comedy of Errors. Coincidence or not, CoE is set in the eastern Mediterranean, the same part of the world where Stanley & Shakespeare went next…

FEBRUARY 1587
Shakespeare tours the Levant

As the year 1587 dawned, Shakespeare & Stanley were just beginning to celebrate two exciting & adventure-packed years together on the road. They were also celebrating leaving wintry Bohemia for the sun swathed south, where the Garland tells us;

But one three years Sir William would stay,
Within the Emperor’s court so freely,
And then Sir William he would go,
To Bethlehem right speedily,

Likewise to fair Jerusalem,
Where our blessed Saviour Christ did die
He asked them if it was so,
They answered and told him aye.

This is the Tree, the Jews then said,
Whereon the Carpenter’s son did die;
That was my Saviour, Sir William said,
For sure he died for the sins of me.

After their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, our lads set off north towards Turkey, calling at Tripoli in the Lebanon for supplies, perhaps even a little Levant Company networking. Our party would have next sailed west, docking for a while at the ports of Cyprus. This visit later inspired Shakespeare to bescene a portion of his tragedy, Othello, on the island. The official setting is given in the text as only a ‘sea-port’ of Cyprus, & a ‘hall in the castle,’ with local tradition stating Shakespeare was describing the heavily fortified medieval citadel at Famagusta. It is while staying at this fortress that Shakespeare may have heard the local story of Francesca de Sessa, a dark-skinned Venetian officer serving in Cyprus known as ‘Il Moro.’ Here, place & person were planted in Shakespeare’s vernal imagination, waiting for them to catch the creative fire & begin to shoot upwards into existence. When it did, the play would be given further gloss by raiding Cinthio’s Gli Hecatommithi (1565), which Shakespeare had read in Italian. This pattern of development continues throughout most of Shakespeare’s continental plays: when metapoetic travelogues are liberally sprinkled with the plots of foreign authors.

NeapolisToMiletus

MARCH 1587
Shakespeare in Ephesus

From Cyprus our party pass’d on to Turkey, & one play in particular contains memories of their visit. In the Comedy of Errors, a Sicilian merchant called Egeon is imprisoned in the ancient city of Ephesus. The city played an integral part in the early days of Christianity, being one of the seven churches addressed by the Book of Revelations. Fifteen centuries later, the Christian church was usurped by the Islamic Ottomans, when this once well-populated & sophisticated city became locked in a terminal decline. Its river, the Caystros, was steadily silting up into malarial swamps, leaving the once bustling harbours of Ephesus far inland. Population levels were plummeting; a century before Shakespeare’s visit, the city was said to contain 2,000 souls, but numbers had halved by the time our Bard reached the city. By 1824 both town & citadel were abandoned completely except for the wild animals wandering its time-haunted streets.

It is time now to focus our investigation on a situation central to the plot of the Comedy of Errors is an imprisonment of Egeon. Appearing only in the first & final acts, framing the traditional story, & the threat of death hangs over him throughout the play. In light of the Stanleyan Grand Tour, it seems easy to notice the tallies between Egeon & Stanley, who was also imprisoned in Turkey. Thomas Aspen writes; ‘after paying a visit to Palestine, he journeyed to Turkey, and had a narrow escape of becoming a victim to the bigotry of the followers of Mahommed. In a discussion with one of the Paschas he defended Christianity and the Bible, and denounced the religion propounded in the Koran as false and deceptive. He was arrested for “blasphemy against the religion of Mahommed,” and after being kept a long time in a filthy and dismal prison, a date was fixed for his execution, but a lady interceded on his behalf, and three days before the appointed time he was liberated.‘ That ‘dismal prison’ was not situated in Ephesus, however, but in Constantinople; a city towards which our suntann’d party traveled next.

April 1587
Shakespeare sees Mitylene

‘Shakespere’s own muse his Pericles first bore,’ said the great poet of Restoration England, John Dryden. As the young Shakespeare was sailing along the shores of western Turkey, he was already jotting ideas down for the play, ‘Pericles.’ At one point he was reclining lazily in a boat, anchored in the harbour of Mitylene, a moment which transchispered itself into the play, where one of the stage directions reads;

On board Pericles’ ship, off Mytilene. A pavilion on deck, with a curtain beofe it; PERICLES within, reclining on a couch, unkepty clad in sackcloth. A barge lies beside the Trian vessel

The uneven writing of Pericles suggests its first two acts were co-written. As early as 1709, Nicholas Rowe was suggesting, ‘there is good Reason to believe that the greatest part of that Play was not written by him; tho’ it is own’d, some part of it certainly was, particularly the last Act.‘ The second author’s identity is unknown, but Pericles does contain a number idiomatic Lancashire expressions such as would be native to Stanley, like ‘keep thee warm.’ What is slowly emerging is the idea of Stanley & Shakespeare collaborating & composing the prototypes of a number of the canon’s early plays.

Constantinople-in-the-16th-century-centre-of-ottoman-empire

MAY 1587
Shakespeare visits Constantinople

Our Grand Tourists have now reached the furthest limits of their travels, finding themselves at the heart of the Ottoman Empire. Only two years before their arrival, an Elizabethan traveler called Henry Austel had recorded his own visit to the ‘most statelie City of Constantinople, which for the situation & proude seat thereof, for the beautiful & commodious havens, & for the great & sumptuous buildings of the Temples, which they call Moschea, is to be preferred before all Cities of Europe.’ It had only been a decade or two since the Ottoman Empire had reached its high-water mark, but defeats at Malta & Lepanto ensured the Turks would never dominate the world. Instead they would have to trade their way to success, & in the wake of the Italian financial crash of the 1570s it was the English merchants who dealt directly with the Grand Turke. As he walked around its capital, Shakespeare would have marveled at the minarets & markets, & as he wander’d under sultry Turkish suns & star-studded Oriental moons, may have penned the following sonnet to Stanley.

Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,
Which but to-day by feeding is allay’d,
To-morrow sharpen’d in his former might:
So, love, be thou; although to-day thou fill
Thy hungry eyes even till they wink with fullness,
To-morrow see again, and do not kill
The spirit of love with a perpetual dullness.
Let this sad interim like the ocean be
Which parts the shore, where two contracted new
Come daily to the banks, that, when they see
Return of love, more blest may be the view;
Else call it winter, which being full of care
Makes summer’s welcome thrice more wish’d, more rare.

The key allusion is to the Greek myth of Hero & Leander, the two passionate lovers were separated by the Hellespont, today’s Dardandanelles, near which Constantinople lies. Leander would swim each night across the straits to make passionate love to his beloved Hero, as in the sonnet’s, ‘where two contracted new / Come daily to the banks, that, when they see / Return of love, more blest may be the view.’ Yet more support for a Shakespearean visit to the area can be found in Othello, where a person’s relentless nature is compared to the strong one-way currents found at the Hellespont.

Like to the Pontick Sea,
Whose icy current and compulsive course
Ne’er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on
To the Propontic and the Hellespont

Joseph Mallord William Turner 'The Parting of Hero and Leander', exhibited 1837 Joseph Mallord William Turner ‘The Parting of Hero and Leander’, exhibited 1837

SEPTEMBER 1587
Stanley Incarcerated

We have already learnt of Stanley’s incarceration in Turkey on trussed up charges of Blasphemy. The Garland tells us;

Sir William was taken prisoner,
And for his religion condemn’d to die.

Before I’ll forsake my living Lord,
My blessed Saviour and sweet Lamb;
Sweet Jesus Christ that died for me,
I’ll die the worst Death that e’er did man.

Farewel Father, and farewel Mother,
And farewel all Friends at Latham-Hall,
Little do they know I am a Prisoner,
Or how I’m subject unto thrall.

More details are given in the Brief Account, in which this we are told that a certain ‘bashaw’ (pasha) who attempted to entangle Stanley in religious controversy. The Lancashire lad was shrewd at first, until the Pasha cunningly declared Christianity to be a fable; ‘your prophet is an imposter, your profession hypocrisy.‘ Stanley countered with a spirited defence, on which he was swiftly arrested by ‘a band of janissaries’ & cast in a prison, three yards square. Stanley’s imprisonment would last for 5 weeks, without bread or water, & suffering the constant torments of an insolent jailor, while all the time the Pasha was using his ‘utmost influence’ to bring Stanley ‘to the gibbet.’ These events seem to have taken place in September 1587, as discerned thro’ the mention of a lunar eclipse in sonnet 107;

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assured,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

On the 16th September, 1587, the Moon was shadowed in a deep partial eclipse, lasting 3 hours and 7 minutes, when 76% was shrouded in darkness. Thus, it was after this event, when ‘the mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,’ that Shakespeare’s love for Stanley became ‘forfeit to a confined doom,‘ ie imprisoned in a Turkish prison awaiting death. Fortunately for the lads & their love, a heroine was just about to ride to their rescue, whose entrance into the story may just even settle the greatest Shakespearean mystery of them all… the identity of the mysterious ‘Dark Lady’ of the sonnets. Was she in fact a Turkish noblewoman?

A Lady walking under the prison wall,
Hearing Sir William so sore lament,
Unto the Great Turk she did go,
To beg his life was her intent

A Boon, a Boon, thou Emperor,
For thou’rt a Lord of great command;
Grant me the life of an Englishman,
Therefore against me do not stand,

For I will make him a husband of mine,
Whereby Mahomet he may adore;
He’ll carry me into his own country,
And safely thither conduct me o’er.

The Lady’s to the Prison gone,
Where that Sir William he did lie;
Be of good chear, thou Englishman,
I think this day I’ve set thee free;

If thou wilt yield to marry me,
And take me for to be thy bride;
To take me into thy own country,
And safely thither to be my Guide.

I cannot marry, Sir William said,
To ne’er a Lady in this country;
For if ever on English ground I tread,
I have a wife, and children three.

This Excuse serv’d Sir William well,
So the Lady was sorry for what he did say,
And gave him five hundred pounds in gold,
To carry him into his own country;

But one half year Sir William would stay,
After from prison he was set free;

According to the Brief Account, while in Constantinople, Stanley had endeared himself to the family of an influential Turk, whose wife & daughter had become greatly concerned about his incarceration. The daughter – who is clearly mentioned in the Garland – managed to get an interview with the Sultan, & eventually secured Stanley’s freedom. As she turned up at the prison, the Brief Account tells us, it was with ‘the most rapturous emotions’ that Stanley ‘beheld his female deliverer.‘ She found him in a most sorry state indeed; his body was decimated, his eyes were sunken, his cheeks were pallid & his mind was maddened by thoughts of imminent execution. Instead, at the eleventh hour he was saved from the gibbet by the ‘romantic gallantry’ of a ‘worthy family.’

OCTOBER 1587
The Dark Lady

It is clear there was a Turkish woman very much in love with Stanley at the same time as was Shakespeare. This back-story reflects itself with neatness onto the dramatic sub-structure of the sonnets, in which a Dark Lady courts both Shakespeare & the Handsome Youth, who we have already associated quite clinically with Stanley. Metric reminiscences of this ménage a trois are found in sonnets 127–152, where Shakespeare & Stanley are shown to be in love with the same dark-skinned woman, who appears to have had some kind of amorous relations with both men. Sonnets 127 & 130 are fine reflections of Shakespeare’s internal torment at falling for an exotic beauty;

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name;
But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power,
Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress’ eyes are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland’ring creation with a false esteem:
Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

doctorwho37

A little of the Dark Lady’s personality can be discerned by a deeper reading of the sonnets. She is painted as a most promiscuous creature, who ‘robb’d others’ beds revenues of their rents,’ & ‘in act her bed-vow broke.’ The latter could mean she was married, or perhaps the vow was simply made to her various lovers during her affairs. We also see her described, in sonnet 128, as something of a musician;

How oft when thou, my music, music play’st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st

There is one stand-out sonnet in the Dark Lady series, number 135, which seems to have been written by one William for another. Leo Daugherty states, ‘virtually all editors & other scholars believe to constitute wordplay referring not only to Shakespeare’s own given name but also probably to his addresses as well.’ It reads;

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will to boot, and Will in overplus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
The sea all water, yet receives rain still
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will
One will of mine, to make thy large Will more.
Let no unkind no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one Will

Sonnet 136 is a similarly gentle play on the fact that the Dark Lady is love in with two different men called William, or Will;

If thy soul check thee that I come so near,
Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will,
And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
Will, will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one.
In things of great receipt with ease we prove
Among a number one is reckoned none:
Then in the number let me pass untold,
Though in thy store’s account I one must be;
For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold
That nothing me, a something sweet to thee:
Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lovest me for my name is ‘Will.’

There are two sonnets in the series which contain elements of Stanley’s Turkish captivity. The metaphor of imprisonment in sonnet 133 hints at the dire straits in which Stanley had found himself;

Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward,
But then my friend’s heart let my poor heart bail;
Whoe’er keeps me, let my heart be his guard;
Thou canst not then use rigour in my jail:
And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee,
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.

Sonnet 144 contains some excellent & appropriate Christian allegories attached to the ‘two loves’ of Shakespeare, which paint Stanley as an angel & his tempter – the Dark Lady – as an infidel ‘devil’ wanting to ‘corrupt’ the ‘purity’ of Stanley’s sainthood.

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still;
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour’d ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turn’d fiend
Suspect I may, but not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another’s hell:
Yet this shall I ne’er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

The same sonnet also yields a clue as to how Stanley escaped prison, for when we read ‘whether that my angel be turn’d fiend / Suspect I may, but not directly tell,’ we can identify a correlation to the forced conversions of Christians in the eastern Mediterranean. Only by relenting from his proud Christian stance, & embracing Allah, would his life be saved. Stanley was a member of a family of survivors, & clearly did what was needed to secure his freedom. One can only imagine the joy felt by Shakespeare on his release. The darling Turkish family did not realise so much at the time, but by securing Stanley’s freedom they set in place a series of events that would one day lead to the creation of the First Folio.

 

NOVEMBER 1587
Shakespeare sails home

The Grafton Portrait - Shakespeare as he looked on his return from the Continent
The Grafton Portrait – Shakespeare as he looked on his return from the Continent

In the noble houses of Elizabethan England, the ‘household book’ would record the toings & froings of visitors to the estate. The vast majority of these have been lost, but at Knowsley, however, one of these little diaries miraculously survived the ravagings of time, written down with meticulous energy by the Stanley steward, William Ffarington. Crucially, the book supplies us with information for the three-year period between 1587 & 1589, providing the precise date for Stanley’s return to Knowsley… December 1587. With the lunar eclipse occurring in September, we are given a three month window for Stanley to be freed from prison & to travel between Constantinople & Lancashire. Intriguingly, in one of Lorenzo Bernardo’s dispatches, we hear of an English Catholic gentleman who was acting quite suspiciously bout Constantinople in that very time period.

November 11th: An English gentleman arrived here on board the ships ‘Salvagna.’ He says he is a Catholic; that he left England at the end of May with the intention of going to Jerusalem, but on his arrival here he changed his mind, & after staying a few days he left for Patras, there to embark on board an English ship for England. This roused great suspicions, & I succeeded in keeping him under observation

Whoever that mysterious Catholic was, if he had been on the trail of Stanley he was too late; for he & Shakespeare were already scudding the sea-lanes home. In the age of Elizabethan sail, Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind had a top speed of 8 knots, about 9.2 mph. With the port of London lying 3627 nautical miles from Constantinople, the voyage would have taken about 19 days of unbroken sailing. Slowing down the ship to the speed of a merchant vessel, perhaps 4 or 5 knots, the same voyage would have taken just over a month. Ample time for Stanley to return to Lancashire by December. It is on this voyage that Shakespeare would have gained his knowledge of the Bay of Portugal (the Bay of Biscay), an unusually deep body of water that would have been unsoundable by the plumbing methods of Shakespeare’s time. Memory of the Bard’s time on the Bay can be found in As You Like It;

ROSALIND: O coz, coz, coz, my pretty little coz, that thou didst know how many fathom deep I am in love! But it cannot be sounded: my affection hath an unknown bottom, like the bay of Portugal

The long hours of tedium that a sea-voyage entails provided a perfect atmosphere in which Shakespeare could compose his poetry. As our two lovers home, sharing than beautiful bunk of theirs, it is possible that Shakespeare found a serene moment to compose yet another sonnet of the series to his ‘Handsome Youth.’ Of these, there is one sonnet in particular that can be accurately dated to the Stanleyan Grand Tour we have been painting.

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride;
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
In process of the seasons have I seen;
Three April pérfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah yet doth beauty, like a dial hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived.
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

If the twelve seasons mentioned begin with that of winter 1584-85, then it is the three Mediterranean ‘hot Junes’ of ’85, ’86 & ’87 which Shakespeare spent with Stanley which are meant. This means the sonnet was composed at the end of autumn, 1587, just as they were sailing home.

DECEMBER 1587
Stanley spends Christmas in Lancashire

In the year of 1587 the plague came to the good folk of Lancashire. This was bad, but the return of our gallant & sun bronzed adventurers cheered up the county no end. Stanley, especially, would have cut a dashing image; 25 years old, fully tanned & full of exciting tales from his travels. He may even have taken his great friend Shakespeare with him to Lancashire. Our young bard was 23, fresh from a Grand Tour, & flush with the creativity that would soon manifest itself as some of the greatest plays the world has ever seen. As our party arrived at Knowsley, Shakespeare’s knapsack would have contained the manuscript copies of his & Stanley’s co-written plays, such as Titus Andronicus, & Pericles. They may even have been performed that Christmas at Knowsley when the Household Books record ‘Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers.’ No evidence exists for these players having performed the early Stanley-Shakespeare plays, but it certainly feels right, & if so, the events surrounding their debut as playwrights were recorded in December 1587;

On fryday my Lord the earle came home from cowrte & the same night came my Lord bishoppe, mr stewarde mr recyver mr foxe, on saturday Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers went awaie

This could well have been the performance that won the newly-emerging dramaturgical Shakespeare his first laurels of appreciation. As the English entered the fateful year of 1588, in the North at least, the name of a brilliant young playwright was being swirled around the dinner-tables of the gentry. The first sailings of the flower-garlanded galleon that was England’s true bard had just been seen at Knowsley, where Stanley’s brother Ferdinando must have been impressed. Taking the bardic baton from his brother, Ferdinando would later that year drag our boy back to London, & into the realisation of his prenominate destiny.  

EPILOGUE

During my Chispological studies, I have found the common recourse of academics refusing to accept the euhemeristic nature of historical accounts is generally, ‘that would make a good film,’ before closing all dialogue & pretending the facts don’t exist. The thing is, Shakespeare’s tour of Europe would make a damn thrilling blockbuster; there are sea-battles, death-row prisons, duels, magicians & a sordid love triangle – its got everything really. It is no wonder that after travelling Europe in such a fashion that the young Shakespeare, verteux – as the French say – & amorous – as the French do -, would find his mind & spirit filling with so much poesis it would take years to spill onto the page. How it became such stellar poetry was down, of course, to his flowering genius, which surely was nourished & did thrive in the fertile bedsoil of the Stanleyan Grand Tour. We can now also acknowledge that the dramatic continental output of the Shakesperean ouvre is in all essence a grand & brilliant creochisp of the Swan of Avon’s especial flight abroad.

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Next Wednesday, 17/01/17

Chapter 12

The Ripper Gang

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THE CHISPER EFFECT

Chapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang

The Chisper Effect 10 : Shakespeare’s Grand Tour

    Continuing the weekly serialization of

chisper_effect

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

THE CHISPER EFFECT

In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved

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Chapter X

The next two chapters of The Chisper Effect concern a rather famous Elizabethan gentleman, an ever-living poet whose inimitable works our senators of history have esteemed shall never die. Most people on the planet have heard of William Shakespeare, with the vast majority of the English-Speaking world having had to sit through at least one of his rather impenetrable plays, while at the same time whimsically gazing through classroom windows to the sunny fields outside. Even so, ‘God comes first,’ declared Heinrich Heine, before adding, ‘but surely Shakespeare comes next,‘ & at some moment in a human’s life there may come a time when they actually get Shakespeare, they finally understand the profound genius of a man who conjured such a sequence of brilliant plays they shall remain in our collected consciousness for eternity.

william-shakespeare-194895-1-402

It is almost universally known that William Shakespeare was born in an obscure little Warwickshire backwater called Stratford-Upon-Avon. One of the greatest pleasures of his story is that the ‘Swan of Avon‘ set out, barely educated, from such a little idyll to end his life’s journey as the greatest genius his native islands had ever, & shall probably forever, produce. More than any other single individual, his natural creativity has improved & modernized the English tongue; while at the same time his uncanny penchant for the dramatic arts invented, fermented & cemented a theatrical tradition still thriving to this day. But it is when searching for the historical Shakespeare that we hit something of a brick wall. During his lifetime, nobody really bothered to ascertain any significant details of Shakespeare’s life. In the Elizabethan era, the art of English ‘biography’ was very much in its infancy, & it is really no great wonder that we know so little about Mr. William Shakespeare, gent.

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The first proper attempt to record a biography of Shakespeare was made fifty years after his death, when in the 1660’s John Aubrey included a gossipy sketch in his, ‘Short Lives.’ Another half-century would pass before anybody else tried to flesh out Aubrey’s work, when the poet-laureate-to-be, Nicholas Rowe, took upon himself the task of modernizing Shakespeare into the English of his day. Combining Rowe & Aubrey gives us the bare bones of the historical Shakespeare, which in essence are just a scrappy handful of unlikely anecdotes & second-hand memories, into which we can stitch a few dozen ‘official’ details such as his marriage to Anne Hathaway; the christening records of their three children; legal affidavits; & his famous will. In the official spheres, six of his signatures have been raked up from the ashes of historical beaurocracy, the last of which was scratched loosely upon his will. This last document also contains the only known handwriting we possess in his hand. Even then, this consists of only the four letters of ‘by me,’ or even ‘by mr,’ a scanty authentic sample indeed of our greatest writer’s gargantuan wordsmithery.

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Shakespeare spent a great deal of his adult life in London, but upon his death in 1616, at the age of 52, his body was returned home to be buried in Stratford. Seven years after this entombment, thirty-six of his plays were printed together for the first time in a rather large tome known as the First Folio. This brilliantly influential book contains a woodcut engraving which has provided us with the definitive image of the Bard; a balding & bearded man, nestling quite unegregiously in his middle-age. For various errant reasons, this printed testament & definitive image of Shakespeare are said not to be enough to prove he existed. By some obtuse glitch there exists today a rather large & angry mob of academics who, with growing defiance, absolutely & positively deny that William Shakespeare ever composed his own plays.

There are two principle themes behind this chronic conclusion of the Anti-Shakespeareans: the first is a complete lack of any manuscripts in Shakespeare’s hand. Yet, none of the great playwrights of the period left behind any actual manuscripts of their plays: in a time without copyright, these precious reams of paper were jealously guarded & then destroyed by the theaters. It was far better for a play to dwell in the memory of an actor or three, than to fall into the hands of a rival company. The second objection to Shakespeare’s existence comes from an intellectually snobbish attitude prevalent throughout the halls of academe, which assumes that literary genius may only be taught & never be acquired through natural means. From this vulgar stance comes the conclusion that an uneducated country yeoman could not have acquired the intellectual capabilities to produce such a fantastic treasury of writings that constitute Shakespeare’s majestic oeuvre. This, then, is the case against, which has not been enough to convince the majority of scholars – & the rest of the world at large – that Shakespeare the man was not also Shakespeare the author. Such defenders of his noble name are known as Stratfordians, while pitted against them are the Anti-Shakesperean non-believers, who go by the name of ‘non-Stratfordians.’ Of this most bitter & increasingly fractious academic battleground, the modern scholar Leo Daugherty, postulates, ‘most of the “warfare” emanates from scholars and critics deeply entrenched in ideology far more than in commitment to good evidence.’

The ‘ideology’ mentioned by Daugherty manifests itself as an intellectual world shaking collective & disbelieving heads at Shakespeare’s meteoric rise, combining voices in an open declaration that the works of Shakespeare must have been created by some university-educated nobleman & not the Swan of Avon. This has seen the promulgation of a series of candidates onto which has been deflected more than a century of critical scholarship. Like any of our great world mysteries, a crazed wild-fire has broken out among the pages of our normally rational academics, leaving smoldering charcoal embers which bend & distort the truth about Shakespeare to this day. Contenders for the laurel crown include Christopher Marlowe, despite the fact he was stabbed to death in 1593; making it rather difficult for him to have penned a play such as the Scottish-influenced Macbeth, written to celebrate the succession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne in 1603. Macbeth also contains numerous allusions to the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, and we must note that a year before this – in 1604 – died Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. This starbright gentleman is the main focus of most Anti-Shakespearean scholarship, but he simply could not have written plays such as the Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline & Coriolanus. The latter, for example contains the fable of Menenius as drawn from the ‘Remaines’ of William Camden, which were published in 1605. We can also see De Vere was placed, in 1598, among the great writers of the age alongside Shakespeare, by their contemporary Francis Meres.

The best for Comedy amongst vs bee Edward, Earle of Oxforde, Doctor Gager of Oxforde, Master Rowley, once a rare scholler of learned Pembrooke Hall in Cambridge, Maister Edwardes, one of Her Maiesties Chappell, eloquent and wittie Iohn Lilly, Lodge, Gascoyne, Greene, Shakespeare, Thomas Nash, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Mundye, our best plotter, Chapman, Porter, Wilson, Hathway, and Henry Chettle.

Despite this glaringly obvious separation of Edward De Vere & Shakespeare, by an eye-witness so to speak, the Oxfordians – as this largest pack of Anti-Shakespeareans are more commonly known – have been fiercely advancing the Earl of Oxford’s candidacy for decades. En route, wherever they meet with sound evidence which shows De Vere could never have been William Shakespeare, like tigers cornered in a cave they will thrash out with increasingly bewildering conspiracy theories to negate the challenge to their theories. Somewhere into this mix of baseless conjecture is sometimes tossed a love child of Queen Elizabeth, & I am sure in one strand of the Oxfordian theories Shakespeare was said to have been his own father.

The vita of William Shakespeare is more famous for what it does not contain than what it does. One of the enduring Shakespearean conundrums revolves around the seven-year period between 1585 & 1592, the so-called ‘Lost Years,’ a wilderness of remembrance in which our budding bard might as well have been living on the moon! All we know is that at the beginning of 1585, when his twindownload (2)s were baptized in Stratford, Shakespeare seems nothing but a simple family man. Seven years later, however, he is setting London alight with the first resonant tromp-blasts of his miraculously brilliant plays. The occasion was a rather popular performance of ‘Henry VI’ at the Rose Theatre, dated to the 3rd of March, 1592. Takings for the performance were £3 6sh 8d, outdoing Christopher Marlowe’s Jew of Malta, played in the Rose only the previous week, by almost a full pound. Shakespeare was now the starry darling of the London literary scene, but what journey had he made from rural Stratford for him to have ever become so? Of this curious puzzle, Bill Bryson writes, ‘there is not a more tempting void in literary history, nor more eager hands to fill it.

On first encountering this contentious arena, my instinct was to say I believed what it said on the tin, that Shakespeare had written his own plays. Having looked at a great deal of the available evidence, I am rather inclined to agree with my first instinct, for with a wee waft here & there, when those paper trails of history that have been blown about by the blustery gales of many centuries settle in just the right order, all of a sudden they form a series of cogent patterns to illuminate a path through the murky mists of Shakespeare’s history. Some of the key patterns center upon a certain Lancastrian nobleman called William Stanley, who became the Sixth Earl of Derby in 1594. His feudal demesne was not in Derbyshire, however, but Lancashire, whose ‘capital’ was the palatial stately home at Knowsley, on the outskirts of Liverpool.

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In Shakespeare’s day the Derbys were the second family of England, direct descendants of the first Tudor king, Henry VII, through Mary, one of the two sisters of Henry VIII. The elder sister, Margaret, had married into the Stewart line of Scottish kings, whose great-grandchild would eventually inherit the English crown as King James I. Before that momentous occasion of national unification, the Stanleys were the ideological focus of many a plot throughout Elizabeth’s childless reign. But being shrewd operatives & canny northern lads, this noble family never once challenged the hegemony of the Tudors, remaining content enough to lord it over their private kingdom in the North. Instead of plotting for the throne, the Stanleys were content to patronise the dramatic arts, running private troupes of player to perform up & down & all across the land. They even had a private playhouse built at Knowsley, which would have attracted Shakespeare like a moth to a dramaturgical flame. That our bard had been in the vicinity can be observed in the creochisping, money-obsess’d character of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice. He is based, I believe, upon Thomas Sherlock, a coin-counting churchwarden in the Lancashire parish of Prestcott, bordering the Stanley’s estate at Knowsley. The Churchwardens Accounts of Prescott read;

1581: imprimis, receyved bye me, the sed Thomas Sherlock at the handes of the olde churche wardens, ouer theire accountes the last year as appereth bye this booke

1584: item, paid to Thomas Sherlocke for the repairinge of the olde slate upon the sowth syde of the church

In his younger years William Stanley undertook an epic tour of Europe just at the commencement of the Shakespearean ‘Lost Years.’ According to the ‘History of the House of Stanley,’ by John Seacome, the good folk of Lancashire were addicted to his, ‘whole travels, martial exploits, and bravery abroad, which this county (especially) gives us many large accounts, as well in story, as song, and frequently made themselves merry therewith.’ The thing is, if we were to place Shakespeare in the company of Stanley on his continental tour, it is singularly remarkable how much of the Shakespearean oeuvre begins to fit snugly into the minute nooks & crannies of the Stanleyan Grand Tour. Actualizing Shakespeare in the entourage of Stanley begins within the rustic pipings of an obscure ballad called ‘The Garland of William Stanley.’ Anonymously penned, it was printed in the 18th century, a ‘garland,’ or collection, of stanzas telling the story of Stanley’s Continental wanderlust. The poetry of the Garland is not the finest, falling far below the standard of even the most ordinary of broadside ballads; but what it lacks in beauty of language is more than made up for by geographical & historical content. The story it tells is more a montage of three separate journeys; Stanley’s first in 1582-1584 with his tutor Richard Lloyd, the second between 1585-87 with Shakespeare, & a third in the early 1590s, just before he became the Sixth Earl.

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The Garland explains how Stanley conducted a twenty-one year tour of the Continent (a clear exaggeration) via France, Spain, Italy, Rome & the mountainous Alpine parts of southern Germany known as ‘High Germany.’ Stanley then went to North Africa, visiting Egypt, Algeria & Morocco, before sweeping back north to meet the famous Elizabethan magus, John Dee, at the court of the Russian Emperor. Another grand sweep would see Stanley returning to the Mediterranean once again, in order to tour the Near East. After conducting the obligatory pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he found himself imprisoned in Constantinople for blasphemy against Mohammed. After his release, at the behest of an infatuated Turkish woman, Stanley moved up to the frozen north, where he became stranded upon the island of Greenland. Fortuitously rescued by a whale-ship, he would eventually be dropp’d off in Holland, from where he boarded a boat for England & his homecoming at Lathom Hall in Lancashire. I think it hardly a coincidence that in every place Stanley visited in the Garland – Greenland aside – we can site one or more of Shakespeare’s continental scenes, with the only exception being the Elsinore of Hamlet.

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Shakespeare’s own continental ‘ticket’ would been paid for by the wealthy Stanley. These ‘Grand Tours’ were partaken only by the very rich, in particular young aristocrats wanting to complete their education by visiting foreign ‘academes’ & basking in the natural beauties of the Continent; whether it be the delights of scenic scenes, or the bosom of some pretty damsel. That Shakespeare accompanied Stanley should appease the Anti-Shakespeareans, for foreign travel alongside a man of noble birth would have furnish’d Shakespeare’s brain with all the courtly mores, continental languages & classical scholarship our poet would ever need to create his masterpieces. Looking into the Italian plays in particular, one cannot help but notice Shakespeare’s attention to topographical & cultural details. By placing Stanley & Shakespeare together readily explains how the Bard would have gained such an impressive love for Italy. His journey up to, throughout, & beyond that golden land I shall now present in a neat, chronological & hopefully unclutter’d fashion. As we journey alongside William Shakespeare & William Stanley, in the absence of any external evidence their Grand Tour, it is in the internal evidence of his writings, as ascertained thro’ the Chisper Effect, that we are able to trace the route of the most important adventure in the history of the English language.

JANUARY 1588
Shakespeare joins the retinue of the Earl of Derby

In the chilly late January of 1585, Shakespeare’s twins, Hamnet & Judith arrived in the world. They were baptized in Stratford on the 2nd February, 1585, but Shakespeare was not present – & probably missed the birth. All we can do is pin him to April 1584, when he conceived the twins with his wife, Anne. By the time they were born, Shakespeare had found himself a very minor station in the grand retinue of William Stanley’s father, the 4th Earl of Derby, who was readying himself for a trip to Paris. His mission was to present the French King with the Order of the Garter on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, one of only 26 – no more, no less – noble investees of the a tradition founded by Edward III in 1348, & religiously maintain’d by Elizabeth.

There are several manuscripts extant which contain a list of the leading members of the Earl’s retinue, together with numbers for their anonymous, un-named staff. Among the names we may observe;

Sir Richard Shireburn, treasurer – 3
Sir Randulp Brereton of Malpas – 6
Thomas Arderne, steward – 2
William Fox, comptroller -1
Stanley of Chelsea – 2

We may notice here the presence of Thomas Arderne, the cousin of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary, while William Stanley appears as Stanley of Chelsea. On & off, throughout his entire life, Stanley did indeed live in the fashionable parts of West London.

FEBRUARY 1585
Shakespeare in Paris

As Shakespeare crossed the English Channel, he would have gazed wide-eyed with wonder at the Earl’s fleet as it flew across the choppy green waters to France. After making footfall upon foreign shores, we can follow his first steps abroad via a contemporary record of the Garter procession through France;

7th February : The Earl of Derby… is coming to bring the Garter to this king. He has disembarked at Bolounge with a great following of English nobles, & is to be lodged, & apparently splendidly entertained, by the king
Bernardino de Mendoza

21st February : The Earl of Derby arrived at Saint Denis. He was sent by the Queen of England to bear the garter to the most Christian king. Lord Derby stayed two days at St Denis, & on the third day he took the roads with all his company, which consists of two other lords, fifty gentleman, & others to the number of two hundred
Giovanni Dolfin

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Once in Paris, the Fourth Earl (see image left) & his party took up residence at the Louvre, bedazzling the French nobility with the extravagance & magnificence of his embassy. On the 28th February, the Order of the Garter would be finally handed over with much ceremony to Henri III, of which occasion Elias Ashmole wrote, ‘on the day of Installation, there hath from ancient time been accustomably prepared, a very sumptuous & noble Feast.’ The young Shakespeare must have been blown away by the experience, his ears swelling with the florid language & sickly pomp of such grandiose, courtly affairs. It must have been a moment of creative epiphany, for during his career all but one of his plays (Merry Wives of Windsor) would be set in an aristocratic environment. Our young poet would also have wondered at the sheer extravagance of the Earl of Derby, but the truth of the matter is that such spectacular showboating was actually bleeding the Earl dry, who was pretty much doing the whole thing on bills of credit. By Paris he had spent-up, of which circumstance Sir Edward Stafford wrote to Walsingham, ‘at their coming to town they had not a hundred crowns left, & no other provision.’

MARCH 1585
Stanley & Shakespeare embark on their continental tour

In our noble sanguinities, being the second son of an aristocratic family generally means you are left to your own devices, to enjoy a life of luxury without the pressure to carry on the family name & lands. In Elizabethan England, many of these privileged young libertines traveled extensively across Europe, & Stanley was no different. The Queen had encouraged such tours, when in her own words, ‘young men of promising hopes’ such as the Earl of Essex & Phillip Sydney did travel through, ‘foreign countries for the more complete polishing of their Parts & Studies.’ Stanley was no different, he had already toured the Continent once, in 1582-83 & was going back for more. With him went the 21 year-old Shakespeare. Perhaps the elder Stanleys had recognized the young poet’s talents & suggested that this promising youngster should accompany Stanley on his educational trip to the continent.

To actually be out of gloomy England & heading for sunnier climes & all the pristine culture of Europa would have felt as wonderful to Shakespeare as it does to any modern Briton holidaying abroad. Such a moment of liberating freedom would later be remembered by Shakespeare;

Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,
The better part of my affections would
Be with my hopes abroad. I should be still
Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind,
Peering in maps for ports and piers and roads.
The Merchant of Venice

The Grand Tour was flooding into the young Shakespeare’s life when, as The Garland of William Stanley describes, the optimum reason for such a continental sojurn was the study of various languages;

Then first Sir William travell’d to France,
To learn the French tongue and to dance;
He tarried there not past three years,
But he learnt their language and all their affairs.

And then Sir William would travel to Spain,
There for to learn the Spanish tongue;

Placing Shakespeare with Stanley at this time helps us to understand how our dramatist in years to come was able to read a number of source-texts in their original form. Most of these were translated into English long after Shakespeare had utilised them for the plots of his plays, such as the Hecatommithi of Cinthio (the inspiration of Measure for Measure), translated into English as late as 1753.

MARCH 1585
Shakespeare visits the Ardennes

Nicholas Rowe once stated it was certain that Shakespeare, ‘understood French, as may be observ’d from many Words and Sentences scatter’d up and down his Plays in that Language; and especially from one Scene in Henry the Fifth written wholly in it.’ In that scene, where Katherine says, in pretty good French, ‘Alice, tu as été en Angleterre, et tu parles bien le langage,’ Alice replies, ‘un peu.’ It is Shakespeare’s knowledge of that language which would have made life much easier for our party as they traversed the primeval forest of the Ardennes between Paris & Antwerp. This very region turns up in Shakespeare’s As You Like it, where the ‘Forest of Arden’ is set in an un-named duchy of France. The play contains a wrestling match at a tournament, mirroring Thomas Aspen’s description of William Stanley’s travels in which our Grand Tourist, ‘took laurels in many of the chief tournaments.’ From both Aspen & the Garland we see Stanley immersing himself in the social swirls of Continental courts. A memory of this happenstance was recorded by Shakespeare himself;

Twere good, I think, your lordship sent him thither:
There shall he practise tilts and tournaments,
Hear sweet discourse, converse with noblemen.
And be in eye of every exercise
Worthy his youth and nobleness of birth.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Returning to As You Like It, this pastoral describes a certain Rosalind dressing up as a boy-child called ‘Ganymede,’ a figure that Shakespeare drew from classical mythology. Legend states how the baby Ganymede had been abducted by Jupiter in the guise of an eagle. This very motif was chosen by the Stanleys to decorate their family’s noble crest, & placing the emblem in As You Like It seems a clear nod by Shakespeare to his patrons.

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APRIL 1585
Shakespeare witnesses the Siege of Antwerp

Among the gentlemen waiters who traveled to France in the Earl’s retinue, we may observe a 13-year-old John Donne, who was destined to enter the leading ranks of the English poetic pantheon. Modern scholar Dennis Flynn shows how Donne’s uncle, Jasper Heywood, was a leading Jesuit missionary, & in the anti-Catholic atmosphere of that age, ‘he & his sister, Donne’s mother, seemingly conspired to get him out of harm’s way by arranging this trip to the continent as a member of the ambassador’s retinue,’ adding, ‘since Donne did not return to England with the Earl in March 1585, the most plausible explanation for his turning up later in Derby’s household is that at some point he joined the Earl’s son William Stanley on the continent.’ There may be more to the Jesuit connection, for Edmund Campion, their chief English activator, was given safe houses in Lancashire, whose nobility were very far from accepting the Protestant reformation as instigated by Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII. Other pro-Catholic clues include Shakespeare’s teacher at school, Simon Hunt, leaving Stratford for the English College at Douay in order to be trained a Jesuit, while Shakespeare’s father had signed & hidden a Catholic testament in his house rafters in Stratford.

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We may presume that our gallant young Englishmen swaggering about the continent had at least some kind of sympathy to Catholicism, & that Jasper Heywood’s nephew, the young John Donne was welcome in their company. According to Flynn, Donne was present at the 1585 siege of Antwerp as conducted by the Duke of Parma. Flynn insists that Donne reflected upon his time at the siege in a set of ‘Latin Epigrams’ which were composed, ‘during a period datable by their contents to April or May 1585.’ Flynn cites additional evidence in a poem by Donne’s, entitled ‘To Sleep, stealling upon him as he stood upon the Guard in the corner of a running Trench, at the siege of Duke’s-Wood,’ which includes the lines;

Our very standing still here business finde;
Duty imploys our bodies, cares our minde.
Duty which may the next hour double strike;
Whilst each man here stands grasping of a pike;
Waitings stoln onsets with our weary spears,
Examining even whispers with our ears.

Perhaps Stanley was observing the siege in order to gain an education in military affairs. Despite tensions between England & Spain, Stanley’s Catholicism & noble breeding would have ensured a friendly reception from the Duke of Parma.

JUNE 1585
Shakespeare visits Nerac

In the summer of 1585, Shakespeare accompanied Stanley – & Donne – into the kingdom of Navarre, which stretched across both sides of the Pyrenees like a blanket drying on a wall. On arrival they received an excellent welcome, for Stanley’s father had befriended Henri of Navarre in their youth. Shakespeare’s own time in the kingdom would heavily influence his composition of Love’s Labours Lost. Set in Navarre itself, Abel Lefranc describes that play’s, ‘easy familiarity with the atmosphere reigning at the court of Navarre… the Park of Navarre… is easily identifiable with the park of Nerac.’ The town of Nerac lies in south-west France, near Toulouse, in which place Henri of Navarre had installed a humanist academy whose academic atmosphere permeates the poetry of Love’s Labours Lost. In this charming play we encounter the austere intellectual endeavors of four young men completely rattled by the arrival of the Princess of France, when all pretensions of mental asceticism soon descend into glib rounds of love-gifts, sonnets & masques. The very start of Love’s Labours Lost shows the state of mind of four young men whose ebullient language bubbles with the deepest passion for scholarship. It is a charming read;

ACT I SCENE I. The king of Navarre’s park;
Enter FERDINAND king of Navarre, BIRON, LONGAVILLE and DUMAIN

FERDINAND
Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register’d upon our brazen tombs
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
The endeavor of this present breath may buy
That honour which shall bate his scythe’s keen edge
And make us heirs of all eternity.
Therefore, brave conquerors,–for so you are,
That war against your own affections
And the huge army of the world’s desires,–
Our late edict shall strongly stand in force:
Navarre shall be the wonder of the world;
Our court shall be a little Academe,
Still and contemplative in living art.
You three, Biron, Dumain, and Longaville,
Have sworn for three years’ term to live with me
My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes
That are recorded in this schedule here

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The three years that Stanley spent on the continent (1585-1587) are a direct match for the three-year course of study planned by the play’s principle character, Ferdinand; alongside Biron, Dumain, and Longaville, two of whom are perhaps metapoetic reflections of Shakespeare & Donne. Indeed, when Biron says, ‘study is like the heaven’s glorious sun,’ we can sense the importance Shakespeare attached to his time in Nerac.

AUGUST 15858
Shakespeare visits Spain

After leaving Nerac, Shakespeare would have ascended the myriad-mountain’d Pyrenees; those gorgeous rocky giants abutting the beautiful, sierra-swept lands of Spain.

And then Sir William would travel to Spain,
There for to learn the Spanish tongue ;
He tarried there not past half a year,
But he thought he’d been in Spain too long

That Shakespeare was with Stanley has been half-noticed by Sir Henry Thomas. Of the ‘Tawny Spain’ phrase found in Love’s Labour’s Lost, he declares it, ‘so apt a description of the landscape, at least in some parts of Spain & at certain seasons of the year, that it suggest personal observation. I such it really was, the trip to Spain might be a youthful escapade.’ Shakespeare seems to have understood the rudiments of the Spanish tongue, with Sir Henry stating; ‘it is common ground that Shakespeare had some knowledge of Spain and the Spaniards that a few Spanish words were among his stock-in-trade… Shakespeare’s allusions to Spain are very numerous, he uses Spanish phrases and gives an English garb to others.’ Learning Spanish enabled Shakespeare to study its literature, such as the 1585 edition of La Galatea by Cervantes, containing the Proteus-Julia-Sylvia love triangle, which would later inspire The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

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There are also tantalizing remembrances of Donne’s own visit to Spain. Upon a portrait of the young poet, painted in 1591, we may see the phrase; ‘Antes muerto que mudado,’ whose translation as ‘sooner dead than changed’ could well contain a secret nod to his Roman Catholicism. Donne may have picked up the phrase at first hand while in Spain, & while there stocked up on books for his personal library. In his middle-age, in 1623, Donne wrote a letter to the Duke of Buckingham confessing, ‘in my poore library I can turn my eye toward no shelf, in any profession from the mistress of my youth, Poetry, to the wife of mine age, Divinity, but that I meet with more authors of the {Spanish} nation than of any others.’

SEPTEMBER 1585
Shakespeare begins Venus & Adonis

Like any good tourist, Shakespeare availed himself of the opportunities to wander foreign caches of culture. While visiting the Court of King Phillip II in Madrid, he would observe two paintings by the great Italian renaissance painter, Titian. Their names were The Rape of Lucrece and Venus & Adonis, & the substance of each one would be utilised by Shakespeare for two long poems printed in the early 1590s. It seems our poet was inspired to begin the composition of at least ‘Venus & Adonis’ almost immediately, for on its publication in 1593, on the title page Shakespeare calls the poem ‘the first heir of my invention.’ A key factor in placing Shakespeare directly in front of & staring at Titian’s painting can be observed in the poet’s rejection of Ovid’s version of events, & his following of Titian instead. Like Shakespeare’s depiction, the painting has Adonis backing away from the advances of Venus, shirking Ovid’s portrayal of the young god happily embracing his bonnie suitor. ‘Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone, Well-painted idol,‘ says Venus, who around the neck of Adonis, ‘her yoking arms she throws: She sinketh down, still hanging by his neck.‘ This is just as is pictorially described by Titian, as is Shakespeare having Adonis ‘urging release… from the twining arms.’  Shakespeare also appears to be mirroring the painting when he writes, ‘O, what a war of looks was then between them!’ 

More evidence that Shakespeare saw the painting & wanted to recreate the story it told in words comes within the poem itself. Erwin Panofsky, in his, ‘Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographical,‘ writes, ‘Shakespeare’s words, down to such details as the nocturnal setting and “love upon her backe deeply distrest,” sound like a poetic paraphrase of Titian’s composition,’ & gives stanza 136 as a good example;

With this he breaketh from the sweet embrace
Of those faire armes which bound him to her brest,
And homeward through the dark lawnd runs apace;
Leaves love upon her backe, deeply distrest.
Looke, how a bright star shooteth from the skye,
So glides he in the night from Venus’s eye.

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The poem is very much moulded by homoerotica, suggesting Shakespeare had been seduced by Stanley on their Grand Tour. On analysis of the poem, we may observe how Venus – who would be based on Stanley – is rather more humanized than one would expect of a member of the immortal pantheon. The poem could in actuality be a versified memorial to Stanley & his sexual overtures towards the younger, twenty-two year old, Adonis-like Shakespeare. Evidence for such a sequence of events may be obtained through understanding the Elizabathan tendency to name one another via ingenious allusions.

(i) In the poem, Venus says to Adonis; ‘Art thou obdurate, flinty, hard as steel? Nay, more than flint, for stone at rain relenteth: Art thou a woman’s son, and canst not feel what ’tis to love? How want of love tormenteth?’
(ii) In 1597, a young Cambridge graduate named Joseph Hall published two books of satires in which he marks out for especial criticism a certain ‘Labeo,’ telling him to ‘write better’ three times, & at one point to even refrain from writing completely.
(iii) In 1598, John Marston wrote, ‘so Labeo did complain his love was stone, Obdurate, flinty, so relentless none.’ This hints that Labeo was the same person as Shakespeare’s Venus – ie William Stanley. At this very period, John Marston was heavily involved with Stanley in reviving the St Paul’s Boys troupe, & would have acquired an intimate insight into the secret Stanley-Shakespeare affections.
(iv) In 1599, we gain rock solid evidence concerning Stanley’s mediocre, playwrighting pretensions. In a letter which George Fenner sent to Humphrey Galdelli, Stanley was said to be, ‘busy penning plays for the common players.’ These were most probably The Maid’s Metamorphosis and The Wisdom of Doctor Dodypoll, two ‘anonymous’ productions performed in 1599 by the St Paul’s Boys. Both of these are inferior productions of the Elizabethan tradition, & may be among the pieces criticized by Joseph Hall when he attacked the writings of ‘Labeo.’

 

 

SEPTEMBER 1585
Stanley duels with a Spaniard

With the Armada only three years away, to be an Englishman in Spain in 1585 must have been a very tense experience. Relations between the two countries were steadily souring, a background against which our party found themselves into quite a scrape. Thomas Aspen describes how Stanley; ‘was challenged by a Spanish nobleman to single combat. In the first encounter the Spaniard succeeded in wounding Sir William on his right arm, and causing him to fall to the ground, but he was soon upon his feet again. In the second round the Spaniard aimed three deadly blows at the wounded Englishman, but they were all skillfully averted, and Sir William gave his adversary a thrust on the right breast, inflicting a severe wound, and causing him to reel to the ground. Blood flowed freely, and the friends of the Spanish nobleman counselled his withdrawal from the contest, but he was too enraged to heed their advice, and in the third encounter rushed at Sir William with the force of desperation, but the blows were successfully parried, and the representative of the house of Stanley once more secured the crown of victory by inflicting a second wound on the breast of the Spaniard, and thus effectually disabling him.‘ This would not be the last time a bunch of (probably drunk) English tourists got themselves into a spot of bother in Spain, but having survived the fracas it was definitely time to hop-it out of a country growing more & more hostile by the hour.

OCTOBER 1585
Shakespeare passes through Aragon

More gloss to the Stanleyan grand tour is given via John Seacome’s ‘History of the House of Stanley,’ to which edition of 1801 was attached an anonymous appendix entitled ‘A Brief Account of the Travels of the Celebrated Sir William Stanley.’ This pamphlet contains new material, & tells us that following his duel in Spain, Stanley predicted ‘the vengeance of the whole court would fall upon him‘ & so purchased the habit of a friar in order to flee in disguise. While they made their way through Aragon with ‘considerable hardships,’ I believe Shakespeare took down a series of notes which would find a home in the extremely popular 17th century play, Mucedorus. The earliest known edition is dated to the year 1598; but the words, ‘newly set foorth,’ on the title page indicate there was an earlier performance. The plot has a certain Prince of Valencia disguising himself as a shepherd so he can sneak into Aragon in order to view its famously beautiful Princess, a sequence of events which heavily echo Stanley’s own travels in the district. That Shakespeare had actually had a hand in the writing of the play came to light in the 17th century, when three scripts were found in the royal library of Charles II, bound together & labelled ‘Shakespeare. Vol. I’. These were Fair Em, The Merry Devil of Edmonton & a 1610 quarto printing of Mucedorus.

OCTOBER 1585
Shakespeare crosses the French Riviera

After the sojurn in Spain, the Garland tells us, ‘to Italy then Sir William would go, To Rome.’ It is apparent that our intrepid poetical gentlemen took the land route, for on leaving the gorgeous sierras of Spain they must have passed through Roussillon, which makes an appearance in All’s Well That Ends Well. This region stands at the start of the French Riviera, while further along the coast we reach the sprawling sea-port of Marseille, another of All’s Well’s localities. This same play is also set in the city of Florence, Italy, & one expects Alls Well to be some kind of metapoetic tribute to Shakespeare’s journey in 1585, one that swept him along the French Riviera & into northern Italy.

NOVEMBER 1585
Shakespeare in Italy

It is time to proceed with joy unto the Italian peninsular, the greatest of all the Shakespearean hauntlands. It is in this famous ‘Paradise of Exiles,’ that Shakespeare would set more than a quarter of his plays, such as the seminal classic, Romeo & Juliet. Italy & Shakespeare are like pasta & wine – they go together so darned well. A great deal of their connections were unearthed by an amiable Californian, Richard Paul Roe, who sadly departed this world in 2010. The last twenty-five years of his life were spent wandering about Italy with a well-thumbed copy of Shakespeare in his hands, hunting down clues as to whether the Bard had visited the country. To say his efforts were a success are a clear understatement, the Indian Jones of Shakespearean studies, he dug out & polished many prime artefacts, concluding;

The ‘imaginary’ settings for the ten Italian plays of Shakespeare have presented both specific, and strikingly accurate, details about that country, as a result of dedicated sojourns within it by the playwright. The author’s journeys took him from its Alpine slopes to the toe of its peninsula, across the length and breadth of its great island of Sicily, and included sailing trips on both the adjoining Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas. For the last four hundred years, nearly all of the playwright’s descriptions of Italy’s places and treasures have either gone unrecognized as being true, or have been dismissed as mistaken.

Italy burned an indelible mark into Shakespeare’s creative consciousness, & throughout his works we find over a hundred scenes set in that country, alongside 800 general other references. A great study of these was made by another Bard-in-Italy aficionado, Ernesto Grillo, a 20th century teacher & lecturer of Italian studies at Glasgow University, & absolute Shakespeare nut. After a lifetime of lectures, one of his students assembled Grillo’s copious notes into a book entitled Shakespeare and Italy. Published in 1949, it quotes Grillo in conclusion:

Italy with its public and private life, its laws and customs, its ceremonial and other characteristics, pulsates in every line of our dramatist, while the atmosphere of many scenes is Italian in the truest sense of the word. We cannot but wonder how Shakespeare obtained such accurate information, and we have no hesitation in affirming that on at least one occasion he must have visited Italy

This ‘one occasion,’ was in the company of Stanley. ‘Open my heart and you will see / Graved inside of it, ‘Italy!’’ sang Robert Browning, & it makes perfect sense that our budding Bard would have visited the land of Virgil, Dante, Petrach & Tasso, for it is the Italian influence that raises English poetry to its highest pitch.

NOVEMBER 1585
The Levant Company launch five ships from London

To promote the trade of Elizabethan England, the Company of Merchants of the Levant was formed in order to take advantage of the declining international trade of both the Portuguese & the Venetian empires. The Company established ‘factories’ in the Syrian city of Aleppo (its headquarters), Constantinople, Alexandria and Smyrna. They also commissioned a small fleet of five ships to trade in the Near East, but at the very moment they were ready to embark, in November 1585, Phillip II of Spain declared war on England. This forced the Company to heavily arm the ships; the 300 ton galleon Merchant Royal, the William and John, the Toby, the Susan and the 300 ton armed merchant galleon Edward Bonaventure. They sailed later in the month, & we shall see in a short while how important this little fleet is to the unwritten history of William Shakespeare.

Piazza Ognissanti
Piazza Ognissanti

DECEMBER 1585
Shakespeare in Florence

Like any poet of substance, Shakespeare’s soul would have been fired up for his first visit to Florence; the home of Dante and a true diamond among the many jeweled delights of Tuscany. Florence is a veritable beauty to behold, especially when observed from its heights, when the weighty Duomo rises out of a sea of orange rooves like some volcanic, Polynesian island. Shakespeare would set several scenes of Alls Well that Ends Well in the city, while an accurate knowledge of Florence & the Florentines is heavily evident in other plays. In Alls Well (3-5) we hear, ‘if they do approach the City, We shall lose all the sight,’ a statement elucidated by Roe’s, ‘the ‘City’ in question is an area to north of the Arno, where stood the walled Roman colony of Florentia.’ Roe also pinpointed the description of a religious hostelry situated ‘at the Saint Francis here beside the port.’ On investigation, Roe discovered that the ‘Saint Francis’ in question was, ‘the ancient name of Piazza Ognissanti, where the Chiesa di Ognissanti (Church of All Saints), belonged to the Franciscans since 1561.’ To this we may add the findings of Ernesto Grillo who describes how Shakespeare knew, ‘the Florentines were notable merchants and mathematicians, making frequent use in their commerce of letters of credit and counting their money by ducats; and he was also aware that they were constantly in conflict with the Sienese. And here the poet uses a phrase which is pure Italian–The Florentines and the Sienese are by the ear (si pigliano per gli orecchi).’

While in Florence, Shakespeare would have connected on a spiritual & artistic level with the great Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, perhaps even visiting his natal house which still stands to this day. It would have been a grand changing of the Parnassian baton, for Dante’s contribution to world literature is the brilliant Divine Comedy, a most beautiful epic poem through which the poet explored Hell, Purgatory & Heaven, embroidered by some of the most sublimely beautiful language. So gorgeous were his words, in fact, that when the fragmented Italian principalities were searching for a national language; out of the many dialects on offer it was Dante’s Tuscan that won the day. In the same fashion, Shakespeare’s influence over the English language has been equally meritorious, for there is something about a song sung on the highest slopes of Parnassus that reverberates along the tongues of a poet’s fellow countrymen for forever & a day.

Braun_Roma_HAAB

JANUARY 1586
Shakespeare visits Rome

In 1586, the Eternal City was a shadow of the epic metropolis of the Ceasars, but would have still held the same charm & fascination as it does to the tourist of today. ‘Of the ground contained within the walls,’ remarked Shakespeare’s contemporary, William Thomas, ‘scarcely the third part is now inhabited, and that not where the beauty of Rome hath been but for the most part on the plain to the waterside and in the Vatican, because that since the Bishops began to reign every man hath coveted to build as near the court as might be. Nevertheless, those streets and buildings that are there at this time are so fair that I think no city doth excel it.’ For Stanley, a visit to the Italian capital was one he would have truly relish’d, whose Vatican City would have been a most soulful draw for our pro-papal party. In England, in 1585, it was a treasonous offence to be or even harbor a Catholic priest; while a £20 fine was given to anybody who failed to attend a protestant service. As our party wandered the streets of Rome, they would have been overjoyed to step into any church they liked, to worship their version of Jesus in the open.

JANUARY 1586
Shakespeare begins Titus Andronicus

Stanley & Shakespeare would have delighted in seeing the ruins of the ancient city, which according to the Brief Account reflected Stanley’s, ‘credit on his taste.’ It was on these walks that Shakespeare’s creative connection to Rome was forged, as seen in his four Roman Plays; Julius Ceasar, Anthony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus & Titus Andronicus. While wandering the remains of the Forum & the Colosseum, already 15 centuries old, Shakespeare’s innate enthusiasm would have been fired into tackling themes of grand antiquity. Of these, it is the play Titus Andronicus that he began in earnest, perhaps even on the spot, a brutally violent revenge play in the style of the Roman dramatist Seneca. Most poets have several pieces going on at any one time, & when in the early 20th century, the epic Shakespearean scholar Walter Raleigh says, ‘his early play of Titus Andronicus, which is like the poems,‘ we obtain a feeling that Shakespeare was writing a proto-Titus at the same time as penning Venus & Adonis. Philip C Koln has observed a ‘close kinship’ between the two, where ‘both Titus & Venus contain rape (or attempted rape), Ovidian in origin, transformations, heavily embellished poetry to express the deepest physical & psychic wounds, the curse of doomed love, & the powerlessness of gods & goddesses to protect.’

It had not been so long since Shakespeare had stood in the Alcazar gazing deeply at the brushwork of Titian’s Rape of Lucrece. As he combobulated his new play, Lucrece’s enforced ravishment became the inspiration for a similar rape. Indeed in Titus, as the sexually molested and mutilated Lavinia reveals the identity of her rapists, her uncle Marcus invokes the story of Lucrece in order to invoke an oath of vengeance;

And swear with me—as, with the woeful fere
And father of that chaste dishonoured dame,
Lord Junius Brutus swore for Lucrece’ rape
That we will prosecute by good advice
Mortal revenge upon these traitorous Goths,
And see their blood, or die with this reproach

On an allegorical level, in her excellent book, Shadowplay, Clare Asquith notes how the rape of Lavinia seems to represent English Catholocism in the early 1580s. This would have been an appropriate choice of metaphor, reinforced by Lavinia’s lopped off hands, reflecting the Catholic inability to worship freely in Elizabethan England. In the wake of the Tudor Reformation, Asquith reminds us, ‘the faces, arms & attributes of thousands of images of the Madonna & the saints were still being mutilated in exactly this way all over England; some of them, faces slashed & hands removed, still remain in parish churches.’ Such hidden, pro-Catholic layers would have resonated powerfully with a sympathetic 16th century audience. ‘A related similarity between Tamora & Elizabeth is inescapable,’ writes Asquith, & it is through Titus’s hidden Catholic layer that she finds an allusion to events of the year directly preceding that in which Shakespeare began writing the play, ‘In 1585,’ states Asquith, ‘Richard Shelley… was imprisoned for presenting a petition for toleration, dying later in jail without trial. The demented Titus accosts a simple countryman & asks him to deliver a letter that… also contains a weapon… a knife – a hint at the barbed attacks contained in the appeals. The message is twice called a ‘supplicatio.’ For running this errand, the poor clown, who delivers the letter with a cheerful invocation to God & the martyr St Stephen, is hanged on the spot.’

That Titus was Shakespeare’s first dramatic production seems cryptically embedded in the play itself. The plot has no historical basis, but the name of its chief character seems based upon Livius Andronicus, a Roman poet & dramatist of the third century BC, also known as Titus. The Roman writer Livy describes how Livius Andronicus had been an inspired dramaturgical innovator, who ‘was the first, some years later, to abandon saturae and compose a play with a plot. Like everyone else in those days, he acted his own pieces; and the story goes that when his voice, owing to the frequent demands made upon it, had lost its freshness, he asked and obtained the indulgence to let a boy stand before the flautist to sing the monody, while he acted it himself, with a vivacity of gesture that gained considerably from his not having to use his voice. From that time on actors began to use singers to accompany their gesticulation, reserving only the dialogue parts for their own delivery.’ It would have been apt for a forward-thinking playwright to name his first play after a similar-minded dramatist of the past, & a nod to the Roman may be seen in the cutting off of Lavinia’s tongue, mirroring the mute dramaturgy as utilised & made famous by Livius Andronicus.

Most scholarship agrees that Titus Andronicus was only co-authored by Shakespeare; there are clear discrepancies in style & vocabulary rippling all throughout the text. The earliest commentary on the play’s origins, made by Edward Ravenscroft in 1687, describes Titus as, ‘the most incorrect and indigested piece in all his Works; It seems rather a heap of Rubbish then a Structure.’ This creative jumbling forwards Stanley as a candidate for co-authorship, that Titus was the product of a collaboration between our erstwhile, literary-minded travelers. Stanley, of course, was a good old Lancashire lad, who would have spoken in that broad, Elysium-dripping accent of the North, & his presence during the penning of Titus which would account for its numerous dialectical idoms, such as; blowse, brabble, brat, caterwauling, chaps, codding, egall, faire-fast, gald, leere, luls, ruffle, slonke, tawnt, trull & welkin. That Stanley was involved in the creation of Titus would also help to explain why his family’s private troupe of players were the first to perform the play. When it was printed in 1594 – the year Stanley became the Earl of Derby – the title page of the first quarto edition reads; ‘as it was Plaide by the Right Honourable the Earle of Darbie, Earle of Pembrooke, and Earle of Suffox their Seruants.’

FEBRUARY 1586
Shakespeare in Padua

Shakespeare’s knowledge of the fair city of Padua, perched upon those perfect plains of north Italy, transcends anything he could have acquired through bookish lore. In the Taming of the Shrew, where Biondello says, ‘my master hath appointed me to go to Saint Luke’s, to bid the priest be ready to come against you come with your appendix,’ Paul Roe tracked down the actual church, declaring it to be the Saint Luke’s Church of via Venti Settembre 22. Only a stone’s throw away, Roe was delighted to pass through the arched Porta Barbarigo & straight into Act I, Scene I of the Shrew; with its waterway, landing place and wide open space with clustering buildings. That Shakespeare stayed in the city just feels right; Padua was home to one of the greatest universities of the Renaissance, & a trip to such an academic environment fits in with Stanley’s intellectual itinerary. At the time of their visit, the majority of Europe’s greatest medical doctors & teachers were based in Padua, & a period of erudition in the city by the young Shakespeare helps account for the high level of medical knowledge in his plays. An example comes in Love’s Labour’s Lost, when Holferness states;

This is a gift that I have, simple, simple; a foolish, extravagant spirit, full of forms, figures, shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions, revolutions: these are begot in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater, and delivered upon the mellowing of occasion

This passage shows a remarkable insight into the obscure biological material known as the ‘pia mater,’ a Latin term for the inner lining or membrane of the brain and spinal cord, along with its neurological connections to the brain’s activities. The key to the conundrum comes with an English physician known as William Harvey (1578-1657), the first man to describe to the English the processes of the circulation of the blood about the body. His book, De Motu Cordis, was published in 1628, yet Shakespeare was hinting at this very process decades before, where in Julius Ceasar we read, ‘you are my true and honourable wife, as dear to me as are those ruddy drops that visit my sad heart.’ How on earth could Shakespeare & Harvey both have obtained this select & secret knowledge? The answer can only be at Padua, whose university Harvey entered in 1592. While there he developed a relationship with Hieronymus Fabricius of Acquapendente, who had held the chair of Medicine and Anatomy at the time of Stanley’s visit. Back in the 1570s, Fabricius had discovered that veins possessed valves which kept the blood flowing in the direction of the heart, & one expects that is was in his private lectures that men like Shakespeare would have first heard of the pia mater & the circulation of the blood.

FEBRUARY 1586
Shakespeare in Lombardy

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Being now at the beating heart of the Veneto Plain we find ourselves within striking distance of several more of Shakespeare’s Italian plays. Of these productions, his most famous is Romeo & Juliet, which sees the Montagues & Capulets playing out their tragic feud in Verona & Mantua, while The Two Gentlemen of Verona, is set in, well, Verona. These two cities, along with Milan, are sited in what Shakespeare accurately describes as ‘fruitful Lombardy, the pleasant garden of great Italy.’ That Shakespeare spent time in Mantua is hinted at in The Winter’s Tale, where he describes Queen Hermione’s statue as; ‘a piece many years in doing and now newly perform’d by that rare Italian master, Julio Romano, who, had he himself eternity and could put breath into his work, would beguile Nature of her custom.‘ Julio Romano was actually famous for being a painter, not a sculptor, but in Vasari’s Lives of Seventy of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, we are given two (now-lost) Latin epitaphs on Romano which confirm his status as both sculptor & a painter! Such obscure & minute details like these only serve to reinforce Shakespeare’s personal observations of his time in Italy.

We have previously seen through Shakespeare’s creation of Venus & Adonis how the great art of Europe inspired our impressionable young poet. Likewise, we may also assume that he saw a famous painting by Correggio while visiting Milan. From 1585, the Jupiter and Io was exhibited in the palace of the sculptor, Leoni, of which viewing experience Shakespeare writes, ‘we’ll show thee Io as she was a maid / And how she was beguiled and surpris’d / As lively painted as the deed was done.’ While in Milan, Shakespeare certainly discovered the city’s Well of St Gregory, for he understood that it was a burial pit for plague victims, rather than a water-storage unit. To these Milanese connections we can add another observation, this time made by Grillo, who writes; ‘despite being 100 miles from the coast, the city of Bergamo, near Milan, produced sails. In the Taming of the Shrew, Vincentio says to Tranio,Thy father! O villain! He is a sailmaker in Bergamo.’

The legacy of Romeo & Juliet has had, in Verona, a most profound effect. Every day sees a new set of star-crossed lovers arrive in the city to take a bubble-bath in its lake of wistful romanticism. Close to the imagined site of Juliet’s Balcony, explosions of graffiti & notes cover the walls on a daily basis, leading to the irate & rather staid Veronese authorities instigating 500 euro fines to anyone who stick notes up with chewing gum! Another Shakespeare-induced visitor to Verona, Paul Roe, was not looking for love, however, but was drawn there by the a singular passage in Romeo & Juliet, which contained a very distinctive topographical clue;

Madam, an hour before the worshipped sun
Peered forth the golden window of the East,
roes-verona-sycamoresA troubled mind drove me to walk abroad,
Where, underneath the grove of sycamore
That westward rooteth from the city’s side,
So early walking did I see your son

To this day, there stands a grove of Sycamores outside the western walls of the city, which were joyously observed by Roe; ‘in the first act, in the very first scene, of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the trees are described; and no one has ever thought that the English genius who wrote the play could have been telling the truth: that there were such trees, growing exactly where he said in Verona.‘ Roe also points out that Verona’s Chiesa di San Pietro Incarnario is mentioned by Juliet’s, ‘now, by Saint Peter’s church, and Peter too. He shall not make me there a joyful bride.’ Shakespeare also understood the etymology of a minor place very much off the normal radar, ten miles from Verona on the banks of the Tartaro River. Called Villafranca, its name translates as ‘Freetown,’ & in Romeo & Juliet we hear, ‘you Capulet, shall go along with me; And Montague, come you this afternoon, To know our father pleasure in this case, To old Freetown our common judgment place.’ As details like these are absent from both the 1562 Arthur Brooke poem, The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, & the Italian originals by da Porta and Bandello, once again we must place Shakespeare in person at the scene-setting of one of his plays.

Before we leave Lombardy, let us put to bed an Anti-Shakespearean factochisp of his time there, as told by Sydney Lee; ‘the fact that he represents Valentine in the ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ as travelling from Verona to Milan by sea, & Prospero in the ‘Tempest’ as embarking on a ship at the gates of Milan, renders it impossible that he could have gathered his knowledge of Northern Italy from personal observation.’ To counter this assumption Roe rummaged ferret-like through the Verona State Archives & finally found a map dated to 1713 which show how the Adige, Tartaro, and Po rivers were once connected by a system of canals. These would have allowed the water-borne journey along the fossi as undertaken by Valentine in the Two Gentlemen. As for the aquatic ‘gates of Milan,’ the fact that a sea-going ‘bark’ such as was described in the Tempest as leaving Milan finds confirmation through the pen of Michel de Montaigne, who in 1581 wrote; ‘we crossed the river Naviglio, which was narrow, but still deep enough to carry great barks to Milan.’ Shakespeare’s select knowledge of those unexpectedly navigable north Italian river ways bolsters our touring Bard yet further.

Four_Commedia_dell’Arte_Figures_claude-gillot

FEBRUARY 1586
Shakespeare experiences Commeddia Dell Arte

The history of Elizabethan theater is a curious hybrid, an amalgam of continental trends & the medieval folk traditions of the English provinces. By the Elizabethan age, her playwrights had developed an uninhibited secular drama, inspired by a burgeoning humanist world-view & fueled by a constant stream of renaissance minds forged in grammar-schools & varnished in the land’s universities. It is in Shakespeare’s visit to Italy, then, that these forces were truly emblazoned upon a single individual spirit. To the Elizabethan mind, Italy was poetry, & Italian theatre the most innovative on the planet. In 1586, from the fertile fields of the Veneto Plain, directly to the east of Lombardy, a new kind of improvised comical theatre called Commeddia Dell Arte began to spring up. Most of Shakespeare’s early plays – The Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night & Much Ado About Nothing – were inspired by the tradition. Of Love’s Labours Lost, where Geoffrey Bullough writes, ‘there may have been an earlier play, continental in origin & affected by the commedia dell’arte tradition,‘ he is referring to the use of CDA’s archetypical characters; foolish old men, mischievous servants, brash military officers & miserly merchants such as the braggart (Armado) & ostentatious pedant (Holofernes). Another early play, Twelfth Night, utilises many of CDA’s ‘lazzi,’ a stock comic element, as when the ‘Pantalone’ is tricked by other characters into doing those daft things they have convinced him will impress the woman he admires.

MARCH 1586
Shakespeare in Venice

Of all the cities in adorable Italy, Shakespeare seems to know the most about the floating pleasure-palace that is Venice. When, in the Merchant of Venice, he writes, ‘what news on the Rialto?’ he was well aware of the rumor-laden tittle-tattle that flock still to that famously beautiful bridge. In the MOV in particular, Grillo finds, ‘an inimitable Italian atmosphere… the topography is so precise & accurate that it must convince even the most superficial reader that the poet visited the country, acutely observant of all its characteristics as he traveled through its mountains & valleys. One instance is the gift of a dish of pigeons which Gobbo takes to his son’s master. Gobbo is a purely Venetian name, which must certainly have been suggested to Shakespeare by the statue of the kneeling hunchback of the Rialto, which forms the base of the pillar upon which in ancient days were affixed the decrees of the Republic.’

shylocks-penthouse3

The inimitable Paul Roe found the very house where MOV’s Shylock lived: a ‘penthouse’ on the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo, where Jewish Banks once leant the Christians money. That it was, & still is, supported by three columns, just as Shakespeare describes, is yet another incredible accuracy from our poet in Italy. The MOV gives the following directions to the house; ‘turn upon your right hand at the next turning, but at the next turning of all, on your left; marry, at the very next turning, turn of no hand; but turn down indirectly to the Jew’s house,’ which is an uncanny way of describing the mazy lanes of Venice. ‘Other Shakespearean Venetian references,’ says John Hudson, ‘are to the characteristic gondolas & chopins – a kind of platform shoe – as well as to the Venetian calendar & judicial procedures.’

Titian Sacred Profane - Copy (15)

While in Venice, Shakespeare would have pictorially seen the next stage in the development of his Venus & Adonis. The above painting is by Titian, his amazing ‘Sacred & Profane Love,’ in which the coat of arms of a leading Venetian politician – Niccolo Aurelio – can be seen. In the sculptural relief below the two women – one of whom is Venus – there is a man on the ground that invokes the image of a chastised Adonis. The rampant horse & the woman being checked by the hair in the relief seem to represent the halting of the passions, with the horse being the Platonic symbol of libido. This pictorial motif then turns up in the poem as;

But, lo, from forth a copse that neighbours by,
A breeding jennet, lusty, young and proud,
Adonis’ trampling courser doth espy,
And forth she rushes, snorts and neighs aloud:
The strong-neck’d steed, being tied unto a tree,
Breaketh his rein, and to her straight goes he.
Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,
And now his woven girths he breaks asunder.

The Venice that is portrayed in Othello shows a personal appreciation by the bard. Grillo summoned up concisely much of the true Venetian atmosphere that he could see in the play, being, ‘the darkness of morning, the narrow and mysterious “calli,” Brabantio’s house with its heavy iron-barred doors, the Sagittary, the official residence of the commanders of the galleys, the hired gondolier witness of gallant intrigues… the galleys sent on a multitude of errands, the armaments, the attendants with torches, the special night guards, the council chamber, the senators, the Doge —the beloved Signor Magnifico— the discussions about the war… the history of Othello with all the sacrifices made in defence of the republic, the appearance of the divine Desdemona, fair & beautiful as a Titian portrait – all give the impression of a vivid portrayal of scenes enacted in the very heart of the Queen of the Adriatic.’ This wonderful passage brings us to the end of our search for Shakespeare’s secret Italy. He surely visited the country, for where else would he have picked up such a native phrase such as, ‘sano come un pesce / sound as a fish,’ an expression Grillo states was, even in his time, ‘still in common use in certain parts of Italy.’

Epilogue

Like all art, poetry grows naturally out of accumulated materielle, to which is added an individual poet’s personality & technique. Their creations should be seen as the fragrant flowers of a bush, the roots of which are buried deep under the earth. By following these roots to their sources of nourishment, we can slowly create a picture of the poet’s unseen life, the one that lives beneath the surface of the page. If Shakespeare had accompanied Stanley, the sheer wealth of scenery & culture that Europe contains should have found an eventual memorial among his plays. When the English poet Lord Byron visited the Continent in the early 19th century, his composition of a long poem called Childe Harolde’s Pilgrimage is more or less a record of his travels. In the same fashion, it is through the Chisper Effect that we can see how the plays of Shakespeare are a metacreative journal of his travels with Stanley. Doctor AW Titherly concurs with such a notion by stating,

Shakespeare’s geography, being ubiquitous in its range, is evidentially inconclusive, except in so far as its abiding realism manifestly betrays extensive travel experience as distinct from mere book-learning.’ 

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Next Wednesday, 10/01/17

Chapter 11

The Dark Lady

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THE CHISPER EFFECT

Chapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang