Shakespeare’s Grand Tour (pt 3)

3 – The Garland of William Stanley

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The world of Shakespeare is essentially a poetic one, So it is apt that the secret to his Grand Tour is contained in an obscure ballad. Anonymously penned, it was printed in the 18th century – a ‘garland’ or collection of stanzas which tell the story of William Stanley’s travels in Europe. It is a clear montage of three separate journeys; Stanley’s first in the early 1580s with his tutor Richard Lloyd, the second with Shakespeare 1585-87, & a third in the 1590s after which he returned to England to become the 6th Earl of Derby. The poetry is not the finest, & is actually below the standard of the most ordinary of broadside ballads, but we are not reading it for the beauty of its language – it is for the geographical & historical content. The ballad reads, in full;

In Lancashire there liv’d a Lord,
 A worthy Lord and a man of fame,
 Whose dwelling was at Latham-Hall,
 And the Earl of Derby call’d by name-

He had two sons of noble race,
 Which brought their father great delight,
 He brought them up in learning good,
 Whereby their wisdom to requite.

The eldest was call’d my good Lord Strange,
 Lord Ferdinando was his name ;
 The youngest was called Sir William Stanley,
 A noble valiant minded man.

But as it happened on a day,
 Sir William fell upon his knee,
 Desiring leave of his father dear,
 Some foreign countries for to see.

I grant thee leave, Son Will, he said,
 For three years space thou shalt be free,
 And gold and silver thou’st have enough,
 For to maintain thee gallantly,

But before thou go, take here my ring,
 Take care to keep it secretly ;
 And if thou lackest any thing,
 Be sure thou send the same to me.

Then Sir William took leave of Latham Hall,
 And of all that in lovely Latham lay ;
 And then he prepares him to the seas,
 To travel in some strange country.

But as soon as Sir William was got on ship-hoard,
 He to himself did secretly say,
 I’ll make a vow to the living Lord,
 That three seven years I’ll make away.

Before to England I’ll return,
 Or ever on English ground will tread,
 Twenty-one years shall be past and gone,
 According to the vow I’ve made.

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 ;
 He tarried there not past half a year,
 But he thought he’d been in Spain too long.

To Italy then Sir William would go,
 To Rome and to High Germany,
 To view the countries all around,
 And see what pleasures in them might be,

In Rome and High Germany,
 He staid three years before he went,
 And then to Egypt he took his way,
 To view that Court was his Intent

But one year and a half Sir William staid,
 And took his leave most courteously,
 Of the King of Morocco and his nobles all,
 Then went to the King of Barbary.


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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,
 Which Doctor was born at Manchester ;
 Who knew Sir William Stanley well,
 Tho’ he had not seen him for many a year.

Pray what’s the Cause, the Doctor said,
 Brings you, Sir William, into this Country
 I’m come to travel, Sir William replied,
 And I pray thee, Doctor, what brought thee!

I came to do a cure, the Doctor said,
 Which was of the Emperor’s feet to be done,
 And I have perform’d it effectually,
 Which none could do but an Englishman.

Then he brought him before the Emperor,
 Who entertained him with Princely cheer,
 And gave him Gold and Silver store,
 Desiring his company for seven year.

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.

But one half year Sir William would stay,
 He kiss’d the cross with weeping eyes ;
 And then would into Turkey go,
 Where he endur’d more miseries,

For passing through Constantinople,
 Wherein the Great Turk he did lie ;
 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.

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.

Take thou thy Boon, thou gay Lady,
 For thou art one of a tender heart ;
 But let him yield to marry thee,
 Or let him be hang’d e’er he depart.

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.


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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 ;
 And then he would to Greenland go,
 Where he endur’d more misery.

For three months there was nothing but dark,
 And there Sir William was forc’d to want ;
He fed there on nothing but roots,
 And to him they grew wond’rous scant.

His shoes were frozen to his feet,
 He scarcely knew where for to tread ;
 On his hands and knees he was forc’d to creep,
 Expecting each hour he should be dead.

But when day light it did appear,
 Lord in his heart he was full feign ;
 Then he saw a ship coming from merry England,
 To fetch whale’s oil it thither came.

One Captain Stanley owner o’th’ship,
 When he saw Sir William, unto him came ;
 He had known him in his own country,
 A man of noble birth and fame.

You’re welcome from travel, the owner said,
 But scarce one word Sir William did say,
 Until that he had to him sworn,
 Nor on ship-board would he come that day,

That he should never at Latham-Hall,
Nor to his friend that he should see,
 Nor never his name in question call,
 When he came into his own country.
For three years space I have to stay,
According to the vow I’ve made,
 And those three years shall have an end,
 Or on English ground I’ll never tread.

Then back they all came for Holland,
 Being joyful of either’ s company,
 And the captain he took leave of him,
 And bid him welcome to the Low Country,

With one John Howell he met there,
 For three years space to be his man,
 To get his living at other men’s backs,
 When all his money was spent and gone.


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But when these three years were at an end,
 Lord in his heart he was full feign ;
 Then he saw ships coming from merry England,
 And to Latham-Hall he returned again.

But standing bare at Latham-gate,
 Desiring to speak with the old Earl ;
 The porter thrust him back again,
 Much like unto a dogged churl.

Go, stand thee back, thou fellow bare,
 Thou cannot speak with my Lord this day ;
 Now Ill betide thee, Sir William said,
 I was as well born and bred as thee.

But he got lodging at old Holland’s House,
 Who entertained him with good cheer ;
 And when they were at supper sat,
 He call’d for a bottle of his best beer.

Now by your leave, good man Holland,
 We’ll drink a health to an Englishman,
 Whom I have seen in countries strange,
 And William Stanley is his name.

Do you know my young Lord, said old Holland,
 I pray you, sir, tell unto me I
 He is no Lord, Sir William said,
 But him I’ve seen in a far country.

He is a Lord, said old Holland,
 He is a Lord of high degree ;
 Tor why his elder brother’s dead,
 And Sir William’s in a far country.

Old Holland got up betime in the Morn,
 Before it was well Break of Day,
 To speak with the Earl of Derby then,
 As he rode a Hunting that way.

Good Morrow, My Lord, said old Holland,
 Last Night a Guest at my House did lie,
 And came out of Countries strange,
 And brings Tidings of your son William Stanley.

Bring him hither to me, said the old Earl,
 Let me see that Guest right speedily ;
 If he can tell me Tidings of my son Will,
 Then well rewarded he shall be.

But when he came his Father before,
 Sir William fell upon his knee ;
 Craving a Blessing of his Father dear,
 And pardon for all his discourtesy ;

If thou be my son Will, said the old Earl,
 As I do very well think thou may be ;
 I gave thee a Ring when thou didst go,
 Restore the same again to me.

The ballad tells us how William Stanley left Latham Hall,  from where he conducted a twenty-one year tour of the Continent – a clear exaggeration. According to the Garland he visited France, Spain, Italy, Rome & ‘High Germany’ – Hochdeutschland –  the mountainous parts of southern Germany. There followed a journey to North africa, where he visited Egypt, Algeria & Morrocco, before sweeping back north to meet the famous Elizabethan magus, John Dee, at the court of the Russian Emperor. Returning south again, Stanley visited the Middle East, making a pilgrimage to Jeruslem, before being imprisoned in Constantinople (Istanbul) for blasphemy against Mohammed. After his release, Stanley ventured to the frozen north, where he found himself stranded on the island of Greenland before being rescued by a whale-ship. This then dropped him off in Holland, from where he finally boarded a boat for England, & Latham Hall.

That Shakespeare accompanied Stanley on at least some of  these journeys can be seen through the fascinating correlations between Shakespeare’s continental scenes, & the passage of Stanley through Europe . When another poet, Lord Byron, visited the Continent in the early 19th century, the composition of his Childe Harolde’s Pilgrimage seems more like a ‘photographic’ record of his travels. In the same fashion, if Shakespeare had accompanied Stanley, the sheer wealth of scenery & culture of Europe should have somehow found a way into his plays.


Shakespeare's Continental Scenes
Shakespeare’s Continental Scenes

By placing Shakespeare with Stanley,  we can now reconcile two strands of Shakesperean scholarship. On the one hand we have J.H. Greenstreet who, in 1891, first proposed the theory that William Stanley was in fact the author of Shakespeare’s plays. The other avenue of investigation suggests that Shakepeare had travelled in Italy, twhere one Sicilian author, Martino Luvara, has even gone as far as saying that Shakespeare was in fact an Italian called Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza, whose surname does indeed translate as Shakespeare. Seeing we have the birth & death records for an actual William Shakespeare from Stratford I would have to disagree, & put Luvara’s efforts down to another example of how the world has grown mightily drunk upon Shakesperiana.

A Stanley-Shakesperian Grand Tour seems not only possible, but plausible, for with Stanley traveling across Europe in order to learn languages, we can begin to understand how a similarily-educated Shakespeare could read a number of source-texts in their original form.  Most of these were translated into English long after Shakespeare had utilised them as the plots of his plays, such as Cinthio’s Hecatommithi, the inspiration of Measure for Measure, which was translated 1753. Scholars have often accounted for this by saying the bard got somebody else to translate these texts for him, but I believe Shakespeare did it all by himself, & may even have bought the original books while swaggering about the continent in the company of one of England’s most gallant, young aristocrats.


Its time to hit the road…




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