If there’s a single Elizabethan or Jacobean picture that cries out “Secret author,” well, take a look at the title page of Minerva Britanna by Henry Peacham, published in London in 1612: Shown is the proscenium arch of a theater, with the curtain drawn back so we can see the right hand and arm of a writer using a quill pen to complete a Latin inscription:
MENTE.VIDEBORI — “By the Mind I shall be Seen” — the identity of this writer is hidden and therefore exists only in the mind!
The upside-down inscription indicated a hidden meaning; and Eva Turner Clark in 1937 saw it as a Latin anagram reading TIBI NOM. DE VERE or “The Identity of this Author is De Vere” – that is, Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford.
A closer look reveals that the “dot” in the inscription has been placed right between the “E” and the “V” to create E.V., the initials of Edward Vere.
Oxford’s death is recorded as occurring on June 24, 1604, the same year the authorized and full-length version of Hamlet was first published, after which no new authorized “Shakespeare” plays were printed for nineteen years, until the First Folio of his dramatic works in 1623.
In 1622, just one year before the folio, the same Henry Peacham published a treatise entitled The Compleat Gentleman, in which he calls the Elizabethan reign a “golden age” that produced poets “whose like are hardly to be hoped for in any succeeding age.” With that he lists those “who honored Poesie [poetry] with their pens and practice” in this order:
“Edward Earle of Oxford, the Lord Buckhurst, Henry Lord Paget, the noble Sir Philip Sidney, M. Edward Dyer, M. Edmund Spenser, Master Samuel Daniel, with sundry others whom (together with those admirable wits yet living and so well-known) not out of envy, but to avoid tediousness, I overpass.” [My emphasis]
Ben Jonson and George Chapman were “still living” and “well-known” as writers in 1616, so Peacham did not name them – but although William Shakspere of Stratford on Avon had died back in 1616, The Complete Gentleman is utterly silent when it comes to “William Shakespeare,” the writer to whom the greatest credit must be given for that “golden age” of Queen Elizabeth; and at the head of the list, where the name of the Bard of Avon should be expected, he placed Oxford’s name instead.
Henry Peacham (circa 1578-1644) must have known that Oxford and “Shakespeare” were one and the same.
Louis P. Benezet, Chairman of the Department of Education at Dartmouth College, wrote in 1945 that the above paragraph “contains one of the best keys to the solution of the Shakespeare Mystery.”
And it appears that Peacham had been interested in the theatrical world early on, because a surviving sketch of a scene of Titus Andronicus, thought to have been made in 1595, was signed “Henricus Peacham” – generally identified as the man who would go on to produce Minerva Britanna of 1612 and The Compleat Gentleman of 1622.
Peacham would have been about seventeen when he drew the sketch. In the scene, Queen Tamora is pleading for the lives of her two sons; at right is Aaron the Moor, gesturing with his sword.
Oh, yes – in Minerva, one of the emblems shows a boar, which plays a crucial role in Ovid’s story of Venus and Adonis as well as in Shakespeare’s poem of that name, published in 1593; and the boar was also Oxford’s heraldic symbol.
Below the emblem Peacham writes, “Who liketh best to live in Idleness” – and in an early poem by Oxford in The Paradise of Dainty Devices in 1576 he wrote:
That never am less idle lo, than when I am alone
Was Henry Peacham bringing “Shakespeare” and Oxford together on the same page?
In any case, such is Reason No. 18 in terms of evidence that Oxford was Shakespeare.
The two English stanzas read this way [modern spelling]:
I much did muse why Venus could not brook [break]
The savage Boar and Lion cruel fierce,
Since Kings and Princes have such pleasure took
In hunting: ‘cause a Boar did pierce
Her Adon fair, who better liked the sport,
Then spends his days in wanton pleasure’s court.
Which fiction though devised by Poet’s brain,
It signifies unto the Reader this:
Such exercise Love will not entertain,
Who liketh best, to live in Idleness:
The foe to virtue, Canker of the Wit,
That brings a thousand miseries with it.