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“The Meanesse of Our Witt”: Jacobean Manuscript Blogging in Verse, the Case of the Somerset Scandal

In Honor of John Slatin

1. John Slatin sat on my dissertation committee in 1993, a lone voice supporting the alternative digital presentation that I suggested for the multiple, variant manuscript and 17th century print texts of John Donne’s poetry.1 But among the generations of graduate students who worked in the Undergraduate Library (UGL) basement with John’s encouragement, I was one of many, many people John influenced with his enthusiasm for the medium. The post-Daedalus Group2 hybrid students—and we were an odd mix of Rhetoric and Composition, literature, and third world theorists—shared little in common in our “primary study”; our interest in the digital medium, however, gave us access to a common language even in the midst of our dissimilar studies. I have often wondered how much better our work became because of all the cross-pollination that occurred in the UGL basement. Whereas those working on composition studies saw the advantages that the digital forum offered to the teaching of process writing, the third world students immediately saw the gulf between the haves and have-nots when the remainder of us attempted utopian declarations about “universal access.” And for those of us to whom literature was our primary study, we no longer saw texts simply as dehistoricized artifacts; the medium of transmission complicated the air between the author and the audience in ways from which many of us never returned. In fact, for some of us, for me certainly, the medium of transmission became a central concern as we attempted to position the digital medium beside print, manuscript, and oral publication of literary texts. If the medium was not exactly the message,3 it nevertheless had a profound impact on the artifactual form the message took.

2. Even before the terms “synchronous” and “asynchronous” had been coined to describe alternative conversational possibilities in the digital medium, we were discussing the conversational and dialogic nature of poetic production in the Western canon—not only in the Renaissance where the scribal medium encouraged such immediate, dialogic activity, but also among the Modernists who had to overcome the restrictions of print publication to engage in conversations that were neither immediate nor intimate. While I investigated the coterie activity of John Donne and his circle in the early modern period, John saw in Modernist poetry attempts to acknowledge others’ work, to pay a compliment or to comment on arguments suggested in others’ printed poetry, and to engage in conversations in order to allay the isolation inherent in the writing life. His knowledge of and focus on poetry, combined with his interest in the digital medium, assisted me in articulating the influence that the medium of production had upon the resultant products in the early modern period.

3. Over the subsequent years I saw John at a variety of conferences from CCCC to MLA, where we sometimes presented on panels together. As John moved from literary to media and access studies we saw one another less often, but as on our last meeting when I went to visit him in the hospital in Houston in August of 2006, we continued to have conversations about pedagogy, literature, and media—even behind masks, in gloves, in the hospital—because John remained engaged in exploring the possibilities of the medium.

4. Our discussions helped me to imagine an alternative venue to the traditional edited text presented in a codex book, one in which multiple variant manuscript facsimiles and transcriptions could be examined simultaneously—an idea the implementation of which was severely restricted by the memory limitations of the hardware at the time. Fifteen years later, my investigations are still strongly influenced by discussions I had with John and the UGL basement-hybrids in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I grieve the absence of that tight-knit community of invested scholars, beginning with John’s absence. All of us who acknowledge his continued influence on our work, all of us who expose the next generation to the ideas he first cultivated in us, preserve his real presence in this world. It is my hope that I do so honorably.

Gould now is drosse, & Oracles are stuffe
With us for why? You art not lowe enough
we still looke under thee. Stoope & submitt
Thy glory to the meanesse of our witt
The Rhodian colossus, ere it fell
Could not be found, nor measured half so well . . .

Nic[holas] Oldisworthi
B. L. Egerton 923, f.4

5. That plays, pamphlets, and ballads targeted the great for praise and blame has long been recognized as essential to these early modern genres; the part manuscript transmission of verse played in cultural critiques has been less well understood. Many factors influenced manuscript dissemination of verse; however, some scribally-transmitted verse, specifically that which arose in response to the descent of a powerful individual, served to cement consensus within the community. In the above verse written by Nicholas Oldisworthi,5 found on the first folio of the British Library Egerton 923 manuscript, he muses on the subject of his contemporaries’ choice to remove the mystique from power as they transformed gold to dross and oracles to insignificance. He critiques those who used verse to attack powerful figures, not because the critique of power is inherently bad, but because the manner of their attack demeans political authority by removing its dignity.

6. That he perceived of the exercise as evaluative is clear. Those who were hierarchically inferior resented the great, and sought in verses they disseminated in manuscript to lash out at men and women who wielded political power. A powerful member of court undoubtedly seemed like a colossus. Their actions and decisions could affect the lives of one’s great-grandchildren, let alone power relations within the current generation. The writers to whom Oldisworth refers as being of “mean”—that is, common or popular as well as pointed—wit required that the great “submit” to evaluation. Measurement was certainly easier, and far safer, when the colossus in question no longer towered above them.

7. We will probably never know the immediate occasion that motivated Nicholas Oldisworth to launch his critique against those wits who turned their rhyming and reasoning powers against the mighty figures of the Jacobean court, but we will better understand the poetic genre as well as the human desire to critique by considering subject-specific seventeenth-century political verses as a kind of early modern “blogging.” In The Culture and Commerce of Texts: Scribal Publication in Seventh-Century England (1998), Harold Love was the first to point out a kind of poetic activity in which “Poetry, along with sceptical philosophy and practical debauchery,” could be “the bonding agent of . . . group[s] whose ultimate rationale was political” (225); however, the similarities between our digital discourse environments and those of manuscript lampoons in the early modern period have as yet to be compared. By examining the sort of verse Oldisworth critiques—a political commentary in verse that was a common practice in the scribal environment—we can see that though the early modern “blogger” wrote in verse, he or she did so with little more skill than our modern ranters do in the digital medium. More than simply an examination of poor poetic production, these socio-political commentaries in verse reveal some essential human compulsions embedded in communicative acts.

8. The decisions of powerful court figures must sometimes have seemed as arbitrary as an oracle’s decree and certainly would have inspired resentment among those who disagreed with them. When such a colossus fell from power, therefore, it did not go unremarked. While these oracles retained their power, critique remained veiled, if at times only thinly. The veils often came off altogether once the powerful oracles fell. Even before the dust settled, their opponents’ quills scratched out verses gleefully. It required some wit to critique the living and powerful; less wit is needed when the target is dead. When the person is living and powerful, the verses attempt to build a covert oppositional consensus through intellectual engagement with others in manuscript negotiation in dialogic, almost conversational, verse. When the object of envy or fear has fallen, the task often becomes one of openly declaring a consensus. In either case, though, whether the target is living or dead, the common strategy of the early modern “blogger” is to project certain cultural ideals or taboos onto others—a strategy similarly deployed by the post modern “blogger.” For comparative purpose, The Guido Fawkes Blog and its treatment of the John Prescott sex scandal will serve as an example of a forum encouraging socio-political critique in the twenty-first century against which I place a few exemplary verses from the B. L. Egerton MS. 2230 “blog” of the Somerset sex scandal from the seventeenth century.

9. As The Guido Fawkes Blog of Irish writer Paul Staines6 identifies itself—“Tittle, tattle, gossip and rumours about Westminster’s Mother of Parliaments. Written from the perspective of the only man to enter parliament with honest intention. (sic) The intention being to blow it up with gunpowder”—with explicit reference to Guy Fawkes, of the 1605 Gun Powder Plot, it seems a conveniently historicized venue for consideration of the parallels we might consider between those scandals peculiarly English whether in the seventeenth or the twenty-first century. One quick caveat, the England of the twenty-first century cannot be considered as oppressive to free speech as the England of the seventeenth. Thus, the strategies used in “blogging” in areas of the world where free speech is more severely restricted should be considered for specifics beyond this initial examination. In the interest of time, The Guido Fawkes Blog offers a socio-politically motivated, subject-specific “blog” with criteria similar to the lampooning of early-modern manuscript culture, as the individual posts appear to 1.) focus on subject matter rather than rhetorical negotiation with one another—that is, they post monologic responses rather than engage in conversations or discussions on a specific subject, 2.) deploy a higher degree of punning, double entendre, and other word play, 3.) position themselves as uniquely righteous, even self-righteous, in contrast to their targets, and 4.) see their purpose as cleansing of the body politic. These are characteristics also relevant to early modern manuscript lampoons of powerful political figures.

10. On April 27th, 2006, under the heading “John Prescott, ‘Sex God,’” Guido Fawkes alleged that the Deputy Prime Minister, variously nicknamed in the media “Two Jags” and “Two Shags”7 among others, had had an affair with his diary secretary, Tracey Temple (to which Prescott eventually admitted), and also with Rosie Winterton. As the on-line Manchester Guardian observed:

Political blogger Guido Fawkes has posted very smudgy pictures of the deputy prime minister John Prescott dining at an Indian restaurant with, allegedly, the junior health minister, Rosie Winterton. It’s very difficult to identify either of them for certain, but I’d guess that Guido has assured himself of their veracity. It looks as though the picture is displayed on the wall of the south London restaurant, the Kennington Tandoori. Guido explains that the reason for their being of such poor quality is because he snapped the picture using “a camera phone. . . through a window in the rain”. Earlier today, he issued an advisory note of his coming “exclusive” of “Prescott and Rosie’s Hot Nights.” It was back in April that he first revealed their close friendship. (Via Guido Fawkes)

11. On a brief side note, it should be observed that the format of the responses replicated below have not been standardized or formalized for the same the reason that I have retained the nonstandard spelling and punctuation of the manuscript entries. Printing is the medium that first encouraged and then enforced standards in spelling, punctuation, grammar and other formatting concerns. This is significant as a characteristic of the medium of print, because as we can observe from a comparison of manuscript and digital media, users of these are far less concerned with standards and format than with immediate communication. That being said, as users accustomed to the evidence-driven authority of print as well as the immediacy of the digital forum, participants in The Guido Fawkes Blog did seek corroboration from other news sources even as they began the dissection process:

April 27, 2006 10:19 AM
JuliaM said...
Any other papers playing nudge nudge wink8 with this? Can’t see anything in the Telegraph or the Guardian.

The Daily Express had it this morning, but only as a ‘they (Prescott & a.n. other) both denied rumours...’ sentence in the main story.

From initial queries about evidence for the alleged scandal, posters quickly moved to innuendo, as, apropos of nothing, “Rigger Mortice” observed:

April 27, 2006 10:34 AM
Rigger Mortice said...
big hammer small nail.

An allusion to overkill, the use of a larger tool than the job required, the hammer may also be a nod at the powerful political position of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, made more humorous via the double entendre in this “blogger’s” choice of “nail,” a slang term meaning to have sexual intercourse. In no apparent attempt to connect with or even acknowledge one another, “Croydonian” briefly quotes an editorial from the Daily Mirror:

April 27, 2006 11:05 AM
Croydonian said...
From the Miriam Stoppard column in the Mirror:

”You've let down the millions of Brits who admired and respected you".

Comedy quote of the year?

Even the final question in this brief response is purely rhetorical, making no pretense at interaction. In an unrelated post that immediately follows, “dearime” puns on tectonic plates.

April 27, 2006 11:08 AM
dearime said...
Ooh, the sextonic plates are moving.

In the first instance in which the “bloggers” engage with one another, “the popes under pants” inspires “Anonymous” to a creative headline:

April 27, 2006 11:35 AM
the popes under pants said...
I imagine that the Daily Express are desperately trying work up a story involving the cock of the Humber and Princess Diana
April 27, 2006 11:37 AM
Anonymous said...
Humber humper humiliates hens and her Highness!

Not quite satisfied with his alliterative finesses, “Anonymous” returns with a quip:

April 27, 2006 11:43 AM
Anonymous said...
Why do I have the sudden urge to read Laurie Lee?

For an American audience less familiar with English writer Laurence Edward Alan “Laurie” Lee and his autobiographical trilogy, “Anonymous’s” allusion to Cider with Rosie (1959) and thus to Rosie Winterton might be lost. The joke of the insider, like the topical reference, word play, and double entendre, frequently surface on occasions of this sort in both seventeenth and twenty-first century “blogging.” It is therefore not surprising that several posts down “Anonymous” tweaks the title of the famous Rosemary Clooney song, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”:

April 27, 2006 1:08 PM
Anonymous said...
Rosemary Clooney appears to have been remarkably prescient when she sang Everything's Coming Up Rosie

Several posts follow this before “Anonymous” unleashes a veritable flood of words, including his evaluation that Prescott has finally received his “just deserts,” for a series of crimes that consist of stopping his car in traffic, staggering (presumably already drunk) into a liquor store, and providing his son with information that allowed him to buy properties in Hull at a severely reduced price and then sell them for a profit. In his final few lines “Anonymous” makes a synecdoche of Prescott as he reflects the poor judgment of the people of Hull in ever having elected him.

April 27, 2006 4:47 PM
Anonymous said...
John Two Shags Prescott is at last getting his just deserts. He once stopped his car in the middle of the road, while he staggered into his local shop for beers, holding up the traffic in the process and is known as the Prescott Mafia (his son bought Hull council houses at a knock down price from Prescotts (sic) council and made a small fortune selling them on for a profit).
While the rest of the country has had to tolerate his regional assemblies and other crass policies in England, the people of Hull deserve to be a laughing stock along with their elected representative (sic), because they inflicted him onto us in the first place.

As is clear from the postings above, the anonymous posters on The Guido Fawkes Blog seldom wrote extensive commentary on the subject of John Prescott’s sexual liaisons, and in only one instance verse. At 11:57 on September 13th of 2006, after The Guido Fawkes Blog posted a blurry photograph supposedly of Prescott with Rosie Winterton, a “Tracey Temple look-alike,” the Prescott sexual scandal was reignited in the media, with one poster anonymously “blogging” in doggerel verse:

Rosie is Red,
Prescott is too,
Because at 12 Noon,
the Fan hits the POO!

Whereas the time and genre are different, The Guido Fawkes Blog evinces a human compulsion to stand over the corpse of a fallen political colossus that we also find in early modern occasional verse. Not insignificantly, although the Deputy Prime Minister was the supposed target, the “bloggers’” references to Rosie Winterton far outweigh those to Prescott, a characteristic we will observe in the seventeenth-century evidence as well. The anonymous authors of much of the verse examined in the Egerton 2230 seldom display the refined craft of a John Donne or even a Sir Walter Ralegh, and their work is of more interest to historians and media critics than to literary scholars, but even they manage more poetic finesse than modern “bloggers.” While any number of reasons may determine the genre and length of posts in manuscript, this more than any other was the age of “occasional verse.” Like the post modern “bloggers,” these writers share an interest in lampooning political figures, bonding with each other, and constructing social or political consensus among themselves through descriptions of fallen aristocrats rather than through the inseminating wit of intellectual play. The verse sometimes praises but usually demonizes those aristocrats.

12. As but one of many manuscript examples, the verses composed on the escalating, episodic Somerset scandal are less clearly dialogic than many manuscript verse conversations among coterie poets of the period. These can almost be said to inscribe a cultural ideal, as they collectively define aberration from that ideal. By this I mean a group of verses clustering around a seventeenth century court scandal, like the posts clustering around a political sex scandal in 2006, appears less engaged in negotiation with one another than each seems intent upon the subject matter. Whereas each collection of verses will elevate particular ideals as they denigrate particular behaviors, each collective seems relatively autonomous in what they designate “ideal” or “aberrant” behavior. Dissenting voices remained silent as many rushed to skewer Robert Cecil’s still-warm corpse. The Duke of Buckingham fared little better; however, of all those ridiculed, none fared worse than Frances Howard, Duchess of Somerset. As we consider the verses written to critique her and her second husband, Robert Carr (Kerr), the Duke of Somerset, we must keep in mind that her gender aggravated the critique because of cultural assumptions that more severely restricted the range of acceptable female behaviors.

13. Like death, court scandal might also mark the fall of a colossus and extend an occasion for versification. These times of crisis allowed the literate collective to reinscribe its ethical, philosophical, and political vision on the objects of ridicule. One of the most talked about scandals of the Jacobean age was the Somerset scandal. Not one, but a series of events, allowed for an almost continuous lampoon over several years, beginning in May of 1613 with Frances Howard’s suit for divorce from Robert Devereux, the third Earl of Essex.9

14. It is important to consider the historical contexts10 of the scandal before approaching the verse, specifically the collection of satiric texts on the Somersets found in the Egerton 2230 manuscript. Henry Howard, perpetual antagonist to both the Ralegh and Essex11 factions, supported his niece, Frances Howard, in her desire to divorce Robert Devereux, the third Earl of Essex, son to the infamous rebel of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Frances Howard’s objective was marriage to King James’ favorite, Robert Carr, then Viscount Rochester, subsequently, Earl of Somerset.

15. Robert Carr’s meteoric rise from Scottish page to Earl through the largesse of King James was no small cause of tension at the English court. Sir Thomas Overbury’s assistance in that rise was no small reason for it. Called “Carr’s wit,” because it was believed that Carr had none of his own, Overbury is generally believed to have controlled the favorite, managing all of Carr’s royal responsibilities, up until the Howard faction gained control of Carr through the influence of what has long been considered Frances’s seduction. That she was beautiful as well as female only contributes to the general understanding that it was her seductive manipulation rather than mutual attraction that precipitated the suit for divorce.

16. To gain her objective, she alleged that her husband was impotent. Much was made, then and subsequently, both by her contemporaries and by modern historians, about the cruelty evinced in her allegation but, as David Lindley observes, the only legal grounds for nullity of her arranged marriage was the charge that her husband was impotent. This charge, originally agreed to by Essex, was later challenged by him, first inside the legal forum and later through duels to prove his manhood outside of the courtroom. Initially, Essex served as the object of the joke. As later evidence colored the reputations of the primary figures, Frances Howard and Robert Carr, Robert Devereaux’s reputation regained some of its currency.

17. At the trial, King James argued for the divorce against the testimony of Archbishop George Abbot and insured the verdict of his choice by appointing additional jurors. Outside of the formal proceedings, Sir Thomas Overbury lampooned the lady orally and in manuscript. Although he had been instrumental in orchestrating the original liaison between Carr and Howard, Overbury appears to have been motivated against the marriage by a belief that a formalization of the relationship would end his own skillful influence over Carr. Overbury’s overt opposition, though not the formal reason for his imprisonment, certainly contributed to his admittance to the Tower on April 21, 1613.12 His subsequent death by poisoning became almost an aside in the series of bizarre events that collectively became known as the Somerset Scandal.

18. The details of the trial for nullity could fill numerous pages; however, I shall briefly address the moments around which scandalous behavior was perceived and therefore addressed in the verse. Frances Howard’s suit was the first point of scandal, because it challenged the institution of marriage and the patriarchal rights of husband and father to dispose of female property. The second was her charge of impotence, because it threatened the assumed source of masculine power. The third moment was Essex’s challenge against the charge of impotence, which called into question its cause—only in the presence of his wife— and which allowed the reason of maleficium, witchcraft, to be asserted. Apparently, Robert Devereux’s affliction was occasion-specific; his impotence occasioned only and always in the presence of his wife.

19. To prove her charge, Frances Howard was required to subject herself to physical examination by a group of sixteen knowledgeable matrons, who then reported their finding of virgo intacta13 to the male court. Uncomfortable humor and sarcasm surrounded this event at the time, and a great deal of scholarly skepticism has since turned on the identity of the veiled figure who was thus subjected. Although our first inclination when presented with the fantastic details of this trial may be laughter, it is difficult to find humor in anyone being thus subjugated. Her desire for divorce, whether maliciously or honestly motivated, must be admitted. And the jury, in a seven to five verdict, awarded Howard the nullity from Essex in September of 1613. Free from her seven year marriage to Essex, at the age of twenty she was married to Somerset on December 26, 1613.

20. The second verse, among those preserved in the Egerton 2230 manuscript, that concerns the Somerset scandals focuses on Frances Howard and her necessary transformation. In this verse, the speaker advises the “Ladye” Frances to change, presumably from the powerful figure she made at the nullity trial, so that she might “gentlye guide . . . Car” to consummate their union.

Ladye chang’d to venus dove
And gentlye guide your care of love
Lett your care bee night and day
How to make your Car away
Lett them know y’have found att last
A Christmas Carr-all that surpast
Plants enough there may ensue
For Some-were-sett where none ere grewe
Some-were-sett and some were layde
If none will grow good-morrow mayde:/ (f.69)

21. A thematic mess, this verse begins with the transformed lady, now Venus’ dove, symbol both of the goddess and erotic love, being instructed to focus her attentions on her husband so that he might consummate the union. That she is instructed to be the gentle guide is indication that the audience of the trial and marriage believed her to be sexually experienced. But she is instructed to serve as the guide to prove to “them,” the extensive audience of the divorce and marriage, that she has “found att last” through their marriage in December of 1613 “A Christmas Carr-all.” Let us hope the lady had a reason to sing. Because there is no textual indication here to date this verse much beyond the wedding night following the Somerset marriage, the lampoon surrounds her supposed deceitfulness to prove virgo intacta and the much anticipated results—her pregnancy—the proof for all the conjecture during the nullity trial, to be revealed in the course of her second marriage. Lack of reference to subsequent events in the scandal suggest that this verse was a response early in the progress of the scandal.

22. The speaker’s interests converge at the lady’s maidenhead. In a sudden shift from punning on the time of the marriage, the speaker declares “Plants enough there may ensue,” presumably both the planting of Carr’s seed, and also, because syntactically, “plants” can be read as “plaints”14—her maidenly complaints—may “ensue.” This punster then extends the vegetative image to Somerset’s name, to declare that “Some” seeds “-were-sett” but failed to grow—“where none ere grewe.” That is, if after Howard and Somerset had been married for a time, she did not produce a child, her barrenness would be apparent.

23. There is an alternative reading for the final four lines of this verse. The complaints that “may ensue” are her accusations against another man rendered impotent, by malificium, or, perhaps, only her frigidity. If the speaker is declaring that there is past evidence that “Some-were-sett” in her bed, but failed to achieve an erection—“none ere grewe”—then however she may prepare, she will remain a “mayde.”

24. Although the fictional addressee is Frances Howard, the tone indicates that it was not intended for her. At the time of the Somerset marriage, at the height of the Somerset-Carr preferment, no one, except perhaps Sir Thomas Overbury, would have openly hazarded such advice. Of course, the joke turns on Howard’s charge of Essex’s impotence, and the barrenness, frigidity, or witchcraft that the versifier suggests as its cause. We can see that, even before Overbury’s death, long before the charges of murder, Frances Howard was the primary object of ridicule in this scandal. If a man could not perform his marital duties, the woman was to blame.

25. Even in the relatively safe space of manuscript culture poets display varying degrees of discretion; "Were itt nott a brutish crueltye . . ." evinces a broader vulgarity on the subject of Frances Howard’s sexual desire.

Were itt nott a brutish crueltye
To barr a ladye of Annullitye
That can gett nothing of her man
Yet craves as much as two men can
There is a ladye in this land
Because shee was not truely mand
Would over all ye countryes range
To seeke her selfe a better change
When Essex could not give content
To Rochester her course was bent
When shee lett no occasion slipp
To gett a mast Into her shipp
A mast She had both straight and long
Butt when itt prov’d nott fully strong
To Somersett she quicklye hide
To trye what fortune would betyde:/ (f.69v)

26. Her lustiness is motivation here and elsewhere in manuscript verses. Lust serves as the motivation for all subsequent events. That this supposed maid “craves as much as two men can” and ranged “over all ye country” to satisfy her sexual desire inscribes her needs as excessive and thus aberrant. Because the final historical event we can absolutely date in this verse is Carr’s earldom, this satire was probably written by a member of an opposing faction either just prior to or shortly after their marriage. When Essex’s mast “prov’d nott fully strong,” Frances Howard tried Rochester’s “mast.” Presumably finding his mast superior, she had her marriage to Essex annulled and had Somerset elevated to an acceptable status so that she might enjoy his mast in marriage, without reduction of her own status. Within this collection of publicly inscribed manuscript lampoons, this verse is the first of several satiric verses that rely on nautical metaphors that may inscribe a conversation that was initially private because of the power of the figures. The phallic images of a mast “straight and long” but not “fully strong” does identify Robert Devereux’s publicly ridiculed deficiencies, but it is the lady’s lust that remains the real target. Between this and another verse that also uses the language of ships and masts intervene two verses that use this occasion to voice concern about the state, only the second of which is included here.

27. This verse characterizes Robert Carr through his ascendance because King James loved him, “once . . . poore / Then rich and great.” It immediately turns to his fall because he “lov’d a whore,” Frances Howard. The verse indicates four status positions through which Carr traveled in his rise as King James’s favorite. Frances Howard’s four stations are less clearly chronological.

Heare lyethe he that once was poore
Then rich and greate, then lov’d a whore
Hee woo’de and weed [wed], but in conclusion
His love and whore was his confusion;
A page, a knight, a viscount and an Erle
All foure weare wedded to one lustfull girle
A match well made, for shee was likewise foure
A wife a witch, a murderer; and a whore:/ (f.70v)

28. Robert Carr is defined and dispensed with in the fifth line of this verse. A Scottish page, Carr accompanied King James to England in 1603. After a sojourn in France that served as his finishing, Carr was made a Knight of the Garter and Privy Councilor to James I. Created Viscount Rochester in 1612, Carr was elevated to Earl of Somerset just prior to his marriage to Howard in 1613, so that the bride need suffer no reduction in status.15 All four of these “weare wedded to one lustfull girle,” the real subject of this verse. Again, the early-modern “bloggers,” perhaps in collective masculine insecurity, display discomfort with Frances Howard’s public humiliation of her first husband.

29. The poet, who sketches Carr through his meteoric rise as James’s favorite, etches Frances Howard’s sins on her female body. She was “wife” to Essex when she bewitched Carr. To secure Carr, she had to dispose of the noisy Overbury, becoming a “murderer.” Throughout, she was considered a “whore.” Her powerful lustiness serves again as her motivation. While these epitaphs critique Frances Howard, they also bolster Renaissance fears concerning inherent female immorality and reinscribe acceptable female behavior. As these titles move Frances Howard from the acceptable female designation of “wife,” to “witch,” “murder” and “whore,” she is excluded from society. As they mirror Carr’s four stations, his “page,” “knight,” “viscount” and “Erle” suffer similar denigration, a side commentary indicating the English consensus that Robert Carr had never deserved the favor that King James had lavished upon him.

30. Following this containment of feminine misconduct comes another of the nautical verses on the subject of the Somerset scandal. Again we find Frances Howard’s deficiencies driving the events. As we found in “Were itt nott a brutish crueltye . . .,” this verse describes a ship in need of proper appointments. Katherine Howard was Frances’s mother, and it is from her that Frances, figured as a “pincke,” a small boat, is launched.

From Katherines dock there launcht a pinke
Wch sore did leake, yet did not sinke
Ere while shee lay by Essex shore
Expecting rigging, yards, and store,
Butt all disasters to prevent
Wth winde in poope shee sayl’d to Kent
Att Rochester shee anchor cast
Wch Canterbury did distaste
Butt Winchester wth Eesyes helpe
Did hale ashore this Lyons whelpe
weake was shee sided, and did heele
But sum-ar-sett to mend her keele
And stopp her leake, and sheathe her port
And make her fitt for any sporte:/ f. 71

This badly leaking “pinke” was “launcht” from “Katherine[’]s dock.” Becalmed, she “lay by Essex shore / Expecting rigging, yards, and store.” Because these necessities were not forthcoming, “shee sayl’d to Kent” to seek provisioning from Viscount Rochester. This casting of her anchor at Rochester proved distasteful to George Abbot, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who argued against the annulment.

31. Winchester, arguing with the King for the annulment, hauled ashore the “Lyons whelp,” Frances, daughter of the house of Howard, whose insignia is a red lion on a berry field. Luckily for the lion’s whelp, “sum-ar-sett”—that is, Somerset is ready—to “mend the keele” of the weak, heeling pink. With “leake” stopped and “port” sheathed—a picture difficult to imagine—she is made “fitt for any sporte.” This reference to her fitness to enjoy “any sport” seems to indicate that her lustful nature combined with her sexual experience opens her body to all men.

32. If this verse were a direct response to “Were itt nott a brutish crueltye . . .” we would expect to see some echoing as well as answering occurring here. Because we do not see that typical coterie dialogue marker, it would appear that this duo of verses instead inscribe a different kind of contest from dialectical exchanges. On the same subject, the motivation for Howard’s annulment, neither of the nautical verses mentions Overbury. This silence then dates them from between the time of Carr’s earldom and Overbury’s murder. Not yet a murderous whore, Howard is merely the lusty girl who caused a scandal by accusing her husband of impotence so that she might secure an annulment in preparation for a marriage to Somerset, whose mast and mending would supposedly cure her deficiencies.

33. It appears that these verses are of the kind that early modern scholars characterize as written on a “set subject.” The contest is prescribed in this form of verse composition, the topic set by a member of the group; “Frances Howard as a leaky vessel” for example. Both poetic responses target the lusty lady, imagine her as a ship, and suggest that Robert Carr can cure the ills, occasioned by her lust, which Essex failed to. Executing the challenge to write upon the topic is the only contest evident here. No single verse among these attempt to draw other poetic responses by way of witty argument. Neither of these verses constructs an argument. Neither of these poses a problem, proposes a solution, or in fact offers anything to another intellect interested in disputing the common understanding of Frances Howard and the events leading up to her marriage with Robert Carr. In fact, all these verses agree that the inordinate lust of Frances Howard provoked the scandal.

34. Bypassing a verse attack on Frances Howard, we find another of the nautical verses, “Poore Pilote thou hast lost thy pinke,” addressing Robert Carr. Playing on an idea similar to that found in John Donne’s “The Will,” in which the speaker bequeaths his goods to those who do not need or want them, this poet strips Carr of his accoutrements by linguistically returning them to those people from whom King James took them in order to decorate his favorite, Robert Carr.

Poore Pilote thou hast lost thy pinke
And by her leake downe to ye bottome sinke,
Thy lands bee gone, alass they weare not thyne
Thy howse likewise, another sayes is myne
Then wheare’s thy witt, alas tis 2 yeares dead
And whear’s thy wife, another did her wedd.
Art thou a man or butt yt simple part
Nothing thyne owne butt thy aspyring hart.
Rawley thy howse, Westmoreland thy lands
Overburye thy witt, Essex thy wife demands,
Like AEsops gey, each bird will pluck a feather
And thou stript nak’t exposed to winde an weather
Butt yet thy freinds to keepe thee from yt coulde
Have made the upp in London’s strongest houlde:/ (f.72)

The speaker declares that the captain has “lost” his “pinke”, apparently the same small vessel that was found deficient because of her “leake” in “From Katherines dock there launcht a pinke . . .”. The Pilot of this vessel has been unable to stop her leak, for in this verse she has sunk because of it. This verse, unlike “Were itt nott a brutish crueltye . . .”, does appear to be engaged in direct conversation with “From Katherines dock there launcht a pinke . . .”. This verse, in fact, takes the promises made in “From Katherines dock there launcht a pinke . . .” and, through the hindsight achieved by revelation of the Overbury murder and the Somerset conviction, displays Carr as the creature the king made.

35. Carr has not only lost his “pinke,”—the boat here becomes the vehicle he chose as an easy ride into the aristocracy—but also has lost his “lands,” his “howse,” his “witt” and his wife. As for the lands, “alass they weare not thyne” in the first place; the howse, “likewise, another sayes is myne.” Answering the riddles posed by Carr’s apparent losses, this poet then catalogues the demands of the rightful owners of Somerset’s estate.

36. Sir Walter “Rawley” is the rightful owner of “thy howse”; his estate, Sherbourne, was seized by King James and given to the favorite. The land was stolen from “Westmoreland,” not Francis Fane who eventually commanded that title, but the Earls of Westmoreland, who lost the title and lands for their treasonous activity are re-awarded them here. As noted above, “Overburye” served as Carr’s “witt,” because Carr lacked the intellectual ability to speak or write eloquently for himself, and Overbury had been dead “2 yeares” when his murderers were arrested. “Essex” of course was married to Frances Howard when Carr decided he would marry her.

37. Like Aesop’s crow, that in dissatisfaction with his own “feathers” gathered those of others to furnish itself with beautiful and inappropriate trappings, Carr’s furnishings are revealed to belong to others, are stripped from him—quite literally, the crown stripped Carr of these—and he is left naked, “exposed to winde an[d] weather.” That these trappings of his station are likened to the false feathers of Aesop’s crow, and are symbolically returned to their rightful owners, foregrounds the inappropriateness of Carr’s ornamentation. Here the poet-blogger reaffirms the status quo by symbolically returning Carr’s borrowed finery to the “rightful” owners. The very “freind,” King James, who had once so ornamented this man, now keeps him from the cold by imprisoning him “in London’s strongest houlde,” the Tower.

38. Although Carr is the target, this poetic construction questions the appropriateness of allowing commoners the elevated status that a monarch could provide. In more instances than this, the collective cultural answer to the query of deserts was “no.” Queen Elizabeth’s first favorite, Christopher Hatton, had dancing skills and a “nice leg” to recommend him. The difference is that Hatton never murdered anyone. Once Overbury’s murder was discovered and the Somersets were implicated, the scribal outpouring indicates not only that Robert Carr was disliked, but that the inordinate preferment granted favorites was disliked. It should also be remembered that no other living favorite—not to mention his wife—had provided such a rich opportunity for witty versification.

39. In a shift from the murders to the victim, from the construction of monsters to the canonization of martyrs, “Ha[d]st thou like other Srs, and knights of worth . . .” concentrates on Sir Thomas Overbury. Again determining merit and status seems to be the ultimate objective. We might expect the subject to fare a good deal better than the other objects of derision in this collection. However, this speaker recognizes that Overbury’s canonization is less dependent on his merit than it is upon his victimization, “death hath done her grace,” and elevated him above his just deserts, “above ye region of thy place.”

Ha[d]st thou like other Srs, and knights of worth
Sick’end and dide, bin stretcht out and laide forth
After thy farwell sermon, taken earth
And left noe deede to prayse thee butt thy birth:
Then Overburye by a pass of theires
Thou might’st have tided hence in 2 howres teares
Then had wee worne thy sprigg of memorye
Noe longer then thy freinds did rosemary
Or then ye dole was eating, for thy sake
And thou had’st sanke in thy owne wine and cake;
But sinc16 itt was soe ord’red, and thought fitt
By some who know [knew] thy [t]rue[t]h, and feard thy witt
Thou should’st be poysoned, death hath done her grace
Rank thee above ye region of thy place,
For none heares poyson nam’de, but makes reply
What Prince was that, what stat’s man soe did dye,
In this thou hast out-dy’de an Ellegie
Wch weare to17 narrowe for posteritye:
And thy ranke poyson, wch did seeme to kill
working a fresh in some historians quill
shall now preserve thee longer ere thou rott
Then could a poeme mixt wth antidote.
Now needs’t thou trust noe Harrallds wth thy name
Thou art the voyce of justice, and of fame:
Whilst sinne detesting her owne conscience, strives
To pay the use and interest of lives:
Enough of rime, (and might itt please ye lawe
Enough of blood), for naming lives I sawe
Hee that writes more of thee, must write of more
Wch I affect nott; but referr men ore
To Tiburne; by whose art they may desyne
what life of man is worth by valewing thyne: (ff.72v-73)

If Overbury had lived to an old age and died, his life would have gone almost unremarked, this speaker declares. Before the funeral feast was consumed, before the rosemary sprigs had wilted, he would have been forgotten. But “some who [knew] thy [t]rue[t]h, and feard thy witt” poisoned him. He is made great by his association with aristocratic acts of murder, the acts of Frances Howard and Robert Carr. They made the occasion for others’ praise, for other versifiers’ canonizations. His murder, here likened to the assassinations of the great, is the only thing that identifies Overbury as worthy. Only because aristocrats feared him enough to murder him is he worthy of remembrance.

40. Further, as the speaker addresses the “ranke poyson, wch did seeme to kill,” he concludes that its efficacy is a historical revision of Overbury’s worth, “working a fresh in some historians quill.” Better than an elegy mixed with an antidote, that poison preserves him as an icon. Overbury’s “voyce” becomes the oracle “of justice, and of fame,” but not because he did anything to deserve that status. Overbury becomes the ultimate symbol of injustice, the ultimate revelation of “what life of man is worth”: nothing. This is the final verse in this collection on the Somerset scandal, and serves to reduce the lives of all the participants to the point of complete insignificance. There is one final verse in Egerton 2230 that we must consider: the first, which frames the occasion for all the others.

41. As an introduction to this collection of verses on the various occasions for bawdy versifying provided by Frances Howard and Robert Carr is the compiler’s filter, a verse that was composed in the final act of this drama: “Tis painefull rowing gainst ye bigg swolne tide . . .”. This verse marks the occasion of their arrest for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, and immediately focuses the reader’s attention on “why Overburye dide.” While other of the verses seem to have been written during the divorce proceedings or just after the Somerset marriage, mention of Overbury’s death here inscribes the particular occasion of its composition as the arrest of the Somersets for the Overbury murder. Its position in the manuscript, however, recontextualizes the various occasions on which the others were composed, conflating a series of events by virtue of hindsight. Perhaps most importantly, this verse vindicates the third Earl of Essex.

Tis painefull rowing gainst ye bigg swolne tide
Nor dare wee say why Overburye dide
I dare not marry least when I have layde
Close by my wife [seven] yeare shee prove a mayde
And that her greatness or ye law consent
To prove my weapon insufficient
Some are made greate by birth some have advance
Some clime by witt some are made greate by chance
I know one made a lord for his good face
That had no more witt then18 would bare ye place:/ (f.69)

In the ‘voice’ of the third Earl of Essex, the speaker laments that it is “painefull rowing gainst ye bigg swolne tide” of the powerful Howard and Somerset interests. He dares “not marry” again for fear that his wife will “prove a mayde” even after “[seven]” years of marriage—as Frances Howard ‘proved’ during her divorce trial. That the poet was in sympathy with Essex, even though this verse dwells at surprising length on Frances’s charge of his impotence, can be determined by his insistence that “her greatness,” that is her powerful influence, caused the “law” to “consent / To prove [his] weapon insufficient.” The problem identified here is the corrupt powers that control the law, not necessarily the speaker’s sexual “weapon.” Acknowledging various roads to greatness—by “birth,” by advancement, by “chance” and by “witt,” all avenues to Renaissance power, if variously accepted—, the speaker then makes his first nod in the direction of Robert Carr, the only individual, this poet claims, “made a lord for his good face.” However hyperbolic this claim that Carr was the only person ever advanced because of his appearance, it serves to underline his lack of “witt.”

42. The detested female is all but excluded from this verse. This speaker addresses other men, who will understand the speaker’s shame, who will understand the unfairness of Essex’s humiliation by Howard, and who will agree with his construction of routes for advancement. Although there is no evidence that the third Earl of Essex composed this verse, or even that he had the capacity either to conceive or execute anything of the sort, it is pleasant to think that someone more clever than he was kind enough to do it for him.

43. This verse asserts the early modern status quo. Birth was the primary path to advancement, followed by aristocratic or royal prerogative—the right to advance the worthy. Fortune’s Wheel, an accepted, if frequently detested vehicle, explained Renaissance hierarchical order. And finally, wit, the philosophical mastery of language and learning, might advance the early modern courtier. I do not doubt that someone who had risen, or who wished to rise, by one of the possible routes constructed this verse. That those who rose through other means challenged such constructs I also do not doubt. However, its appearance as the first verse in this collection, combined with the final frame of Overbury’s worth, serves to refilter the separate occasions into a generalized appeal for established hierarchical order.

44. Because a series of Somerset occasions were lightning rods for scribal activity, this compiler could, by gathering them into the forum of this manuscript book, reinscribe them with his or her own lesson. While we should not doubt that the compiler of the Egerton 2230 manuscript attempted to collect scandalous verses on a variety of subjects, the compiler also appears to have had an editorial interest in arranging their reception. Not just their collection, but their particular arrangement asserts a moral argument against worldly values. Preferment and its dark side (social mobility) flew in the face of tradition, birth right, divine right, and the established secular hierarchies modeled on the sacred. While some manuscript collections evince coterie activity, others, like the Egerton 2230, clearly do not. It does, however, indicate that even those engaged in scribal transmission at many removes from the initiating forum actively intervened in the inscriptional process. An admittedly less sophisticated practice, this example nevertheless displays active engagement with their subject. Not the author, not even a member of the authorizing community for these verses, this early modern “editor” has inscribed a particular perspective on the bodies of the fallen. This is significant because it further indicates how manuscript transmission encouraged practices alien to our understanding of artistic production while suggesting a similarity of intent between the contemporary and the early-modern “blogger.”

45. This kind of verse production occurred because the subject was itself a lightning rod. Favorites, as we have seen, inspired such attention. We need only remember the specificity of some verse lampoons to recognize that someone far beyond the court would have access to enough information to construct verse of this kind. The same sociological symptoms that might be used to describe mob mentality might characterize these early modern versifiers who leaped to “measure” a fallen colossus. Whereas education can be seen to influence poetic practice in the imitation, declamation, and disputation between poets involved with one another because of common friendship or political interest, education alone cannot describe all activity. When writers with common friendships formed an active coterie, subject matter was in some sense subjugated to the alliance.

46. In the instance of satiric verse composition, such as the kind we have investigated here, a specific occasion draws these argumentative versifiers to a site of disaster. That is, as a contentious subject presented itself, versifiers might arise from a variety of political arenas to lampoon the victims. These manuscript verses inscribe nominal coteries, in that the common subject matter of the verses rather than the common political interest of the poets encouraged their composition, just as digital discourse “blogging” tends to arise in response to a subject. Further, as these verses were collected within particular manuscripts, their occasion changed with their arrangement to reflect the dialectical positions of the compilers. Unlike manuscripts that preserve a particular group of people discussing their poetic inspiration and political interests, these poems inscribe occasions that drew the people to comment upon them. These poets may have nothing in common except their distrust and dislike of the object of ridicule.

47. Nicholas Oldisworth of Borton recognized the negative effects of icons and iconoclasts from a slightly different perspective than most of his contemporaries. While other poets assert that there are acceptable paths to greatness and discernible reasons for disintegration, Oldisworth insists that collective human nature desires the collapse of monuments. On folio one of British Library Egerton 923, owned, but not necessarily compiled, by one W Allen in the 1630s, is a verse attributed to or signed by19 “Nic: Oldisworth” that serves as epigraph to this discussion. He is also the compiler of B. L. Add MS 15476, papers on the Overbury murder, dictated to him by his grandfather, Nicholas Overbury, in what we must assume was the father’s attempt to find closure if not reason for his son’s murder. Perhaps Oldisworth’s service as amanuensis for his grandfather, his involvement in the construction of the bitter record of Sir Thomas Overbury’s fall from courtly grace, caused the acrid view on display in the epigraph.

48. Addressing great figures, the speaker of “Gould now is drosse, & Oracles are stuffe” censured the collective temperament that desired glorious personages to “Stoope & submitt . . . to the meanesse of our witt.” In a very real sense his uncle died because he measured the icons before they fell; because of his death, Thomas Overbury became an icon for other manuscript poets. For this reason, perhaps, Oldisworth, like the “editor” of the Egerton 2230, distrusted social mobility and the resultant aspirations among the droves of dissatisfied underlings.

49. That the fall of powerful figures offered opportunities for satiric poetry we cannot doubt, but the aggression with which early modern poets sought such opportunities is the more important understanding. It is this tendency, even this human compulsion, replicated in the post modern “blog,” that offers us opportunities for further investigation. As the same poets who carelessly disregarded the stature of the powerful saw their occasional verses wrested from the immediate, interactive environment of scribal culture they too began to question their iconoclastic tendencies, trading them for the authority and ownership promised by the printing press.

50. Neither the circumstance that had occasioned their verse, nor the practices that had encouraged corrective intervention and conversation, served the purpose of the print medium. During the liminal period, as the dominant transmissional medium changed from manuscript discourse to print dissemination, rhetorical negotiation was replaced by monologic responses on a specific subject. Part of the tension of this period can be seen in a higher degree of punning, double entendre, and other kinds of word play especially in subject-specific manuscript evidence, when writers position themselves as uniquely righteous, even self-righteous authorities standing in contrast to the targets of their critique. Finally, these early-modern “bloggers,” like their post-modern counterparts, perceive their function as cleansers or healers of the body politic through satiric scapegoating of its diseased members. As the press made icons of early modern discourse, these poets or their conduits—the printers—scrambled to assert a new metaphor that privileged the product over the process of production, the art over the communal act.

51. A reverse effect is now observable as we move from a print-dominated discourse to the immediate and dialogic medium of digital dissemination. At the early modern cusp between manuscript and print domination we find a startling assemblage of discourse communities engaged in a variety of essential human practices. Because none of this activity could be replicated in print, it was lost to our view, to our understanding, and to our analyses. At the threshold between print and digital domination in our post modern world the invisible becomes visible again if we but compare the artifactual tracers found in the dynamic medium of manuscripts to those found within digital transmission. Ugly, at times, as these textual artifacts appear to eyes more accustom to the tidy presentation of the codex book, these unsightly creature evince life and thought in their strangely similar movements.


1. One of the first senior scholars at The University of Texas to embrace the new medium as worthy of scholarly investigation and employment, John Slatin was the only member of my dissertation committee who had actually viewed my mock-ups and discussed with me the manner of presentation of facsimiles of the extant early modern artifacts. The other members of my committee were not actively opposed to the idea of the digital forum; rather, they were ignorant of the medium and uninterested in the application of the medium as a forum for scholarly inquiry.

2. The Deadalus Group, largely comprised of a first generation of graduate students in English who saw the potential of the medium for investigation of language, included, as the Daedalus Group’s website indicates:

"already distinguished scholars in composition and rhetoric, [and] others [who] have gone on to achieve professional recognition in the field. The founders include Valerie Balester, Jerome Bump, Hugh Burns (our first Chairman of the Board), Wayne Butler, Joyce Locke Carter, Bernard Crook, Tamara Fish, Maxine Hairston, David Harvey, Fred Kemp (our first President), Jan Kemp, Mary Beth Levine, Nancy Peterson, John Slatin, and Paul Taylor. Notably absent from this list is James Kinneavy, who was never formally associated with the company but nonetheless inspired many of us to dedicate ourselves to changing the world through the power of language." (

My tenure as a graduate student overlapped with some of theirs. Discussions with Wayne Butler, Joyce Locke Carter, and Paul Taylor were invaluable to my understanding of the medium. So far ahead of their time, their work was poorly understood by many senior scholars.

3. This is of course a reference to Marshall McLuhan.

4. Nicholas Oldisworth is the grandson of Nicholas Overbury, father of Sir Thomas Overbury, who was poisoned in the Tower for too loudly critiquing the Somerset marriage. Interestingly, Oldisworth was the scribe for Nicholas Overbury’s dictation of the scandalous proceedings of Frances Howard. Transcriptions are mine.

5. Nephew of the murdered Sir Thomas Overbury.

6. As the Guido Fawkes’s Archives indicate, Paul Staines was “named at number 36 in the ‘Top 50 newsmakers of 2006’ in The Independent, for his blog, and his role in the [John] Prescott scandal in particular” (

7. Prescott was given the name “Two Jags” when it was discovered that besides owning a Jaguar his government position allocated him use of a second. “Two Shags” was a variant used after the second of his several sexual liaisons was revealed by the British press, starting with Paul Staines’s Guido Fawkes Blog.

8. An allusion to the Monty Python’s Flying Circus routine, written by Eric Idle, in which one man, played by Idle, makes a series of sexual innuendoes about another man and his wife. At each point, just before the target of his innuendo figures out that his sex-life is being ridiculed, Idle declared, “Say no more. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.” This has passed into English and American idiom as a means to broadly indicate sexual innuendo.

9. There is evidence that Frances Howard’s liaison with Robert Carr began earlier, perhaps as early as 1609; however, the public scandal did not begin until her suit for nullity in 1613.

10. See David Lindley’s revision of the reputation of Frances Howard, The Trials of Frances Howard, Fact and Fiction at the Court of King James, Routledge, 1993. See also Sir E. A. Parry, The Overbury Mystery, A Chronicle of Fact and Drama of the Law, T. Fisher Unwin Ltd., 1925; William McElwee, The Murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, Faber and Faber, 1952; Beatrice White, Case of Ravens, The Strange Case of Sir Thomas Overbury, George Braziller, 1965.

11. Like the Howards, the Cecils positioned themselves against both the Essex and Ralegh factions. It was William Cecil, Lord Burghley, who advised his son Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury: “Seek not to be Essex; shun to be Raleigh.”

12. See Lindley, 145ff.

13. A virgin intact.

14. The use of “‘plaints,” and the spelling variation “‘plants,” is such a common scansion-determined variation of “complaints” that this reading is based on that generalized use.

15. See Roger Lockyer Buckingham, The Life and Political Career of George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham 1592-1628, New York: Longman, 1981, 13ff.

16. since

17. too

18. One of the oddities of sixteenth and seventeenth manuscripts is the indiscriminate use of “then” and “than.” Like some of my students in the twenty-first century, many seventeenth century writers, even those we have elevated to reside in the rarified air of the literary canon, do not distinguish between them.

19. The hand found in this manuscript is very similar to that found in BL Add MS 15476, papers on the Overbury murder, Nicholas Overbury’s dictation to Nicholas Oldisworth, containing sections from King James argument for Frances Howard’s divorce; Archbishop Abbot’s counter argument during the same proceedings; a lampoon against her; as well as Nicholas Overbury’s account of what happened prior to his son’s murder in the Tower by poison acquired and dispensed to him at Frances Howard’s instructions. I am not a paleographer, but the hands are very similar.

Works Cited

Add MS. 15476. British Lib. London
"About Us." The Daedalus Group. 15 January 2009

Egerton MS. 923. British Lib. London.

Egerton MS. 2230. British Lib. London.

Idle, Eric. “How to Recognise Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away.” Featuring Eric Idle and Terry Jones. Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Episode 3. Original Air Date: 19 October 1969. (

Lindley, David. The Trials of Frances Howard, Fact and Fiction at the Court of King James. London: Routledge, 1993.

Lockyer, Roger. Buckingham: The Life and Political Career of George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham 1592-1628. New York: Longman, 1981.

Love, Harold. Scribal Publication in Seventh-Century England. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993.

The Manchester Guardian On-line.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Boston: MIT Press,1964.

McElwee, William. The Murder of Sir Thomas Overbury. London: Faber and Faber, 1952.

Parry, E. A. The Overbury Mystery, A Chronicle of Fact and Drama of the Law. London: T. Fisher Unwin Ltd., 1925.

Staines, Paul. The Guido Fawkes Blog. 6 April 2009.

———. The Guido Fawkes Archives. ( 25 March 2009.

White, Beatrice. Case of Ravens, The Strange Case of Sir Thomas Overbury.
New York: George Braziller, 1965.

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