Fisher's Folly and the Birth of Euphues while bowling
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I have always thought that whatever went down among the bowling alleys of Fisher's Folly from 1580-1589 was paramount to the quest at hand. Here are some quotes as to background.
In February 1580, you acquire a new house,
Fisher’s Folly, outside Bishopsgate and close to the
newly established Fortune and Curtain Theatres and
not far from the Boars Head Inn at Eastcheap.
Coincidentally, in April 1580, you take over a set of
(adult) players, who perform before the Queen and
court, at the Inns of Court, at public houses in and
around London. They are known as Lord Oxford’s
players, and they also tour southern England
including your native East Anglia during the 1580s.
They even visit a small provincial town in
Warwickshire in 1584 when a young man called
William was 20.
But his spirit was indomitable. He was now concentrating more on writing poems, and plays for the Court. He began to consort with other playwrights, principally the so-called 'university wits.' There were some very fine writers among them but some were also quite dissolute, particularly Greene. De Vere knew some or all of them, Greene, Nash, Peele, Marlowe, Kyd, Lyly, Lodge, and others. On his return from the Continent de Vere apparently bought Fisher's Folly, today known as Devonshire Place, but known after de Vere's purchase as Vere House. It seems to have been a mecca for playwrights. We're told that by 1585 within about 5 minutes' walk lived Marlowe and Kyd (who lived with him), Greene, Poley, and the famous actors James Burbage, Edward and John Alleyn. Burghley regarded them all as dissolute and de Vere as mixing with his 'lewd friends.' This behaviour was not likely to improve relationships in his marriage. His cousins were also interested in the dramatic arts and he was friendly with them: Henry and Philip Howard, Charles Arundel, and Francis Southwell.
In 1589, in order to raise much-needed funds, Edward de Vere hurriedly sold his London residence, Fisher's Folly, to William Cornwallis who, with his young daughter, Anne, took up residence in the earl's former home. In 1852, Shakespeare biographer J. O. Halliwell-Phillips discovered Anne Cornwallis's copybook from her days at Fisher's Folly in which she had transcribed verses from Edward de Vere, presumably from manuscripts left behind when the residence changed hands. Interestingly, however, Halliwell-Phillips observed that Anne's copybook included not only then-unpublished poetry by Edward de Vere but two unpublished sonnets that later would be attributed to Shakespeare. Anne's copybook, moreover, included another poem scholars later would attribute to Shakespeare that was printed by William Jaggard in 1599 in his miscellanies of Elizabethan poetry, The Passionate Pilgrim. Halliwell-Phillips estimated that Anne Cornwallis made her transcriptions of these then-unpublished verses in 1590, the year after she and her father took up residence at Fisher's Folly. Of course, how Anne Cornwallis, in 1590, would have acquired unpublished poems by Shakespeare in the former home of Edward de Vere no one in orthodox circles ever has been able to persuasively explain.
Does anyone know of an well done study on what went down in this house during this time?
In 1588, after the death of his first wife, Oxford had sold his two known London houses: Oxford House, near London Stone, which he inherited; and Fisher's Folly on the site of Devonshire Square, Bishopsgate Street, which he acquired soon after the death in 1579 of the builder and first owner, Jasper Fisher. It stood between the first public theatres in Shoreditch and the Bull Inn on Bishopsgate Street, where plays were regularly performed, and its backgarden was on the border of Portsoken Ward, which comprised about 45 acres. It seems that his ten acres here, on the Hog Lane side of this northern half of Portsoken Ward would have reached, more or less, from the back of his property in Bishopsgate (without) to the backs of the Blue Boar Inn and Boar's Head Tavern on Aldgate High Street or Whitechapel It is so named on the early maps. as it was then called; and indeed, Seymour, in his section on Portsoken Ward, writes: "In this Hog Lane . . . lying on the Back-side of Whitechapel (italics mine), were eight acres of Land, which about the year 1574 were in the possession of one Benedict Spinola" Seymour, Survey of London and Westminster, Vol. 1, p. 269.—who seems to have remained in possession at least till 1584. Seymour does not specifically identify this land of Spinola's with the covent garden of Holy Trinity, or Christchurch, but there was no room here for another eight acres. Oxford, then, bought his property in Portsoken Ward from Spinola sometime between 1584 and 1591: that is to say, shortly before or shortly after the sale of Fisher's Folly. Either way, he must have had a special interest in this north-east fringe of the city. Between the death of his first wife, Anne Cecil, in 1588, and his marriage to an heiress, Elizabeth Trentham, in 1591 he was faced with the greatest financial crisis of his life, in the form of a bill from the Court of Wards. Joel Hurstfield, The Queen's Wards, p. 253. All these facts must be taken into account in assessing the part he played as a joint patron of Oxford's and Worcester's Men. Hitherto, his existence in this connection has been almost entirely ignored.
Excellent, biblioarchy! How could anyone not be intrigued and keenly desirous of more information about De Vere's party house? I know that I would certainly be interested in seeing an entire book devoted to the real and imagined goings-on at Earl Edward's swinging pad.
I would say that any of the better-attended soirees at the De Vere House hosted more writing talent than would a convention of all living and dead winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. More evidence for the Oxford camp and, yes, more evidence for the Authorship by Committee faction.
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