Oxfordian Myths:
The Oxford Anagram in "Minerva Britanna"


  • Introduction


     The title page of Henry Peacham's 1612 emblem book Minerva Britanna has long fascinated antistratfordians, even though neither Shakespeare nor his works is mentioned anywhere in the book. In 1910, William T. Smedley thought he saw a message about Francis Bacon in a Latin motto:
    A curtain is drawn to hide a figure, the hand only of which is protruding. It has just written the words "MENTE VIDEBOR" -- "By the mind I shall be seen." Around the scroll are the words "Vivitur ingenio cetera mortis erunt" -- one lives in one's genius, other things shall be (or pass away) in death.

    That emblem represents the secret of Francis Bacon's life. At a very early age, probably before he was twelve, he had conceived the idea that he would imitate God, that he would hide his works in order that they might be found out--that he would be seen only by his mind and that his image should be concealed. There was no haphazard work about it. It was not simply that having written poems or plays, and desiring not to be known as the author on publishing them, he put someone else's name on the title-page. There was first the conception of the idea, and then the carefully-elaborated scheme for carrying it out. (The Mystery of Francis Bacon pages 105-06)

    Smedley's description of the emblem is fair enough, but his interpretation is bizarre. The work is not by Francis Bacon, nor is it dedicated to Bacon, nor is there anything in the book by Bacon, nor is Bacon known to have had anything to do with the book, nor is Bacon known to had any such idea when he was twelve or later that he would "hide his works," nor is he known to have adapted the motto "mente videbor." There is an emblem in the book that is dedicated to Bacon, but there are emblems to dozens of other people as well, and none of them have any bearing on Shakespeare or his works. Nevertheless the image on Peacham's title page that so struck Smedley has continued to haunt the imaginations of antistratfordians for the last 90 years.

    If it was a Baconian who first tried to read Shakespearean riddles in Minerva Britanna, Oxfordians have worked very hard since to make Peacham's book work for them. In 1937 Eva Turner Clark looked at the same title page that had fascinated Smedley, but she thought she saw a message about Oxford. Her interpretation was based on a mistaken notion about what the title page contained, and she made so many errors in her account that it would be cruel and pointless to rake up her account and expose her many blunders -- except that her misreadings have recently been given new life by Peter Dickson in essays that have appeared online in the Elizabethan Review and the Ever-Reader. Dickson deals with two works by Peacham: Minerva Britanna and the courtesy book The Compleat Gentleman. What Dickson does to the latter work is the subject of another essay on this site. Because Dickson's essays have cause a resurgence of interest in Minerva Britanna, at least among Oxfordians, it is worthwhile refuting his misreading of Peacham's books at length.

    One of the key points in Dickson's argument is that Peacham had in 1612 "hinted that an important English writer's identity was hidden or concealed for some mysterious reason, and that this writer's name was Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford." It is typical of the Oxfordian style of argument that such alleged "hints" are taken as powerful evidence, but a careful look at Peacham's actual work shows how illusory even this "hint" actually is. I will quote the sections of Dickson's essay that concern Peacham's Minerva Britanna and then add my own corrections and comments. If this essay is long, it is because Dickson got just about everything wrong, and therefore I have a great deal of correcting to do. If one is looking into the question whether Peacham has placed an anagram on the title page, it seems worthwhile to examine Peacham's use of anagrams both in this work and elsewhere, yet Dickson's interpretation relies almost entirely on misreadings of the title page by earlier Oxfordians, practically ignoring the rest of Minerva Britanna and Peacham's other works. Dickson's complete essay is available at http://www.elizreview.com/peacham.htm

    DICKSON: The first piece of additional evidence is Peacham's prior identification of Oxford as an important literary figure who required concealment for some reason.

    Peacham did not do this in 1612 or in 1622 or at any other time that I am aware of. The sole reference to Edward de Vere in Peacham's works occurs in The Compleat Gentleman, where the earl is listed as an Elizabethan poet. See my essay on The Compleat Gentleman for a full discussion of this reference.

    DICKSON: In 1612, Peacham published Minerva Britanna, a compilation of literary emblems dedicated to Prince Henry. Minerva is the Roman equivalent for Athena, the hasti-vibrans (spear-shaking) patron Goddess of Greek theater.

    Dickson is quite correct that the work was dedicated to Prince Henry. The other sentence is incorrect: Athena was NOT the patron deity of Greek theater (Dionysus was), and the term "hastivibrans" was NOT used of her (it was coined by Thomas Fuller as a witty tribute to William Shakespeare of Stratford). While Athena/Minerva was commonly depicted holding a spear (which was just as likely to be referred to as a "lance" or "dart"), she did not bear the epithet "spear-shaking." She is depicted and referred to many times in Minerva Britanna, but never shaking a spear.

    DICKSON: The title page consists of a large emblem with a pen in a hand
    Actually, that emblem is only one element on the page; I discuss some of the others below.
    DICKSON: jutting out from beneath a curtain
    The arm comes out on the (reader's) left, not the bottom of what Dickson calls a "curtain" -- this is not a major point, but it shows how Dickson is wrong in even the slightest details.
    DICKSON: attached the proscenium of a theater arch.
    Dickson seems to have in mind a modern theater, with a proscenium arch, a stage that is not visible until the curtains open, perhaps even ushers with flashlights, rather than the kind of theater Shakespeare's plays were performed in, which used a thrust stage, and where a curtain or an arras might have been at the rear center of the stage, covering the "discovery space." I cannot see any "theater" in Peacham's image at all. There is no stage, there is no place for an audience.

    There are curtains in Shakespeare: the three caskets in Merchant of Venice are hid behind a curtain, as is the "statue" of Hermione in The Winter's Tale; there are bed curtains and curtains before pictures, but there are no theatrical curtains of the sort Dickson has in mind. There are many plays within plays in Shakespeare, yet none begins with the drawing of a curtain, or ends with a curtain's fall. There are curtains in a number of other emblems in Minerva Britanna, but in none of these emblems do we find a theater.

    DICKSON: That the image depicts the concealment of a person involved with the theater and/or literature should be obvious to any reader.

     As I have said, there is no theater in the image. Nor is it "obvious" that concealment of the identity of the arm that is writing "MENTE VIDEBOR" is the point of the emblem. For the emblems within the book, Peacham provides a motto, an image, and a poem; he may also provide explanatory notes and citations of classical analogues to his subject. His poems often begin with an explanation of the picture and then move toward a more general moral point. Here is another image of a disembodied arm using a pen (from an emblem on page 24). The motto is "Merenti" ("for the deserving"). In the accompanying poem, Peacham explains that when a young Trojan soldier first went into battle, his shield bore no emblem. After the soldier has proven his mettle, his "Captain" would award him "some Ensigne of his fame." We are not invited to guess at the identity of the hand that is drawing a lion on this shield. We know that it is an emblem of honor justly awarded for demonstrated merit. Peacham contrasts the Trojan custom with the present day, when "th'inglorious is /Allow'd the place sometimes in Honours chaire." We need no particular example of unmerited glory -- every age provides examples aplenty.

    There is no poem accompanying the title page motto "MENTE VIDEBOR," but these stanzas from a commendatory poem by William Segar explains what it means to see in the mind:

    Within the mind two eies there are haue sight,
    To iudge of things interiour hauing sence;
    Foresight, and Insight, Iudgment makes them bright,
    And most perspicuous through intelligence.
    Foresight, forseeth harmes, that may ensue:
    Insight, doth yeild to reason what is due

    With outward ei'ne first view, and marke this booke,
    Variety of objects much will please;
    With inward ei'ne then on the matter look.
    Foresee the Authors care, and little ease
    T'invent, t'imprint, and publish for delight,
    And for reward but craues your good insight.

    Segar's poem could almost serve as the epigram for the title page image. Segar tells the reader not to read only with the outward eyes, but also with the eyes of the mind, they eyes that can not only look at Peacham's book but understand him. It is by such a reader that Peacham will be seen in the mind. The motto thus does not conceal the identity of the one who will be "seen" (for that is the author, Peacham), but instead gracefully flatters the perspicuous reader, the one in whose mind the true seeing (insight, judgment) will occur.

    In another sense, it is Peacham's mind that the reader will come to know by reading his book. As Peacham says,

    For as in Children, easily we behold,
    Some neere resemblance of the mouth, or eie:
    Of Parents likenes: so our workes vnfold,
    Our mindes true Image, to posteritie. (57)
    Thus the astute reader is not only the one who reads not just with his eyes but with his mind, he is also the reader who will see Peacham by seeing Peacham's mind unfolded by his works. Peacham will be seen by his own mind and in the reader's mind. This double sense is also reflected in a commendatory poem by Thomas Harding to Peacham "de sua Minerva" (B1r) -- on his "Minerva." Harding praises Peacham both for his book Minerva Britanna and also for his own "Minerva" or wisdom. It is this Minerva, the quality of Peacham's mind, that the astute reader of Minerva Britanna will see: Harding describes Peacham's book as "ingenii vera Minerva tui" ("the true Minerva of your wit").

    DICKSON: The logical question then is: "Who is this mysterious individual?"

    There isn't any mystery; Henry Peacham is the only candidate. His hand drew the emblems (though a great many are based on previous emblem books); his hand wrote the poems; his hand selected the commentary, and assembled the various elements that make up Minerva Britanna.

    DICKSON: The hand in question has nearly completed writing on a scroll the words MENTE.VIDEBORI

     At this point Dickson commits the fundamental blunder that will render everything he has to say about Minerva Britanna pointless. Here is an enlargement of this part of the emblem which has been turned upside-down so that the pen and the writing will be easier to see. If Dickson had looked carefully, he would have seen that what is written on the scroll is "MENTE.VIDEBOR." While the Baconian Smedley had correctly transcribed the motto in 1910, the Oxfordian Eva Turner Clark in 1937 rendered it as "Mente vide bori," and another Oxfordian, John L. Asteley-Cock, saw "MENTE VIDEBORI." Clark's and Astley-Cock's misreadings of Peacham were reprinted in Ruth Loyd Miller's 1975 collection Oxfordian Vistas, and Dickson's reading is based not on Peacham but on the old misreadings that he found reprinted in Miller's volume. What Clark, Astley-Cock, and Dickson took for the final "I" is a dot marking the end of the word, and part of the pen that is writing the dot.

    For comparison, here is a very similar pen from an emblem on page 121 of Minerva Britanna:

    DICKSON: which immediately brings to mind the Latin phrase "mente videbor" which translates as "in the mind I shall be seen."

    The motto on the scroll "brings to mind the Latin phrase 'mente videbor'" because that is exactly how the motto reads. There is no "I" after "VIDEBOR."

    DICKSON: In other words, only through this persona's literary works will others come to know this writer but evidently never his true identity.
    Dickson's reading is labored, at best. As we have seen, the mere presence of a disembodied limb in an emblem need not be taken as an invitation to guess "whose" arm we are seeing, but if we wish to name the owner of this arm, Henry Peacham is the only obvious choice. Henry Peacham's name is quite prominent on the title page. He is both the artist and the poet of this volume, and if the reader is impressed with this work, then the astute reader of the book will come to see Peacham (and not Oxford) in his mind.
    DICKSON: The other Latin inscriptions attached to the wreath surrounding the theater proscenium and curtain are: VIVITUR IN GENIO and CAETERA MORTIS ERUNT.

    Dickson needs to take another look. The two scrolls, which are wrapped around a laurel wreath, actually make a single line of verse: VIVITUR INGENIO CAETERA MORTIS ERUNT. Dickson somehow missed the hyphen after the "IN" which means that "INGENIO" is one word, not two. In this he was following another one of Clark's errors. Astley-Cock correctly placed the line in elegiac meter; he recognized that "Vivitur ingenio caetera mortis erunt" is a line of Latin pentameter, and he said, "a pentameter line without a preceding hexameter line is only half a distich" (314). Unfortunately, Astley-Cock did not recognize the line, so he composed his own line of hexameter to use as the first line of the distich: "Est tibi nomen Vere in mente videboris [sic], aio."

    DICKSON: There are several possible renditions of the entire three-part inscription, but that offered by John Astley-Cock in 1975 is as follows:
    In the Mind I Shall be Seen
    Resurrected by the Talent,
    All Else by Death Concealed.

    If Dickson had read Astley-Cock more carefully, he would have seen that what he was rendering included a line of his own composing. In fact the line "Vivitur ingenio caetera mortis" is classical, appearing in "Elegiae in Maecenatem," which is part of the "Virgilian Appendix" (poems sometimes attributed to Virgil but not certainly by him: since Virgil predeceased his patron Maecenas, he obviously couldn't have written the elegies). Here is the elegiac distich Astley-Cock suspected but could not identify, lines 37-38 of the first elegy, followed by the Loeb translation:

    marmorea Aonii vincent monumenta libelli;
        vivitur ingenio, cetera mortis erunt.

    Aonian writings [i.e., poetry] will eclipse marble monuments:
        genius means life, all else will belong to death.

    The sentiment should be familiar to anyone who has read Shakespeare's Sonnets, and it was a commonplace not only in Latin poetry but in literature of the Renaissance. In Peacham's time, the word "ingenium" would likely have been translated as "wit."

    The Latin line "vivitur ingenio, cetera mortis erunt" would not have mystified Peacham's astute readers, as it had been used as a motto by others. In the Shepheardes Calendar there is a motto at the end of each Month. Due probably to a printer's oversight, no motto appears for December, but E.K. gives us this gloss: "all thinges perish and come to theyr last end, but workes of learned wits and monuments of Poetry abide for euer." From this gloss, Spenser scholars long ago deduced that the missing motto was "vivitur ingenio, cetera mortis erunt" (the identification was first made by John Hughes in 1715).

    Another instance of the line is found in the classic Renaissance atlas of human anatomy, Andreas Vesalius's De Humani Corporis Fabrica. One of the illustrations shows a skeleton contemplating a skull. The skeleton leans on a monument, on which lies the skull. The monument bears the inscription "vivitur ingenio, caetera mortis erunt." See the illustration here

    For students of anatomy, the illustration is important as a fine lateral view of a human skeleton, but we may also read it as an emblem of mortality. The person whose skull is on the monument is gone, and even the monument itself will pass away, but the genius that once resided in such a skull may survive. For Henry Peacham, the motto on Minerva Britanna expresses the author's hope for his own literary immortality.

    DICKSON: The most important aspect of this emblem in Peacham's work is that the first line in Latin - "mente.videbori" - contains an anagram as first suggested Eva Clark Turner in her work, The Man Who Would be Shakespeare (1937).

    There are actually three Latin mottos on the title page. One motto, "Vivitur ingenio caetera mortis erunt" appears in the laurel wreath that surrounds the image of the hand that has written another motto, "Mente videbor." The significance of the third (which is not mentioned by Dickson) is suggested by Alan Young in his critical biography of Peacham (which is mentioned by Dickson):

    That the task of the poet is a laborious and demanding is emphasized by the emblematic device at the head of the title page with its motto "VT ALIJS ME CONSVMO" ("as you burn I consume myself") and its picture of two lighted candles, similar concern with the labor of the artist being further expressed at regular intervals in the pages that follow (Alan R. Young, Henry Peacham [1979: Twayne], p. 50).

    The poet referenced by the title page mottos is not Oxford (who is never mentioned or alluded to anywhere in the book) but Peacham himself. Peacham provides a poem for every emblem in the book, as well as an address to his muse and "The Author's Conclusion," in which he promises another book. The book includes a dedication, and an address to the reader by Peacham as well as commendatory verses (in Latin, Italian, French, and English) for Peacham and his book by other poets. Peacham is the poet who hopes his "ingenium," his wit or genius, will survive. He hopefully awards himself a laurel wreath, and it is the mind of Peacham that through this book will be seen in the mind of the discerning reader, even after Peacham himself is as lifeless as a burnt candle. Thus all of the Latin mottoes on the title page are best understood as expressions of Peacham's claims for his own artistry and hopes for recognition by astute readers, those who will bring to the volume not merely their outward eyes, but the eyes of the mind.

    DICKSON: There are several obvious clues that Peacham has given us an anagram containing the true name of the mysterious writer.
    At this point one would expect Dickson to discuss Peacham's use of anagrams in general. If there are "obvious clues" for the existence of an supposed anagram on the title page, then we should find similar "obvious clues" in those places where Peacham unquestionably uses anagrams. As it happens, Peacham included a number of genuine anagrams in Minerva Britanna and he very helpfully labels each one "Anagramma." The first anagram changes the Prince of Wales's motto "Ich Dien" into the Latin "Hic, Inde." Every other anagram is based on a person's name or title:

    13ANNA Britannorum Regina.In ANNA regnantium arbor.
    14ELISABETHA Steuarta.Has Artes beata velit.
    15Henricus IV Galliarum Rex.In Herum exurgis Ravillac.
    17HENRICVS VValliae Princeps.Par Achillis, Puer vne vinces.
    19ROBERTVS CAECILIVS.Is coelebs, Vrit cura.
    20HENRICVS HOVVARDVS Comes Northamptoniensis.Pius, Castus huic mentis honor, mere honorandus.
    35Thomas Chalonerus.Est hac almus honor.
    42Edmund Ashfield.I fledd vnshamed.
    74Iohannes Doulandus.Annos ludendo hausi.
    92Mabella Colarde.Bella, alma corde.
    125Thomas Ridgewaie.Mihi gravato Deus. [e]
    130Iesous. Su e hois.
    166Nicolas VVhite.In vos hic valet.
    175Anna Dudleia.e l'nuda Diana.
    177Henricus Peachamus.Hinc super haec Musa.

    Peacham also includes a discussion of anagrams on pages 197-98 of his his 1622 Compleat Gentleman. All of these anagrams are based on a person's name or title, and several of them had appeared in Minerva Britanna:

    Carolus.O Clarus.
    Iane West.En tua Iesu
    Amie Mordaunt.Tu more Dianam.
    Tum ore Dianam.
    Minerua, domat.
    Me induat amor.
    Nuda, o te miram.
    Vi tandem amor.
    Anna Dudlaeia.E la nuda Diana.
    Maria Mevtas.Tu a me amrais.
    Ioseph Hall.All his hope.
    Francis Barney.Barres in Fancy.
    Theodosia Dixon.A Deo Dixit Honos.
    O Dea, dixit Honos.
    Ioannes Dovlandvs.Annos ludendo hausi.

    What are the actual "obvious clues" that Peacham uses in his genuine angrams? He gives a person's name or title, and then he immediately presents an anagram of the letters in that name or title. He then labels the anagram with a marginal notation "Anagramma" and he gives the author of the anagram (in a couple of cases he does not name the anagram's author, but in each of these instances the anagram is repeated in The Compleat Gentleman, and all of those anagrams are Peacham's creations). By contrast, on the title page there is no anagram given of any person's name or title, and there is no label "Anagramma." Nor does he present as an anagram in The Compleat Gentleman any name, title, or motto from the title page of Minerva Britanna. Thus none of the "obvious clues" by which Peacham indicates the presence of a deliberate anagram is present.

    First, as Clark and Astley-Cock observe, "mente." is followed by a totally superfluous period in terms of Latin grammar and also flanked by the intriguing letters E and V.

     The present of such dots in a Latin motto is NOT a sign of an anagram, as Dickson would know if he had looked through Minerva Britanna. The Latin words are separated by periods that let us know when one word ends and the next begins. While Dickson calls the periods "superfluous," if he had paid more attention to them he would have realized that "ingenio" was a single word, because there was a period before the "in" but a hyphen after, and another period after "genio." There are periods after "vivitur," after "ingenio," after "erunt," after "mente" and after "videbor." To take only two of many examples, the emblems on pages 35 and 42 of the work also have Latin phrases containing "totally superfluous periods" that separate words: "EST.HAC.ALMVS.Honor," "TANTO.CLARIOR". The former motto is an anagram of the name "Thomas Chalonerus" while the latter is NOT an anagram. It is not the presence of dots that signals an anagram (since either anagrams on non-anagrams may contain dots) but the fact that both the name and the motto derived from its letters are given and clearly labeled "anagramma." The periods in these other mottos are flanked by such pairs of letters as T and H, C and A, S and H, and O and C, but to Dickson, these pairs are not all that "intriguing." It would appear that Dickson never bothered to look at anything in Peacham's book other than the title page. The image on the right shows three non-anagram mottos from an emblem on page 181. Notice that the words in each are separated by dots. The relative height of the dots, by the way, does not seem to be significant. Sometimes the dots are place near the top of the words, sometimes at mid-height, sometimes near the bottom.

    DICKSON: Second, if the writer was not writing an anagram, he would have either stopped at "mente videbor" which means "I shall be seen" or have continued on to write "mente videberis" which means "he shall be seen".

    Dickson's argument continues to rely on the presence of the phantom "I" after "MENTE VIDEBOR." In fact, as we have seen, there is no terminal "I." Peacham DID stop at "mente videbor"; so by Dickson's reasoning, there must not have been an anagram. Dickson's surmise that incorrect Latin would be an "obvious clue" for the presence of an anagram is strange, and shows, once again, that he has not looked into Peacham's book very carefully, if at all. For someone who plays skillfully with anagrams, like Peacham, grammatical errors are something to avoid: it would be cheating if the only way to get an anagram were to violate the normal standards of a language. We can actually see this standard at work by comparing two versions of an anagram on the name of Anne Dudley:

    Minerva BritannaAnna Dudleia.e l'nuda Diana.
    The Compleat GentlemanAnna Dudlaeia.E la nuda Diana.

    The first version is something of a cheat, because in Italian "la" is not properly contracted to "l'" before the letter "n"; the second version obeys the rules. In order to create the second version, Peacham rendered "Dudley" in Latin not as "Dudleia" but as the acceptable alternative "Dudlaeia." Thus it clearly mattered to Peacham that his anagrams were grammatically acceptable, and we may thus reject Dickson's claim that a blunder in Latin would be a sign of an anagram.

    We can see from his anagrams that Peacham thought it fair to substitute "I" for "J" and "U" for "V" and "W" for "VV" or "UU" or "UV" (and vice versa); the pairs "I/J" and "U/V" were indeed interchangeable in his time, and "W" was often rendered as "VV." Just what sort of anagrammatist Peacham was we can see by comparing his practice with the discussion offered by William Camden, in his 1605 Remains Concerning Britain

    The only Quint-essence that hitherto Alchimy of wit coulde draw out of names, is Anagrammatisme, or Metagrammatisme,a dissolution of a Name truly written into his Letters, as his Elements, and a new connection of it by artificial transposition, without addition, subtraction, or change of any letter into different words, making some perfect sense appliable to the person named

    The precise in this practice strictly observing all the partes of this definition, are onley bold with H either in omitting or retaining it, for that it cannot challenge the right of a letter. But the licentiats somewhat licentiously lest they should prejudice poeticall libertie, will pardon themselves for doubling or rejecting a letter, if the sence fall aptly, and thinke it no injury to use E for Ae, V for W, S for Z, and C for K, and contrariwise. (142)

    Peacham clearly is a "precise" anagrammatist rather than a "licentiat" in Camden's terms. The examples given by Camden also allow the "I/J," "U/V," and "W/VV/UU/UV" substitutions but not those extra changes that the licentious anagrammatists allowed themselves, and Peacham does not even avail himself of the optional "H" that Camden would permit.

    It is odd how seriously Oxfordians take the practice of anagramming. -- much more seriously than it seems to have been taken by Peacham. For Peacham, an anagram is a means of entertainment. It is a chance to display one's wit and amuse one's friends.

    In your discourse be free and affable, giving entertainment in a sweete and liberall maner, and with a cheerefull courtesie, seasoning your talk at the table among grave and serious discourses, with conceipts of wit and pleasant invention, as ingenious Epigrammes, Emblemes, Anagrammes, merry tales, witty questions and answers, Mistakings, as a melancholy Gentleman sitting one day at table, where I was, started up upon the suddaine, and meaning to say, "I must goe buy a dagger," by transposition of the letters, said: "Sir, I must go dye a begger." (The Compleat Gentleman, p. 196).
    What Peacham here calls "mistakings" we would now call "Spoonerisms" (the OED does not mention this meaning of "mistaking"). Peacham also enjoyed the odd palindrome, and anagrams for him are amusements of about the same level. Peacham was hardly idiosyncratic in regarding anagrams as a pleasant form of entertainment. We find anagrams treated similarly by George Puttenham in his 1589 Arte of English Poesie, a work that we know Peacham knew well:
    One other pretie conceit we will impart vnto you and then trouble you with no more, and is also borrowed primitiuely of the Poet, or courtly maker, we may terme him, the [posie transposed] or in one word [a transpose] a thing if it be done for pastime and exercise of the wit without superstition commendable inough and a meete study for Ladies, neither bringing them any great gayne nor any great losse vnlesse it be of idle time. They that vase it for pleasure is to breed one word out of another not altering any letter nor the number of them, but onely transposing of the same, wherupon many times is produced some grateful newes or matter to them for whose pleasure and seruice it was intended: and bicause there is much difficultie in it, and altogether standeth vpon hap hazard, it is compted for a courtly conceit no lesse then the deuice before remembred. (90)
    For Dickson, a suspected anagram is not the occasion to exercise one's wit in a pleasant diversion; rather it is very serious business indeed. He thinks Peacham meant to give us one

     All of the anagrams (with the exception of "Ich Dien"="Hic, Inde") are based on the names or titles persons, and the art is to come up with a phrase that is grammatically sensible, apt for the subject, and related to the emblem. An excellent example appears on page 42, which is dedicated "To the right worshipfull Sir Edmund Ashfield Knight." Below the dedication appears the name "Edmund Ashfield," and below the name is the motto "I fledd vnshamed." In the margin is the phrase "Anagramma Authoris," so we know that this anagram is Peacham's doing. The illustration shows a countryside with the sun rising on the left and clouds setting on the right. A scroll bears the motto "TANTO.CLARIOR" ("So much brighter"). Peacham's poem elaborates.

    Thus Ashfield, who "fled unshamed," has returned to brighten once more his friends' lives. All the elements of the page work together here: the mottos (both within and without the illustration), the anagram, the illustration, and the poem.

    DICKSON: However, the writer did not choose either of these grammatically correct options, and we know that Peacham knew his Latin. Instead, he stops abruptly after drawing one extra letter -- in this case, the letter "i" which is obviously desired to complete an anagram.

    It is correct to say that Peacham knew his Latin; Dickson is otherwise incorrect here. Again, the last "I" of "Videbori" that the Oxfordians insist upon simply isn't there. Most of Peacham's emblems are not anagrams, and those that are Peacham clearly (and proudly) labels and then explains. Dickson's essay is full of constructions such as "is obviously desired," which invariably signify that he is just making something up. Whatever he wishes were true is something that "obviously" must be so, and since it is "obvious" to Dickson, there is no need of evidence. What is unknown to (or at least unnoticed by) Dickson is that when the Peacham completed an anagram, he proudly let the reader know.

    DICKSON: Furthermore, the writer evidently did not wish to have to replace the "o" in "videbor" with an "e" which would have been required in proper Latin if he had proceeded to complete "videberis" with the final "s".

    "Videbor" is perfectly proper Latin: first person future passive indicative -- "I shall be seen."

    DICKSON: Thus, Peacham deemed an extra "i" and the retention of the letter "o" essential to convey something about the writer, in this case his true identity.

    On the contrary: Peacham's name appears in large letters on the title page, thereby conveying his true identity to the reader. If anyone misses the name there, it is also signed to the dedication, epistle, and Peacham's Latin panegyric to Prince Henry; and it appears in large letters on the title page for part 2 of the work. The commendatory poems also mention Peacham's name. Neither Peacham nor anybody else in Minerva Britanna ever refers to Edward de Vere.

    DICKSON: There can be no question that a deliberate calculation was made to fudge the Latin inscription to create an anagram. For otherwise, the writer would simply have stopped with "videbor" or gone on to write "videberis".

    Note the construction "there can be no question," which is another way of saying, "I have no evidence but I really really really need to believe." Peacham did indeed stop with "videbor" (or, more precisely, with the dot that follows the word). "Videberis mente" wouldn't make much sense, given the nature of Peacham's project. Why should he tell the reader, "You will be seen in the mind?"

    DICKSON: Our analysis which refines that originally developed by Clark and Astley-Cock leads to a virtually unavoidable decipherment in this anagram concerning the writer's true identity:
    or, Thy Name is De Vere.

    There are several problems with this "virtually unavoidable decipherment."

    1. Avoiding the "decipherment" is perfectly easy. Since it is not labeled as an anagram, and since Peacham has not provided the "decipherment," there is no reason to suppose that there is any anagram at all.
    2. The "decipherment" makes use of an extra "I" that does not appear in "mente videbor." Peacham's genuine anagrams use all and only the letters in the name or title being anagrammed (with the allowable interchanges of "I" and "J", "U" and "V", and "W" and "UU" or "VV" or "UV.")
    3. When Peacham uses someone's name in a Latin poem or epigram, he gives the Latin version of the name, not the English: John Dowland is "Iohannes Doulandus." The Latin form of Oxford's family name is not "de Vere" but "Verus."
    4. The Clark/Dickson "decipherment" requires the use of an abbreviation "nom." for "nomen." Peacham never in his genuine anagrams uses abbreviations, nor do his sources and models Puttenham and Camden in their anagrams.
    5. With the sole exception of "Ich Dien"="Hic, Inde," all of Peacham's anagrams are based on the names or titles of people. He never includes such superfluous paddings as "thy name is." Thus he builds anagrams on "Henricvs Hovvardvs Comes Northamptonensis" not on "Tibi nom Hovvardvs"; on "Robertvs Caecilivs" not on "Tibi nom Caecilivs"; on "Elisabetha Steuarta" not on "Tibi nom Steuarta." If he had constructed an anagram for Oxford he would have used something like "Edvvardvs Vervs Comes Oxfordiensis."

    DICKSON: We do not believe that the crucial portion of this anagram, the residual six letters DEVERE, can be jumbled in any other way to yield the name of any other known or recognizable literary figure of the period who needed to avoid using his real name for whatever reason.

    There is no reason to think any part of it is an anagram. Peacham clearly labels his anagrams, and they all follow certain standards of fair play (as well as grammar and meaningfulness) that the proposed Oxfordian anagram violates. There is (it should be needless to say) no reason to think that Oxford avoided using his real name for any literary endeavor. Nor is there anything in Minerva Britanna that could be taken as a reference to Oxford. He is the subject of no anagrams, epigrams, or poems in the work.

    Nevertheless, it is certainly possible to "jumble" the letters in all sorts of ways, if one wishes. Peacham himself provides two anagrams on "Theodosia Dixon" and six anagrams on "Amie Mordaunt."

    DICKSON: Therefore, barely a decade before publishing The Complete Gentleman, at the zenith of the cult of Prince Henry, who revered Shakespeare's works, Peacham had already hinted on the title page of his work Minerva Britanna (1612) that an important English writer's identity was hidden or concealed for some mysterious reason, and that this writer's name was Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford.

    To summarize: Dickson is wrong about almost everything here. He is right that the book appeared a decade before The Compleat Gentleman. That Prince Henry "revered Shakespeare's works" is something that would be nice to believe, but there is nothing in Peacham's book to suggest that he was aware of any such reverence. As for what Dickson takes to be a "hint"on the title page, I have shown how Dickson's analysis has been wrong in just about every particular. Dickson misread two of the Latin mottos on the page and missed the third. He offers suggestions for identifying and solving anagrams that violate Peacham's own standards. His proposed "solution" requires the use of a phantom "I" that does not appear in Peacham, and elements of the "nom" and "de Vere" -- would have been used by Peacham the way Dickson wishes. While there are emblems on the title page of Minerva Britanna, they have no relevance to the Oxford view or, indeed, to the authorship of Shakespeare's plays at all, but are, rather, part of Peacham's declaration and hope in this work that he is a poet and artist whose work will be of lasting value. Peacham no doubt overestimated his own gifts, but he at least know how to go about constructing proper anagrams.

    It is a sign of the monomania such as Dickson that since they see the English Renaissance reflected in the funhouse mirror of Oxfordianism, they assume that everybody who lived at that time did as well. Thus, poor Henry Peacham cannot be allowed to make any claims for himself, to declare his own poetic and artistic ambitions. Rather his efforts must be "contextualized" in such a way that the only purpose of his existence was to leave "hints" about Oxford's supposed authorship of Shakespeare's works. That Dickson's work is so inept makes it easy to refute, and both the outlandishness of his opinions and the slipshod way he tries to support them offer a powerful temptation for us to laugh at him and all who fall for his claims. Such laughter may be good for the belly, but it is bad for the soul. The true victim of Dickson is not his reader (anyone who is persuaded by Dickson has only himself to blame), and is not even Shakespeare (there is no chance that the Oxfordian "case" will ever achieve respectability, let alone general acceptance) but Peacham.

    The importance of the periods was pointed out by Astley-Cock in a passage that Dickson, who claims to have relied on Astley-Cock's analysis, somehow overlooked:
    for IN GENIO should be read INGENIO. While "in" is a preposition governing the Ablative case, here it is only the conventional folding of a scroll which makes IN appear as a preposition; actually it is a first syllable. Furthermore, two salient points in the lettering have been overlooked: the periods after VIVITUR and INGENIO, showing that the words are completed, and the double hyphens after VIVI and IN, showing that the words are continued. [312]
    While Astley-Cock makes a number of errors that Dickson repeats, he should not be held responsible for Dickson's being baffled by the presence of periods marking the ends of words. For Peacham an anagram is a means of entertainment. It is a chance to display one's wit and amuse one's friends. Don't take my word for it -- take Peacham's: "In your discourse be free and affable, giving entertainment in a sweete and liberall maner, and with a cheerefull courtesie, seasoning your talk at the table among grave and serious discourses, with conceipts of wit and pleasant invention, as ingenious Epigrammes, Emblemes, Anagrammes, merry tales, witty questions and answers, Mistakings, as a melancholy Gentleman sitting one day at table, where I was, started up upon the suddaine, and meaning to say, "I must goe buy a dagger," by transposition of the letters, said: "Sir, I must go dye a begger." (*The Compleat Gentleman*, p. 196). What Peacham here calls "mistakings" we would now call "Spoonerisms" (the OED does not mention this meaning of "mistaking"). Peacham also enjoyed the odd palindrome, and anagrams for him are amusements of about the same level. > If you and others honestly take the position that there is *nothing* > about that cover that indicates a possible anagram, then you are > ostriches. One can, with a bit of trouble, find anagrams everywhere. "Mark Alexander" is an anagram of "dark renal exam," but the anagram sheds no light on Mark or others of his kidney. Henry Peacham's name is an anagram of "hyphen camera," the device used by Oxfordians to show that "Shake-speare" was not "Shakespeare." If we add Peacham's title "Mr. of Artes," we get a stunning comment on last year's issue of a once proud magazine: "Henry Peacham, Mr. of Artes" = "Harper's: cheater of my man." Anagramming may be a pleasant diversion (there are several skilled practitioners on this newsgroup); but there's no reason to think Peacham thought it more important than that. Demon Bit Vere. Vere, Omit Bend. Vere: No Dim Bet Vere? Be Not Dim! End It, Vere Mob! Peter Dickson: picked tenors, opened tricks, direct spoken, skeptic drone, nicer desktop, stricken dope, respect no kid. Eva Turner Clark: Ultra Vere Crank.
    By reversing the picture, we find that the unseen dramatic author is writing Mente vide bori (By the mind shall I be seen).
    Here Clark has made the fundamental error whose ramifications haunt Oxfordianism to this day. A close look at what the hand is writing shows that it reads, as Smedley had said, "MENTE VIDEBOR" What Clark takes for the final "I" of the nonexistent Latin word "VIDEBORI" is a dot marking the end of the word, and part of the pen that is writing the dot. Here is an enlargement of this part of the emblem which has been turned upside-down so that the pen and the writing will be easier to see. There is no such form in Latin as "videbori"; Clark's translation of the motto, which is almost identical to that offered by Smedley, is a reasonable rendering of "mente videbor."

    In the absence of a key, any lengthy sequence of letters with the normal proportions of high, medium, and low-frequency vowels and consonants may be anagrammed in a large number of ways. Hence there may be as many "solutions" as the solver's ingenuity can produce and each will be as valid as any other, but none will carry any objective conviction. There is always room for doubt unless the man who composed the anagram recreates his own message from it; for only he knows for certain what message he intended to conceal. (Friedmans 113)