Sunday, April 10, 2011

Honourable Disposition - Rape of Lucrece dedication

Honourable Disposition - Rape of Lucrece dedication

Did Francis Bacon write the dedications in the long poems Venus and Adonis, and The Rape of Lucrece? Some evidence supports this possibility.

Here are just a few points in his favor. Here's the dedication to The Rape of Lucrece:

   To the Right Honourable
Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton
   and Baron of Titchfield

The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet
without beginning is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your
Honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it
assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours, what I have to do is
yours, being part in all I have devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my
duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship,
to whom I wish long life still lengthened with all happiness.
   Your Lordship's in all duty,
   William Shakespeare

According to Cockburn (1998) this dedication and the one for Venus and Adonis are in Bacon's style. Both are sophisticated, brilliant, pithy. Most Elizabethan prose dedications are longer, but Bacon liked to keep his short, except when offered to the King. Both Dedications display Bacon's obsession with antithesis. In the dedication to Venus and Adonis is the phrase "so strong a prop to support so weak a burden".  In the one for The Rape of Lucrece there is "The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet without beginning . . ."

There is also a parallel expression in the Lucrece dedication that Bacon uses too. This is "honourable disposition". In two letters that he used this expression he was asking for favors, just as is the purpose of the Shake-speare dedications.  In a letter of 1593 to Robert Cecil, Bacon says "I know you bear that honourable disposition as it will rather give you apprehension to deal more effectively for me than otherwise." And in a letter of 1597 to Lord Keeper Egerton he starts a letter saying "May it please your honourable good Lordship," and then speaks of "of your Lordship's honourable disposition both generally and to me." Thus in both letters he uses "honourable disposition" to mean "favourable disposition". He uses these two words "honourable" and "disposition" in many letters in which he is asking for some type of favor.

Cockburn asks "Does the expression "honourable disposition" appear elsewhere in Elizabethan literature? And at the same time to mean "favourable disposition"?

Since Bacon was a commoner at the time of the two poems it was appropriate for him to address the Earl of Southampton asking for patronage, since Bacon was poor.  Also, Southampton had been brought up by Bacon's aunt Mildred and the Earl had just come into a large inheritance.

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