Who Was The Mysterious Mr W.H.?
A sonnet is poetry of fourteen lines in which a pattern of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable is repeated five times. Shakespeare's sonnets are a collection of 154 of these poems. They embrace such themes as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality,and were first published in 1609.
For years there has been speculation that the sonnets provide an insight into the personality of Shakespeare. In my humble opinion, however, if they are Shakespeare’s, they were written to order – commissioned by various people for different purposes, and the clients’ identities quite possibly were unknown to the author.
There is the famous dedication to Mr W.H. But who can Mr W.H. be?
The favourite is oft touted as William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and almost as oft dismissed because of the title Mr.
Conventional wisdom says the begetter was an untitled man.
This is the dedication. It was probably intended to resemble an ancient Roman lapidary inscription.
So we are looking for an untitled man who is an adventurer and who wishes at wells – ah, and with a Roman connection.
Could the well be Coventina’s Well near Carrawburgh on Hadrian's Wall? Coventina was the Romano-British goddess of wells and springs. Does the term adventurer refer to an indefatigable ‘singular lover of venerable and learned with all’ collector of books, manuscripts and Roman inscribed stones?
I think there is a red herring in this mystery. The red herring is that Mr W.H. has come down to us in history as a lord, but Lord was merely a courtesy title, assumed by him because he was a younger son of a Duke. He was not a peer of the realm.
This ‘Lord’s’ home was Naworth Castle in Cumbria, where Hadrian’s Wall crosses the castle grounds, and it stands close to the Roman fort at Birdsowald. His descendants built Castle Howard in Yorkshire, and Sir Walter Scott called him Belted Will.
Belted WillHis Name: Lord William Howard.
There is, however, at least one flaw with this theory. The flaw is that if Lord William Howard was Mr W.H., then the sonnets might not be written by the author we know as William Shakespeare. Could they be a collection of work by Henry Howard, Earl of Suffolk, and Sir Thomas Wyatt? Henry Howard was William Howard’s grandfather. He and Sir Thomas Wyatt, his friend (or maybe they were the rival poets of the sonnets), were the first English poets to write in the sonnet form that Shakespeare later used. Sir Thomas and William Howard’s grandfather became known as the ‘Fathers of the English Sonnet’.
Anne Boleyn inspired Wyatt’s poetry. Is the Dark Lady of the sonnets Anne?
Copyright Mark Thomas-James
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