An aspect of the Oxfordian case which deserves special attention before undertaking detailed
examination of Shake-Speare's Sonnets
(1609) as evidence is the matter of special devotion
subsisting between the 3rd Earl of Southampton Henry Wriothesley (1574-1624), and
a devotion manifested by the dedication of two narrative poems, Venus and
(1593) and Rape of Lucrece
(1594), to this remarkable young nobleman. Despite his
primary importance in the Shakespeare story, scholars have failed to document any plausible
connection between "Shakespeare" and Southampton outside of these literary signs of
Shakespeare's intimacy with him. Even Southampton's biographer Charlotte Stopes, in a lifetime
of research, failed to discover any tangible connection between "Shakespeare" and Southampton
outside the literary documents of the poems.
Southampton's links to de Vere, on the contrary, are manifest and manifold. Like de Vere,
Wriothesley was raised as a court ward by Lord Burghley after the death of the second Earl, a
devoted Catholic, in 1581. As he had done with de Vere, furthermore, Burghley seized the
opportunity of his legal and administrative control over the young ward to arrange a profitable
marriage liaison within his own clan. By 1591 Southampton was betrothed to marry Oxford's
oldest daughter Elizabeth, Burghley's granddaughter by the alleged "bed trick" in 1576.
Naturally Looney recognized in this relationship between de Vere -- prospective father-in-law
-- and Southampton -- prospective son-in-law -- a personal link of the most potent circumstantial
nature, tending to confirm his suspicion of de Vere's secret identity as the "real Shakespeare.
This engagement was in force during the peak production of Shakespeare's Sonnets --
written to a "fair youth" identified by most experts of the period, including Looney, as