King Lear Aethiopian Historie Dedication Vere 1569

William Farina notes that a key source of King Leir (1594) / King Lear (Redux) and Philip Sidney’s Arcadia is An Aethiopian Historie by Heliodorus, translated by Thomas Underdowne in 1569 (reprinted many times). Underdowne dedicated his book to 19 year old Edward de Vere (in contrast, not one book was dedicated to Stratford businessman Guillem Shaksper):


To the Right Honourable Edwarde Deuiere
Lord Great Chamberlain of England

Thomas Underdowne wisheth long and blessed life, with increase of honour.

They somewhat be more precise than I, (right honourable Earle) which would have noble men, and such as beare sway and rule in the weale publike, to be in all manner of sciences great Artistes, and altogether bookish, so doe I farre dissent from them that would have them unlettered and flat idiots, for the bookish man busily attending his owne study cannot carrfully enough tender the state. For such is the property of knowledge, that it breedeth a contempt of al other things in respect of it selfe. As for the ignorant it is most evident and plaine, that he can have no manner of governance, or skill of raiment in his head.

The Greekes in all manner of knowledge and learning, did farre surmount the Romanes, but the Romanes in administering their state, in warlike faetes, and in conmion sense were much their superiours, for the Greekes were wedded to their learning alone, the Romanes content with a mediocritie, applyed themselves to greater things. I doe not deny, but that in many matters, I meane matters of learning, a noble man ought to have a sight, but to be too much addicted that way, I think it is not good. Now of al knowledge fit for a noble gentleman, I suppose the knowledge of histories is most seeming.

For furthering whereof, I have englished a passing fine and witty historye, written in Greeke by Heliodorus, and for right good cause consecrated the same to your honourable Lordship. For such vertues be in your honour, so hauty courage jojmed with great skill, such sufficiencie in learning, so good nature and common sense, that in your honour is, I thinke, expressed the right pateme of a noble gentleman, which in my head I have conceived, it nothing did dismay me, or for that I was not knowen to your honour, neither may it seeme any rash attempt for that cause. For such is the force of vertue, that she maketh us to love, not onely our owne Countreymen by sight unknowen, but also strangers, which by lande and sea be severed from.

Therefore I beseech your honour favourably to accept this my small travel in translating Heliodorus, which I have so well translated as he is woorthy, I am perswaded, that your Honor will lyke very well of. Sure I am that of other translatours he hath been dedicated to mighty Kinges and Princes.

Therefore accept my good wil (honourable Earle) and if opportunitie shall serve hereafter, there shall greater thinges appeare under your Honours name.

Almighty God geve you increase of honour, and keepe and defende you for ever and ever.

Your honours most humble to commaunde.

Thomas Underdowne

Internet Archive

See also Michael Delahoyde:


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