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  • Print publication year: 1969
  • Online publication date: March 2007

William Hervey and Shakespeare’s Sonnets


Many suggestions have been made about the identity of ‘Mr W. H.’ in the Dedication to Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Amongst the candidates occurs the name of William Hervey, third husband of Mary, Countess of Southampton, the mother of Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl. The Countess died in 1607 and the suggestion is that she, the Earl’s mother, would have been a natural collector of the Sonnets addressed to her son and that her husband, William Hervey, sole executor of her will, may have come across the Sonnets amongst her papers and passed them on to Thomas Thorpe.

Little is known about Hervey and both Dr Rowse and the D.N.B. are in error; the first of making him a member of a 'good Kent family' and the second by confusing him with two cousins who served in Ireland, Gawen and Roger Hervey. The facts so far published are that he distinguished himself against the Armada in 1588, was knighted at Cadiz in 1596, sailed on the Islands Voyage in 1597, married the Countess of Southampton in 1598 or thereabouts, served in Ireland, remarried in 1608, was raised to a Baronetcy in 1619, was created Baron Hervey of Rosse in Ireland in 1620 and Baron Hervey of Kidbrook in Kent in 1628 and that he died in 1642 and was buried in St Edmund's Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

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Shakespeare Survey
  • Volume 21: Othello, with an Index to Surveys 11-20
  • Edited by Kenneth Muir
  • Online ISBN: 9781139053013
  • Book DOI:
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