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JOHN FLORIO’S HOLOGRAPHIC WILL: AN ANALYSIS

by Resolute John Florio

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT OF JOHN FLORIO WITH THE SEAL OF HIS ARMS, HIS HANDWRITING, THE CORRECTIONS, AND MUCH MORE.

“…unbound volume of divers collections and rapsodies…”


On July 20 1625, at 72 years old, John Florio wrote his testament. This website published the original document of his will owned by The National Archives of London with a full transcript. This document, however, was written by a professional secretary at the Court of Canterbury, not by John Florio. Now you can look at John Florio’s holographic will, handwritten by John Florio himself, with the seal of his arms, his handwriting, the corrections made by Florio, and the differences between the original manuscript written by him and the one transcribed by the Court.

JOHN FLORIO’S HOLOGRAPHIC WILL: FLORIO’S HANDWRITING

John Florio possessed different handwritings he used in different professional contexts. The Italian hand was used principally for the manuscript of his works; the secretary hand was mainly employed when he worked as secretary of Michel de Castelnau (1583-1585), Henry Wriothesley (1589/91- 1598) and Queen Anna of Denmark (1604 – 1619). His personal hand, small, neat and beautiful, was mainly used for annotations, private letters, and in this case, for his testament.

A detailed analysis of his testament can be read here. This article, instead, will focus on Florio’s handwriting and other curiosities concerning his testament.

One of the most interesting subject concerning the original manuscript is indeed his handwriting: small, neat, and beautiful:

John Florio's holographic will
– John Florio’s Holographic Will –
[Licensing and Reproduction: This document is copyrighted by The National Archives and it cannot be downloaded, shared or resold without their permission.]

JOHN FLORIO’S WILL: THE SEAL OF HIS ARM

In all the four pages of his testament, Florio applied the “usual seal of my arm”, the sun with the rays, which also appears in his portrait:

John Florio's holographic will
– John Florio’s Holographic Will, the Seal of his Arm-
[Licensing and Reproduction: This document is copyrighted by The National Archives and it cannot be downloaded, shared or resold without their permission.]
John Florio's holographic will
– John Florio’s Holographic Will , The sun with rays –
[Licensing and Reproduction: This document is copyrighted by The National Archives and it cannot be downloaded, shared or resold without their permission.]

JOHN FLORIO’S HOLOGRAPHIC WILL: TEXTUAL DIFFERENCES

There are some differences between the original will handwritten by John Florio and the document transcribed by the prerogative court of Canterbury in 1625.

The main differences concern the textual variants of the will. To better differentiate the two documents, I will define Florio’s holographic will as “W1” and the testament transcribed by the Court as “W2”.

W1: my mercifull sauiour and Redeemer, and of God the holy ghoste, three persons, and one euer-living and omnipotent God in unitie and Trinitie, my most-louing Comforter and Preseruer; Amen.

W1: memorie, heartie, well-remembring, certaine, uncertaine, principaly, penitently-sorrowefull, belieuing, blood, forgiuenesse, transitorie, most-blessed, ordre, heere-under, iewels, house-holde, saie, verie, povertie, anie thing els, ink-horne, dust-box, dictionarie, (as a iewell fitt for a Prince), memorie, anie, extreamitie, monie-worth, houshold-stuff, dearely-beloued, truely-honest, ouer-seers,  greene-veluet, for-ever, importunitie, golde-ring, leaden-ceastern, candle-cup, deliberation,

W2: my mercifull Savyor and in Unity & .Irinity my most loving Comforter and preserver Amen.

W2: memory, hearty, well remembring, certayne, uncertayne, principally, penetently sorrowfull, beleeuing, bloud, forgiuenes, transitory, most blessed, order, heere undernamed, jewells, houshold, say, very, poverty, anything els, inkehorne, dust box, dictionary, as a jewell fit for a Prince, memory, any, extremity, monie worth, houshold stuffe, deerly beloued, truely honest, ouer seers, green velvet, for ever, importunity, gold ring, leaden Ceastern, candle cup, deliberacon,

Between W1 and W2 there is a difference concerning textuality, compounds, parenthesis, as well as commas.

JHON, ANNA, ROSA.

There are also other curiosities: the name John is always written as “Jhon” in W1, while “John” in W2:

John Florio's holographic will
John Florio’s Holographic Will, “Jhon” Florio
[Licensing and Reproduction: This document is copyrighted by The National Archives and it cannot be downloaded, shared or resold without their permission.]
John Florio's holographic will
John Florio’s Holographic Will , “Jhon” Florio
[Licensing and Reproduction: This document is copyrighted by The National Archives and it cannot be downloaded, shared or resold without their permission.]

Moreover, Queen Anne of Denmark, frequently mentioned in the will, is mentioned as Anna in W1 (as she loved to call herself), not Anne, as in W2.

John Florio's holographic will
John Florio’s Holographic Will , “Queene Anna”
[Licensing and Reproduction: This document is copyrighted by The National Archives and it cannot be downloaded, shared or resold without their permission.]

ROSE SPICER

Furthermore, his wife is mentioned as Rose in W1, and as Rosa in W2, in the Latin signature approved one year later, 1626.

John Florio's holographic will
John Florio’s Holographic will: Rosa Florio
Licensing and Reproduction: This document is copyrighted by The National Archives and it cannot be downloaded, shared or resold without their permission.]

John Florio married Rose Spicer in 1617, at 64 years old. It is not certain when his first wife died, but after 1588 he stopped having children, and when he moved at Titchfield between 1589-1591 under the patronage of Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton, he was already a widower. In the will, Florio mentions his first wife when citing his daughter Aurelia. His only surviving daughter Aurelia Molins was a successful and well-known midwife, apprenticed to William Clowes, surgeon to Elizabeth I. He gives her the “wedding ring wherewith I married her mother.” This means he kept the ring, which implies he had a happy marriage wit her. So she probably died due to illness, maybe plague, along with their other children. In the will, Florio mentions his “beloved wife Rose” and regrets that he “cannot give or leave her more in requital of her tender love, loving care, painful diligence, and continual labour to me in all my fortunes and many sicknesses, than whom never had husband a more loving wife, painful nurse, and comfortable consort.” These words indicate a conjugal relations covering a much longer period than the eight years between his formal marriage in 1617 and his death in 1625. The term “all my fortunes” certainly implies a connection between them antedating Florio’s sixty four year. So it is most likely that he had evidently lived in concubinage for many years and finally married her in 1617, only eight years before his death.

JOHN FLORIO’S WILL: CORRECTIONS AND BLANK SPACES

In the first page of the will, Florio corrects “wretched life” with “wretched bodie”:

John Florio's holographic will
john flJohn Florio’s Holographic Will , “wretched life”
[Licensing and Reproduction: This document is copyrighted by The National Archives and it cannot be downloaded, shared or resold without their permission.]

When he mentions his servant, Artur, he leaves a blank space:

john florio's holographic will
John Florio’s Holographic Will , blank space
[Licensing and Reproduction: This document is copyrighted by The National Archives and it cannot be downloaded, shared or resold without their permission.]

The stupid wastefulness and carelessness of James I brought the Exchequer to suspend all the pensions of the Queen’s servants, John Florio included. For this very reason, Florio didn’t receive the pension that he deserved from the Crown, and lived the retirement years struggling to control his debts.

John Florio’s last will is the diary of a literary man who spent the last years of his life in “poverty” (however, he could still afford a servant), surrounded by his beloved books, small tokens of affections, few trusted friends, constantly worried about old enemies, and with some secrets.

JOHN FLORIO’S WILL, THE SEQUEL: EXECUTORS & THE MANUSCRIPTS

The executors of Florio’s will were Richard Cluet, vicar and preacher at Fulham, and bishop Theophilus Field. It has been suggested that Florio, in his declining years, became religious under the influence of Field, and subsequently named him as executor of his will. It should be noted, however, that Florio most certainly knew Field because he was in the circle of the Pembroke’s family. He was, in fact, principally known not as bishop, but as poet.

Baptized at Cripplegate Church, 22 January 1574, Theophilus was the elder brother of Nathaniel Field, one of the principal actors in Shakespeare’s plays, as enumerated at the commencement of the First Folio edition of his works, 1623.

Nathaniel Field became his career as apprentices to printers and stationers. It seems there is no relationship between Nathaniel Field, the actor, and Richard Field, the printer, but they were neighbours, living in the same small liberty of the Blackfriars.

Nathaniel also played a principal part in Ben Jonson’s Cynthia’s Revels, Poetaster, Epicoene, and in Chapman’s Bussy d’Ambois. He was a great favourite with Jonson, who considered him quite equal to Burbage. In Bartholomew Fair we find the following passage:

Cokes. Which is your Burbage now?

Leath. What mean you by that, sir?

Cokes. Your best actor, your Field?

Lit. Good, i’ faith! tou are even with me, sir.

Leath. This is he, that acts young Leander, sir; he is extremely beloved of the womankind, they do so affect his action, the green gamesters, that come here!

He was a married man, and of a very jealous disposition, and therefore liked playing Othello. He had a family and died in 1632-3 after having for some time retired from the stage.

The dates of the births of both Theophilus and Nathaniel can be seen at page 207 of Memoirs of the Principal Actors in the Plays of Shakespeare published by the Shakespeare Society in 1896. Theophilus was a poet, and in 1600 edited and contributed to a collection of verses on the death of Oratio Pallavicino, dedicated to his widow.

Theophilus Field and Richard Cluet renounced the execution of Florio’s will, and on June 1st, 1626, a commission was issued to Rose Florio, the widow, to execute. A note in Latin to this effect follows the will, which can be seen below:

John Florio’s Holographic Will , Secretary hand in Latin
[Licensing and Reproduction: This document is copyrighted by The National Archives and it cannot be downloaded, shared or resold without their permission.]

I have proceeded to transcribe the secretary hand in Latin. Below, you can read both the original in Latin and its English translation:

On the margin, crossed out: 1 Iunii 1626. Iurata rosa Florio, coram me.

Primo die, mensis Iunii. Anno Domini 1626.

Emanavit comissio Rosae Fflorio, relictae Iohannis Fflorio miper* de Ffulcham in comitem Midd* eius defhentem ad administrandum bona, iura et eredita dicti defuncti iuxta tenorem et effectum testamenti eiusdem defuncti, euo quod reverendust in Christo pater Theophilus promissione Landavensis episcopus et Bartholomeus Olvet, sacre theologie professor, in dicto testamento nominati, ex certis causis eos et amministratoes suos in ea parte iuste morientis oneri executionis testamenti predicti ex presente renuntiarunt, et ex auctoritate Curie plenius liquet de bene Christo iurat. 

crossed out: Iohannes

Blasii

The name of the Earl of Pembroke is marked with Midd, certainly an authoritative and publicly known name, to such an extent that it was not necessary for the notary and the parties of the document to write the name in full. After Iohannis Fflorio, however, before the provenance, there is a word transcribed with nuper, nupar, miper, mipar. If it were a conjunction, it would be simply transcribable, but being included in the name/provenience I cannot exclude that it has another nominal or attributive value. Here is the translation into English:

It is noted, the commission of Rosa Florio, legal heir of John Florio * of Fulham, in company of her defender (guardian) in the administration of the property of the rights and the estate of the said deceased and in accordance with the terms and for the effects of the will of the same deceased, whereby the Reverend Father in Christ Theophilus Field Bishop of Landaffe and Richard Cluet Professor of Sacred Theology, in the said will appointed, for certain reasons its administrators for the right obligations arising from the execution of the said will of the deceased, immediately renounced and by virtue of the full and clear authority of the Court swear in Christ to the property (to be administered).

Crossed out: Iohannes

Blasii

According to Yates, the refusal to execute almost certainly postulates a refusal on the part of the Earl of Pembroke to accept the legacy or to make himself responsible fo the publication of Florio’s manuscripts, adding that:

“Two years before Florio made his will, Heminge and Condell had dedicated the works of the late William Shakespeare to the Earl of Pembroke and his brother. Certainly these manuscripts of Florio’s were never published under Pembroke’s auspices.”

Yates, F., John Florio, the life of an Italian in Shakespeare’s England, p. 316

Florio desired these books and manuscripts to be placed in Pembroke’s library, either at Wilton or Baynard’s Castle in London, and begged the Earl to protect his wife from the molestation of his enemies, and to hand over to her any profit arising from the publication of his manuscripts.

It is certain that the Pembroke refused Florio’s request, but at certain point, he possessed Florio’s manuscripts, as it is well known that he handed over some material to Torriano, who edited Florio’s Italian-English dictionary in 1659, adding and English-Italian part. What he did of the rest of the “unbound volume of divers collections and rapsodies” is, still today, a mystery.

I have proceeded to transcript John Florio’s holographic will, respecting the text, lines, punctuation, order, and pages, without any variation. You can freely download and read the text below.

JOHN FLORIO’S HOLOGRAPHIC WILL – Download the text below.


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“John Florio’s holographic will: an analysis” by Marianna Iannaccone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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