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“Michael Cavendish’s” 14 Airs in Tablature to the Lute (1598)


This article is part of A Comparative Study of Byrd Songs: Volume 17 of the British Renaissance Re-Attribution and Modernization (BRRAM) series. Volume 17 offers evidence to re-assign the authorship of the 29 texts in William Byrd’s linguistic group. Volumes 1-2 of the series present a new computational-linguistic attribution method that reassigns all of the tested 303 texts from the British Renaissance to a Workshop of only six ghostwriters: Byrd, William Percy, Josuah Sylvester, Gabriel Harvey, Richard Verstegan and Gabriel Harvey. This article is a fragment from Volume 17 that presents new evidence, beyond the quantitative linguistics, for one of the Byrd re-assignments, “Michael Cavendish’s” Airs (1598), together with a modernizing translation of a representative sample of poetry from the linguistically-tested text. Airs is a rarely commented on work that tends to appear in studies of the self-plagiarisms within it, or between it and other texts. Only a single private copy of Airs has survived; this closeting is likely to have been the result of its dedication addressing Lady Arbella, who repeatedly unsuccessfully plotted with the Cavendishes and Percys to gain the British throne, first after Elizabeth I’s reign, and then after James I’s. The dedication appears to have been a propagandistic marker of support during Arbella’s attempt in 1609 to marry Seymour to challenge James I’s claim, which ended with Arbella’s imprisonment and premature death. The Airs book is likely to have been published to encourage this effort and was probably closeted and had its title-page backdated to 1598 when the attempt failed. Additionally, a comparative study is included in the Appendix between a poem in Airs and a translation of a song it echoes from Giovanni Croce.