SOUTHAMPTON, Henry WRIOTHESLEY, Third Earl of (1573-1624). Autograph letter signed ("Earl of Southampton") to an unknown recipient, n.d. [ca. 1624]. 1 page, folio, very fine. Quarter morocco slipcase.
A REMARKABLE LETTER FROM SHAKESPEARE'S PATRON, written on the eve of a final, fatal, military adventure: leading a British force to the Low Countries in 1624. "After many stoppes & delayes," he writes, "we are now ready to leavy [levy] our men for the low countries and our drumes shall beate I think within too [two] days, wee now stay only for that which in matters of this nature is the principall virtoe mony, without which we can entertayne no men, you know no part of the subsidies is yett come in & our counsell of warr are troubled to advance so much as will serve for the leavy, which though it be no great somme being not above £5,000 that will doe it, yet our Treasurers are wary that they will not engage themselves for so much but I think Burlimach [?] will furnish it & that once had wee shall goe on, if your lordship recomend any one to me to goe I will take as good care of them as I can & for their entertayment--though it be not great will see it justly payed..."
Under the terms of a treaty with the Netherlands, England was to supply a 6,000-man force to aid the Dutch in war against the Spanish. Southampton, with his son, James, took command of the expeditionary force, but both succumbed to an unspecified illness. Southampton died on 10 November 1624, an undramatic end to a life filled with boisterous adventures in the world of politics, literature, and arms. He fought against the Spanish in the Calais expedition in 1596, and nearly lost his head in the aborted Essex plot of 1600 (into which he recklessly dragged Shakespeare's Globe Company). Most of Shakespeare's sonnets are presumed to have been addressed to Southampton. His letters are rare.