Two months after The first publication of Willobie His Avisa The Affectionate Shepherd was published.
This was one of the most controversial books of the Elizabethan era and instantly became a scandalous best seller.
This was first published anonymously but another two months later The young poet Richard Barnfield would formally claim authorship.
The book is of major interest to us because it runs a parallel narrative to Willobie his Avisa , but also because the book was personally dedicated to Penelope Rich.
The book is without question a libel on Penelope Rich.
The dedication is very ambiguous and sarcastically likens Penelope Rich to Vesta the Goddess of chastity. A furthur passage in the book states that Astrophil 's unrequited love for Stella had lead him to despair and ruin.
Penelope Rich would have immediately recognized that this was an insulting reference to herself.
The book then launches into a diatribe of homoerotic verse and describes the authors complaint about the aggressive courting of a young man by an older beautiful woman. We immediately recognize that this is a parallel narrative to the H.W dialog in Willobie his Avisa.
We also recognise that this is the Elizabethan equivalent of a writer thumbing his nose at an aristocrat.
The book demonstrates that Barnfield WAS a libel writer who used an ironic writing style and who had a grudge against Penelope Rich.
I am entirely certain that Richard Barnfield had a significant part in writing the libel Willobie his Avisa.
In claiming The Affectionate Shepherd as his own work Barnfield was taking a significant risk.
There was every possibility that the book would incense either Penelope Rich's brother Robert Devereux or Charles Blount these men were the two leading soldiers of Elizabethan England and Devereux was known to have had a violent and unpredictable temper.
How was Barnfield able to escape their wrath ? was he being protected ? Barnfield's writing career was very short I suspect he was threatened into silence by Essex circle members.
In this book Barnfield left very clear encriptions in the text that are dedicated to Henry Wriothsley. These encriptions are still visible today over $00 years later.