4 October 1981
thanks for your nice letter. Sorry about this all too prompt and bulky a rejoinder. But bombardment seems a natural way of seeking to extend the range of the canon. (it took me some time too to see why the TLS vignette showed a cannon, even as the perpetrator of the pun thus illustrated!). And I promise not to bother you again for a bit, because I'm battling with the page proofs of a newly revised and augmented edition of the Works and Tragical History of our mutual friend Hugo Wolf (who still seems to twenty years after, to be a creator of truly Shakespearean stature and who like Schubert and Keats and a few others was arguably a greater achiever than Shakespeare within a given time‑span, say up to age 29‑30). Then the autumn lecture season begins; first lied students and then the Shakespeare Institute, where I'm booked in for November 4 - some preliminary fireworks will include the lighting of further Roman candles for your E3.
On that topic, I thought it might be of some interest if I jotted down a few notes on Ironside etc parallels. The rough results are enclosed; I see that there's some overlap with a few points I mentioned to you last year, but mainly these are new (though
some are inevitably in debt to Everitt ‑ who seems to me incidentally to make a point that is well‑nigh conclusive on its own if he is right in saying that both E5 I.ii.l60 f and E3 last line-three kings make the same historical blunder about the Scottish King David
being sent into France for surrender). The pages are (as everything I send) for you to keep or jettison as you please.
Most cordial regards, as ever
[.PDF of the enclosed notes]
I'm very greatly obliged for your letter of 27 September, for your further stimulating and interesting comments on the telephone, and for all your help and encouragement. I'm venturing to enclose, as you kindly said I might, a further badget of collation and calculation.
Before I get to that, though, I thought I'd also send you one or two other items that you might find just as (if not more) interesting. First, there's something of a counterpart to your own Sonnets essay that I've just had from my friend Maynard Solomon in New York. More of a pen‑friend, really; I've never actually met him, but he's well known to a very dear friend of mine, Alan Tyson, and we all three have Schubert in common. Why is it, incidentally, that psychiatrists are so intellectually active outside (as well, of course, as inside) their own professional fields? Just like civil servants, quite unlike dons, for example. Some might say that certain professions are naturally chosen by and conducive to far‑reaching inquiry; detractors might complain that some people must be dissatisfied with their work, or else have too much leisure. When I look at John Padel's new book on the sonnets I begin to wonder about these things myself. Anyhow, I well know that you share, indeed are authoritative on, my pet topic of musical ailments, so I thought you might be interested in my piece on Schubert and syphilis.
Perhaps you'll need something to look at for a change of subject while your thesis is being considered. I remember feeling in need of diversion while awaiting my own viva (do you get one of those?), trying to persuade myself that I knew more about my subject than my examiners did. That turned out to be true, but by a much narrower margin I had supposed! Are you going to be known as Dr. Dr., in the German tradition? It seeems going a bit far to be doctored, as it were, bilaterally. Anyhow, I imagine that is our case, as an already accredited authority on this topic too, it will be something of a formality, though of course a very agreeable one.
Back to that topic, now, if I may. I've been re‑reading your N & Q pieces with great interest and (for whot it's worth) almost complete agreement, especially about R2 and R3 and their close relation with the first four. I was particularly interested in your gap in the sonnets; how about two gaps, to account for some Jacobean ones?
As to the word‑list now enclosed. Firstly, it has been re‑modelled to take account of what you say in your letter and also in N & Q; after a struggle, I've got my material into OED pigeonholes, losing a few feathers and some birds in the process, but not I think materially affecting the total results. Secondly, I now see, rather to my surprise, that what I've done, - rather unintentionally! ‑ does seem to be quite valid as the basis for a statistical test. I mean that the words conform, not to any subjective notions of my own, but to the factual definition 'Ironside words found in at most four works’ (and usually in just one or two). I haven't relied on the OED in any way for their selection, only for their definition for comparison purposes. Nor are they really a selection; at least not wittingly; they purport to be all the Ironside words that fall into the defined category. No doubt I’ve overlooked a few; but I’m sure that most are there, and the absentees won’t hurt much.
I think I derived the category‑idea 'four or fewer' from Hart somewhere. It had an appeal because my impression was that I could categorise such words without too much trouble – so wrong! But at least the burden isn’t what the author of Ironside would have called ‘overloading’; I can just about manage. And the use of rare words provides, perhaps, a line of defence against those who would say that the conformities with 1-3H6 and Titus are acribable to conformity of subject, all skirmishes, stumps and so on. Again, I think if one chooses rare words that also offers an answer to the claim that Ironside, and Shakespeare are just echoing the stock vocabulary of their time.
It was to forestall that contention that I sought to find resemblances that were prima facie unique and hence highly evidential, ie words and expression said by the OED to have been coined by Shakespeare, and hence rather unlikely to be found in profusion in the work of any one writer other than Shakespeare himself.
I find myself in a state of some perplexity over the OED argument. I’ve read Schäfer 1980 twice, with mounting bewilderment. He seems to me to give no reason at all for his far‑reaching assumption that about 50% of the Shakespeare firsts could be antedated. Not just unconvincing or dubious reason, but absolutely no reasons or arguments of any kind. So of course K. Muir et all will instantly believe or accept whatever he says, because he's a scholar, perhaps, and German ('unser Shakespeare' is guaranteed to induce in me instant outbreaks of spontaneous hostility!) and published by O.U.P.
I'm waiting with interest to see how he answers one or two questions I've put to him in correspondence; and I must say that he's a model of patience and courtesy, so far, as well as general informativness. Still, I'd dearly like to know how many of my 82 examples were really coined in Shakespeare's own head. If even half of them were, what are they doing in someone else's earlier cash‑box, I wonder? I'm longing to quote
Es steht noch nicht in Meyer Und auch im Brockhaus nicht
Es trat aus meiner Leyer
Zum ersten Mal ans Licht.
I'm also enclosing, by the way, my Schäfer exchange in case it's of any interest for you; w.p.b. if not.
I've tried, finally, to do some chi squares from what you told me about that splendid formula on the telephone. but I fear that I have no idea of what it actually is, let alone what it does, or means, and my computations are no doubt very wide of the mark. I hope though that the data or at least some way towards confirming the very strong personal impression or feeling I have (ie what you amusigly called the Veuve Cliquot syrdrome, when we talked about tastes) that Ironside is very strongly and closely linked indeed with early Shakspeare, in ways which seem to require explanation.
But (if so) what explanation?
That everyone just uses the same old words, back to some immense primordial word‑stock? In the beginning was the vocabulary; the big bang theory of linguistic creation. Something of this sort is entailed by the supposition that all the OED entries can be antedated, with an infinite regression. I don' believe a word of it, personally.
That Ironside was well known to Shakespeare (the Muir theory) because he had acted in it, and unconsciously reproduced its vocaculary thereafter in his own plays, as authomatic writing in some kind of trance state?
Or perhaps that Ironside (in undated MS) was actually later than Shakespeare and borrowed his vocabulary?
Or that the author of Ironside wrote parts of Titus etc, as collaborator?
Or that the young Shakespeare had a sort of hand in Ironside; or (which will, as you say, be resisted, though I'm sure I don't know why, or what makes it so dangerous or be implausible) that he wrote Ironside. And then what about the other apocrypha, Troublesome Reign and so on, or Woodstock).
It's all too difficult! Especially now that someone called Merriam has apparently taken to showing that Shakespeare wrote all Sir Thomas More as well.
I'd be very interested to know what you think of that notion, and whwther your tests have been applied, with what results, to that play or to the works or other contemporary dramatists. And a great many other things. I hope you'll be able to spare some time for a further chat in due course.
I'd love to do some more work on Ironside; and I'd b more than grateful for any further comment or conusel you felt able to offer.
Farewell for now; cordial regards and renewed thanks,