1. 8 April 1995 (Salusbury MS; handwriting; Catholic connection)
Dear Mr. Jones,
Thank you for your kind and interesting letter of 8 April. I first heard about the Salusbury MS from a Times article of 1 August last year – too late, alas, to mention in my book. But the topic will resurface if there's ever any call for a second volume, which will have to include all I can think of to say (at the moment, not very much) about The Phoenix and the Turtle. Meanwhile I was prompted to make further enquiries because the hand looked to me much like the MS of Edmund Ironside, which I'd edited as Shakespeare's in 1985 and 1986 (though without facsimile pages, which are available in the Malone Society edition of 1928 and E. B. Everitt's The Young Shakespeare 1954). This manuscript, according to the New York documents expert Charles Hamilton's 1986 affidavit, was beyond all doubt in Shakespeare's handwriting, a topic to which he had devoted a lifelong study culminating in his 1985 book on the subject. So I telephoned Jeremy Griffiths in Oxford, who seemed to be the appropriate expert to consult because he was working on the actual documents. We had an agreeable chat and he said he'd investigate further. I heard nothing; so when I'd finished work on my book I rang him again, on 26 January this year. He said he didn't think the two hands were all that similar. When he thoughtfully wrote to confirm our conversation I discovered that his remark related to comparisons between the Salusbury MS and the Morehand! I'm rather sure, incidentally, that the latter is indeed Shakespeare's, an attribution which I believe commands general acceptance (though the date is still in some doubt). That was perhaps the only point on which I was at odds with your article in The New Welsh Review, which I read with interest and indeed sympathy. But if my own experience is any guide I fear that little or no official notice will be taken of textual parallels or stylistic correspondence generally. Handwriting studies may gain more of a hearing, if only among the very few experts. It's not often I agree with Lord Morris of Castle Morris, whose Arden theory of The Taming of A Shrew as a 'memorial reconstruction' strikes me as obviously daft: but perhaps he has a point in calling handwriting the key question here. Anyhow, I thought it worthwhile to write again to Jeremy Griffiths on 28 January, specifying Ironside(BL Egerton 1994) and also mentioning my book's chapter on handwriting. But I've heard nothing since then, and I've been rather preoccupied with other more pressing matters.
I see I made a few notes last August about the Salusbury MS, namely: ff at the beginning of a line should perhaps have been transcribed as a capital F; XXI line 22 surely begins 'or smooth tongue wordes'; and although XXI last stanza line 2 ends 'stringes' the ensuing rhyme seems to suggest that 'straines' may have been intended. I also noted that one Robert Salusbury had been a candidate for the mayoralty of Stratford in 1576, the year that John Shakespeare was elected, and that the name Fluellen, mentioned by Tom Lloyd Roberts in his first paragraph, appears on a 1592 list of Stratford Catholic recusants together with John Shakespeare. Perhaps there was some Catholic connection with Llenewi? That wasn't very clear to me from Ernst Honigmann's interesting 1985 book on the so-called Lost Years – which incidentally I don't recall that Lloyd-Roberts mentions, despite its relevance. However, the entire topic is far from fresh in my recollection, so I'll look through the papers again. If anything else occurs to me I'll let you know, for whatever it may be worth. For my own part I'd be most happy to hear of any further developments known to you. Thanks again for writing.
yours Eric Sams