43. 21 November 1992 [ES] (Swinburne; Baldock's book on Casals; Honigmann; Essex letters)
Many thanks for your card and letter. And thanks again for the delectable lunch. I'm delighted that Vickers (in a sense, a big gun) has agreed to report.
I'm distressed to find that you find Swinburne boring, because of artful alliteration's ample aid. The same might I suppose be said of Shakespeare, another addict. The trait may be attributable to Anglo-Saxon attitudes; alliteration was our earliest basic principle of verse organisation. Swinburne admitted and acknowledged its artificial aspects in one of the best self-parodies in the language, about e.g. the 'bliss-bringing bulk of a balm-breathing baby' if I recall it aright.
The only demurrer I'd raise about the s..s..s in 'we sat silent' etc is a possible difficulty of articulation; as I know to my cost from my own voice-over in my TV film, it's dishtreshing to shound even more intoxshicated and toothlesh than one actually is. But Chris has crisp diction.
He still seems very pleased about his success with Schubert, incidentally; indeed, it's only the lack of troubles and worries that seems to trouble and worry him, and then only occasionally. I'm sure it will turn out splendidly; another resonant string to his bow.
Which reminds me that I've been reading our nice editor's book on Casals, by which I was impressed. No doubt you've had a copy; I see that Prof. Isabel figures near me among the credits. I'm sure that she indeed rendered the 'important assistance' mentioned, but I'm not at all sure what mine was. I think Robert as a cellist is emulating the Casals technique of drawing the long bow.
Yes, I know Ernst Honigmann's books and correspond with him on such matters, and at many points. He and I have a mutual friend. He's just retired, and is I fear rather sad to realise that he's got just as many things wrong as right - the fate of the pioneer or dissenter through the ages. We later arrivals can profit from his errors, of which the worst is dottily antedating all the canonical plays, on no evidence at all, just to conform with his own (absolutely right and well-argued) Early Start approach instead of filling the ten-year gap with the appropriate apocrypha like a sensible person. But that course is not open to the profession, which cannot ever bring itself to believe that Shakespeare ever wrote anything other than or different from the plays they know and (no doubt) love so well. Honigmann will go down to history as the man who dated King John earlier than, and described as the source of, some anonymous noodle's Troublesome Reign; disastrous doctrines to which he's been obstinately adhering for decades now.
I haven't really looked at LLL lately. But I know it wasn't new in 1598, because its first known edition thus dated says 'Newly corrected and augmented/ by W Shakespere'; and of course its sonnet-links complete with dark lady can't be merely coincidental, hence c.1593-4. Also it is no doubt a drame à clef, like so much of the master's work; how did he come to be so comprehensively misunderstood? But I'll be refreshing my parched and arid memory before long.
You'd be interested in the catalogue which my chums at Sotheby's have kindly sent me; the original Essex letters to Elizabeth at last on sale after some four centuries in private hands! I enclose some bits of Bacon. And I've replied suggesting (perhaps rather wildly, but with some attempted justification), that the Essex letters, because of the Southampton connection, may well have been indebted to Shakespeare's influence, e.g. in the privately-circulated sonnets. I also enclose a copy of my letter in case it's of any interest. I like to stir up Sotheby's from time to time to show that I'm still reasonably attentive and alert; they kindly consult me on musical or shorthand/cipher MSS, and I feel I have to offer at least some tangible comment or hypothesis, even when actual solutions elude me, as I fear they increasingly do. And in such contexts I can't use the excuse of the elderly cat that complained about how much quicker mice seemed to be getting.
More anon; warmest wishes and regards meanwhile,
as ever, yours Eric