38. 17 March 1991 [ES] (La diritta via often becomes sadly smarrita; Edward III; Oxbridge establishment on MRA)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs. Mathew’s letters)

My dear Hayat,

   Lovely to hear from you, sounding in such good form too. My new word-processor insists (as I would in any event have agreed, of course, quite unprompted) that I should drop you a line (a practice it sometimes whimsically indulges in on its own, apparently quite unprovoked) straightaway, without waiting to enclose copies of the latest pieces, which shall also wing their way to you before long. Speaking of flying to Italy, that's an itinerary I'm planning for myself as well as my correspondence, later this year; I've somehow managed to get invited to Ischia by kind Lady Walton for a study fortnight on songs and songwriters. I'm due to harangue students, and some young professionals (including it seems my young friend Erik Battaglia) on such topics as Hugo Wolf's Italian Songbook, and perhaps also Walton's Shakespeare music, which I much admire. This may also enable me to discourse at large on Shakespeare's own use of music, to which (according to my researches) he turned at moments of magic or mysticism – whenever words failed him, in fact, which was surprisingly often.

    But all that's the merest preamble to the splendid and heartening news that you're not only saving but bringing home your Bacon. I'm well placed to know how impossible it often is to adhere to book timetables; new ideas here, second thoughts there, tiresome publishers, other pressing preoccupations; there's no end to the sidetracks and backtracks, and la diritta via often becomes sadly smarrita. I'm delighted that you can see your way clear, and are strong enough to proceed. The best of good fortune attend on your endeavours. I'm doing my best to follow that example; but I've lost some impetus lately. Hence this Amstrad, which is at least using me to the utmost of my capacity (though I reckon I'm using only about a billionth of its capacity, judging from what I've understood of the instruction manual thus far).

   Meanwhile my publishers, both actual (Faber) and potential (Yale) seem to have become somewhat enGulfed (sic) in world affairs, or at least not in mine. But the latter, when these topics were last discussed, took quite an encouraging tone about Edward III, as a successor to Edmund Ironside (perhaps about 300 years later this time too) and even contemplated a volume of polemical pieces (The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Sams?). Elsewhere, mainly in America, where neither the Civil War nor the War of Independence is quite over, voices are heard speaking out against the Oxbridge establishment; and indeed professional Shakespeareans have been heard saying, not only in colloquia (such as the recent Malone society conference) but in print, in accredited scholarly sources (the Shakespeare Jahrbuch) that such theories as 'memorial reconstruction' are literally preposterous. So there's at least a new Primavera in the air, if not a Vita Nuova; a general Renaissance renaissance, in fact. And I was delighted to see that you're part of it.

   With warmest good wishes, as ever,