5. 21 September 1987 [NM] (More on Handwriting; Hamlet essay; Bacon's cryptography various)
I can no longer put off the exciting experience of writing to you on the grounds that I have to get too deep into a whole lot of subjects. So I'll at last respond to some at least of your letter, knowing that more queries will come. Easiest I think will be to take your (my) paras step by step.
You realize that you liked my phrase – in me only a phrase, in you a year of discoveries: 'Shakespeare initiated what he is supposed to have imitated' – because it is a typical Eric Sams sentence, of the kind I particularly like. I was really reflecting you.
1. I will get hold of Calvert's book on the Sonnets, an obvious must, thanks for ph-cc. What you say of 'the dubious discipline of graphology' (is it dubious, or merely difficult?) is of vital importance to me for my next book. (Which I don’t see myself getting round to till next year – God give us 'life time cash and patience', Melville's great prayer) The crux for this and for all Hamilton's assertions is what you quote Everitt as saying: no one approaches these questions without 'ineradicable preconceptions of what they ought to find'. We all deplore it and probably all do it, the thing though is to remain alert. Now Hamilton is cited in the TLS review as exclaiming 'Dear friend Will please help me to discover some scrap of handwriting from your pen'. This state of mind (as Bacon so clearly warned), is indeed a warning to us to watch against his every assertion (which he himself clearly did not do), and the fact that (you say) the slightest contradiction sends him off into a fearful rage (instead of that sinking feeling combined with desire to probe deeper which we get when faced with a contrary fact) gives added weight to the warming. I discount as obvious the fact that the establishment will react against his discoveries. (Your letter comparing Hamilton with Schoenbaum at al is perfect).
But do you think there is any possibility we might persuade some serious student of hand writing – among your friends? – to take up Hamilton's more sober assertions, including (for me) the identification of Shakespeare's hand in the Northumberland MS? And back his conclusions by showing up the less reliable? Because I do find theTLS reviewer right in saying that from Hamilton's 'breakthrough' (the will) – real or not – 'we are hurried along to further discoveries' – hurried is the word, there is no kind of demonstration. You have tried (and so have I in the past) and worn your eyes out in these collatings. If you see your way to anyone, young obviously, who might take up such work – which might bring him considerable success – it might help us both in our studies. Or am I being hopelessly naive? I'm very glad you are thinking of returning to the Ironside-holograph question, and may you have life time cash and patience for that, on top of Hamlet.
2. Very interesting that the sowing seed of a future opposite, at the end of Ironside, was S's own invention.
Also 3. and 4/7 on negative checks. Also on OED, delighted to find you have also forged ahead on that question.
9. Delighted with your plans for Edward III, and I take your word for it that Wentersdorf has proved Shakespearian attribution – if he has come anywhere near your standards of proof.
About your work on Hamlet. Fascinating comparing the various editions of Hamlet, and finding no two agree. Thereby hangs an article - if not book. (Reminds me of another of my father's amusing works, La Donjuania, a dialogue between all the different Don Juan's – Tirso, Moliere, Mozart, Pushkin, Zorilla.) Or a similar dialogue of Bacon's who loved to confront opposite points of view to find a spark of truth. May you find many. Do keep me posted when you feel able to.
In case it has any relevance to your musical cryptography inquiries, I'm sending you photocopies of a few pages from my book on the Baconians' cryptographic efforts. They can be very persuasive, and have occasionally persuaded me, but I was interested to read that book on Saussure showing that the language is so full of anagrams of all kinds that one cant help finding anything one fishes for. The experience of Mrs Gallup is particularly strange and striking.
What a brilliant idea for Christopher Nupen to do the Sonnets. (Not before Bacon!) I hope he has found all he wanted in Russia, and gone ahead with his Tchaikovsky, without too much nervous exhaustion. He does seem a true artist, and life is not easy for them.
Now as for helping my cause... I expect to phone Haycroft around mid October to find what his reader has said. A rather frightening critic (Anglo Italian) who is here on holiday asked if he could read my book, and despite his intention to give me helpful criticism, had no word, except encouragement (and one Latin misprint). That's the scholarly angle, of course. The publishers... if it's only a problem of length I may have to put it into discs, either very expensive (£2000) or time consuming if I do it myself. If you thought it would be a good idea to use the weight of your experience, and success, and give Haycroft a ring saying you feel such a controversial book (backed by real scholarship etc etc) should pay its way...? I can’t remember if you know him personally. Every little I suppose helps, on the other hand you probably know much better than I do what really helps, and it might not be the thing at all so please only do anything you feel totally convinced about. Christopher (before going to Spain) did phone him and express his interest in the TV angle, and Haycroft took down his address. Perhaps we should just leave it at that.
Wonderful about your musical activities and how good to hear 'a thrillingly beautiful voice'. I don’t know the Hugo Wolf. An experience to come.
Dear Eric, thank you for all the trouble you have taken in answering my queries. In this letter what I'm most interested in is the possibility of finding someone who might corroborate (or disprove) Hamilton's wild statements, at least on the more sober graphological points.
I'll be writing again. I hope you got your book back? I'm busy now tying up a lot of ends, notes etc on the Bacon. All power to your elbow with Hamlet, and I'm looking forward immensely to seeing the result.