2. 4 July 1987 [ES] (Hamilton; Shakespeare's will)
Dear Haya’t (is that right?)
so, by all means. You seem to have a whole series of special and sometimes surprising names, like Isis. Yes, I thought it was a splendid dinner party. Chris Nupen, whom I've known rather well and liked a lot for some years now, is great fun and also I think a considerable artist with a rare gift of making memorable images compounded of ideas and music. I' m glad you found something of interest in the Encounter pages.
Of course you're quite right about Charles Hamilton. He's one of those rather strident and flamboyant theorists that America is so rich in, and a genuinely independent spirit. He goes too far of course, but that’s the pioneer tradition. Going too far is somehow its raison d'être; one wishes it would settle down. Charles (who incidentally likes to be called Bud, which would fill me with dismay) is a sort of Wild West Buffalo Bill type of scholar, performing intellectual feats and tricks which are roughly, in every sense, the equivalent of shooting a hole in a silver dollar with one hand while lassooing a maverick with the other. I've rather got into trouble with him by saying, in somewhat more restrained terms, that he should be surer of his facts before putting on one of these displays. He's just as tiresomely wrong-headed about Aubrey as he is about Spedding. In my next letter to him I'll venture to offer one or two mild remonstrations on that latter topic, as I already have about the former. He can be quite reasonable when brought to order.
And he does have, which is rather cherishable, this durable fire in everything he does. I doubt if I shall burn half as brightly at his age (c. 75). I was certainly very pleased at the nerve as well as the promptitude of his public certification of the Ironside MS as indubitably Shakespearean. I know what Wilde meant by saying that whenever other people agree with one one always feels one must be wrong; but I felt I could make an exception in this case.
His book was rather snootily reviewed in the TLS, as one might expect. I wrote a protest, which was duly published and drew no response. I'm rather sure that Charles is right about Shakespeare's holograph will, and other more original clams. He also kindly said that I was right in my own identification of a 1592 letter signed but not written by the Earl of Southampton. The trouble is that he does rather tend, as you suggest, to discredit his own authority by wildness and general desire to épater les bourgeois, especially the academics of the species. He just feels that his “feel” is better than theirs; but I fear his own procedures are equally subjective, sometimes, even in his own specialist field.
By all means keep his book as long as you like. I'm gratified to think it has some relevance to your own work, which I was delighted to hear about. It sounds exactly what has long been needed. I trust that all is harmony and concord at the Old Piano Factory, as Colin H's press is amusingly named. Aptly too, as I recall from my own visit, at the time when we almost contracted for a book on Brahms songs before I became too involved in other projects; I plan to return to lieder though, first and last love, one of these alas diminishing days. I have a heavy programme of adjudication this month, diversified I hope by a visit to the new production of Edward III (of which a fairly favourable review, admitting at least the possibility of Shakespearean provenance, has already appeared inThe Times). Meanwhile I'm delving deep into Hamlet studies, because the learned journal of that name has kindly commissioned a piece about the text-genesis, including the date and status of the First quarto and so forth. It’s all very demanding, because the Establishment's entrenched defences have been dug even deeper. But I will delve one yard below their mines and blow them at the moon.
Do let me know if I can be of any service in any of your enterprises and endeavours. I much enjoyed our meeting and our talk.
with best wishes