Letters to the Editor
Is it Shakespeare?
© The Spectator; 3 May 1986
Sir: In rejecting Edmund Ironside as non-Shakespearean because it lacks poetry, Dr Rowse (26 April) seems to have forgotten his own assessment of an 11-line sample I sent him in 1981. ‘The speech you quote is rather good poetry, and rather like the rhythms of Shakespeare’s earlier verse…. The similarity of images is striking too.’
32 Arundel Avenue
© The Spectator; 14 June 1986
Sir: Dr Sams (Letters, 3 May) has put a good deal of scholarly work into editing Edmund Ironside, and that should be of permanent value, for which we should be grateful. Sorry for not thinking the play to be Shakespeare’s; I think conservatively that we have got all there is of him. I expect I may have been a bit over-generous in encouraging Dr Sams’s good work.
A. L. Rowse
© The Spectator; 21 June 1986
Sir: I’m obliged to Dr Rowse (Letters, 14 June) for his kind words. However, it is not ‘conservative’ but anti-historical to claim that we know all the Shakespeare there is. On explicit contemporary testimony, as recorded by John Aubrey and others, there are also popular plays dating from the so-called lost years, c.1582-92. Two of them are identified by Germaine Greer in her recent book on Shakespeare, namely Contention and True Tragedy, his early versions of 2-3 Henry VI. Another, Edward III, has the support of Richard Proudfoot, general editor of the Arden Shakespeare; it is to be published by Cambridge University Press in an edition by the late Eliot Slater which will detail the very compelling evidence for Shakespearian attribution.
All these three plays are plainly in the same style as Edmund Ironside, as I point out in a new preface for its forthcoming paperback edition. I think Dr Rowse’s first thoughts were best, over-generous or not.
32 Arundel Avenue,