16. 9 July 1997 (Brahms and Shakespeare; Blakemore Evans; memorial reconstruction)

Dear John,


   many thanks for your letter and interesting enclosures. In answer to your kind enquiry, everything is rather in abeyance at the moment; our elder son is home on holiday from Tokyo, and our younger son and grandson also keep us busy. I'm also rather in between bundles of hay, lke Buridan's ass; Faber are quite interested in a big Brahms song book, and Yale in a Shakespeare sequel, and I can't quite decide which to get on with first.

   On the latter, I'm into the spelling and vocabulary of Richard II 1597 ('memorial reconstruction by the entire company' my eye - was any crazier crackpot theory ever devised, let alone believed?).

   Meanwhile I've been having some sporadic correspondence with the doyen, Prof. G. Blakemore Evans of Harvard, who has included Edward III in his recent reissue of the Riverside Shakespeare. So these are all the plays that are at present known to Harvard; there may be many more but they have not yet been discarvard, as Tom Lehrer used to sing. Anyhow, Gwymne Evans, who's a dear sweet old thing (even older than I am) reckons that I may have some merit, and is eager to convert me to 'memorial reconstruction'. As I (gently) point out, he doesn't seem overtly concerned about either the myriads of massive counterarguments on the total absence of evidence. His sole consideration is the strenght of his own feeling, which seems to be based solely on his own preconviction that Shakespeare couldn't possibly have written thus at any stage of his development. This is rather hard to argue with - it's like arguing with the Pope about doctrine, in more ways than one. However, I persevere: it's quite gratifying to have my views sought by the doyen, as if he'd rather have me inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in, to quote the immortal phrase of an American president. I suppose that this situation, if not the description of it, might interest your Californian correspondent, who is I see a Yale graduate. I'm trying to persuade Yale U.P. to take a more active interest in the matters - for example by starting their own Shakespeare series, which might usefully differ from Harvard's. But perhaps the Ivy Leage is itself overgrown with ivy by now.

   Anyhow, Alan Wachtel sounds impresssively alert and well instructed (I believe this to be a wholly objective assessment) and he'd be very welcome to my address. Der Retter aus der Ferne, a useful concept in drama studies, often seems to live in America. It's not coincidence, I think, that War of Independence is not yet over. [...]

   Best, as ever 

   Yours Eric