7. 22 May 1995 (Welsh connection; languages and national characteristics; Edward III)

Dear John,


Thanks for both yours. Yes, I  dare say Phillips had a part to play in the Welsh connection; but I'd like to think, too, that Shakespeare was impressed, as I was, by the power and euphony of the language. A good friend of mine, the soprano Susan Dennis, once recited for my benefit the first few verses of the Bible in Welsh. Other languages seem to incorporate national characteristics; thus one could do a comparative linguistic study by aligning the yielding melody of 'Au commencement, Dieu créa le ciel et la terre' with the uncompromising rhythm of  'Im Anfang schuf Gott Himmel und Erde'. But Welsh has both music and meaning (like Hebrew in that respect). Anyhow, I think the Welsh connection should make a good and internationally saleable book.

   Harold Brooks makes some good points. He was a nice man, to whom I was advised to write for help when I first took up these studies. I found him forthcoming but limited, as I discovered when he told me all about 'memorial reconstruction' which he said had to be taken on trust because scholars of the stature of Peter Alexander had vouched for it. I'm afraid I was rather unimpressed by that reasoning. Anyhow, I'm sure that all this adds up to a good and interesting book - an original one, too, which will be quite an achievement at this stage of Shakespeare studies. In the hope of being helpful, I'm enclosing photocopies of McLaren. Sorry about the size variation, which was entirely inadvertent; no doubt I pressed the wrong button at some stage. I fear I'm not much of a technologist. Still, the results are more or less legible, and may offer one or two items of interest.

   Edward III is lodged with Yale; I'm due to have lunch with them in a month or so. Perhaps my text is too polemical, but I'm ready to amend it if necessary. Despite appearances, I aim to please publishers, anyhow, if not orthodox Shakespeareans. Yes, I do think that the young Shakespeare wrote the early popular play about Prince Hal, a view which is not just unfashionable but anathema, because of the admitted naiveté of that text. But I reckon it was written for an uncritical audience, and even genius has to begin somewhere. Besides, all early work later used as source-plays ought to be authentic on grounds of economy in reasoning, as well as fitting our shared view that unattributed plays belonging to the so-called lost years ought to exist because they were popular and hence profitable in print. Further, it's more rational to believe in a Shakespeare (or in any artist) who revised his own work than in one who stole somebody else's. Seymour Pitcher's The Case for Shakespeare's Authorship of 'The Famous Victories' [of Henry V] (Redman, London 1962), text plus commentary, quite impressed me; it also makes good use of the Annotatormaterial, which as Honigmann rightly says deserves rehabilitation. I'm sure you'll find my ex-colleague Clifford Broadbent helpful and sound on the points you mention.

   I'm also in touch with another good friend from my civil service days, Iwan Jones, who must also be in his eighties. He's working on a translation of Homer's Odyssey which he reckons will take another five years, after which he'll move on to the Iliad. An example to us all! I've been seeking his help on Greek, after a correspondent told me I was right in thinking that Greene's character Doron was aimed at Shakespeare, because among other reasons Doron is an inflexion of the Greek for spear. I'm told too that the same applies to another version of the same character (simple rustic shepherd but also much given to writing love-poems) in another Greene book, namely Mullidor, with even closer Greek parallels. Well, we live and learn.

   Best, as ever,

   yours Eric