3. 26 April 1995 (Shakespeare's Hand)

Dear John,

   Thanks for your letter and enclosure of 24 April. Of course I agree with you. In this particular context, the professor's 'scribe' is wholly imaginary; so is the 'normality' of employing one (and the ability to pay one); so are the 'copies'; so are the 'friends'; so, above all, is the coincidental presence of one and the same hand in two otherwise entirely unrelated documents.

   The professorial expertise and logic are surely rather shaky in other respects. Are these obviously variable samples really in 'a very formal secretary hand of the same kind that was used to copy state papers'? And if it is truly so very hard to tell one such hand from another, how can anyone sensibly suppose that any two of them are in fact the same?

   I may be unduly pessimistic, but I also fear that the closer the samples get to Shakespeare the more distant the comments (and the rarer the communications) will become. The hotter the hand, the colder the feet, so to speak.

   However, you may well prefer a less carping and more positive approach. in continuance of your and Tom Lloyd-Roberts's excellent New Welsh Review work (about which incidentally I've told a TV journalist who is considering a possible Shakespeare programme). The unequivocal statement, in a signed and headed letter, that 'I would say that the two hands are the same' could offer a firm foundation on which to build further. It may be that Professor Loades would be interested in Professor E.S. Everitt's Ironside work, in The Young Shakespeare 1954 and Six Plays Related  to  the Shakespeare Canon 1965; and even perhaps in my own from 1982 on. Everitt, to the end of his life (1981), had no doubt that the Egerton MS was a Shakespeare holograph, an identification independently confirmed by the New York document expert Charles Hamilton in 1986.

   Do let me know if there's any further information or comment you feel I could usefully supply.

   Best regards,

   yours Eric