25 November 1986

Dear Tom,


Sorry you're not well. Clearly you need an Ironside tonic. Expect a copy in due course.

   I was interested in your reaction to my extra 'by'. For someone who is so very exceedingly free with the millions billions and trillions you seem to be making a slightly disproportionate fuss about a mere one! Remember those Biblical injunctions about gnats and camels, not to mention motes and beams.

   Perhaps you've also forgotten your tacit admission that 'by this, these...etc etc' is perhaps not all that amazingly different a habit from 'by the'; perhaps you ought to count hose as well, in all contexts; and I hope that any future computations will take full account of authorial stage directions.

   I agree entirely about the basic differences you describe. I favour verbal logic (Aristotelian, if you like). You operate with statistics which, as you rightly say, leak (i.e. may not hold water). But it seems to me that unless you build on an Aristotelian foundation your whole edifice is sure to collapse in spectacular intellectual catastrophe.

   What you have to ask yourself is what I keep on asking you, with no semblance of reply so far; on what logical grounds do you assert that by fb the or any such criterion is, beyond any doubt, at odds of quadrillions and quintillions, a reliable criterion of authorship? A quick peep at Aristotle (or W.S. Jevons, whom I find easier) would tell you all about petitio principii, circulus in probando, et coetera.

   I must say that I think you're rather fortunate not to possess the machines and the programmes that have been sold to poor Stanley Wells, who has I fear been conned by a travelling computer salesman who has now fled the country. He seems to have forgotten a well-known maxim, namely garbage in, garbage out.

   It can only be the Oxford computer that allocated Act One of 1Henry V1 to Thomas Nashe – and much ofMacbeth and Timon to Thomas Middleton and much of Pericles to George Wilkins etc etc.  The same computer accepted certain scenes of Edward III as Shakespearean, I was told, though they seem to have forgotten about that as about so much else. I think the new Incomplete and Misattributed Works from Oxford are a public scandal.

   Have you looked at The Troublesome Reign of King John lately? That's a Shakespeare play on two hundred years of unanimous title-page evidence and supported by critical studies from first-rate minds. Tempora mutantur, as Aristotle might have said if his Latin had been better.

   Best regards and wishes for a speedy recovery to fighting fitness