142. 25 November 2002 [ES] (Real Shakespeare II; Edward III; Northumberland MS)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs. Mathew’s letters)

Dear Hayat,

   It's good of you to be so indulgent to one who's so clearly a spent force, a broken reed, in all matters Shakespearean. It will no doubt come as a shock to our publishers, as it does to me, to know that a sequel to The Real Shakespeare (which has now been remaindered) is in preparation. In answer to your touching question, it does attempt to tackle the handwriting question, especially in the 1616 will, to which I reckon not enough attention has been paid. There's also the fascinating question of which plays or poems were set up from copy in Shakespeare's own hand.

   I do understand though that he's rather a drug, not to say a drag, on the market, and that his pulling power, even at number five in the current list of 'Great Britons' (sic, as I for one heartily am) is with difficulty distinguishable from total muscular atrophy.

   Better news: I gather from the current TLS that the Crystals, who still seem to me the cat's whiskers among linguists (sorry that quip is so dating as well as so jaded) have just published a book called Shakespeare's Words, which I'll order for Christmas and which takes (quite independently) the view that Edward III is entirely from Shakespeare's hand. Now, I wonder who or what gave them that idea? Not, I think, my own book on the subject (though it's not documented anywhere else), for that's been remaindered too. At least it gives me something to say in my own essay on that subject, which has kindly been commissioned (for a fee of $500) from the States, though I'd gladly do it for free, ever mindful of Gerald Moore's dictum 'always strive to keep your name before the public, dear boy'.

   As to the Northumberland MS, it's still a mystery to me (as, let's face it, it was to the Countess de Chambrun also) though no doubt W. S. means William Shakespeare, just as it does in Wilobie his Avisa 1594 which also refers to Lucrece. In the dedication to that work, incidentally, why doesn't 'what I have to do is yours' refer to the sonnets, still, mostly unwritten in 1594?

   But there's only one part of your very welcome letter that I actively wish to quarrel with, and that's your claim to be 85, which must be at least twenty years too many. As the would-be M.P. said. I demand a recount.

   Love, as ever,

   Yours Eric