141. 13 April 2001 [ES] (Puns; Real Shakespeare II)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   It's Good (but what's good about it?) Friday the thirteenth. They've lost my blood, too, which was taken for testing. And I have no buns, like a bad bear. But all is not lost; you're kind enough to link my name with that of your honoured father, and with Shakespeare, because of our joint fondness for word-play.

   For my own part, I strive to follow in the footsteps of Charles Lamb, that wizard of the comic pun, who once stopped a poacher carrying a hare and said to him 'Prithee, sir' (or words to that effect) 'is that thine own hare, or a wig? '. The poacher's reply is not recorded. But here's the most musical of puns, approached and quitted by step like an enharmonic modulation, whereby C# (say) becomes, in a mystery, Db. We can hear but not spell the answer: ecce homophone, so to speak.

   Thus I've also said of wreckers on the Cornish coast, who lit huge bonfires to lure plunderable ships to their doom, that they had a flare, or flair, for that sort of thing.

   As to extant quartos, I'll be best placed to tackle that task at intervals as each such topic supervenes. At the moment I'm looking at The Taming of A Shrew 1594, of which (my books tell me) only one copy survives, in the Huntington Library, California. Perhaps it was popular?

Now I must return to the Real Shakespeare part II – on which I fear our friend Robert Baldock won't be all that keen, since my previous efforts have all been remaindered. But Brahms Songs has been quite well received, and Yale have sent me an agreeable cheque: so all is not lost. And I must have something to do over the bank holiday period (like my sometime friend the tenor Trevor Jones, who once said to me, in despondent mood, 'Here am I, the best bloody Messiah in the business, out of work at Easter'.