133. 29 Nov. 1998 [ES] (Germany and "Time" on Edward III; Brahms; Mondnacht; wrong words)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee (in response to your very kind previous requests).

   Just as Greek is alas Greek to me, Dutch is double Dutch. But I'm also news in Germany, especially among Oxfordians, and I've just been translated and published there and mentioned with approbation (except of course when I say or imply that anything was written by Shakespeare of Stratford), e.g. in a zweisprachige Ausgabe of the Heck translation. I've even been classed as a winner, in Time (only just in time, I'd say, and not before time). Anyhow, it's a grand encomium to be so much as mentioned in one of those great American monosyllabic journals which subsume all knowledge and all experience under such headings as Life, God, Sex, etc.


   And all this publicity stems from the fact that an unspecified computer, programmed by some unspecified operator, has identified Edward III as authentic: 'is ook Shakespeare', as one of the Dutch flowery pieces charmingly announces. No one thinks it interesting, let alone necessary, to identify the identifier, or to analyse the analysis. Dumbing-down is universal. Democracy (defined by Bernard Shaw as 'one simpleton, one vote') is triumphant, which wouldn't be so bad if it hadn't run mad first. Some of my Bloom review was written by a sub-editor who wished to make my comments comprehensible to American readers –  no doubt a laudable ambition, but it makes the U.S. public, even those few who subscribe to literary journals, seem sadly stupid. Still, the LA Times pays well.

   I've had a nice word from our friend Christopher about his latest project (Schubert - another winner, I'm sure). I'm back into Brahms and (at Yale's request – they must have plenty of money, gifted by rich alumni) adding the original German text, which Brahms even more often than Schumann just mistranscribed or wrote illegibly. Everyone sings the opening quatrain ofMondnacht very feelingly,


Es war als hätt der Himmel

Die Erde still geküsst

Dass sie im Blütenschimmer

Von ihm nur träumen müsst.


heedless of the fact that (rather obviously) the right word is 'nun', not 'nur' (which suggests a previously promiscuous earth who has suddenly been converted to monogamy from polyandry). But no one takes any notice. Just call me Cassandra. I'm reminded of Chopin's amusing description of British pianists who played the wrong notes with great expression.


 OCTOBER 12, 1998 VOL. 152 NO. 14

W I N N E R S  &  L O S E R S

First an astronaut, then a Senator, again an astronaut, now a $5 action figure from Mattel 
Spanish tenor graces Met's opening night for the 17th season, tying Enrico Caruso's record 
Amateur scholar gets obscure 1590s drama recognized as penned by Shakespeare

Calling Manila "ghastly" was bad; then she fumed about its rats. The Philippines' capital bans her movies 
Kitsch beats class as court rules Franklin Mint can use Di's image on rings, dolls and pendants 
Salon dumps D.C. bureau chief after he condemns coverage of Rep. Henry Hyde's long-ago affair



 But in the interest of getting the words right I have to identify the source-book that Brahms held in his hand, and then get the appropriate page photocopied for a correct description of any variants. Then I feel I have to add comments and advice on which words should now be sung. Some of the changes are irreversible; but I can't help thinking it's always desirable, if it's at all possible, to sing the right words. These are rather time‑consuming procedures, and I feel that time, unlike Time, isn't on my side. But the new British Library though nothing much to look at from the outside has a palatial interior. In my absence for the last five years or so, the system has changed from ordering on paper to commissioning by computer. There was a little knot of discontented people standing in front of the Rare Book area awaiting collection and instruction in the new mysteries. I just say that (despite appearances) I'm new, and will they please do it all for me? Which, bless them, they do.

   Yours as ever, Eric