131. 27 June 1998 [ES] (Sonnets words; Peter Milward; Catholic Shakespeare)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   Thanks for yours. I'm sorry about the bronchi, with and of which I've had plenty of experience; I know how very distressing these difficulties can be.

   Well, I'm not into specimen chapters just yet. Hardly is anything written than it's rewritten. I try to get ahead, but stay behind, lagging even longer. It takes me all the running I can do to lose ground. I'll present you, sooner than anyone, with anything that's presentable. But meanwhile I keep on assigning myself these impossible and unrewarding tasks, such as making concordances of all (including 'Bad') Quartos. The results seem to have occasional uses, though. I thought Helen Vendler needed an alphabetical word-list of the Sonnets vocabulary, for example, because she keeps on saying and supposing (rightly, I'm sure) that those masterpieces were set up from authorial copy. She seemed quite grateful, and gracious; really rather nice. My present preoccupation is making an interminably long list of all items in the plays that have nothing to do with the plays per se, like the unwise eulogy of Essex in Henry V.

   I'm still waiting for the whistle of Yale's American referee who's supposed to be adjudicating my big Brahms song book. The English counterpart has reported favourably, no doubt as a member of the same school of soft musicology, namely describing the adventures of the soul among masterpieces, embellished with lyric cries of  'oh! oh!'. The Americans are more austere, perhaps because of some German influence; they rather tend to count the bars, and that sort of thing.

   Meanwhile I'm in further correspondence with Peter Milward S. J. (initials which I steadfastly refuse to bestow upon him – I don't think that chaps ought to go round awarding themselves honours). But he doesn't seem to mind; and I find much interest in what he says about that cradle Catholic Shakespeare.

   I haven't yet been able to get to the Public Record Office or the new British Library; [...] I've been invited to various symposia in Germany and Edinburgh, but shan't be able to go. There's a lot to be said for the passivity you mention. Impassivity too. But I was actually about to write to you when your welcome letter arrived. Just to say well done in putting down the appalling Lisa Jardine in the TLS. That will please a great many people, and not just those who think that Bacon is a Good Egg, so to speak. Your great book was also very helpful in replying to Peter Milward, who dislikes the maxim Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est. He seems to suppose that's more of an Irreligious Meditation; Jesus was meek, and power is God's alone. It's always amazing to me to learn how many minds seem able to operate entirely outside, sundered from, and even inimical to, the British empirical tradition, though I suppose I should expect that of expatriates (Milward like son Richard elects to live and work in Tokyo) and people called Professore Giorgio Melchiorri (my alma mater's Edward III editor).

   In answer to your kind enquiry, Richard plans to be home here on holiday later this month, and Jeremy is holding the nation spellbound in a weekly Radio 3 programme called 'Sams on Opera'. I'm pursuing the Rival Poet of the Sonnets, who by the aforesaid empirical method begun by my Surrey neighbour William of Ockham and continued by our friend Francis Bacon cannot possibly be Charlowe or Mapman, nor yet Chaplowe or Marman. More later, if I'm spared.    

   Meanwhile love as ever,

   Yours Eric