129. 28 April 1998 [ES] (RS II and Brahms book; Pericles; Vendler's book on Sonnets; Bacon and King James)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

   Thanks for yours. It's good to be sent, and encouraging to receive, these signs of fresh vigorous life. I've managed to preserve a little of my own, but in dried tubers. I have this haunting and haunted feeling that time isn't on my side. How otherwise could it be breathing down my neck?

But (as to your kind enquiry) I'm now making fair progress with my Shakespeare sequel – except that Yale still aren't telling me whether or not they want it, or my Brahms song book either. No doubt such commercial considerations take even more careful thought and time than the actual labour of writing; and since Brahms took about twenty years I suppose I can't complain.


   I haven't yet seen the Cambridge Edward III. But my love for my alma mater has just swelled to practically Oedipal proportions after a perusal of the Cambridge Pericles. This confirms everything I said in my 1991 N&Qpiece, which is even included in the bibliography. I feel I've really arrived (better, pace. Stevenson, than travelling hopefully).

   If you wouldn't be too bored I could send you specimen chapters, e.g. on Leir/Lear and the Sonnets. I too have many editions of the latter, to which, yes, I think Vendler should now be added, complete with CD of that cool but affable American voice reading selected samples. It strives to consider that very observant lyric 'I', as a detached retina, so to speak, quite unconnected with the actual Shakespeare. But at least it's called the 'speaker'. I suspect another anagram here, and I'm working on it; Shakespeare too was allegedly an active anagrammatist, which is quite encouraging. Vendler is as perfect as it's possible to be, I reckon, while maintaining this peculiar academic fiction that poetry is somehow impersonal. Personally, I'm a frankly unabashed member of the much-scorned biographical school.

   I enjoyed the Hecht apart from the raped corpse of a fourteen-­year-old, which seems too easy a frisson ('rappelez-vous l'objet que nous vîmes, mon Ame'?) unless accompanied by appropriate moral precepts or even just proposals for counter-action, as in my own favourite Sidney Keyes on Timoshenko; 'He saw the shape of the raped girl's yelling mouth...Then, in a rage of love and grief and pity/He made the pencilled map alive with war'.

   Meanwhile I'm back with various sides of Bacon, a topic on which I naturally turn and return to your fine book. From p. 40, this leaps out and pounces upon me: 'He was now anxiously awaiting replies...from King James of Scotland, who had been invited to support Essex in exchange for a confirmation of his succession to the throne'. Hence James's intervention on behalf of Southampton, and the long letter to Shakespeare in James's own hand, and 'wer't ought to me I bore the canopy'. etc. But who had been negotiating with James? Everyone, apparently, including Shakespeare. What chapter and verse do we have for these invitations, their text and their source?

   I'm into documents at the moment; I'm due to receive from the Public Record Office a photocopy of the 1603 warrant for a patent instituting the Chamberlain's Men as the King's Men – which I'm secretly hoping will be in Shakespeare's own hand!

   Best, as ever,