119. 15 March 1997 [ES] (Shakespeare and Bible; signatures; Real Shakespeare II)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   On successive days: Hugo Wolf's birthday; lunch with an American professor (Martinich) who's a powerful authority on Thomas Hobbes; and then a letter from you. How rich and great the times are now, as W.H. Davies said; and all he got was a rainbow and a cuckoo.

   But I fear my reply will be poor and lame, as Shakespeare describes himself in the Sonnets. I've glanced through the Philips/Keatman book in Hatchard's, and cannot now recall a single syllable of anything it says. Perhaps one spy's enough (and Marlowe is also a good name for a detective –  by deliberate choice, maybe, since Chandler's school was Dulwich College, founded by Alleyn with Marlowe money; how rich those theatre takings and pickings must have been). That reminds me – I've invited Charles Nicholl to lunch at my new club, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts. I'll report on any new developments.

   As to the Oxford Bible, I enclose the latest bulletin, just rescued from the waste bin. I really can't make out what all the fuss is about. It seems that the Bible contains c. 1000 annotations, of which 750 have nothing at all to do with Shakespeare and the rest not very much. But Oxfordians are excitable folk. I've just heard from one in Germany who has seen my name among subscribers to the de Vere society, and writes to congratulate me on having seen the light after so long in outer darkness. I was sorry I had to disabuse him and explain that I'd just had a subscription bought on my behalf by a well-wisher. Actually, I seem to be quite big on the Oxford scene; his devotees have said, ever since Ironside, that I have everything right except the name of the author.

   More lameness; I fear I can't find a copy of the 1977 cipher piece you kindly mention, and photocopying theTLS in the London Library, my only source of supply, is streng verboten. And I'm quite baffled by the TV frame. I still think that pictures float through the air oblong until they reach my screen. I haven't noticed any change in the shape. D'ailleurs: je ne suis pas un de ceux pour qui le monde visible existe.

   I quite like E. Reed, but I fear I'm wholly unimpressed by R. Eagle, in whose account I place no credence. Fermor seems rather silly too. But I know Nicholas Knight well, and admire his acumen; he's always been an ally ever since we met in Virginia a decade ago. And I found his book Shakespeare's Hidden Life well worth reading. I think he was the second person, after Everitt, to see that Ironside is Shakespearean.

   I infer thence that the signature on Archaionomia ed. Lambarde is genuine. There are several strong Lambarde/Shakespeare connections; it's a legal textbook, at a time when Shakespeare was working as a law clerk; and it's also a source-book for Edmund Ironside. Of course there was a Little Crown Street (it's near the present Downing Street), and only a mind like Eagle's would be disposed to question the proposition that the first house in a street is quite often called No. 1.

   My friend Francis Sypher, conversely, has a rather good brain, and I hope you'll agree that his latest letter, also enclosed, is both shrewd and interesting. I try to think about education, here and in the States, from time to time; the latest from the London Library is Higher Superstition by Prof. Paul Gross. The topic of schooling came up in a chat I've just recorded for the BBC, in which I said that I'd read Mörike before I ever saw or heard any Wolf setting –  which so stunned my interviewer that he slumped off his chair sideways and speechless. But language instruction was always part of the ordinary English grammar school curriculum; and the fact that the system was derived from public school practice absolutely didn't worry me (even as a radical) in the slightest. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (possibly the only sensible thing that the so-called 'Saint' Paul ever said); or, in Schumannian music-cipher, LASS DAS FADE FASS DAS AECHDE.

   I've made a start on The Real Shakespeare Part Two. A question, if I may; I recall your telling me that Bacon drafted his own grant of honours, but I now can't find the reference. Do you mention it? or where is it to be found? I wish I could reciprocate by being correspondingly, so to speak, informative; but I fear I'm as barren about the St. Albans frescos as about the Northumberland MS. I suppose I now have to say something cogent about the latter at least. Oh crikey.

   Best, as ever,

   Yours Eric