116. 15 February 1997 [NM] (Puns; Spurgeon; non-Latinate Shakespeare)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Eric,

Do you know about the laughing cure? Quite advanced cases of cancer halted and many diseases cured by abundant doses of laughter. Time and again I find myself laughing aloud over your letters. I particularly enjoy your outrageous puns (spells among the spelling). Only Shakespeare is worse... And my father, he couldn't resist them (neither c'd Bacon by the way). 'Puns should be punished unless they be pungent' he wrote somewhere, perhaps among the many proverbs he invented in The Sacred Giraffe (which happens in 6000 AD when black women rule the world). Here was one he loved to cite about women and their hand-bags: 'a pregnant woman never leaves her baby behind'. And he headed another light-hearted book entitled Sir Bob with Dr Johnson's line, 'Nonsense, Sir, should be nonsensical, yet sensible withal'. Except it wasn't Dr Johnson's.

   Now to your letters. No my dear you didn't send me your review twice, I'd seen it in my own TLS, with which for once I was up-to-date. But how I sympathise over the time we spend looking for things. And I've more than once ordered a book twice, and even a dress by mail order: 'that would suit me' – forgetting that I'd bought, and worn the same dress a year earlier!

   What's this 'blind spot' about the Nbld MS? It only means looking at two of its pages to see if you find Sh's spelling in them. A fine feather in your cap if you did!

   Good for you, the Romeo and Juliet pages. I think your pursuit of Sh's non Latinate Latin is absolutely fascinating. It should put paid to Carr and Co – if anything could pay them off. But what a great mind he was to read and pick up as much as he did, starting without Latinity. 'Qu' however may have been a normal spelling, for 'queue'. Remember King James spelt what and which quwat and qwich. Please explain to this unenlightened one what is meant by Edw.III 'weighing in' at three different words every two lines. I feel the need to know.


Now back to puns. I've been rereading Caroline Spurgeon and Richard Armstrong and what I find entrancing in Sh is the way his mind swivels on the pivot (sometimes on the mere sound) of a word, and by no means always explicitly. My father was right to insist that it's 'too too sullied flesh' that 'melts'. Sh. didn't have to say it was 'solid'. Tell me: were there many critical opponents of these two students of his imagery? I find she tends to idealize a bit and he to get a little far fetched, but this surely is an approach to Shakespeare the man? (She's not quite so good on demonstrating against Bacon's authorship, gives a few examples that are right up his street as well as Sh's, because she read only a few of Bacon's works).

   Do you remember Robert Gittings on Shakespeare's Rival? He puts the case of Armado quite well, tho' not as well as did the Swiss Ungerer. And shows that the same personage may have been used in 1598 to laugh at Gervase Markham. Why not? What do you think of all this?

   Till soon, please solve the publishing gordian knots and produce the other half of the Real Shakespeare. One half is not enough.