113. 22 January 1997 [ES] (MRA; letters to Shakespearean; Bacon and Shakespeare)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   Thanks for yours, with its memorably anguished and clamant outburst against the self-images of the age. I'm sorry to have been the cause of such distress; but of course I subscribe to your every syllable. If I may, I'll tell my American friend Frank Sypher what you say. He'll be much heartened.

   Alas, I fear I've thrown away the lunatic Lopez book, and John Michell's glutinous letter of commendation with it. I stopped short of dancing round the wastepaper bin uttering ritual cries and chants, and indeed replied politely, eschewing all such comments as thank you for your 
book, which I shall lose no time in reading. This restraint may well be the result of your softening influence, as a result of which I now no longer threaten violence but just content myself with screeching like a demented macaw at every real or suspected outrage, of which there are many.

   But, mirabile dictu, the thaw continues. It's spring in the glacial regions, where baby polar bears (according to a BBC nature programme) poke up tentative muzzles from the snug den, and then briskly bob back in again. I bet they're making typically refractory observations to their long-suffering mothers, such as 'I don't care what you say about heredity; I'm cold'. But then soft breezes blow and seals abound, and the cubs are in clover. Well, the current Shakespeare ice-break isn't quite so spectacular. But at least there is, perceptibly, a current, not just an undercurrent. My recent researches into spelling variants (13% of the wordstock of the More pages is spelt any old how, and the selfsame proportion, prima facie the same hand, can be seen in the Sonnets) have emboldened me to write to Profs. Kathleen Duncan-Jones, Ernst Honigmann, MacDonald Jackson, John Jowett and (greatly daring) even to the renowned and redoubtable Blakemore Evans of Harvard and the Riverside Shakespeare. Oh, and also to the author of an excellent article on the 1597 first edition of Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare Survey49, explaining why it can't possibly be a memorial reconstruction, and wondering out loud how anyone ever came to believe in any such daft doctrine. I wonder too. Meanwhile my good friend Yashdip Bains has published a book (I'll send you a copy as soon as my order arrives) performing the same signal service for Contention and True Tragedy. And it's good of you to look again at Ironside. But what's next? I need a new computer that is a wiz at counting and classifying old spellings. But all they're really good at is beating the world champion at chess; quite distinguished, of course, but not really all that helpful.

   Left to last, a bonne bouche to savour, your poem. Beautiful, I thought, and distinguished too, in being different. It's not enough to have a room of one's own, desirable though that is; one must have a voice of one's own. Yours was (and no doubt is) golden. I not only admire but also envy it. I hardly got further than translating Housman into German and Mörike into English, which is, let's face it, no true voice but at best ventriloquism. But you have been touched by lucky old Apollo, and left shining.

   Farewell for now,

   Best, as ever,

   Yours Eric