111. 13 January 1997 [ES] (Honour system; MRA; Sonnets begetter; comparative works; MRA)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   Thanks for all. I was touched and flattered by your more than kind citation, and sorry to seem so recalcitrant. I'm in no way anti-monarchist [...] But I'm afraid I'm rather against the honours system (which I administered for a year as a young civil servant). No doubt the root cause of my aversion is an indurated romanticism, which sees everything in terms of the individual who strives alone. Your philosophy too, I have thought

   What I'd really like is a Dishonours List. Never mind that every valley shall be exalted; the desirable outcome is that every mountain and hill shall be made low. But even that ache is wearing off. I can for example be reconciled with that bête noire Stanley Wells, if he continues his present policy of publishing pieces that annihilate his own policies and practices. Thus the current Shakespeare Survey explodes 'memorial reconstruction' in the case ofRomeo and Juliet - and hence in all others, though that ineluctable consequence will be slow to prevail.

   Next, no, I hadn't seen yours of 16 November, which was new to me. I meant that I would have replied to it long since if I'd seen it. Now that I have I'll bring the Basil Montague reference to the attention of the College of Arms. I'll look at Hecht and Vivante. I'm still in search of the music and poetry that will bring me up to date before it's too late.

   We have two different John Joneses: there are plenty of them about, together with many other adaptations of what seems to be a plural-genitive syndrome. Like Mathews, or Sams, except that there are fewer of us. I've always been rather pleased, incidentally, to have an unusual surname. And I have always been very gratified to have it identified as Jewish. What else could someone who likes music poetry and chess possibly be?

   I think 'only' [begetter] identifies one sole donor among many possibilities. If it wasn't Shakespeare who supplied the copy (and it wasn't) one is specifically indebted to the particular person who did, and I agree: there'd have been no immortality at all if those masterpieces had never been printed.

   I seem to have disappeared into them like a dachshund down a badger-hole. The only outward visible sign of activity is movement in the earth, so to speak. But something will emerge one of these days.

   [...] I've also been made a member of the De Vere society by a charmingly rich madwoman who thinks I have everything right about Edmund Ironside and Edward III except the name of the actual author.

   No wonder I cherish you and your kind comments. You're one - indeed, prima inter pares - of the few sane and clever people who say nice things about me.

   Charles Nicholl is quite affable, but his mention (which I fear I can't now find) of The Real Shakespeare really said no more than 'if he's right, it's rethinking time'.

   Good about the olives, despite the paucity of the harvest - which will seem like riches to many of us.


    Bedenkt, wie klein ist die Olivenfrucht

    und wird um ihre Güte doch gesucht.


  Now back to 6/1/97. Yes, it was grand to be in the same edition of TLS. Its correspondence pipeline is rather costive, but a useful outlet. It's always the page I turn to first.

   I'm sure you've outbossed Bossy. We'll hear no more of him. But I'd like to hear more of you. What are your present plans and projects? We have to move on. I haven't any laurels to speak of, save those you kindly provide. And you can't just rest on yours. So uncomfortable. Friend Nicholl is working next (he told me at your reception) on a comparative work about Shakespeare and Marlowe. That raises the interesting question of which influenced the other, like Schiller and Goethe. Always so difficult with contemporaries: Coleridge and Wordsworth too. Even Mozart and Haydn is an unclear relationship.

   But we have to be tackling some topic. Mine's 'memorial reconstruction' at the moment - it's just been annihilated, I reckon, by a powerful article in - for the first time this century - a ranking professional journal, The Shakespeare Survey, on Romeo and Juliet, that ever interesting topic. Such a démarche much cheers me up; indeed, helps to shake the yoke of inauspicious stars from this world-wearied flesh.

   My anemometer records a new and bracing wind of change. May your own sails be filled with such energising freshness throughout this new year, for which, as for all seasons, my warmest good wishes,

   yours as ever Eric