107. 16 November 1996 [NM] (Bacon's application for investiture; Shakespeare spellings; St. Albans mural)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Eric, so much to thank you for. And above all for being that rare person today: a man who answers letters, point by point. I'll do that now too.

   Yours of 17 x, the article on Shakespeare's arms, with the bit of hand-writing, looks really good. I note the comments in TLS (with my letter re Bossy). All one can say to that is that further analysis of the draft could indeed be helpful. Re Bacon's having probably written his own application for his investiture as Viscount St Alban, in case you are interested, I don't have the ref. here now. I found it in Basil Montagu's Life of FB (1825-34), page ccciv (the whole book is numbered in Roman figures), where he cites Thomas Rymer, Foedera (1704), ch. xvii. Spedding, vol. xiv, p.166, notes that on 7 Jan. 1621 Camden and Norroy King at Arms were sent for before the event to consult about the arrangements for his investiture.

   Yours of 21 x, it's time someone hired a hit man against Robert Nye. I at least did my bit re Bacon/Ralegh!

   Leopardi. I shall read him, and some other poets (do you know my 'special' today, Anthony Hecht? In particular, Venetian Vespers...) when and if I finish present book, after which I'm going to sit back and enjoy life. Or perhaps before, since a friend and fine writer, Arturo Vivante (who has published many delightfully direct short stories in the New Yorker) is giving me a bilingual volume. He sent me the enclosed card about this publication, which you might like to have. It reminds me of enchanted evenings in the Villa Solaia, near Siena, when after eating the fruits of the day and basking in the old garden, we used to gather round him and his still more talented brother Paolo (a friend and love) and hear them reading Dante to us in moved voices.

   Re Rowse's Mrs Lanier, I loved the 'pigment' of his imagination! I do think you're onto something with Shakespeare's spellings. How right you are about Honigmann. He seems like the man skiing downhill. Let's hope he hears you. Is the John Jones reviewed with him in the TLS (Shakespeare at Work, August) the same to whom you gave my address, and who wrote to me about the Strange connection? All very interesting, but I've seen no actual connection yet, much less an Ockham's razor necessity.

   By the way, about the Eric Sams honour he is working on, if this were to happen (pace Nye and the whole Oxford school of fish) I hope you would consider it your duty to accept (whatever might be your subversive Republican sentiments). England being what it is ('my son's clever, but he's nice you know'), this could immediately lift you over the reconstructive shoals, and it is essential you should be so lifted, if the coming generations – Bacon's aurorae filii are to be given the chance to study Shakespeare's evolution from Hamlet toHamlet and Leir to Lear, before the 21st century is out.

   Interesting: Jones has been in touch with our friend Hamilton, who it seems is still going strong – and still disclaiming the Sir Thomas More pages for Shakespeare.

   Re ONLY. Why use the expression? As if there were many possible begetters. Re Chettle, I expect you're right. Speaking 'of' means 'to'. But from there to stating 'as Chettle said of Shakespeare...'. And yes I'm with you, gossip is contemporary testimony. And the waters of Shakespeare spellings are deep. But you must give those sons of the dawn the best chance you can to carry on with the digging, while you sit back and enjoy your autumn deciduousness! And of course write the Real Shakespeare, vol.2.

   Have you heard again from the perennial Carr? He's just sent me his October bulletin and a review of Michell's ineffectual book. The Shakespeare defenders, he notes, have been silenced, except for 'the occasional outburst of rage'. They are out of ammunition! But is it true that the new Globe Theatre is run by a Baconian, and that they're producing a play by Bacon? What do you know about the Venus and Adonis Mural in the White Hart Inn at St Albans?

  My family have been here picking olives. A poor year. 40 kilos of oil.