98. 17 August 1996 [ES] (Shakespeare as revisor; as Papist; Elgar; Cervantes)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   Thanks for yours, just to hand. We seem to have a postal strike; or else the mails are more than usually costive. Sample handwriting for the grant of arms piece is a great idea; I'll pursue it. Meanwhile I've been sidetracked by Elgar, a topic I haven't tackled since 1970. I envisaged this present effort as a mere passing phase, but it now seems to be absorbing all my energies. As the policeman indignantly observes in the NestroyPosse 'Ich habe einen Gefangenen genommen and er lasst mich nicht mehr los'.

   Thanks for the Bacon bits, about which I seem already to have reciprocated. [...] As to the coat of arms, the heralds tell me that the application was successful, which I think is anyhow rather readily inferable from the arms on the monument and 'Gent.' on documents.

   I'm glad you liked my description of Taylor's 'arguments' as so circular in all directions as to be perfectly spherical; it sounds so much more restrained than just saying 'all balls', which is however what it means.

   I'm sorry, but my mind goes even more blank when confronted with perplexities such as the Northumberland MS, and Arden. The best way to deal with such difficulties, I find, is to look them boldly in the face and pass on, at least for the time being. So much else to do, so little time to do it in. I agree about Fair Em; and I'm impressed by Greene and eating. Perhaps that represents some Freudian transference; they also eat a lot in the Alice books, I notice. No doubt the appetite grows with what it feeds on, as in Hamlet - and also ín the case, or perhaps case-history, of Melibea. It's a source of great gratification to me that we agree about so much; though we seem rather often, understandably enough, to be tunnelling from different sides with different appliances, it's also true that we tend to meet in the middle. You work by wisdom, in a word LIFE; I rather tend to rely on the English pragmatic tradition, as typified by my Surrey neighbour William of Ockham, or Thomas Hobbes. But perhaps there are deep underground links, as when dye is thrown into a river and the same colour is seen emerging on the other side of the mountain.

   As to your two good probing points: (a) I reckon that, yes, Shakespeare revised for readers and reading. Much too much is made of the 'stage. (b) Perhaps Troublesome Reign was written in a burst of anti-Armada patriotism, which I'm sure most Britons would have when 'the red glare on Skiddaw roused the burghers of Carlisle' etc. Elizabeth's foul scorn that any prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of her realm would surely be widely shared. But then later one's indignation somewhat subsides. And they say that Shakespeare died a Papist. So, allegedly, did Elgar. But that seems merely a sensible insurance policy. My atheist grandfather called out 'Jesus' quite a lot when unwell once, but he later explained that these were cries of pain. He recovered to compose his epitaph, which ran


'Old Charlie Hill to Hell has gone,

He rode on a fiery chariot,

And he'll sit in state, on a red-hot plate

Between Satan and Judas Iscariot'.


I'll think further about deposition. I'm in correspondence with Peter Milward S.J., who knows all about the Catholic background, and foreground. He tells me, amusingly, that according to Tolkien CS Lewis converted to Protestantism because of an Ulsterior motive. They must have had great fun in the days of the self-styled Inklings. I've always enjoyed the story of how Charles Williams, advocate of total celibacy, was halted in mid-diatribe by a cry of 'But, my dear Charles, you're nothing but a common chastitute'.

   Glad too that you like Klopstock. But he ought to have offered us lyric-lovers more than just that one poem, however perfect.

   I'm listening to opera on CD and French verse-speaking on tape; and finding great difficulty in participating inLes Dialogues des Carmélites but revelling, not to say wallowing, in the succulence of Capriccio, where the Krauss translation of Ronsard (my taped poet; Les Amours) always impresses me as altogether wonderful, in the Strauss setting. Unfaithful? Me? Never! cries the adoring lover:


Durch neue Adern müsst mein Blut ich giessen        

In diesen, voll von Dir zum Überfliessen

Hat andre Liebe weder Raum noch Halt.


Beautiful, especially when sung by Nicolai Gedda.

   Farewell for now,

   Yours as ever, Eric