91. 25 June 1996 [ES] (Edward III; book on Brahms; Essex rebellion)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   Thanks for yours. All my correspondence and conversations these days continue to centre on that great reception you gave for your fine book. Candida and I were chatting about it the other day. We agree that you looked very handsome; and also that the English need to have their lump leavened, so to speak, with Latinity. How much I regret having no Spanish or Italian to speak of, let alone to speak. All I know is revolutionary songs and snatches such as 'para la noche buena' or 'bandiera rossa'. Those days were notable for amazing events and surprising headlines to match, such as 'Anarchists Keeping Order in Barcelona'. And lately I saw, on the London Library shelves, a book of your father's, presented by him; I like such links. But the occasion is still catching up with me; thus John Michell has now kindly sent me a copy of his book, about which I'm disposed to observe that it's neither citable at the High Table nor profitable on the coffee-table. But I did promise him, no doubt high-flown with insolence and wine, like Milton's sons of Belial, that I would let him have some comments; which I've accordingly done. And I've promised him, in another mad fit, a copy of Edward III, which should be available next month.

   Meanwhile there's no news except that a dear friend, Judith Chernaik of New York, who lives and works here and indeed gave London its Poems on the Underground, is now spearheading, or should that be Shakespearheading, a new poetry competition. And I too, as I may have mentioned, am concerned with new song competitions, here and in Italy. As to your intriguing question, I've been planning a book on Schubert songs ever since I first found one of them, some sixty years ago; but as it's taken me longer to compile a card index of them than it took him to write them my chances of starting, let alone completing, such a project are not high. Brahms is quite taxing enough for me, at seventy. But I'm rather encouragingly told that Yale would like that book, as well as Faber; and it's quite nice to be courted at so advanced an age.

   As to the Essex rebellion, I try not to assume anything. Indeed, that's the declared modus operandi; I strive (no doubt not always successfully, but the intent is there) to begin with the facts and listen solely to what they say. The facts about R2 are that Q1-3 were published in 1597-8, and then Q4 in 1508 'with the new additions of the Parliament scene and the deposing of King Richard'. 'Already extant', 'censored' and the rest - those are surely the assumptions, not the facts? Where's the evidence for them?

   The palpable hit on your p.431 was scored on my own previous opinion that Bacon the man was irrelevant to Bacon the thinker. I now see, and seek to expiate, my error. It's sackcloth and ashes time.

   As to the grant of arms, do you know of anyone who wrote his own draft at the College of Arms? But anyhow I think I'll leave that essay in abeyance until E3 is out; perhaps I can get some mileage out of handwriting comparisons between that 1596 application and the More MS (or the Ironside MS, or the MS behind E3), which are all topics I dauntlessly tackle. There was a time, before I was born, when learned scholars collaborated on the various Shakespearean aspects of More; vocabulary, spelling, handwriting and so forth, as well as style. Now I have to do it all, as best I can, myself; nobody else (so far as I've heard) is active in any such fields. Except you! And perhaps Charles Nicholl, whom I'm due to ring up next month with a view to lunch and a chat.