86. 14 March 1996 [ES] (Edward III; de Musset on the Muse)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   Thanks for your two letters by one post. How rich and great the times are now. Thanks too for C. Nicholl's address. I've ventured to send him a copy of The Real Shakespeare, which I was proud to hear described as your bedside book. I'll try to amend my bedside manner, as a good doctor (even of philosophy) should. Usually my knockabout style conveys the painful impression (literally) of cosh and knuckleduster. But this time the blows have been softened by Candida, who has restrained some of my more outrageous utterances on the subject ofEdward III. His page proofs arrived today, incidentally, and I must say that I find some of: my own arguments quite compelling.

   This excess of confidence prompts me to say a further word about begetting, for whatever it may be worth, namely that no publisher anywhere ever dedicated a book to its supposed inspirer. I shall be very considerably astonished, and indeed quite put out, if Faber & Faber dedicate my Brahms song book to the memory of my dear friend Gretel Boronow.


   As to the distance between the uneducated and the self-educated Shakespeare – well, I reckon he had something that no one is disposed to give him much credit for, namely an exceptionally high IQ. After all, the Sitwells were certainly very well read, and Osbert's Who's Who entry read 'Educ. during the holidays from Eton'. It's a good point, though, and so is your bit about the books. Hunsdon supplied some, says my pal Roger Prior. And in the 1570s Raphael Holinshed worked in Warwickshire for a master who was lord of the manor of Packwood near Stratford. Perhaps he knew a keen teenage fan there?

  Next, the Muse. I recall in my own youth being impressed by de Musset's reflections on that subject, and composing a rival lyric containing such thoughts as


'Attend, o Muse, on flutt'ring wings

  My midnights sad and lonely.

The lays a love-lorn poet sings

     are for a Muse meant only.

         Echo: amusement only'.


   And finally, in this classical colloquium, Taurus. I had no idea that this was the sign of song and of singers; nor is the connection clear to me - unless I've been heard bellowing? But here's a copy of the leaflet kindly mentioned by Diana. I must say though that even at 69, for the nonce, 'on song' sounds something of an overstatement.

   Best, as ever,

   Yours Eric