82. 13 February 1996 [ES] (Mr. W.H.; Hugh Calvert: Papillons)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   Thanks for the P.S. But I still seem to have the same trouble with Hotson. The London Library copy of Mr. W. H.stands at my bed's head, like something out of Chaucer. I even look through it from time to time, in the hope of finding something that actually and clearly connects William Hatcliffe with William Shakespeare. But all I can detect is Hotson's hot air. Nor can I fathom what the Hilliard (?) miniature is supposed to have to do with this or any case. It's all eerily like Rowse's Dark Lady, whom I also see, or rather don't see, as an illusion.

  I knew and liked Hugh Calvert, and we corresponded voluminously about his Sonnets book. I'm afraid I was rather discouraging in asking for much more Calvert and less Hotson et al; I think it's a question of drawing the threads together and assembling them into some coherent picture, not just holding them up and floating them about, however colourfully. I saw a lot of waving but not much weaving. Hugh, dear chap though he was, often reminded me of that legendary actor who was once seen rummaging about in a tray of false beards and sticks of greasepaint and heard saying 'I'm sure I must be in here somewhere'. Which reminds me for no reason of the other acting story about the Russian lady who played Cleopatra and amazed everyone by proclaiming that weederdeedergarlanodevar, which turned out to mean 'withered is the garland of the war'; to this day, one has only to say 'weederdee' in the right company for everyone to break up and fall about.

   I dare say the Hotson 'case' is indeed 'fairly presented' in Hugh's seven-point summary; but all that does for me is to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there's no shadow of a case. I fear that's borne out by all that HATLIVE and LIVEHAT, which seem to me more like symptoms of brain-death.

   My recollection of Hugh's work on the acting companies and plays is that, alas, he didn't live to finish it. I clearly recall though that he kindly sent me some of his schemata in photocopy, and I expect I could find these pages as and when my Brahms book is finished and the relevant reference books are returned from my study to my music shelves and replaced with the Shakespeare library, now stored in the garage (empty since my wife's accident). In a good cause I'd be very happy to start the search now, of course; is there any special aspect of the early stage history that's currently engaging your attention? In any event I could send you a photocopy of Everitt's proposed time-table as printed in his Young  Shakespeare 1954 (still on the study shelves as an essential work of reference) if that would have any special interest.

   It's a topic to which I shall return, if there's any response to the formal proposal I'm now making to selected publishers (Faber at the moment) for reprints of key Tudor texts such as MenaphonGroatsworth, etc. I think this is a viable project for the sake of which I'd be prepared to turn aside from Brahms. It's over-ambitious, no doubt, but I'm increasingly sure that as we get on we have to get on.

   There are other irons in the fire such as a new edition of Papillons which I might send to Covent Garden in due course suggesting that the music suitably orchestrated, in conjunction with the Jean-Paul story it's telling (as I hope to persuade all interested parties), would make a good ballet. All I need is better health and a longer life than was allowed to poor Hugh Calvert.

   Best, as ever,

   Yours Eric