77. 30 December 1995 [ES] (Menaphon and Groatsworth; Looney and Freud; Mendel and genetics laws; chess champions)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

   Thanks for yours. Did I say the President of the Bacon Society? Perhaps I'm suffering from an analogous attack of folie de grandeur. I meant the same Francis Carr who has apparently been plaguing  you. We occasionally exchange letters, without of course ever  finding any common ground or indeed speaking the same language, so far us I can tell. But I was diverted to discover the other day that he agrees with me about one or two basic principles, e.g. that one ought to study the earliest historical sources and that these in the case of Shakespeare (and hence also of 'Bacon') are the 1589 Menaphon and the 1592 Groatsworth. I fear I was unimpressed by his so-called explanation of these documents, namely, as I understand it (or more accurately as I do not understand it) that both Nashe and Greene were aware of Bacon's authorship of Hamlet and True Tragedy but had agreed, for unstated reasons, to preserve that secret, with the surprising result that both those trusted confidants instantly published essays on the subject, though Nashe mystifyingly chose to write solely about Bacon not Shakespeare and Greene about Shakespeare not Bacon, save that in the latter case the expression 'Shake-scene' obviously [sic] applies to Bacon not Shakespeare – though why in that event the expression 'Bake-scene' wasn't preferred is also left unexplained except by saying that all these utterances were deliberately cryptic.


   [...] I heard the other day from a dear friend that the founding (or should that be foundering) father John Semple Smart committed suicide. I knew that his disciple George Duthie was a dipsomaniac. Verb. sap. perhaps; quantum suff. etc. [...] Which reminds me of the authority, namely one J. T. Looney, who induced Sigmund Freud to believe that Shakespeare was really the Earl of Oxford. Freud's translators, Alan Tyson (who was one of them) once told me, found it hard to render such phrases as 'wie der grosse Looney überzeugend beobachtet hat', But then many a Freudian expression occasioned similar perplexities, with the result that the so-called English is often even more baffling than the original German - e.g. 'parapraxis' for 'Fehlleistung', But enough of such Freudulence. As to Baconianism in general, my view is that nobody has ever

(in the nature of things) proceeded far on the road to proving the negative proposition 'not by Shakespeare'. I far prefer the positive approach which would entail identifying, somewhere in the massive Bacon archive, the least syllable of any reason for supposing him the author of any play at all. Which reminds me that I've been re-reading, as ever with unstinted admiration, The Advancement of Learning, in which I particularly like the advantages of ciphers. Perhaps by coincidence, I'm commissioned to reconsider my musical cryptography article in Grove, in which however I can discern few flaws; I think it's now someone else's turn to occupy themselves with these topics.

   My Mendelian assumptions are that the laws of genetics are sternly inviolable, but I have great difficulty in eliciting what they actually are. One crux for me is whether Rowse's dark lady might not have been in fact fair, since her mother was English. But nobody seems to know. I wish I had the certainty of the young Shakespeare, in Titus:


    when the bull and cow are both snow-white/they never do beget a coal-black calf


But all of this pales, so to speak, into insignificance compared with the great news about your own achievement – for it is no less, to have brought that great book to full term; so difficult a labour, and so worthwhile an outcome. I'm glad, too, that you like your Yale cover (I still hate mine); that's an added and deserved bonus. I wish you and the book every success. I'm sorry you've had to put up with such awfulness as the British Academy lecture you mention (who gave that, I wonder, and when?). But that should soon stop, from now on. Particularities and petty sounds/to cease, as Shakespeare (again) magisterially observed.

   I'm very interested in that Spanish grandfather who was beaten at chess by a boy of 14 who later became a world champion. Might that have been José Raúl Capablanca (1888-1942), already champion of his native Cuba in 1902 and world champion from 1921 to 1927, when he succumbed to my hero Alekhine? Does the score of the game survive in family archives? Was it played in Cuba?

   I'm just checking through the corrected proof of Edward III, which is due to be published in late summer 1996. I've just sent Robert and Candida my best regards and wishes for impressive publishing successes next year, such as bringing home the Bacon to modern readers, who should at last be made to recognise that there's more than one side of Bacon. I've also been wishing present and future successes to Christopher, who has been testing my Paganini expertise (very limited, but I've done my best). And really above all to you, my dear Hayat, with love and congratulations.

   Yours as ever Eric