76. 24 November 1995 [ES] (Nashe and Greene; Bacon and Amleth/Hamlet; Shakespeare mask)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Hayat,

Glad you liked the sonnets book. I think Kerrigan has many an insight, even though from an angle which I find more obtuse than acute.

   As to the heart, take care. And take heart too; everyone I know among my contemporaries has what's known as a dicky ticker. They all seem to thrive and flourish on it, trolling such carefree ditties as 'who could have foretold/ that the heart grows old?' For the poet himself, of course, this was a cry of inconsolable anguish; but the rest of us keep pretty cheerful. We have two anginas up the road, and a triple by-pass just out of town, who seem in the best of spirits. The thing is, anything amiss can be treated; and often passes by of its own accord, or indeed sursum corda, as it seems to have done, I was happy to hear, in your own case.

   Latterly I've been recommending your book to the president of the Baconian society, with whom I have some desultory shadow-boxing from time to time. But latterly we've actually found ourselves in the same ring, ducking, bobbing and weaving with a will (though without a Will, in one respect at least). Almost by chance, we find that we actually agree on something, namely that Nashe in 1589 and Greene in 1592 were talking about one and the same playwright, whether Shakespeare, as I suggest, or 'Shake­speare', i.e. Bacon's pen-name, adopted because as the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth he needed a cover-story (to put it mildly). My correspondent thinks it rather obvious that it was Bacon who changed the Danish hero's name from Amleth to Hamlet, knowing that this was already the name of Shakespeare's son, which helped with the deception. Nashe and Greene were both in the know, never doubt it. They had however been sworn to secrecy, like Hamlet himself, and being true English gentlemen respected that confidence for the rest of their lives. No doubt that's why Greene said 'Shake-scene', instead of 'Bake-scene', which he might otherwise have been tempted to write. But isn't there, I've ventured to ask, something rather odd about this theory – for example that even before Bacon actually used the sobriquet 'Shakespeare' his cover had already been blown, which would have rendered all such proceedings rather pointless. I'm awaiting a reply, which will no doubt boomerang back at high speed with fatal effect, like the replies to some of my chess club.

   A propos, Richard has just rung from Tokyo to say that he has come a good third in the chess championship of Japan, which sounds a bit like success in the shogi championship of Great Britain. But I'm told that it's really quite distinguished.

   I don't know about the Shakespeare mask, which certainly sounds a very German item. No German composer's skull is safe from exhumation and calibration with calipers in the interests of so-called science. But I don't see why it shouldn't undergo some carbon dating, like the Turin shroud, or those Dead Sea scroll fragments which seem well placed to bore readers into a state of mummification as terminal as their own. I'm sorry to say that I can't help laughing every time I read that the theological authorities offered the Bedouin a price per torn scrap; I bet that affable race obliged with paper-shredding on the grandest scale before Watergate.

   Don't wait for Wait on the sonnets, which appeared in 1972; worthwhile reading though. Wounded Name sounds good, though I must say that Baconians need no encouragement to connect their hero with the Danish one. Brahms beckons me back; greetings from his song-world.

   Best as ever,

   Yours Eric