66. 25 May 1995 [ES] (Chambrun on Spedding; deposition scene)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs.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

Dear Eric, I had a few misgivings over the charge I made, pace Eric, in my last letter (22 May), so I took up the Countess of Chambrun whom I'd not read for a long time. And yes, you may be right that with Montague and the Southampton clan, Shakespeare looked on Elizabeth as a tyrant. But I doubt whether so astute a man (however much he may have hoped to celebrate a victorious Essex) would have been taken in by him, as Mrs Chambrun was, and seen him as an ideal liberator, whereas he cared for Catholics and Puritans only as pawns in his dream of ruling England. (Though he did in the end fear dreadfully for his immortal soul, which caused him to denounce all his fellow-conspirators, and his own sister).

   But in any case I cannot see Shakespeare as a deliberate rebel. Even Chambrun (p.238) describes him as believing that a duly appointed sovereign, however wicked, cannot have violent hands laid upon him. Chambrun, brilliant and readable as she is, can go wildly off track, as you will have noticed, I'm sure. E.g., what made her say, and repeat (p.278), that Spedding analysed the Northumberland MS 'with a view to proof that Francis Bacon was the real author of Shakespeare's work'? (which is where Hamilton got this blunder from). I feel doubtful also about the identification of Anne Lyne in the Phoenix (p.233). Chastity, no doubt, but where is the 'married chastity'?

   You'll now have all the arguments about the deposition scene at your fingertips. I've forgotten them. But it would seem to me likely for a dramatist to write the deposition and death of Richard – the kernel of the play – from the beginning, and be forced to cut them out, rather than not think of it until Essex's men come asking for a performance of the now outdated. And then write it up overnight for political reasons which don't correspond to his beliefs.

   I'll be very interested to see what you write about this.

   I notice that Mme de Chambrun gave up on the holograph will, for what looks like a good reason. I haven't yet checked whether you defeated her objection.

   Good work, and till soon,

   With love