Nonsense from the Washington Post

I strongly recommend that you leap over to Mark Anderson’s blog under the title of his book Shakespeare by Another Name (the modern biography of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as author of the works attributed to “Shakespeare”) and take a look at Mark’s wonderful response to an article about alleged portraits of the Bard in today’s Washington Post Sunday Magazine.

Mark has enough patience to respond to several points with wisdom and humor.  I don’t have such patience right now.  I mean, he quotes the author of the piece, sports columnist Sally Jenkins, that the authorship debate “is not really a controversy so much as a campaign by conspiracy-minded amateurs to prove that someone more visually appealing wrote the plays.”

I can’t respond.  Not now.  Imagine the British schoolmaster J. Thomas Looney, author of “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1920) reading such a statement!  I mean, just listen to how he opens the Introduction to his ground-breaking work:

“As a much graver responsibility attaches to the publication of the following pages than is usual in the case of treatises on literary subjects, it is impossible to deal with the matter as impersonally as one might wish.  The transference of the honour of writing the immortal Shakespeare dramas from one man to another, if definitely effected, becomes not merely a national [British] or contemporary event, but a world event of permanent importance, destined to leave a mark as enduring as human literature and the human race itself.  No one, therefore, who has a due sense of these things is likely to embark upon an enterprise of this kind in a spirit of levity or adventure; nor will he feel entitled to urge convictions tending to bring about so momentous a change as if he were merely proposing some interesting thesis.  However much the writer of a work like the present might wish to keep himself in the background he is bound to implicate himself so deeply as to stake publicly his reputation for sane and sober judgment, and thus to imperil the credit of his opinion on every other subject.  It would therefore have been more discreet or diplomatic to have put forward the present argument tentatively at first, as a possible or probable rather than an actual solution of the Shakespeare problem.  The temptation to do this was strong, but the weight of the evidence collected has proved much too great and conclusive to permit of this being done with even a fair measure of justice either to the case or to my own honest convictions.  Only one course was open to me.  The greater responsibility had to be incurred…”

Later in the same Introduction he writes:

“At the beginning it was mainly the fascination of an interesting enquiry that held me, and the matter was pursued in the spirit of simple research.  As the case has developed, however, it has tended increasingly to assume the form of a serious purpose, aiming at a long overdue act of justice and reparation to an unappreciated genius who, we believe, ought now to be put in possession of his rightful honours; and to whose memory should be accorded a gratitude proportionate to the benefits he has conferred upon mankind in general, and the lustre he has shed upon England in particular.”

I doubt if Ms. Quinn could have read these words before going ahead to write that the authorship debate is “a campaign by conspiracy-minded amateurs to prove that someone more visually appealing wrote the plays.”

The irony, folks — oh, the irony! — is that only someone devoted to the truth of Shakespeare and his writings will become seriously involved in the effort to know the real life portrait, the real human face, of this towering figure.

Look at Mark Anderson’s blog of today and maybe, as I did, you’ll read it and laugh and weep all at once.

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  1. […] Hank Whittemore’s commentary on the Post article: […]

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