Ernest Hemingway Doubted that Will Shakspere of Stratford was “William Shakespeare”

Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald

We now have new research and discovery by Nina Green, with follow-up by Linda Theil, whose report to the Oberon Shakespeare Study Group is posted here below:

Ernest Hemingway may be added to the list of Shakespeare authorship skeptics thanks to Nina Green finding a Hemingway letter to Scribner editor Maxwell Perkins. Hemingway opens the letter datelined August 27, 1942 “La Finca Vigia” with praise for Alden Brooks’ Will Shakespeare and the Dyer’s Hand (Scribners, 1943) wherein Brooks proposes Sir Edward Dyer as the true author of Shakespeare’s plays.

Hemingway said:

Dear Max: Thank you very much for sending me the galleys from Alden Brooks’s Shakespeare book. I think it is very possible, as he told me last fall in Tucson, that he has really nailed the man at last. He is so enthusiastic and follows so like a bloodhound and a district attorney with a record for convictions, on the trail of poor Will that he will alienate many people, but as you say he piles up a terrific amount of evidence. Anyway, it is a marvelous job and it would be a crime for it not to be published. He is a good man too and was a fine soldier. . . .

Max Perkins had been shepherding the authorship book through the editorial process at Scribner’s, and had shared his enthusiasm for the work with Hemingway. Perkins biographer, A. Scott Berg, reported in Max Perkins: Editor of Genius (NAL 1979):

In 1942 Perkins was reading proofs of a book that did get published only because of his obstinacy. It was Alden Brooks’s Will Shakespeare and the Dyer’s Hand. For some time the book had been a mania with him. At every editorial conference Perkins brought it up and the board unanimously voted it down. “So, being a man of infinite patience,” one Scribners employee recalled, “he would introduce his suggestion at the next conference, with the same result.” What charmed Perkins about the work was that it credited Sir Edward Dyer, an editor with Shakespeare’s success. Indeed, the book had convinced Perkins that “the man Shakespeare was not the author of what we consider Shakespeare’s works.” Eventually the board gave in, to please Perkins. Max sent copies to many critics, hoping to rouse support. Nearly every one dismissed the work as mere speculation. Still Perkins retained his faith in the book and his respect for it. It made him aware, he told Hemingway, “how frightfully ignorant I am in literature, where a publishing man ought not to be.”  (pp 398-9)

Perkins’ devotion to Brooks’ heretical Shakespeare authorship work is well-known to longtime authorship researchers. In a July 26, 2016 post on Hank Whittemore’s Shakespeare Blog, Whittemore detailed the topic in a post titled “Max Perkins to Ernest Hemingway: “That Stratford Man Ain’t No Shakespeare!”

In the article, Whittemore quotes an August 13, 1942 letter from Perkins to Hemingway published in From Editor to Author: The Letters of Maxwell E. Perkins (Scribners, 1950) by J.H. Wheelock. The entire letter is quoted in Editor to Author. . .; Whittemore focussed on the final paragraph that reads: 

I am trying to read proofs on Alden’s book, and it is most interesting. It is certain, to my mind, that the man Shakespeare was not the author of what we consider Shakespeare’s works.

Until last week when the question came up on Nina Green’s Phaeton email list, no Hemingway response on the topic of Shakespeare authorship was generally known; but, on October 29, 2017 Nina Green wrote on Phaeton:

I’ve received a reply to the e-mail I sent to the Hemingway Letters Project advising that Hemingway did mention Alden Brooks’s book on the authorship issue in a letter to Maxwell Perkins dated 27 August 1942. The letter is on p. 539 of Carlos Baker’s Hemingway: Selected Letters (Scribner’s, 1981).  It appears Perkins had sent Hemingway galley proofs of [Will] Shakespeare and the Dyer’s Hand, and in his letter to Perkins, Hemingway apparently says Brooks did “a marvelous job”.

I’m hoping to get hold of a copy of Carlos Baker’s book containing that letter at the university library later today, and will post more once I have it.

Hemingway refers to Alden Brooks’s book on the Shakespeare

authorship in a letter to Maxwell Perkins dated 27 August 1942.

Carlos Baker’s Hemingway: Selected Letters (Scribner’s, 1981), p. 539.

The result of Green’s efforts is the August 27, 1942 Hemingway quotation posted at the top of this article and the photos shown above. Hemingway letters after 1931 are not yet available on the Hemingway Letters Project site.

Resources

Hank Whittemore, https://hankwhittemore.com/2016/07/26/max-perkins-to-ernest-hemingway-that-stratford-man-aint-no-shakespeare/ 

Hemingway Letters Project, https://www.hemingwaysociety.org/hemingway-letters-project 

Nina Green’s The Oxford Authorship Site, http://www.oxford-shakespeare.com/documents.html

Below is a copy of most of my original posting on this blog site:

“It is certain, to my mind, that the man Shakespeare [i.e., Shakspere] was not the author of what we consider Shakespeare’s works.”

— Maxwell Perkins, writing to Ernest Hemingway on August 13, 1942. (From Editor to Author: The Letters of Maxwell E. Perkins, Scribners, 1950)

Perkins and Hemingway in Key West, Florida in January 1935

Perkins and Hemingway in Key West, Florida in January 1935

Max Perkins was the editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons for some of the greatest novelists of his time, including not only Hemingway but also Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among many others.  Given that the works of these three writers so closely reflected their individual lives and perspectives, this devoted editor (who got so thoroughly involved in his authors’ joys and sorrows) was in the perfect position to see that the soaring, universal works of Shakespeare utterly fail to reflect the life and perspective of William Shakspere.

To Perkins, given what he knew firsthand, the traditional belief that the Stratford man could have written those works was absurd.

At the time he wrote that letter to Hemingway, the editor was reading the proofs of Will Shakspere and the Dyer’s Hand (1943) by Alden Brooks, who had put forth the candidacy of Sir Edward Dyer (1543-1607), the English courtier and poet.  In his biography Max Perkins: Editor of Genius (1978), A. Scott Berg reports that Perkins was able to get the Dyer book published “only because of his obstinacy.”

“For some time the book had been a mania with him,” Berg writes.  “At every editorial conference Perkins brought it up and the board unanimously voted it down. ‘So, being a man of infinite patience,’ one Scribners employee recalled, ‘he would reintroduce his suggestion at the next conference, with the same result.’ What charmed Perkins about the work was that it credited Sir Edward Dyer, an editor, with Shakespeare’s success.”

[Note: I am not sure what Berg means by saying Dyer was an “editor,” but he appears to suggest that Perkins was rejecting the Stratford myth at least partially because of some kind of narcissistic bias or vanity.  If so, I disagree.]

Eventually the board agreed to publish the book “to please Perkins,” Berg reports. “Max sent copies to many critics, hoping to rouse support.  Nearly every one dismissed the work as mere speculation.  Still Perkins retained his faith in the book and his respect for it.”

The reason for this tenacity, I suggest, is that he had come to realize the unbridgeable gap between the literary and dramatic works of Shakespeare and the personal experience of the Stratford man.  It must have come as a profound shock. Max Perkins, who was so attuned to his writers and how their lives affected whatever they wrote, could feel that gap in his bones.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. A very interesting find, Hank. It underscores the notion that any intelligent and – or – well read person is a doubter, unless the influence of his emotions, his/her attachment to myths (Churchill) is stronger. Not for one moment Jonathan Bate gave me the impression that he truly believes the Stratford man to be Shakespeare – we all know it defies logic. Would Hemingway have read Looney?

    • Hi Jan! I had meant to thank you for the comment. As to whether Hemingway had read Looney, I had wondered about that and about whether Perkins had read him also. I must look up whether Alden Brooks had read Looney before embarking on his Dyer research and writing. I am always curious about those who have read Looney and yet chose to look elsewhere for the true author. Cheers to you, my friend!

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Hank! The direct link to the Oberon post “Hemingway shown Shakespeare skeptical” is http://oberonshakespearestudygroup.blogspot.com/2017/11/by-linda-theil-ernest-hemingway-may-be.html?m=1.


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