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Monday, July 27, 2015

To Mr. G.G. on the matter of Mr. H.W.

“It seems to me,” writes G.G., “there are two possibilities, one, that you have read [H. W.]'s The Monument and reject some or all of its arguments, or two, that you are not aware of the details of [H.]'s book. Am I right that one of these describes your position, and if so which is it?”

I have read H.'s closely related blog commentary on Vere, in bits-and-pieces, over the years. His theories are quite well known in considerable (but not complete) detail, I think it's fair to say. His blog has impressed me with the extent and dependability of his detail work on all aspects of the authorship question.  His ‘100 REASONS WHY OXFORD WAS "SHAKESPEARE"’ is an excellent resource.

Click here for Amazon book page.
Like H. himself (I suspect), my budget is unbelievably tight until I will begin to sell more of my various books. (My most recent humble purchase has been Dating Shakespeare’s Plays, on Kindle, which I have given a 5-star customer review and am sure to review eventually on my family of blogs.)  I can only buy books, for the present, that are immediately necessary to my research.  I am not yet able to do us both the honor of buying his book, The Monument.  

As luck would have it, my method has always been (even during far better funded periods of my research) to read the period texts and primary source material, or accounts drawn directly from primary source material (such as there are, and there are a considerable number) rather than treatments of the sources.

I try to read almost entirely from scholars who wrote before there was a Shakespeare Authorship Question of which to speak (the claim for Bacon notwithstanding).  I also avidly read the more rational of the books advancing Francis Bacon   The Stratfordian scholars in those days, having no need to be blind toward inconvenient facts, in order to protect their territory, are refreshingly willing to include findings that seem to make no sense in relation to a Stratford author.  Inconsistencies are openly admitted and attributed to the limited historical materials available or inscrutable nature of genius, etc. 

The Baconians sometimes uncovered materials that didn’t seem to fit the Stratford authorship, as well, far more anomalous materials, and tortured those materials until they “fit” their man.  The process is unintentionally insightful on a dozen levels, at least.  But the anomalies were often gloriously real.  It was through a brilliant Baconian that I first came across the Labeo satires.  When I was finally able to set aside the time to solve the puzzle, no part of the many hours of research could be accomplished utilizing any 20th century volume.  Had Labeo been applied to the Earl of Oxford rather than Bacon, from the start, the meaning of the texts would have become known in the late 19th century rather than 2013 in my Edward de Vere was Shake-speare: at long last the proof.

As I began the final writing of Edward de Vere was Shakespeare I had Ogburn’s The Mysterious William Shakespeare, Loony’s Shakespeare Identified and Mark Anderson's Shakespeare ByAnother Name beside me.  I had previously read Sobran’s Alias Shakespeare.  They and the Internet provided me overviews of what theories were out there.  As I proceeded, I learned that there were a number of excellent resources available on the Net, resources without which I would have had to publish a less precise book.  Those sources appear in the bibliography of the book.  Mark Anderson’s book has since been added to the bibliography in respect of how much it helped guide me through the present State of the Question.

All of this said, it should be clear from my books, and other comments, that I very respectfully disagree with a number from the “series of assumptions and hypotheses” that underlie H.’s book as well as the conclusions he takes from them.  Quite some number of years ago (before I was even aware of H.’s theories, or PT theory in general,) it began to be clear to me that far too many assumptions were involved in our traditional scholarship on the sonnets.  If the assumptions were no longer assumed, the sonnets suddenly looked quite different.  There was no inherent reason, in the texts themselves, which in the end are nearly all we have to go on, to understand the sonnets as being in even remotely chronological order.  There was no inherent reason to understand the sonnets as being addressed largely to Southampton.  In fact, from textual evidence, the monument sonnets appeared far more likely to have been written to Queen Elizabeth.  There was no inherent reason to understand the sonnets to have been solely written to three persons.  There is no inherent reason to understand that the sonnets were all written between 1590 and 1616.

If one reads the more effeminate procreation sonnets as if they might have been written to encourage Queen Elizabeth I to marry and produce an heir, the greatest procreation issue by far of the time, the sonnets look very different indeed.  Their tone suggests that they had to have been written by an intimate friend and a nobleman.  The time period across which the entire Sonnets was written then becomes from the late 1570s to 1603 (the year of Elizabeth’s death) or (depending upon the identity of the nobleman) later.

Understanding the author to have been Edward de Vere, in fact, the sonnets astonishingly reveal themselves to fit the autobiography of Vere very closely (more closely than any other figure of the time for whom we have a biography) and to have been written to at least six recipients and probably more.  The sonnets are grouped by theme, not by chronology, as might be expected to be the case if the author had died without thought of preparing the sonnets for the press.  W. H., then, would likely (but not certainly) be William Herbert, a close friend of Vere, who also would be intimately involved in preparing the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays.  Not only is there no need to develop ornate theories about how the initials are intentionally reversed on the page, but the question ceases to matter so much because W.H. is unlikely to be the recipient of any of the sonnets.

With this, the highly controversial “fact” that Shakespeare addressed young Southampton in notably
effeminate terms, in the first 126 sonnets, simply ceases to be a fact anymore.  The effeminate procreation sonnets, then, reveal themselves more likely to have been written circa 1580 (the widest likely window being 1573-81), in order to convince Queen Elizabeth to marry the Duke of Alençon.  History tells us that all her nobility and subjects were calling upon her in sermon, tract and poem to give the kingdom an heir while it still might be possible to do so.  The prospect of a return to dynastic wars, like the War of the Roses, was terrifying.  For the Howard-Vere faction, at Court, this was as much a plea to remove the possibility that their arch-enemy Leicester might be called upon to marry her in that desperate attempt, should Alençon failed to close the deal, there being no other viable candidate.

In my book Was Shakespeare Gay? Straight Male Scholarly Angst and Shake-speare's Sonnets. I present a range of supporting evidence for this position.  I’ve tested my findings at great length and feel confident that they fit together into a far stronger theory than any other, be it based upon traditional or alternative-author.

All of this said, I still return to Hank Whittemore’s exceptional online materials in order to check my detail work against his detail work, and, often, to be reminded that there are possibly other factors that I am not sufficiently considering. For example, in sampling Hank’s blog before I wrote this, I was reminded that the first trip by the Court to Bath was in 1574: a fact the details of which I probably should have more thoroughly reviewed before I wrote a certain passage in Discovered: A New Shakespeare Sonnet.  Who knows?  It may result in a minor revision.

As a matter of scholarship, however, we are all called upon to present our best, most unbiased analysis in spite of the fact that it contradicts the established theories of one or another popular member of the community — a person, in this instance, who I, too, greatly respect.  I have every confidence that H.W. himself wholeheartedly agrees with this as an absolutely fundamental requirement of scholarship.  A different analysis, arriving at quite a different result, is not on any level an attack or a “rejection”.  Nor is a polite but direct assertion/defense of that result. 

As for the question as to whether I’ve read Hank Whittemore’s The Monument.  No.  Not only am I not financially able to buy more than the rare occasional book, at present, but the method I follow strictly  limits what I can accept on anyone else’s authority. 

As I have the opportunity to read Hank’s book, or anyone else’s from among the books that seem to show promise, I will accept nothing on the author's word.  If I do not already see one or more flaws that disqualify it as a viable source of information, I will spend every bit as much time in its bibliography and footnotes, evaluating and plundering its sources, as I will in its text.  If I am not already aware of the quality of one claim or another from extensive past reading, I will evaluate it first by whether or not I can trace it to the same period texts and sources as I have always depended upon for my only (not always 100%) certain information.  I could never use a contemporary treatment as my final source.  At most it could be a placeholder (based upon my confidence in the author) until I could gain access to the sources in question.

To adopt a position because it is held by a good friend who you wish to defend against hurt is a laudable social behavior indicating strong group bonds.  One should see that as a positive.  In relation to our work, on the other hand, it is the destruction of valid scholarly method.  To source one’s work from popular books by those who have worked their way to the top of a social network is mortally flawed.  But it does look an awful lot like the dominant method among and many amateur and professional scholarly groups at present.  Perhaps this indicates an inevitable struggle, especially in a world that has become so dependent upon social media.

So then, more than one circumstance demands that I proceed in my infinitely boring trek through hundreds of thousands of words in tiny print, no short cuts available.  I am not at liberty to assess what I may find through the lens of our group esprit de’ corps.  Having strictly stayed within the bounds I set out for my work (and my budget) I am pleased to report that I have found the strongest theory concerning a number of the 1609 procreation sonnets: they likely were written to Queen Elizabeth between 1573-81.  Most recently, I am thrilled to report, in my latest monograph, Discovered: a New Shakespeare Sonnet (or three, actually), that my impossibly boring travels have revealed to me a hitherto unattributed sonnet by William Shakespeare.  I do suggest that reading through such small print, for seemingly endless hours, has been my single most effective scholarly trait: the source of a number of remarkable finds.  At the same time, I enjoy talking shop with everyone in the Oxfordian community, scholar and interested general reader.

You quite understandably indicated some slight confusion, G.G., when I mentioned that I intended to write a blog post on your question:  “I meant only to ask a simple straight forward question.”  But I have actually been challenged quite some number of times to explain how I can consider myself a legitimate scholar and/or a proper “team player” — my books in the least legitimate — without having read the several dozen “core works,” H.W.’s included, written by the dominant members of Shakespeare Authorship Oxfordian effort thoroughly and incorporating their findings.  Unbeknownst to you, your query could not be simple.

No, I have not read H.W.’s book.  Yes, I understand my findings to contradict his at considerable length.  I cannot say that I do or don’t agree with him on many of the details of his thesis because I have not read his book.  This is just one of several reasons I do not refer to the relationship between his work and my own.  I obviously join with many in congratulating him for exceptional scholarly integrity and a lifetime of admirable production which only seems poised to continue.

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