· 8 September 2020 ·
[The blog’s first half-decade, and what lies ahead for Oxfordians]
The post was ready ahead of time, so it’s up early.
October 1st, 2015. I Didn’t Gild the Lily was my first new writing after an involuntary hiatus of four centuries. Without introduction or explanation I launched into what bothered me at that moment, the too-common misquotation of a phrase from King John. It was trivial, and in hindsight it was a cranky way to begin, but you have to start somewhere.
Would an Oxfordian blog written by Oxford work? That was the question. I thought it would be an interesting way to contribute to my own cause. After five years, the answer appears to be yes. If I have a lament (aside from the obvious) it’s that I’m not able to post more often. Postlife may be infinite, but time for post-writing is not. I write when I can, and when I can’t, I don’t. The setup is rather like Elizabeth’s no-strings-attached thousand-pound subsidy, except that I don’t get the thousand pounds.
My earliest readers, bless them, were followers from Twitter, already partisans. Now more visitors arrive ‘organically’ via search results, from all over the globe. Recently I discovered that one of my posts has been translated into Chinese (link follows the post). I wonder about the translation, but its existence is wonderful.
There has never been a lack of things to write about. The list in my Ideas drawer will keep me scribbling until Acknowledgement or Armageddon, whichever comes first. It’s difficult to write about death when you’re dead, so now I stick to comedy, even when I’m dead serious. Sometimes I’m earnest in motley, sometimes a fool in weeds. Anapaests are funnier than iambs. Levity is the soul of writ.
Ending the hegemony of Bardolatry is not a project for five years, nor fifty. It has taken a century just to get from ‘Shakespeare’ Identified to where things sit now, though an exponential curve rises very little at its outset. Dinosaurs die hard, and my manuscript meteors are long gone that could do the job by the stroke of my pen.
The level of contentious hostility in the world has increased since 2015, and this includes the world of Shakespeare. Anti-Oxfordian extremism is its own kind of plague; ye have the trolls with you always. As I see it, Stratford’s actions have become more defensive as they fail to quell the growth of interest in the man (hello) who makes Shakespeare make sense – sense that their man-shaped hole can’t and never will. Actions like proclaiming an aristocratic portrait of another man to be Willy, to make him more attractive to the customers. Like tossing my Sonnets into a blender to eliminate their linearity, inventing a false chronology that submerges clues to myself and my meanings in a context-less purée. They’re willing to destroy the poems in order to save them for Shakspere, just as they’re willing to destroy the unity of the plays for the same reason, supporting suspect statistical methods that assign co-authorship to whoever pops out of the computer, so long as it isn’t me. This retrograde earth-scorching reveals that the scorchers are running out of ideas, resorting to anything that will obfuscate my identity, make it harder to see me in the work.
It’s not easy to watch, but it is progress.
The task before Oxfordians is education. Educate yourself, then share what you’ve learned with others. Don’t look to schools, at least not yet: while arts budgets are shrinking, few can risk a new approach to an old curriculum. Don’t let the bullies intimidate or discourage you. Leave the ossified to their senectitude. The future is what matters, and the young people who own it. When you show curious minds that Shake-Speare’s words have a story, a personality, a life behind them instead of only hollow dogma and the inertia of convention, the rest of the job will do itself. That curve will climb, and keep climbing.
So I look forward to the blog’s next five years, and those beyond. As many as it takes. Stratford’s nonsense will wither, Oxford’s truth will endure. Vero nihil verius, et verum omnia vincet. Nothing is truer than truth, and the truth will conquer all.
- Additional Reading/Listening
- • Stratfordian Intolerance episode, Don’t Quill the Messenger [dragonwagonradio.com]
- · Steven Sabel, host, and Dr Roger Stritmatter, Professor of Humanities, Coppin State University, Baltimore, Maryland
- · podcast posted 2 September 2020 (runs 1h:18m)
- · series produced by the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship
- Most of my text was written before this podcast aired, so it was amusing and encouraging to note the overlap. Our opinions don’t always square, but we look through individual lenses of origin and experience as we look ahead in the same direction. I enjoy listening to these two gentlemen talk about me.
- • Is Shakespeare Dead? from my autobiography [archive.org]
- · by Mark Twain
- · Harper and Brothers, 1909
- Twain never knew of me, as he died a decade before the publication of ‘Shakespeare’ Identified. The leading Alternative Author in those days was Francis Bacon, but Twain explains, “I only believed Bacon wrote Shakespeare, whereas I knew Shakespeare didn’t.” He was on the right track. Read the book at the link, no downloading necessary. 150 quick pages. I bought a first-edition copy.
- • “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford [archive.org]
- · by J Thomas Looney
- · Cecil Palmer, London, and Frederick A Stokes, New York, 1920
- If you’d rather read the Centenary Edition in paper or as a Kindle ebook, see my Learned Books library entry for details and links.
- • Vero Nihil Verius – Nothing Truer than What? [PDF]
- · by Ramon Jiménez
- · Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship newsletter [shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org]
- · Winter 2018, Volume 54, Number 1, page 16
- • Simplified Chinese AI translation of edevere17.com homepage [translate.sogoucdn.com]
- · When I unearthed the link on 26 August (2020), it went to the Chinese version of my homepage at that time, Verse In Time To Come. I don’t know if the link will work once this post becomes the homepage. Will it be translated instead? I’ll see what happens.
- · A day later: Sogou’s search engine has updated to the new page. Downside: the previous one appears to be gone. I need to be careful, I could be setting up an infinite recursion.
- • On Blogday #4 (2019) I posted my recipe for (Edward de) Vere Pudding. Tiptree Brandy Butter (hard sauce) is its proper accompaniment. Made in Essex each fall, the sauce has just returned to the Tiptree website for the year-end holidays. I’m not paid to say that, though I should look into it. On second thought, I’ll leave the shilling (participle, not twelvepence) to Willy.
- • Lifetime Portrait Of Shakespeare Discovered [web.archive.org]
- · press release, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
- · 9 March 2009
- The capture linked above, and other pages also saved at the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, originated at the SBT’s 2009 promotional site shakespearefound.org.uk. The site has since been pulled and the domain let lapse, but Sir Thomas Overbury continues to play the role of Posh William in the SBT’s media and merchandising. [Those are Wayback captures taken within the last month. You can find the live site without my help.]