So sorry for taking so long to provide something worth reading here. I’ve been totally locked into getting the book finished and haven’t been able to use my poor overworked brain for anything else. Now that it’s done (well, almost done) perhaps I can break off long enough to write a comment or two on the material involved as the next phase begins, the one where I seek and find the publisher of my dreams.
The purpose of the blog as it has evolved since its inception in 2009 has been to present the pieces of the puzzle that will eventually tell the true story of the Shakespeare canon and how it came to be. So long as the pieces remain unconnected to each other, the story remains incomplete, and so remains untold: as Shakespeare put it, “the end crowns all.” The book is a necessity if these pieces are to connect into a narrative so that the story can unfold. Since new pieces keep turning up, this process has taken a very long time. Hopefully at some point you will have the book, when much will become clear that is not at present. Certainly much has become clear for me during this process, some of it over the past six months.
The story, as it has emerged, is only partly about Oxford. For one thing, we still know so little about him. As both E.K. Chambers and A.B. Grosart noted, at a certain point in his life a “shadow” falls that blocks him from our view, meaning that from then on there is simply is very little mention of him in the record. We catch glimpses of him from time to time in both the political and literary records, and these are helpful, but right now a birth to death biography would consist so largely of conjecture that it must await a future when those with the time and the necessary financial support can delve through uncalendared papers in the English archives. Because Oxford’s life has not been as thoroughly researched as, say, William of Stratford’s, there could very well be material buried in the basement of the PRO that’s been bypassed by researchers tracking some other subject, or possibly never even glanced at in passing. What was necessary at this point has been to find a path through the present mess that someday lead those with the necessary financial backing can follow, providing the material that will give us a clearer picture and a better understanding of the truth.
What this book will provide, not as fully perhaps as it should, but certainly more fully than anything else has done, is to locate the literary Shakespeare and the historical Earl of Oxford in the context of their times as a means of bringing the two together. When so much has been lost or destroyed, how does a researcher locate the truth?
She begins at the visible level with what facts are accepted. When the anomalies appear, areas that don’t make sense or where something seems to be missing, she focuses on these and goes deeper. She looks at the history surrounding them for something that might explain why they don’t make sense. She locates relevant material that may not be directly connected to mainstream political or literary history. If individuals are involved, she reads their biographies, joining the ODNB for a month now and then to download biographies. If these are suggestive, she goes deeper, reading the books they cite. She seeks anti-establishment views by reading histories of the period written from an opposite perspective, such as Catholic histories of the English Reformation. And she makes free and frequent use of her native common sense.
When I began, there was no history of Oxford’s childhood. Research uncovered his tutor, Sir Thomas Smith. More research established how long he was with Smith: eight years, from age four to twelve. Smith’s biographies, plus his 1566 library list, established an education that when matched to a more realistic account of Shakespeare’s erudition than is allowed by the Stratford biography, provided a timeline to which the events in Oxford’s life could be matched to the themes, plots and characters of the plays. At a certain point, the mass of dates and commentaries began taking on a life of its own. The pieces of the the puzzle began to find each other and group into clusters. Eventually the clusters began to group together into a coherent whole. All this has taken time. Some connections have only occured during the past twelve months. Certainly this could not have been done without the help of the many authorship scholars who have gone before, nor without our present advantage with online materials provided through Wikipedia and entire books published by books.google.com, but as you’ll see, the study itself has taken me in a number of very different directions.
Great storytellers generally have interesting and meaningful life stories of their own. Dickens as a boy had to give up his education to work in a blacking factory so his family, locked away in debtor’s prison, had money to eat. Lord Byron awakened one morning in 1812 to learn that his second book, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimmage, had sold out overnight, turning him into an instant celebrity and a rich man. Louisa May Alcott studied the novels of her day in hopes that by learning how to write commercially successful stories she might help her save her family from the poverty to which they were condemned by her moonstruck father. Jane Austen scribbled at what her family and friends were led to believe were letters to friends, slipping the bits written on letter paper under a book when someone entered the room. There’s Scott Fitzgerald on the Riviera; Hemingway on the Italian Front; Emily Dickenson locked away from the world in Amherst.
Oxford’s life, from a handful of dissociated incidents, is revealed as a story just as fascinating and exciting as the plot of any of his plays. The process has required a liberal use of the words maybe, probably, even undoubtedly, certainly, and why not? Even Science, so worshipped by the New Bibliographers that took us so far out of the way in our search for the truth, requires conjecture and hypothesis before theory can become fact. No successful experiment was ever undertaken without the hope of turning a theory like those of Newton, Marx, or Darwin into the basis for a whole new worldview. This narrative, wedded as it is to a thousand facts never before considered, is still just one long conjecture. But if it’s only the finger pointing at the moon, not the moon itself, still, I believe that at the very least it’s pointing, finally, in the right direction.