Back in the early 20th century when British schoolteacher J.T. Looney (pron. Low’ney) first set out to find the true author, among the list of qualifications he derived from the works themselves was that the author must be someone not well known to mainstream history. Unlike Bacon, who had a long and very active public career, Shakespeare, having successfully hid his true identity, wasn’t going to be anywhere near so public a figure as Bacon. So how was he to find this master of deception? Cleverly he looked in the one arena where the elusive poet could not hide, in a collection of Early Modern English poetry. Out of a handful of poems from the period he found one that sounded similar to Venus and Adonis. This bore the name Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.
As Looney details in his work of masterful literary forensics, Oxford was not nearly so devoid of biography as is William of Stratford. In his youth, a leading figure at Elizabeth’s Court, scion of the most prestigious noble family in England, Oxford had left a relatively substantial paper trail. From this Looney was able to come to an immediate conclusion. Of the 18 probable characteristics of the author he assumed from his years of reading Shakespeare, Oxford fit every single one. Looney’s story, Shakespeare Identified, is so delightful that for those who have an interest in how the truth came out, it must be read in his own words, which, thanks to the Shakespeare Fellowship, are available online.
Since Looney’s time, Oxfordian scholars have added many chapters to Oxford’s biography. We now know a great deal more about him than Looney did, and although some of his details have been revised, his original insights have only been strengthened. Even the books, articles, blogs, and websites turned out by anti-Oxfordians in a rather desperate effort to discredit him have only added to the store of facts that affirm his authorship.
Since Looney brought Oxford out into the light there have also been efforts to replace him with other candidates. At least three of these are important figures in the story of the English Literary Renaissance, but not because they wrote the Shakespeare canon. Although they may fit the profile in one or two ways, none of the candidates brought forth since Oxford show anything close to his authority. It’s hard not to see the present promotion of a range of candidates as just one more reason for postponing the inevitable, the acceptance that the Earl of Oxford is the author, not only of the Shakespeare canon, but also one or two lesser canons written early in his career.
Once these other candidates have fallen by the wayside, as they must at some point, we can finally be about the business of discovering, through academics whose job it is to research such things, a great deal more about the man who created the language we speak today. It’s hard not to believe that that day is coming, and coming soon.