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Dyer consequences

A pontification too far

The Spectator. Alexander Waugh's Diary. November 2, 2013


Alexander Waugh's Diary is a sparse but rather good echo of Auberon Waugh's brilliant diary in Private Eye. With more than one entry a year and a bit more of his father's animating bile, the son's diary might also turn into required reading. Alexander, horriible dictu, is an Oxfordian. His claims to have discovered an Oxfordian angle in Covell's Polimanteia (1595) occasioned two responses here and here on Oxfraud. 

Plane truth

Thomas HardyChristmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
   "Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
   By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
   They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
   To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
   In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
   "Come; see the oxen kneel,

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
   Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
   Hoping it might be so.

What could be more Christmassy than an article about trees? Here we have the famous agnostic, Thomas Hardy, indulging himself in a little bit of Christmas Romanticism, apparently wishing (although not expecting) that a popular Christmas legend might prove to be true. Whilst this hardly counts as apophenia (the quest to see patterns in data where there is no pattern), wishing for things that we ought to know are impossible inspires a great deal of Oxfordian field research. Visits to Castle Hedingham and Bilton Hall, for example, may well strengthen the faith in the hearts of the true Oxfordian like a visit to Midnight Mass will rejuvenate a Christian, but surely they realise that geographical exertion and exploration are not going to turn up actual evidence of their messiah's hand in the Shakespearean inkwell?

Hh-education

Rutland

“I swear by God’s body, I’d rather that my son should hang than study letters. For it becomes the sons of gentlemen to blow the horn nicely, to hunt skillfully and elegantly, carry and train a hawk. But the study of letters should be left to the sons of rustics.”

Largesse

In August 1564, the Queen ascended to Cambridge—for even she must be said to go up—with a train of courtiers. In honor of the great occasion, seventeen1 of that party, privy councillors and gilded youth, were granted degrees. Among those in the company so honored were Sir William Cecil and two of his royal wards: the hatchling earls Edward de Vere, the 17th of Oxford and Edward Manners, the 3rd of Rutland. They were then 14 and 15.

Reason 101

Some ideas on the current state of SAQ affairs


In our first post-100 reason, we reflect on how important are reason and logic to the Oxfordian conjecture.


Oxfordians claim to have assembled their contentions into a theory built from first principles by using a mass of circumstantial evidence. But are their claims reasonable or do Oxfordians arrive at their conclusions having swallowed a few faith-based, whale-sized red herrings?

We're going to look at a survey taken in Madison in 2014,1 testing the relative strength of what most Oxfordians believe but first, we'll look at what lies behind areas of weakness that must be obvious to any newcomer. The mechanism of belief is what we're interested in. After checking out the evidence quotient in what are keystone arguments, we can then use the survey to see where they rate in the Oxfordian standings of credibility.

Count von Count

This page is brought to you by the Number 17. And 16. And 18 and 19. And with the kind help of our friends at The Folger Library.
count

 

Seventeen is magic to Oxfordians. They see it everywhere in Shakespeare’s work, enwoven in the very fabric of his poetry. Septimodecimists find 17s in the praises of Ben Jonson, in Francis Meres’s catalog of poets, underlying and denying what they plainly wrote.

That language, to initiates, is but a screen, devised to hide a deeper truth, encoded in, occulted by these writers' “arithmetical arrangements.” "Read the puzzle, not the poem," they urge us.1 Words lie; but numbers? Never, if properly manipulated. By divination with 17s, the tribe of Ned can find him stamped on every page. This belief is more than talismanic—it is Trinitarian, the central mystery of their faith. Their Lord has hidden patterns of himself—his “authorial watermark”—in his creation.

Behold, the priesthood speaks: “Can this pattern of deviations from symmetry, in itself balanced, be ascribed to mere chance? ... Here de Vere is concealed and at the same time, by a fugue-like textural procedure, revealed as Shakespeare.”2

The Shawshank Redemption

A series of Oxfordian Guides to popular plays and films outside the Shakespearean Canon.

1. The Shawshank Redemption 1994(?)

Directorship (claimed) Frank Darabont
Authorship (claimed) Stephen King

The case for doubt

Film scholars have long accepted that a script ascription to Stephen King is no more than a mask for the product of all-purpose teams of genre-dedicated writer’s rooms. The use of the pseudonym Stephen King, which was once the authentic and unique property of Richard Bachman, aka John Swithen, has diluted to encompass an oeuvre far too numerous for a single author.

With Shawshank, the orthodox viewpoint also has to explain how the most successful and beloved film in history came to be directed by the unknown Frank Darabont, a director who to this day has nothing else in his CV of any significance. His other works are few and obscure. The Green Mile, The Walking Dead, Frankenstein and so on, have remained stubbornly unpopular with all bar the tiniest of cult followings. Their lead actors remain completely unknown. Who today can name even one film by Eric Stolts, Thomas Hanks or Kenneth Branner? Imdb is silent on the careers of all three.

The Great Dictator

Faced with Sir Thomas More, a patchwork production by a rabble of commoners, which “like the toad … wears yet a precious jewel in his head”—a scene of Shakespeare’s—the Oxfordians have had to re-invent his lordship yet again.  None of the six hands in the manuscript is his.  Hand D, by consensus, is the Stratford fellow’s.  Is not. The spelling is nothing like De Vere’s.  The stylometry— Can’t hear you.  La-la-la.  But hey, Hand C, now:  that’s Anthony Munday’s.  Wasn’t he once Oxford’s secretary?  Out goes the high romantic image of the midnight study:  Rhys Ifans in fabulous shirtsleeves, alone with his ghosts.  In comes the Great Dictator and his secretary—no, his team of secretaries.  None of whom ever once blabbed.

“We now have to visualize Oxford at work, speaking lines aloud for a scribe to record—then, as he heard them recited back to him, pondering further changes, a method that guaranteed that the lines would sound as sweetly in a listener’s ear as in a reader’s mind.” 1

There’s a problem with that.  There are several; but consider two.

Hand of Damocles

In the face of such methodological shortcomings, conflicting opinions, and duelling analyses, what is one to think? An obvious explanation is that to- day’s orthodox scholars, including all the stylometricians here mentioned, are groping blindly in the wrong paradigm, and are handicapped by the confines of the conventional Shakespearean dating system. (Craig and Kinney are familiar with the Oxfordian argument, and mention it several times, once even citing an article in The Oxfordian.) In addition, very few scholars of any period have given any consideration to the idea of a substantial corpus of Shakespearean juvenilia. We can be sure that Shakespeare did not always write like Shakespeare.
Ramon Jiménez: Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter January 2011


Stylometry takes a step forward

In 2009, Hugh Craig and Arthur F Kinney published a book called Shakespeare, Computers and the Mystery of Authorship, revised in 2012, which has received surprisingly little attention in the SAQ debate, given its title. Craig is Professor of English at the University of Newcastle, Australia and a contributor to the Early Modern Literary Studies site and is the author of a very good study on Jonson which looks at the problems thrown up by lexical analysis of his work.

Arthur F Kinney is the Thomas W, Copeland Professor of Literary History at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is a founding editor of English Literary Renaissance and he has also written on SAQ-relevant issues in Shakespeare's Web (2004) and Shakespeare and Cognition (2006). This book drew in the work of two doctoral students at Amherst; Philip Palmer and Timothy Irish Watt.

All sorts of bells should be ringing by now. However, the only reviews I can find in the field comprise a solitary Amazon review and a very positive notice from Linda Theil. I doubt she read it or even looked inside. There is also a mystifying article on the book in the Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter in which Ramon Jiménez proves he has definitely read some of its contents but, concluding from the above conclusion, he has either understood nothing or is presenting his summary of an entirely different book.

Tempests again

“I freeze and burn, love is bitter and sweet,
my sighs are tempests and my tears are floods,
I am in ecstasy and agony,
I am possessed by memories of her and
I am in exile from myself.” 

Francesco Petrarca*

Tempest metaphors are a favourite amongst poets and always have been. It's so easy to associate Olympian raging storms with chthonic emotional turmoil. Shakespeare's storm on the heath in King Lear is possibly the closest confrontation between elemental nature and primordial humanity. Storms on heaths, however barren, are different from storms at sea.

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