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Rude Oxfordians

Dear Oxfraud,

The Hogarth RoundaboutMy husband no longer shows the slightest interest in starting a conversation with me, let alone showing any kind of sexual interest.

After spotting an open copy of Ovid's Metamorphoses in Hogarth's Rake's Progress, he spent two years proving (quite successfully in my eyes) that the 17th Earl of Oxford was responsible for Hogarth's entire oeuvre. In fact his connections between the island in The Tempest and the island on the A4 known as the Hogarth Roundabout are really quite compelling. When he presented his findings at The 85th Vatican Council, Oxfordianism's CentrePiece Academic Symposium, someone called Mark Anderson rubbished his ideas and someone called Stritmatter issued what he called an ex cathedra statement saying that work dating from earlier than 1386 or later than 1749 could not be considered as Oxford's. Furthermore, he said he had a PhD and told my husband he was mad.

Blue suede shoes

Is the work of the early Elvis Presley, making recordings for Sun Records in the mid-50's, distinguishable from the work of the same singer in his recorded concerts of the mid-70's?

It's a difference of 20 years. The difference between early Beatles recordings and their final work is less than 10 years. Looking at Dennis Potter's early work in the sixties and comparing it with his work 20 years later is even more instructive. Very few people would want to admit they could not tell which came first, Vote, Vote Vote for Nigel Barton or The Singing Detective.

In the 16 years between Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters, with its off screen aliens and Jurassic Park with its very much on screen dinosaurs, computers had become big enough and powerful enough to be used for origination.

Caroline Spurgeon

Professor Caroline Spurgeon's work, Shakespeare's Imagery, represents years of work looking for patterns in the number and content of Shakespeare's images, assessing what can be learnt and relating them to the thematic contents of the work. When people talk about animal imagery in Lear or disease imagery in Hamlet, whether they know it or not, they are citing connections first made by Spurgeon. 

Her book, with its exhaustive listing and categorisation is still one of the definitive works on Shakespeare's language, though digesting it was the sort of hard work that was very unpopular when I was at university. Now, in the age of semiotics, it's right back in fashion.

"I thought Caroline Spurgeon settled this in 1935 with her master work Shakespeare’s Imagery. There seems to be absolutely no doubt to anybody who reads Shakespeare, and is familiar with the text, that these are the works of a countryman. This is a man who knows about kites and fields and it's certainly not the work of an aristocrat." Stephen Fry SBT 60 minutes

Professor Spurgeon

Spurgeon's work ties Shakespeare to Warwickshire and Stratford upon Avon in a knot no one has come close to loosening. By a weird coincidence, her book is best known for an attempt to take a passage in the canon and plant it in the real world. Ironic that the language expert should be associated with an exercise in literary biography, the favoured pastime of Oxfordians.

Looney Tunes

In his famous thesis, Roger Stritmatter joins Thomas J Looney in the First Article of the Oxfordian Credo which detects similarity between the work of the Bard and that of the Earl, trying for a twofer by aligning the plot of Hamlet with the life of De Vere.

Indeed Looney notes that the "central fact of Hamlet's working out

a secret purpose under a mask of eccentricity amounting almost to feigned madness" (398) forms

an analogue to the real-life circumstances of Edward de Vere as the greatest of the "concealed

Hurghley Burghley

There are people (including some who are certain that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays attributed to him) who believe that the character Polonius in “Hamlet,” based, at least in part, on William Cecil, Lord Burghley.  There are some reasonable arguments to be made on both sides of this issue.  What is not reasonable is the argument that the author of “Hamlet” must necessarily have had access to a copy of the precepts that William Cecil, Lord Burghley, wrote to his son Robert.  They claim that the speech the Polonius delivers to his son Laertes in “Hamlet” is so remarkably similar to the precepts Lord Burghley gave to his son Robert that only someone with access to a copy of Burghley’s precepts could have written “Hamlet.” 

Ben Jonson

BenBen Jonson wrote a famous and extensive verse introduction to the Preface to Shakespeare's First Folio. It wasn't the first compliment he paid to Will. That appeared in the First Folio of his own work. Jonson supervised the publication of the first collection of his own plays and if Will had taken the same trouble there would be no sites like this. There's no authorship debate about who wrote Jonson's plays.

In his collected work, Jonson lists Will Shakespeare as one of eight 'principal comedians' and again as one of eight 'principal tragedians'. This can not be Oxford.

Drink to me

BJWhile they were both alive, Ben Jonson clearly felt a sense of rivalry with his fellow playwright. As an artist, Will not only outsold him at the box office but quite clearly had the better turn of phrase. It must have been irritating. So while the competition between the dramatists is active, we find Ben sniping at Will's lack of education, his poor geography and choice of subjects until Will pre-deceases him in 1616. Later that year, having spent months in its compilation, Ben supervised the publication of the first collection of his own plays. If only Will had taken the same trouble there would be no sites like this. 

Two Noble Kinsmen

Based on Chaucer's Knight's Tale, another revealing prologue lies at the start of this late play whose authorship the records attribute to Will and John Fletcher, the successful long-term partner of Francis Beaumont. There has been a variety of controversy about the play but it is has gradually receded as analysis has isolated the contributions of each writer and validated the contribution made by Will. Many modern complete editions include it, as does the Oxford Companion to Shakespeare.

The Countess of Pembroke

Mary SidneyIf I could save two of my books from a conflagration, one of them would be Persuasion by Jane Austen. One of the greatest novelists of the 19C and an unsurpassed prose stylist and satirist. Although Austen used her own name, there are numerous instances of famous women novelists writing under a pseudonym throughout the history of the novel, many at the top of the tree in whichever category you want to assess them.

Why are there no women playwrights in the theatre explosion at the end of the 16C? With a woman on the throne,  one of Europe's greatest intellectuals to boot, there should be a good candidate amongst creative Elizabethan women. And there is.

Is this a dagger?

Gratulationis ValdinensisGabriel Harvey had a similar background to Will. He was a scholar and writer, born at Saffron Walden, Essex, the eldest son of Alice (d. 1613) and John Harvey (d. 1593), a yeoman farmer and master rope maker who was a prominent member of the town's corporation. Richard Harvey and John Harvey were his younger brothers. Gabriel was educated first at Saffron Walden grammar school (no enrolment records again) and graduated ninth in seniority in the BA class of 1569/70.

He was a close friend of Edmund Spenser, a letter to whom contains the first mention of The Faerie Queene and a collector of books, whose margins he filled with comment but whose existence he omitted to include in his will. Distinctive beyond doubt, the whereabouts of 180 of these books are known today. A humanist, a dedicated protestant and possible author of the Martin Marprelate tracts, he is known today mostly for a bit of Latin flattery bestowed on the Earl of Oxford in 1578.