Sunday, February 10, 2008

I've recently found this book review in the Spectator magazine from last year, of a recent book on the works of Shakespeare. The review is entitled "The Divine Pork Butcher". Keen students of divine synchronicity will be sniffing the bacon already. Comments on the review to follow...

Friday, February 08, 2008

My daughter started Grade Six this year. Each week they have a new quotation. This week it is from Francis Bacon! The quote is:

All rising to a high place is by a winding stair.

What a wonderful thought to inculcate in the young minds!

The teacher explained that this Bacon fellow lived at the same time as the great William Shakespeare. Try as I might I cannot get my daughter to put up her hand and explain to the class what she already knows even at her tender age: "please, Miss: according to my crazy father: Bacon actually IS Shakespeare!!!". I forgive her. I told her I would help work it all out at parent-teacher night. Great, she said, she can hardly wait. :-)
I heard on the radio the other day that Britain has recently voted January 22 as the "most miserable day of the year". Presumably they were referring to the weather at that time of the year, rather than the fact that it is the birthday of the great man himself, Francis Bacon. But I cannot help thinking that there is an underlying subconscious reason at play here for the result of this vote: Britain secretly knows in it's heart that it has denied recognition to FB for his achievements, and that this is a miserable thing to do to the man who has probably given more pleasure to Britons over the years than any other. One day, let us hope, January 22 will be celebrated as the most wonderful day of the year for Britain, and everyone will stay indoors ignoring the lousy weather and recite the works of the Bard.
Parallels. Baconians have them in spades, folks. Take Nigel Cockburn's exemplary "The Bacon-Shakespeare Question: The Baconian Case Made Sane". The chapter on parallels takes up 140 pages. Even then he restricts himself to the "best" 100 parallels which come from Bacon's writings outside his "Promus" notebook, and then there are another 40-odd pages on parallels purely from the "Promus". The chapter is a revelation, a delight, a wonderful thing. Sigh: but no one reads it or will read it, because, well, if you're a Stratfordian or Oxfordian you already KNOW that your man is the man, and the rest, well, everyone is too busy with iPod or whatever. But just to give a taste, here is one example, a single parallel from Cockburn's book. The reason I like this one is because only by knowing that Bacon is Shakespeare can one explain the textual riddle here, in this case a word in the First Folio which is rendered by - - - -. None of the orthodox editors can explain what might be meant; Cockburn nails it. Read on: first comes the Shakespeare verse in question, then a series of quotes from Bacon, then Cockburn's comment.

1 Henry VI 1.1. 55-8

Bedford: A far more glorious star thy soul will make
Than Julius Caesar or bright ____

Enter a messenger

Messenger: My honourable lords, health fo you all
Sad tidings bring I to you out of France


Both in persons and in times there hath been a meeting and concurrence in Learning and Arms, flourishing and excelling in the same men and the same ages. For, as for men, there cannot be a better nor the like instance, as that of the pair, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar the Dictator, whereof the one was Aristotle's scholar in philosophy and the other was Cicero's rival in eloquence.
The Advancement of Learning (Spedding 3.269)

Alexander was bred and taught under Aristotle, the great philosopher, who dedicated divers of his books of philosophy to unto him...(Alexander) gave him(Aristotle) to understand that himself esteemed it more to excel other men in learning and knowledge than in power and empire. And what use he (Alexander) had of learning doth appear, or rather shine, in all his speeches and answers, being full of science, and use of science, and that in all variety...I am as willing to flatter, if they will so call it, an Alexander or a Caesar or an Antonimus that are dead many hundred years since, as any that now liveth; for it is the displaying of the glory of learning in sovereignty that I propound to myself, and not an humour of declaiming in any man's praises...there are prints and footsteps of learning in those few speeches which are reported of this prince: the admiration of whom, when I consider him not as Alexander the Great but as Aristotle's scholar, hath carried me too far. As for Julius Caesar, the excellency of his learning needeth not to be argued.
The Advancement of Learning (Spedding 3.307-11)

It is not possible to have the true pictures or statues of Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar....but the images of men's wits and knowledges remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time.
The Advancement of Learning (Spedding 3.318)

In which point I promise to myself a like future to that of Alexander the Great. (For it was said of Alexander that he) had done no more that to take courage to despise vain apprehensions. And a like judgement I suppose may be passed on myself in future ages.
Novum Organon (Spedding 4.93)

Alexander did not think his fame so engraven in his conquests but that he thought it further shined in the buildings of Alexandria.
Speech at Gray's Inn Revels (Spedding 8.336)

Cockburn comments:

The reader sees that in the Shake-Speare text the second line ends with a blank. The editors of William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion opine that "despite numerous conjectures about the intended completion of this sentence, a dramatic interruption is almost certainly intended". But Shake-Speare would hardly have broken a sentence off between an adjective and its noun. The Arden editor and most other scholars make the far more plausible suggestion that Shake-Speare wrote a second name which the compositor could not decipher; a long name with many minims may have baffled him. Names suggested havs included Sir Francis Drake, Berenice and Cassiopey. But the Bacon texts almost certainly provide the answer. They show that he greatly admired both Caesar and Alexander. Alexander fits the metre and would have to be prefaced by an adjective to fill the gap before his name since, unlike Julius Caesar, he was not known by any prenomen. Above all, he would be a natural partner for Caesar, and comparison for Henry V. "Bright" rather than "great" is an unexpected adjective for Alexander and has put editors off the scent, but Bacon's shine, used twice (my italics) explains it - he thought Alexander bright by reason of his intellectual qualities. As for flattering Caesar and Alexander, that is exactly what Shake-Speare does in line 56, if Alexander is the missing name. (Footnote: In addition to the texts noted, Bacon mentions Alexander another 32 times according to Spedding.)
Arguing with Oxfordians is a silly thing to do, a waste of time and a guaranteed way to ruin your day. But here I go again. I can't resist. But that's it, I swear, no more comebacks. That's why I made this blog, so I could talk to myself about it. It's not that I haven't tried: I'm proud to say I've done my time and been thoroughly beaten up on the Oxfordian boards. Been there, done that. It is totally unproductive and a waste of everybody's time. Fun though! Still, we will have the last laugh! Labeo is deVere?: getthefuckouttahere.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I've had a chance over summer to look through "The Truth Will Out", the recent book by Brenda James and Prof. William Rubinstein putting forward Sir Henry Neville as the real Shakespeare. Puh-lease, as they say. I was tempted to consider that the book is intended as a clever literary joke, a send-up of the authorship genre, but after listening to Prof Rubinstein on a recent podcast interview, it was dismayingly clear that they are serious. Oh dear. Things have come to this. All it takes apparently now is a few biographical points of identity between a life and the plays, and presto, a new candidate steps forward out of the pack to even further muddy the waters.

The book is, frankly, a disgrace, to have come from the pen of academically competent scholars in English Literature. The entire work can be despatched on their treatment of Bacon alone, which casually displays not only their ignorance, but an appalling disregard for due diligence.

It's as simple as this: James and Rubinstein are content to repeat the claim made by John Michell in Who Wrote Shakespeare? that Francis Bacon never travelled to Italy. This is a critical point; as they rightly point out, any candidate who can be proved never to have set foot in Italy can be considered a non-starter. The problem is that Bacon most definitely travelled to Italy, on at least two separate occasions. The proofs of this are exact, and detailed, and contained in several Baconian books, most notably in William Smedley's The Mystery of Francis Bacon, where an entire chapter is devoted to demonstrating conclusively this very point from contemporary documentation.

John Michell is quite wrong to make this claim in Who Wrote Shakespeare, and on it's own this error is sufficient to ruin the book. It indicates that Michell has failed to read even the basic Baconian texts, because these facts are discussed widely within this literature. OK, well, Michell made a mistake and thereby revealed his lack of background reading on the Baconian case. He's human, and he's not a professor of English. I might add that he has conceded the error in private communication.

But it is inexcusable for James and Rubinstein to simply repeat this bald mis-statement of fact. Not only does it show that they are content to use amateur paperbacks as primary sources, and not only does it show that they also have failed to spend the time reading even a basic Baconian book like Alfred Dodd FB's Personal Life Story, but they hinge their dismissal of the Bacon case on this point. From a problem-solving perspective, this is sloppy work of the worst kind. It gets worse.

James and Rubinstein are content to claim that no substantial brief of evidence for Bacon has been put forward in recent years. Astonishingly though, they actually mention Nigel Cockburn's near-unobtainable work ("The Bacon Shakespeare Question: The Baconian Theory Made Sane"; review here) in passing. It cannot be that they have actually read this book though, because if they had, they certainly would not be able to claim that there is no evidence to be found for the Bacon case. Cockburn's book is encyclopedic, erudite, even-handed and turns over every stone. It is far and away the best book ever written on the authorship question by a country mile. It settles the question beyond any shadow of doubt. It's a pity that it is almost impossible to obtain a copy and that no one has read it, but that does not excuse James and Rubinstein. They got close enough to a copy to know it exists, yet could not muster the curiousity or the time, it seems, to open the covers and learn about the case for Bacon.

If they had, this book The Truth Will Out would never have been written. By rejecting the case for Bacon on erroneous grounds without even reviwing the evidence, they render the case for Nevil dead in the water before it has begun.

What of the case they present? It is laughably weak. I reread six or seven times the extracts from the so-called Tower Notebook and for the life of me could not spot the parallels to Henry VIII which seem so convincing to the authors. Clearly, they do not know what a convincing parallel might look like. Cockburn's chapter on parallels is over 100 pages long, and even then, represents only a slice of the available evidence. Many of the parallels on their own are sufficient to prove the case beyond any reasonable doubt. I will present one such in a subsequent post here to demonstrate.

Nevil does come close to the Shakespeare mystery in one significant place, and that is on the cover of the Northumberland Manuscript. Again, the authors' treatment of this evidence is pitiful. They entirely ignore all the known writings on the cover which explicitly attribute the referenced Shakespeare works to Bacon. Naturally, they are not even aware of the discovery announced on sirbacon recently of the words "in heling" on the cover. In these two words the matter is settled: here is a contemporary, manuscript, eye-witness testimony of the precise nature of the relationship between William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon: Shakespeare's name is being used "in heling" or as a "cover" for Bacon's true authorship. No other conclusion is possible, but you won't read about this in The Truth Will Out.

I suppose we can't blame Rubinstein and James for failing to read up on the Bacon case, or for uncritically rehashing John Michell's howler, or for failing to inspect carefully the Northumberland Manuscript cover page with a bright light and high resolution pdf. They are victims of the Baconians poor handling of the material. While we fail, they can get away with this kind of pure rubbish. Meanwhile, The Truth Will Out will convince a whole new crop of readers who themselves have never been exposed to the Bacon case properly put. Meanwhile the authorship puddle gets muddier and muddier. Nevil did not write Shakespeare and not a scrap of evidence can be brought to show that he did. Francis Bacon is the true author. Give me a break.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

After a short hiatus, while my obsession took other forms, I return to take up yet again the cudgels for Bacon is Shakespeare. The break has been worthwhile, and given some much needed space and perspective from which to re-think the entire topic. It has become clear to me that the Baconian enterprise has essentially ground to a halt. The well-worn arguments have become encrusted with the dead weight of time. Absent an entirely fresh set of narrative facts, the movement threatens to fade away. Nothing could illustrate this better than the most recent edition of the venerable publication Baconiana, which put its recent issue on-line for the first time. It is a depressing read, full of tired, overblown, underwhelming pieces which do little to inspire newcomers or old-hands. Pomposity jostles for space with ridiculousity, if they be words. It's time to shut down Baconiana, disband the societies, throw out the jaded old arguments and start again. Let's face it: the Baconians have botched it. We have never really recovered from the blow dealt by Friedman to the writings on codes and ciphers which muddied the stream of early twentieth century Baconian writings. Meanwhile, despite the best book ever on the authorship crisis being written and published (Cockburn), it remains unknown and virtually unobtainable. The intellectual argument has been won, but the public relations battle has been comprehensively lost. We have the keys to the riddle, but have rendered ourselves mute and unable to give coherent voice to it anymore.

There is only one answer. It is pointless rehashing the same tired old narratives. It is time for an entirely fresh injection of material into the debate, and a complete recasting of the terms on which it has been fought. The Bacon enterprise 2.0 begins here, now, today.