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Letters of Comment
As editor and publisher, I reserve the right to edit, ignore or make snide remarks about all submissions. They wouldn't be real LoC's if I didn't!
 
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Remember that any LoC is, by definition, liable to publication on this page. As Stendhal put it, "To write is to risk being shot in public."

January 9, 2005
 
Something New from France
Thierry B., St.-Nazaire, France, writes to tell me about the first issue of Frogs of War, a free wargaming fanzine, aiming for quarterly publication, that rivals Vae Victis in quality. It is written entirely in French and comes as a 42 meg PDF file but is definitely worth a look if neither of those impediments deters you. Individual articles can also be downloaded to reduce the strain on one's bandwidth. There isn't a game in each issue, but the mixture of reviews, variants and scenarios is impressive.
December 15, 2004
 
Lewis vs. Anscombe
Victor Reppert, Phoenix, Arizona:
Persons interested in the Lewis-Anscombe controversy can find a detailed discussion in my book C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea; A Defense of the Argument from Reason. The first chapter can be read online.
And quite an impressive chapter it is. After reading it, I ordered a copy of the book.
October 17, 2004
 
Comment Would Be Superfluous
Harry Horton, Pittsboro, N.C.:
Within Shakespeare's sonnet 20: The lines goes as follows: Gilding the Object whereupon it gazeth, a man in hue all hues in his controlling, steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth. A very revealing segment of Shakespeare's works. Compare these lines to the Eckankar Philosophy's two techniques for making contact with the higher realms of God. The Hu chant and secondly, a simple contemplative technique of holding an object in one's fingers, gazing upon it while moving it around abit. While performing this technique one's mind lapses into a contemplative mode, the higher planes of consciousness begins to appear (these planes sometimes express themselves as with a gilded or golden like light sheen as an internal sensory ambience within the mind). The Hu chant is a chant which the performer chants the word Hu softly for twenty minutes or so while concentrating on the spiritual eye (named the Tisiri Til) located in the middle of the forward. Hu is the ancient word for God and opens up the chanter to the flow of the holy spirit (known as Eck) that enters into the mind and thus soul of the chanter. If  these sonnet lines are about these facets of the Eckankar philosophy how did Shakespeare know about it with such accurate intamacy? And could the above fact, if be true,  then the Eck Master (the leader of the Eckankar philosophy) could have been English at the time living relatively secretively in Elizabethean England. The Eck Master according to Eckankar's principles, as a general rule, stayed obscure and secret generally from the rest of society.But yet could have been a man who heavily influenced or even wrote Shakespeare's works? Who knows stranger things have happened. As Spenser wrote in an autumn 1579 correspondence concerning personages of the Elizabethean Court, he made reference to his unknown friend Maister Ek. Is Maister EK, -- Eck Master? You all decide. EK wrote also the prefaces for The Shepherd's Calender of Spensers, as well as a lost commentary on Spenser's Dreames.
August 5, 2004
 
Another Oxfordian Complains
Greg Ellis (no address supplied):
It looked at the start as though this reviewer had something serious to offer this debate so it was unfortunate to see his review descend into silly put downs, followed by barracking from another correspondent. It really is time the debate went beyond such antics. The reliance of the reviewer on the chronology of the plays is typically tendentious. The traditiunal chronologies are all, without exception, creation of fiction. The pre-1604 De Vere chronologies on the other hand are linked to plays that are known to have been performed in the 1570-1580s.
There is a lot of speculation in the chronology of the plays, but much of the traditional chronology rests on hard evidence. For instance, the Henry VI plays draw on material that appeared for the first time in the 1587 edition of Holinshed and therefore are unlikely to have been written before that date. The Comedy of Errors contains a joke (France "making war against her hair") that would have made no sense until Henri of Navarre was named heir to the French throne in 1589. The porter in Macbeth alludes unmistakably to the Gunpowder Plot (1605) and the execution of Fr. Henry Garnet (1606). A writer in 1613 refers to Henry VIII as "a new play". The clues are scattered and can be put together in more than one way, but they are not "fiction". What is fictional are "pre-1604 De Vere chronologies" that associate Shakespearean texts with early plays that are known only by title. As an example, the records of the Master of Revels note the performance of "The historie of Error . . . on New yeres daie . . . by the Children of Powles". Various Oxenfordians leap to the conclusion that this lost play must have been The Comedy of Errors. That isn't fiction?
The tendentiousness of the Stratfordian argument reaches its debilitating high point in the need to account for works produced by lesser writers in the late 1580''s and early 1590's. To do this requires them to deny the genius of Shakespeare and to regard him as a magpie of lesser men's works. In the Oxford chronology the reverse is true - the lesser poets borrow from the master.
Most of what Shakespeare borrowed came from writers who were dead before he (and Edward de Vere) were born or from historians. Does Mr. Ellis think that Holinshed cribbed from the History plays rather than vice versa? In a very few instances, Shakespeare borrowed parts of his plots from contemporaries. Once or twice, he may have filched a line. The borrowing goes in the other direction, too. Samuel Daniel revised his Cleopatra to insert touches from Anthony and Cleopatra, and we would probably discern many more instances of Shakespeare's influence if more of his rivals' plays survived and they were studied more intensively.
A similar traducing of the true author takes place in the traditionalists insistence that Shakespeare didn't really enjoy much of a reputation until the last 100 years or so - per Irwin Matus for example - the implication being that the really he is not that good and we are all going a bit over teh tope in extolling his genius - really the Stratford man didn't need to be that smart to create these trifles picked from other authors. Like I presume every adult I started out as considering a challenge to the Stratfordian thesis to be sacreligious - and perhaps it is - but I can see now that religion should have nothing to do with this issue. Neither should flip-dick remarks which are well beyond passe.
Irving Matus certainly does not assert "that Shakespeare didn't really enjoy much of a reputation until the last 100 years or so". He does point out that the Bard did not have during his lifetime the semi-mythic standing that he acquired afterward, which is why his doings were not recorded in detail. His aim is to counter the silly argument that the absence of immense documentation of Shakespeare of Stratford's life "proves" that he could not have been a writer of genius.
July 22, 2004
 
Immigrant Soldiers
Arthur Gane, Forster, NSW, Australia:
If my understanding is correct. native Americans, i. e., citizens, rioted against the draft act during the Civil War while migrants, mainly Irish, signed on to fight as soon as they got off the boats. WWII Japanese-American non-citizens become some of America best troops even while their families were locked up by the government. In my own country refugees have become the new buzz word for enemy by the right and poor downtrodden by the left. Conservative parties won power based on stories in the Murdoch press regarding refugees throwing children overboard to prevent being sent back to departure point {usually Indonesia or Malaysia, places where my government has made no effort to provide immigration support for refugees). On other side, when protesters against refugee detention asked what they were going to do about refugee disasters looming in Congo and Sudan, answer D'oh. As a final point, the mercenary troops of Rome remained loyal, the Roman troops were the traitors who kept overthrowing the empire.
A couple of quibbles: Irish immigrants took part in the New York draft riots, though perhaps not with the same ferocity as native-born Americans, and most of the Japanese interned during World War II were citizens. On Australian immigration policies, I know too little to comment. It's work enough to argue with our own nativists.
June 18, 2004
 
Senator Kerry's Patriotism
Kevin Speis, St. Louis, Missouri:
I wish to comment on your mandatory disclaimer about John Kerry. Just because he served in Vietnam does not mean you cannot question his patriotism. John Kerry questioned his own patriotism upon his early return from the Delta and has been questioning it ever since.
Senator Kerry does indeed have a penchant for raising questions about his own patriotism. He still claims to be proud of his association with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, unfazed by revelations that the group fabricated stories about American "war crimes" in Vietnam, and his repeated invocation of service in Vietnam as an all-purpose response to criticism of his voting record starts to sound like the national defense equivalent of "Some of my best friends are Jews".
Actually, I don't think that John Kerry is unpatriotic in the same sense as, say, Michael Moore or George Soros. He doesn't root for American defeat in the War on Terror. On the other hand, he hopes to win through the magical intervention of allies rather than through reliance on our own efforts. The delusion that France, Germany and Russia can save us but we cannot save ourselves is a rather serious flaw in a Presidential hopeful.
May 27, 2004
 
The Fate of Palestinian Christians
Professor Abe W. Ata, who has an Australian e-mail address and describes himself as "a 9th generation Christian Palestinian born in Bethlehem":
Palestinian Christians - tormented, persecuted, abandoned and alone:
The Palestinian Christian is an endangered species. When the modern state of Israel was established there were about 400000 of us. Two years ago the number was down to 80000. Now it's down to 60000. At that rate, in a few years there will be none of us left.
Palestinian Christians within Israel fare little better. On the face of it, their number has grown by 20000 since 1991. But this is misleading, for the census classification "Christian" includes some 20000 recent non-Arab migrants from the former Soviet Union.
So why are Palestinian Christians abandoning their homeland?
We have lost hope, that's why. We are treated as non-people. Few outside the Middle East even know we exist, and those who do, conveniently forget. I refer, of course, to the American Religious Right. They see the modern Israel as a harbinger of the Second Coming, at which time Christians will go to Paradise, and all others (presumably including Jews) to Hell. To this end they lend military and moral support to Israel.
Even by the double-dealing standards of international diplomacy this is a breathtakingly cynical bargain. It is hard to know who is using whom more: the Christian Right for offering secular power in the expectation that the Jewish state will be destroyed by a greater spiritual one; or the Israeli Right for accepting their offer. What we do know is that both sides are abusing the Palestinians. Apparently we don't  enter into anyone's calculations.
The views of the Israeli Right are well known: they want us gone.
Less well known are the views of the American Religious Right. Strangely, they find the liberation Iraqis from a vile dictator just, but do not find it unjust for us to be under military occupation for 38 long years. Said Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma): "God Appeared to Abraham and said: I am giving you this land, the West Bank. This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true."
House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) was even more forthright: "I'm content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank. I happen to believe that the Palestinians should leave."
There is a phrase for this. Ethnic cleansing.
So why do American Christians stand by while their leaders advocate the expulsion of fellow Christians? Could it be that they do not know that the Holy Land has been a home to Christians since, well, since Christ?
Do not think I am asking for special treatment for Christians. Ethnic cleansing is evil whoever does it and to whomever it is done. Palestinian Christians: Anglican, Maronite Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Armenians, Baptists, Copts and Assyrians have been rubbing shoulders with each other and with other religions: Muslims, Jews, Druze and (most recently) Baha'is for centuries. We want to do so for centuries more. But we can't if we are driven out by despair.
What we seek is support: material, moral, political and spiritual. As Palestinians we grieve for what we have lost, and few people (the Ashkenazi Jews are one) have lost more than us. But grief can be assuaged by the fellowship of friends.
On Professor Ata's own showing, the State of Israel is not responsible for driving Christians from Palestine. His statistics indicate that the number of Arab Christians within Israel proper has been stable for the past decade, during much of which "the Israeli Right" has governed the country. The diminution of Christian numbers has taken place in the areas administered by the Palestinian Authority, an instance of the general expulsion of Christians from lands under Moslem control in the Middle East. The only places in that region where an Arab Christian is unreservedy free to practice his faith are newly liberated Iraq and – Israel!
The quotations attributed to Senator Inhofe and retired Representative Armey look bogus. If they are authentic, they scarcely reflect the views of the great majority of what Prof. Ata would label "the Religious Right". I have never seen or heard any statement by any American Christian leader calling for or approving the persecution, much less exile, of Middle Eastern Christians. Per contra, anti-Christian tirades are the common currency of the imams who preach in mosques throughout the Arab world. Unhappily, many Christian Palestinians seem willing to accept dhimmitude rather than take a stand that would put them on the same side as Jews and conservative Christians in the West.
I doubt that Christians will ever return to Christianity's birthplace in significant numbers until and unless the tyrannies that currently dominate the region are replaced by regimes willing to acknowledge the equal rights of all religions. The overthrow of the Iraqi Ba'athists was a first step toward that goal but far from the last.
May 27, 2004
 
Joe Sobran's Literary Taste
Mike Palmer, Petaluma, California:
While not all of Shakespeare's lines were brilliant and elegant, it is amazing to think anyone believes he could have written, "In Peascod time when hound to horn gives ear while buck is kill'd."
Yep. Sobran's methodology for identifying poems written by Shakespeare/Oxenford is singularly bereft of taste. He endorsed the (now generally discredited) attribution of the "Funeral Elegy for William Peter" to the Bard, notwithstanding its dullness, and apparently thinks that hundreds of anonymous, undistinguished sonnets came from the same pen as "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"
March 4, 2004
 
The Brame-Popova Thesis
Steve Paulson, Cleveland, Ohio:
I am plagued by the suspicion that the whole Brame/Popova argument is a droll satire on Oxenfraudeans rather than a serious attempt at explanation. Their methods are, after all, the same methods that Oxenfraudeans have used for decades now, but taken to an extreme place. I just envision that the last sentence of the last volume will be: "Just kidding!"  And if it isn't a satire, it ought to be.
A confession: I have been involved in a running battle of several years' duration with a series of Oxenfordeans, Marlovians, Baconians, and Dianapriceans on the Forums pages of the New York Times's web site. When that battle flared up again this last fall, I relentlessly and without attribution plagiar. . . er, paid homage to your web site. (As well as the site run by the estimable Messers Kathman and Ross). I suppose under the Brame/Popova theory, that would make me you.
Or vice versa, of course. After all, the Brame-Popova Oxenford was in the habit of writing praise of his own work, the better to keep up the appearance that more than one man was creating all of Elizabethan literature.
I agree that Shakespeare's Fingerprints ought to be satire, but it is so dreary that I can't imagine a Swift staying awake long enough to finish it, much less the promised sequels.
January 16, 2004
 
A rare compliment
Gene Gordon, Walnut Creek, California, on my review of Shakespeare's Fingerprints by Michael Brame and Galina Popova:
Funniest book review I ever read! . . . Mark Twain could not have done better. (Oh, but Twain was an antistratfordian!)
Perhaps the Brame/Popova team will in due course turn to the 19th Century and prove that Samuel Clemens wrote the works ascribed to Henry James, Walt Whitman et al. as part of Abraham Lincoln's project to create an indigenous American literature.
January 8, 2004
 
A truculent slitherer, I!
David Gontar, Costa Mesa, California:
You have an unusual amount of comments to make about Shakespeare, a writer you don't seem to be on intimate terms with. You slither truculently among many arguments, always cleaving to what seems to me to be an arbitary dogma. I find no critical dissection in your jottings of the case for Stratford, which certainly could be mocked as easily as DeVere's. You pass over Oxford's allowance of 1,000 pounds a year, as if such emoluments were every Lord's birthright. What evidence have you for that notion?
In 1586 Queen Elizabeth granted Oxenford a subvention of £250 per quarter, revocable at will. Oxfordians have asserted ever since that he must have performed services in return and that the services must have consisted of writing plays under the name "Shakespeare". There isn't a scintilla of evidence for this view. The more sober explanation is that Oxenford was on the brink of bankruptcy and the Queen relieved his financial distress because he was both a nobleman of ancient lineage and the son-in-law of one of her most trusted ministers. Profitable grants to courtiers were not at all unusual. Virtually every man of rank received such emoluments. Oxenford's share was rather small, and he constantly petitioned for more, with conspicuous lack of success.
November 15, 2003
 
Another Idea for Fixing Social Security
Jim Welford, Palm Bay, Florida:
Of all the comments on social security fixes, I never hear of the only fix to social security that will actually work. If you look at social security from the whole and not just the benefit, you find the program is intergrated into the production value of the whole American economy. The only true fix would be to first remove the inflation created by the tax collection method and have the beneficiaries pay thier own tax. How would this occur without a great upheavel in the nation: Have the employers turn over thier tax liability to the employees in a one time raise, then have the employee assume the total liability from that point on. If you are worried about the employee being asked to pay all the tax them selves, by running the accounting on production cost and doing an honest review you find the employee has more money paying their own tax. Futhermore the reduced production cost would produced millions of new jobs, allow the spouse to stay home with the kids and reduce the future cost of healthcare for all Americans under medicare age and those of medicare age.
One must bear in mind, however, that many economists believe that employees already bear the full cost of Social Security contributions, although they may be unaware of the fact. I agree completely with your implicit point: that brisk economic growth is essential to preventing Social Security from turning into a disastrous burden on future generations. The stagnant economies of the European Union, where social insurance taxes can exceed 40 percent of wages, should be a warning to America.
October 31, 2003
 
Anonymous Undaunted
You know a guy really is the "anonymous crank" he claims to be when he tries to refute your jokes:
You're unwitting complicity post 400 years seems apparently more a function of your analytical shortcomings. But a clever attempt none the less to spin the argument in your favor. I don't know why you are dogmatic about the supposed actor from Stratford conclusively being the author of Shakespeare. You can't support it with one iota of reasonable and conclusive evidence.
Perhaps you should think about realizing that these authoritatively imposed beliefs of yours might be a pattern of behavior that you are predisposed to. Perhaps you might apply the same logic as you stated to your religious beliefs. I.e. God hasn't provided any hard evidence of his existence, ergo he must not want me to believe in him.
Let me leave you with this hypothesis, the real author didn't want posterity to believe the clownish bumpkin you idolize was Shakespeare.  He probably had to and more probably never conceived that posterity would be dumb enough to continue to believe it. Congratulations for helping to have proven him wrong.
One last thought, things often are as simple as they appear to be. However every once and a while they are not. Conspiracys do exist. Perhaps the better question to ask is why the conspiracy?
October 30, 2003
 
Anonymous Persists
Someone signing himself "anonymous crank" (it would be impolite to disagree), presumably yesterday's anonym, continues his assault on the Shakespeare hoax:
How you can possibly regard as "substantial" the contemporary testimony that supports your supposed actor from Stratford-upon-Avon?  Even the evidence that he was an actor is hardly substantial.  What's more "How We Know That Shakespeare Wrote Shakespeare: The Historical Facts" is more a bad treatise in circular reasoning than any basis for coming to a definitive conclusion on Shakespeare's authorship.  If you had the capability for honesty on this issue you would see this.
Is it purely coincidence that this man's empty shell of theatrical life is much more what one might expect from a front man?  Is it merely a terrible accident of history that somehow all real evidence for his authorship has been so utterly wiped clean off the face of the earth?  Are you not even capable of an admission that some of this might seem to be suspicious?  Did it not ever occur to you that you are the victim of a hoax?  That you are perpetuating one of the great myths of modern Western civilization?
If I have no "capability for honesty on this issue", I must be lying about it and thus must be well aware of my part in "perpetuating one of the great myths of modern Western civilization". The interesting question is, why do I do this? Knowing, as I must, that the Earl of Oxenford was "the real Shakespeare", what motivates me and my many dishonest cohorts to continue the cover-up?
Well, why did Oxenford himself and those closest to him devise the cover-up in the first place? Looney, the Ogburns, Whalen, Sobran et al. tell us that the First Folio was an elaborate ruse to beguile posterity, one that would have succeeded completely had it not been for sharp-eyed Oxfordians. By accepting the Folio at face value and Shakespeare of Stratford as its author, I simply carry out the Earl's wishes. Surely that should draw no Oxfordian wrath!
October 29, 2003
 
"Personal convictions on Shakespeare's authorship"?
An anonymous crank:
If you can't see the virtual mountain of circumstantial evidence that exists for Oxford's authorship I would hope in all fairness that you could at least admit that there is little basis for your own personal convictions on Shakespeare's authorship.  Moreover if you can see the Stratford man's world view in any way expressed in the Shakespeare canon I suggest you go back and do some reading.
Readers who haven't spent any time on the Shakespeare authorship "controversy" may wonder whether the belief that an actor from Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the Bard's works does indeed rest merely on "personal convictions". The answer is that substantial contemporary testimony supports it, usefully summarized in "How We Know That Shakespeare Wrote Shakespeare: The Historical Facts" by Tom Reedy and David Kathman. It is conceivable that all of the data point in the wrong direction, but the conventional view is not simply a whim.
If one disregards everything that Shakespeare wrote, information about "the Stratford man's world view" is in extremely short supply. How much can one infer from the business records that constitute the bulk of Shakespeare of Stratford's non-literary remains? Many anti-Stratfordians — and I will lay long odds that Anonymous is one of them — fancy that they know enough about the Stratford man's inner life to pronounce him incapable of writing great literary works, but their reconstructions are never more than hostile guesswork, usually derived from distorted or imaginary facts. I've looked at a relatively sane example in my review of Diana Price's book Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography.
By contrast, as I've discussed in my review of Alan H. Nelson's biography of the 17th Earl of Oxenford, we can glimpse more than a bit of that Shakespearean pretender's world view, and nothing about it is reminiscent of Shakespeare's plays and poems.
October 17, 2003
 
Bush's "Regressive" Tax Policies
Mike Lion, McLean, Virginia:
One fact about the Bush tax cuts is that the they will make the tax structure even more progressive than it was.
Take, for example, the ratio of the top to the lowest tax rate.  Before Bush, it was about 2.67 (39.6% divided by 15%).  After Bush, it will be
about 3.3 (33% divided by 10%).
Other measures lead to the same conclusion.  So what the Bush cuts do is lower the whole structure, but make it slightly more progressive.
I have never seen this fact reported anywhere.
October 7, 2003
 
An Oxfordian Comment on Sidney
W. Ron Hess, author of a new book supporting the Earl of Oxenford's claim to the Shakespearean canon, takes exception to my review of Alan Stewart's biography of Sir Philip Sidney:
Your very interesting webpage "Stromata" . . .was brought to my attention by a friend, particularly the review of Alan Stewart's "Lesser Life" biography of Sir Philip Sidney. . . .
It may interest you to know that my trilogy The Dark Side of Shakespeare takes a very similar approach as Mr. Stewart's with regard to the 17th Earl of Oxford and Shakespeare.  And it turns out that many of the comments made about that biography of Sidney apply as well to my take on Oxford, a man of power, influence, and means far beyond the ridicule he's received by historians past and present.  My trilogy was specifically written to counter the invidious biography of Oxford just recently published by Prof. Alan Nelson of Berkeley, who wishes to take every nuance and interpret it in a negative way, then conclude that because Oxford was not a "nice guy" he could not have had anything to do with the works we attribute to Shakespeare.
Dr. Nelson clearly doesn't regard Oxenford as a "nice guy", but he nowhere argues that only a "nice guy" could have written Shakespeare's works. The essence of his case against Oxfordian claims is that not a shred of positive evidence exists in the extensive documentary material about Oxenford's life.
I'm particularly puzzled by your review's use of the following to wrap-up and summarize Stewart's biography of Sidney:
Dr. Stewart clearly gives politics a far higher priority than poetics. That is his right, but what, one wonders, moved him to undertake the biography of a man whose most interesting achievements were literary?  And why did he fancy that anyone who wanted to read the life of Sir Philip Sidney would want to read >this< life?  No one can cavil at the scholarship and labor that have gone into this work; they have, alas, been sadly misdirected.
Much the same could be said of my biographical trilogy of Oxford-Shakespeare, and so I must ask you to explain your review's conclusions.  Is the implication that Sidney (or Oxford) had "a life" beyond poetry somehow offensive, or irrelevant to interpretation or enjoyment of that poetry?  Are we to believe that only modern-day pedantics are capable of reading anything about Sidney (or Oxford) and that the lives of the Elizabethans are irrelevant to what the pedantics should be capable of comprehending?
The explanation is simple. I don't find it "offensive" that Sidney had non-poetic interests. I just don't believe that his public career was either consequential or interesting. Whether knowing about it adds an iota to one's ability to appreciate his poetry is an independent question that Dr. Stewart doesn't address. The handful of covert political meanings that he purports to uncover are dull stuff, and I'm pretty sure that a reader can enjoy the Arcadia to the full without having ever heard of Hubert Languet.
In the case of Oxford-Shakespeare, I argue that until we've "gotten Oxford right"  we can't "get Shakespeare right," let alone "the Elizabethan era right."  As long as Oxford is viewed as simply an arrogant self-centered failure, or as you term him "Lord Burghley's flashy son-in-law," and Shakespeare as an unattainable, poetic, blank slate upon which any pedantic may draw with screeching chalk, that neither will ever be comprehended intelligently.  And I suspect your treatment of Dr. Stewart's biography of Sidney falls into that category.
Great tomes hundreds of pages long have been written about the specific military campaign that Sidney died in, and about the military campaign that his predecessor the Earl of Surrey became disgraced in a generation earlier.  One might criticize the military historians for concentrating on specifically those two men to the neglect of hundreds of others who died therein.  But, to criticize them for not expanding their discussions to two or three times as much volume so as to also be able to discuss the fairly-overdrawn aspects of their poetry seems a bit too much to ask, especially since their poetry has already been pawed-over by pedants for centuries.  To Sidney, as to Surrey and Surrey's nephew the 17th Earl of Oxford (Sidney's sometime enemy and friend), their poetry and other literature were actually among the least important aspects of their lives. If we are to get to the essential men, who happened to have also been admirable and celebrated poets, we need to comprehend their political, military, and social lives, the things that most affected their self esteem and imaginations.  Those "other lives" give us insights into their literature and vice versa.  That these more important aspects of their lives (to the subjects at least) might be "uninteresting" to modern pedants should not be a hindrance to our quest.  Modern poetic criticism has been hobbled by those with blinders on who would ignore the holistic subject in favor of microscopic concentrations on already over-studied trivial aspects of literature-without-context.
You've shown petulance with Joe Sobran's and Diana Price's unorthodox approaches to Oxford's life and Shakespeare.  You may find that I disagree with both of them in some details, but in substance I agree that the vacuous biographies of Mr. Shakspere of Stratford fall far short of adequate explanations for Shakespeare's works, whereas a better understanding of Oxford's life gives ample insights into those masterpieces, and into the truth about Shakespeare.
Readers who would like further information about Mr. Hess's book can find a precis on his Web site. At first glance he appears to credit Oxenford not only with a secret literary life but also a career in high politics that has escaped the notice of all prior historians. I'll of course read the book before passing judgement, but the author's proposed "paradigm shift" has quite a few mountains to shunt aside.
September 9, 2003
 
Shakespeare's Penmanship
Michael Marcus, Massachusetts:
How come William Shakespeare's penmanship was so inadequate that he couldn't make a decent job of signing his own name even one time, but showed in no uncertain terms that writing for him was a torturous exercise?
My grade school teachers likewise saw a close correlation between penmanship and literary merit, but that view seems otherwise to be confined to anti-Stratfordians. All six extant Shakespeare signatures come from the period after he had retired from writing plays (three from documents signed in 1612, three from the will drawn up shortly before his death in 1616). They aren't much of a basis for evaluating his habitual calligraphy. Among other considerations, (i) handwriting tends to deteriorate with age, (ii) the man who signed the will was dying (we know nothing about the state of his health in 1612) and (iii) signatures are often slovenly and ill-formed.
March 31, 2003
 
NASFiC 2005 and Worldcon 2008
Irv Koch, Lithonia, Georgia:
I stumbled across your fanzine in the course of a google search for "something else" and couldn''t resist looking at a hit result with  both my name and Charlotte bid activity in it.  When I saw who was DOING the zine ... it was even more fascinating.  Probably I'd better keep  my mouth (typing fingers) shut but ... uh ... no real bid for 2008???  Hmmmm.  (No, I won''t see your answer unless you email me but a URL link  via email will work fine.)
I will risk a couple comments:  Yes, the NASFiCharlotte2005 Chair is in Chicago.  Unfortunately, for bid activity there, there are concom concentrations in NYC metro, DC metro, scattered all over, Atlanta-metro sorta (entirely people who can't travel), and ... believe it or not  Carolina (not just Charlotte) ... but the only Carolinian who can travel is Beth Humphries, who is Pres of ASFA and must do ASFA stuff when she  travels.
There is also a local Con now, in Charlotte, and I don't mean Heroescon (big, old, local comixcon).  It's ConCarolinas and ... uh ... Tom ...  you said you like'd Wargaming ... they're REALLY big on that....  I don't suppose I could recruit you for something....
Hmmmm ... 2008 ... no bid you say ... hmmmmmmmm.....
Not much chance that I'll be recruited for anything these days. I'm officially and determinedly retired from conrunning. Well, except for the occasional odd job. For those who are wondering, 2008 Worldcon bids continue to be impressive by their absence, sort of like the Iraqi regular army.
March 23, 2003
 
Immanuel Wallerstein
Robert Tye, Western Isles, Scotland:
You wrote: "The potted history that follows makes one wonder about the standards of the distinguished universities that have hosted Dr. Wallerstein during his  academic career (he is currently at Yale) ... but the author is equally  eccentric on simple matters of fact."
Am not a great expert on Wallerstein - but I would like to add some facts to this (all taken from memory, but given in good faith) - and get your  reaction on them.  Firstly - since Wallerstein claims not believe in objective, i. e., non-political truth, I do not see any real point in making criticism of him.  Presumably he does not ultimately believe in facts either and thus is not answerable to them, nor to any rational argument.  (He was also doing  positive accounts of Stalinism as late as the 1970's too.)
For me this makes your question about the standards of the Universities that host him really important - not just a throw away point.  From here on  things get pretty odd.  Wallerstein is a third generation part of an intellectual dynasty that started with Lucien Febvre and ran on into Levi-Stauss  and Fernand Braudel.  Febvre helped invent "Annales" History - which is officially is thought of as "de-politicised" but I would rather see as "dumbed down".  The Annales group mostly saw themselves as Marxists - though Braudel was more of a fellow traveler (he centrally believed that  individuals, and individual events, were irrelevant to the great course of history).  Levi-Strauss was a "Marxist".  I have skimmed some work of Febvre, Levi-Strauss and Wallerstein and am inclined to think if has little academic merit - all style and no substance.  But I have studied areas of  Braudel in some detail (regarding his thoughts on the history of money) and can categorically state that he was a charlatan)
Febvre and Levi-Strauss were enormously influential over the direction taken by UNESCO after the French take over in the early 1950's.  Febvre, Levi-Strauss, Braudel, and Wallerstein all received large sums of money in promoting their version of "academia" from the Rockefeller Foundation, and the  Ford Foundation.  Although Febvre clearly had influential friends in French Politics right back in the late 1920's, it still seems difficult understand  how they could have got so far without this American cash.
What do you think is going on here?
Verax parit odium.
American subsidies for anti-American philosophes are, I think, more an effect than a cause of their influence. As for what made them influential, the simplest explanation is that Levi-Strauss' anthropology and the Annales school's history give the impression of being broadly explanatory. I can easily imagine that many readers of, say, Braudel's The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II think that they are being given real insight, on both a practical and a theoretical level, into what one might call the plate tectonics of history. Spengler and Toynbee create the same sensation. Unfortunately, when later historians start picking at the facts and details, they generally find that the Big Picture appeals more to the emotions than the intellect.
On the other hand, some figures - Wallerstein impresses me as one - have no visible intellectual merit. Their prominence in their fields stems largely from academic politics. With the right circle of mentors, friends and disciples, one's books, however mediocre, can be assured of publication and praise.
My response to your question, then, is that two things are going on: intoxication with grand theories and solidarity among the bien pensant intelligentsia.
December 18, 2002
 
PBS's "Documentary" on Mohammed
The Quest for the Historical Mohammed
"Talib", California:
I thought that I would just clear some things up for you regarding your comments on Muhammad.  It is clear  that you lack knowledge on the subject.
First: Your mentioning the facts that Muhammad was illiterate and that his biography was compiled orally as a  way to invalidate the purity of the Qur'an and the sirah only shows your lack of knowledge of oral  cultures.  The Arabs were, at the time of Muhammad, largely an oral people.  They spread their history,  stories, poetry, everything by means of orality.  In today's society one could not even dream of passing on  traditions orally, for in today''s society we completely rely on texts and memory retrival devices as means  to save/store information.  Due to this, we have no need for a large comprehensive, memory; we leave this up  to computers.  This was not the case in the time of Muhammad.  It was not uncommon (and still is not in many  parts of the world) for people to perfectly memorize hundreds, even thousands of lines of text.  This was  seen in medeival Spain with the epic El Canto del Mio Cid, as well as today with the hundreds of thousands  of Muslims who have memorized the Qur'an in its intirety.  There were many memorizers of the Qur'an who  were present during the compilation of the Qur'an.  This did not die out.  It is important to note that  unlike the New Testiment, whose "final" compilation was agreed upon (300) three hundred years after the "death" of Jesus, the compilation and standardization of the Qur'an was completed by his very companions.
Most of the traditional account of the life of Mohammed is derived not from the text of the Koran, which contains only a few biographical data, but from Ibn Ishaq and his successors, who compiled tales handed down by word of mouth over a period of a century or longer. Oral societies are not uncommon, and their methods of transmitting history have been the subject of extensive investigation by Western scholars. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever found an instance in which a story as detailed as the sira of Mohammed was handed down accurately for any very long time. For example, Greek society before about 500 B.C. was predominantly oral, and Herodotos made much use of oral tradition in his Histories. Yet wherever we can check those traditions against other evidence, we find that they are of doubtful reliability. The same is true of the early Roman traditions recorded by Livy. We have very little material to which to compare the traditions about Mohammed, but it is daring to assume that Arab orality was inherently more reliable than Greek or Roman orality. A Moslem may well believe that God has specially protected the biography of Mohammed from corruption, but he can hardly expect non-Moslems to accept it uncritically.
Second: as far as the "considerable textual variation" existing within the early manuscripts of the Qur'an,  these variants were based upon dialect and pronounciation, not meaning.  During the time of Muhammad, when  his companions would teach the Qur'an to foreigners (newcomers, those not of Madinah or Makkah)they would  show difficulty in the pronounciation of the words (the Qur'an was revealed in the Quraishi dialect which  for some who did not speak said dialect found difficult).  The Prophet allowed these people to maintain  their own dialect in their recitation in order to facilitate the transmission.  (One can even see this  today: the ritual abolution "wudhu" is pronounced "wuzu" in Urdu.  They both mean the same thing, only  pronounced differently.)  These different dialects do not change the meaning of the words, however.  When  the Qur'an was being compiled, the companions started to see some varients in the text...those that you  have written about and those that I have just explained.  Upon finding this, Uthman ordered that two copies  of the Qur'an (compiled in Muhammad's original Quraishi dialect) be sent to every cultural center in the  Muslim world, and the rest of the Qur'ans be destroyed.  This eliminated any and every variant.  What you  have forgotten is that all the while there existed people that had already memorized the Qur'an.  They  knew the book, what it sounded like, what it meant, everything, perfectly.  Today, unlike the Bible, there  exists only one Qur'an.  It has remained unchanged.
Studies of oral epic, beginning with Adam Parry's work in the first part of the 20th Century, have found that reciters frequently alter the details of their compositions from audience to audience. Arab reciters in the 7th Century may have been more consistent, but we can't know that. What we can know is that what is now the authoritative text of the Koran was pieced together (twice, the first rescension having been suppressed for obscure reasons) after Mohammed's death. Some Western scholars believe that they have found evidence that, before the official edition was promulgated (and afterwards, too), the text circulated in forms that differed substantially from one another and from the now-accepted version. They may, of course, be wrong, but their view is not implausible and is certainly worthy of investigation.
As far as your using Salman Rushdie as a reference, your attempts to brush Islam off as a "syncretic Jewish- pagan sect", and your allegation that Muhammad "may have been a semi-polytheist" and may have not even  existed at all clearly display that your hatred and gross ignorance of the man have clearly clouded your  research as you are grabbing at whatever sounds good at the moment.  May I suggest that you continue  studying Islam, perhaps you will find the truth.
I don't think that discussing the theories of serious and respected scholars concerning the origins of Islam (all of which I presented only as the theories of others, not as my personal opinions) is evidence of "hatred and gross ignorance". Christians and Jews, aside from a diminishing handful of extreme fundamentalists, have for a long time welcomed rational inquiry into the the origins of their communities and the historical accuracy of the Bible. A true religion has nothing to fear from scientific investigation. A false one does not deserve to be shielded by obscurantism.
wa salaam,
Talib
November 20, 2002
 
Posted Without Comment
Laughing Horse Robinson, Bakersfield, California:
Hello, I am the Chairman of the Kawaiisu Tribe and would love to find out what you may know about the Spanish land that was given to us by Father Francisco Garces in 1776. He knew us as the Noo-ci and the cobaji. The Grant covers the whole southern San Jouquin Valley to the Pacific Coast. We have little knowledge on how we lost it. At the time the USA took California there were 50,000 Kawaiisu aand within 25 years there were only 34 of us left. Our goal is to get aat the very least soom of it back. If you can help with this matter please contact me.
Thank You for your time.
Horse
"Ken", Colorado [perhaps my brother pulling my leg (Update: My brother disclaims responsibility.)]:
You have been exposed as a shill for plutocrats and radical reactionaries that cannot get past Bill Clinton.
November 16, 2002
 
European Attitudes
Jeff D. Zimmerman, Rotterdam, The Netherlands:
I found this piece very interesting, but a bit confusing. I am an American living in the  Netherlands, married to a Dutch woman. I run a business and as such I speak to Europeans every day. The  Dutch are extremely, sadly enough, liberal.
My main comments would have to be, First of all the Europeans are more than willing to allow The United  States to do their fighting for them, what else in new?, and secondly, You must remember that living in all  of the European Union states are Muslims, millions of them! The city I live in, Rotterdam, is 51% Muslim,  (mostly Turks and Morocans) and 49% Dutch/other! They come here mostly, to collect the Dutch social security  money and make the lives of the Dutch miserable, but thats another story.) My point is you should take the  polls with a grain of salt.
Thank-You and keep up the great work!
September 22, 2002
 
The Chancellor's Non-Apology
Mike Lion:
Would it be fair to say that Schroeder is the first anti-American German Chancellor since, well, Hitler?
September 14, 2002
 
Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography
Jonathan Dixon, from Minnesota:
Dear Mr. Veal,
I found your website and review of Diana Price’s “Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography” via a link on Price’s website, and was bothered by one passage in  it in particular.  Regarding the “Battillus theory,” you write:
Miss Price, saying nothing about this background [i.e. the story of the historical Battillus] declares that “Battillus” means “an agent for writers  who did not wish to see their own names in print” [55]. Her proof that Shakespeare filled this role comes from a passage in Vertues Common-wealth, an  anti-theatrical tract published in 1603 by one Henry Crosse.
[...]
 Miss Price supposes that this polemic is aimed not at bad poets in general but specifically at the Upstart Crow, i. e., at “Shakspere”. Therefore,  “Shakspere” was “an agent for writers who did not wish to see their names in print”, notwithstanding that the relationship between Crosse’s Battillus and the “ingenious spirits” whose labors he arrogates to himself is very different from that of agent and  principal.
Such are “the allusions [sic] to ‘Battillus’”. The “precedent in the case of Terence” will appear below in connection with John Davies’ epigram, “To  Our English Terence”.  These two tenuous references are one hundred percent of the basis for “In particular, the allusions to ‘Battillus’ and the precedent in the case of Terence, bear on the ‘coincidence’ of the pseudonym and the name of the man from  Stratford.”
I don’t know how you can declare that there is only one allusion to Battillus in Price’s book, for she provides two more allusions on the very same page  as the Crosse allusion that you quote:
For one: in 1591 (only a year before “Groatsworth”) Robert Greene wrote of  poets who “for their calling and gravity, being loath to have any profane pamphlets pass under their hand, get some other Battillus to set his name to their  verses.  Thus is the ass made proud by this underhand brokery”
Why do you not count this as an allusion to Battillus?  You must have seen it, for it is within twenty lines of the “Vertues Common-wealth” allusion that  you do count.  Greene is clearly saying that in his time it was a practice for illustrious writers to use front men to protect their reputations.  His  quote is a clear, contemporaneous confirmation of what Oxfordians have been speculating for years.  As incredible as such a thing may seem to our modern  sensibilities, apparently it was indeed done.
Unlike the original Battillus, who took the deception upon himself and was caught, Greene makes it clear that his modern-day “Battilluses” (Battilli?)  were employed by the secret writers, who “got” them to “set their names to [the] verses.”  The *authors* initiated the deception.  Greene’s use of the  term “underhand brokery” also implies that there was money involved in this arrangement.  In the light of this allusion Price’s definition of “an agent  for writers who did not wish to see their own names in print” seems well within the bounds of reasonableness.
You also completely ignore the existence of Price’s third allusion to Battillus, again from Robert Greene, who wrote of  “Aesop’s Crow, which decked herself with others’ feathers, or like the proud Poet Battilus, which subscribed his name to Virgil’s verses”
Here Greene is clearly tying the image of a crow wearing someone else’s feathers to the practice of a “Battillus” taking credit for someone else’s work.   Given this, why is it not completely reasonable to assume that in “Groatsworth” he is using the very same image of the disguised crow in the very same  way -- implying that the “Shake-scene” was one of the employed “Battiluses” whom he wrote about only a year earlier?  In fact, given this precedent, why  is that not the most reasonable, most consistent interpretation?  That is apparently how Crosse interpreted Greene, for in his paraphrase of Greene, Crosse alluded to “Battillus” -- even though Greene himself didn’t mention the name in the “Shake-scene” passage.  This is a strong indication that in  the Elizabethan mind the metaphor of “disguised crow = Battillus = front man” was a convention of sorts.
Again:  How can you claim there is only one allusion to Battillus in Price’s book when there are obviously three -- all within the space of twenty lines?   It is especially noteworthy that the two you neglect to mention are the two which most powerfully support Price’s hypothesis.  You repeatedly accuse  anti-Stratfordians of ignoring tough questions and evidence.  My sincere question is -- why should I not conclude that you are doing the exact same  thing in this case?
(And before you immediately label and dismiss me as an "enemy" I will point out that I am not a devout Oxfordian or anti-Stratfordian.  I consider myself  agnostic on the authorship question, with no firm commitment either way;  and for all the bad-mouthing each side does of the other, I''m afraid I see  the same faults and strengths of scholarship on both sides.)
I hope you will correct your review, and provide these facts to your readers.
Sincerely yours,
Jonathan Dixon
Everybody slips up now and then, and I'm always happy to have my own slips pointed out. In this case, however, the error is the reader's, not mine.
I did not "claim there is only one allusion to Battillus in Diana Price's book". I stated that the book cites only one purported allusion associating Battillus with Shakespeare. That occurs in the passage from Vertue's Commonwealth by Henry Crosse.
The two Greene quotations are brought forward to show what a "Battillus" was. Miss Price does not connect either with Shakespeare. I didn't think it necessary to discuss them, because it is obvious from his text that Crosse did not use "Battillus" as a metaphor for “an agent for writers who did not wish to see their names in print”. His Battillus is an incompetent versifier who steals the work of others, just like the original.
The argument that Mr. Dixon derives from Greene is not one that Miss Price makes, so I don't believe that I can reasonably be accused of having ignored it. Now that I've heard it for the first time, let me respond:
In the first Greene quotation, both parties - real author and front man - appear to be called "Battillus" ("get some other Battillus"), which suggests to me that Greene was using the name merely as a term of abuse for bad poets. Even if he was thinking of a Battillus as an agent for a hidden principal, that usage is so idiosyncratic (like many other Greene-isms) that it would be rash to treat it as the Elizabethan norm. The Battillus anecdote in Aelius Donatus' Vita Vergiliae was a famous story. Any literate man of the era knew it in its original form and would naturally have associated Battillus with plagiarism and poetic ineptitude, not with literary secrecy.
The second quotation is about plagiarism, using the images of the crow's stolen feathers and Battillus' stolen verses. There is nothing in it to suggest that Greene was here thinking of Battillus as a "front man". Mr. Dixon simply imports that meaning from his reading of the first quotation. The two passages were, incidentally, published seven years apart, which makes any connection between them rather tenuous.
Mr. Dixon's suggestion that Greene's Groatsworth of Wit implies that Shakespeare was a paid front man for other writers is, incidentally, thoroughly incompatible with Miss Price's interpretation of the same passage.
September 11, 2002
 
Bogus Europe
Judy, who gives her address as "Indiana", reacted to the Worldviews survey of European opinion less favorably than I did.
The charge that american policy is responsible for Sept 11th is a charge AMERICA WILL NOT SWALLOW...ever
1.  It was Germany and all of europe''s treatment/slaughter of jews that put Israel in the position it is in.  For the Germans and europeans to call them  "colonists" in their papers now is Pravda-type disinformation bordering on pathological lying.
2.  The British "mandate" to carve up the middle east is as valid as their bringing slavery to the US, decimating the east coast native americans with  chicken pox, screwing up taiwan, or systematically pillaging africa.  Again, history rearranged to suit you is--pathological lying. (Britain gets a so  so pass on this for keeping the world order for 70 years..for now)
3.  If it was primarily european colonialism, racism, anti-semitism, facism, communism, and ugliness that made the arab world what it is while america  was primarily responsible for helping the arab world develop it''s oil fields.(The only resource they''ve come up with in 30 years)  Then the ONLY part  of that survey that I will see as an American is that part where "our american policies" somehow instigated Sept 11th according to europe.
And on that score...americans aren''t going to take it anymore.
Europe can take that comment, it''s laziness in living off of our military and their pathological lying and stick it all.  It''s over.
America will demand our money back from the Marshal plan and we''ll drop it from airplanes on the palestinians as we fly over.  At least the bloodthirsty  palestinian extremists have poverty to blame israel with. Thanks to america wasting billions in europe--europe is anti-american and amnesiac for NO GOOD  REASON.
YOU HAVE TO REALLY TRY TO LIE AS MUCH AS EUROPE HAS IN THE LAST 6 MONTHS.  You have to be mentally ill to accept american money in the marshal plan, see  how every former soviet satellite was bled dry and then turn around and bite the hand that gave you such a peaceful gesture...You have to be sick to say  that Sept 11th was america''s fault.
See the good in that interview all you want, but my children will give nato and europe the respect it deserves in the future--NONE.
My father is a veteran of WWII and his birthday is Sept 11th.  I''m so ashamed of europe I could die.
For my opinions about Europe in general, see today's entry in Ephemerides. Regarding specific points raised in Judy's loc, I don't agree with the notion that the pathologies of the Arab world are the fault of Europe. Araby could have embraced European ideas in the same way that Japan did. Many Arab intellectuals advocated that policy. They were squeezed out, however, by Moslem fundamentalists on the one side and socialist thugs on the other. It's noteworthy, that those two forces have now joined hands. Their common anti-Europeanism is more important to them than any degree of ideological difference.
I also cannot refrain from noting, in defense of my distantly ancestral Britain, that (i) slavery was flourishing in the New World well before any Englishman set foot here; (ii) it was the British Navy that destroyed the slave trade; (iii) leaving aside a couple of probably apocryphal incidents, nobody tried to spread disease among the American Indians - the destruction wrought by smallpox in America (and by syphilis in the Old World) was a disaster, not a crime; (iv) why Britain should be accused of "screwing up Taiwan" is beyond my comprehension; and (v) Britain, which never made a shilling of profit from its African colonies, left behind a legacy of sound political, economic and social policies - all, alas, overturned by tyrants like Robert Mugabe.
August 16, 2002
 
Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography
Mike Palmer, Petaluma, California:
Much enjoyed your review. The interpretations that anti-Stratfordians put upon straightforward matters are fascinating examples of what a 19th century literary commentator called "wrong-headedness."
The supposed "stigma of print," though, seems to me a distraction. If the evidence indicates Shakespeare wrote the works, attitudes among the nobility about publishing are irrelevant. Even if there were a stigma, it is no evidence whatsoever for the theory that Shakespeare didn't write Shakespeare.
Miss Price's cutoff date for "paper trails" is, like so many of the anti-Stratfordian arguments, entirely arbitrary and clearly selected merely to advance her thesis. One suspects that if the First Folio had appeared six months after Shakespeare died, her "paper trail" requirement would have been adjusted accordingly.
All in all, her book is just the latest in a long anti-Stratfordian trail of bizarre theories that the proponents have deluded themselves into think have something to do with history. If it suits their fantasies to think Shakespeare was a notorious grain horder, well, then, dang the facts.
At least she didn't say our Will was a notorious brothel keeper. Did she?
No, but perhaps she'll find a hidden reference to the Stratford Man as a pimp if she looks long and hard enough.
I agree that the "stigma of print" is a peripheral issue. Interestingly, Miss Price devotes much space on her Web site to arguing about it and the even less central question of the authorship of Sir Thomas More, yet she says nothing about my (or anybody else's) criticisms of points that are central to her thesis, e. g., the evidence (some of which she implicitly concedes) that Shakespeare of Stratford had a perfectly good "literary paper trail".
August 9, 2002
 
Controlled Groups and Exempt Organizations
In a query directed to anyone who reads this site for its ERISA coverage, G. Wachtel asks:
I actually have a question, which I hope is ok in this forum.  I am a student and am doing some research about Controlled Groups and Charities.
Does anyone know of any authority either supporting or refuting the fact that a 501(c)(3) charity and its affiliates make up a "controlled group" for ERISA purposes.
The closest thing to a definitive IRS pronouncement on his topic is G.C.M. 39616, which assumed, without much analysis, that controlled groups of tax-exempt employers must be possible and invented rules for identifying them. The final section 414(c) regulations, issued after the G.C.M., make no reference to its concept of "control". The only controlled groups identified in the regulations are those that exist by virtue of economic ownership.
Notice 89-23, dealing with "nondiscrimination" standards for section 403(b) plans, allowed employers to utilize certain favorable rules only if they adhered to the principles of G.C.M. 39616, thus implying that those principles were not mandatory. Two private letter rulings can be read as following the G.C.M., but neither is dispositive. In PLR 9612029, the taxpayer wanted to treat two organizations as a controlled group, and the IRS agreed that they met the G.C.M.'s conditions for that status. In PLR 9442031, the relationship between two employers was so tenuous that they would not have formed a controlled group under the G.C.M., and the IRS held that they indeed were not one.
The most recent guidance appears in Notice 96-64:
Until further guidance is issued, governments and tax-exempt organizations (including churches) may apply a reasonable, good faith interpretation of existing law in determining which entities must be aggregated under § 414(b) and (c). Any further guidance will be applied on a prospective basis only and will not be effective before plan years beginning in 2001.
The Treasury and the Service invite specific suggestions for an aggregation standard or standards appropriate for tax-exempt organizations under §414(b), (c) and (o). In particular, comments are requested on the appropriateness of the standard described in Section V.B.2.a of Notice 89-23 [identical to G.C.M. 39616], under which two entities are in the same controlled group if at least 80% of the directors, trustees or other individual members of one entity's governing body are either representatives of or directly or indirectly control, or are controlled by, the other entity. However, because questions have arisen as to whether this standard would be appropriate and sufficient in all circumstances, the Treasury and the Service intend to consider alternative and additional standards as well.
My own view is that the most "reasonable, good faith interpretation of existing law" is that entities in which no one has economic ownership cannot form controlled groups with one another, because the regulations under sections 414(b) and (c) require economic ownership as the predicate for forming a controlled group. To introduce controlled group rules for exempt entities would require amendments to the regulations. For completeness, one should note that the same considerations apply to affiliated service groups (§414(m)).
April 12, 2002
 
Anti-anti-Stratfordianism (2)
Yesterday's correspondent (Roger Parisious of Salisbury, Pennsylvania) didn't mean to be anonymous, as he explains:
I am new to the mechanics of  e-mail and I see a word and apparantly the address were somehow omitted from my communication in my attempts to quickly rectify an error.I am surprised you missed my Robertson references.Robertson devoted at least four books to proving Jesus never existed. He was as vehement on this as he was on the historicity of the Stratfordian theory. The reasoning structure is incredibly consistent between the two historical arguments. True, Robertson is no longer main stream but he wrote the Shakespeare Authorship Section for the august Brittanica (You will find you and Dave Kathman are still using many of his arguments) and no less a personage than W.W. Greg wrote a highly laudatory review of his first essay into the authorship of the Canon (1905). This work in many essentials was incorporated without acknowledgement into J.Dover Wilson''s edition of Titus.  There was not one caveat about this from any subsequent Stratfordian critic.Robertson thought he was doing you fellows a favor by removing all this hoi polloi learning from the Canon.It was only E.K. Chambers, who himself believed there is non-Shakespearean matter in approximately a third of the Canon ,that suddenly reversed the tide with his 1925 "Disintegration of Shakespeare "lecture. By the time Sam Schoenbaum established his orthodoxy in the footsteps of Peter Alexander EKC himself was beginning to look like a dangerous counter revolutionary. Personally, and I have had a preface from W.H. Auden in my time, I think Schoenbaum and Alexander suffered from tin ears. Re Stern, I conjecture she favored Edward Dyer.Hopefully she has left notes on her later researches.
I've grown used to the idea that it's possible to be right about one question and wrong about another. Witness J. A. T. Robinson, whose Redating the New Testament is not vitiated by his modernist theology. J. M. Robertson's arguments about the authorship question have to be evaluated on their merits. His atheism doesn't prove them false any more than his advocacy of free trade proves them right. (For more on Robertson's philosophical and political views (nothing directly about Jesus or Shakespeare), vide Chris R. Tame, "The Critical Liberalism of J. M. Robertson".)
April 11, 2002
 
Anti-anti-Stratfordianism
An anonymous correspondent offers these thoughts (reproduced without editing):
Thnks for your comments on St.Nicholas.It was grievous to learn of its passing. I feel that I might find much to commend iin your  theological reviews. However I question whether you could yourself your animus on the Shakespeare question. Most diehard Stratfordians ,like J.M.Robertson, are in fact substituting a secular culture hero for the god that they have disintegrated.You show all the same hysteria without the modus operandi. Odd you should mention Virginia Stern  who is unfortunately suffering from Alzheimer''s. According to a very close relative , and vehement Stratfordian, her aunt was thoroughly convinced William of Stratford did not write the plays, due to her  Harvey researches. The neice was too busy arguing her own position ,like yourself, to notice whom her aunt thought write the plays.
I'm not sure what to make of this message. FWIW, although J. M. Robertson wrote a tediously painstaking refutation of the Baconian theory, he was far from an orthodox Stratfordian. His theory was that Shakespeare wrote mostly in collaboration and was responsible for only portions of the works that have come down under his name. Whether he also disintegrated God, I have no idea. If Virginia Stern, author of Gabriel Harvey: His Life, Marginalia and Library, thought that anyone other than the Stratford man wrote Shakespeare, that belief does not show up in her book, and what she does say contradicts standard Oxfordian dogma (which makes the Earl of Oxenford one of the major figures in Harvey's life). Was she perhaps a Baconian or an advocate of (my own favorite long shot candidate) Sir Walter Ralegh?
March 31, 2002
 
Fixing Social Security
George F. Vaughan of Houston, Texas writes:
Social Security began during its 1935-37 as a "quick fix" to fund the removal of retirement age individuals from the workforce so that they could be replaced by out-of-work males who could then support families.  Since then we have largely emininated cyclicality from the economy.  Taxation has steadily increased from a $30/$30 shared per person tax to a rate that tops $10,000.  Therefore the present program does two things.  It funds benefits to retirees while reducing the average American''s standard of living prior to retirement.
The principal long-term problem is framed as "solvency" where as in truty it is "equity".  We would be better off to have a funded vs. unfunded program.
My proposal works like this.  Say that we initiate a federal national sales tax.  Proceeds are invested.  Earnings of the central funds first replace capital then pay a monthly per-capita benefit to all eligible citizens regardless of age.  This is a national savings plan.  It produces real savings/investment which is deflationary.  Unlike a simple transfer there is a delay in reaching parity (25 years at a 3% real yield) where more is paid out than is taken in, but both principal and income continue to grow.  A family of four with two young children would thus receive a reliable income which would displace all other forms of subsidies.  With this cash income source across-the-board private financing could displace $3.6+ billion in all other forms of taxation, allow more personal choice, and shrink the web of multiple overlapping tax bases.  The ultimate tax reduction would be to replace income & property taxation by a unified consumption tax.
This would be phased in as a supplemental program prior to the replacement of existing programs.  It''s a long-term, not a quick-fox.  It assumes that nation''s physical capital continues to expand faster than the population, and that as this occurs the resulting securitized subsidy would become progressively more affordable and manageable on a sound, stable, perpetual basis.
The problem with a genuinely funded Social Security program (in contrast to the current pseudo-funding via Treasury IOU's) is that the federal government would become the world's biggest and most influential investor, a position that would swiftly fall prey to political abuse. Years ago Robert Meyers, one of the architects of Social Security (and far from a knee-jerk liberal), told me that the system had been set up on a "pay as you go" basis largely to prevent that outcome.
March 24, 2002
 
September 11th and the Palestinians
The following comment, from Erwin S. ("Filthy Pierre") Strauss, appeared in his zine, The Connection. It responds specifically to an early item in Ephemerides (10/2/01) on the Palestinian reaction to the September 11th atrocities but goes on to raise broader issues. The commenter is, by the way, a hard core (but rational) libertarian, author of such books as How To Start Your Own Country, Basement Nukes: The Consequences of Cheap Weapons of Mass Destruction (suddenly topical) and The Case Against a Libertarian Political Party. In The Connection (published approximately eight times a year), he conducts a running polylogue with correspondents of various viewpoints, some of them quite strange. A sample issue is available for $2.50 ($3.00 outside North America) from Erwin S. Strauss, 10 Hill Street, #22-L, Newark, New Jersey 07102.
The world has, for roughly the last half millennium, been divided into two parts: the Europeanized world and the non Europeanized world. Today, the non-Europeanized world is characterized a) politically, by mini (or not-so-mini) dictatorships; and/or b) economically, as basket cases; and/or c) culturally, as stuck somewhere between the middle of the First Millennium and the middle of the Second Millennium; and/or d) by populations that are largely uneducated, or educated only in religious matters.
[The Europeanized world basically consists of Europe, the Americas, and Australia/New Zealand; the non-Europeanized world consists of Africa and Asia, including the Middle East (except Israel of course). There are some exceptions. In the Americas, there are the sites of the major pre-Columbian civilizations - the Meso-American in Mexico and Central America; and the Andean in the northwest of South America (roughly an arc from Bolivia around to Venezuela) - where the descendants of the indigenous people and their culture have survived in sufficient Quantity to be significant forces. In the other direction, Japan is the major exception: once “opened” to the world in the mid 19th Century, they aggressively and extensively Europeanized themselves, especially as regards science, industry and the military. The “tigers” of southeast Asia, as well as the southeastern parts of China, are showing promise; but the jury is still out in those places IMHO.]
Throughout the past half millennium, the non-Europeanized world has presented problems to the Europeanized world. For example, up through the 18th Century, the Barbary pirates raided European (and ultimately American) shipping in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Occasional punitive raids were mounted (e.g., Lt. Stephen Decatur on the “shores of Tripoli”); but nothing really stopped the piracy until the European powers colonized the area.
The race for colonies followed the pattern of a classic gold rush. The early arrivals - like the Dutch in the Indes, and the Brits in India - struck it rich. But few of those who came after duplicated their strikes. To be sure, some individual fortunes were made - e.g., Rhodes in southern Africa, King Leopold in the Congo. But when the costs to the general taxpayer of maintaining the armies and navies required to sustain a colonial empire were figured in, few empires ran in the black. And as the industrial revolution advanced, the economic value of colonies - mainly raw materials and agricultural products - was dwarfed by home-country production. From 1815 to 1914 colonies served mainly as proxy battlefields for European powers.
After the World Wars, Europe could no longer afford its empires and even after it recovered economically, the colonial powers living under the Pax Americana had no reason to re-shoulder the cost. For the last half of the 20th Century, the US and the USSR took over the proxy wars. Between the arms the superpowers supplied to the local regimes and the portion of the money received by those regimes that was allowed to trickle down, the non-Europeanized world caused little trouble.
But now the Cold War is over, and in some respects things are back where they were at the turn of the 19th Century, in the days of the Barbary pirates, with one big exception: this time, they*ve got nukes. India and Pakistan openly flaunt them. Iran, Iraq and North Korea probably have them, or are close. And how long can it be before people like Al Quaeda get them? And don*t forget anthrax (though the recent incidents seem most likely domestic in origin).
So to quote Lenin, “What Is to Be Done?” Re-colonization? Actually that seems to be what is happening, at least by proxy. Rather than sending out viceroys, the Europeanized world supports local dictators who have little or no local support (outside their military). Before September 11th, these surrogates had a relatively free rein. Muaharraf could placate his people on the cheap by flirting with the Taliban; similarly, the Saudis could send out their Wahabbist missions. But now the fact is being brought home that the Cold War is over, and those regimes have no alternatives: when the Europeanized world says “frog,” they have to ask “how high?” I think we*re going to see a significant shortening of their leashes as time goes by.
Even Arafat might make himself useful as such a surrogate - if he gives up all pretense of being a popular leader, and settles into the role of a catspaw for the Europeanized world.
February 25, 2002
 
Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography
Diana Price has posted on her Web site a response to one aspect of my review of her book. Essential to her thesis is the contention that an Elizabethan nobleman would have been stigmatized had he been known to be a playwright. I responded, in considerable detail, that noblemen of that and slightly later periods evidently felt no such stigma, because they in fact wrote plays and were known to have written them.
Miss Price devotes most of her rebuttal to the slightly different, and not particularly pertinent, question of whether a nobleman who wrote plays would have wanted to see them printed. On that point she is not convincing. Her case rests on the idea that, even though nobles attached their names to printed works that looked very much like plays, the absence of any stigma was solely because the plays were not meant to be acted. Does she conceive that aristocrats would pick up a quarto of Antony and Cleopatra, with the name "William Shakespeare" on the title page [I am aware that no such quarto exists - this is a "thought experiment"], and sniff, "This was written by low-life scum", then take in hand Antony, whose title page bears the Countess of Pembroke's name, and say, "Jolly good. This will not appear on the stage - and is translated from the French to boot"? Miss Price's finespun distinctions attempt to obscure the fact that, among the Tudor and Stuart upper classes (except for the occasional enthusiastic Puritan), plays were respectable literature, not something akin to pornography.
Be that as it may, Miss Price still, as I put it in my review, "makes no effort to examine the directly pertinent question: Would an Elizabethan or Jacobean courtier who wrote plays have had any strong motive to hide his authorship?" None of the nobly born figures whom I cite did disguise his (or, in the Countess of Pembroke's case, her) play writing. In a couple of cases (William Percy and the Earl of Newcastle certainly, Thomas Sackville probably), they were eager to see their acknowledged dramas presented to the groundlings.Other noble writers may have been indifferent to production (which involved, then as now, a lot of dreary labor for the author), but they didn't mind looking a lot like the folks whose scripts did appear on stage.
Until Miss Price takes aim at the real issue, there's no need to go over her material in detail. I will, however, mention three relatively small items:
Miss Price doesn't think that the Earl of Newcastle's activities are pertinent, because his plays were staged in the early 1640's. That is, however, only about 15 years after the publication of the First Folio, whose editors were, according to Miss Price, sedulous to keep the noble author's secret. The interval between Jonson's mention of Shakespeare in Timber (another bit of alleged covering up for the nobleman) and Newcastle's dramaturgical career was even shorter. What happened in that brief period to eradicate such a powerful stigma? How is it that no sign of this change in aristocratic mores survives in the records of the time? The quotation about New Testament scholars that I post elsewhere strikes me as pertinent here.
In an effort to score a quick point, Miss Price says, "Tom Veal has attempted to provide some more meat on the bone, although his reliance on The Shakespeare Authorship Home Page is evident." Let me state clearly that, if my indebtedness to the diligent work of Messrs. Kathman and Ross is to the least degree not evident, I openly and gladly proclaim it (noting at the same time, with due auctorial pride, that much of my material does not happen to appear on their site).
Miss Price also writes (another surgical strike), "According to Veal, 'a bevy of gentlemen of rank wrote the prefatory verses to Spenser’s Faerie Queene,' but he has that back-to-front. Spenser addressed prefatory verses to a bevy of aristocrats, not they to him." Rather than argue at length, I ask the reader to look at his own copy of The Faerie Queene and see whether in his edition, as in mine, Spenser's dedicatory sonnets are not preceded by seven commendatory poems from other hands. (As any standard Spenserian reference work will confirm, those hands include that of Sir Walter Raleigh and other court figures.)
Update (3/10/02): Miss Price and I have exchanged e-mail concerning the last bullet point. If I understand her (and I'm not sure that I do), she thinks that "wrote the prefatory verses" is an assertion that all of the poems that precede Book I of The Faerie Queene, including those with titles like "To the Right Honourable Sir Christopher Hatton", were written by others to Spenser. In the hope that no one else will be similarly misled, I have edited the text to remove the word "the". On the substantive point - whether, as Miss Price contends, aristocrats had an aversion to writing commendatory verses - the examples of Sir Walter Raleigh and the Earl of Oxford ought to be sufficient, but let me also lean on the authority of Steven May, who calls commendations "traditionally respectable subjects for courtier verse" (The Elizabethan Courtier Poets, p. 115; cf. pp. 43-5).
February 2, 2002
 
The Arming America Controversy
Jim Naso of Cleveland, Ohio writes:
Appreciated your commentary from the historical and constitutional aspects. However, I believe Bellesiles' conclusion involves more than arguments over methodology, etc. in specialist journals.  There is some evidence of fraud here. Bellesiles "dog ate my homework" excuses are feeble and unconvincing. Also, the book was awarded a Bancroft Prize, a prestigious award. This and the lavish praise from the first reviewers suggest another example of academic research tainted by political ideology.
Just discovered your site via the Instapundit. I will be reading more. It looks like you have a very interesting site. Regards.
Whether or not Professor Bellesiles intentionally cooked his data, it is unlikely that anyone would have uttered the word "fraud", had he and his allies not attempted to give his findings spurious political significance. My own opinion, FWIW, is that he formulated a novel thesis, found bits of evidence to back it up, then let his enthusiasm run away with him, to the point where he saw proof everywhere. Many a young scholar has done the same. Very few go on, however, to thrust themselves into an acrimonious political debate. Those who do may hope that political sympathizers will bring their work to the attention of the general public, but they run the risk that errors will be seen as the deliberate deceptions of a propagandist.
January 23, 2002
 
Fixing Social Security
Arnold Kling of Silver Spring, Maryland writes:
For a similar view to yours, see http://arnoldkling.com/~arnoldsk/aimst3/aimst315.html.
Mr. Kling is pessimistic about whether partial privatization of Social Security would really diminish the financial exposure of the government. It could end up, he fears, with a moral commitment to protect baby boomers' privatized accounts against market declines.
 
Professor Krugman's Changing Views
Jeff Hauser asks, with regard to the last paragraph of the referenced item:
Isn''t there an obligation to provide some examples of truth telling before making such an accusation???
For supporting evidence let me cite one of Professor Krugman's admirers, the editor of a Web site devoted to his thought, who is sharply disappointed with the drift of the professor's New York Times columns away from economic analysis and into the swamps of "angry preaching". (Kevin Deenihan, "Mr. Krugman: Get with it, guy!") My accusation is that Professor Krugman's change of face regarding Enron's business model was prompted by political convenience. There are alternative explanations, neither as plausible, viz.: (i) He didn't believe what he wrote earlier but took bribes from Enron to say it, which is slanderous and absurd. (ii) He has genuinely changed his mind, in which case why doesn't he explain why the failure of a single arbitrageur refutes his former appraisal of the benefits of the partial deregulation of the energy industry?
January 16, 2002
 
The First Real Enron Scandal
Kevin McGilly writes:
From today's NY Times -- do you still find ''scandalous" the media and congressional focus on Andersen''s destruction of Enron files?  The rest of the world is able to recognize the real scandal.  Have fun parsing emails while Rome burns.
January 16, 2002
Arthur Andersen Fires an Executive for Enron Orders
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. with KURT EICHENWALD
WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 - Arthur Andersen fired its partner in charge of auditing the Enron Corporation (news/quote) today, saying he had ordered the destruction of thousands of documents and e-mail messages after learning that the Securities and Exchange Commission had begun an investigation of Enron''s accounting.
The fired partner, David B. Duncan, called a meeting of auditors at the firm''s Houston office and ordered "an expedited effort to destroy documents" on Oct. 23, the day after Enron disclosed that the S.E.C. had begun its inquiry, the firm said. The destruction apparently did not end until Mr. Duncan''s assistant sent an e-mail message to other secretaries on Nov. 9 that said "stop the shredding," the firm said. Andersen had received a subpoena from the S.E.C. the day before."
Yes, I still think that it is scandalous for Time magazine (or its Congressional staff sources) to fabricate evidence that Mr. Duncan acted under orders from Andersen higher-ups. I doubt that I shall alter that opinion.
November 12, 2001
 
Windycon XXVIII
Steven Silver, chairman of next year's Windycon, responds to some of my comments about this year's convention:

[I had noted that registration staffers seemed to be discouraging the use of real names on badges and had refused to let a well-known fan buy a membership for his late-arriving spouse.]
I also noticed that there was a preponderance of badge names and, given your overheard conversation, plan to talk to the reg people about it for next year. I knew that the WNF's wife only had a 1-day membership, but thought it was because she was only there on Saturday, until someone mentioned seeing her on Friday night, which led me to wonder if she ghosted one night and then decided to buy a one-day. I now have an explanation and plan to raise the issue at our postmortem.
[Re my comment that a small pool of panelists was overused:]
Pat Sayre McCoy will be running programming next year and I think we'll not commit the same oddities.  Pat will be using my rather extensive database of potential panelists, and will do so in a more timely manner than was done this year.
[Re the Art Show:]
Art show will be run by a different crew (headed by Bill Roper) for the first time in more than a decade. We also already have three (3!) artists lined up in our guest list: Lisa Snellings (Artist), Bob Eggleton (Toastmaster) and MaryAnn Harris (wife of the Author GoH [Charles de Lint]), so I think we're already on a good way to improving the art show. We're also going to increase the art show's space to what it has been in the past.
[Re Windycon's long stay at the Woodfield Hyatt:]
Windycon needs to move, for a variety of reasons.  However, after a year long search, we've only found a couple of hotels which seem to be able to meet our needs, but external issues make them less desirable than we would like. We have decided, therefore to continue our search (suggestions welcome). Meanwhile, our current contract lasts through next year at the Hyatt.
[Some other points:]
The pocket program was put together by the programming staff at the last minute and I question why you failed to mention its complete illegibility for anyone who has eyes that work like eyes rather than microscopes. [Anybody who has seen my handwriting knows that I'm in no position to criticize tiny type.] Next year's pocket program will be put together by publications, not programming.
This year, Windycon also added a couple of media guests for the first time in several years: Eugene Roddenberry, Jr. and Dr. Demento, both of whom proved very popular, although their inclusion changed the feel of the convention on Saturday evening.
Internet Lounge at Windycon is currently open for debate.
A questionnaire in the program book seeks feedback on how to improve a variety of areas of the convention. [I presume that Steven would appreciate it if attendees would return completed questionnaires. Respondents will be entered in a drawing for a free membership in Windycon XXIX.]
The announced guests for next year are Charles de Lint (author), Lisa Snellings (Artist), Mark & Evelyn Leeper (fen), Bob Eggleton (toastmaster).

October 23, 2001
 
Review of The Knarley News #90
Henry Welch explains that my guess about the credit card story wasn't quite right (Visa really was being irrational, not just unduly strict) and points out a drawback to using a free Web hosting service.

Actually the credit card problem was for the purchase of a dinner in Milwaukee followed by a purchase from a Minneapolis vendor later that evening at a local festival. This all stems from my annual column (in April) on unsolicited offers of credit (I log them each year).
BTW: Tripod tried to set 11 cookies when I visited your site.
October 17, 2001
 
Quark Watch (10/15/01)
Leah Zeldes Smith, co-chairman of Ditto/FanHistoricon, points out that, contrary to my theorizing, there's no sign that September 11th held down attendance:

I doubt that Sept. 11 had much impact on attendance, other than making the trip more arduous for those who came from a distance. Of the 13 attending members who failed to show up, several -- Bowers, DeVore, Salomon, Sapienza, Trend, Weisskopf -- reported illness of themselves or a family member as the reason; Bob Webber was out of work; Linda Bushyager was behind on packing for moving house; the Thayers signed up a year ago but had decided they couldn't come before MilPhil; another early joiner, Eric Lindsay, couldn't justify the expense involved in coming from Australia after the Aussie dollar tanked months ago; and Beverly Friend's significant other, David Miller, abruptly decided not to come for no particular reason. That leaves only Jerry Weist, whose reason we don't know; it might have been connected to post-Sept. 11 travel difficulties, but he didn't buy his membership until after Sept. 11. (The rest of the 30 postcards were to supporting members who had never intended to come.)
It is possible, of course, that we might have had a few more at-the-door members without Sept. 11, but no one has told us that they wished to attend and decided not to because of fallout from that day's events.

N. B.:  The messages below weren't actually submitted to Stromata, which didn't yet exist, but they do comment on articles that appear on this site, so I thought that it would be only fair to grant them retroactive LoC status.

September 28, 2001
 
Review of Kathryn Lindskoog, Sleuthing C. S. Lewis
The Amazon missive reproduced below prompted me to send a short response:
If you genuinely believe that the quoted comments are about "the author and her character" rather than the content of her book, there is no point in further discussion.  We are not moving in the same linguistic universe.
I might note that the application of your apparent standards would result in the removal of a large proportion of the reviews currently posted on Amazon.

I should have kept my fingers away from the keyboard, for I got back a long message whose flavor is conveyed by a couple of sentences:
I have spoken with my colleagues in regards to this review and we have agreed that this review is not within our posted guidelines. . . .  We do exert some editorial control over our customer reviews and strive to block reviews that fall outside our guidelines. Amazon.com does not tolerate profane or spurious customer reviews. . . .
I am undecided whether I prefer to be spurious or profane or would enjoy a dash of both.

September 27, 2001
 
Review of Kathryn Lindskoog, Sleuthing C. S. Lewis
I submitted a shorter version of this piece to Amazon.com, which declined to post it.  An Amazon employee offered these reasons:
We appreciate you taking the time to submit your edited review of "Sleuthing C. S. Lewis : More Light in the Shadowlands" (ISBN: 0865547416).  However, the review while containing information about the book still contains to [sic] many comments about the author and her charactor [sic].
Some of the [sc. objectionable] comments from your review,
[What follows consists of excerpts from what I had submitted.  To make it clear that these are my words rather than Amazon's, I have reproduced them in green type.]
whose [N. B.:  This pronoun refers to Walter Hooper, not to Kathryn Lindksoog.] skullduggery has allegedly been facilitated by Owen Barfield, Douglas Gresham, the trustees of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College and a bevy of lesser knaves and fools.
Lindskoog leans heavily on three computer analyses to demonstrate that "The Dark Tower" is not in Lewis's style.  Two of these tests were performed by amateurs, one using a very old program that is not, so far as I can tell, taken seriously in attribution studies, the other trying out a methodology of his own devising.  The third analysis is more substantial, employing A. Q. Morton's "cusum" (or "QSUM") program.  The sample examined was, however, very limited: About 75 sentences of "The Dark Tower" were compared to about 100 sentences from other Lewis works.  That is adequate for Morton, who believes that the characteristics important to his program (sentence length and the frequency of either short words or words beginning with a vowel) are absolutely constant, not only over very short passages but throughout an author's lifetime, across genres and even across speech, poetry and prose.  Linguistic scholars are more skeptical, and independent efforts to validate Morton's technique have failed.  The Dutch linguist Pieter de Haan, reviewing a book by one of Morton's acolytes, calls the cusum method "completely unreliable" (5 Forensic Linguistics 69 (1998)).  Lindskoog ignores all such criticism and gives the impression that cusum is a widely accepted, mainstream tool.
If our detective got that essay wrong, how acute is her ability to separate true Lewis from false?
By Lindskoog's own count, seven separate handwriting analyses have affirmed that the "Dark Tower" manuscript is in Lewis's hand.  Her response is to abuse the examiners and praise Hooper's skills as a forger.  It is possible, of course, that every examination so far has been incompetently handled and that Hooper has a rare knack for imitating handwriting, but the probability does not seem especially high.
As a polemic, "Sleuthing C. S. Lewis" has much of the gossipy appeal of the New York Post's "Page Six" but little intellectual substance.  It is also rambling, disorganized and digressive.  There is no reason to doubt the author's zeal and good intentions, much reason to question where they have led her.
These are some [sic!] of the comments that need to be refined or removed so the review will be within guidelines and able to be posted on our website.

June 5, 2001
 
Review of Diana Price, Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography
This profound analysis comes from detpoda@aol.com:
Hey Eddie, give it a break. Only one review is necessary to demonstrate to everyone that you're an asshole; well read, perhaps, but still an asshole (in reference to your multiple and useless commentaries of Diana Price's Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography).  P.S. You're a closet critic--- those who can do, those who cannot teach, those who can't teach, are either dead or write critical reviews.
Your Friend
Sir Henry Hamburger.

January 2001
 
Review of Diana Price, Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography
Diana Price did catch me on one point:  Her book was not "silent" about Sir Thomas More.  I wrote a follow-up on Amazon.com correcting my error.  Miss Price quotes it in full in the course of her response.  To minimize confusion, her quotation of me appears in green type, her response appears in orange, and my interpolations are in the customary blue.  (I apologize to any color blind readers.  I would make things easier for you if I knew how.)
Diana Price has complained on her Web site that the last bullet point in my earlier review ignored her "reference (p. 127, also listed in the index) to the possibility that Hand D in Sir Thomas More is that of Shakespeare". Though my oversight was inadvertent, she is correct. By way of atonement, I reproduce in its entirety what Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography says about Sir Thomas More and Hand D:
"The poor quality of Shakspere's penmanship is as suspicious as is the paucity of extant handwriting for a man who supposedly lived by the pen, and scholars continue to search for more specimens. Some have pored over manuscript pages of the play Sir Thomas More, hoping to find Shakspere's handwriting in it. Yet there remain only six inconsistent, blotchy signatures against which to make any comparisons. At best, the six signatures support the conclusion that Shakspere could sign or at least scrawl his name, but they do not support the conclusion that he was a professional writer."
A reader will not learn here that scholars have assembled an impressive (though not uncontroverted) body of evidence in support of the identification of "Hand D" with that of William Shakespeare.  I'm sorry that I overlooked this passage, because it neatly illustrates my main point: Time and again, Miss Price, instead of seeking to refute inconvenient analyses, pretends that they don't exist. I noted a few examples in my review.
If I wanted to pretend that the case for "Hand D" in Sir Thomas More case did not exist, I would not have mentioned it in my book.  [Readers can judge for themselves whether Miss Price's words, quoted above, suggest any desire "to pretend that the case . . . did not exist".]  However, the reader's criticism is that I did not offer a more complete discussion of the relative merits and demerits of the case for "Hand D" as Shakspere's. In retrospect, I have to agree with him. I've added a page to this website to address this subject; to go to that page, click on More.  [On her Web site, Miss Price briefly summarizes four articles.  One is by an anti-Stratfordian.  One argues that Sir Thomas More was written in 1601 or later, a dating that Miss Price thinks is fatal to the identification of Hand D with Shakespeare's.  She is mistaken on that point.  Sam Schoenbaum, a supporter of the identification, also dates the play to 1601, and some supporters place it even later.  The remaining two articles cited contend that the Hand D argument is not conclusive, a point that no one denies.  It should be remembered that Hand D is not a crucial - or even important - element of the Stratfordian case.  If Hand D is Shakespeare's, however, that fact is all but fatal to the anti-Stratfordians.  Therefore, one reasonably expected Miss Price to devote more attention to it than she did in her book.  Her failure to do so is a sign of what I called her "partial scholarship".]
If Amazon allotted infinite space to reviewers, I could add more, as well as describe other departures from scholarly practice. (One of my favorite instances: George Chalmers, an eccentric defender of William Henry Ireland's Shakespearean forgeries, is cited as a sound "orthodox" authority (p. 93)! Curiously, though Miss Price relies on him, she doesn't list his work in her bibliography.)
I mention Chalmers as a critic with whom an early Jonsonian editor, William Gifford, takes issue. (Chalmers is the orthodox critic who proposed Shakespeare as the target of Jonson’s “Poet-Ape.”) Gifford’s work, which I quote, is duly listed in the bibliography. Gifford shares the reader’s opinion of Chalmers as an unreliable critic. After citing Gifford's outrage at Chalmers's proposal, I go on to present my own reasons for accepting Shakespeare as the target of the allusion.  [In other words, Miss Price cites as an "orthodox authority" supporting her position someone whom she knows only at second hand and whose reliability is denied by her source of information!  Chalmers is, incidentally, mentioned (very unfavorably) in the major histories of Shakespeare's posthumous reputation (e. g., Schoenbaum's Shakespeare's Lives).  It's surprising that Miss Price was unaware of his low standing as an "orthodox" scholar.]
The anti-Stratfordians who have rallied around Miss Price's book should ponder whether gaining converts through the tactic of suppressio veri is a good long-run strategy. Their cause would be far better served by an author who was willing to confront, rather than shut her eyes to and sneer at, the other side of the case.
The identity of the reviewer on Amazon from Santa Fe is unknown to me, but from his or her comments, that reader was not pre-disposed to an anti-Stratfordian position. So it is not necessarily committed "anti-Stratfordians who have rallied around" my book. That reader describes his/herself as someone with an open mind who was persuaded by rational argument. And on a point of semantics, I do not consider the anti-Stratfordian position a “cause.” Nor am I looking for “converts.” I consider the authorship question essentially an academic issue that requires critical analysis and further research if it is to be resolved.  [We can agree on the last point anyway.]

January 9, 2001
 
Review of Diana Price, Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography
Here is what "a reader from Los Angeles CA" thought of the version of my review that appeared on Amazon.com (quoted below in connection with Diana Price's response).
Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography by Diana Price is essential for those who wish to come to grips with the Shakespearean authorship problem, first as an exposition of the anti-Stratfordian case, and second as a reference work of the first order. An entrenched orthodoxy will not take kindly to this thorough examination of the shortcomings of Shakespearean scholarship, especially that of recent biographers. Negative reviews can be expected, but prospective readers should take that bias into account. Reading the book will be the only way to judge, because it is itself the best source of information at hand.
Perhaps the best way to express an appreciation of Price's book is to contrast it to the Amazon.com review entitled "Deconstructing the Stratford Man," by Edward Thomas Veal.  One cannot expect a subject to be argued fully in opposing reviews, but I would hope by a response to direct readers to the full argument in Diana Price's book.
Veal suggests by his title and opening remarks that Price's publication has something in common with modern literary theory, as represented by the word 'deconstruction.' On the contrary, her work uses none of the vocabulary or method of the movement embraced so wholeheartedly by Shakespearean academia for the last twenty years. Now that the movement has run its course and is acknowledged as nonsense, its value has sunk to a manner of name-calling. The reviewer can only have hoped to discourage general interest by lumping Diana Price with the unreadable practitioners of literary theory.
The reviewer quite unfairly attributes opinions to Price that are not true or even suggested. For example, he says that Price believes the author of the works adopted the name 'Shakespeare' "just by coincidence." [Miss Price has more than one theory, but one of them is indeed that the adoption of the pen name was coincidental; pp. 61-2, 99, 299.] This is untrue, but such absurdities may be placed on an author only if a book remains unread. Veal implies that Price's identification of Shakespeare in unflattering contemporary literary allusions is unreasonable, though she is careful to cite the orthodox scholars who reasonably suggest the same. Most of the reviewer's remarks are similarly slanted.
Veal attributes to Price an "animus" to Shakespeare that is absent. [Abuse of "Shakspere" is a steady theme in Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography.  Perhaps it stems from something other than animus, but I can't guess what. Strong dislike of the Stratford man is one of the constants of anti-Stratfordian polemics.] He also accuses her of "partial scholarship," though her book is scholarly throughout, and will serve Shakespeareans as a much needed example. As a reference source, one may count on the book for accuracy. The reviewer justifies the term "partial" by suggesting that Price selectively confronts evidence and analysis. This is mere subterfuge because Price offers the most comprehensive biographical analysis to date, which Veal's examples of omission would have one think otherwise.  [See my subsequent exchange with Diana Price on Sir Thomas More, supra, for an example of what I regard as her "partial scholarship".]
But these citations instead reveal the difficulty of finding lapses to criticize. For example, Veal acknowledges facts cited by Price in respect of the phrase "our ever-living poet" in the Sonnet dedication, but faults her for failing to cite a scholar's odd opinion of the phrase, as if opinion were fact. Some, it must be said, can't tell the difference.  [One of the facts established by Professor Foster's article was that the adjective "ever living" was most often employed by Elizabethan and Jacobean writers to refer to God or other supernatural beings.  That point is not helpful to Miss Price's thesis, so she passes it by and asserts that Foster's research proves that an "ever-living poet" must be a deceased human being (omitting the researcher's own suggestion that he is God).]
Veal misstates Price's position on the possibilities of Shakespeare's education by likening his to Ben Jonson's, and saying that she "derides the notion" that Shakespeare could have been self-educated. What Price does is simply to contrast the evidence, which is ample for Jonson [No evidence at all exists concerning the adult self-education by which Jonson made himself one of the most learned men in England, and Miss Price cites none.], and non-existent for Shakespeare. The orthodox method is revealed here:  appropriated evidence serves for real evidence. This is the type of thinking that has monopolized Shakespearean scholarship for too long. Price's innovative chart comparing the literary biographies of contemporaries to Shakespeare should open the eyes of all but the biased, and even they can benefit from a little knowledge.
The reviewer criticizes Price for failing to list the manuscript fragment in the play "Sir Thomas More" that he says "is widely believed" to be in Shakespeare's hand. Here again Veal mistakes opinion for fact, an error so often allowed in Shakespearean scholarship that the immersed might think it is allowed elsewhere.
The citation of "Sir Thomas More" is particularly unfortunate because its history as a subject does not speak well of generations of scholars, who attempted to manufacture Shakespearean evidence in opposition to anti-Stratfordian argument. Conforming to the fate of so many orthodox theories, the "More" hypothesis is crumbling as it is most cited as evidence. See for example the revealing article by the eminent orthodox scholar Paul Werstine, "Shakespeare More or Less: A.W. Pollard and Twentieth-Century Shakespeare Editing," Florilegium 16 (1999) pp. 125-45.  [Werstine's rejection of the view that a portion of the manuscript of Sir Thomas More is in Shakespeare's hand is part and parcel of his complex and controversial theories about Elizabethan editing and printing practices.  He may be right - I cannot understand his argument well enough to judge it - but his is a minority opinion among scholars.  His suggestion that Hand D advocates are motivated by fear of anti-Stratfordism looks like pure odium academicum.  Rightly or wrongly, the Shakespeare "establishment" pays no more attention to the authorship controversy than serious historians do to Immanuel Velikovsky.]
Veal also criticizes Price for accepting contemporary evidence of an aristocratic "stigma of print" as vital to her case. Though the stigma is not vital to the case [The alleged stigma is Miss Price's sole explanation of why the "real" author of Shakespeare did not publish under his own name, which makes it, to my mind, "vital to the case".], which depends on evidence of all sorts, it should be taken into account at least as much as the appeal to authority on which the reviewer relies. Veal suggests that Price "conceivably overlooked" a journal article contrary to her opinion. This is a common tactic used by reviewers to imply that they've never overlooked anything.  [Actually, it is a polite alternative to accusing the reviewee of having deliberately ignored pertinent scholarship.] But when Veal states that "aristocrats of the era had no qualms about seeing their literary works, including their plays, in print under their own names," he shows he has no qualms about misstating the evidence. [The version of my review posted on Stromata lists half a dozen 16th and 17th century English aristocrats who wrote for the theater.] As it happens, Price ably defends her position in respect of this matter and others on her web site, http://www.shakespeare-authorship.com, which should not be overlooked.
Veal suggests that readers who are "impressed by Miss Price's facade of scholarship should bear omissions like these in mind." Yes they should, and they will realize that the scholarship is not a facade. The grudging admission of scholarship is in itself telling, but one can hardly expect an orthodox reviewer to admit that much of his expertise derives from the book he cannot recommend.
Veal also suggests an absence of promised "new evidence." First, there is a fair amount of strictly new evidence. Second, much of the evidence compiled will be new to readers of orthodox biographies, where it is either missing or distorted. Third, reexamination of "old" evidence reveals overlooked matter. Fourth, the treatment of the subject by prior scholarship is itself revealing evidence. Very few persons will come away from a reading of Price's book without having learned much of its subject. The author is deserving of respect, and I believe she demonstrates the need to respect the anti-Stratfordian position, not merely for the sake of fair play, but for a greater chance to determine the truth of historical events that have been clouded for too long by faulty scholarship.  [I, too, am in favor of "respect" and "fair play", but respecting and playing fair with an historical hypothesis mean scrutinizing the arguments for and against as thoroughly and rigorously as one can.]

December 2000
 
Review of Diana Price, Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography
When I made my first stab at analyzing Miss Price's case, in a review appearing on Amazon.com, she responded on her Web site.  Her comments quote the complete text of my review.  To minimize confusion, her quotation of me appears in green type, her response appears in orange, and my interpolations are in blue.
Despite the absence of the "new evidence" promised by its subtitle, this book can claim to apply a new method to the "controversy" over who wrote Shakespeare's works.
Among the new evidence and new arguments presented in this book are:
(1) Comparative analysis of literary papers trails for Shakespeare and his contemporaries (chapter 8, appendix);
(2) Analysis of theatrical documentation showing that Shakespeare was a theatrical financier and business agent (pp. 104-109);
(3) Introduction of Sir William Dugdale's drawing, ca. 1634, of Shakespeare's funerary monument (pp. 154-158);
(4) Comparative analysis and interpretation of Groatsworth of Wit and Vertue's Commonwealth (pp. 54-56); and
(5) Analysis of Jonson's "De Shakespeare Nostrati" and the significance of Jonson's classical source (pp. 196-209). There are several other “nuggets” throughout the book that I have not found in any other Shakespearean biography.  [Miss Price's list confirms the accuracy of the first several sentences of my review:  She has not unearthed new documents or other factual material previously unknown.  Rather, she has taken the familiar evidence and interpreted it in an idiosyncratic way that enables her to reject its apparent meaning in favor of an anti-Stratfordian subtext.]
Diana Price uses the tools of modern literary theory to deconstruct contemporary references to Shakespeare.
My book is a re-construction, rather than a deconstruction, of the biography of Shakespeare, based on the evidence. Specifically, it is a challenge to the documentary biography of Shakespeare, not to literary theories about Shakespeare. I have taken into account the evidence used by biographers (principally Schoenbaum, Chambers, Honigmann, Bentley, Lewis, Lee, Honan, Kay, Chute, and Bradbrook), analyzed how they have used or considered evidence, and evaluated their reasons and conclusions.  When I take issue with their reasoning or with their conclusions, I offer alternatives and my own reasoning. My book is not an exercise in, nor dependent upon any sort of iterary theory.  [That Miss Price is evidently unfamiliar with deconstructionism is all to her credit.  Nonetheless, her approach to texts seems to me very like that school's, whether she learned it from Stanley Fish or devised it on her own.]
On the surface, this evidence straightforwardly attributes the famous plays and poems to an actor from Stratford-on-Avon.
This is the very premise that I challenge throughout the book. To pre-suppose that this evidence of attribution is “straightforward” is to employ circular reasoning.  [But the evidence is, in fact, straightforward.  What Miss Price challenges is the assumption that the straightforward reading is the correct one.]
Miss Price will have none of that. She searches for ambiguity and coded meanings, predictably finds them, and thus feels justified in substituting an implausible scenario, supported by no positive evidence at all, for Shakespeare's orthodox biography.
If the reviewer does not find any ambiguities in places where I do, that is his interpretation. However, he is ignoring the numerous orthodox critics whom I cite, both Shakespearean and Jonsonian, who have likewise found ambiguities in the allusions.
Among the positive evidence that I cite to support the unorthodox Shakespeare is his prominent position in the theatrical documentation, the passage from Vertue’s Commonwealth reinforcing my interpretation of Groatsworth of Wit, and the documentary records of Shakespeare bearing on and reinforcing his financial interests and skills (such as the Quiney letter, Shakespeare’s will, his various real estate investments, etc.)  [Except for the few sentences of Vertue's Commonwealth, where Miss Price finds a far-fetched allusion to Shakespeare, all of this evidence is well-known.  It is consistent with - in fact, forms much of the foundation of - the "orthodox" biography of Shakespeare.  For positive evidence, Miss Price needs data that are consistent with her theory but not with its rival.  She never offers any.] The comparative analysis of literary paper trails shows the absence of evidence supporting the statement “Shakespeare was a writer."
Her thesis, in brief, is that William "Shakspere" of Stratford was an actor, theatrical investor and moneylender - but not a writer. Among his activities were arranging the printing of, and taking credit for, other men's plays. One of his victims was an anonymous nobleman, a supplier of scripts to the acting company with which Shakspere was associated. This author - just by coincidence - had adopted "William Shakespeare" as a pen name for his published poems, "Venus and Adonis" and "The Rape of Lucrece".
I do not argue that the author “just by coincidence” adopted “William Shakespeare" as a pen name. I outline several scenarios and conditions, among which I propose is to be found the point of intersection between the name “William Shakespeare” as representing an unnamed aristocratic author in print, and the name of “William Shakespeare,”  the man from Stratford. In particular, the allusions to “Battillus” and the precedent in the case of Terence, bears on the “coincidence” of the pseudonym and the name of the man from Stratford.  [In an effort to find a coherent authorship theory in Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography, I did indeed oversimpify Miss Price's ideas.  The longer review treats her three partial theories, which include pure coincidence, separately.]
When his pseudonym's namesake expropriated his works, he could not complain, because identification as a writer for the popular stage would have led to social stigmatization. The literary world was conscious of the imposture, however, and Miss Price finds the truth hidden in many a coded epigram, including the dedicatory poems to the First Folio.
For readers who are familiar only with the unfortunate theories about Great Cryptograms and other mystical ciphers proposed by some anti-Stratfordians, the above criticism may set off alarm bells. I do not argue that there are “codes” waiting only for a decoder ring to reveal their secrets. Rather, I argue that ambiguity is present in the prefatory material in the First Folio, and I support that argument with citations from numerous Jonsonian critics. Nor do I claim to “find the truth,” since that implies that I have solved the entire mystery and identified who wrote the works of Shakespeare. I claim to find sufficient ambiguity to cast doubt on the traditional attribution. I demonstrate that the First Folio material is not the straightforward testimony it is purported to be in traditional biography, and further demonstrate that because it is replete with ambiguous statements, its evidentiary value as “proof” of Shakespeare of Stratford’s authorship is questionable. I also show that allusions to Shakespeare collectively reflect ambiguity, whereas allusions to other writers of the day are often straightforward.  [There is nothing "ambiguous" about the First Folio's identification of the author of the collected plays with William Shakespeare, an actor with the King's Men, nor about Ben Jonson's placing the author in Stratford-upon-Avon.  Miss Price's "ambiguities" involve unrelated matters, such as where the editors obtained their texts and how highly Jonson really valued Shakespeare's works. Because, in her view, they are equivocal on those subjects, she feels free to discard everything that they say about anything!]
Like many creators of alternative Shakespeares, Miss Price seems to bear a grudge against the claimant from Stratford.
I have no grudge against Shakespeare, but his contemporaries did, and I report that without apology. Much of the evidence for Shakespeare is unflattering (including Groatsworth, the 1598 grain hoarding record, the warrant for arrest with Langley, the last will, the notes concerning his position regarding the Welcombe enclosures). It is interesting that this reviewer did not mention the passages in my book where I expose outright bias or distortion in the orthodox biographer’s treatment of evidence.  [For someone without a grudge, Miss Price is sure unwilling to give the Stratford man a break.  If a negative inference can be drawn, she draws it.  The full version of my review gives several examples, and I could have continued with many more.]
Her account of his career is jaundiced to a high degree, and she sees him as the figure behind practically every Elizabethan lampoon of braggart actors, plagiarizing poets or unscrupulous  impresarios.
Nearly every satire or lampoon in which I identify Shakespeare as the target has been identified by orthodox scholars. I cite them when I introduce the satires.  [Miss Price's "orthodox scholars" are often marginal figures, such as George Chalmers, and invariably hold minority opinions.  So much has been written about Shakespeare - and so much of it by men of dubious judgement - that it is easy to find some "orthodox scholar" to support any particular point.]
"Facts" collected from such caricatures form much of the basis of her reconstruction of "Shakspere's" life, though the probability that they actually allude to him is generally small. For example, she is confident that the buffoon Sogliardo in Ben Jonson's "Every Man Out of His Humour" is a hit on Shakspere. She does not note that the play was written for the Lord Chamberlain's Men, of which he Stratford man was a principal shareholder. One somehow doubts that Shakspere was so tolerant as to finance a parody of himself.
The Sogliardo lampoon is not a particularly good example of an improbable satire of Shakespeare. It was first noticed as a “hit’ at Shakespeare by orthodox scholars and is cited by many biographers. Using that identification as a starting point, I extended the analysis.  [In other words, she accepted a congenial opinion (not all that widely held, despite her suggestion to the contrary) without bothering to test it against evidence or probability.]
To animus is joined partial scholarship. The author has read extensively but declines to confront evidence or analysis inconsistent with her views. To take a few instances:
The "stigma of print" is vital to her case, as it furnishes her sole explanation of why not only the noble author, but also every other contemporary, failed to unmask "Shakspere" as a fraud. In fact, this stigma was supposedly so powerful that the editors of the First Folio kept up the pretense after both Shakspere and the real playwright (who, Miss Price believes, died before 1609) were gone from the world.
But was there any such stigma? Steven May, the leading authority on the literary works of Tudor courtiers, lambasted the theory in "Tudor Aristocrats and the Mythical 'Stigma of Print'" (Renaissance Papers, 1980). Miss Price takes no notice of this article. Conceivably she overlooked it, but her bibliography does list Professor May's book The Elizabethan Courtier Poets, which contains ample evidence that aristocrats of the era had no qualms about seeing their literary works, including their plays, in print under their own names.
I have read Prof. May’s article, and it has been on David Kathman’s Shakespeare Authorship Web page for some time. I do not view Prof. May’s article on this subject as the final word, nor do I agree with it entirely. Nor do the authorities whom I cite concerning the conception of a “stigma of print.”
More to the point, the evidence that I cite in support of a “stigma of print” is, in my view, sufficiently strong as to leave the reader with no doubt that just such a social convention existed as an effective restraint in Shakespeare’s day. I would question Prof. May’s conclusion specifically on two counts. One, the very evidence that he cites to demonstrate how the “myth of the stigma of print” was first postulated is, in my view, evidence proving, not disproving, the “stigma of print.” (Among that evidence is the testimony found in The Arte of English Poesie, which I also cite.) Second , while May argues that there was more of a “stigma of verse” than a “stigma of print,” I would respond by suggesting that he does not sufficiently distinguish between genres, in particular the genres of poetry (considered “literary trifles") and plays written for the commercial stage, as distinct from the more serious, pious, or didactic works and translations, which were published with less restraint and/or less apology by the upper classes. Again, please refer to the works by Arthur Marotti and Richard Helgerson (see my fn. p 218).  [Many a scholar would find it embarrassing to admit that she knew of an article, written by a leading authority, directly pertinent to a key thesis of her work - then chose to ignore it.]
Miss Price thinks that the real Shakespeare was dead by 1609, because the publisher's dedication to the Sonnets refers to "our ever-living poet". She cites Don Foster's article, "Master W.H., R.I.P.", to prove that the adjective "ever-living" was not customarily applied to people who were still alive. She does not cite the article's conclusion: that "ever-living" is applied most frequently to God, the "ever-living poet" Who is asked to bless the (living) sonneteer.

The reviewer has proposed an alternative reading to the dedication to the Sonnets. I have proposed mine.
Miss Price derides the notion that Shakespeare could have acquired classical and literary knowledge through private reading. Yet Ben Jonson did precisely that. Jonson's works are vastly more erudite than Shakespeare's, but his formal education did not go beyond a few years of grammar school.
Historians are able to trace at least part of Jonson’s education through his two explicit tributes to his mentor, William Camden. Jonson received an honorary degree from Oxford University noting that he was “happily versed in all humane literature” (Riggs, 262). For Shakespeare, there are no comparable records.  [The "records" for Jonson tell us nothing about his studies as an adult.  He could not have acquired the knowledge displayed in his plays from his short period at grammar school, but nothing survives to reveal when, where or how he gained it.  His record is as blank in that regard as Shakespeare's.]
Moreover, Jonson pursued his independent studies in the face of dire poverty, whereas Shakespeare of Stratford appears always to have been at least modestly affluent (besides which, a family friend was one of London's most important booksellers). The facts about Jonson's self-education are set forth in a book cited several times by Miss Price in other contexts (David Riggs, Ben Jonson: A Life, pp. 57-58).
This criticism only underscores my point. If Shakespeare had the means and the access to educational and cultural opportunities, why aren’t there any paper trails to trace his progress as a developing writer, as we can trace Jonson’s? [We can trace Ben Jonson's "progress as a developing writer" only through his works, just as we can trace Shakespeare's.]  This reviewer hardly mentioned the argument in my book that I consider the strongest: the comparative analysis of evidence supporting the literary biographies of Shakespeare and two dozen of his contemporaries. I found personal literary paper trails for everyone except Shakespeare. [The Stromata version of the review discusses the "paper trails", noting that Miss Price has worked hard to obliterate Shakespeare's.  If it isn't there, that's because she doesn't want to see it.]
To buttress her contention that Shakespeare left no "literary paper trail", Miss Price states flatly that no manuscripts in his hand survive. As a student of Elizabethan literature, she is surely aware of the famous Sir Thomas More manuscript, a portion of which is widely believed to be Shakespeare's autograph. That belief may, of course, be mistaken, but it should be refuted with arguments rather than silence.
The reviewer must have missed my reference (p. 127, also listed in the index) to the possibility that Hand D in Sir Thomas More is that of Shakespeare.  [I did miss the passing reference to Sir Thomas More.  I did not miss the references, because there are not any, to Hand D or to the fact that it has been seriously proposed as Shakespeare's own handwriting.  For more on this topic, see Miss Price's response to my second Amazon.com review.]
The reviewer, in introducing the pages from Sir Thomas More as possibly being in Shakespeare’s hand, tacitly acknowledges the deficiency of personal literary paper trails in Shakespeare’s traditional biography. As the reviewer seems to be aware, the evidence for Shakespeare’s as “Hand D” in the manuscript of Sir Thomas More is inconclusive. I note in passing that Anthony Holden identified -- without qualification -- the facsimile of a page of Sir Thomas More as the only fragment of a manuscript in Shakespeare’s handwriting (William Shakespeare: The Man Behind the Genius. A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1999).
Any reader who is impressed by Miss Price's facade of scholarship should bear omissions like these in mind. Consciously or not, she has fashioned a brief for a preconceived opinion, not a fair-minded evaluation of facts and circumstances. She is less incoherent than Charlton Ogburn, Jr., and less bizarrely speculative (but also less entertaining) than Joseph Sobran, but her case against the Stratford man, like theirs, amounts to nothing more substantial than bile and overheated air.
The Review of English Studies (RES) occasionally recommends previously published articles in their "Instructions to Authors" as a model to follow in terms of Style. The RES has cited my article ("Reconsidering Shakespeare's Monument," May 1997) several times in such "Instructions." I expect if the editors of this highly respected journal considered my article merely a "facade of scholarship," they would not have accepted it in the first place, much less recommended it to prospective contributors.  [I shall bear that in mind should I ever write about "Reconsidering Shakespeare's Monument".]
Finally, I should be grateful if the reviewer would direct my attention to the particular pages on which he finds “bile and overheated air,” since he did not specify which passages gave offense.  [The full version of my review cites abundant examples.]

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