When I was in Law School at Aberystwyth on the rugged western coast of Wales, it was an occasional delight to drive in summer to the lush English meadows of the Vale of Evesham, and especially to do homage at Stratford-upon-Avon at a massive statue of the quintessential English poet and writer of genius. Weeping willows alongside one’s rowboat recalled him warbling his native woodnotes wild nearby. Plays and poems were wistfully recalled from schooldays. A climax was visiting the 1964 quadricentennial exhibition.
As a kid, I had a vague notion of Baconian and Marlovian claims. As a lover of mystery (Grand-Duchess Anastasia, Shroud of Turin, etc.), and in search of reading material in Geneva, Switzerland 33 years later, I came upon the 1988 English edition of Charlton Ogburn’s The Mysterious William Shakespeare.
The impact on me of this thought-through chapter-and-verse presentation of the Oxford case was stunning. Firstly, the bogus basis of Stratford claims is exposed, sustained now only by $500 million income per year to the town, and the increasingly fragile reputation of un-numbered tenured writers. Secondly, the ways in which Lord Oxford’s upbringing and experiences inform the canon is startling. Thirdly, the door is opened, for the first time, to track the writings in the life, still a gaping void in the tirelessly researched biography of Shaxper. Finally, the weight of circumstantial support for Oxford’s authorship is overwhelming: his many close literary associates, his travels and travails, his classical and contemporary education and languages, his access to the uppermost echelons, finest minds and greatest libraries of his day.
His standing as leader of the English Renaissance is obvious: foreshadowed by many pre-1920 scholars, and by others later who note the congruence of the playwright’s writings with Kyd, Lyly, Munday, Angel Day, Marlowe and others.
Ogburn’s book led my way to the awesome scholarship of his parents, of Looney, and more recently of Mark Anderson and others. Googling in 2007 I found the “Doubt about Will” website and signed John Shahan’s formidably succinct Declaration. As a new Cosmos Club member, unaware of the eggshells in Club terms on which I trod, in 2014 I asked guest speaker Tom Regnier, after his carefully non-committal talk on Shakespeare’s mastery of Law revealed in Hamlet, whether it was not obvious that a sixteenth century provincial grain dealer and sometime jobbing actor impresario would be unlikely to have sophisticated legal knowledge of this kind. The room froze in varying degrees. Tom responded with further non-committal elegance, as he had agreed with the sponsors.
Subsequent exchanges led distinguished Oxfordians at the Club to posit and promote a formal “Shakespeare Authorship Inquiries Group”, which welcomes distinguished authorship scholars, and meets monthly in testimony to the open spirit of intellectual inquiry the Club promotes. Friends in the DC region are warmly invited to join our discussions: email@example.com.
— Gareth L. Howell
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