On Saturday, April 10, Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre Director Daniel Wright, PhD will present the center’s 2010 Scholarship Award to SOS journal, The Oxfordian, founder Stephanie Hopkins Hughes at Concordia University’s Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference to be held April 7-11. Hughes will not be able to attend because of work committments.
Other honorees include Michael Delahoyde who will also receive the Scholarship Award and Portland Centre Stage Artistic Director Chris Coleman who will receive a Distinguished Achievements in the Arts award. Jose Carrillo de Albornoz Fa’bregas and Charles Boyle will also be honored at the conference.
Since the conference began in 1997, Scholarship Awards have been conferred on Charlton Ogburn, Jr (1997); Ruth Loyd Miller (1998); Verily Anderson (1999); Richard Whalen (2000); Roger Stritmatter (2001); Robert Detobel (2001); Alan H. Nelson (2002); Deborah Bacon (2003); Paul Altrocchi (2004); Charles Beauclerk (2005); Hank Whittemore (2006); Mark Anderson (2o06); William Farina (2007); Peter Dawkins (2008); Bertram Fields (2008); William Boyle (2009); and Robin Williams (2009).
Stephanie Hopkins Hughes, is an artist, writer and editor who lives in Nyack, New York. Wright said the center is pleased to recognize her accomplishments among this illustrious company
- Stephanie completed her B.A. at Concordia in 2000 and authored in her senior year a remarkable 235-page thesis entitled “’Shake-speare’s’ Tutors: The Education of Edward de Vere,” a study that principally focuses on the early education of Edward de Vere and his relationships with such notable men as Sir Thomas Smith and Laurence Nowell.
- In addition to her decade-long (1997 – 2007) tenure as designer and editor of The Oxfordian, as well as her editorship of the 2008 anthology celebrating the first 50 years of the Shakespeare Oxford Society — Stephanie is the author of several well-received booklets including “Oxford and Byron,” “The Relevance of Robert Greene to the Oxfordian Thesis,” and “The Great Reckoning: Who Killed Marlowe and Why?”
- In 2006, working with British Oxfordians Malcolm Blackmoor and Susan Campbell, she compiled and edited de Vere’s letters and wrote the narration read by Sir Derek Jacobi for a CD entitled Oxford’s Letters: The Letters of Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford.
- She has been a frequent presenter at conferences of the SOS and at Concordia University’s Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference and has written a number of articles for the various authorship newsletters. She currently leads Shakespeare authorship discussions on her blog, politicworm.com.
The Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter took this opportunity to talk to Hughes about her distinguished career as an authorship researcher.
SOS: Could you tell us a little about your background?
I was born in Willmar, Minnesota, on May 24, 1938, the oldest of three children. My father’s work as executive director of community fundraising organizations like the Community Chest and United Fund took our family from one city to another in every part of America, rarely living more than two years in any one place. After a year at Bennington College in Vermont, I lived and worked briefly in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and finally New York where I spent a decade working as a graphic designer, illustrator and art director for Arthur Rankin Jr. of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer fame, and where I met my late husband of twenty years, Charlie Camilleri — a jazz trumpet player and arranger who wrote for or played with all the important bands of the period. After two years in Spain in the early Sixties, we returned to New York where we raised four daughters and I helped create the first alternative grade and high schools in the northeast. Currently I tutor kids at a learning center, preparing them for their SATs, and I also do volunteer work to see that good local candidates get elected. I have seven grandchildren. (You can see Hughes’s graphic work at: http://www.tornpaperstudio.com/
SOS: How long have you been interested in the Shakespeare authorship question?
In 1986, I was standing in the library in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard when a friend handed me something off the new arrivals table, Ogburn’s The Mysterious William. I’ve been reading artists biographies all my life, so when I read bios of Shakespeare, I always got the feeling that I just hadn’t found the right book yet. When I saw Ogburn’s book, how big it was, how thin were the pages, how small the type, I got the message: “Wow! There’s a big story here!” I sped through the first half, all devoted to Ogburn’s arguments with Stratfordians, thinking all the time: “Who was it? Who was it?”
In 1987, I moved to Boston where I got involved with the Boston Shakespeare Oxford Society (SOS) where I got to know Charles and Bill Boyle, Betty Sears, Charles Beauclerk, Hank Whittemore, and other Oxfordians.
In 1996 I moved to Portland, Oregon, to be near one of my daughters and her family.
Concordia gave me the opportunity to put my research on Sir Thomas Smith into a senior thesis, which since then has expanded into a book which I hope to see published someday.
In 2003 I moved to Nyack, New York, to be near another daughter and where I continued to do research, edit The Oxfordian, and give lectures at conferences. I’m lucky in Nyack since it’s easy to get books through the local library and the interlibrary loan system.
SOS: Has your authorship quest evolved over your period of study?
Certainly, although I’m still following the trail of the questions I had after reading Ogburn, what kind of a childhood and education he had, what he’d written before becoming Shakespeare, and what were his relationships with the other writers and theater people of his time. The first big breakthrough came with realizing that he was the only person who could possibly have written the Robert Greene canon, still a controversial matter. The second was the discovery of the importance of his tutor, Sir Thomas Smith, since Smith’s library and lifestyle matches so perfectly with Shakespeare’s sources. This raised the question of how long he’d spent with him.
One of the factors that people don’t realize until they get into researching this period is how little of importance was saved. We read the same texts over and over because that’s all that’s left.
I’d say that the most important development for me over the past two or three years is the desire to create a believable Big Picture, to bring everything from that time that relates to the theater and publishing into a single scenario. The only picture we have now, based on what records remain, is of a handful of writers, actors, and patrons who had next to no connection with each other. That simply can’t be the case. This was a small community. Everyone knew each other. Of course to create such a scenario with so little to go on in the way of records, I have to fill in with conjecture, but by adding the texts themselves, and with the known history of the period as a backdrop, a believable picture is becoming more coherent every day.
SOS: Where do you think authorship is headed?
I really have no idea, we could continue at this level for another hundred years or it could reach the tipping point any day.
We have moved forward though. There’s a general acceptance now, if not of Oxford, then at least of the idea that someone other than William wrote the canon. Most people by now have at least heard of the question, which most had not 20 years ago. Every book that gets published brings more interested readers. And from the outside there’s been a definite shift. Where articles on the subject used to frame it as “the Truth” versus “the Lunatics,” then “the Experts” versus “some interesting questions,” giving equal time to both, now more often than not it’s weighted to our side with only a passing headshake from the Strats.
The most interesting development in a long time is the published acknowledgment by the respected Shakespearean Brian Vickers that he agrees with Richard Kennedy’s online argument that the Stratford monument was originally made for John Shakspere. This is huge. It also shows what can be done with the internet.
What I would like to see is a few scholars taking on the question who have the time and the money to do the heavy lifting in the archives. It doesn’t matter whether independent or, if academic, from what discipline: English lit, history, anthropology, psychology, undergrad, post doc, somebody who lives in London or can get there often, who can go after the documents and actually start to research. What we’ve managed to do so far is so small compared to what the orthodox have done for 400 years.
I’d like to see us focus on getting historians on board. The history of Shakespeare at the universities should tell us that the English Departments will never open the door of their own free will — it took them 200 years to allow his works to be studied or produced. The history departments are a much better bet. All they have to lose is Oxford as Burghley’s ungrateful son-in-law, a minor figure certainly. By placing the great Shakespeare at Eliza’s Court along with Sidney, Raleigh, and Drake they have so much to gain.
SOS: Are you planning on publishing a book?
Yes. It’s taken me a long time, partly because it’s hard to stop researching, but chiefly because of the problems getting a mainstream or academic publisher to take a chance on this subject, particularly from the angles I observe it. But the time may finally be ripe. Right now I’m caught between several approaches, more narrowly on Oxford’s education, more widely on the entire writing community, or perhaps on the history of the London Stage, now that we can put its central figure where he belongs.
SOS: What happens next for you?
I’m going to keep on with the blog. For the first time I’m actually communicating with people on a steady basis, not just once or twice a year at a conference to a handful of listeners, who, sorry to say, sometimes take a nap during a lecture that took me months to prepare. With the blog, every day that goes by somebody’s reading something about Oxford or the world he lived it that they haven’t heard before. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.
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Stephanie Hopkins Hughes’s Shakespeare authorship research
Greene’s Groatsworth as a joke
In the early 1990s, while working and researching the University Wits at Boston University’s Mugar Library, Hughes realized that Greene’s Groatsworth of Witte was an elaborate joke. Sensing that there was altogether too much humor surrounding a work that all agreed both then and later, was written by Greene in his death agonies, her suspicions were verified when she discovered that the “surfeit of pickle herring” that supposedly caused Greene’s histrionic death was in fact a reference to a popular clown figure of the time named Pickle Herring. After four years of closely examining all of Greene’s works and everything she could find that had ever been written about him, she made public her theory in 1996 on an authorship listserv and in 1997 in a lecture at the Seattle SOS conference, going into detail in a self-published pamphlet that same year. With Oxford as Greene, a big piece of the Shakesepeare puzzle falls into place.
Mary Sidney as John Webster
Shakespeare’s story begins with plays like The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York
While studying the voices of the other playwrights of the Jacobean period, it struck her that the plots of John Webster’s two masterpieces closely reflected events in the lives of Mary Sidney and her sons, the patrons of the London Stage to whom the First Folio was dedicated. Similarities of Mary’s known poetry to Webster’s language, the obvious fact that both plays were written from a woman’s point of view, Webster’s lack of a writer’s biography, plus a host of corroborating dates and details, all contributed to the conclusion that these plays were written by Mary Sidney, that she was involved in writing plays for Henslowe as early as 1604, and that all the works published as by Webster were Mary’s.
In 2003 Hughes spoke on Mary’s authorship of The Duchess of Malfi at the Concordia conference and on her authorship of The White Devil at the SOS conference in Washington DC, publishing a detailed article on Mary as Webster in The Oxfordian that same year. This article, “No Spring Till Now,” can be found on the SOS website and on politicworm.com.
Emilia Bassano Lanier as Oxford’s Dark Lady
Hughes read A.L. Rowse’s book on Emilia Bassano as Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, and another major piece of the authorship puzzle fell into place. With Oxford as author of Shake-speare’s Sonnets, a claim made long ago by Looney and Ogburn et al, several of the problems that Rowse struggled to justify had been resolved, such as the imperious tone of some of the sonnets to Southampton (as though one lord were writing to another), their age difference (not nearly enough with William as author), and so forth. In 1989, authorship scholar Peter Moore provided a major puzzle piece by connecting the Rival Poet to Essex in an article published in the Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter.
Rowse shows that Emilia Bassano Lanyer fits every single one of Shakespeare’s descriptions of the Dark Lady. Rowse, of course, was not about to connect her to Oxford, but, Hughes says Bassano Lanier and Oxford have a number of connections: “Bassano grew up in Shoreditch not far from Fisher’s Folly. She was brought up and educated by Oxford’s sister-in-law. And, the dates, their ages, plus her potent sex appeal, as revealed by Simon Forman in his diary, plus her connections to Southampton, fit the love triangle described by Shakespeare in Sonnets 40-42 and 133.”
Christopher Marlowe as martyr, not spy
Hughes does not accept that Christopher Marlowe was spying for Walsingham. Though delighted with Charles Nicholl’s sleuthing in his book on Marlowe, The Reckoning, Nicholl’s idea that poets and spies are birds of a feather seemed more like special pleading than anything supported by history, according to Hughes. This led to several years of reading background material on Marlowe and the events in question, during which time, and in the years since, Hughes says she has found nothing to corroborate Marlowe’s image as a spy, an idea that appears to be due to a misinterpretation by scholars of a letter sent by the Privy Council to Cambridge in 1587 regarding his right to a degree.
Having spoken on this subject at the Concordia conference in Portland in 1997, she published a pamphlet titled The Great Reckoning: Who Killed Marlowe and Why?––now expanded with new information and available for download from politicworm.com. According to Hughes: “Marlowe’s martyrdom is important, not only because it’s the truth, but also because getting him right is crucial to a proper understanding of the great drama that was the English Literary Renaissance.”
Sir Thomas Smith as the real smoking gun
Until she began researching Oxford’s childhood, no one had published more than a passing mention of his tutor, Sir Thomas Smith. Hughes discovered that Smith was an immensely important figure in his time, both at Cambridge University and later during stints as secretary of state under both Edward VI and Elizabeth I. In 2000 Hughes made her research the focus of a senior thesis for a bachelor of arts degree from Concordia University. She publishing her article in The Oxfordian titled “Shakespeare’s Tutor, Sir Thomas Smith (1513-1577).”
Two research expeditions to the UK made it possible to visit the two locations where Oxford lived and studied with Smith, absorbing the immense classical learning exhibited later in Shakespeare’s works. She said: “Further research suggests that Smith is the only one closely involved with the creation of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer who could possibly have written the famous text.” Some highlights of Stephanie’s research on Smith are available at politicworm.com.
The Oxfordian as the first annual journal of authorship studies
In 1995 Shakespeare Oxford Society President Charles Beauclerk chose Stephanie to be editor of what was to be a scholarly journal that would provide the authorship community with articles of greater length and depth than those normally published in the organization’s newsletter. “It was thought that having such a platform, one that adhered to accepted scholarly protocols, might encourage Oxfordian scholars in efforts to do the kind of detailed and accurate research that was so difficult to get published in mainstream journals and books,” Hughes said. “This projection proved accurate, for during my ten years as editor a number of important authorship scholars made their debuts. Most of the ground-breaking articles published during those years are available for download from the SOS website.” Today, the work of The Oxfordian is edited by Michael Egan, PhD.
The birth of the London Stage as the first step towards a functional democracy
Hughes believes that Shakespeare’s importance extends beyond the confines of literature and linguistics. “Realizing Oxford’s involvement in the creation of the first successful year-around commercial theaters in London, both created the year he returned from Italy, I lectured at the New Globe in 2006 on his role in creating the first situation whereby acting companies could make their livings solely from ticket sales to individuals rather than having to rely on wealthy patrons or other authorities who had the power to dictate what they performed,” Hughes said.
“Though creating a democracy was probably not one of Oxford’s goals, by helping to open the Stage to the public as a year-around and almost daily option, he helped provide a situation where a genuine exchange of ideas was possible between playwrights and an audience who may not have been able to read, but who certainly could think. I believe that once this becomes clear to mainstream historians, we will see a revision of their views on how democratic processes took root in English hearts and minds, processes that were then transported to the colonies in America.”
Hughes continues her efforts to provide a coherent overview of the English literary renaissance as it manifested on the London Stage and in the bookstalls at Paul’s Cathedral. “My focus recently has been on creating a scenario for the 1580s, the ‘darkness before the dawn’ of the great era of Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” Hughes said. “This means bringing together the currently disassociated works and personalities of Oxford, the University Wits, the Sidneys, the Queen’s Men, Robert Greene, Thomas Nashe, Thomas Watson, Thomas Lodge, John Lyly, Christopher Marlowe, the Burbages, Edward Alleyn, Ben Jonson, Francis Bacon, and Sir Francis Walsingham. I intend to show how and why these artists and their patrons were all so closely involved with each other, and why.”
Hughes writes on these and other matters at http://politicworm.com/ where she welcomes questions and interactions with her readers.