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Eva Turner Clark: How I Became an Oxfordian

Eva Turner Clark, the author of Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays became an Oxfordian after discussions with her friend, the prolific author, Esther Singleton. Their love of flowers, nature and skeptical inquiry drew them together. In 1931 she wrote this introduction to Singleton’s Shakespeare’s Garden (pages xxiii-xxv). Sharp-eyed readers of “How I Became an Oxfordian” will recall that we republished Singleton’s own story in February 14, 2017. Now read the words of her friend, Eva Turner Clark. This article was brought to our attention by SOF member James A. Warren. 

Eva Turner Clark

It was my privilege to be counted among Esther Singleton’s friends. I knew her love of beauty, whether in Nature or the Arts. I knew the fertile resources of her mind. I knew her industry in searching out facts to support whatever new theme she was engaged upon, and the speed and accuracy with which she wrote in putting her facts together. Of the many books she wrote, and they would fill a very long library shelf, there was not one I can think of that gave her greater satisfaction than The Shakespeare Garden. She loved the way Shakespeare spoke of flowers, expressing his knowledge of them with such fine felicity.

Miss Singleton’s acquaintance with Shakespeare’s plays was unusual for this hurried age. She could repeat, word for word, nearly all of the comedies; she knew almost equally well the greatest of the tragedies. A quotation from the plays she would recognize at once, she could tell what play it was taken from, and could generally cap it with the lines that followed.

About two years after The Shakespeare Garden was published (in 1922), Miss Singleton said to me abruptly one day, “I don’t know whether Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare!”

“Bacon?” I queried.

“No,” she answered, “I’ve just read a book called  ‘Shakespeare’ Identified as the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, and it has shaken my faith in the Stratford man. I don’t know what to think.”

The result of this conversation, which was much longer than outlined, was that I secured a copy of that interesting book. Not only was my orthodox belief in the authorship of the Shakespeare plays shaken by it, but I became so interested in the new theory that I began a study of it on my own account. This study led me to the discovery of a key which has, to my satisfaction, more than confirmed the conclusions reached by the author of ‘Shakespeare’ Identified, the result of (my) study having been recently published under the title, Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays, A Study of the Oxford theory based on the Records of Early Court Revels and Personalities of the times.

During the progress of my research and the writing of my book, I was continually encouraged by the sympathetic understanding of Miss Singleton, who was herself too busy with her usual program of writing to undertake the research herself, yet she was always eager to hear of any discovery I made in connection with the plays.

In reading The Shakespeare Garden, it will be illuminating to consider this book from Miss Singleton’s later viewpoint, to remember that “Shakespeare,” in the person of Edward de Vere, was, from the age of twelve, the ward of Lord Burghley, and that he lived with Lord Burghley in this great mansion in the Strand in London and at the great country estate of Theobalds in Hertfordshire. Both of these places possessed wonderful gardens under the care of the famous Gerard, as described by Miss Singleton in the pages that follow. After the young Earl’s marriage to Lord Burghley’s daughter, he made his home at Oxford Court, near London Stone, and there he had his own garden on the west side of the house.

It was at Castle Hedingham, the Earl’s family seat, dating from Norman times, that he first learned to love flowers. Afterwards he was to become acquainted with all of the most beautiful gardens in the kingdom, not only those of Lord Burghley, but, as one of the Queen’s favorites who accompanied her on her various Progresses about the country from year to year, he saw the gardens of other great noblemen, gardens with lakes, fountains, cascades, gardens with unusual planting, gardens with rare specimens of plants, all arranged with the special design of pleasing the Queen. Simpler gardens were familiar to him, as well, for he had seen them in his childhood in Essex, and there must have been many in and about London in Elizabeth’s day.

It was through the eyes of Edward de Vere that Esther Singleton visualized the gardens of Shakespeare’s plays in her last years. She felt that the mist was clearing away and that she could see the flowers of those gardens as the author saw them.

–Eva Turner Clark
New York, N.Y.,
January 19th, 1931

“How I Became an Oxfordian” is edited by Bob Meyers. You may submit your essay on this topic (500 words or less in an editable format such as MS Word), along with a digital photo of yourself, to: info@shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org. Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco.”)

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