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John Varady: How I Became an Oxfordian

Soon after reading Julius Caesar in Junior High school I became a ‘Bardolator.’ Later, while taking Latin, I immersed myself in the history of late Republican Rome. Shakespeare’s knowledge of the period amazed me, especially when I learned how little formal education he had had.

John Varady

John C. Varady, PhD, is a retired biostatistician.

I continued reading and, ideally, watching his plays throughout my academic and professional careers. I learned that alternative authors were bruited about, especially Francis Bacon. In early adulthood my literary interests shifted to Loren Eiseley, whose monograph on Bacon, The Man Who Saw Through Time, profoundly impressed me. The work was of particular interest to me because I was scientifically inclined with a special interest in the history and philosophy of science. Given my knowledge of the Canon and of Bacon, there was no way I could square Bacon’s sensibilities and world view with what I perceived to be the that of ‘Shakespeare.’ In my mind, the attribution of Shakespeare’s work to Bacon was ridiculous. I thus dismissed the idea and agreed that doubters must be kooks.

Later I visited Stratford and, of course, took the Grand Tour. I was dumbfounded by the absence of books in “Shakespeare’s” lodgings. How could anyone with a third grade education obtain the encyclopedian knowledge displayed in the Canon without a love of reading and learning? When I enquired as to where all the books were, my docent quickly changed the subject. My interest piqued, I asked why Dr. Hall, the poet’s physician son-in-law, had omitted his very famous father-in-law from his detailed account of well known people from Stratford. Again, silence followed by a return to comments on the wainscoting. My disquietude increased.

Several years later my epiphany occurred. I was in Bethesda for a vitally important meeting and, to assuage my considerable anxiety the evening prior, wandered into a large bookstore. There I came upon a copy of The Mysterious William Shakespeare, and began idly thumbing through the pages. It was all there!! An authorial candidate who possessed all the necessary education and experiences I felt Shakespeare had to possess and which Mr. Shagspur so clearly lacked. After finishing it back home in California, I did something I had never done before nor have done since: I called Charlton Ogburn and thanked him for changing and enriching my life.

There followed memorable years of excellent Shakespeare Oxfordian Society and Concordia conferences, books by Diana Price and Mark Anderson, Roger Stritmatter’s dissertation on Oxford’s Geneva Bible and his paper with Lynne Kositsky on the Bermuda shipwreck which dismantled the idea that it was referred to in, and thus dated, The Tempest. And so much more brilliant Oxfordian research, much still in progress.

Finally, Oxford as Shakespeare resolved the dissonance I felt between the Canon’s often autumnal tones and those of the exuberant Spenglerian Spring England was then enjoying. For deVere the season was conflicted. The world of feudal England in which his family had long been major players was dissolving into the mercantilism of Burleigh and the Stratford grain speculator. Oxford was Brutus, as Brutus was Republican Rome — both their worlds fading as they both knew all too well. Robinson Jeffers observed that during the process of cultural decline, “One desires to gather the insights of the age’s summit against future loss, against the narrowing mind, and the tyrants, the pedants, the mystagogues.” Oxford, as Janus, did all that, while opening England to her glorious future.

–John Varady

“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.”).

Next week’s essay is by Julie Bianchi.

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