He’s back, and we’ve got him! Yes, the famous Mr. W.H., he of onlie begetter fame, has generously and pseudonymously offered up this essay, telling us how he became an Oxfordian.
But wait! There’s more! Correctly identify the contemporary Mr. W.H. and win a Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship gift for your very own – a treasured mug, tote bag, water bottle, or magnet with the SOF logo. The winner will be the first person who emails the correct identity of Mr. W.H. to firstname.lastname@example.org. Only one guess per contestant is allowed. Winner (or winners) will be announced at the annual conference and on the SOF website. Judges’ decision is final.
Hint: The 21st century Mr. W.H. is a real person who has been around for a long time. But who is he, exactly?
My name quite truthfully is “Mr. W.H.,” and I’m proud of all for which I’ve been “the only begetter.” Indeed, from the time that I first discovered my initials had strange meaning for most Shakespeare scholars, I’ve begotten several books, numerous articles on Shakespeare and his times, and served on the editorial board of one journal. And yet, I can truthfully say that I’ve only begun to learn the mass of materials that I plan to study in my next 400 years.
My first encounter with Oxfordianism came from reading a Derbyite book by a Captain A.J. Evans, Shakespeare’s Magic Circle, and noting his frequent mentions of the 17th Earl of Oxford, father-in-law of the 6th Earl of Derby, often as a back-up for direct experiences that Derby lacked. Then I found a rather fat book in a “rejects pile” at my local library, priced at 50 cents. So, venturing that so little money couldn’t hurt my wallet too much, I bought that copy of Charlton Ogburn Jr.’s The Mysterious William Shakespeare, and began to skim through it. I read what he had to say about the candidacies of Sir Francis Bacon and Derby, and found that he convincingly shattered those two theories. Which left me puzzled about why Oxford was such a superior candidate.
Ogburn’s book became difficult to slog through, so I skipped to the middle and started reading the narrative about Oxford’s biography. That’s what hooked me, because the bio simply cried out, “I’m your man. I’m an eccentric genius full of pride and great learning, with relevant travels, extant court poetry, and non-extant dramas to my credit, and yet my arrogant nobility banned me from acknowledging what I begot.” I was so moved by that bio that when I reached the end, I nearly wept for loss of the man. Even today I’ll run across some Elizabethan or other who was born, say, in 1540 and lived to 1630, and I’ll say, “Why couldn’t Oxford have lived so long – what additional masterpieces might he have scribbled had he outlived Francis Bacon?” Imagine if Oxford-Shakespeare had lived to welcome John Milton Jr. into his circle of poets, as he may have welcomed Milton Sr. (after all, Milton Sr. sat on the board governing Blackfriars Theatre and left a few creditable items of poetry and music).
I pondered the “Mr. W.H.” coincidence, and decided to act upon it by looking up Ogburn’s address and phone number. “Hello Mr. Ogburn, I’m Mr. W.H.” After my first half-hour chat with him, I was fortified with the phone number of the V.P. for Membership of the SOS, and was well on my way to formally becoming an Oxfordian. My favorite book now sports Ogburn’s autograph from when I briefly met him in 1987. “The rest is history,” and I’m proud to have joined those who are “rewriting history” to match reality. Now, that’s the most refreshing thought I’ve had in the past 400 years!
“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: email@example.com. Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco”).
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