I have had the good fortune to have been an Oxfordian for about fifty-five years, longer than most of our persuasion. When I was a student at New York University School of Law, from 1960 to 1963, I picked up a copy of a then-current issue of The American Law Association Journal, and found one of the ten essays they published between 1959 and 1965 on the authorship of the plays of Shakespeare and the case that the Earl of Oxford wrote them.
I think that even before I read a few of these articles, I had doubted that the fellow from Stratford wrote the plays. A general rule of writing a play or a novel is that every author writes about what he knows. Shakespeare scholars seem to believe that this rule applies to all writers except the fellow from Stratford, and this has never made sense to me. The case made by the Ogburns that there was a literary person during Elizabeth I’s reign whose life was reflected in the plays of Shakespeare was the answer to my question.
I have been an Oxfordian ever since. I read Charlton Ogburn’s The Mysterious William Shakespeare when it came out, and that cinched the deal. I found, I can’t remember how, a small group of Oxfordians in Cleveland, and met some of the early activists in the movement. My wife and I attended a Shakespeare Oxford convention in Greensboro, NC, some years ago, but that has been the extent of my active participation in the movement.
An important book which I acquired in its 1975 reprint was Shakespeare Identified, by J. Thomas Looney. I found it thoughtful and persuasive. Since the formation of the Shakespeare Oxford Society, now the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship, I have been a member.
Some twenty or twenty-five years ago, I lectured to The Rowfant Club, a Cleveland bibliophilic club, on the Oxford case for the authorship of the Shakespeare plays. One member of the club suggested that I was being a snob, believing that only a nobleman could be a literary genius. I should have responded, but didn’t, that one need only look at the plays. The serious characters are overwhelmingly of the nobility or gentry, and the common people are generally clowns. Of course the plays were written by a nobleman.
Two significant additions to my reading on the subject in the last few years are Mark Anderson’s Shakespeare By Another Name and Richard Paul Roe’s Shakespeare Guide to Italy. I have been particularly drawn to Roe’s marvelous book. Part of my admiration for this book stems from the fact that Roe spent 25 years traveling to Italy for research, and wrote it while he was a retired attorney. And partly I admire Roe’s brilliant, clever and persuasive arguments for the conclusion that the author of the plays must have spent considerable time in Italy, based on very specific evidence in the plays of his detailed and accurate knowledge of Italian geography. Both books confirm my original point: Every writer, even and especially Shakespeare, writes about what he knows.
–Patrick J. Amer
“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:firstname.lastname@example.org. Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco.”).
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