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Tom Townsend: How I Became an Oxfordian

Starting at the beginning: In College I enjoyed literature and was thinking of making it my minor study. Shakespeare was virtually the only author without biographic information. A bit unusual. However the halfhearted, disinterested, dreary literature professors put an end to that idea.

Tom Townsend was Director of Consumer Insights for a large advertising agency in the Detroit area. He recently retired and is living in Seattle with his wife, Joy.

Tom Townsend was Director of Consumer Insights for a large advertising agency in the Detroit area. He recently retired and is living in Seattle with his wife, Joy.

Fast forward many years. Similar to many people, I watched the Frontline special on Oxford as Shakespeare in 1989. However I questioned the Frontline special. My career had taught me to question everything and always investigate. It promoted critical thinking. So I promised myself to someday look into this issue.

On a trip to the U.K. just a few years later, at a London airport before returning home, I was looking for something to spend my last few pounds on when I saw and purchased, Shakespeare The Evidence by Ian Wilson, a Stratfordian. After reading this book I became interested in the Elizabethan age. But Wilson’s discussion of the Stratford Man made me more skeptical than the Frontline special. Virtually every paragraph of his book began with, ‘it’s possible that,’ ‘we think that,’ ‘no doubt that,’ ‘we imagine that,’ ‘it could be that,’ etc., etc. Definitely strange…these sounded like guesses! Maybe there’s no hard evidence from Elizabethan age, I thought. So next I read Richard Whalen’s, Shakespeare: Who Was He?  I realized there were many Elizabethan documents available—just not for the Stratford Man. His book reminded me how essential it was to verify External Evidence (historical information) with internal information (plays, poems, sonnets). Whalen’s book actually made me interested in the Shakespeare Authorship discussion.

I continued reading with every-other book from an Orthodox stand-point while the other from an Oxfordian point-of-view. After scarcely more than a year, my research took a turn: No more was I on the fence. Of course it was Oxford, who else? Certainly not the Stratford Man! And at my work I talked about Oxford incessantly.

But I kept reading both sides of the Authorship issue. The Orthodox side was always the same, full of guesses. I hate guesses. The Oxfordian side was full of new research supporting de Vere with historical evidence. And I appreciate quantitative and qualitative research (read: historical and ‘high quality’ coincidental information).

To fully appreciate the Authorship Question I re-read Shakespeare plays and sonnets looking for the ‘unusual’ details. And this is what had been missing all this time because of those insipid and uninspired college professors who didn’t have a clue about the subtleties of Shakespeare!

I joined the Oberon Shakespeare Study Group in the Detroit area and enjoyed speaking about Oxfordian issues. I almost never missed a meeting. I’ve now attended many national Oxfordian conferences and rarely miss a conference.

And YES I’ve started doing research on Oxford. I’ve come a long way since those college days!

— Tom Townsend

“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.”).

You may join the SOF or renew your membership for 2016 at our membership page.

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