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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
COUNTERFEITING SHAKESPEARE
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0195  Tuesday, 4 February 2003

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Date:           Sunday, 2 Feb 2003 20:21:01 EST
Subject:        COUNTERFEITING SHAKESPEARE

Brian Vickers in his well documented and monumental newly published book
COUNTERFEITING SHAKESPEARE has made a powerful case that the author of
the FUNERAL ELEGY BY W.S. (F.E.) was John Ford and not, as Professor
Donald Foster had argued William Shakespeare. However, we should
remember that Foster had posited that if F.E. was not written by
Shakespeare that his next candidate for the authorship would be William
Strachey. Almost all of academia and Foster himself have now accepted
the Ford attribution. We might ask is there some validity and perhaps
some persuasive evidence for Foster's alternative candidate William
Strachey?

Remember that Foster had written that the author of F.E. was a
plagiarist from Samuel Daniel and had clearly used as his model Daniel's
FUNERAL POEM UPON THE LATE NOBLE EARL OF DEVONSHIRE (the 1606 quarto)
"lying open on his desktop". Vickers (p. 86) accepts this statement.
Vickers then goes on at great length to prove that the lifting of whole
sequences from Daniel is not characteristic of Shakespeare and is
completely unjustified. Later (p274) Vickers quotes Professor Richard
Abrams' belated 1995 acknowledgment "The echoes make it certain that
W.S. had a copy of Ford's poem [FAMES MEMORIALL 1606} in hand while
composing the Elegy". Vickers argues that these parallels prove the
indebtedness of the later poem F.E. to Ford's earlier work, however, and
most importantly this was true because Ford had written the earlier poem
FAMES MEMORIALL himself. Vickers once again repeats that the author of
F.E. shows in his work "straight forward appropriations of admired lines
or expressions that can be seen in the ELEGYEE's borrowings from
Daniel's FUNERALL POEME FOR MOUNTJOY" but there is far stronger evidence
in attitude, syntax, rhetoric, etc., for the Ford authorship and
attribution.  There are several questions that might be asked or
investigated at this point. Why would Ford need to plagiarize Daniel's
poem? Is F.E. just a cut, patch and paste job that had to be done in a
fortnight? Could not almost any one of small talent have done this sorry
bit of poetry? Why, if Ford was the author, is the poetry so bad when he
was capable of a much better work and showed more talent six years
earlier? Why would Ford call this poem an "Elegy" when he was able six
years earlier to use the correct terminology?  Why would he not have
used this term to honor one of the most notable figures in all of
England? Is John Ford too good of a poet to have F.E., a truly poor
poem, attributed to him? Why, if Ford was the author, does the work
clearly state in two places that it was written by a W.S.? Does not
Foster tell us (p75) that the second subscription of the initials "W.S."
makes it a virtual certainty that these were, indeed, the poet's correct
initials?  Why, If what was needed to find out who was probably the
author of F.E. does one not look for the best known plagiarizer and
paste, cut and patch man William Stratchey, the prime and most logical
candidate in all of London? Why was F.E. written in the first place to
honor a man of no rank and who had lived an idle, drunken and dissolute
life and who is remembered only as a result of his sensational and well
publicized murder? Why does F.E. get all the facts of the life of
William Peter wrong and then cobbles together a work that is an utter
mockery of this ner do well deceased?

Now that the authorship by Shakespeare of F.E. has been invalidated we
should be able to see this truly bad poem in its true light. The
argument that the poem is a satire seems quite correct. The reason that
the poem was not signed with the full name of the author and does not
bear the name of its publisher Thomas Thorpe is now abundantly clear. I
submit that the reason is told us and then rejected very early in the
Foster book (p. 73) "Apart from surreptitious or illegal publication, or
works sold by subscription, the usual practice, almost without
exception, was for the stationer to be identified in the front matter of
all texts offered for public sale-" Yes, the case for F.E. being a
surreptitious and illegal satire seems to be a closed case. The belief
that the cut and paste author is William Strachey is most attractive.
Strachey, we must remember, does have the right initials "W.S."!

Best,
Elliott H. Stone

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