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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: January ::
Donald Foster on William Strachey
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0111  Thursday, 23 January 2003

From:           Gerald E. Downs <
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Date:           Monday, 20 Jan 2003 19:16:56 EST
Subject:        Donald Foster on William Strachey

The Puritan was registered August 6, 1607, by George Eld, and printed by
him in the same year. The title page reads, "The Puritaine Or The Widdow
of Watling-streete. Acted by the Children of Paules. Written by W.S. (EK
Chambers, Elizabethan Stage, IV, p.41-2)

In his 1989 book, <Elegy By W.S. A Study in Attribution>, Donald Foster
discussed the WS attribution of The Puritan in these terms: "One
possibility is that William Strachey sold the manuscript to Eld,
representing it as his own work. . . It was in the summer of 1607 that
Strachey returned to London in dire financial straits from his sojourn
in Constantinople; and since The Puritaine was acted by the Children of
St.  Paul's, in which Strachey was a principal shareholder, he must have
had access to the script." (266-7)

According to Foster's acknowledged "principal source," SG Culliford's
biography, Strachey apparently left Constantinople on May 24, 1607, in
the company of former ambassador Lello and Hugh Holland. Lello was in
Venice on September 16 and was in London by November 17. Holland
apparently continued to the Holy Land and was home by the beginning of
1608.  "Strachey's presence is recorded on June 20, 1608, twelve months
after he left Constantinople." (Culliford, 89)

How does Foster place Strachey in London by August 6, 1607?

Strachey was not a share-holder of the Children of Paul's, but of The
Children of the Queen's Revels, a rival company, and Strachey would not
have had access to The Puritan playbook.  (Culliford, 54-5)

Has anyone noted these two significant errors before? Foster combines
them in one sentence to form his evidence that the WS of The Puritan may
have stood for Strachey. This obvious error in turn justified chapters
on William Strachey as possible author of "A Funerall Elegye" by W.S.,
printed by Eld in 1612.  (203-22 and 276-90)

In June, 2002 Don Foster agreed that his case for Shakespeare as
Elegye's author was wrong, when he said, "The 1612 quarto may have
invited its first readers to take "W.S." for William Shakespeare . . . "
Foster had also invited readers to make that connection, but he seems
now to have gone out of his way to suggest that the same initials would
not have stood for Shakespeare in Eld's printing of The Puritan.

Brian Vickers has recently published a devastating critique of Foster's
methods and conclusions. I think it will be helpful if his factual
errors in respect of William Strachey are explained before they further
prejudice observers of his scholarship.

Gerald E. Downs

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