The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1333 Tuesday, 1 July 2003
From: Ward Elliott <
Date: Monday, 30 Jun 2003 19:16:25 -0700
Subject: 14.1308 Re: A Lover's Complaint
Comment: RE: SHK 14.1308 Re: A Lover's Complaint
In response to my request that he introduce himself and say something
about his authorship preferences, Jim Carroll wrote:
>That seems like an odd requirement for answering a post. I don't believe
>that SHAKSPER is intended to be an autobiographical forum; in any event,
>we are all required to post a brief bio in the archives. [snip]I'm a lot
>interested in why the enclitic microphases were counted incorrectly in
Let's see now. Mr. Carroll says we have been cooking the books and
counting everything wrong. Says he can count enclitics better than
Marina Tarlinskaja, much better. He ridicules Brian Vickers' arguments
as "hilarious," "egregious," "nonsensical," and "bunk." Some now say
[SHK 14.1302] that he is the same contentious person as the "Agent Jim"
on HLAS, who claims that Vickers as an "imbecile," that he has
"demolished" Gilles Monsarrat, that our work is "incredible,
mind-boggling bullshit," and that we are "out to lunch." Mr. Carroll
would like to pursue this "dialogue" on SHAKSPER with us, but, like
Agent Jim, he doesn't want to identify himself or do anything but
obstruct. Unlike Agent Jim, who openly worships Donald Foster and is
still openly convinced that Shakespeare wrote the Funeral Elegy, Mr.
Carroll doesn't even want to say whose methods and which conclusions we
should embrace instead. I am writing to decline Mr. Carroll's invitation
to revive an old, acrimonious debate begun by Donald Foster in 1996, and
ended, I had thought, with Foster's concession last year that the
Funeral Elegy was by Ford. I am also sending SHAKSPER members a few
words of explanation. I hope they will indulge me in a longish posting
now, intended to reduce the need for more, longer ones later.
To me, both Jims come across as warmed-over versions of Foster. On the
good side, like Foster, they have done lots of homework -- and they
certainly want you to know it and defer to it. Mr. Carroll, for
example, knows who was whose graduate student; he thinks he has a better
eye for antanaclasis and paronomasia than Vickers, a better eye for
enclitic microphrases than Tarlinskaja, and a better eye for penultimate
"with's" than our Textcruncher program. I doubt it, and I certainly
don't buy the Jims' Fosterian conclusion that their own counting
conventions are always right, and everyone else's always wrong. On the
other hand, these exercises are anything but light lifting. If nothing
else, they show exceptionally strong motivation. Both Jims, like
Foster, lay down long strings of period quotes, drawn either from
personal knowledge or from access to a sizeable archive of period texts,
most of them, unfortunately, only dimly related to the point they are
trying to make. They know Foster's works cold. Like him, us, and
hardly anyone else, they have studied his dry, technical, heavy-going,
rancorous CHum "debate" with us in minute detail.
The bad side of the Jims is that they have done these things in the same
skewed, tendentious, obstructive way as Foster did, making many of the
same points and the same mistakes as he did, lambasting us for doing our
tests our way, rather than their way, unswervingly supportive of
Foster's points, unswervingly dismissive of ours. Like Foster, they are
both overly fond of abusive language. And, like Foster, their postings
have had too little light to justify their excessive and obstructive
heat. I could tolerate sifting through a lot of mucky ore if it
contained enough new gold, in the form of identified real errors in our
work, to justify the effort. But Foster's own critiques offered no more
than a gram of gold in a ton of muck, and I haven't found even a trace
of gold in the tons of the Jims' postings I have seen. The vein they
have been working, never rich in the first place, seems to me to have
been played out long ago.
Debating with Foster was not fun. He told us, in effect, to shut up or
get whacked. Then he spent four years whacking us in CHum, telling
CHum's readers that we were "gerrymandering" our evidence and dealing
from a "stacked deck," and that our work was "idiocy," "madness," and
"foul vapor." It was hardball, and almost none of it was over the
plate. But it was also a tarbaby too serious to ignore, a thorough
bashing of our character as well as our competence, and printed in a
leading journal which normally has a thorough scholarly review of the
articles it publishes. In our case they dispensed with this formality
to accommodate "the Sherlock Holmes of literary detection." If we
hadn't answered it in CHum, we would have had to give it dozens of pages
in whatever else we wrote. So we responded in as much detail as CHum
would let us, and we also took a closer look at the Elegy, always the
central bone of contention for Foster. We found it to be a clear
Shakespeare mismatch and an easy could-be for Ford, and we published the
results in leading journals.
Much of our self-defense effort was a waste of our time, since few
people have the time or patience to puzzle their way through the
technicalities, but not all of the time was wasted. You learn more
about your roof when it rains than when the sun shines, and Foster
rained on us Biblically for four years. We found that 99.9% of the roof
did not leak at all, and that fixing the .1% that did leak made no
change in the outcome. We also had a chance to try out our methods in
greater detail on Ford and the Elegy and found that our conclusions held
up solidly not only to our own second-looks, but also to those of
Vickers, Monsarrat, Kennedy, and, ultimately, of Foster himself.
Last year, when Foster conceded the Ford ascription and rejoiced at
being shown his own mistakes, I thought the whacking and hardballing
were over and said so with relief in a SHAKSPER posting welcoming him
and Abrams back to the fold. But I was wrong. I soon discovered that,
just as Foster was stepping off the mound on SHAKSPER, a new hardball
reliever, "Agent Jim," had taken the mound on HLAS and was pitching up a
storm of messages, a dozen a week, half of them about Foster and his
critics, fiercely defending the Elegy's Shakespeare ascription,
uniformly praising Foster, and damning Foster's critics as imbeciles.
The outspoken, industrious, and learned "Jim" was a dark star on HLAS.
He seemed to know the Foster playbook by heart, and badly wanted a
rematch. He was a prolific poster and a zestful warrior, often crowing
"This is fun!" and wishing that we and Vickers would send in some HLAS
postings for him to demolish. SHAKSPER readers wanting a closer look at
"Jim" might wish to go to the HLAS newsgroup,
and do an advanced search on postings by KQKnave, another "Jim" alias.
I did sift through pages and pages of "Jim's" hardball postings, such as
"More Elliott & Valenza bullshit," looking for gold, but found only
muck. I was more impressed by their contentiousness than by their
accuracy. I found them even more abusive, obstructive, repetitive, and
obscurantist than Foster's original CHum hardballs, and less
informative. For my own future reference, to minimize repetition in
going through his long, technical diatribes, and, yes, to blow off a
little steam in private, I compiled a list of "Agent Jim's" ten favorite
rules of scholarly debate. Here they are:
"Agent Jim's" Ten Commandments of Scholarly Debate
1. When you throw the book at them, make it the phonebook. A big attack
requires a big defense. Quality and veracity don't matter. A truckload
of turgid, mostly trivial objections, each one requiring as much time
and effort as possible to decipher and rebut, is better than a short,
clear critique of the other side's main points. If brevity and clarity
are desired, do it with a putdown, per Rule 8.
2. Nothing is trivial. If the other side has made a small mistake,
make it look like a large one. No, make it look like hundreds of large
ones, using Rule 3.
3. Erratum in uno, erratum in omnibus. If the other side has made one
mistake, however trivial, flaunt it as evidence that the other side's
whole enterprise is slovenly and worthless. If you know of any mistake
they made in the past, dig it out and flaunt it. It makes no difference
whether they have corrected it since; all that counts is that they made
it, proving that they are "out to lunch." Go ahead and beat the horse.
No one will know it's dead.
4. "My way." Use the straw man, Luke! If the other side has not made a
mistake, at least ignore it, per Rule 5. Better, make one up for them
and tear it to pieces. Do it with gusto. "This is fun!" Think up a
different way of doing the same thing, which they should have done, but
didn't. Nail them for not doing it your way. Or make up one that they
shouldn't have done and didn't, but which would have been stupid and
perverse if they had. Nail them for failing to understand that, if they
knew the least bit about authorship studies, they would have had to
accept the absurd outcome.
Here's how it goes: "I've tried their recipe myself. But it was so bad
I had to correct its obvious errors by using skunk droppings instead of
raisins and Drano instead of Crisco. It still tastes like unbelievably
mind-boggling bullshit." Try it! Straw men are a cinch to demolish,
and it always gets the other guy's goat because it makes him look like
5. De se ipso nil nisi bonum; de altero nil nisi malum. Never admit
your own mistakes. Never acknowledge that the other side has gotten
anything right, especially if it takes issue with your own position.
Keep the focus on what they have gotten wrong, even if it's trivial or
made up. Don't forget rules 1-4. One bad apple spoils the barrel, even
if it's the one you put it there yourself! When you are finished,
declare victory and proclaim that the other side has been demolished.
Repeat frequently, per Rule 8. This stuff is too technical for most
people to understand. No one will know you are faking.
6. Reductio ad Oxfordum. Wherever possible, paint your other side as
closet anti-Stratfordians. It doesn't have to be so. It will still taint
their whole case per Rule 3 and require extra explanation per Rule 1.
7. If in doubt, sling mud, pull rank, put them down. Don't miss an
opportunity to put down the other side as bungling, doltish amateurs who
belong in an institution. Call their work "complete crap,"
"crackpottery," or "unbelievably mind-boggling bullshit." It gives you
an air of gravitas, doubles the force of any evidence you present, and
makes a good substitute for any evidence you don't present.
And don't just say they are out to lunch. Drop some hints that they are
crooks, too. Express your concern that they are faking evidence,
stacking the deck, and spreading lies. It helps set a high professional
tone and levels the playing field. The best part is, all you really
have to do is say it and skip the tedious backup. An ounce of putdown
is worth a ton of proof!
8. Repetition makes the proof grow stronger. If you are not sure you
carried the day the first time, say it again. And again and again.
9. Yogi Berra "I didn't really say everything I said." Make sure
everyone understands that anything attributed to your side by the other
side is distorted, misquoted, misunderstood, or all of the above. It
10. Reciprocity. Of course, none of these rules apply to their
criticism of your own work. That's why it's so much fun!
I found that I could then go through "Agent Jim's" long attacks looking
for gold and write comments like "2,3,4,7, 8," sparing myself the tedium
of constant repetition. When I was through, there was no gold in my
pan, but huge piles of tailings with plenty of numbers in the margins.
This done, I folded up my list and comments, filed them away, and went
on about my business. Unlike Foster's in CHum, this tarbaby wasn't
blocking us and didn't have to be touched. It was hidden away in HLAS,
in Gollum's cave under the Misty Mountains, where Gollum, as "Jim," was
fiercely smiting anti-Stratfordians and still guarding the Precious, the
Elegy ascription, against all who dared challenge it. "Just don't f***
with me on the elegy," he warned. It sounded like good advice to me, and
not just for the Elegy. I don't enjoy fights, threats, and vendettas as
much as Gollum does. After Foster's concession I saw no reason to take
the debate into extra innings on "Jim's" account, and I was happy to let
him carry it on as a hardball game of solitaire.
But this spring, when I mentioned on SHAKSPER that our data supported
Brian Vickers's views on co-authorship, the tarbaby popped up above
ground, in the guise of Jim Carroll's SHAKSPER postings. I responded to
a few of them but soon found them all tailings and no gold, yet growing
ever more Gollumesque in their frequency, contentiousness, and fidelity
to "Agent Jim's" Ten Commandments. Was Mr. Carroll yet another hardball
reliever wanting yet more innings in last year's game? Or was he someone
I had seen before who felt he hadn't prevailed last year and was
spoiling for a hardball rematch, or two or three or ten? Before going
further I asked Mr. Carroll who he was, and what methods and results he
wished to defend. Like his namesake "Jim," he declined to answer.
That's his Miranda right, no doubt, but if he has the right to pass on
my questions, I have a corresponding right to pass on his - unless I
subscribed to his Tenth Commandment, of course. But I don't.
For me, five years of retrieving Foster hardballs was too much. Five
more years, even five more minutes of retrieving warmed-over Foster
hardballs from his acolyte clones is way too much, unless they have
something better than tailings to offer. They don't. Hence, my
response to Mr. Carroll's demands to go a few more innings of hardball
with him is thanks, but no thanks, just it was with his look-alike
namesake, Agent Jim. If I were ever to annotate his postings for my
files, it would be with these Jim's Commandment numbers in the margin:
1,2,3,4,5,7,8,10. Unless I've missed something, only two of Agent Jim's
Ten Commandments, 6 and 9, have not been observed in Mr. Carroll's
postings this year. But the other eight are enough to make the point:
there is too much heat in them, and not enough light, to merit further
responses from me.
For a closer look at Foster's arguments, I would recommend skipping his
clones and reading his originals in CHum, 30:247 (1996) and 32:491
(1998). For our side, see CHum 30:425 (1996), 32:425 (1998), and 36:455
(2002), or our final response,
http://govt.claremontmckenna.edu/welliott/hardball.htm. See the
epilogue of Brian Vickers' Counterfeiting Shakespeare, "The Politics of
Attributions," for a partial description of Foster's "debates" with us
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