The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1673 Saturday, 1 October 2005
Date: Saturday, 1 Oct 2005 02:29:24 EDT
Subject: Favorite Crackpot Books
Hardy is too kind, especially since I've been careless...
The correct title of Ida Sedgwick Proper's crackpot masterpiece is not,
as I gave it, *Our Pleasant Willy* but rather *Our Elusive Willy*. The
former is the phrase from Spenser's *The Tears of the Muses* which her
title plays on. Miss Proper's book of more than 600 pages was published
in 1953 by Irigo Editions of Manchester, Maine. The book includes great
tracts of quotations, sometimes in old-spelling, from contemporary
letters, legal records, popular histories, even novels. These are
imbedded in an interpretive narrative, the product of the author's
vigorous and, er, um, wide-ranging mind. I see a dozen of more copies on
Bookfinder.com from $7.50.
It's sometimes hard to follow, but the story goes something like this:
Edward Seymour Earl of Hertford and his true love Lady Catherine Grey
were so hated by Queen Elizabeth because of their claims to her throne
that they felt it necessary to "bastardize" their third son by having
him taken away to Stratford by wet-nurse Mary Shakespeare and baptized
under the name William Shakespeare, although at one point he seems to
have been rechristened as John Smith. John Shakespeare's first wife had
been a relative of one of Lady Grey's friends. (Mary was John's second
wife and they already had another son named William Shakespeare who went
on to become a soldier.) "Our Willy" (as he is usually referred to) was
secretly educated and grew up to be a great writer and composer,
operating under a number of aliases. He was at different times known as,
and produced the works of, Thomas Morley, John Dowland, Christopher
Marlowe, Henry Constable, Alfonso Ferrobosco, minor poet John Southerne,
and the clergyman John Smith who succeeded Launcelot Andrewes as
lecturer at Paul's. He was tutor to Lady Arabella Stuart. He did die in
1616, but Miss Proper "feels" it was on 9 November rather than 23 April.
During this busy life "Our Willy" somehow found the time to write the
plays and poems we know as the works of William Shakespeare. Miss
Proper's variation on the Shakespeare identity "question" is perhaps
unique. It's not that someone else (Bacon? Oxford? Marlowe? Derby?
Pembroke? Queen Elizabeth? your Uncle Ted?) really wrote the Works of
Shakespeare. William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon wrote them all
right, but he himself WAS SOMEONE ELSE!
What can I say?
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