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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: December ::
Obit: Louis Marder
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0596  Monday, 14 December 2009

From:       Hardy M. Cook <
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 >
Date:       Monday, December 14, 2009
Subject:    Obit: Louis Marder

Louis Marder

I learned late last week from a SHAKSPER digest that was returned to me 
that Louis Marder died on December 3.

Louis Marder, of course, founded the Shakespeare Newsletter (ShN) in 
1951 and edited it until 1991 when the English Department at Iona 
College began publishing it under the editorship of Tom Pendleton and 
John Mahon. I worked with Louis during the late 1980s until the transfer 
of ShN and then continued to work as a Contributing Editor with John and 
Tom for many years after that.

I was fond of Louis Marder; he was a character, a Damon Runyonesque 
character.

He was a walking advertisement for his projects, seeking donations from 
anyone who would give. He was persistently hustling for the projects 
close to him. He would carry back issues of ShN to SAA meetings and give 
them out as enticements for people to subscribe. He would carry signed 
copies of his book _His Exits and His Entrances: The Story of 
Shakespeare's Reputation_ with him virtually everywhere he went to 
peddle to anyone who would purchase a autographed copy or two. At the 
Boston Bar Association Mock Trail broadcast over PBS at which he 
defended William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon as true author of 
the plays and poems bearing his name, he even tried to sell copies to 
those present:

WFL: Good. Are you also the author of a book on Shakespeare entitled His 
Exits and His Entrances: The Story of Shakespeare?
LM: Affirmative. I have copies to sell.
WFL: And do you have extra copies of that tonight?
LM: Autographed!

He shamelessly solicited copies of books (on virtually any topic however 
tenuously related to Shakespeare studies for his enormous library and 
collection of Shakespeareana). In 1993 claimed to have 20,000 items of 
Shakespeare memorabilia in his collection. He once told me that "I'm not 
a scholar; I'm an antiquarian," but is also quoted as saying, "I know 
more crap about Shakespeare than anyone else in the world." He accepted 
advertisements in ShN from Oxfordians and other Anti-Stratfordians, but 
he was among their fiercest critics, speaking out at every opportunity 
afforded him. Marder was, nevertheless, considered a friend by many 
Oxfordians, including except Russell des Cognets, whom Marder referred 
to as "my personal friend and sometime patron."

Louis was never tentative in his remarks. No, he told it as he saw it 
--  If you idea was crap he would say it was crap. Blunt, to the point, 
that was Louis Marder. He also was a bit crude. He told me on a number 
of occasions the story about the subscriber who would tell him that he 
loved The Shakespeare Newsletter because he could read it all in one 
shitting.

Surprised that I was not able to find an obituary for him online, I 
decided to make one of my own.

Louis Marder was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1915, the son of an 
Austro-Hungarian immigrant who washed windows in Brooklyn.

In 1990, he wrote in his own obituary:

"He won a prize for a Shakespeare skit on Julius Caesar in a charity 
camp when he was fourteen. He memorized Shakespeare quotations. After 
two of his eight years in night school at Brooklyn College as a pre-med 
(he worked during the day) he became an English major and went back to 
his old love, Shakespeare."

"He had a year of Shakespeare at Brooklyn College, started a Shakespeare 
Club there with the motto, Spirits are not finely touched but to fine 
issues, founded an Arts Appreciation Society, married me [Louis was 
pretending to be his own wife writing the obit.] in 1940 [we have two 
children, M.B.A Dan a computer engineer with Xerox and Dr. Diana a 
clinical psychologist], won the Senior Award and Student Council Award 
at graduation in 1941, went to Columbia in 1941, was drafted in 1943, 
served three years and two days, came home in 1946, went, back to 
complete his M.A (1947), earned his Ph.D. in June 1950, and started The 
Shakespeare Newsletter in March 1951. After that, for forty years I 
wondered whether he was married to me or to Shakespeare."

Marder spent most of his teaching career at the University of Illinois 
at Chicago.

The reason for posting his obituary was to find a home for ShN so that 
he could work full-time on his latest project, The Shakespeare Data Bank 
(SDB). Marder's idea for the SDB was expansive:

"There are many thousands of references and no library can have them 
all. With the SDB fully implemented every scholar would have the same 
access to all the material. He thought that many controversies and 
questions would be resolved, better teaching and study possible, staging 
would be improved, and repetitious scholarship eliminated if there was 
the solid foundation of a Shakespeare Data Bank in which all that we 
know and all that will be known is compiled, condensed, simplified, 
fully cross-referenced and indexed for easy reference wherever a 
computer was available. We would be able to see all problems steadily 
and see them whole."

Marder understood intellectually the power of computers, but the 
specifics of how computers worked escaped him. He would call me and ask 
what I considered naive questions for someone planning a project as 
large as the SDB. I think that had I been wealthy enough or without a 
wife and family that he would have loved me to move to Evanston so that 
I could deal with the technical matters associated with this project for 
him.

With the exception of some vanity work and a glossary, his only book was 
_His Exits and His Entrances: The Story of Shakespeare's Reputation_ 
(386 pgs. J. B. Lippincott: Philadelphia, 1963). Copies of this book can 
be found at online second-hand and rare books sites like Alibris. 
Members of Questia (www.questia.com) can read it online.

Louis Marder will probably be long associated with the Boston Bar 
Association's Mock Trial that was featured on the PBS Frontline program 
"The Shakespeare Mystery" (Nov. 12, 1993). Marder was the expert witness 
who presented the case for William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon.

WFL: Excuse me. Now, Mr. Marder, I'd like to go to the merits of the 
controversy and first ask you whether or not, in your opinion, you can 
prove to this jury that William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon was the 
Shakespeare of London who wrote the plays attributed to him?
LM: One can answer the question, Can I? Yes, I can.

This answer is Louis Marder at his best, confident and direct.

In the years after transferring the ShN to Iona College, Marder 
continued to work on his beloved SDB and periodically made an appearance 
when the Anti-Stratfordians would rear their heads. In 1999 he sent a 
letter to Harper's rebutting the claims of Oxfordians. A revised version 
of that letter was published on SHAKSPER 
<http://www.shaksper.net/archives/1999/1094.html>.

The last reference to him online that I can find is his 2007 being 
awarded the honorary title Director Emeritus by The Board of Directors 
of the Shakespeare Society of America (SSA), an organization he helped 
found. The award reads,

November 15, 2007

The Board of Directors of the Shakespeare Society of America (SSA) are 
proud to acknowledge that Dr. Louis Marder has distinguished himself 
through his lifelong dedication to the Works of William Shakespeare and 
his scholarly support of the SSA. Herein we bestow the honorary title of 
Director Emeritus with membership in the Shakespeare Society of America 
for life. Dr. Marder's illustrious academic career began at Kent State 
University in Ohio before he relocated to the University of Illinois in 
Chicago, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of English. He 
produced the Shakespeare Newsletter (SNL) for forty years. That 
dedication speaks volumes about his endurance as a globally recognized 
Shakespearean Scholar to promote the Works of Shakespeare.

Yes, it does. Rest in peace Louis Marder.

I invite anyone with stories about Louis Marder or other information 
about him to write.

Hardy M. Cook
Editor of SHAKSPER

PS: In addition to the links mentioned above, I have scanned Marder's 
1990 April Fool's obituary and mounted it on the SHAKSPER server at 
http://www.shaksper.net/~hcook/marder.pdf I hope that John and Tom will 
not mind.

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