The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0596 Monday, 14 December 2009
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Monday, December 14, 2009
Subject: Obit: 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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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