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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: March ::
Florio on SHAKSPER

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0117  Tuesday, 16 March 2010

From:         Anne Cuneo < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         14 February 2010 08:58:44 GMT+01:00
Subject:      Florio on SHAKSPER

[Editor's Note: This was a posting submitted to me in January but that I did not catch because of issues arising from my moving from PCs to Macs and my adjusting my procedures as a result of the migration. Earlier today, I fixed the problem I had had with the reply function in Mac Mail, and even though I would like to say that the migration issues have all been resolved, I know that such a statement would be hubristic and just set me up for more and greater difficulties. I continue to learn and to improve my techniques. I miss my Word macros and the time they saved me in formatting digests, but someday I will get to figuring out Automator and to writing Apple scripts. As BL might say, "To infinity and beyond." -Hardy]

Some four years ago, I joined the SHAKSPER list because I was going to write a novel about John Florio. It would be the third of a trilogy of hidden historical figures of the Renaissance who interest me. The first was Francis Tregian, the collector of the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, the second was Emila Bassano, who might or might not have been Shakespeare's mistress and, more important, inspiration. The third was going to be John Florio.

For different reasons, it was impossible to start: another novel wanted to be written first, it was difficult to adjust to the death of my partner, and so on and so forth.

So here I am, four years later: I have started.

What I announced I was going to do four years ago is going to happen now: I am going to ask questions.

I thought I'd better make sure I was not asking questions that had already been answered by the list.

So, tonight, I took upon myself to flip through all the posts about Florio in the SHAKSPER Electronic Conference. Interesting exercise.

I like writing novels about historical figures who didn't attract much attention as themselves. That was the case for Tregian (people have been using music from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book without ever thinking of the collector), for Emilia (it is not easy to discover that she was a writer - apart from being the hypothetical Shakespeare's mistress, she hasn't been much spoken about). I thought it was the same for Florio, and reading through some hundred SHAKSPER posts where Florio was mentioned, it seems to be the same with him: his dictionary is mentioned quite a few times, as is the fact that he is Montaigne's translator. At one point it has been speculated that he could have been the author of Shakespeare's works, or alternately, and absurdly, that his wife was the Dark Lady. But John Florio himself? Not much, let us say. Of course all three people are well known by specialists, but seeing how much of a revelation Francis Tregian's story has been and continues to be for musicians, I would say that specialists make a small circle of readers.

When I had finished reading, I felt justified in my idea to write a novel about John Florio. This is the kind of reassurance a novelist needs when he or she is halfway up the slope and is tempted to let go and to crash into oblivion with his or her novel.

I have already investigated Florio's known youth, been to the village of which his father was the pastor, and to Tubingen where he studied for a while. I am now in the middle of his _lost years_, in which I feel free to imagine something reasonable, but arbitrary all the same. Still, I like to respect the known facts, it has always been my _game_: invent where there is no material, but respect scrupulously all existing material.

So here come my first two questions:

- I have read Francis Yates Florio and Michael Wyatt's The Italian Encounter with Tudor England. I have read the complete works of Michelangelo and John Florio (not the Dictionaries, of course...). Would anyone have reading suggestions of books at least in part about Florio?

- I have just read Arthur Achesons's _Shakespeare's Lost Years_, in which he explains he thinks Florio is the model for Falstaff. Does anybody else think that?

Thanks for bearing with me!

And thank you Hardy for keeping the list. I don't write much, but I read everything and I love it. It is always interesting.

Anne Cuneo

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