The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.019  Friday, 3 January 2003

From:           Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 2 Jan 2003 17:59:19 EST
Subject:        Re: Brian Vickers's New Book

I posted to the HLAS newsgroup an informal review of Brian Vickers's
recent publication, <'Counterfeiting' Shakespeare>, where the author
presents a conclusive case that John Ford wrote the "Funerall Elegye"
after examining the attribution to Shakespeare of the same poem, as
developed by Donald Foster.

Foster is presented in an extremely unfavorable light. However, Dave
Kathman responded to my post with some information that may help to
enhance Professor Foster's scholarly standing.

When I noted that "Foster has said he doesn't know where he went wrong",
Dave Kathman replied:

>Don said that in his initial statement on SHAKSPER earlier this
>year, before he had read either the Vickers book or the Montserrat
>article, but after he had renewed his own intensive investigation of
>Ford's possible authorship of the Elegy.

But in that SHAKSPER post of 12 June, 2002, Foster said, "I know good
evidence when I see it and I predict that Monsarrat will carry the day."
He also said, "Monsarrat's fine essay has compelled me, largely against
my will, to return to an attribution and a text I have not considered in

Kathman's statement seems to contradict Foster's own. But Dave further
clarified his colleague's activities:

>One of the things he has been doing off and on since 1996 is
>expanding SHAXICON so that it indexes the rare words in virtually
>all early modern plays and poetry; when he searched this much
>more thorough database for vocabulary overlap with the Elegy, he
>found a much greater overlap than he had found earlier, a greater
>overlap than for Shakespeare. This led him to compare the Elegy
>closely with Ford's known work, whereupon he found many

We are impelled to conclude that Don Foster modestly credited another
scholar for determining what he had learned from his own work since 1996
-- to the extent that he said he was impressed by a paper he hadn't
read, on a subject he had not considered for years.  This selflessness
contrasts with the picture of Donald Foster that one might derive from

Brian Vickers cites SHAKSPER on numerous occasions, which seems to be an
unprecedented use of the electronic media for Shakespeare scholarship.
Because his book seems to be an effective indictment of the state of
that scholarship, I think it is a good time and place to note that
Donald Foster was ahead of the curve in examining his own scholarship.

Gerald E. Downs

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