Friday, February 9, 2018

Hate Mail - Can You Make The Connection? If you can't your claims aren't supported.

No, I hadn't read the story about the allegations that an obscure manuscript, “A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels,” written in 1576 by someone named George North, an obscure diplomat in the Elizabethan period were the source material for 11 of the "Shakespeare" plays.  But the story you referenced doesn't seem to make the connection between the manuscript and the Stratford man or any of the other candidates for authorship of the plays and poems.   It doesn't make that claim, it says:

The literary detectives discovered North’s influence, thanks in part to investigations into Shakespeare’s other influence: Thomas North, who translated Plutarch’s Lives. Back in 1576, George North, who was most likely a cousin of Thomas, was living at Kirtling Hall near Cambridge, England, when he wrote his manuscript–at the same time Thomas North was there possibly working on his translation of Plutarch. George North’s manuscript is “a diatribe against rebels,” according to the Times, where he argued that all rebellions against a monarch are unjust and doomed to fail. (Sounds like a fun guy to have at parties.)*

Was the Stratford man documented as having been anywhere near Kirtling Hall?   Or Cambridge?  Or had access to the possible possessors of the manuscript which, being unpublished, would have likely been available in only that single manuscript or a copy of it?   Is the existence of a documented copy of it known?   What material did George North rely on to write his Discourse?  Does he cite sources that the writer of the plays might also have known?

Since you mention Francis Bacon in your snark, he is known to have been at Cambridge University at the time it was written, already gaining fame as a great scholar while still in his teens as were both of his parents.  It would be interesting to know if he or any of the candidates had a connection to or is documented to have met any of the people who might possibly have known the manuscript. As a member of the intellectual nobility there is a possibility of him having known someone from a local aristocratic family but I'd never claim he saw the manuscript unless it could be documented that he knew someone who might have had a connection with the writer, his family or the place(s) it is known or even very likely to have been.   I'd like to know if there's even a line of possession of the manuscript or any copies, which you'd have to know to have any idea who might have read it.

Since the claims made by the computer geeks who used software to identify words common to the manuscript and the text of the plays (I don't see any mention of the poems in the news stories) some of their assumptions would need to be tested to judge whether their claims are valid or not.  Apparently they rely heavily on the term "trundle-tail" a description of a curly dog's tail appearing in the manuscript and in King Lear.   Looking that up in Merriam and Webster, it gives the first known use of the term as documented in the 15th century and is possibly older as the use of words in text generally is more recent than the origin of the term, who knows how frequently used the term was in speech?  It's a pretty thin argument to base the claims you made on.  That's about a century before it was used in the manuscript and more than a century before King Lear is believed to have been written.   If the word was known to a minor aristocrat such as George North, it was very likely known to most of the candidates for the authorship of the plays and poems.   It might, might be an argument that whoever wrote the plays had read the manuscript and relied on it (I'd like to know if there is any known citation or copying from it in any other known texts of the period, though it's likely such information is unavailable) but it does nothing to identify who wrote the plays and poems.   It doesn't move the authorship question unless you can provide evidence that one or more of them read it.   Since there's no evidence that the Stratford man ever read anything, good luck with that.

It looks like a thin case from the news reports, but I'd have to read a paper describing their methodology and making their claims.  Is there one available?  I can't find it.   I'm a little allergic to academic claims that get aired in the popular press before a paper is written.

* Considering, in the fall out of the Essex rebellion, that there is evidence that the author of the play Richard II (or another play sharing the name and the same plot of the SUCCESSFUL REBELLION AND SUCCESSFUL REBELS deposing Richard II which is theorized but not otherwise known) was being sought to be questioned (safely read that as tortured into making a confession, it was a Tudor monarchy) because a production of the play was part of the preparation of the rebellion, it wouldn't seem to thematically match the conclusions of George North, if the news reports are accurate.  He claimed they didn't work when many of those in the plays did work.  The horrific Tudor dynasty was a product of just such a successful rebellion against a king, who had a "legitimate" claim to the throne, Richard III.   I wonder if the geeks ever read the plays, do you know they did or, like you, only know what you've heard about them?    I'd be curious to know what George North might have said about that.

Update:  I had a little time so I did a little digging and found out that George North's patron was Sir Christopher Hatton, who, among other things, was the Lord Chancellor of England from 1587-1597.  Elizabeth Hatton, who was married to Christopher Hatton's nephew and heir, Sir William Hatton, was a client of and friend of Francis Bacon, who after William Hatton had died,  proposed marriage to her - she eventually married Edward Coke, one of Bacon's bitterest enemies.   Francis Bacon became Lord Chancellor from 1618 until he was brought up on charges of corruption by Edward Coke and dismissed in disgrace (some believe that, if he wrote the plays, that Timon of Athens reflects his likely state of mind in his last years. but that's speculation.  As I recall the play is entirely unknown in the period before the death of the Stratford man in 1616.)

I wonder if it's possible George North had made a copy of his Discourse for his patron or maybe he had the only manuscript which, as his heir and nephew's widow, she may well have inherited and in the period before he marriage to Coke, Bacon might have read it.

But that's  conjecture, not fact, more of a motivation to do more looking, not pretending a link has been made.  I'd never claim that Bacon having so much as been in the same house as the Discourse was a reasonable conjecture at this point.  That would take direct evidence to support such a speculation, but it's a lot more of a connection than most of the lore about the Stratford man is based in.

Still, at least it's a connection to the owner of the estate of George North's patron.

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