"The Great Shakespeare Find"


R.L. Eagle

From Baconiana

March 1924


Regarding Eagle, he  re states from the manuscript of STMore :"Poets were ever thought unfit for state."

and in another point he states  "Sir Edmund Tilney (Master of the Revels) refused to license the play of STMore and wrote a warning on the manuscript "leave out ye insurrection wholly and the cause thereoff...at your own perilles." There is no record of the play ever having been performed even without the insurrection scene


On October 19th, the Daily Express announced in glaring headlines," Great Shakespeare Find," "Most Valuable Manuscript in the World," ect.! Whatever excitement may have been created in the mind of the discreet reader confronted with this sensational type, he was soon doomed to disappointment, for the "discovery" was merely  the much debated Manuscript of "Sir Thomas More" in the British Museum. Fifty years ago Spedding and Richard Simpson were arguing for Shakespeare's hand, and Furnivall and Fleay against. On Monday, 22nd October, the following letter appeared in the Daily Express :

The Shakespeare "Find".

To the Editor of the Daily Express

Sir,--The question of Shakespeare's authorship of a portion of the manuscript play of "Sir Thomas More"has been considered by experts for many years, but not until now has anybody dared to pose as Sir Oracle on the identification of the handwriting with the "Shakespeare "signatures."
I fear that Sir E. Maunde Thompson has been carried away by his enthusiasm to such  an extent as to make himself believe the thing he wishes.
Three years ago Mr. John Lane published a book by Sir George Greenwood entitled, "Shakespeare's Handwriting," which can leave little doubt in the mind of the impartial reader that Sir E. Maunde Thompson's conclusions are but "the baseless fabric of a vision."

R.L. Eagle.

How it managed to appear in print is a mystery. The Editor must have been away for the week-end! Anyhow, after the great "stunt" of the 19th and 20th October, nothing more has been heard of it in the columns of the Express.

It is claimed that "Sir Thomas More" was written about 1593, and that Anthonty Munday was the first draughtsman. Altogether there are five different handwritings, and that of lines 1-172 of the Insurrection scene is attributed (on evidence that is most unreliable) to Shakespeare. Certainly this portion of the play is vastly superior to the  rest, but there are other parts of the MS. in the same handwriting which are very weak and commonplace--a fact not put before readers of the Daily Express. It is very difficult to believe that the author of the Insurrection scene could be the author of the other portions in the same handwriting, and who can tell that the scribe was not copying from others' manuscripts?

In any case it is most improbable that the Stratford player would (even if he were capable of writing) colloborate with Anthony Munday. In 1593, Munday was, as Henslowe's Diary proves, writing for the Admiral's players, while Shakespeare was a member of the Chameberlain's company. Henslowe shows who Munday's usual collaborators, and of those either Dekker or Drayton were capable of writing the best in "Sir Thomas More."

The cause of all this excitement in the Press is the publication of "Shakespeare's Hand in the Play of 'Sir Thomas More', by The Cambridge University Press. As internal evidence of Shakespeare's hand, Professor Chambers compares More's references to the mob with those of Shakespeare in the undoubted plays. Nobody would deny the reemblances, but the parallelisms are not confined to these examples. Mr. Harold Bayley has proved that there is nothing singular about Shakespeare's attitude towards the common people. On the contrary he says," In their hatred of Democracy the authors of the Drama display an unswerving unanimity; worthy of notice, not only on  its own account, but as shedding additional light on the status of the crowds on whose pennies they existed.(The Shakespeare Symphony, 1906, p.158) There follows pages of parallels drawn from the best writers, poets and dramatists of the day. Yet Notes and Queries (Oct. 29th , 1923) reviewing the book Shakespeare's Hand, ect., speaks of Shakespeare's attitude as "singular !"

Truly there are no limits to Stratfordian flights of fancy. There are six so called "signature's", but no one of them spells the famous name. They differ both in writing and spelling, and a novel suggestion has been proposed to account for this. Sir E. Maunde Thompson is responsible for the creation of this characteristic piece of humbug, that, during the last three years of his life, he (Shakespeare) suffered from writer's cramp, evinced chiefly in  an inability to make the reverse movement of the hand required to form his capital S perfectly! According to Sir Sidney Lee, "Shakespeare produced his plays, poems and sonnets, between 1587 and 1613. If he hand only written twelve lines a day during these twenty-six years he could have created the same total output.  According to Sir Sidney Lee, moreover, Shakespeare wrote "for gain, not glory," so there could not have been a vast creation of other literature, for which he was responsible, without any record being left.

"Writer's cramp" is a most reckless and unfortunate conjecture, though by no means worse than many another made in the name of Shakespearian "authority." Indeed, without this sort of guesswork, the "life" of Shakespeare would be very dull and prosaic, and the public, who like to have their imaginations touched, would cease to be interested in "experts."





















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