Sunday, July 10, 2011

Contested Will Contested Again

I’ve previously posted here reviews of Prof. James Shapiro’s book Contested Will that showed how poorly the authorship evidence was researched and how loose Prof. Shapiro was with circumstantial evidence. This included the review by William Niederkorn who discussed Shapiro’s unusual ‘borrowing’ of another researcher’s work – that of John Rollett. Shapiro’s book has since then had lengthy discussions on its page at Recently, independent British researcher Rollett himself posted a comment severely damaging to Shapiro’s authority, and perhaps his reputation.

Oxfordian Professor Roger Stritmatter commented on Rollett’s post at as follows:

“Someone they [Shapiro’s supporters] had never heard of, who seemed to know what he was talking about, was not only demolishing the logic of Shapiro’s argument, a foundational point for Mr. Hardy back in April, about the historical time frame for the origins of the authorship question, but was also accusing the great man from Columbia of stealing some other parts of his argument from persons to whom he gave no credit — viz. Rollett himself.
This is a serious accusation, if true, and it appears that none of Shapiro’s former supporters, understandably, wanted to go near it.  If they denied it and it was true (as so it seemed), they’d be lying to defend something that was indefensible, but if they admitted it that would be even worse.”
A reader that had been supporting Shapiro up to then responded:  “In reading the adjacent letter from Dr. Rollett concerning James Shapiro’s giving the readers an impression that he, Shapiro, was the discoverer of the Cowell-Wilmot forgery, not Rollett…By logical examination, Shapiro is lying both about the sequence and about himself supposedly deserving credit as discoverer of the forgery.”

Now here is Dr. Rollett’s post at

“Shapiro’s book Contested Will is a great read, but contains a number of surprising factual errors. For example, he appears to think that doubts about Shakespeare first surfaced around 1750 (page 21), with which Rob Hardy (review, April 4, 2010) apparently concurs. But in the late 1590s John Marston and Joseph Hall were much exercised over the authorship ofVenus and Adonis and Lucrece.
“They derided someone they referred to as ‘Labeo’ for penning them (“Write better Labeo, or write none”). Labeo was the most prominent Roman lawyer of his day, and it has been surmised that by ‘Labeo’ they were pointing to Francis Bacon. Again, Thomas Edwards indicated in “L’Envoy” to his poem Cephalus and Procris. Narcissus, that V&A was written by someone wearing “purple robes” and dwelling “Amidst the Center of this clime”…..
“Shapiro makes much of his discovery (pages 12-3) that the lectures supposedly presented by James Corton Cowell in February 1805 to the Ipswich Philosophic Society (“Arthur Cobbold Esqre., President”) were a Baconian forgery. In fact, the original finding that the lectures were a Baconian spoof was made by me, an Ipswich resident, in 2002, after many hours spent in the Suffolk Record Office.
“Briefly, although there are large families with both surnames in the area, no trace can be found of either of these two gentlemen. Professor Daniel Wright presented my findings at a conference in Portland, Or., and a report of it by Nathan Baca was printed in Shakespeare Matters 2, no. 4, Summer 2003 (available on the web).
“Professor Shapiro could be forgiven if he had not read this account, but astonishingly he references Baca’s report on pages 319-20 of his book, without mentioning that his ‘discovery’ had been anticipated….
“It is remarkable that Professor Shapiro should have made several gross errors of a kind that would necessitate a PhD student re-writing and re-presenting his PhD thesis. Did he not ask even a single colleague to read through his typescript?”
as well as Prof. Stritmatter’s website and article:
and here’s the link to Niederkorn’s review posted here earlier which discussed the above topic:

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