Sunday, January 4, 2015

Heminges and Condell, First Folio, Florio, Phaeton

Heminges and Condell, First Folio, Continued (the first part of this was published on Sept. 9, 2014)

After the last post. which was written a while back, I soon came across a reminder of John Florio’s apparent involvement with editing the First Folio. I had read the earlier announcement of the evidence showing this but I hadn’t realized that it extended to the Epistle Dedicatorie. One of The Guardian’s staunch Stratfordian writers reported on this last year:

He reports, as post-Stratfordians have earlier, that “neither Heminges nor Condell had produced a book before, nor would they afterwards.” In addition, he said it would have been unlikely for the printers to have risked this expensive project to be in their hands. And also, per an accepted expert “it is doubtful” whether they would be capable of such “exacting work”. Then regarding the Epistle Dedicatorie itself, as well as “To the great Variety of Readers”, he writes that the expensive project again would suggest that these would be entrusted to a more experienced hand. Some supporting evidence for this is then provided along with possible reasons why his name was not appended to the works.

So then an established mainstream expert agrees with post-Stratfordians on this point—that the evidence strongly contradicts the argument that Heminges and Condell wrote what has their names subscribed to in the First Folio. And if those parts were false and deliberately misleading then so could the rest that was mentioned—the ‘portrait’, the reference to the Avon river, as well as the Stratford ‘moniment’.

The Guardian article also speculates on how Florio could have become involved in this project based on his connections to the printers, the Herberts, and Ben Jonson. But these connections can be made for other candidates also. For instance, Jonson was a friend of Francis Bacon and helped translate his works into Latin. Florio is said to have done similar work but into French and Italian. And Bacon was alive at the time of the First Folio printing so there’s the added incentive of Florio and Jonson doing their friend an additional favor. 

A further interesting aspect of this is the Phaeton sonnet written to Florio by “a friend of mine, that loved better to be a poet than to be counted so.” Candidates for this friend have been offered. Here’s a review of the topic from the Oxfordian side:

and from Sabrina Feldman who supports the candidacy of Sir Thomas Sackville:

And then I and others think that it was written by Francis Bacon.

Several mainstream Shakespeare scholars think it could be by the author ‘Shakespeare’. But it’s mainly been ignored, likely because since it was anonymously written and Florio abided by the author’s desire to keep it anonymous, and maybe especially because it is one more piece of evidence that makes no sense from the traditional Stratfordian theory, and therefore has to be ignored by the vast majority of Shakespeare academics.

And it’s evidence and doubts like this that has made even well-respected historians like Hugh Trevor-Roper, the British intelligence officer and later English scholar and historian, best known for his tracking and solving some mysteries regarding Hitler, 

to say (from an archived letter discovered by Alexander Waugh):

My view is that the available evidence that the plays and poems were the work of William Shakespeare of Stratford is weak and unconvincing … not a shred of solid evidence connects the man with the works during his lifetime; the association of such works with such a man is, on the face of it, implausible; and the posthumous association of them, in the First Folio and in the Stratford Tomb, is inconclusive since there are legitimate questions concerning the motivation and production of the Folio and the original form of the Tomb. There are many suspicions legitimately adhering to all the later statements associating the man with the works, including the statements of Ben Jonson. Altogether, I consider the evidence of association to be slender, weak and implausible. There is not a single testimony which could not easily be re-interpreted if solid evidence were to turn up that the works were written by another man… In these circumstances of legitimate doubt, I believe that the proper course is to return to square one and examine the problem ab initio, without any preconceptions… I am heretical in that I allow that there is a real problem of authorship… I would not be surprised if evidence were to be discovered which destroyed the orthodox case.

I think he’s made the succinct point better than the rest of us have, though he seems not to have studied much, if any, of the available candidate evidence. In which case, his convictions would like have been much stronger.

Some English professors (William Poole and A.D. Nuttall of Oxford) would seem to agree, saying that “a man honestly wishing to test the strength of an argument would hardly begin by assuming its truth.”

By the way, a new mainstream article on the Authorship question recently appeared and was followed by a mostly respectable discussion/mini-debate which is still ongoing

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