Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Truth Is The Daughter Of Time

This is a frontispiece to a 1951 mystery novel by Josephine Tey (real name: Elizabeth Makintosh) named _The Daughter of Time_It is about the question of whether or not King Richard III ordered the murder of the "Little Princes in the Tower," his nephews Edward and Richard, as has  long been alleged, and for a long time was simply accepted as historical fact.  This bestselling and very well and wittily written novel makes the case that Richard was framed by his successor, Henry (Tudor) VII, who usurped him after defeating and killing him in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.  Tey manages to build up through the novel a very convincing case for this view, which I shall not get into the details of, although I highly recommend the novel, which I just finished reading. In any case, if she is right, or even partly right (because  have been many other accusations against Richard made as well), then this is one of those cases where "the victor gets to write the history."

I note a few points.  The usual argument, still put accepted by many, is that Richard did the little princes in because they were  threats to his having succeeded their father, his brother, Edward IV.  But in fact it is now accepted (documents surfaced centuries later on this apparently suppressed by Henry VII) that  showed that they were illegitimate and thus not possible heirs to the throne. Richard had no reason to kill them.  He was invited to assume the throne by both houses of parliament and was thus completely legal and legitimate. And after his death, Henry had a Bill of Attainder brought against him in parliament listing all sorts of terrible things he supposedly did that justified the completely illegitimate Henry usurping Richard's throne.  But murdering the princes was somehow not included in this Bill, which would obviously have been the top charge against Richard if  it  were true.  Furthermore, given Henry's lack of any legitimacy, there was a large group of individuals, including the little princes if they were still alive, who had more claim to the throne than Henry.  He  was the British monarch who initially instituted Star Chambers that brought charges against each of these in turn allowing them to be "judicially murdered." The  grounds for these in some cases were as vague as "for certain reasons" (unnamed).  OTOH, a major reform Richard introduced was the right to bail.  There is much more, but this gives some idea of what Tey puts forth, most  of which I have verified from other sources.

I see a couple of relevances of this to current events, both the matter of arguments over "the Lost Cause" and Confederate monuments as well as the matter of whether ot not Donald Trump will get away historically with stating over 20,000 lies since becoming president.  There seem to be three factors here.  One is whether a leader can be authoritarian or not, which Trump would like to be but is not quite.  Henry VII certainly was.  This allows one many advantages in putting forth a false historical narrative.

Then there is the matter of having propagandists, especially initial ones.  For Trump that is clearly Fox News.  For the Lost Cause there was not a single clear individual or group, but a long buildup through the late 19th and into the early 20th centuries.  For Henry VII the most important was his ally and enemy of Richard, John Morton, whom Henry made the Archbishop of Canterbury, a thoroughly corrupt individual.  Much younger than him, but working for him, was the much revered Sir Thomas More, and it was through More that Morton put forth the initial claims and accusations against Richard.

Then we have the role of arts and media.  I do not think Trump really has that yet, which takes more time, ,but for the enemies of Richard the most influential was William Shakespeare, whose play, Richard III, written during the reign of the last Tudor monarch, Elizabeth I, depicts him as a truly monstrous figure, murderer of the little princes, slanderer of his mother, and much else, as well as being hunch-backed and with a withered arm, these latter all apparently false.  But he makes for a great villain, and the count of famous actors portraying him as such is beyond count.  Shaekespeare's play may be the reason more than any other why most people and many textbooks present the standard story as fact without any hint of doubt.  In many peoples' minds, Richard may have been the worst of all British monarchs, with only King John a possible rival (btw, his corpse was found in 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester).

While Trump may not have his Shakespeare, the Lost Cause certainly had its victory in the arts and media by the early 20th century in the form of Hollywood, most influentially with the films Birth of a Nation by Griffiths that glorified the KKK and the not quite so virulent but probably more influential Gone with the Wind.  Hollywood bought the Lost Cause hook, line, and sinker all the way and really did a semi-Shakespeare version on it.

BTW, another curious example of historical distortion that I knew nothing about is reported in the novel, and it involves monuments, which do certainly reinforce these historical myths.  I had  never heard of the Covenanters, but they were a radical Presbyterian group in Scotland that played a major role in making Scotland be predominantly Presbyterian, with the height of their activities being in the early 1600s, with a dramatic peak around 1638. Anyway, Tey (who was born in Scotland) reports on some monuments somewhere there to some women who were supposedly martyrs to the Covenanter cause.  However, according to her they were not even killed. They were not martyrs at all. But the monuments and claims they were helped the cause. Apparently the truth is now generally accepted, and occasionally somebody suggests taking down the monuments.  But somehow it does not happen because they make good tourist attractions for the small towns they are in. 

Barkley Rosser


Don Coffin said...

In 1891, Missouri Sen. George Graham Vest, a former congressman for the Confederacy who was still at that late date an advocate for the rights of states to secede, used the phrase in a speech, reprinted by the Kansas City Gazette and other papers on the next day, Aug. 21, 1891. “In all revolutions the vanquished are the ones who are guilty of treason, even by the historians,” Vest said, “for history is written by the victors and framed according to the prejudices and bias existing on their side.” In other words, the world has rewritten history to credit the saying to one of the 20th century’s greatest victors, but it’s always been very popular with history’s biggest losers.

Making, as the author points out, a nice excuse for people who not only lost the war, but deserved to lose the war.

Kaleberg said...

George Graham Vest knew how to turn a phrase. He is also noted for his speech when suing for damages in the shooting of his client's dog. Some of it may be familiar:

"The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and in sickness,. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince."


Kaleberg said...

I read Daughter of Time and was impressed by Tey's argument. Let's face it though, it would be an uphill battle to clear Richard's name thanks to that Tudor apologist, William Shakespeare. Whenever someone argues that literature should be beyond politics, I remind them of Shakespeare or Milton, (Milton, who wrote great, enduring Bible fanfic, was Cromwell's propagandist.)

The "Lost Cause" was pretty vile; it puts a romantic gloss on a particularly nasty regime. In the North, the Civil War monument is probably the ugliest thing in town, even if it is in the middle of the town green. There it is, as ugly as the first big bloody mechanized war of attrition itself. The South went for heroic equestrians. The infantry was for serfs.

The Sophist said...

I've reflected from time-to-time on the way that our Civil War wasn't exactly the first time such a struggle took place. And yeah,at least some of those struggles didn't end like ours did, with a society-wide schism. I think that part of why, is that the victors and losers came to an amicable settlement afterwards. But in the Civil War, the losers refused an amicable settlement: Black Americans are still oppressed, and until that ends, there can be no end to the recriminations, no end to the Civil War.

ilsm said...

I had gotten a bit in to the Wars of the Roses.......

Here is a site I spend time at.


Plentiful links to parsons and battles on the right sidebar.

Cromwell's time is for later study.

IIRC Shakespeare was tough on the Yorkists.

Benedict Cumberbatch was an awesome Richard III!

Anonymous said...

"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it 'treason.'" John Harington

"War is a crime. Go ask the infantry. Go ask the dead." Hemingway

Andres said...

Tangent Time: It is ironic that Shakespeare rewrote the history of Richard III's reign in Lost Cause style, given that Shakespeare himself may have been a revision of history that rebelled against the British "Lost Cause" Narrative (i.e. that the Tudors and their Stuart descendants were the legitimate and God-given dynasty of English monarchs). My quick view on the Authorship Controversy:

1. Edward DeVere, Earl of Oxford (great grandson of one of Henry VII's partisans in the war against Richard III) wrote the sonnets and the first drafts (foul papers) of the plays, possibly with some input and even editing from the playwright Christopher Marlowe, before Marlowe's death in 1593. A few were left partially finished at the time of DeVere's death (e.g. King Lear, where the Fool vanishes mid-play).

2. The various theater companies, including the one run by Will Shaksper of Stratford, edit and polish the plays into what become known as the Quarto manuscripts.

3. After DeVere's death, his son-in-law William Stanley, Earl of Derby and Stanley's friends/colleagues Roger Manners Earl of Rutland and the lawyer Francis Bacon edit and polish the play drafts and Quartos into what becomes the Folio.

And of course, the reason DeVere's name is suppressed before and after his death is because of the absolutist bent of the Tudor and Stuart dynasties and the objectionable content of the historical plays and even a few of the fictional plays, which show Kings being deposed, executed or murdered as a result of their own folly; DeVere was a member of the court and Queen Elizabeth is known to have been outraged by the deposition scene in Richard II. Plus the need to keep the identity of the sonnets' subjects secret, since they were also members of Elizabeth's court. DeVere chooses the pseudonym William Shakespeare (spear-shaker, a reference to Athena) which also conveniently resembles the name of the owner/performer of one of the well-known theater companies, and Shaksper agrees to maintain the pretense that the plays are his.

Moral of the story: not only is history a battle, but also regimes with absolute power often unwittingly create their own historical re-writings so that anti-regime messages can see the light of day. The Lost Cause never reached this level of totalitarianism, so there was no need for coded historical revisionism, but a good deal of muck-racking clandestinely published under the communist regimes was originally done with pseudonyms. And I can easily imagine that communist-era histories of Ivan Grozny and Shi Ti Huang contain subliminal messages about the character of Stalin and Mao.

Wrt Josephine Tey, I would modify the saying to state that Truth is the daughter of politics as well as time, but Truth is seldom accepted as a legitimate daughter. Because of the absence of hand-written manuscripts, we will probably never know who really wrote Shakespeare's plays, nor is it likely we will ever find out who killed Edward IV's sons. And depending who on who has power in Washington, the Lost Cause resembles an evil moon that waxes and wanes over U.S. history.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...


For what it is worth, while I am open to the arguments of Tey and others that Richard III may have been innocent in the matter of the little princes (we never will know for sure), I am a total skeptic on the now ten million theories regarding who wrote Shakespeare's works, being fairly certain it was the man himself, although I cannot prove that. I shall grant that if it was not him, DeVere has more credibility than some of the other many alternatives who have been proposed.

Andres said...

Hi Barkley. We are on opposite sides of this: I think it more likely that the young princes were killed by either Richard III or Richard's right-hand man the Duke of Buckingham (with or without Richard's orders) than that they were killed by Henry VII: there is no documentation of anyone seeing them after 1483, one year into Richard's reign. See Sharon Kay Penman's novel _The Sunne in Splendor_ for a good if imperfect argument that the princes were killed by Buckingham acting behind Richard's back. It is also possible that Buckingham acted on Richard's orders, or that Richard killed the princes after Buckingham rebelled.

On the other hand I think it is much more likely that Shakespeare's plays were written either by Edward De Vere or by someone who know De Vere intimately. There is simply no contemporary evidence that Will Shaksper of Stratford wrote the plays and sonnets: no handwritten manuscripts, no correspondence by Shaksper, no mention of plays or other literary property in his legal documents, and not even samples of Will Shaksper's handwriting other than a half dozen signatures on legal documents, which spell his name in different ways. For research on the Oxfordian case, see (if you haven't already):

Bertram Fields (2005). Players: The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare.

Mark Anderson (2005). Shakespeare by Another Name: A Biography of Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, The Man Who Was Shakespeare.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...


My understanding is that the princes were seen as late as 1484, but indeed the lack of anybody reporting seeing them after that is the strongest argument for it being either Buckingham or Tyrrel on the orders of Richard. But there remains this curious matter of Henry VII not mentioning this matter in his Bill against Richard after his death, and Henry certainly has much more reason to want them dead than did Richard.

I am not going to get into the Shakespeare debate. The literature on it is far vaster than what you cite here. I shall make only one observation on it, that a lot of it depends on an assumption that this mere nothing from Stratford who was not an aristocrat could know so much about court matters as well as so many other intellectual and historical matters. This strikes me as coming from classic British classist snobbery.

Andres said...

Hi Barkley. Agreed on Richard III and the princes.

As to the Authorship Controversy, it is perfectly possible to be an Oxfordian or other anti-Stratfordian without being a pro-nobility snob, and I find the Stratfordian charge of snobbery highly irritating. No serious Anti-Stratfordian denies that Will Shaksper of Stratford _could_ have written the works of Shakespeare provided that he (a) had access to an initial education that would have taught him to read and write, and (b) had access to either a single library or a number of small libraries extensive enough for him to have developed one of the largest vocabularies of any English writer; after all, Christopher Marlowe was not a nobleman and yet became an accomplished playwright. The anti-Stratfordian case is built upon the simple fact that documentation for Will Shaksper's (a) and (b) is 100% missing: there is none. And of course, there is the evidence limitation: no existing evidence is conclusive enough to prove either case in a Court of Law; one can only state which candidate has the most circumstantial evidence in his favor.

Anonymous said...

There is simply no contemporary evidence that Will Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays and sonnets...

[ Good grief, but do go play in the sand.

Better though, try to learn from the plays and sonnets. ]

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

I did check, and not only have 80 different people been proposed as alternatives to Shakespeare, but the vast majority of historians accept that he wrote the works his name is on. There are something like 70 hard pieces of evidence about his life from his day, and many of his contemporaries at the time made comments about him authoring plays and sonnets from as early as 1598 on.

Peter T said...

On Shakespeare - his contemporaries accepted that he wrote the plays, several other playwrights at the time mention him as a playwright, the court accepted him as the author, the Chancellor's office accepted him (they licensed all plays, and the stamped copy of the script was a legal document kept by the player company), his friends published his plays shortly after his death. Evidence that anyone else wrote the plays - essentially zero. He is fairly well documented for a middle-class Elizabethan.

Andres said...

Ok, I'm happy if we could conclude by agreeing to disagree, but apparently that's not the outlook of the last two comments. Counterargument:

That some of Will Shaksper of Stratford's peers and contemporaries name him as the author of the plays and sonnets would be conclusive _if_ there was any other surviving documentation that he did write them. But there is none. Again: no Shaksper correspondence, no handwritten manuscripts/foul papers, no handwriting samples other than a half a dozen varying signatures with different spellings and most tellingly of all, no mention of plays or literary property in any of the surviving legal documents (including a will) that refer to Shaksper. If the documentation was deliberately destroyed, why would Shaksper have done this? It is perfectly possible that he became disillusioned with his past as an actor/writer and destroyed its documentation as an act of rejection. Or that he felt the plays/sonnets might be a political liability for his family now that the less tolerant Stuart king James I was on the throne instead of Elizabeth, but the following alternative is also possible.

Shaksper was an actor and part owner of The Lord Chamberlain's Men, the theater company whose main patron was Henry Carey, Queen Elizabeth's chamberlain and first cousin (possibly half brother). Carey was thus a prominent member of the court and would have had connections with all of its prominent members including the Earl of Oxford since he was also High Steward of Oxford in later years.

It is thus perfectly possible that with Carey as a go-between, Shaksper agreed to act as the front man for the true author of the plays, who would be a member of Elizabeth's court and would thus have access to the private libraries needed to come up with the extended vocabulary in the plays of "Shakespeare". And since the content of the plays was politically charged plus the individuals described in the sonnets were also members of the court, the author of the plays would have wanted anonymity.

There is also the issue that Will Shaksper of Stratford's life has so little documentation in any sense: no correspondence, no evidence that he went to school, no documentation of his whereabouts for significant portions of his life, and no evidence of his having access to the literature needed to build up the writing skills needed for the plays and sonnets.

Ok, that's my last word on this, though Barkley and Peter T may well insert further disagreements. In addition to Truth, Controversy is also the daughter of time.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Well, you are not going to be convince, and, sorry, I am not about to be convinced, Anders, not by what you have put forward. Sorry. So, guess we shall all have to agree to disagree, unless you want to be disagreeable about the whole thing, which you brought up in the first place. This thread was originally about the ongoing debates over Richard III, not over the true identity of William Shakespeare.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...


Actually I am going to slam this stuff a lot harder. It is because I am currently disgusted by the mass gullibility out there for conspiracy theories, and this is what that is, fancier and more sophisticated than many of them as it is. But, I do not buy into the JFK assassination theories, and I view it (or one or another versions of it) as having much more credibility than any of these Shakespeare ones.
Indeed one sign is that at least with the JFK ones they appeared soon after the assassination. These Shakespeare theories did not appear until the 1800s, over 200 hundred years after Shakespeare died. If in fact one of the 80 other candidates was it, why did nobody say much sooner after his death, especially an original source?
Indeed, you even accept that some of his known friends, some of whom have been proposed to be him, say when he was alive he was the author. Why would they have been covering up for de Vere or Bacon or whomever. More to the point, why would they continue to do so at the time of the first Folio well after the main parties were all dead and continue to keep the secret to their graves This makes utterly no sense.
On de Vere, the guy died in 1604. He was publicly known as a poet and playwright on his own. The argument is that some of his work was being covered up to politically protect him. But maybe only a couple of plays would hold such danger. Would all those comedies? No, it is simply ridiculous. Anyway, he died a year after Elizabeth I. Why continue to keep his authorship secret? And a bunch of plays came later, with The Tempest in particular showing knowledge of America that it would be unlikely de Vere would have had, if not impossible. But to defend him you have to come up with completely bizarre arguments that make utterly no sense, not a shred of it. And he was not even proposed as an alternative until the 1920s. This is total crackpottery, to be frank, sorry to be so blunt.
A final note is that the first person to talk about Shakespeare as author of the plays was in 1598, the less well known Campbell I think, who complained about him. This guy was a rival playwright who was criticizing him. And then we have the likes of Jonson and Marlowe saying he wrote them.
I close by noting that for any of these alternatives to be true you have to have a large number of people keeping this secret for their entire lives. It is a saw about conspiracy theories that the more people you need to have in on it and keeping it secret over a longer time, the less likely it is to be true. And this one involves a lot of famous people keeping it secret long after there was any reason to. Why in 1623 would they still be keeping it secret about a guy who died 19 years before? Sorry, no dice, not in the remotest.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

It always bemuses me that erudite people
continue to argue the Shakespeare Authorship
Matter. Especially since it was settled some
years ago by a Stanford physicist. Sort of.

Who wrote Shakespeare's plays?

Stanford astrophysicist Peter Sturrock's new book takes a statistical
approach to the Shakespeare authorship question ...

Sturrock, 88, is a professor emeritus of applied physics and an eminent astrophysicist. While writing his 2009 memoir, 'A Tale of Two Sciences', he revisited his early pastime of writing poetry.

"The only poem I could remember was a parody of that famous sonnet, 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?' My parody began, inevitably, 'Shall I compare thee to a winter's night?' and it went on from there."

This led him to re-read all 154 of the Bard's sonnets, which he felt were autobiographical.

"But once you start asking what the sonnets are all about, you are automatically led to the question: Who was the author anyway?"

The authorship question, he reasoned, could be addressed by a scientific approach. Years before, while studying pulsars, Sturrock devised a new method to process information using statistics. His method was based on a statistical concept known as Bayes' theorem, which states that probabilities change depending on the information you have. ...

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Oh, now Fred drags in somebody playing Bayesian statistical games with this. here is more from me.

Many of the arguments, starting in the 19th century when the first candidate was Bacon, have boiled down to somehow this guy from Shakespeare could not have had the brains or knowledge to do it, with somehow his handwriting on some signatures supposed to show this. Really? I have known a lot of very smart people whose handwriting is all be illegible. That is a ridiculous argument.

Regarding de Vere, the man openly wrote various plays and poems. Does anybody read any of those? No. They are utterly obscure, not worth the time of day. But, aha! a bunch of plays and poems he wrote secretly, they are wonderful and brilliant and widely played and read and studied.

Heck, at least with Marlowe as a possibility or Ben Jonson, you have people who wrote well enough to have their work remembered somewhat, although as has been noted Marlowe's background connections in court were not all that obviously superior to those of the man from Stratford, who was all agree, at least smart and capable enough to become part owner for quite some years of a quite successful theater company in London. And why would Marlowe, who like de Vere openly wrote his own stuff go around writing a bunch of it under a fake name and continue to maintain this up to his death, especially when both he and Jonson are recorded as saying Shakespeare wrote his own plays and poems?

Frankly, if one want so push this conspiracy theory that whoever it was they were trying to keep it a secret because they in a high position at court, the original candidate, the seriously brilliant Francis Bacon looks more plausible as he never had any plays to his credit (I think maybe some poems) and he was definitely in high position, especially after James I came in. But then he was deposed for corruption in 161, dying in 1626, but in 1623 the first Folio was published, with everybody saying it was all by Shakespeare.

Here is a really serious bottom line problem with all this arguing about how this guy from Stratford could not have had all this knowledge. Whowever wrote the plays and poems was a genius, an extremely smart and brilliant person, at a world historical level of brilliance, up with people like Leonardo and Einstein, super duper smart, even able to pass that test that Trump is challenging Biden to take, :-) (couldn't resist that one). Anyway, people who are super brilliant are very good at learning, even from the flimsiest of sources. From what I have read there was a primary school in Stratford where pupils even learned Latin. So it is highly likely the man from Stratford was literate, and in London there were libraries, and there were plenty of people around who hung out in court and went to Italy. It would not be all that hard for the man from Stratford to pick all kinds of knowledge in London, especially if he was indeed a super genius, which he appears to have been.

We are back to the origin of this being a bunch of snobby Victorians who decided that only upper class people could be smart and well-educated, but that is simply a pile of nonsense.

I also remind that while this is an appeal to authority, the overwhelming majority of scholars who have studied this and so so today reject all these alternative theories. They think William Shakespeare who wrote the plays and poems was indeed the man from Stratford everybody said he was at the time and not long after he died and indeed until all this nonsense picked up in the mid-19th century.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Shakespeare: The Authorship Question, A Bayesian Approach

Journal of Scientific Exploration 22(4) · Peter A. Sturrock · December 2008

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Alternative link, for those who would avoid ResearchGate:


For Scientific Explorers only: https://www.scientificexploration.org/journal-library

Andres said...

Hi Barkley. I won't belabor Shakespeare authorship any more, given that we are not going to change our minds by trading comments as opposed to doing deep research. However, your hostility towards conspiracy theory gullibility is puzzling, given that there have been lots of proven conspiracies in history, including:

--Assassination of Julius Caesar.
--Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (though the conspiracy circle was very narrow, less than half a dozen people).
--Gunpowder plot in Renaissance England.
--The Lost Cause, which started out as a deliberate attempt to sweep under the rug the defense-of-slavery rationale of Southern secessionism.
--The entrance of the U.S. into the Viet Nam conflict via the Gulf of Tonkin "incident".
--Russian history is chock full of conspiracies, including the assassinations of Peter III, Paul I, and Alexander II, the Decembrists, the October Revolution, the removal of Khruschev, the August 1991 coup, etc.

You get the picture; wherever there are power conflicts, there will be conspiracies. I do agree with you that the number of bad conspiracy theories is legion, but there are a small number of conspiracy theories that are plausible/possible (though maybe unlikely, depending on the case) but unproven. These include:

--Will Shaksper as front man for the real author of the plays/sonnets.
--Henry VII or the Duke of Buckingham as the true murderers of Edward IV's children.
--Possible assassination of Joseph Stalin.
--Assassination of JFK. I am hostile to almost all of the conspiracy theories except those that posit J. Edgar Hoover and his small inner circle feeding pre-selected evidence to the Warren Commission, while a group of outsiders who fanatically hated JFK (e.g. Cuban exiles) carried out the actual murder. It is of course just as likely if not more so that Oswald did the murder on his own; his post-Dealy Plaza behavior was highly irrational even if he did want JFK dead.

My point is that it is one thing to be hostile to conspiracy theory gullibility, but that should not make one automatically hostile to all conspiracy theories. All that one needs to do is ask if the theory in question is consistent with the rest of the historical and biographical context.

What highly irritates me, more than conspiracy theory gullibility, is the knee-jerk rejection of theories as "loonie conspiracy theories" especially when the theory in question concerns conflicts in the upper levels of government where there is the most incentive to create conspiracies.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...


Let me note that the first several historical conspiracies you mention all became public knowledge almost immediately or not long after their main effect happened (some delay on Guld of Tonkin, but it came clearly eventually and even at the time there were suspicions). The Lost Cause is not really a conspiracy, more a long running movement that gradually took control. There was not some secret cabal of insiders running it.

I have exprsssed strong doubt about the JFK theories, although if one is correct I would lean more to the mafia one. After all, Jack Ruby was a mafia operative. I personally knew a staffer at the House Committee that investigated the JFK assassination in the mid-70s, and the mafia theory was the only one they took seriously, and they took it very seriously, although in the end were unable to pin it down and prove it convincingly. But it has much more support than CIA or J. Edgar Hoover or the others, of which there are almost as many as those about who was really the author of Shakespeare's plays and poems.

As it is, I fully accept that there are conspiracies and that many are successful. The point on that is that we do not hear about or know about the successful ones, or at most vague hints or rumors. The conspirators keep their mouths shut and nobody ever finds out.

I will comment a bit more on the Shakespeare matter, where obviously neither you nor I are going to budge, and on de Vere in particular. I think I have noted that on the "covering up the author to protect him at court," I think there is more reason to believe that for Bacon, who stuck around after Eilzabeth died as an important court official, and who, of course was the first person proposed to be the "real Shakespeare, although not for over two centuries after they were all dead..

Regarding de Vere, here is the strongest claim to be made for him. While none of the plays he supposedly wrote under his own name remain extant (he destroyed them to cover up his bad activities and ave his good name?), we do have 23 lyric poems he wrote. Apparently he stopped writing those after 1593, about the time Shakespeare began writing his, with some claiming the earliest Shakespeare poems somewhat resemble those of de Vere. Maybe, although somehow nobody thinks those openly de Vere poems have been worth reading or studying at all. But, hey, maybe he got a whole lot better.

But the really big problem with the de Vere theory is simply his 1604 death. There were 12 more Shakespeare plays to come out after then, including several of the most important. Once he was dead, why on earth was there any reason to go on pretending he was not the author and that this nothing from Stratford was, and why would people like Marlowe and Jonson go along with such obviously silly nonsense? There is simply not reasonable explanation for this, none. And that is probably it from me on this topic.

Andres said...

Hi Barkley. There are lots of gaps and errors of commission in the above post on Shakespeare Authorship (e.g., Marlowe died in 1593, well before De Vere and Shaksper), but we are way beyond the point of diminishing returns for other readers, so in the unlikely case you wish to continue, we can take up by e-mail.

The Lost Cause started out as a conspiracy to (a) rewrite the Confederate position as being based on state's rights and individual liberty from the federal government rather than the overt defense of slavery that led the rush to war (though the agreement may have been tacit or socially networked rather than through an explicit cabal); Jefferson Davis's post-war history of the Confederate government is Exhibit A in this trend; and (b) an attempt to suppress black rights, with the Forrest-led KKK cabal at the forefront.

Over time, the Lost Cause transitioned from a conspiracy to a social movement designed to cement Jim Crow in the South. i.e. a general social trend like the Lost Cause can consist of both conspiracies and broader political movements.

The possibilities on JFK are two-fold:

(1) Oswald did it all by himself, and his post-Dealy plaza behavior was that of a deranged, homicidally desperate man rather than a rational man. A rational JFK assassin would either have had a getaway car at the ready near the schoolbook depository or would have turned himself in and confessed to the deed.

(2) Given that the Warren Commission was made up of honest people (with the possible exception of Allen Dulles), a conspiracy could succeed in deactivating investigations only if it fed the right evidence to the WC, and that required insiders at the FBI, almost inconceivable without J. Edgar Hoover's knowledge. There is also no incentive for the government to cover up mafia involvement _unless_ the mafia agreed to do the deed with insider FBI support (and such support was no longer present at the time of the late 1970's HSCA report, hence the focus on the mafia that you mention). Any non-FBI involvement mafia theories are crazy since they assume that the mafia would be willing to start an all-out war with the U.S. government by assassinating a president with a much larger risk of getting caught.

The one strong weakness of theories along the line of (2) is that they require both Oswald and possibly Ruby to be participants and unwitting scapegoats. It would have been an exceedingly elaborate ruse that could recruit Oswald for such an operation given his anti-social leftist fanatic background. And contrary to what you mention, Jack Ruby was a well-known loudmouth with only indirect mafia connections (see Wikipedia entry on Jack Ruby). It is inconceivable that he was a participant in the JFK conspiracy itself. It _is_ possible that he was approached by the mafia right after the JFK assassination and told to kill Oswald "or else we go after you and your family". It is also possible that Oswald was intended to be framed in a judicial process and that Oswald's shooting was entirely unplanned and random.

So where I stand is that (1) is more plausible/likely, but something along the lines of (2) cannot be written off.

Here also I think we have gone beyond the zero marginal utility point for comment thread readers, so this is my last post on JFK theories.

I guess our point of disagreement is that I think conspiracy theories should be first greeted with initial skepticism but not outright hostility (you seem more tilted to the latter), especially if they involve high-level political conflicts that can be resolved one way or the other by palace coups. Such events, e.g. Josef Stalin's succession and possible assassination, can be seen as the Game of Thrones of modern times.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...


This will be my last on this, and I shall stick to Shakespeare, otherwise, too many other conspiracy theories and too many theories about them.

So, I forgot Marlowe died early. Makes all those pushing him as an alternative look pretty silly, although de Vere has the same problem, if not quite as bad.

I thought Marlowe and Jonson had edited the First Folio, but I was wrong on that. Went and checked on it, which simply reinforces my view Shakespeare was for real. The editors were John Heminges (several spellings out there of that name) and Henry Condell. Both were longtime members of the theater company, staying on after Shakespeare's own retirement and still at it in 1623, indeed supposedly until their respective deaths, Heminges in 1630 and Condell in 1627. Both were mentioned in Shakespeare's will to receive 26 shillings for mourning pieces. There is much more information about Heminges, who was a trustee when Shakespeare purchased the Blackfriars. He seems to have been involved in a lot of lawsuits. The folio was dedicated to the Earl of Pembroke and his son, who would succeed him as Earl. No mention of de Vere or Bacon or anybody like that. And Ben Jonson was involved. He wrote a preface that praised Shakespeare.

So, really, why would these people have held to some made-up fake story that Shakesspeare wrote all this, some years after his death and even more years after de Vere's death, and two years after the fall of Bacon from power. I mean really, why? I cannot think of a reason. I think this is a serious bottom line that anybody pushing an alternative to Shakespeare really has to overcome.

Stay well.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

BTW, for all of my hostility to a lot of conspiracy theories, especially a lot of current ones, please do note, everybody, that this post itself in effect is giving credence to one, the conspiracy theory that it was people around Henry VII, and him also, who pushed the whole widely accepted view that Richard III killed the little princes in order to cover up Henry VII's guilt, with if in fact that is true this being one of those pretty successful conspiracies, one that still ultimately tends to dominate even now in most accounts.

Andres said...

Hi Barkley. Needless to say I am not convinced on Shakespeare Authorship, but no lo contendere. ;-)


rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

No lo contendere indeed, but I am curious how you respond to my point about the First Folio, the first publication of Shakespeare's plays. I mean, just to repeat myself, why on earth would those people in 1623 be pushing some phoney theory that Shakespeare wrote the plays if it was any of the other candidates who have been proposed? Really. This looks to me to be a very hard bottom line that to overcome will probably involve some much more fantastic conspiracy theorizing, such as, oh, Heminges and Condell did not edit the First Folio and de Vere did not die in 1604 but lived to edit instead, inventing them to still cover up his authorship. That is how ridiculous one must get to put this stuff over. Really.

Andres said...

Hi Barkley. Of course, writing a detailed reply to the last Authorship Controversy comment required more space than the HTML comment interface could handle. No big deal as only Authorship Controversy fanatics are interested at this stage. I have sent the detailed reply by e-mail.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Just for the record, I never received anything from Anders replying to my last post here, which I think is pretty hard to reply to. One has to have a pretty elaborate and over-the-top conspiracy theory to claim that Heminges, Condell, and Jonson were all putting out a folio of Shakespeare's plays 7 years after his death and 19 years after the death of de Vere, with all of them asserting the plays were by Shakespeare when presumably they all knew that they were really by de Vere. Bottom line is this makes utterly no sense and never has. There are good reasons why the vast majority of Shakespeare scholars say he really was their author.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Vaguely related:

Loch Ness Monster was a hoax

Loch Ness Contains No 'Monster' DNA, Say Scientists

Yet true believers are still avidly searching, hoax or not.

Andres said...

Hi Barkley. You'd be surprised how easy it was to reply: it was a question of length, not difficulty finding arguments. I sent the first reply to rosserjb@jmu.edu. I have now resent it, after doing some further editing for clarity. Please check your spam filter.

P.S. it is Andres, not Anders.