The following is from an essay-in-progress I took out of the review I’ve been working on for centuries of Sabrina Feldman’s The Apocryphal William Shakespeare:
Thoughts on How an Intelligent Person like Sabrina Feldman Became an Authorship Skeptic
When, thirty or forty years ago, I first became actively involved in the Shakespeare Authorship Question (SAQ), I had read and thought about it enough to have been convinced that anyone who thought Shakespeare was not responsible for the works attributed for so many years by so many intelligent people who had studied him, his works, and his time were flat-out insane.
But I soon also perceived that many of them seemed otherwise mentally normal, and even more or less as intelligent as I took myself to be (when trying to be objective enough about that to ignore how vastly superior in intellect to anyone else ever born the megalomaniac in me told me I was almost as often as my sometimes endocrinologically-crippled Poorest Self told me I was an irrelevant imbecile . . . and therefore possibly only more intelligent than 99.99% of the world’s population). How could this be? How, for instance, could Charlton Ogburn, Jr., even now considered among the SAQ immortals by anti-Stratfordians, as Shakespeare-doubters are formally known?
Ogburn, Wikipedia informs us, graduated from Harvard in 1932 and wrote and worked in publishing. During World War II he joined military intelligence, leaving with the rank of captain. He returned to the US to begin a career with the State Department.
After the success of his story “Merrill’s Marauders”, a Harper’s Magazine cover story in 1957, Harper & Bros. offered an advance for a book and he quit the government to write full-time in 1957 and had a distinguished career as a journalist and novelist. How could anyone term him insane?
Or similarly describe Sabrina Feldman, an anti-Stratfordian whose career, so far, is similarly distinguished, for she attended college and grad school at Cal Berkeley, getting a Ph. D. in experimental physics. Far from one-dimensional, she took a Shakespeare class taught by Stephen Booth, world-class Shakespeare scholar, while an undergraduate, and got the only A+ in the class! She now manages the Planetary Science Instrument Development Office at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory—while doing her duties as a happily married mother of two. Furthermore, among her most eminent friends is: Me (in spite of how opposed to her theory she knows me to be). In short, gifted but more or less normal in every respect, and unarguably knowing enough about Shakespeare and his times for her thoughts about the SAQ to merit attention, although ultimately proving to be wrong. However wrong her theory might be, however, it was clearly even more difficult to call her insane because of it than it was to call Ogburn that.
By the time I ran into Sabrina, though, I had stopped calling Ogburn and others opposing my man insane. I continued to think their SAQ views insane, though, so coined the word “psitchotic” to describe them—they were “psituationally psychotic”—or only crazy about one subject (or, not about so many things to need drugs, electrotherapy, confinement to a nuthouse or the like).
At first, because of Ogburn and many of the anti-Stratfordians I had exchanges with on the Internet (mainly at a site created for unmonitored discussion of the SAQ, HLAS (humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare), I thought that all the formidable anti-Stratfordians were what I termed rigidniks.”
Back in my middle twenties, I had begun my own life as a theorist without credentials, going a bit loonier quantitatively than Ogburn and the others turning out theories about who really wrote the works of Shakespeare with a theory intended to explain the whole human psychology, giving the book I then wrote about it and self-published, An Attempt at a Total Psychology. It included a fairly wide-ranging theory of temperaments that posited the existence of various temperament-types of which the most important—in the present version of the theory—are the “rigidnik,” “milyoop” and “freewender.” I could write a full book about each of these, I believe, but for now will sum them up as being rough equivalents of (in order) David Reisman’s “inner-directed,” “other-directed” and “autonomous” personality-types.
While Ogburn was definitely a full-scale rigidnik, and many I argued with at HLAS seemed as rigidnikal as he, or even more so, I also began running into authorship skeptics that seemed much more flexible and tolerant than they, most of them Marlovians (those choosing Christopher Marlowe as their True Author) but at least one who was an Oxfordian. An easy way to tell them from the rigidniks is that they much more willingly admitted that our side had a case.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to do with my outliers, so I merely changed my claim that all serious anti-Stratfordians were rigidniks to the claim that most of them were. Some who were not were easy to categorize: they were milyoops, a trademark characteristic of whom was suggestibility. Because of that, they became rigid anti-Stratfordians because too weak of character to resist the influence of some rigidnikal anti-Stratfordian.
But what about the anti-Stratfordians who seemed to me to have enough strength of character to have their reason overthrown by someone else and were also intelligent enough not to seem likely to fall for, or invent, a highly irrational theory of anything themselves, like several Marlovians I’d met, and then, only a few years ago, Sabrina Feldman?
TO BE CONTINUED