A jolly evening at the How To: Academy debating the identity of Shakespeare with my dear friend Alexander Waugh. I don’t think I’m ever going to change the mind of someone whose argument appears to rest on the proposition that Ben Jonson faked Heminge’ and Condell’s dedictory epistle and address to the reader in the First Folio, in which they clearly ascribe the plays to their fellow-actor – and who, for good measure, suggests that the bequest of mourning rings to Hemmings, Condell and Burbage in Shakespeare’s will might be a forged interpolation. But I enormously admire Alexander’s wit, warmth and energy. The only moment he lost his cool was when I denied his claim that nobody in the aftermath of Shakespeare’s death made the association between “the man from Stratford” and the famous writer. He said “You can’t make things up, Jonathan.” I told him I would send him some references, and he asked for them to be on his desk “by 9 o’clock in the morning” – so they will be, but here they are for any members of the audience who remain curious:
1618: Weever’s notebook (Society of Antiquaries MS 127) – transcription of the words on the Stratford monument and the poem on the tomb. In margin opposite heading “Stratford upon Avon”: “Willm Shakespeare the famous poet”
1619: Basse poem (Lansdowne MS 777, f.67v): “Under this carved marble of thine owne / Sleep rare Tragedian Shakespeare, sleep alone”
1623: Digges poem in First Folio: ‘thy works, by which, outlive / Thy tomb, thy name must: when that stone is rent, / And time dissolves thy Stratford Monument’.
Late 1620s: manuscript addition to a copy of the First Folio (Folger 26): Transcription of the poem on the tombstone + the poem on the Stratford monument + an original poem:
Here Shakespeare lies whom none but death could Shake / And here shall lie till judgment all awake; / When the last trumpet doth unclose his eyes / The wittiest poet in the world shall rise.
1630, A Banquet (anon): “on travelling through Stratford upon Avon, a town most remarkable for the birth of famous William Shakespeare”
1634 Lieutenant Hammond diary reference (Lansdowne MS 213, f. 332v): “we came by Stratford upon Avon … in the church there are some monuments … those worth observing … a neat Monument of that famous English Poet, Mr William Shakespeare, who was born here.”