William Ray Delivers the Mail – but Who is he, Really?

Posted By on October 8, 2011

Mailman, or University Professor? You decide.



I have a confession to make. William Ray is my favorite mail carrier. On the days when the usual mailman is off, and William substitutes for him, we have the greatest seminars.

I know, I know.

Mr. Ray’s mail carrying style has been criticized, on some distant internet islands far from the beaten track of the civilized world, as being too abstruse and learned for the average reader.

Some Stratfordian internetistas have even voiced a suspicion that Mr. Ray is actually not a mailman, but is in fact instead a College Professor, wearing the mask of a mailman for fear of retribution from Columbia.

He doesn’t really live in Willits, California, a place that nobody’s ever heard of before. He must be from the Upper West Side, or Brooklyn at least.

In this  they may well be correct.

Consider, for example, the following excerpt from a manuscript in my possession. Bear in mind that this purports to be the work of a mailman:

Monographs on why people believe what they do ordinarily come out of the sociology or psychology departments, not from a Columbia University English department [professor].  Right at the start, Shapiro abandons the commitment of his professional field, i.e., to contribute unbiased knowledge of Shakespeare through solitary study and reflection, tested by peer review.  He has embarked on writing biographical criticism on biographical critics, the analysis of whose inner motivations for which he was not credentialed.  The personalities involved in Oxfordian scholarship have found cause to challenge on factual grounds who wrote Shakespeare, which threatens his guild, his world-view, and his personal reputation.

Does that sound like your mailman?  We thought not. Or, what about this?

[Shapiro’s]  assertion about Shakespeare’s all-achieving imagination, an expansion of which idea would  make biographical study since the Enlightenment irrelevant, follows a familiar pattern in historical Shakespeare criticism.  The initial Bard  idolatry was the Divine Shakespeare, next to God in his omniscient insight, since no one knew anything of him.  Then it was Shakespeare the Genius, the demi-god standing all alone, sui generis, the Colossus.  T.S. Eliot, one of the Western tradition’s most astute critics, intoned, “Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them; there is no third.”  He said of the Sonnets: “This autobiography is written by a foreign man in a foreign tongue, which can never be translated.”  He was honest enough to say we knew nothing of his life.

Now, come on! These earnest and hardworking sleuths want to know, when was the last time your mailman used the words “Enlightenment,” “omniscient,” “T.S. Eliot,” and “Dante,” all in one paragraph?

It sounds very logical, doesn’t it? But I’m here to tell you, it ain’t so.

Take it from me.

William Ray is a mailman.

No mere University scholar that I know of reads even half as many books as he does.  And what University professor have you ever heard conclude a baker’s shop discussion of whether or not Magellan actually claimed to have seen the shadow of the earth on the moon (apparently he did not)  with the plebeian remark:

I maintain support for the old lady who posited to William James that the earth was supported in space by a large turtle, and when he asked what supported the turtle, she answered, “Sorry Mr. James, it’s turtles all the way down.”

How Ray delivers the mail at the same time as he does enough research to sound like a Columbia Professor  seems to consist of a technology so advanced as to appear to us pure magic.

But, trust me, William Ray is a mailman.  Who but a mailman would write this:–

Another dreamer will follow
The living imprint of your feet
You yourself have no right
To name the trees you planted

Yes, it is obvious: William Ray is a  mailman after all. He’s just not my mailman. Not my regular mailman, anyway.

n.b. For some letters delivered by Mr. Ray, see his October 27, 2011 blog post, “Rowing in a Sea of Disinformation.”

About the author

Roger Stritmatter is a native liberal humorist who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Contrary to rumor, he does not live on North Avenue. He does, however, work on North Avenue. A pacifist by inclination, one of his heroes is John Brown. But he thinks that Fredrick Douglass, another of his heroes, made the right decision. Stritmatter's primary areas of interest include the nature of paradigm shifts, the history of ideas, forensic literary studies, MS studies, renaissance literature, and the history of the Shakespearean question, the latter a field in which he has published extensively.


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