Amazon Review of New Authorship Book Elicits Debate

Posted By on November 25, 2012

A few days ago I wrote up a “back of the envelope” Amazon review of Steven McClarran’s stupendous new book,  I Come to Bury Shaksper.  I had missed the opportunity to review some other recent and excellent contributions to authorship studies such as Katherine Chiljan’s Shakespeare Suppressed,  so I relished the chance to be the first one out of the gate with a review of this new offering. I enjoyed the chance to print a few preliminary comments about the new book and endorse its qualifications for wider readership,  most of them consisting of generous quotation from this imminently quotable book.

Little did I anticipate that my review would elicit such a remarkable discussion, complete with a cameo appearance from none other than Tom Reedy, who dropped by to remind us that anyone who questions Shakespeare’s identity is an uneducated loser and a malcontent who is likely to end up drunk in a gutter before the decade is over.

True, I did say that the “boxing gloves” had come off in I Come to Bury Shaksper. But I had no idea when I wrote my review how much metaphoric blood was about be on the floor.

Among the most interesting revelations of the discussion following my review was Dr. Waugaman’s disclosure in this post that Reedy repeatedly removed from Wikipedia Waugaman’s citation to his 2009 Notes and Queries article on the influence of the Sternhold and Hopkins psalms in Shakespeare.  This was news to me, although I cannot say I was surprised. Waugaman, a psychoanalyst by trade, holds forth at his own blog, The Oxfreudian, and his frequent and public advocacy of the Oxford cause in numerous academic articles, published in both psychoanalytic and literary journals, has been a constant thorn in the side of orthodoxy.

In other Wikipedia activity, previously noted on this blog, Reedy removed reference to Robert Detobel and K.C. Ligon’s outstanding study of Francis Meres’ Palladis Tamia, which showed through painstaking analysis that Meres was already in 1598 tipping his hat to Oxford’s authorship.  In that instance the publication was in Brief Chronicles, a relatively new and untested forum for the discussion of early modern authorship and culture (of which I happen to be the editor).

Brief Chronicles is a double-blind peer reviewed journal with a Wikipedia entry of its own and an impressive lineup of academicians on its editorial board, but those sympathetic to the ailing orthodox position on Shakespearean authorship might plausibly offer some legitimate basis for claiming, as Reedy did, that the journal is not a “Reliable Source” (RS for short) according to a principled definition of that key term.  That is, except for the fact that Reedy’s wikipedians had already played so fast and loose on the other end of spectrum by coddling all kinds of sources that don’t have nearly the academic authoritas of Brief Chronicles but which happened to oblige the editors’ prejudices.

Notification of Reedy’s activities regarding Waugaman’s Notes and Queries article, which can be accessed here, is another matter. It is difficult to imagine what Mr. Reedy can have been thinking when he took to chopping a reference of this kind from Wikipedia. Notes and Queries, which has been in print since 1849, is published by Oxford University Press. Moreover, according to Waugaman, the absence of a Wikipedia link has not been an effective suppression strategy; according to Waugaman, the article is the most-read Notes and Queries article going on three years now.

Geeze, I wish I could get that kind of rating for my own Notes and Queries articles. Maybe I need to be more pro-active at adding them to Wikipedia’s apparatus criticus so Tom Reedy and his gang can slash them. Would that do it?

But here’s my main point: By the example of this particular suppression, it would appear confirmed that the operant definition of “RS” among Reedy’s colleagues, as I have already indicated elsewhere, is “we agree with it.” That is the basis on which Wikipedia is being defended from the Oxfordian infidels.

“We don’t like you, take your academic references and go away.”  That’s the message that Mr. Reedy and his wikipedia sidekicks have been peddling for over a decade now. And they aren’t nice about anyone who doesn’t agree with it.

If you ask why someone — anyone for that matter — would be so ridiculous as to prevent a Wikipedia article from containing reference to an article published in an academic journal such as Notes and Queries on the pretense of protecting readers from “unreliable sources,” the answer is that Waugaman’s study, based in part on his examination of the marginal markings in the Folger library’s de Vere Psalmbook, has implications that Reedy does not want to consider.

Moreover, and perhaps more to the point,  he doesn’t want you to consider them either.

“It is my understanding,” continued Waugaman,

that [Reedy] used his impressive knowledge of Wikipedia censorship to permanently block me from posting that reference anywhere on Wikipedia. Given the time it takes to master the art of manipulating the Wikipedia rules to suppress controversial evidence, I can see why he has published so little….

[My article] enriches the meaning of many sonnets that scholars have found difficult to understand, as well as deepening the meaning of many of the plays. Naively, I thought Wikipedia readers had the right to read the article and think for themselves about its possible relevance to the Shakespeare authorship question, since it was the large hand-drawn pointing hands in the margin next to 14 psalms in Edward de Vere’s copy that led me to these discoveries.

But Mr. Waugaman’s voice has not been the only one to contest  Reedy’s presumptions.  Steve Steinburg, apparently the man behind the mask of “Steve McClarran,” had this to say to Reedy about his involvement in the Amazon discussion:

I’ve commented critically [in my book] on a number of Stratfordians books including those of Matus, McCrea, Greenblatt, Shapiro, etc. I bought and read each of those books before commenting and my comments dealt with the substance of those books and were not cheap insults such as you hand out here.

Later Steinburg elaborated on Reedy’s history on Wikipedia in an anecdote that perfectly reflects the “business as usual” attitude among the gang Reedy runs with on the online encyclopedia:

From the Wikipedia Shakespeare Authorship Article:

“Shakespeare’s authorship was first questioned in the middle of the 19th century,[4] when adulation of Shakespeare as the greatest writer of all time had become widespread.[5]”

H.N. Gibson, The Shakespeare Claimants, is cited at least four times within the article. Clearly, therefore, Gibson is an acceptable source, and Gibson, very clearly and convincingly says that Marston and Hall, contemporaneously, believed the name Shakespeare was pseudonym and that one or more of them believed that Bacon was the man behind the pseudonym. I seem to recall you saying you have Gibson’s book, so you may recall this or be able to look it up.

I inserted Gibson’s comments about Marston and Hall into the article and Reedy removed them with the excuse, first of all, that Gibson didn’t say what he obviously said, and then with the excuse that Gibson was the only source and not reliable enough.

Reedy wants to sustain the fiction that there was no contemporaneous “doubt” and he will do whatever he can get away with to skew the article the way he wants it. He makes up claims that aren’t true and puts words into the mouths of his sources. If Tom wants to challenge me on any of this I’ll be happy to go into further detail.

Steinburg concludes that there is not much future in this sort of thing:

in Tom’s case….he has gotten away with inserting stuff he made up and lied about the citations. Wikipedia works in favor of orthodoxy. I learned this first hand. Roger learned it. Richard learned it. Others like Nina Green have learned it.

All institutions are imperfect. Wikipedia is no exception. Peer review is no exception. But these are probably the best ways we have of sorting out what is true.

The great danger to Shaksper orthodoxy (and other orthodoxies) is that alternative arguments are accepted in respected academic journals and appear in books endorsed by academia, and that universities and colleges provide courses that deal even-handedly with alternative theories.

Reedy knows this.

Stanley Wells has openly lamented the fact that anti-Stratfordian programs are appearing in respected academic institutions. This means that anti-orthodox opinion is going to become more and more citable in Wikipedia and at some point Tom’s going to run out of fingers to plug up the dike. The time is not far off when Wikipedia will be forced to treat anti-Stratfordianism (or whatever one chooses to call it) as `alternative theory’ rather than `fringe theory’. This is Tom’s worst nightmare…and its coming.

If so,  Steinburg’s new book, I Come to Bury Shaksper — which neither Tom Reedy nor his Amazon sidekick B.J. Robbins can bring themselves to actually debate — will deserve a significant amount of credit.

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, and renaissance literature, the latter a field in which he has published extensively


18 Responses to “Amazon Review of New Authorship Book Elicits Debate”

  1. Thomas Bruder says:

    They say that knowledge is power. After gaining a little life experience, I find it more often the case that power passes for knowledge.

    • Roger Stritmatter says:

      In the classical tragedians, like Sophocles, or for that matter in Lear, power is ignorance. But sometimes expecting the professors of literature to pay attention to what their texts are telling them is like trying to roll a ten ton boulder up Mt. St. Helens. : )

  2. William Ray says:

    Here is the text of my statement in the review comments about ‘I Come to Bury Shaksper’ by Steven McClarran, on the topic of the misattribution of the authorship of the Shakespeare canon to William Shaksper of Stratford. The particular point of discussion concerned dishonest practice on Wikipedia by the Stratfordian advocate, Tom Reedy:

    Dear Roger and others,

    I am late to this discussion, but I can testify to having looked at Wikipedia’s Shakespeare Authorship page, over which Mr. Reedy and a few like-minded participants have managed much influence. I read there that Mr. Reedy went out of his way to ridicule the name of one of his adversaries in the forum. It was a lowly act, and I presumed from it that no means are proscribed in the service of such an individual’s ambitions.

    I also testify that Mr. Reedy accused me, in another forum, of being in my dotage, when I differed with his views. I would have to leave the truth of that charge to third parties. But it supplies evidence of a petty disposition in the accuser. His manifest intelligence and application are thereby spoiled by ill intent.

    Matters of personality aside, there appears to be an inherent weakness in the Wikipedia system, which has been alluded to elsewhere, but I repeat it here.

    In matters of objective information, the respected authorities in a field are granted reasonable precedence in determining what content is granted a particular subject. This is an acceptable general rule. Those who really know should receive a hearing.

    But where a field’s sources of authority have been found to be in error, to contain faulty and contradictory evidence, or to deal in peremptory assertions, while still arrogating to its own authority the prevailing judgment of the subject, we should expect to find the precedent theory and its adherents, those shown to be speaking with uncertain probity, to be forbidden veto power. It is the simple rule against unfair self-interest.

    Wikipedia’s practice of giving veto power to the status quo under all conditions fosters a state of corruption, as in the Shakespeare Authorship page.

    Even those with a generous attitude toward mankind will not forgive that form of misuse. Bias does not serve the increase of knowledge. It may serve the satisfaction of the biased. But that is the (mis)use of knowledge for power rather than as edification.

    I would like to add that I have the greatest respect for Steven McClarran’s estimable monograph on Shakespeare, for Dr. Waugaman and his valuable researches, and for Dr. Stritmatter, a tenacious pioneer of truth in the Shakespeare identity field.

    They need not be concerned with petty criticisms but instead recall the words of Don Quixote, that he could be insulted only by an equal.

    The fictional character Don Quixote is said to have been modelled on the ‘White Knight of England’, who made a plenary challenge to combat in Palermo, Sicily for the sake of sport. It was the talk of the city. No one accepted, but they laughed and lampooned the Englishman and he laughed back. Cervantes was there that summer of 1575, under the command of Don John. We might divert ourselves with the thought then, that there is a direct spiritual thread from Edward de Vere, the very same White Knight, to Cervantes and Don Quixote, and down the generations to Mr. Tom Reedy.

    Thanks for this website and the best wishes on your book to be published next year.

    William Ray

  3. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Thank you, William!

    Not only will the Tempest book be published in 2013, but other books and articles are on the way…..

    The speculation of De Vere and Cervantes on the same jousting field is surely one to rile up the spleen of the documentarians. Yet I suspect that a closer reading of Don Quixote might turn up much of interest in that regard.

  4. knitwitted says:

    Per Mr. Reedy’s “that anyone who questions Shakespeare’s identity is an uneducated loser and a malcontent who is likely to end up drunk in a gutter before the decade is over.” As opposed to the high-school Stratfordian Irvin Matus?

  5. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Hey Knit, Thanks for the visit. Well, according to the Stratfordian legend, Mr. Matus was, just like the bard of Avon, an underprivileged genius. As it is not nice to speak ill of the dead, I will say no more about Mr. Matus’ background or qualifications. His book is a pseudo-intellectual disgrace and a confirmation that sometimes a little college is a good thing.

  6. knitwitted says:

    Hey! Do think it’s interesting how he gave up everything to pursue his passion. But funny how he wouldn’t write a bio of Shax until someone paid him.

  7. Roger Stritmatter says:

    I didn’t know that. What is your source for that?

  8. knitwitted says:

    “He toyed with the idea of writing a biography of Shakespeare, but he could not get a grant for the project.

    “He said he wasn’t going to do it until someone paid him,” Mann recalled. “

  9. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Aha. Thanks for the details and link. Matus was trying to turn his volunteer efforts on behalf of the giant lie in the sky into a paying proposition. He was not the first and will no doubt not be the last to try to follow this career path. At one point he was actually hired — without a bachelor’s degree! — as an adjunct in the English department of a well known (Ivy League???) college. But I guess they didn’t like him so he did not continue. I can’t imagine that he was a very good writing instructor.

  10. knitwitted says:

    More like he couldn’t afford to motivate his students. 😛

  11. Roger Stritmatter says:

    For the record, the Wikipedia entry to Brief Chronicles was deleted. In a prior debate, editors in favor of the entry’s “notability” prevailed. That was about the time that Reedy, Nishidani, Paul Barlowe and others, with help from other editors who deserve to be named but will be committed here in the hope that they have started to learn how badly they’ve behaved, began a campaign to eliminate wikipedia editors like Dr. Heward Wilkinson, Nina Green, and many others. They trumped the charges, got rid of them, put me on topic ban so I could not object, and then when they thought the coast was clear, they talked a third party into challenging once again the entry’s “notability.” Tom Reedy appeared as an actor in this charade to “sorta” say that the entry was notable.

    Wikipedians like those named above have become adept at using private communications to rig the outcomes of editorial discussions. I believe this is now being reviewed by Wikipedia. As far as I’m concerned at this point, I don’t care whether Wikipedia wants to tell the truth about this journal or whether it wants to continue letting that gang have the run of its internet halls like the spoiled children they’ve proven themselves to be.

    But this comment is just to explain why that link doesn’t work. There *was* a BC wikipedia page, and somewhere you may still be able to read the version that these editors hacked up, sent to a third party that specializes in such services, and then pulled from Wikipedia. They were gaming the system to try to foist off on the public something that didn’t even exist any more on wikipedia, as being a Wikipedia product. I guess that’s why they call themselves “Oxfrauds.”

  12. knitwitted says:

    I think you already know this but perhaps will be of help to other Shakespeare and the Bible students. I started a “Biblical Allusions in Shakespeare” page on Wikipedia which includes (in a “Sources” section) cites to yours and Dr. Waugaman’s *Notes and Queries* submissions. HTH

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