Folger Library on Lambarde Shakespeare “Signature”: It’s a Fraud, Get Over It….We Already Did

Posted By on January 31, 2014

The Wit and Wisdom of the Sage of Denton County: Tom Reedy’s Internet Poster Comparing Charlton Ogburn to Chico Marx.

While the “Public Relations expert of Denton County” was exercising his creativity by designing internet graphics phrenologically comparing the late Charlton Ogburn, Jr., to Chico Marx, I was corresponding with the Folger’s chief manuscript curator Heather Wolfe, PhD, about the “signature” on the title page of the library’s second copy of William Lambardes’ Archaionomia.

At the same time, in a move that reminds me of the military genius of the late Colonel George Custer, Oxfraud Facebook admins decided to promote the Archaionomia title page into the new banner for their discussion group.

Now, I know you are dying to know what Dr. Wolfe told me, but first let’s talk about the Marx brothers. I knew Charlton Ogburn, and let me assure you, he wouldn’t have been happy about being compared to Chico Marx.

No way.

Charlton was more of a Groucho guy.

Actually Charlton was especially fond of his own Groucho Marx routine, which he would frequently recite on long summer evenings on the lovely porch of his Beaufort, S.C. residence. I know because I sat there and listened to him.

Among his favorites was this one:

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

I was reminded of this aphorism recently because of Alexander Waugh’s famous remark that the internet ContraBardistas have lately been reduced to creating voice-overs for the “growl of a senile dog that refuses to get out of the car.” He was talking about the kind of dumb ad hominem exemplified in Colonel Reedy’s graphic of the late Mr. Ogburn — whose 1984 Mysterious William Shakespeare continues to be one of the most relevant and important works ever written on the Shakespearean question.

In the interest of the general edification, if not their own self-interest, one can only hope that  Reedy & Co. will, by hook or by crook, drag themselves out of the dog, if not out of the car, long enough to at least savor Dr. Wolfe’s words on the topic of the alleged authenticity of the Lambarde “signature”:

“I have no doubt that the signature is a forgery. It’s not an issue for us. We have many Shakespeare forgeries in the collection!” (email to R. Stritmatter, 1/29/2014)

Whoa….did an official representative of the Folger library, responsible for the professional curating and preservation of the document in question, actually just say that?

Yep (Figure One).

Figure One: Heather Wolfe’s 1/29/2014 Email to the Author. Click on the image for a readable version.

So much for  Reedy’s charming conclusion to his series of increasingly intemperate comments over the last few days in response to Farnsworth’s recent guest post questioning the legitimacy of the inscription:

“I have no idea why Roger thought you would be an appropriate guest to post on this topic [Snip….again, Tom, this is not acceptable for discussion….] ‘Intuition’ and ‘conjecture’ make up the sum of your argument, along with questioning the Folger’s integrity. My previous suggestion to read up on this and educate yourself about it still stands.”

This is what Alexander Waugh meant about the dangers of growling too much after dinner. Even before I had permission from Ms. Wolfe to quote from her email, Farnsworth  felt no need to respond to Reedy’s final round of provocation: “his last words aren’t worth responding to, and this whole exercise is about discussing ideas as part of the SAQ. People interested enough to read all the comments won’t be swayed one way or another by his last entry.”

The moral may seem unambiguous, but if past experience is any measure I’m sure that  Reedy & Co. will think up some way to make this sound more like D-Day than the battle of Little Big Horn.

Reviewing the Oxfraud playbook, usefully sampled by John D. Lavendoski on ShakesVere, Reedy has already used up most of the strategies, including those labelled by the Oxfraud philosopher in residence, Schopenhauer, as “claptrap,” “got out of a lunatic asylum,” or consisting of “chicanery” enabled by being “generally insolent” against an opponent.  At this point in time, with Reedy’s argument in tatters, Schopenhauer #XXIX may be advisable:

“If you find that you are being worsted, you can make a diversion—that is, you can suddenly begin to talk of something else, as though it had a bearing on the matter in dispute, and afforded an argument against your opponent.”

Here’s what I think, though — not being a wise man like Herr Schopenhauer. I think Mr. Reedy needs to extricate himself from the dog before making further maneuvers in operation Wilde Goose Chase.

Given that this is a bit like asking a reluctant colleague to undertake a twelve step program when he’s being paid to sit at a bar and swill all day, a little friendly pressure may be required; accordingly, comments on this blog post (as well as Farnsworth’s, where Reedy was already given the “last word”) are now closed.

If Mr. Reedy wants to complain about being treated unfairly, he can do that somewhere else. A more appropriate course of action, it seems to me, would be to revisit the Wikipedia entry on “Shakespeare’s Handwriting” and busy himself with updating it to include prominent reference to Dr. Wolfe’s informed opinion that the Lambarde “signature” is, as Farnsworth argued, a forgery.  At the very least you would think Reedy would now have the decency to remove the dishonest label on Wikipedia’s version of the bowdlerized image of the inscription which bluntly labels it a “signature.”

If Reedy doesn’t want to cite my blog as his source, I’ve uploaded a timestamped .jpg of Dr. Wolfe’s original communication, so he won’t even have to email me for the documentation.

An email may not be the ideal way to document this sort of finding, but personally I’ll wager Dr. Wolfe’s 64-word missive against all the blather that has issued from Reedy’s keyboard on this topic over the last few days, and even throw in the informed but ultimately circular reasoning of Nicholas Knight and the rest of the commentators who kept trying for more than the last sixty years to turn this pig’s ear into a silk purse.  The music has now stopped and Reedy is the one without a chair to sit in.

Before signing off, let’s consider some of the larger implications of this denouement (tragic as it is, if you’re an Oxfraud sympathesizer). There is a fundamental issue of credibility at stake here, and the credibility is not just that of Reedy, the semi-retired public relations Sheriff of Denton county. As anyone can see from the Wikipedia history page,   Reedy has been a regular and influential editor of the article in question, among many others. Indeed, Reedy and his Wiki sidekick the inimitable Paul Barlowe have been by far and away the most frequent and enthusiastic of recent editors to the page.

No, the legitimacy and authority of Wikipedia is at stake here. The question is, can  Reedy do the right thing to protect that authority, or is his “higher” allegiance to the wild goose of Avon so overwhelming that he will continue to turn a blind eye to the character of his own error?

Being a real scholar means sometimes changing your mind, admitting that you did so, and explaining why.

Or you can just stay in the dog.

Staying in the dog will keep you warm on a cold winter night,  but as Groucho says, it is difficult if not impossible to read from in there, so over time the relevance of your opinion grows dimmer and dimmer. So if you stay in the dog, don’t be surprised when people grow tired of the growling.

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.


One Response to “Folger Library on Lambarde Shakespeare “Signature”: It’s a Fraud, Get Over It….We Already Did”

  1. It should be added for the purposes of clarification that the real person who inspired the bit about sitting in the bar all day was a man I worked with under Manpower auspices whose job was to replace faulty parts on airplane supply chain items. He was not a happy camper. This was in the 1980s.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  • Categories

  • Archives

In "From Crackpot to Mainstream"Keir Cutler, PhD, takes down the recent Shakespeare Beyond Doubt (OUP, 2013)

Criticism of Cutler's "Is Shakespeare Dead?": "A magnificently witty performance!" (Winnipeg Sun). "Highly entertaining and engrossing!" (EYE Weekly). "Is Shakespeare Dead? marshals startling facts into an elegant and often tenacious argument that floats on a current of delicious irony" (Montreal Gazette).