Who Reads this Blog, Anyway?

Posted By on August 16, 2015

Mr. Edward Pettit, looking very literary.

Mr. Edward Pettit, looking very literary.

By now nearly everyone except me who reads this blog has probably forgotten the Saga of Edward Pettit, the Philadelphia literary entrepreneur with whom I had a falling out over his proposed authorship “debate” in September 2011. Petitt is a Philadelphia legend among the literary folk for his work promoting Charles Dickens, but alas when it comes to Shakespeare, Petitt is as lost, believe it or not, as Stephen Greenblatt or James Shapiro. I know, that’s hard to believe, but read my blog entry, and you will see.

Looking back over some of the archives of the Stratford Birthplace Trust today I noticed for the first time an intriguing “coincidence.”  Now I should say that “coincidences” happen to me very often, for which I must apologize in advance to the reader. Normally I can keep them under control enough to complete a blog entry, but every once in a while one of them comes zooming in like a bolt of lightning and smacks me so hard that even my finely-honed conspiratoriological training can’t keep me from blogging on about it.

I try to stop, I really do.

Here on this  November 21 , 2011 “guest post”  on the Blogging Shakespeare Site is the same Edward Petitt my faithful readers had already read about two months before and heard announce in his own words what he was all about. Here’s some of what Petitt wrote on the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Site:

I began organizing talks at public libraries in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I even had a prominent Oxfordian agree to do an event at which we would square off, much like American Presidential candidates, in a no-holds-bar “debate”, with lots of press. Alas, the Oxfordian’s feet suddenly became very cold and he backed out before the first press release. I tried to find a replacement. The library tried. And a professional Shakespeare company in our area tried. But to no avail. Seems that Anonymous was not encouraging Oxfordians (nor any other Shakesconspiracists) to join the fray. Of course, after seeing the dreadful film, I’m not surprised.

Well, that’s a nice story Edward, but you didn’t reproduce any original documents in your account. If you read what I wrote in the linked blog, all the critical bits are carefully sourced. I quoted you; why can’t you quote me?

You don’t get to just make this sort of thing up as you please. You say I got “cold feet.”  I say I refused to debate you because you behaved like a prejudiced blowhard, and I don’t like people who act like that. Next time you want to write about me, I’d prefer you quote me on my own reasons, not lie about me to try to shore up your own shaken faith in a dying tradition.

The Blogging Shakespeare site is created for the SBT by the Misfits, that dynamic duo of AJ and Melissa Leon, who are I must say looking stunning in their new SBT photo-ops, along with their crowd-sourced gang of volunteers and irregulars like Tom Reedy, Mike Leadbetter, and a few dozen less-consumed hangers-on who occasionally can volunteer for a sneer at a Supreme Court Judge, a smack at Freud, or some hanky-panky with the footnotes of a psychoanalyst.

Peter Kyle, Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, credits these Misfits with

hav[ing] made possible some of the most innovative and internationally engaging work which the Trust has achieved in recent years.  Thanks to their unstinting support, tuition and practical advice, freely given, our staff have become confident and consistent users of social media platforms, and now we can claim confidently to be leading the world in the enjoyment of Shakespeare in the digital sphere.”

Now, I don’t know about you, dear reader, but to me, that’s a “wow.”  I can’t read it without thinking of John Stewart or Russell Brand.

Does Peter Kyle really believe that the Birthplace Trust, through blogs like Pettit’s, is “leading the world in the enjoyment of Shakespeare in the digital sphere”?

Of course he does!

He has to believe it. Its his job!

Now that we have that cleared up, let’s review the facts of the Petitt case:

1) In summer 2011 Edward Petitt and I spoke for the first time by phone after he had inquired to the SOF about a debating partner. He called me.

2) By mid-September, while still in the planning stages for the debate, I pulled out of the agreement for the reasons stated in my blog on Sept. 21.;

3) On November 27 of the same year, Petitt’s “guest blog,” trumping him up like The Donald, appeared on the SBT’s Blogging Shakespeare site, but made no link back to my previous commentary.  I think they would say in England that this is just not cricket.  This American would have to agree with them.

Actually, this sounds more like scared than leading.

It doesn’t take a PhD to see that a disgruntled Petitt teamed up with a perenially disgruntled Birthplace Trust to create this piece of puffery after Petitt had failed to engage in a legitimate business transaction.  A conspiracy?  No – just business as usual. But then, I live in Baltimore, so Tom Reedy says, don’t believe anything I say. Good night and sweet dreams.

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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