Saturday, October 16, 2010

Joseph Sobran legacy

In the death of Joseph Sobran on September 30, 2010 the literary community lost a superb writer and William Shakespeare lost a brilliant advocate. Sobran’s polemic on the topic of the Shakespeare authorship, Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time, was published in 1997 by Simon & Schuster.

In December 1999 Sobran defined his viewpoint in "How Old Was Oxford's Daughter and When Did William Lose his Hair?", a reply to academic criticism of his work:
. . . in my view the balance of nature requires that some of us nonscholars be able to detect fraudulent scholarship. That is what Alias Shakespeare is meant to do.
Bogus scholarship is especially rife in academic Shakespeare studies, which are based on the dubious dogma that William of Stratford was, beyond doubt, the poet-dramatist we call “Shakespeare.” The scholars, their reputations at stake, can’t afford to admit that there is any question whatsoever about this. Alias Shakespeare tries to show how badly they have erred in their own field, by belittling and ignoring ample evidence that William didn’t write the Shakespeare works — and that Oxford did. They literally don’t know the first thing about their subject: who he was.
With Stalinist discipline, the academic party line requires William’s partisans to deny that there is any room for reasonable doubt of William’s claim (or rather, the claim made for him, which he may never have made himself), and to insist that those who do doubt his claim have never, in more than a century of controversy, raised a single valid point.
On the private Phaeton email list October 1, 2010, Shakespeare Authorship Coalition director John Shahan honored Sobran for his anti-Stratfordian contributions. Shahan said Sobran was helpful to him in writing and critiquing SAC's "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt". He called Sobran, " . . . intellectually brilliant, witty, a great debater, and always most gracious." Shahan’s comments are quoted here with his permission:
(Sobran) put most orthodox scholars to shame with his knowledge of Shakespeare, whom he truly loved.
One anecdote that I'll always remember about Joe, even though I only heard about it secondhand, was the way he dealt with Alan Nelson during a debate when Nelson repeatedly used the word "absolutely" in making points when arguing from authority about matters of opinion, as in "Oxford's verse is  'absolutely' unlike  Shakespeare's."
Sobran finally said "Alan, I wish I could be as absolutely certain about anything having to do with the authorship question as you are absolutely certain about everything." The audience cracked up, and Nelson, who uses "absolutely" so habitually that he couldn't help himself, was flummoxed when the audience chuckled every time he did. Joe confirmed this for me.
One of Joe's favorite debate stories was when he put this question to David Kathman: "We Oxfordians are in the position of having to argue that the First Folio testimony is wrong -- that it's a put-on, and that the works themselves would seem to have been written by someone like Oxford, not Shakspere. Suppose the shoe was on the other foot, and the First Folio had said that Oxford as the author. What could you point to in the works to argue that they were written by Shakspere, not Oxford?" All Kathman could say was "What a strange question!"
Joe made the observation that Stratfordians are forced to try to rule out as evidence any arguments based on the content of the works, but that in legal proceedings when one side argues that evidence should be excluded, that side tacitly admits that it favors the other side. Stratfordians do not want to admit that. It's too bad he wasn't able to write a review of James Shapiro's Contested Will. He would have had a field day with the idea that an author's works don't reflect his life. Note: It turns out that Sobran did write a column about Shapiro’s book, “Bard Thou Never Wert” April, 27, 2010.
Also commenting on Phaeton October 3, 2010, De Vere Society Secretary Richard Malim said, “Sobran’s contribution to the appreciation of Oxford’s poetry as ‘Shakespeare’s’ juvenilia is unsurpassed.”

Malim said Sobran’s essay on this topic appeared in the De Vere Society Newlsetter, Vol. 2, January 1996, p. 5 (beginning on p. 12) and was reprinted as Essay #15 in the society’s publication Great Oxford. The book is available for $18 plus shipping by contacting Elizabeth Imlay c/o Parapress Ltd., The Basement, 9 Frant Road, Tunbridge Wells TN2 5SD UK, or email: Malim further noted that a version of this essay appeared in the appendix of Alias Shakespeare.

On October 3, 2010 on Phaeton, BK McDonald favorably compared Sobran to another Shakespeare skeptic, Mark Twain, citing Twain’s famous anti-Stratfordian essay, “Is Shakespeare Dead?” from Twain's Autobiography.

In his Oct. 1, 2010 VDARE blog entry titled "Jared Taylor remembers Joe Sobran" author and editor Jared Taylor quoted Joe Sobran on the promotion of Alias Shakespeare:
When Joe’s book on the Shakespeare authorship question, Alias Shakespeare, appeared in 1997, he lamented that try as he might, he couldn’t get the publisher to use what he was convinced was a brilliant advertising line: "He’s queer. He’s here. He’s Edward De Vere."
Shakespeare's "queerness" was the issue that goaded Sobran to defy the academy with the publication of Alias Shakespeare. Sobran considered the content of the sonnets celebrated intense emotional and physical desire for a man as well as a woman -- revealing an author of ambiguous sexual orientation.

Sobran's support of this "queer" analysis is rejected by many in both traditionalist Stratfordian and renegade non-Stratfordian camps alike. His viewpoint is supported, however, by the analysis of Richard Waugaman, MD in his recent article, "The Bisexuality of Shakespeare's Sonnets and Implications for De Vere's Authorship" published in The Psychoanalytic Review, Vol. 97, Vol. 5 (Oct., 2010) (not yet available online). Waugaman will make the article available to interested readers by contacting him at

Joseph Sobran obituaries:
John F. McManus in New American Oct. 1, 2010
William Grimes in New York Times , Oct. 1, 2010

Sources: Jared Taylor Remembers Joe Sobran Joe Sobran: How Old Was Oxford’s Daughter . . . ? Mark Twain: Is Shakespeare Dead? Shakespeare Authorship Coalition Nina Green's primary source website

Thanks for generous contributions to: BK McDonald, Richard Malim, John Shahan, Phaeton owner Nina Green, and Richard Waugaman, MD

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