by Linda Theil
Ernest Hemingway may be added to the list of Shakespeare authorship skeptics thanks to Nina Green finding a Hemingway letter to Scribner editor Maxwell Perkins. Hemingway opens the letter datelined August 27, 1942 “La Finca Vigia” with praise for Alden Brooks’ Will Shakespeare and the Dyer’s Hand (Scribners, 1943) wherein Brooks proposes Sir Edward Dyer as the true author of Shakespeare’s plays.
Dear Max: Thank you very much for sending me the galleys from Alden Brooks's Shakespeare book. I think it is very possible, as he told me last fall in Tucson, that he has really nailed the man at last. He is so enthusiastic and follows so like a bloodhound and a district attorney with a record for convictions, on the trail of poor Will that he will alienate many people, but as you say he piles up a terrific amount of evidence. Anyway, it is a marvelous job and it would be a crime for it not to be published. He is a good man too and was a fine soldier. . . .
Max Perkins had been shepherding the authorship book through the editorial process at Scribner’s, and had shared his enthusiasm for the work with Hemingway. Perkins biographer, A. Scott Berg, reported in Max Perkins: Editor of Genius (NAL 1979):
In 1942 Perkins was reading proofs of a book that did get published only because of his obstinacy. It was Alden Brooks’s Will Shakespeare and the Dyer’s Hand. For some time the book had been a mania with him. At every editorial conference Perkins brought it up and the board unanimously voted it down. “So, being a man of infinite patience,” one Scribners employee recalled, “he would introduce his suggestion at the next conference, with the same result.” What charmed Perkins about the work was that it credited Sir Edward Dyer, an editor with Shakespeare’s success. Indeed, the book had convinced Perkins that “the man Shakespeare was not the author of what we consider Shakespeare’s works.” Eventually the board gave in, to please Perkins. Max sent copies to many critics, hoping to rouse support. Nearly every one dismissed the work as mere speculation. Still Perkins retained his faith in the book and his respect for it. It made him aware, he told Hemingway, “how frightfully ignorant I am in literature, where a publishing man ought not to be.” (pp 398-9)
Perkins’ devotion to Brooks’ heretical Shakespeare authorship work is well-known to longtime authorship researchers. In a July 26, 2016 post on Hank Whittemore’s Shakespeare Blog, Whittemore detailed the topic in a post titled “Max Perkins to Ernest Hemingway: “That Stratford Man Ain’t No Shakespeare!”
In the article, Whittemore quotes an August 13, 1942 letter from Perkins to Hemingway published in From Editor to Author: The Letters of Maxwell E. Perkins (Scribners, 1950) by J.H. Wheelock. The entire letter is quoted in Editor to Author. . .; Whittemore focussed on the final paragraph that reads:
I am trying to read proofs on Alden's book, and it is most interesting. It is certain, to my mind, that the man Shakespeare was not the author of what we consider Shakespeare's works.
Until last week when the question came up on Nina Green’s Phaeton email list, no Hemingway response on the topic of Shakespeare authorship was generally known; but, on October 29, 2017 Nina Green wrote on Phaeton:
I’ve received a reply to the e-mail I sent to the Hemingway Letters Project advising that Hemingway did mention Alden Brooks’s book on the authorship issue in a letter to Maxwell Perkins dated 27 August 1942. The letter is on p. 539 of Carlos Baker’s Hemingway: Selected Letters (Scribner’s, 1981). It appears Perkins had sent Hemingway galley proofs of [Will] Shakespeare and the Dyer’s Hand, and in his letter to Perkins, Hemingway apparently says Brooks did “a marvelous job”.
I’m hoping to get hold of a copy of Carlos Baker’s book containing that letter at the university library later today, and will post more once I have it.
Hemingway refers to Alden Brooks’s book on the Shakespeare
authorship in a letter to Maxwell Perkins dated 27 August 1942.
Carlos Baker’s Hemingway: Selected Letters (Scribner’s, 1981), p. 539.
The result of Green's efforts is the August 27, 1942 Hemingway quotation posted at the top of this article and the photos shown above. Hemingway letters after 1931 are not yet available on the Hemingway Letters Project site.
Hank Whittemore, https://hankwhittemore.com/2016/07/26/max-perkins-to-ernest-hemingway-that-stratford-man-aint-no-shakespeare/
Hemingway Letters Project, https://www.hemingwaysociety.org/hemingway-letters-project
Nina Green's The Oxford Authorship Site, http://www.oxford-shakespeare.com/documents.html