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A Speculation Regarding Shakespeare..

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The presumptions of the cryptogram theorists are hardly more preposterous than are the self- contradictory explanations of Shakespeare's alleged conduct in the last eight or ten years of his life. Miss Bacon, in 1853, tells, in one of her letters, how she told Thomas Carlyle that no one who knew the plays attributed to Shakespeare could believe Shakespeare wrote them. "It was then," wrote she, "that Carlyle began to shriek. You could have heard him a mile!" The shriek was natural, and should ha...ve settled the controversy. But the method of reasoning which concludes that Shakespeare's "highest ambition was to restore the family repute," and that his "literary achieve- ments were chiefly valued as serving the prosaic end of providing permanently for himself and his daughters," merely because of absence of specific contemporary testimony that he was like other great literary artists in his devotion to ideal, as opposed to mercenary and materiahstic, standards of achievement — this method of reason- ing — or, better say, of confusing reason- — might well be held respon- sible for the modern "war to the knife against Shakespeare's per- sonality," as Brandes puts it, and for the wild speculations of the Baconians from Joseph Hart to Ignatius Donnelly.

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