Saturday, November 19, 2011

It would appear, according to a review in a newspaper, that there are something like 700 biographies of Adolf Hitler. It beggars the imagination. How can there possibly be 700 books written on the life of one person, major historical figure or otherwise? Could they be solely on the life of the man or do they include wider histories of the Nazi era? I wonder. It must be a typo surely. Even 70 is pushing it somewhat. No other persons have ever had that much written about them. There are quite a few books written on various historical figures but 700? Amazon lists a hundred but even those are not all complete biographies but encompass various aspects of the time and events for example the German/Russian pact. Oops! Just out of interest went to Wikipedia and learn there are not hundreds but thousands of books on Hitler! So maybe 700 ain’t no exaggeration after all. The review in question was actually not about Hitler at all but about Eva Braun and the mention of 700 was by-the-by, in contrast to which the poor, I can’t help the feeling from seeing her home movies, rather stupid girl has only had three or four books written about her. Not surprising really. Apart from brown nosing Adolf what is there to say about her? Saw the film on Hitler’s downfall, an excellent essay and if accurate, as I presume it must have been, based partly on the memoirs of Hitler’s secretary in his last days, I’m really not surprised the man is still of so much fascinated interest.

And now we have yet another biography of Willy Shagspaw. Considering, in contrast, how little is known about him, how many more ‘I guess it must have been this way’ kind of biographies can we get? This one is called ‘Nine Lives of William Shakespeare’ by Graham Holderness. Now what does Professor (or is it Doctor?) Holderness know that we don’t know, or that hasn’t been conjectured up in previous essays into the secret life of the bard’s lost years? According to the headline of the review I have just read, our poet spent his time drinking and chasing older women. Now where did Professor Holderness get that from? That as a callow youth Willy married a lady a few years older than himself? Anne wasn’t a thirteen year old Juliet but neither was she exactly approaching middle age. Can the good professor put names to all the other older women Willy was supposed to have pursued? And what about his infatuation (if I may call it that,) with Mr. W.H. as evinced in the sonnets? “The master mistress of my heart’s passion.” As for the drinking, I am sure he quaffed his ale no more or less than any other man of the period and, if he drank to excess, where did he find the time to write the poetry and all those wonderful plays as well as rehearse and act in them? I don’t think a mind befuddled with alcohol could produce such work. Which brings us back to the conundrum of who did write them if it wasn’t Willy, and the new film out called ‘Anonymous’ pleads the cause of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford. There is nothing new here. This debate has been going on for ages and will always ruffle Stratfordian feathers. I think I mentioned before that contenders in the slips are Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe. There is a lovely story about a group having an argument as to whether it was Bacon or Shakespeare who was the true author. W.S.Gilbert, he of Gilbert and Sullivan fame and a bit of a wag, sat listening to this for a while and then said, ‘Why don’t you dig them both up, lay the coffins side by side and get Beerbohm Tree to recite from Hamlet? Whichever body turns over - that’s your author.

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