Customer Review

on February 19, 2011
I cannot recommend this book.

In the interest of full disclosure I will note for the record that Professor Shapiro does discuss my 2001 PhD dissertation, and the circumstances of it's defense on pp. 214-215 (advance reader's edition). I can say with confidence that if the lack of scholarship evident on those pages is any indication (and based on other portions of the book with which I have some familiarity, it is), then this book is not a work of real scholarship but a con job.

I will cite just one small but critical piece of evidence in support of this conclusion:

On p. 215 Shapiro approvingly quotes Dr. Alan Nelson as having said, after examining the marginalia of the de Vere Bible, "the hand is simply not the hand that wrote [Oxford's] letters." It is true that Nelson said this, in a 6/4/99 interview for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

But this was only after he had already said the opposite, in an email of which I preserve a copy:

6/3/95, personal communication to R. Stritmatter and Phaeton online discussion forum: "I am 99 and 44/100 percent certain that the annotating hand is Oxford's; I am 100 percent sure (if its possible to be that) that the Bible is Oxford's."

Why did Nelson change his mind?

Well, only Nelson can really clarify how it could happen that a "99.44%" probability could turn into a probability so vanishingly tiny that it became permissible to slam anyone who thought otherwise as ignorant. It is interesting to note, however, that in conjunction with his 1995 statement Nelson also declared that he "did not believe" in any connection between the de Vere Bible annotations and Shakespeare. When I asked him at that time the basis for this belief, he did not dignify me with a reply.

It might reasonably be conjectured therefore that by 1999 Nelson had become aware of the potentially embarrassing nature of his admission that the handwriting was de Vere's, especially in view of the fact that his "belief" in the impossibility of a connection between the Bible annotations and Shakespeare was threatened by mounting evidence to the contrary. Orthodoxy needed a shill, and Nelson was willing to fall on the sword of his own reputation for the "greater good" of the industry that employed him by doing an "about face." It could be assumed that no one would pay any attention to a 1995 email now that he had "told the truth" to the *Chronicle of Higher Education*. And even if the truth finally did trickle out, it would take so long that the reputations of the living would be protected from the scandal of their own error.

If Shapiro had read my dissertation before writing his book, he would have known all this. Perhaps he did and he doesn't care. But Shapiro also manages to ignore the professional opinion of forensic document expert Emily Will, whose detailed report, included in an appendix of my dissertation, concurs with Nelson's original estimation of the virtual certainty of the identity between the Bible annotations and the hand responsible for de Vere's extant letters.

Of course, none of this finds any place in Shapiro's book. His purpose is not to tell the complex and sometimes convoluted intellectual history of the authorship question, but to attack anyone who takes the subject seriously as some sort of ignoramus or Crypto-Nazi. He should be ashamed of himself.
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