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´╗┐Title: Is Shakespeare Dead? from my autobiography
Author: Twain, Mark, 1835-1910
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Is Shakespeare Dead? from my autobiography" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Transcribed from the 1909 Harper & Brothers edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org.  Proofing by Alan Ross, Ana Charlton and David.

                            IS SHAKESPEARE DEAD?

                          FROM MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY

                                MARK TWAIN

                       HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
                           NEW YORK AND LONDON
                                M C M I X


Scattered here and there through the stacks of unpublished manuscript
which constitute this formidable Autobiography and Diary of mine, certain
chapters will in some distant future be found which deal with
"Claimants"--claimants historically notorious: Satan, Claimant; the
Golden Calf, Claimant; the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, Claimant; Louis
XVII., Claimant; William Shakespeare, Claimant; Arthur Orton, Claimant;
Mary Baker G. Eddy, Claimant--and the rest of them.  Eminent Claimants,
successful Claimants, defeated Claimants, royal Claimants, pleb
Claimants, showy Claimants, shabby Claimants, revered Claimants, despised
Claimants, twinkle starlike here and there and yonder through the mists
of history and legend and tradition--and oh, all the darling tribe are
clothed in mystery and romance, and we read about them with deep interest
and discuss them with loving sympathy or with rancorous resentment,
according to which side we hitch ourselves to.  It has always been so
with the human race.  There was never a Claimant that couldn't get a
hearing, nor one that couldn't accumulate a rapturous following, no
matter how flimsy and apparently unauthentic his claim might be.  Arthur
Orton's claim that he was the lost Tichborne baronet come to life again
was as flimsy as Mrs. Eddy's that she wrote _Science and Health_ from the
direct dictation of the Deity; yet in England near forty years ago Orton
had a huge army of devotees and incorrigible adherents, many of whom
remained stubbornly unconvinced after their fat god had been proven an
impostor and jailed as a perjurer, and to-day Mrs. Eddy's following is
not only immense, but is daily augmenting in numbers and enthusiasm.
Orton had many fine and educated minds among his adherents, Mrs. Eddy has
had the like among hers from the beginning.  Her church is as well
equipped in those particulars as is any other church.  Claimants can
always count upon a following, it doesn't matter who they are, nor what
they claim, nor whether they come with documents or without.  It was
always so.  Down out of the long-vanished past, across the abyss of the
ages, if you listen you can still hear the believing multitudes shouting
for Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel.

A friend has sent me a new book, from England--_The Shakespeare Problem
Restated_--well restated and closely reasoned; and my fifty years'
interest in that matter--asleep for the last three years--is excited once
more.  It is an interest which was born of Delia Bacon's book--away back
in that ancient day--1857, or maybe 1856.  About a year later my
pilot-master, Bixby, transferred me from his own steamboat to the
_Pennsylvania_, and placed me under the orders and instructions of George
Ealer--dead now, these many, many years.  I steered for him a good many
months--as was the humble duty of the pilot-apprentice: stood a daylight
watch and spun the wheel under the severe superintendence and correction
of the master.  He was a prime chess player and an idolater of
Shakespeare.  He would play chess with anybody; even with me, and it cost
his official dignity something to do that.  Also--quite uninvited--he
would read Shakespeare to me; not just casually, but by the hour, when it
was his watch, and I was steering.  He read well, but not profitably for
me, because he constantly injected commands into the text.  That broke it
all up, mixed it all up, tangled it all up--to that degree, in fact, that
if we were in a risky and difficult piece of river an ignorant person
couldn't have told, sometimes, which observations were Shakespeare's and
which were Ealer's.  For instance:

    What man dare, _I_ dare!

    Approach thou _what_ are you laying in the leads for? what a hell of
    an idea! like the rugged ease her off a little, ease her off! rugged
    Russian bear, the armed rhinoceros or the _there_ she goes! meet her,
    meet her! didn't you _know_ she'd smell the reef if you crowded it
    like that?  Hyrcan tiger; take any shape but that and my firm nerves
    she'll be in the _woods_ the first you know! stop the starboard! come
    ahead strong on the larboard! back the starboard! . . . _Now_ then,
    you're all right; come ahead on the starboard; straighten up and go
    'long, never tremble: or be alive again, and dare me to the desert
    damnation can't you keep away from that greasy water? pull her down!
    snatch her! snatch her baldheaded! with thy sword; if trembling I
    inhabit then, lay in the leads!--no, only the starboard one, leave
    the other alone, protest me the baby of a girl.  Hence horrible
    shadow! eight bells--that watchman's asleep again, I reckon, go down
    and call Brown yourself, unreal mockery, hence!

He certainly was a good reader, and splendidly thrilling and stormy and
tragic, but it was a damage to me, because I have never since been able
to read Shakespeare in a calm and sane way.  I cannot rid it of his
explosive interlardings, they break in everywhere with their irrelevant
"What in hell are you up to _now_! pull her down! more! _more_!--there
now, steady as you go," and the other disorganizing interruptions that
were always leaping from his mouth.  When I read Shakespeare now, I can
hear them as plainly as I did in that long-departed time--fifty-one years
ago.  I never regarded Ealer's readings as educational.  Indeed they were
a detriment to me.

His contributions to the text seldom improved it, but barring that detail
he was a good reader, I can say that much for him.  He did not use the
book, and did not need to; he knew his Shakespeare as well as Euclid ever
knew his multiplication table.

Did he have something to say--this Shakespeare-adoring Mississippi
pilot--anent Delia Bacon's book?  Yes.  And he said it; said it all the
time, for months--in the morning watch, the middle watch, the dog watch;
and probably kept it going in his sleep.  He bought the literature of the
dispute as fast as it appeared, and we discussed it all through thirteen
hundred miles of river four times traversed in every thirty-five
days--the time required by that swift boat to achieve two round trips.
We discussed, and discussed, and discussed, and disputed and disputed and
disputed; at any rate he did, and I got in a word now and then when he
slipped a cog and there was a vacancy.  He did his arguing with heat,
with energy, with violence; and I did mine with the reserve and
moderation of a subordinate who does not like to be flung out of a
pilot-house that is perched forty feet above the water.  He was fiercely
loyal to Shakespeare and cordially scornful of Bacon and of all the
pretensions of the Baconians.  So was I--at first.  And at first he was
glad that that was my attitude.  There were even indications that he
admired it; indications dimmed, it is true, by the distance that lay
between the lofty boss-pilotical altitude and my lowly one, yet
perceptible to me; perceptible, and translatable into a
compliment--compliment coming down from above the snow-line and not well
thawed in the transit, and not likely to set anything afire, not even a
cub-pilot's self-conceit; still a detectable compliment, and precious.

Naturally it flattered me into being more loyal to Shakespeare--if
possible--than I was before, and more prejudiced against Bacon--if
possible than I was before.  And so we discussed and discussed, both on
the same side, and were happy.  For a while.  Only for a while.  Only for
a very little while, a very, very, very little while.  Then the
atmosphere began to change; began to cool off.

A brighter person would have seen what the trouble was, earlier than I
did, perhaps, but I saw it early enough for all practical purposes.  You
see, he was of an argumentative disposition.  Therefore it took him but a
little time to get tired of arguing with a person who agreed with
everything he said and consequently never furnished him a provocative to
flare up and show what he could do when it came to clear, cold, hard,
rose-cut, hundred-faceted, diamond-flashing reasoning.  That was his name
for it.  It has been applied since, with complacency, as many as several
times, in the Bacon-Shakespeare scuffle.  On the Shakespeare side.

Then the thing happened which has happened to more persons than to me
when principle and personal interest found themselves in opposition to
each other and a choice had to be made: I let principle go, and went over
to the other side.  Not the entire way, but far enough to answer the
requirements of the case.  That is to say, I took this attitude, to wit:
I only _believed_ Bacon wrote Shakespeare, whereas I _knew_ Shakespeare
didn't.  Ealer was satisfied with that, and the war broke loose.  Study,
practice, experience in handling my end of the matter presently enabled
me to take my new position almost seriously; a little bit later, utterly
seriously; a little later still, lovingly, gratefully, devotedly;
finally: fiercely, rabidly, uncompromisingly.  After that, I was welded
to my faith, I was theoretically ready to die for it, and I looked down
with compassion not unmixed with scorn, upon everybody else's faith that
didn't tally with mine.  That faith, imposed upon me by self-interest in
that ancient day, remains my faith to-day, and in it I find comfort,
solace, peace, and never-failing joy.  You see how curiously theological
it is.  The "rice Christian" of the Orient goes through the very same
steps, when he is after rice and the missionary is after _him_; he goes
for rice, and remains to worship.

Ealer did a lot of our "reasoning"--not to say substantially all of it.
The slaves of his cult have a passion for calling it by that large name.
We others do not call our inductions and deductions and reductions by any
name at all.  They show for themselves, what they are, and we can with
tranquil confidence leave the world to ennoble them with a title of its
own choosing.

Now and then when Ealer had to stop to cough, I pulled my
induction-talents together and hove the controversial lead myself: always
getting eight feet, eight-and-a-half, often nine, sometimes even
quarter-less-twain--as _I_ believed; but always "no bottom," as _he_

I got the best of him only once.  I prepared myself.  I wrote out a
passage from Shakespeare--it may have been the very one I quoted a while
ago, I don't remember--and riddled it with his wild steamboatful
interlardings.  When an unrisky opportunity offered, one lovely summer
day, when we had sounded and buoyed a tangled patch of crossings known as
Hell's Half Acre, and were aboard again and he had sneaked the
Pennsylvania triumphantly through it without once scraping sand, and the
_A. T. Lacey_ had followed in our wake and got stuck, and he was feeling
good, I showed it to him.  It amused him.  I asked him to fire it off:
read it; read it, I diplomatically added, as only he could read dramatic
poetry.  The compliment touched him where he lived.  He did read it; read
it with surpassing fire and spirit; read it as it will never be read
again; for _he_ knew how to put the right music into those thunderous
interlardings and make them seem a part of the text, make them sound as
if they were bursting from Shakespeare's own soul, each one of them a
golden inspiration and not to be left out without damage to the massed
and magnificent whole.

I waited a week, to let the incident fade; waited longer; waited until he
brought up for reasonings and vituperation my pet position, my pet
argument, the one which I was fondest of, the one which I prized far
above all others in my ammunition-wagon, to wit: that Shakespeare
couldn't have written Shakespeare's works, for the reason that the man
who wrote them was limitlessly familiar with the laws, and the
law-courts, and law-proceedings, and lawyer-talk, and lawyer-ways--and if
Shakespeare was possessed of the infinitely-divided star-dust that
constituted this vast wealth, how did he get it, and _where_, and _when_?

"From books."

From books!  That was always the idea.  I answered as my readings of the
champions of my side of the great controversy had taught me to answer:
that a man can't handle glibly and easily and comfortably and
successfully the _argot_ of a trade at which he has not personally
served.  He will make mistakes; he will not, and cannot, get the
trade-phrasings precisely and exactly right; and the moment he departs,
by even a shade, from a common trade-form, the reader who has served that
trade will know the writer _hasn't_.  Ealer would not be convinced; he
said a man could learn how to correctly handle the subtleties and
mysteries and free-masonries of any trade by careful reading and
studying.  But when I got him to read again the passage from Shakespeare
with the interlardings, he perceived, himself, that books couldn't teach
a student a bewildering multitude of pilot-phrases so thoroughly and
perfectly that he could talk them off in book and play or conversation
and make no mistake that a pilot would not immediately discover.  It was
a triumph for me.  He was silent awhile, and I knew what was happening:
he was losing his temper.  And I knew he would presently close the
session with the same old argument that was always his stay and his
support in time of need; the same old argument, the one I couldn't
answer--because I dasn't: the argument that I was an ass, and better shut
up.  He delivered it, and I obeyed.

Oh, dear, how long ago it was--how pathetically long ago!  And here am I,
old, forsaken, forlorn and alone, arranging to get that argument out of
somebody again.

When a man has a passion for Shakespeare, it goes without saying that he
keeps company with other standard authors.  Ealer always had several
high-class books in the pilot-house, and he read the same ones over and
over again, and did not care to change to newer and fresher ones.  He
played well on the flute, and greatly enjoyed hearing himself play.  So
did I.  He had a notion that a flute would keep its health better if you
took it apart when it was not standing a watch; and so, when it was not
on duty it took its rest, disjointed, on the compass-shelf under the
breast-board.  When the _Pennsylvania_ blew up and became a drifting
rack-heap freighted with wounded and dying poor souls (my young brother
Henry among them), pilot Brown had the watch below, and was probably
asleep and never knew what killed him; but Ealer escaped unhurt.  He and
his pilot-house were shot up into the air; then they fell, and Ealer sank
through the ragged cavern where the hurricane deck and the boiler deck
had been, and landed in a nest of ruins on the main deck, on top of one
of the unexploded boilers, where he lay prone in a fog of scalding and
deadly steam.  But not for long.  He did not lose his head: long
familiarity with danger had taught him to keep it, in any and all
emergencies.  He held his coat-lappels to his nose with one hand, to keep
out the steam, and scrabbled around with the other till he found the
joints of his flute, then he is took measures to save himself alive, and
was successful.  I was not on board.  I had been put ashore in New
Orleans by Captain Klinefelter.  The reason--however, I have told all
about it in the book called _Old Times on the Mississippi_, and it isn't
important anyway, it is so long ago.


When I was a Sunday-school scholar something more than sixty years ago, I
became interested in Satan, and wanted to find out all I could about him.
I began to ask questions, but my class-teacher, Mr. Barclay the
stone-mason, was reluctant about answering them, it seemed to me.  I was
anxious to be praised for turning my thoughts to serious subjects when
there wasn't another boy in the village who could be hired to do such a
thing.  I was greatly interested in the incident of Eve and the serpent,
and thought Eve's calmness was perfectly noble.  I asked Mr. Barclay if
he had ever heard of another woman who, being approached by a serpent,
would not excuse herself and break for the nearest timber.  He did not
answer my question, but rebuked me for inquiring into matters above my
age and comprehension.  I will say for Mr. Barclay that he was willing to
tell me the facts of Satan's history, but he stopped there: he wouldn't
allow any discussion of them.

In the course of time we exhausted the facts.  There were only five or
six of them, you could set them all down on a visiting-card.  I was
disappointed.  I had been meditating a biography, and was grieved to find
that there were no materials.  I said as much, with the tears running
down.  Mr. Barclay's sympathy and compassion were aroused, for he was a
most kind and gentle-spirited man, and he patted me on the head and
cheered me up by saying there was a whole vast ocean of materials!  I can
still feel the happy thrill which these blessed words shot through me.

Then he began to bail out that ocean's riches for my encouragement and
joy.  Like this: it was "conjectured"--though not established--that Satan
was originally an angel in heaven; that he fell; that he rebelled, and
brought on a war; that he was defeated, and banished to perdition.  Also,
"we have reason to believe" that later he did so-and-so; that "we are
warranted in supposing" that at a subsequent time he travelled
extensively, seeking whom he might devour; that a couple of centuries
afterward, "as tradition instructs us," he took up the cruel trade of
tempting people to their ruin, with vast and fearful results; that
by-and-by, "as the probabilities seem to indicate," he may have done
certain things, he might have done certain other things, he must have
done still other things.

And so on and so on.  We set down the five known facts by themselves, on
a piece of paper, and numbered it "page 1"; then on fifteen hundred other
pieces of paper we set down the "conjectures," and "suppositions," and
"maybes," and "perhapses," and "doubtlesses," and "rumors," and
"guesses," and "probabilities," and "likelihoods," and "we are permitted
to thinks," and "we are warranted in believings," and "might have beens,"
and "could have beens," and "must have beens," and "unquestionablys," and
"without a shadow of doubts"--and behold!

_Materials_?  Why, we had enough to build a biography of Shakespeare!

Yet he made me put away my pen; he would not let me write the history of
Satan.  Why?  Because, as he said, he had suspicions; suspicions that my
attitude in this matter was not reverent; and that a person must be
reverent when writing about the sacred characters.  He said any one who
spoke flippantly of Satan would be frowned upon by the religious world
and also be brought to account.

I assured him, in earnest and sincere words, that he had wholly
misconceived my attitude; that I had the highest respect for Satan, and
that my reverence for him equalled, and possibly even exceeded, that of
any member of any church.  I said it wounded me deeply to perceive by his
words that he thought I would make fun of Satan, and deride him, laugh at
him, scoff at him: whereas in truth I had never thought of such a thing,
but had only a warm desire to make fun of those others and laugh at
_them_.  "What others?"  "Why, the Supposers, the Perhapsers, the
Might-Have-Beeners, the Could-Have-Beeners, the Must-Have-Beeners, the
Without-a-Shadow-of-Doubters, the We-are-Warranted-in-Believingers, and
all that funny crop of solemn architects who have taken a good solid
foundation of five indisputable and unimportant facts and built upon it a
Conjectural Satan thirty miles high."

What did Mr. Barclay do then?  Was he disarmed?  Was he silenced?  No.
He was shocked.  He was so shocked that he visibly shuddered.  He said
the Satanic Traditioners and Perhapsers and Conjecturers were
_themselves_ sacred!  As sacred as their work.  So sacred that whoso
ventured to mock them or make fun of their work, could not afterward
enter any respectable house, even by the back door.

How true were his words, and how wise!  How fortunate it would have been
for me if I had heeded them.  But I was young, I was but seven years of
age, and vain, foolish, and anxious to attract attention.  I wrote the
biography, and have never been in a respectable house since.


How curious and interesting is the parallel--as far as poverty of
biographical details is concerned--between Satan and Shakespeare.  It is
wonderful, it is unique, it stands quite alone, there is nothing
resembling it in history, nothing resembling it in romance, nothing
approaching it even in tradition.  How sublime is their position, and how
over-topping, how sky-reaching, how supreme--the two Great Unknowns, the
two Illustrious Conjecturabilities!  They are the best-known unknown
persons that have ever drawn breath upon the planet.

For the instruction of the ignorant I will make a list, now, of those
details of Shakespeare's history which are _facts_--verified facts,
established facts, undisputed facts.


He was born on the 23d of April, 1564.

Of good farmer-class parents who could not read, could not write, could
not sign their names.

At Stratford, a small back settlement which in that day was shabby and
unclean, and densely illiterate.  Of the nineteen important men charged
with the government of the town, thirteen had to "make their mark" in
attesting important documents, because they could not write their names.

Of the first eighteen years of his life _nothing_ is known.  They are a

On the 27th of November (1582) William Shakespeare took out a license to
marry Anne Whateley.

Next day William Shakespeare took out a license to marry Anne Hathaway.
She was eight years his senior.

William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway.  In a hurry.  By grace of a
reluctantly-granted dispensation there was but one publication of the

Within six months the first child was born.

About two (blank) years followed, during which period _nothing at all
happened to Shakespeare_, so far as anybody knows.

Then came twins--1585.  February.

Two blank years follow.

Then--1587--he makes a ten-year visit to London, leaving the family

Five blank years follow.  During this period _nothing happened to him_,
as far as anybody actually knows.

Then--1592--there is mention of him as an actor.

Next year--1593--his name appears in the official list of players.

Next year--1594--he played before the queen.  A detail of no consequence:
other obscurities did it every year of the forty-five of her reign.  And
remained obscure.

Three pretty full years follow.  Full of play-acting.  Then

In 1597 he bought New Place, Stratford.

Thirteen or fourteen busy years follow; years in which he accumulated
money, and also reputation as actor and manager.

Meantime his name, liberally and variously spelt, had become associated
with a number of great plays and poems, as (ostensibly) author of the

Some of these, in these years and later, were pirated, but he made no
protest.  Then--1610-11--he returned to Stratford and settled down for
good and all, and busied himself in lending money, trading in tithes,
trading in land and houses; shirking a debt of forty-one shillings,
borrowed by his wife during his long desertion of his family; suing
debtors for shillings and coppers; being sued himself for shillings and
coppers; and acting as confederate to a neighbor who tried to rob the
town of its rights in a certain common, and did not succeed.

He lived five or six years--till 1616--in the joy of these elevated
pursuits.  Then he made a will, and signed each of its three pages with
his name.

A thoroughgoing business man's will.  It named in minute detail every
item of property he owned in the world--houses, lands, sword, silver-gilt
bowl, and so on--all the way down to his "second-best bed" and its

It carefully and calculatingly distributed his riches among the members
of his family, overlooking no individual of it.  Not even his wife: the
wife he had been enabled to marry in a hurry by urgent grace of a special
dispensation before he was nineteen; the wife whom he had left
husbandless so many years; the wife who had had to borrow forty-one
shillings in her need, and which the lender was never able to collect of
the prosperous husband, but died at last with the money still lacking.
No, even this wife was remembered in Shakespeare's will.

He left her that "second-best bed."

And _not another thing_; not even a penny to bless her lucky widowhood

It was eminently and conspicuously a business man's will, not a poet's.

It mentioned _not a single book_.

Books were much more precious than swords and silver-gilt bowls and
second-best beds in those days, and when a departing person owned one he
gave it a high place in his will.

The will mentioned _not a play_,_ not a poem_,_ not an unfinished
literary work_, _not a scrap of manuscript of any kind_.

Many poets have died poor, but this is the only one in history that has
died _this_ poor; the others all left literary remains behind.  Also a
book.  Maybe two.

If Shakespeare had owned a dog--but we need not go into that: we know he
would have mentioned it in his will.  If a good dog, Susanna would have
got it; if an inferior one his wife would have got a dower interest in
it.  I wish he had had a dog, just so we could see how painstakingly he
would have divided that dog among the family, in his careful business

He signed the will in three places.

In earlier years he signed two other official documents.

These five signatures still exist.

There are _no other specimens of his penmanship in existence_.  Not a

Was he prejudiced against the art?  His granddaughter, whom he loved, was
eight years old when he died, yet she had had no teaching, he left no
provision for her education although he was rich, and in her mature
womanhood she couldn't write and couldn't tell her husband's manuscript
from anybody else's--she thought it was Shakespeare's.

When Shakespeare died in Stratford _it was not an event_.  It made no
more stir in England than the death of any other forgotten theatre-actor
would have made.  Nobody came down from London; there were no lamenting
poems, no eulogies, no national tears--there was merely silence, and
nothing more.  A striking contrast with what happened when Ben Jonson,
and Francis Bacon, and Spenser, and Raleigh and the other distinguished
literary folk of Shakespeare's time passed from life!  No praiseful voice
was lifted for the lost Bard of Avon; even Ben Jonson waited seven years
before he lifted his.

_So far as anybody actually knows and can prove_, Shakespeare of
Stratford-on-Avon never wrote a play in his life.

_So far as anybody knows and can prove_, he never wrote a letter to
anybody in his life.

_So far as any one knows_, _he received only one letter during his life_.

So far as any one _knows and can prove_, Shakespeare of Stratford wrote
only one poem during his life.  This one is authentic.  He did write that
one--a fact which stands undisputed; he wrote the whole of it; he wrote
the whole of it out of his own head.  He commanded that this work of art
be engraved upon his tomb, and he was obeyed.  There it abides to this
day.  This is it:

    Good friend for Iesus sake forbeare
    To digg the dust encloased heare:
    Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones
    And curst be he yt moves my bones.

In the list as above set down, will be found _every positively known_
fact of Shakespeare's life, lean and meagre as the invoice is.  Beyond
these details we know _not a thing_ about him.  All the rest of his vast
history, as furnished by the biographers, is built up, course upon
course, of guesses, inferences, theories, conjectures--an Eiffel Tower of
artificialities rising sky-high from a very flat and very thin foundation
of inconsequential facts.


The historians "suppose" that Shakespeare attended the Free School in
Stratford from the time he was seven years old till he was thirteen.
There is no _evidence_ in existence that he ever went to school at all.

The historians "infer" that he got his Latin in that school--the school
which they "suppose" he attended.

They "suppose" his father's declining fortunes made it necessary for him
to leave the school they supposed he attended, and get to work and help
support his parents and their ten children.  But there is no evidence
that he ever entered or retired from the school they suppose he attended.

They "suppose" he assisted his father in the butchering business; and
that, being only a boy, he didn't have to do full-grown butchering, but
only slaughtered calves.  Also, that whenever he killed a calf he made a
high-flown speech over it.  This supposition rests upon the testimony of
a man who wasn't there at the time; a man who got it from a man who could
have been there, but did not say whether he was or not; and neither of
them thought to mention it for decades, and decades, and decades, and two
more decades after Shakespeare's death (until old age and mental decay
had refreshed and vivified their memories).  They hadn't two facts in
stock about the long-dead distinguished citizen, but only just the one:
he slaughtered calves and broke into oratory while he was at it.
Curious.  They had only one fact, yet the distinguished citizen had spent
twenty-six years in that little town--just half his lifetime.  However,
rightly viewed, it was the most important fact, indeed almost the only
important fact, of Shakespeare's life in Stratford.  Rightly viewed.  For
experience is an author's most valuable asset; experience is the thing
that puts the muscle and the breath and the warm blood into the book he
writes.  Rightly viewed, calf-butchering accounts for _Titus Andronicus_,
the only play--ain't it?--that the Stratford Shakespeare ever wrote; and
yet it is the only one everybody tries to chouse him out of, the
Baconians included.

The historians find themselves "justified in believing" that the young
Shakespeare poached upon Sir Thomas Lucy's deer preserves and got haled
before that magistrate for it.  But there is no shred of respectworthy
evidence that anything of the kind happened.

The historians, having argued the thing that _might_ have happened into
the thing that _did_ happen, found no trouble in turning Sir Thomas Lucy
into Mr. Justice Shallow.  They have long ago convinced the world--on
surmise and without trustworthy evidence--that Shallow _is_ Sir Thomas.

The next addition to the young Shakespeare's Stratford history comes
easy.  The historian builds it out of the surmised deer-stealing, and the
surmised trial before the magistrate, and the surmised vengeance-prompted
satire upon the magistrate in the play: result, the young Shakespeare was
a wild, wild, wild, oh _such_ a wild young scamp, and that gratuitous
slander is established for all time!  It is the very way Professor Osborn
and I built the colossal skeleton brontosaur that stands fifty-seven feet
long and sixteen feet high in the Natural History Museum, the awe and
admiration of all the world, the stateliest skeleton that exists on the
planet.  We had nine bones, and we built the rest of him out of plaster
of paris.  We ran short of plaster of paris, or we'd have built a
brontosaur that could sit down beside the Stratford Shakespeare and none
but an expert could tell which was biggest or contained the most plaster.

Shakespeare pronounced _Venus and Adonis_ "the first heir of his
invention," apparently implying that it was his first effort at literary
composition.  He should not have said it.  It has been an embarrassment
to his historians these many, many years.  They have to make him write
that graceful and polished and flawless and beautiful poem before he
escaped from Stratford and his family--1586 or '87--age, twenty-two, or
along there; because within the next five years he wrote five great
plays, and could not have found time to write another line.

It is sorely embarrassing.  If he began to slaughter calves, and poach
deer, and rollick around, and learn English, at the earliest likely
moment--say at thirteen, when he was supposably wrenched from that school
where he was supposably storing up Latin for future literary use--he had
his youthful hands full, and much more than full.  He must have had to
put aside his Warwickshire dialect, which wouldn't be understood in
London, and study English very hard.  Very hard indeed; incredibly hard,
almost, if the result of that labor was to be the smooth and rounded and
flexible and letter-perfect English of the _Venus and Adonis_ in the
space of ten years; and at the same time learn great and fine and
unsurpassable literary form.

However, it is "conjectured" that he accomplished all this and more, much
more: learned law and its intricacies; and the complex procedure of the
law courts; and all about soldiering, and sailoring, and the manners and
customs and ways of royal courts and aristocratic society; and likewise
accumulated in his one head every kind of knowledge the learned then
possessed, and every kind of humble knowledge possessed by the lowly and
the ignorant; and added thereto a wider and more intimate knowledge of
the world's great literatures, ancient and modern, than was possessed by
any other man of his time--for he was going to make brilliant and easy
and admiration-compelling use of these splendid treasures the moment he
got to London.  And according to the surmisers, that is what he did.
Yes, although there was no one in Stratford able to teach him these
things, and no library in the little village to dig them out of.  His
father could not read, and even the surmisers surmise that he did not
keep a library.

It is surmised by the biographers that the young Shakespeare got his vast
knowledge of the law and his familiar and accurate acquaintance with the
manners and customs and shop-talk of lawyers through being for a time the
_clerk of a Stratford court_; just as a bright lad like me, reared in a
village on the banks of the Mississippi, might become perfect in
knowledge of the Behring Strait whale-fishery and the shop-talk of the
veteran exercisers of that adventure-bristling trade through catching
catfish with a "trot-line" Sundays.  But the surmise is damaged by the
fact that there is no evidence--and not even tradition--that the young
Shakespeare was ever clerk of a law court.

It is further surmised that the young Shakespeare accumulated his
law-treasures in the first years of his sojourn in London, through
"amusing himself" by learning book-law in his garret and by picking up
lawyer-talk and the rest of it through loitering about the law-courts and
listening.  But it is only surmise; there is no _evidence_ that he ever
did either of those things.  They are merely a couple of chunks of
plaster of paris.

There is a legend that he got his bread and butter by holding horses in
front of the London theatres, mornings and afternoons.  Maybe he did.  If
he did, it seriously shortened his law-study hours and his
recreation-time in the courts.  In those very days he was writing great
plays, and needed all the time he could get.  The horse-holding legend
ought to be strangled; it too formidably increases the historian's
difficulty in accounting for the young Shakespeare's erudition--an
erudition which he was acquiring, hunk by hunk and chunk by chunk every
day in those strenuous times, and emptying each day's catch into next
day's imperishable drama.

He had to acquire a knowledge of war at the same time; and a knowledge of
soldier-people and sailor-people and their ways and talk; also a
knowledge of some foreign lands and their languages: for he was daily
emptying fluent streams of these various knowledges, too, into his
dramas.  How did he acquire these rich assets?

In the usual way: by surmise.  It is _surmised_ that he travelled in
Italy and Germany and around, and qualified himself to put their scenic
and social aspects upon paper; that he perfected himself in French,
Italian and Spanish on the road; that he went in Leicester's expedition
to the Low Countries, as soldier or sutler or something, for several
months or years--or whatever length of time a surmiser needs in his
business--and thus became familiar with soldiership and soldier-ways and
soldier-talk, and generalship and general-ways and general-talk, and
seamanship and sailor-ways and sailor-talk.

Maybe he did all these things, but I would like to know who held the
horses in the meantime; and who studied the books in the garret; and who
frollicked in the law-courts for recreation.  Also, who did the
call-boying and the play-acting.

For he became a call-boy; and as early as '93 he became a "vagabond"--the
law's ungentle term for an unlisted actor; and in '94 a "regular" and
properly and officially listed member of that (in those days)
lightly-valued and not much respected profession.

Right soon thereafter he became a stockholder in two theatres, and
manager of them.  Thenceforward he was a busy and flourishing business
man, and was raking in money with both hands for twenty years.  Then in a
noble frenzy of poetic inspiration he wrote his one poem--his only poem,
his darling--and laid him down and died:

    Good friend for Iesus sake forbeare
    To digg the dust encloased heare:
    Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones
    And curst be he yt moves my bones.

He was probably dead when he wrote it.  Still, this is only conjecture.
We have only circumstantial evidence.  Internal evidence.

Shall I set down the rest of the Conjectures which constitute the giant
Biography of William Shakespeare?  It would strain the Unabridged
Dictionary to hold them.  He is a Brontosaur: nine bones and six hundred
barrels of plaster of paris.

CHAPTER V--"We May Assume"

In the Assuming trade three separate and independent cults are
transacting business.  Two of these cults are known as the Shakespearites
and the Baconians, and I am the other one--the Brontosaurian.

The Shakespearite knows that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's Works; the
Baconian knows that Francis Bacon wrote them; the Brontosaurian doesn't
really know which of them did it, but is quite composedly and contentedly
sure that Shakespeare _didn't_, and strongly suspects that Bacon _did_.
We all have to do a good deal of assuming, but I am fairly certain that
in every case I can call to mind the Baconian assumers have come out
ahead of the Shakespearites.  Both parties handle the same materials, but
the Baconians seem to me to get much more reasonable and rational and
persuasive results out of them than is the case with the Shakespearites.
The Shakespearite conducts his assuming upon a definite principle, an
unchanging and immutable law--which is: 2 and 8 and 7 and 14, added
together, make 165.  I believe this to be an error.  No matter, you
cannot get a habit-sodden Shakespearite to cipher-up his materials upon
any other basis.  With the Baconian it is different.  If you place before
him the above figures and set him to adding them up, he will never in any
case get more than 45 out of them, and in nine cases out of ten he will
get just the proper 31.

Let me try to illustrate the two systems in a simple and homely way
calculated to bring the idea within the grasp of the ignorant and
unintelligent.  We will suppose a case: take a lap-bred, house-fed,
uneducated, inexperienced kitten; take a rugged old Tom that's scarred
from stem to rudder-post with the memorials of strenuous experience, and
is so cultured, so educated, so limitlessly erudite that one may say of
him "all cat-knowledge is his province"; also, take a mouse.  Lock the
three up in a holeless, crackless, exitless prison-cell.  Wait half an
hour, then open the cell, introduce a Shakespearite and a Baconian, and
let them cipher and assume.  The mouse is missing: the question to be
decided is, where is it?  You can guess both verdicts beforehand.  One
verdict will say the kitten contains the mouse; the other will as
certainly say the mouse is in the tomcat.

The Shakespearite will Reason like this--(that is not my word, it is
his).  He will say the kitten _may have been_ attending school when
nobody was noticing; therefore _we are warranted in assuming_ that it did
so; also, it _could have been_ training in a court-clerk's office when no
one was noticing; since that could have happened, _we are justified in
assuming_ that it did happen; it _could have studied catology in a
garret_ when no one was noticing--therefore it _did_; it _could have_
attended cat-assizes on the shed-roof nights, for recreation, when no one
was noticing, and harvested a knowledge of cat court-forms and cat
lawyer-talk in that way: it _could_ have done it, therefore without a
doubt it did; it could have gone soldiering with a war-tribe when no one
was noticing, and learned soldier-wiles and soldier-ways, and what to do
with a mouse when opportunity offers; the plain inference, therefore is,
that that is what it _did_.  Since all these manifold things _could_ have
occurred, we have _every right to believe_ they did occur.  These
patiently and painstakingly accumulated vast acquirements and competences
needed but one thing more--opportunity--to convert themselves into
triumphant action.  The opportunity came, we have the result; _beyond
shadow of question_ the mouse is in the kitten.

It is proper to remark that when we of the three cults plant a "_We think
we may assume_," we expect it, under careful watering and fertilizing and
tending, to grow up into a strong and hardy and weather-defying "_there
isn't a shadow of a doubt_" at last--and it usually happens.

We know what the Baconian's verdict would be: "_There is not a rag of
evidence that the kitten has had any training_, _any education_, _any
experience qualifying it for the present occasion_, _or is indeed
equipped for any achievement above lifting such unclaimed milk as comes
its way_; _but there is abundant evidence_--_unassailable proof_, _in
fact_--_that the other animal is equipped_, _to the last detail_, _with
every qualification necessary for the event_.  _Without shadow of doubt
the tomcat contains the mouse_."


When Shakespeare died, in 1616, great literary productions attributed to
him as author had been before the London world and in high favor for
twenty-four years.  Yet his death was not an event.  It made no stir, it
attracted no attention.  Apparently his eminent literary contemporaries
did not realize that a celebrated poet had passed from their midst.
Perhaps they knew a play-actor of minor rank had disappeared, but did not
regard him as the author of his Works.  "We are justified in assuming"

His death was not even an event in the little town of Stratford.  Does
this mean that in Stratford he was not regarded as a celebrity of _any_

"We are privileged to assume"--no, we are indeed _obliged_ to
assume--that such was the case.  He had spent the first twenty-two or
twenty-three years of his life there, and of course knew everybody and
was known by everybody of that day in the town, including the dogs and
the cats and the horses.  He had spent the last five or six years of his
life there, diligently trading in every big and little thing that had
money in it; so we are compelled to assume that many of the folk there in
those said latter days knew him personally, and the rest by sight and
hearsay.  But not as a _celebrity_?  Apparently not.  For everybody soon
forgot to remember any contact with him or any incident connected with
him.  The dozens of townspeople, still alive, who had known of him or
known about him in the first twenty-three years of his life were in the
same unremembering condition: if they knew of any incident connected with
that period of his life they didn't tell about it.  Would they if they
had been asked?  It is most likely.  Were they asked?  It is pretty
apparent that they were not.  Why weren't they?  It is a very plausible
guess that nobody there or elsewhere was interested to know.

For seven years after Shakespeare's death nobody seems to have been
interested in him.  Then the quarto was published, and Ben Jonson awoke
out of his long indifference and sang a song of praise and put it in the
front of the book.  Then silence fell _again_.

For sixty years.  Then inquiries into Shakespeare's Stratford life began
to be made, of Stratfordians.  Of Stratfordians who had known Shakespeare
or had seen him?  No.  Then of Stratfordians who had seen people who had
known or seen people who had seen Shakespeare?  No.  Apparently the
inquiries were only made of Stratfordians who were not Stratfordians of
Shakespeare's day, but later comers; and what they had learned had come
to them from persons who had not seen Shakespeare; and what they had
learned was not claimed as _fact_, but only as legend--dim and fading and
indefinite legend; legend of the calf-slaughtering rank, and not worth
remembering either as history or fiction.

Has it ever happened before--or since--that a celebrated person who had
spent exactly half of a fairly long life in the village where he was born
and reared, was able to slip out of this world and leave that village
voiceless and gossipless behind him--utterly voiceless, utterly
gossipless?  And permanently so?  I don't believe it has happened in any
case except Shakespeare's.  And couldn't and wouldn't have happened in
his case if he had been regarded as a celebrity at the time of his death.

When I examine my own case--but let us do that, and see if it will not be
recognizable as exhibiting a condition of things quite likely to result,
most likely to result, indeed substantially _sure_ to result in the case
of a celebrated person, a benefactor of the human race.  Like me.

My parents brought me to the village of Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks
of the Mississippi, when I was two and a half years old.  I entered
school at five years of age, and drifted from one school to another in
the village during nine and a half years.  Then my father died, leaving
his family in exceedingly straitened circumstances; wherefore my
book-education came to a standstill forever, and I became a printer's
apprentice, on board and clothes, and when the clothes failed I got a
hymn-book in place of them.  This for summer wear, probably.  I lived in
Hannibal fifteen and a half years, altogether, then ran away, according
to the custom of persons who are intending to become celebrated.  I never
lived there afterward.  Four years later I became a "cub" on a
Mississippi steamboat in the St. Louis and New Orleans trade, and after a
year and a half of hard study and hard work the U. S. inspectors
rigorously examined me through a couple of long sittings and decided that
I knew every inch of the Mississippi--thirteen hundred miles--in the dark
and in the day--as well as a baby knows the way to its mother's paps day
or night.  So they licensed me as a pilot--knighted me, so to speak--and
I rose up clothed with authority, a responsible servant of the United
States government.

Now then.  Shakespeare died young--he was only fifty-two.  He had lived
in his native village twenty-six years, or about that.  He died
celebrated (if you believe everything you read in the books).  Yet when
he died nobody there or elsewhere took any notice of it; and for sixty
years afterward no townsman remembered to say anything about him or about
his life in Stratford.  When the inquirer came at last he got but one
fact--no, _legend_--and got that one at second hand, from a person who
had only heard it as a rumor, and didn't claim copyright in it as a
production of his own.  He couldn't, very well, for its date antedated
his own birth-date.  But necessarily a number of persons were still alive
in Stratford who, in the days of their youth, had seen Shakespeare nearly
every day in the last five years of his life, and they would have been
able to tell that inquirer some first-hand things about him if he had in
those last days been a celebrity and therefore a person of interest to
the villagers.  Why did not the inquirer hunt them up and interview them?
Wasn't it worth while?  Wasn't the matter of sufficient consequence?  Had
the inquirer an engagement to see a dog-fight and couldn't spare the

It all seems to mean that he never had any literary celebrity, there or
elsewhere, and no considerable repute as actor and manager.

Now then, I am away along in life--my seventy-third year being already
well behind me--yet _sixteen_ of my Hannibal schoolmates are still alive
to-day, and can tell--and do tell--inquirers dozens and dozens of
incidents of their young lives and mine together; things that happened to
us in the morning of life, in the blossom of our youth, in the good days,
the dear days, "the days when we went gipsying, a long time ago."  Most
of them creditable to me, too.  One child to whom I paid court when she
was five years old and I eight still lives in Hannibal, and she visited
me last summer, traversing the necessary ten or twelve hundred miles of
railroad without damage to her patience or to her old-young vigor.
Another little lassie to whom I paid attention in Hannibal when she was
nine years old and I the same, is still alive--in London--and hale and
hearty, just as I am.  And on the few surviving steamboats--those
lingering ghosts and remembrancers of great fleets that plied the big
river in the beginning of my water-career--which is exactly as long ago
as the whole invoice of the life-years of Shakespeare number--there are
still findable two or three river-pilots who saw me do creditable things
in those ancient days; and several white-headed engineers; and several
roustabouts and mates; and several deck-hands who used to heave the lead
for me and send up on the still night air the "six--feet--_scant_!" that
made me shudder, and the "_M-a-r-k--twain_!" that took the shudder away,
and presently the darling "By the d-e-e-p--four!" that lifted me to
heaven for joy. {1}  They know about me, and can tell.  And so do
printers, from St. Louis to New York; and so do newspaper reporters, from
Nevada to San Francisco.  And so do the police.  If Shakespeare had
really been celebrated, like me, Stratford could have told things about
him; and if my experience goes for anything, they'd have done it.


If I had under my superintendence a controversy appointed to decide
whether Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare or not, I believe I would place
before the debaters only the one question, _Was Shakespeare ever a
practicing lawyer_? and leave everything else out.

It is maintained that the man who wrote the plays was not merely
myriad-minded, but also myriad-accomplished: that he not only knew some
thousands of things about human life in all its shades and grades, and
about the hundred arts and trades and crafts and professions which men
busy themselves in, but that he could _talk_ about the men and their
grades and trades accurately, making no mistakes.  Maybe it is so, but
have the experts spoken, or is it only Tom, Dick, and Harry?  Does the
exhibit stand upon wide, and loose, and eloquent generalizing--which is
not evidence, and not proof--or upon details, particulars, statistics,
illustrations, demonstrations?

Experts of unchallengeable authority have testified definitely as to only
one of Shakespeare's multifarious craft-equipments, so far as my
recollections of Shakespeare-Bacon talk abide with me--his law-equipment.
I do not remember that Wellington or Napoleon ever examined Shakespeare's
battles and sieges and strategies, and then decided and established for
good and all, that they were militarily flawless; I do not remember that
any Nelson, or Drake or Cook ever examined his seamanship and said it
showed profound and accurate familiarity with that art; I don't remember
that any king or prince or duke has ever testified that Shakespeare was
letter-perfect in his handling of royal court-manners and the talk and
manners of aristocracies; I don't remember that any illustrious Latinist
or Grecian or Frenchman or Spaniard or Italian has proclaimed him a
past-master in those languages; I don't remember--well, I don't remember
that there is _testimony_--great testimony--imposing
testimony--unanswerable and unattackable testimony as to any of
Shakespeare's hundred specialties, except one--the law.

Other things change, with time, and the student cannot trace back with
certainty the changes that various trades and their processes and
technicalities have undergone in the long stretch of a century or two and
find out what their processes and technicalities were in those early
days, but with the law it is different: it is mile-stoned and documented
all the way back, and the master of that wonderful trade, that complex
and intricate trade, that awe-compelling trade, has competent ways of
knowing whether Shakespeare-law is good law or not; and whether his
law-court procedure is correct or not, and whether his legal shop-talk is
the shop-talk of a veteran practitioner or only a machine-made
counterfeit of it gathered from books and from occasional loiterings in

Richard H. Dana served two years before the mast, and had every
experience that falls to the lot of the sailor before the mast of our
day.  His sailor-talk flows from his pen with the sure touch and the ease
and confidence of a person who has _lived_ what he is talking about, not
gathered it from books and random listenings.  Hear him:

    Having hove short, cast off the gaskets, and made the bunt of each
    sail fast by the jigger, with a man on each yard, at the word the
    whole canvas of the ship was loosed, and with the greatest rapidity
    possible everything was sheeted home and hoisted up, the anchor
    tripped and cat-headed, and the ship under headway.


    The royal yards were all crossed at once, and royals and sky-sails
    set, and, as we had the wind free, the booms were run out, and all
    were aloft, active as cats, laying out on the yards and booms,
    reeving the studding-sail gear; and sail after sail the captain piled
    upon her, until she was covered with canvas, her sails looking like a
    great white cloud resting upon a black speck.

Once more.  A race in the Pacific:

    Our antagonist was in her best trim.  Being clear of the point, the
    breeze became stiff, and the royal-masts bent under our sails, but we
    would not take them in until we saw three boys spring into the
    rigging of the _California_; then they were all furled at once, but
    with orders to our boys to stay aloft at the top-gallant mast-heads
    and loose them again at the word.  It was my duty to furl the
    fore-royal; and while standing by to loose it again, I had a fine
    view of the scene.  From where I stood, the two vessels seemed
    nothing but spars and sails, while their narrow decks, far below,
    slanting over by the force of the wind aloft, appeared hardly capable
    of supporting the great fabrics raised upon them.  The _California_
    was to windward of us, and had every advantage; yet, while the breeze
    was stiff we held our own.  As soon as it began to slacken she ranged
    a little ahead, and the order was given to loose the royals.  In an
    instant the gaskets were off and the bunt dropped.  "Sheet home the
    fore-royal!"--"Weather sheet's home!"--"Lee sheet's home!"--"Hoist
    away, sir!" is bawled from aloft.  "Overhaul your clewlines!" shouts
    the mate.  "Aye-aye, sir, all clear!"--"Taut leech! belay!  Well the
    lee brace; haul taut to windward!" and the royals are set.

What would the captain of any sailing-vessel of our time say to that?  He
would say, "The man that wrote that didn't learn his trade out of a book,
he has _been_ there!"  But would this same captain be competent to sit in
judgment upon Shakespeare's seamanship--considering the changes in ships
and ship-talk that have necessarily taken place, unrecorded,
unremembered, and lost to history in the last three hundred years?  It is
my conviction that Shakespeare's sailor-talk would be Choctaw to him.
For instance--from _The Tempest_:

    _Master_.  Boatswain!

    _Boatswain_.  Here, master; what cheer?

    _Master_.  Good, speak to the mariners: fall to't, yarely, or we run
    ourselves to ground; bestir, bestir!

    (_Enter mariners_.)

    _Boatswain_.  Heigh, my hearts! cheerly, cheerly, my hearts! yare,
    yare!  Take in the topsail.  Tend to the master's whistle . . . Down
    with the topmast! yare! lower, lower!  Bring her to try wi' the main
    course . . . Lay her a-hold, a-hold!  Set her two courses.  Off to
    sea again; lay her off.

That will do, for the present; let us yare a little, now, for a change.

If a man should write a book and in it make one of his characters say,
"Here, devil, empty the quoins into the standing galley and the imposing
stone into the hell-box; assemble the comps around the frisket and let
them jeff for takes and be quick about it," I should recognize a mistake
or two in the phrasing, and would know that the writer was only a printer
theoretically, not practically.

I have been a quartz miner in the silver regions--a pretty hard life; I
know all the palaver of that business: I know all about discovery claims
and the subordinate claims; I know all about lodes, ledges, outcroppings,
dips, spurs, angles, shafts, drifts, inclines, levels, tunnels,
air-shafts, "horses," clay casings, granite casings; quartz mills and
their batteries; arastras, and how to charge them with quicksilver and
sulphate of copper; and how to clean them up, and how to reduce the
resulting amalgam in the retorts, and how to cast the bullion into pigs;
and finally I know how to screen tailings, and also how to hunt for
something less robust to do, and find it.  I know the _argot_ of the
quartz-mining and milling industry familiarly; and so whenever Bret Harte
introduces that industry into a story, the first time one of his miners
opens his mouth I recognize from his phrasing that Harte got the phrasing
by listening--like Shakespeare--I mean the Stratford one--not by
experience.  No one can talk the quartz dialect correctly without
learning it with pick and shovel and drill and fuse.

I have been a surface-miner--gold--and I know all its mysteries, and the
dialect that belongs with them; and whenever Harte introduces that
industry into a story I know by the phrasing of his characters that
neither he nor they have ever served that trade.

I have been a "pocket" miner--a sort of gold mining not findable in any
but one little spot in the world, so far as I know.  I know how, with
horn and water, to find the trail of a pocket and trace it step by step
and stage by stage up the mountain to its source, and find the compact
little nest of yellow metal reposing in its secret home under the ground.
I know the language of that trade, that capricious trade, that
fascinating buried-treasure trade, and can catch any writer who tries to
use it without having learned it by the sweat of his brow and the labor
of his hands.

I know several other trades and the _argot_ that goes with them; and
whenever a person tries to talk the talk peculiar to any of them without
having learned it at its source I can trap him always before he gets far
on his road.

And so, as I have already remarked, if I were required to superintend a
Bacon-Shakespeare controversy, I would narrow the matter down to a single
question--the only one, so far as the previous controversies have
informed me, concerning which illustrious experts of unimpeachable
competency have testified: _Was the author of Shakespeare's Works a
lawyer_?--a lawyer deeply read and of limitless experience?  I would put
aside the guesses, and surmises, and perhapses, and might-have-beens, and
could-have beens, and must-have-beens, and we-are
justified-in-presumings, and the rest of those vague spectres and shadows
and indefinitenesses, and stand or fall, win or lose, by the verdict
rendered by the jury upon that single question.  If the verdict was Yes,
I should feel quite convinced that the Stratford Shakespeare, the actor,
manager, and trader who died so obscure, so forgotten, so destitute of
even village consequence that sixty years afterward no fellow-citizen and
friend of his later days remembered to tell anything about him, did not
write the Works.

Chapter XIII of _The Shakespeare Problem Restated_ bears the heading
"Shakespeare as a Lawyer," and comprises some fifty pages of expert
testimony, with comments thereon, and I will copy the first nine, as
being sufficient all by themselves, as it seems to me, to settle the
question which I have conceived to be the master-key to the
Shakespeare-Bacon puzzle.

CHAPTER VIII--Shakespeare as a Lawyer {2}

The Plays and Poems of Shakespeare supply ample evidence that their
author not only had a very extensive and accurate knowledge of law, but
that he was well acquainted with the manners and customs of members of
the Inns of Court and with legal life generally.

"While novelists and dramatists are constantly making mistakes as to the
laws of marriage, of wills, and inheritance, to Shakespeare's law,
lavishly as he expounds it, there can neither be demurrer, nor bill of
exceptions, nor writ of error."  Such was the testimony borne by one of
the most distinguished lawyers of the nineteenth century who was raised
to the high office of Lord Chief Justice in 1850, and subsequently became
Lord Chancellor.  Its weight will, doubtless, be more appreciated by
lawyers than by laymen, for only lawyers know how impossible it is for
those who have not served an apprenticeship to the law to avoid
displaying their ignorance if they venture to employ legal terms and to
discuss legal doctrines.  "There is nothing so dangerous," wrote Lord
Campbell, "as for one not of the craft to tamper with our freemasonry."
A layman is certain to betray himself by using some expression which a
lawyer would never employ.  Mr. Sidney Lee himself supplies us with an
example of this.  He writes (p. 164): "On February 15, 1609, Shakespeare
. . . obtained judgment from a jury against Addenbroke for the payment of
No. 6, and No. 1. 5_s._ 0_d._ costs."  Now a lawyer would never have
spoken of obtaining "judgment from a jury," for it is the function of a
jury not to deliver judgment (which is the prerogative of the court), but
to find a verdict on the facts.  The error is, indeed, a venial one, but
it is just one of those little things which at once enable a lawyer to
know if the writer is a layman or "one of the craft."

But when a layman ventures to plunge deeply into legal subjects, he is
naturally apt to make an exhibition of his incompetence.  "Let a
non-professional man, however acute," writes Lord Campbell again,
"presume to talk law, or to draw illustrations from legal science in
discussing other subjects, and he will speedily fall into laughable

And what does the same high authority say about Shakespeare?  He had "a
deep technical knowledge of the law," and an easy familiarity with "some
of the most abstruse proceedings in English jurisprudence."  And again:
"Whenever he indulges this propensity he uniformly lays down good law."
Of _Henry IV._, Part 2, he says: "If Lord Eldon could be supposed to have
written the play, I do not see how he could be chargeable with having
forgotten any of his law while writing it."  Charles and Mary Cowden
Clarke speak of "the marvelous intimacy which he displays with legal
terms, his frequent adoption of them in illustration, and his curiously
technical knowledge of their form and force."  Malone, himself a lawyer,
wrote: "His knowledge of legal terms is not merely such as might be
acquired by the casual observation of even his all-comprehending mind; it
has the appearance of technical skill."  Another lawyer and well-known
Shakespearean, Richard Grant White, says: "No dramatist of the time, not
even Beaumont, who was the younger son of a judge of the Common Pleas,
and who after studying in the Inns of Court abandoned law for the drama,
used legal phrases with Shakespeare's readiness and exactness.  And the
significance of this fact is heightened by another, that it is only to
the language of the law that he exhibits this inclination.  The phrases
peculiar to other occupations serve him on rare occasions by way of
description, comparison or illustration, generally when something in the
scene suggests them, but legal phrases flow from his pen as part of his
vocabulary, and parcel of his thought.  Take the word 'purchase' for
instance, which, in ordinary use, means to acquire by giving value, but
applies in law to all legal modes of obtaining property except by
inheritance or descent, and in this peculiar sense the word occurs five
times in Shakespeare's thirty-four plays, and only in one single instance
in the fifty-four plays of Beaumont and Fletcher.  It has been suggested
that it was in attendance upon the courts in London that he picked up his
legal vocabulary.  But this supposition not only fails to account for
Shakespeare's peculiar freedom and exactness in the use of that
phraseology, it does not even place him in the way of learning those
terms his use of which is most remarkable, which are not such as he would
have heard at ordinary proceedings at _nisi prius_, but such as refer to
the tenure or transfer of real property, 'fine and recovery,' 'statutes
merchant,' 'purchase,' 'indenture,' 'tenure,' 'double voucher,' 'fee
simple,' 'fee farm,' 'remainder,' 'reversion,' 'forfeiture,' etc.  This
conveyancer's jargon could not have been picked up by hanging round the
courts of law in London two hundred and fifty years ago, when suits as to
the title of real property were comparatively rare.  And beside,
Shakespeare uses his law just as freely in his first plays, written in
his first London years, as in those produced at a later period.  Just as
exactly, too; for the correctness and propriety with which these terms
are introduced have compelled the admiration of a Chief Justice and a
Lord Chancellor."

Senator Davis wrote: "We seem to have something more than a sciolist's
temerity of indulgence in the terms of an unfamiliar art.  No legal
solecisms will be found.  The abstrusest elements of the common law are
impressed into a disciplined service.  Over and over again, where such
knowledge is unexampled in writers unlearned in the law, Shakespeare
appears in perfect possession of it.  In the law of real property, its
rules of tenure and descents, its entails, its fines and recoveries,
their vouchers and double vouchers, in the procedure of the Courts, the
method of bringing writs and arrests, the nature of actions, the rules of
pleading, the law of escapes and of contempt of court, in the principles
of evidence, both technical and philosophical, in the distinction between
the temporal and spiritual tribunals, in the law of attainder and
forfeiture, in the requisites of a valid marriage, in the presumption of
legitimacy, in the learning of the law of prerogative, in the inalienable
character of the Crown, this mastership appears with surprising

To all this testimony (and there is much more which I have not cited) may
now be added that of a great lawyer of our own times, _viz._: Sir James
Plaisted Wilde, Q.C. created a Baron of the Exchequer in 1860, promoted
to the post of Judge-Ordinary and Judge of the Courts of Probate and
Divorce in 1863, and better known to the world as Lord Penzance, to which
dignity he was raised in 1869.  Lord Penzance, as all lawyers know, and
as the late Mr. Inderwick, K.C., has testified, was one of the first
legal authorities of his day, famous for his "remarkable grasp of legal
principles," and "endowed by nature with a remarkable facility for
marshalling facts, and for a clear expression of his views."

Lord Penzance speaks of Shakespeare's "perfect familiarity with not only
the principles, axioms, and maxims, but the technicalities of English
law, a knowledge so perfect and intimate that he was never incorrect and
never at fault . . . The mode in which this knowledge was pressed into
service on all occasions to express his meaning and illustrate his
thoughts, was quite unexampled.  He seems to have had a special pleasure
in his complete and ready mastership of it in all its branches.  As
manifested in the plays, this legal knowledge and learning had therefore
a special character which places it on a wholly different footing from
the rest of the multifarious knowledge which is exhibited in page after
page of the plays.  At every turn and point at which the author required
a metaphor, simile, or illustration, his mind ever turned _first_ to the
law.  He seems almost to have _thought_ in legal phrases, the commonest
of legal expressions were ever at the end of his pen in description or
illustration.  That he should have descanted in lawyer language when he
had a forensic subject in hand, such as Shylock's bond, was to be
expected, but the knowledge of law in 'Shakespeare' was exhibited in a
far different manner: it protruded itself on all occasions, appropriate
or inappropriate, and mingled itself with strains of thought widely
divergent from forensic subjects."  Again: "To acquire a perfect
familiarity with legal principles, and an accurate and ready use of the
technical terms and phrases not only of the conveyancer's office but of
the pleader's chambers and the Courts at Westminster, nothing short of
employment in some career involving constant contact with legal questions
and general legal work would be requisite.  But a continuous employment
involves the element of time, and time was just what the manager of two
theatres had not at his disposal.  In what portion of Shakespeare's
(_i.e._ Shakspere's) career would it be possible to point out that time
could be found for the interposition of a legal employment in the
chambers or offices of practising lawyers?"

Stratfordians, as is well known, casting about for some possible
explanation of Shakespeare's extraordinary knowledge of law, have made
the suggestion that Shakespeare might, conceivably, have been a clerk in
an attorney's office before he came to London.  Mr. Collier wrote to Lord
Campbell to ask his opinion as to the probability of this being true.
His answer was as follows: "You require us to believe implicitly a fact,
of which, if true, positive and irrefragable evidence in his own
handwriting might have been forthcoming to establish it.  Not having been
actually enrolled as an attorney, neither the records of the local court
at Stratford nor of the superior Courts at Westminster would present his
name as being concerned in any suit as an attorney, but it might
reasonably have been expected that there would be deeds or wills
witnessed by him still extant, and after a very diligent search none such
can be discovered."

Upon this Lord Penzance comments: "It cannot be doubted that Lord
Campbell was right in this.  No young man could have been at work in an
attorney's office without being called upon continually to act as a
witness, and in many other ways leaving traces of his work and name."
There is not a single fact or incident in all that is known of
Shakespeare, even by rumor or tradition, which supports this notion of a
clerkship.  And after much argument and surmise which has been indulged
in on this subject, we may, I think, safely put the notion on one side,
for no less an authority than Mr. Grant White says finally that the idea
of his having been clerk to an attorney has been "blown to pieces."

It is altogether characteristic of Mr. Churton Collins that he,
nevertheless, adopts this exploded myth.  "That Shakespeare was in early
life employed as a clerk in an attorney's office, may be correct.  At
Stratford there was by royal charter a Court of Record sitting every
fortnight, with six attorneys, beside the town clerk, belonging to it,
and it is certainly not straining probability to suppose that the young
Shakespeare may have had employment in one of them.  There is, it is
true, no tradition to this effect, but such traditions as we have about
Shakespeare's occupation between the time of leaving school and going to
London are so loose and baseless that no confidence can be placed in
them.  It is, to say the least, more probable that he was in an
attorney's office than that he was a butcher killing calves 'in a high
style,' and making speeches over them."

This is a charming specimen of Stratfordian argument.  There is, as we
have seen, a very old tradition that Shakespeare was a butcher's
apprentice.  John Dowdall, who made a tour in Warwickshire in 1693,
testifies to it as coming from the old clerk who showed him over the
church, and it is unhesitatingly accepted as true by Mr.
Halliwell-Phillipps.  (Vol I, p. 11, and see Vol. II, p. 71, 72.)  Mr.
Sidney Lee sees nothing improbable in it, and it is supported by Aubrey,
who must have written his account some time before 1680, when his
manuscript was completed.  Of the attorney's clerk hypothesis, on the
other hand, there is not the faintest vestige of a tradition.  It has
been evolved out of the fertile imaginations of embarrassed
Stratfordians, seeking for some explanation of the Stratford rustic's
marvellous acquaintance with law and legal terms and legal life.  But Mr.
Churton Collins has not the least hesitation in throwing over the
tradition which has the warrant of antiquity and setting up in its stead
this ridiculous invention, for which not only is there no shred of
positive evidence, but which, as Lord Campbell and Lord Penzance point
out, is really put out of court by the negative evidence, since "no young
man could have been at work in an attorney's office without being called
upon continually to act as a witness, and in many other ways leaving
traces of his work and name."  And as Mr. Edwards further points out,
since the day when Lord Campbell's book was published (between forty and
fifty years ago), "every old deed or will, to say nothing of other legal
papers, dated during the period of William Shakespeare's youth, has been
scrutinized over half a dozen shires, and not one signature of the young
man has been found."

Moreover, if Shakespeare had served as clerk in an attorney's office it
is clear that he must have so served for a considerable period in order
to have gained (if indeed it is credible that he could have so gained)
his remarkable knowledge of law.  Can we then for a moment believe that,
if this had been so, tradition would have been absolutely silent on the
matter?  That Dowdall's old clerk, over eighty years of age, should have
never heard of it (though he was sure enough about the butcher's
apprentice), and that all the other ancient witnesses should be in
similar ignorance!

But such are the methods of Stratfordian controversy.  Tradition is to be
scouted when it is found inconvenient, but cited as irrefragable truth
when it suits the case.  Shakespeare of Stratford was the author of the
_Plays_ and _Poems_, but the author of the _Plays_ and _Poems_ could not
have been a butcher's apprentice.  Away, therefore, with tradition.  But
the author of the _Plays_ and _Poems must_ have had a very large and a
very accurate knowledge of the law.  Therefore, Shakespeare of Stratford
must have been an attorney's clerk!  The method is simplicity itself.  By
similar reasoning Shakespeare has been made a country schoolmaster, a
soldier, a physician, a printer, and a good many other things beside,
according to the inclination and the exigencies of the commentator.  It
would not be in the least surprising to find that he was studying Latin
as a schoolmaster and law in an attorney's office at the same time.

However, we must do Mr. Collins the justice of saying that he has fully
recognized, what is indeed tolerably obvious, that Shakespeare must have
had a sound legal training.  "It may, of course, be urged," he writes,
"that Shakespeare's knowledge of medicine, and particularly that branch
of it which related to morbid psychology, is equally remarkable, and that
no one has ever contended that he was a physician.  (Here Mr. Collins is
wrong; that contention also has been put forward.) It may be urged that
his acquaintance with the technicalities of other crafts and callings,
notably of marine and military affairs, was also extraordinary, and yet
no one has suspected him of being a sailor or a soldier.  (Wrong again.
Why even Messrs. Garnett and Gosse 'suspect' that he was a soldier!)
This may be conceded, but the concession hardly furnishes an analogy.  To
these and all other subjects he recurs occasionally, and in season, but
with reminiscences of the law his memory, as is abundantly clear, was
simply saturated.  In season and out of season now in manifest, now in
recondite application, he presses it into the service of expression and
illustration.  At least a third of his myriad metaphors are derived from
it.  It would indeed be difficult to find a single act in any of his
dramas, nay, in some of them, a single scene, the diction and imagery of
which is not colored by it.  Much of his law may have been acquired from
three books easily accessible to him, namely Tottell's _Precedents_
(1572), Pulton's _Statutes_ (1578), and Fraunce's _Lawier's Logike_
(1588), works with which he certainly seems to have been familiar; but
much of it could only have come from one who had an intimate acquaintance
with legal proceedings.  We quite agree with Mr. Castle that
Shakespeare's legal knowledge is not what could have been picked up in an
attorney's office, but could only have been learned by an actual
attendance at the Courts, at a Pleader's Chambers, and on circuit, or by
associating intimately with members of the Bench and Bar."

This is excellent.  But what is Mr. Collins' explanation.  "Perhaps the
simplest solution of the problem is to accept the hypothesis that in
early life he was in an attorney's office (!), that he there contracted a
love for the law which never left him, that as a young man in London, he
continued to study or dabble in it for his amusement, to stroll in
leisure hours into the Courts, and to frequent the society of lawyers.
On no other supposition is it possible to explain the attraction which
the law evidently had for him, and his minute and undeviating accuracy in
a subject where no layman who has indulged in such copious and
ostentatious display of legal technicalities has ever yet succeeded in
keeping himself from tripping."

A lame conclusion.  "No other supposition" indeed!  Yes, there is
another, and a very obvious supposition, namely, that Shakespeare was
himself a lawyer, well versed in his trade, versed in all the ways of the
courts, and living in close intimacy with judges and members of the Inns
of Court.

One is, of course, thankful that Mr. Collins has appreciated the fact
that Shakespeare must have had a sound legal training, but I may be
forgiven if I do not attach quite so much importance to his
pronouncements on this branch of the subject as to those of Malone, Lord
Campbell, Judge Holmes, Mr. Castle, K.C., Lord Penzance, Mr. Grant White,
and other lawyers, who have expressed their opinion on the matter of
Shakespeare's legal acquirements.

Here it may, perhaps, be worth while to quote again from Lord Penzance's
book as to the suggestion that Shakespeare had somehow or other managed
"to acquire a perfect familiarity with legal principles, and an accurate
and ready use of the technical terms and phrases, not only of the
conveyancer's office, but of the pleader's chambers and the courts at
Westminster."  This, as Lord Penzance points out, "would require nothing
short of employment in some career involving _constant contact_ with
legal questions and general legal work."  But "in what portion of
Shakespeare's career would it be possible to point out that time could be
found for the interposition of a legal employment in the chambers or
offices of practising lawyers? . . . It is beyond doubt that at an early
period he was called upon to abandon his attendance at school and assist
his father, and was soon after, at the age of sixteen, bound apprentice
to a trade.  While under the obligation of this bond he could not have
pursued any other employment.  Then he leaves Stratford and comes to
London.  He has to provide himself with the means of a livelihood, and
this he did in some capacity at the theatre.  No one doubts that.  The
holding of horses is scouted by many, and perhaps with justice, as being
unlikely and certainly unproved; but whatever the nature of his
employment was at the theatre, there is hardly room for the belief that
it could have been other than continuous, for his progress there was so
rapid.  Ere long he had been taken into the company as an actor, and was
soon spoken of as a 'Johannes Factotum.'  His rapid accumulation of
wealth speaks volumes for the constancy and activity of his services.
One fails to see when there could be a break in the current of his life
at this period of it, giving room or opportunity for legal or indeed any
other employment.  'In 1589,' says Knight, 'we have undeniable evidence
that he had not only a casual engagement, was not only a salaried
servant, as many players were, but was a shareholder in the company of
the Queen's players with other shareholders below him on the list.'  This
(1589) would be within two years after his arrival in London, which is
placed by White and Halliwell-Phillipps about the year 1587.  The
difficulty in supposing that, starting with a state of ignorance in 1587,
when he is supposed to have come to London, he was induced to enter upon
a course of most extended study and mental culture, is almost
insuperable.  Still it was physically possible, provided always that he
could have had access to the needful books.  But this legal training
seems to me to stand on a different footing.  It is not only
unaccountable and incredible, but it is actually negatived by the known
facts of his career."  Lord Penzance then refers to the fact that "by
1592 (according to the best authority, Mr. Grant White) several of the
plays had been written.  _The Comedy of Errors_ in 1589, _Love's Labour's
Lost_ in 1589, _Two Gentlemen of Verona_ in 1589 or 1590, and so forth,"
and then asks, "with this catalogue of dramatic work on hand . . . was it
possible that he could have taken a leading part in the management and
conduct of two theatres, and if Mr. Phillipps is to be relied upon, taken
his share in the performances of the provincial tours of his company--and
at the same time devoted himself to the study of the law in all its
branches so efficiently as to make himself complete master of its
principles and practice, and saturate his mind with all its most
technical terms?"

I have cited this passage from Lord Penzance's book, because it lay
before me, and I had already quoted from it on the matter of
Shakespeare's legal knowledge; but other writers have still better set
forth the insuperable difficulties, as they seem to me, which beset the
idea that Shakespeare might have found time in some unknown period of
early life, amid multifarious other occupations, for the study of
classics, literature and law, to say nothing of languages and a few other
matters.  Lord Penzance further asks his readers: "Did you ever meet with
or hear of an instance in which a young man in this country gave himself
up to legal studies and engaged in legal employments, which is the only
way of becoming familiar with the technicalities of practice, unless with
the view of practicing in that profession?  I do not believe that it
would be easy, or indeed possible, to produce an instance in which the
law has been seriously studied in all its branches, except as a
qualification for practice in the legal profession."

                                * * * * *

This testimony is so strong, so direct, so authoritative; and so
uncheapened, unwatered by guesses, and surmises, and maybe-so's, and
might-have-beens, and could-have-beens, and must-have-beens, and the rest
of that ton of plaster of paris out of which the biographers have built
the colossal brontosaur which goes by the Stratford actor's name, that it
quite convinces me that the man who wrote Shakespeare's Works knew all
about law and lawyers.  Also, that that man could not have been the
Stratford Shakespeare--and _wasn't_.

Who did write these Works, then?

I wish I knew.


Did Francis Bacon write Shakespeare's Works?

Nobody knows.

We cannot say we _know_ a thing when that thing has not been proved.
_Know_ is too strong a word to use when the evidence is not final and
absolutely conclusive.  We can infer, if we want to, like those slaves
. . . No, I will not write that word, it is not kind, it is not courteous.
The upholders of the Stratford-Shakespeare superstition call _us_ the
hardest names they can think of, and they keep doing it all the time;
very well, if they like to descend to that level, let them do it, but I
will not so undignify myself as to follow them.  I cannot call them harsh
names; the most I can do is to indicate them by terms reflecting my
disapproval; and this without malice, without venom.

To resume.  What I was about to say, was, those thugs have built their
entire superstition upon _inferences_, not upon known and established
facts.  It is a weak method, and poor, and I am glad to be able to say
our side never resorts to it while there is anything else to resort to.

But when we must, we must; and we have now arrived at a place of that

Since the Stratford Shakespeare couldn't have written the Works, we infer
that somebody did.  Who was it, then?  This requires some more inferring.

Ordinarily when an unsigned poem sweeps across the continent like a tidal
wave, whose roar and boom and thunder are made up of admiration, delight
and applause, a dozen obscure people rise up and claim the authorship.
Why a dozen, instead of only one or two?  One reason is, because there's
a dozen that are recognizably competent to do that poem.  Do you remember
"Beautiful Snow"?  Do you remember "Rock Me to Sleep, Mother, Rock Me to
Sleep"?  Do you remember "Backward, turn backward, O Time, in thy flight!
Make me a child again just for to-night"?  I remember them very well.
Their authorship was claimed by most of the grown-up people who were
alive at the time, and every claimant had one plausible argument in his
favor, at least: to wit, he could have done the authoring; he was

Have the Works been claimed by a dozen?  They haven't.  There was good
reason.  The world knows there was but one man on the planet at the time
who was competent--not a dozen, and not two.  A long time ago the
dwellers in a far country used now and then to find a procession of
prodigious footprints stretching across the plain--footprints that were
three miles apart, each footprint a third of a mile long and a furlong
deep, and with forests and villages mashed to mush in it.  Was there any
doubt as to who had made that mighty trail?  Were there a dozen
claimants?  Were there two?  No--the people knew who it was that had been
along there: there was only one Hercules.

There has been only one Shakespeare.  There couldn't be two; certainly
there couldn't be two at the same time.  It takes ages to bring forth a
Shakespeare, and some more ages to match him.  This one was not matched
before his time; nor during his time; and hasn't been matched since.  The
prospect of matching him in our time is not bright.

The Baconians claim that the Stratford Shakespeare was not qualified to
write the Works, and that Francis Bacon was.  They claim that Bacon
possessed the stupendous equipment--both natural and acquired--for the
miracle; and that no other Englishman of his day possessed the like; or,
indeed, anything closely approaching it.

Macaulay, in his Essay, has much to say about the splendor and
horizonless magnitude of that equipment.  Also, he has synopsized Bacon's
history: a thing which cannot be done for the Stratford Shakespeare, for
he hasn't any history to synopsize.  Bacon's history is open to the
world, from his boyhood to his death in old age--a history consisting of
known facts, displayed in minute and multitudinous detail; _facts_, not
guesses and conjectures and might-have-beens.

Whereby it appears that he was born of a race of statesmen, and had a
Lord Chancellor for his father, and a mother who was "distinguished both
as a linguist and a theologian: she corresponded in Greek with Bishop
Jewell, and translated his _Apologia_ from the Latin so correctly that
neither he nor Archbishop Parker could suggest a single alteration."  It
is the atmosphere we are reared in that determines how our inclinations
and aspirations shall tend.  The atmosphere furnished by the parents to
the son in this present case was an atmosphere saturated with learning;
with thinkings and ponderings upon deep subjects; and with polite
culture.  It had its natural effect.  Shakespeare of Stratford was reared
in a house which had no use for books, since its owners, his parents,
were without education.  This may have had an effect upon the son, but we
do not know, because we have no history of him of an informing sort.
There were but few books anywhere, in that day, and only the well-to-do
and highly educated possessed them, they being almost confined to the
dead languages.  "All the valuable books then extant in all the
vernacular dialects of Europe would hardly have filled a single
shelf"--imagine it!  The few existing books were in the Latin tongue
mainly.  "A person who was ignorant of it was shut out from all
acquaintance--not merely with Cicero and Virgil, but with the most
interesting memoirs, state papers, and pamphlets of his own time"--a
literature necessary to the Stratford lad, for his fictitious
reputation's sake, since the writer of his Works would begin to use it
wholesale and in a most masterly way before the lad was hardly more than
out of his teens and into his twenties.

At fifteen Bacon was sent to the university, and he spent three years
there.  Thence he went to Paris in the train of the English Ambassador,
and there he mingled daily with the wise, the cultured, the great, and
the aristocracy of fashion, during another three years.  A total of six
years spent at the sources of knowledge; knowledge both of books and of
men.  The three spent at the university were coeval with the second and
last three spent by the little Stratford lad at Stratford school
supposedly, and perhapsedly, and maybe, and by inference--with nothing to
infer from.  The second three of the Baconian six were "presumably" spent
by the Stratford lad as apprentice to a butcher.  That is, the thugs
presume it--on no evidence of any kind.  Which is their way, when they
want a historical fact.  Fact and presumption are, for business purposes,
all the same to them.  They know the difference, but they also know how
to blink it.  They know, too, that while in history-building a fact is
better than a presumption, it doesn't take a presumption long to bloom
into a fact when _they_ have the handling of it.  They know by old
experience that when they get hold of a presumption-tadpole he is not
going to _stay_ tadpole in their history-tank; no, they know how to
develop him into the giant four-legged bullfrog of _fact_, and make him
sit up on his hams, and puff out his chin, and look important and
insolent and come-to-stay; and assert his genuine simon-pure authenticity
with a thundering bellow that will convince everybody because it is so
loud.  The thug is aware that loudness convinces sixty persons where
reasoning convinces but one.  I wouldn't be a thug, not even if--but
never mind about that, it has nothing to do with the argument, and it is
not noble in spirit besides.  If I am better than a thug, is the merit
mine?  No, it is His.  Then to Him be the praise.  That is the right

They "presume" the lad severed his "presumed" connection with the
Stratford school to become apprentice to a butcher.  They also "presume"
that the butcher was his father.  They don't know.  There is no written
record of it, nor any other actual evidence.  If it would have helped
their case any, they would have apprenticed him to thirty butchers, to
fifty butchers, to a wilderness of butchers--all by their patented method
"presumption."  If it will help their case they will do it yet; and if it
will further help it, they will "presume" that all those butchers were
his father.  And the week after, they will _say_ it.  Why, it is just
like being the past tense of the compound reflexive adverbial
incandescent hypodermic irregular accusative Noun of Multitude; which is
father to the expression which the grammarians call Verb.  It is like a
whole ancestry, with only one posterity.

To resume.  Next, the young Bacon took up the study of law, and mastered
that abstruse science.  From that day to the end of his life he was daily
in close contact with lawyers and judges; not as a casual onlooker in
intervals between holding horses in front of a theatre, but as a
practicing lawyer--a great and successful one, a renowned one, a
Launcelot of the bar, the most formidable lance in the high brotherhood
of the legal Table Round; he lived in the law's atmosphere thenceforth,
all his years, and by sheer ability forced his way up its difficult
steeps to its supremest summit, the Lord Chancellorship, leaving behind
him no fellow craftsman qualified to challenge his divine right to that
majestic place.

When we read the praises bestowed by Lord Penzance and the other
illustrious experts upon the legal condition and legal aptnesses,
brilliances, profundities and felicities so prodigally displayed in the
Plays, and try to fit them to the history-less Stratford stage-manager,
they sound wild, strange, incredible, ludicrous; but when we put them in
the mouth of Bacon they do not sound strange, they seem in their natural
and rightful place, they seem at home there.  Please turn back and read
them again.  Attributed to Shakespeare of Stratford they are meaningless,
they are inebriate extravagancies--intemperate admirations of the dark
side of the moon, so to speak; attributed to Bacon, they are admirations
of the golden glories of the moon's front side, the moon at the full--and
not intemperate, not overwrought, but sane and right, and justified.  "At
every turn and point at which the author required a metaphor, simile or
illustration, his mind ever turned _first_ to the law; he seems almost to
have _thought_ in legal phrases; the commonest legal phrases, the
commonest of legal expressions were ever at the end of his pen."  That
could happen to no one but a person whose _trade_ was the law; it could
not happen to a dabbler in it.  Veteran mariners fill their conversation
with sailor-phrases and draw all their similes from the ship and the sea
and the storm, but no mere _passenger_ ever does it, be he of Stratford
or elsewhere; or could do it with anything resembling accuracy, if he
were hardy enough to try.  Please read again what Lord Campbell and the
other great authorities have said about Bacon when they thought they were
saying it about Shakespeare of Stratford.

CHAPTER X--The Rest of the Equipment

The author of the Plays was equipped, beyond every other man of his time,
with wisdom, erudition, imagination, capaciousness of mind, grace and
majesty of expression.  Every one has said it, no one doubts it.  Also,
he had humor, humor in rich abundance, and always wanting to break out.
We have no evidence of any kind that Shakespeare of Stratford possessed
any of these gifts or any of these acquirements.  The only lines he ever
wrote, so far as we know, are substantially barren of them--barren of all
of them.

    Good friend for Iesus sake forbeare
    To digg the dust encloased heare:
    Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones
    And curst be he yt moves my bones.

Ben Jonson says of Bacon, as orator:

    His language, _where he could spare and pass by a jest_, was nobly
    censorious.  No man ever spoke more neatly, more pressly, more
    weightily, or suffered less emptiness, less idleness, in what he
    uttered.  No member of his speech but consisted of his (its) own
    graces . . . The fear of every man that heard him was lest he should
    make an end.

From Macaulay:

    He continued to distinguish himself in Parliament, particularly by
    his exertions in favor of one excellent measure on which the King's
    heart was set--the union of England and Scotland.  It was not
    difficult for such an intellect to discover many irresistible
    arguments in favor of such a scheme.  He conducted the great case of
    the _Post Nati_ in the Exchequer Chamber; and the decision of the
    judges--a decision the legality of which may be questioned, but the
    beneficial effect of which must be acknowledged--was in a great
    measure attributed to his dexterous management.


    While actively engaged in the House of Commons and in the courts of
    law, he still found leisure for letters and philosophy.  The noble
    treatise on the _Advancement of Learning_, which at a later period
    was expanded into the _De Augmentis_, appeared in 1605.

    The _Wisdom of the Ancients_, a work which if it had proceeded from
    any other writer would have been considered as a masterpiece of wit
    and learning, was printed in 1609.

    In the meantime the _Novum Organum_ was slowly proceeding.  Several
    distinguished men of learning had been permitted to see portions of
    that extraordinary book, and they spoke with the greatest admiration
    of his genius.

    Even Sir Thomas Bodley, after perusing the _Cogitata et Visa_, one of
    the most precious of those scattered leaves out of which the great
    oracular volume was afterward made up, acknowledged that "in all
    proposals and plots in that book, Bacon showed himself a master
    workman"; and that "it could not be gainsaid but all the treatise
    over did abound with choice conceits of the present state of
    learning, and with worthy contemplations of the means to procure it."

    In 1612 a new edition of the _Essays_ appeared, with additions
    surpassing the original collection both in bulk and quality.

    Nor did these pursuits distract Bacon's attention from a work the
    most arduous, the most glorious, and the most useful that even his
    mighty powers could have achieved, "the reducing and recompiling," to
    use his own phrase, "of the laws of England."

To serve the exacting and laborious offices of Attorney General and
Solicitor General would have satisfied the appetite of any other man for
hard work, but Bacon had to add the vast literary industries just
described, to satisfy his.  He was a born worker.

    The service which he rendered to letters during the last five years
    of his life, amid ten thousand distractions and vexations, increase
    the regret with which we think on the many years which he had wasted,
    to use the words of Sir Thomas Bodley, "on such study as was not
    worthy such a student."

    He commenced a digest of the laws of England, a History of England
    under the Princes of the House of Tudor, a body of National History,
    a Philosophical Romance.  He made extensive and valuable additions to
    his Essays.  He published the inestimable _Treatise De Argumentis

Did these labors of Hercules fill up his time to his contentment, and
quiet his appetite for work?  Not entirely:

    The trifles with which he amused himself in hours of pain and languor
    bore the mark of his mind.  _The best jestbook in the world_ is that
    which he dictated from memory, without referring to any book, on a
    day on which illness had rendered him incapable of serious study.

Here are some scattered remarks (from Macaulay) which throw light upon
Bacon, and seem to indicate--and maybe demonstrate--that he was competent
to write the Plays and Poems:

    With great minuteness of observation he had an amplitude of
    comprehension such as has never yet been vouchsafed to any other
    human being.

    The "Essays" contain abundant proofs that no nice feature of
    character, no peculiarity in the ordering of a house, a garden or a
    court-masque, could escape the notice of one whose mind was capable
    of taking in the whole world of knowledge.

    His understanding resembled the tent which the fairy Paribanou gave
    to Prince Ahmed: fold it, and it seemed a toy for the hand of a lady;
    spread it, and the armies of powerful Sultans might repose beneath
    its shade.

    The knowledge in which Bacon excelled all men was a knowledge of the
    mutual relations of all departments of knowledge.

    In a letter written when he was only thirty-one, to his uncle, Lord
    Burleigh, he said, "I have taken all knowledge to be my province."

    Though Bacon did not arm his philosophy with the weapons of logic, he
    adorned her profusely with all the richest decorations of rhetoric.

    The practical faculty was powerful in Bacon; but not, like his wit,
    so powerful as occasionally to usurp the place of his reason, and to
    tyrannize over the whole man.

There are too many places in the Plays where this happens.  Poor old
dying John of Gaunt volleying second-rate puns at his own name, is a
pathetic instance of it.  "We may assume" that it is Bacon's fault, but
the Stratford Shakespeare has to bear the blame.

    No imagination was ever at once so strong and so thoroughly
    subjugated.  It stopped at the first check from good sense.

    In truth much of Bacon's life was passed in a visionary world--amid
    things as strange as any that are described in the "Arabian Tales" .
    . . amid buildings more sumptuous than the palace of Aladdin,
    fountains more wonderful than the golden water of Parizade,
    conveyances more rapid than the hippogryph of Ruggiero, arms more
    formidable than the lance of Astolfo, remedies more efficacious than
    the balsam of Fierabras.  Yet in his magnificent day-dreams there was
    nothing wild--nothing but what sober reason sanctioned.

    Bacon's greatest performance is the first book of the _Novum Organum_
    . . . Every part of it blazes with wit, but with wit which is
    employed only to illustrate and decorate truth.  No book ever made so
    great a revolution in the mode of thinking, overthrew so many
    prejudices, introduced so many new opinions.

    But what we most admire is the vast capacity of that intellect which,
    without effort, takes in at once all the domains of science--all the
    past, the present and the future, all the errors of two thousand
    years, all the encouraging signs of the passing times, all the bright
    hopes of the coming age.

    He had a wonderful talent for packing thought close and rendering it

    His eloquence would alone have entitled him to a high rank in

It is evident that he had each and every one of the mental gifts and each
and every one of the acquirements that are so prodigally displayed in the
Plays and Poems, and in much higher and richer degree than any other man
of his time or of any previous time.  He was a genius without a mate, a
prodigy not matable.  There was only one of him; the planet could not
produce two of him at one birth, nor in one age.  He could have written
anything that is in the Plays and Poems.  He could have written this:

    The cloud-cap'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
    The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
    Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
    And, like an insubstantial pageant faded,
    Leave not a rack behind.  We are such stuff
    As dreams are made on, and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep.

Also, he could have written this, but he refrained:

    Good friend for Iesus sake forbeare
    To digg the dust encloased heare:
    Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones
    And curst be ye yt moves my bones.

When a person reads the noble verses about the cloud-cap'd towers, he
ought not to follow it immediately with Good friend for Iesus sake
forbeare, because he will find the transition from great poetry to poor
prose too violent for comfort.  It will give him a shock.  You never
notice how commonplace and unpoetic gravel is, until you bite into a
layer of it in a pie.


Am I trying to convince anybody that Shakespeare did not write
Shakespeare's Works?  Ah, now, what do you take me for?  Would I be so
soft as that, after having known the human race familiarly for nearly
seventy-four years?  It would grieve me to know that any one could think
so injuriously of me, so uncomplimentarily, so unadmiringly of me.
No-no, I am aware that when even the brightest mind in our world has been
trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be
possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely,
dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance
which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition.
I doubt if I could do it myself.  We always get at second hand our
notions about systems of government; and high-tariff and low-tariff; and
prohibition and anti-prohibition; and the holiness of peace and the
glories of war; and codes of honor and codes of morals; and approval of
the duel and disapproval of it; and our beliefs concerning the nature of
cats; and our ideas as to whether the murder of helpless wild animals is
base or is heroic; and our preferences in the matter of religious and
political parties; and our acceptance or rejection of the Shakespeares
and the Arthur Ortons and the Mrs. Eddys.  We get them all at
second-hand, we reason none of them out for ourselves.  It is the way we
are made.  It is the way we are all made, and we can't help it, we can't
change it.  And whenever we have been furnished a fetish, and have been
taught to believe in it, and love it and worship it, and refrain from
examining it, there is no evidence, howsoever clear and strong, that can
persuade us to withdraw from it our loyalty and our devotion.  In morals,
conduct, and beliefs we take the color of our environment and
associations, and it is a color that can safely be warranted to wash.
Whenever we have been furnished with a tar baby ostensibly stuffed with
jewels, and warned that it will be dishonorable and irreverent to
disembowel it and test the jewels, we keep our sacrilegious hands off it.
We submit, not reluctantly, but rather gladly, for we are privately
afraid we should find, upon examination, that the jewels are of the sort
that are manufactured at North Adams, Mass.

I haven't any idea that Shakespeare will have to vacate his pedestal this
side of the year 2209.  Disbelief in him cannot come swiftly, disbelief
in a healthy and deeply-loved tar baby has never been known to
disintegrate swiftly, it is a very slow process.  It took several
thousand years to convince our fine race--including every splendid
intellect in it--that there is no such thing as a witch; it has taken
several thousand years to convince that same fine race--including every
splendid intellect in it--that there is no such person as Satan; it has
taken several centuries to remove perdition from the Protestant Church's
program of postmortem entertainments; it has taken a weary long time to
persuade American Presbyterians to give up infant damnation and try to
bear it the best they can; and it looks as if their Scotch brethren will
still be burning babies in the everlasting fires when Shakespeare comes
down from his perch.

We are The Reasoning Race.  We can't prove it by the above examples, and
we can't prove it by the miraculous "histories" built by those
Stratfordolaters out of a hatful of rags and a barrel of sawdust, but
there is a plenty of other things we can prove it by, if I could think of
them.  We are The Reasoning Race, and when we find a vague file of
chipmunk-tracks stringing through the dust of Stratford village, we know
by our reasoning powers that Hercules has been along there.  I feel that
our fetish is safe for three centuries yet.  The bust, too--there in the
Stratford Church.  The precious bust, the priceless bust, the calm bust,
the serene bust, the emotionless bust, with the dandy moustache, and the
putty face, unseamed of care--that face which has looked passionlessly
down upon the awed pilgrim for a hundred and fifty years and will still
look down upon the awed pilgrim three hundred more, with the deep, deep,
deep, subtle, subtle, subtle, expression of a bladder.

CHAPTER XII--Irreverence

One of the most trying defects which I find in these--these--what shall I
call them? for I will not apply injurious epithets to them, the way they
do to us, such violations of courtesy being repugnant to my nature and my
dignity.  The furthest I can go in that direction is to call them by
names of limited reverence--names merely descriptive, never unkind, never
offensive, never tainted by harsh feeling.  If _they_ would do like this,
they would feel better in their hearts.  Very well, then--to proceed.
One of the most trying defects which I find in these Stratfordolaters,
these Shakesperoids, these thugs, these bangalores, these troglodytes,
these herumfrodites, these blatherskites, these buccaneers, these
bandoleers, is their spirit of irreverence.  It is detectable in every
utterance of theirs when they are talking about us.  I am thankful that
in me there is nothing of that spirit.  When a thing is sacred to me it
is impossible for me to be irreverent toward it.  I cannot call to mind a
single instance where I have ever been irreverent, except toward the
things which were sacred to other people.  Am I in the right?  I think
so.  But I ask no one to take my unsupported word; no, look at the
dictionary; let the dictionary decide.  Here is the definition:

    _Irreverence_.  The quality or condition of irreverence toward God
    and sacred things.

What does the Hindu say?  He says it is correct.  He says irreverence is
lack of respect for Vishnu, and Brahma, and Chrishna, and his other gods,
and for his sacred cattle, and for his temples and the things within
them.  He endorses the definition, you see; and there are 300,000,000
Hindus or their equivalents back of him.

The dictionary had the acute idea that by using the capital G it could
restrict irreverence to lack of reverence for _our_ Deity and our sacred
things, but that ingenious and rather sly idea miscarried: for by the
simple process of spelling _his_ deities with capitals the Hindu
confiscates the definition and restricts it to his own sects, thus making
it clearly compulsory upon us to revere _his_ gods and _his_ sacred
things, and nobody's else.  We can't say a word, for he has our own
dictionary at his back, and its decision is final.

This law, reduced to its simplest terms, is this: 1.  Whatever is sacred
to the Christian must be held in reverence by everybody else; 2, whatever
is sacred to the Hindu must be held in reverence by everybody else; 3,
therefore, by consequence, logically, and indisputably, whatever is
sacred to _me_ must be held in reverence by everybody else.

Now then, what aggravates me is, that these troglodytes and muscovites
and bandoleers and buccaneers are _also_ trying to crowd in and share the
benefit of the law, and compel everybody to revere their Shakespeare and
hold him sacred.  We can't have that: there's enough of us already.  If
you go on widening and spreading and inflating the privilege, it will
presently come to be conceded that each man's sacred things are the
_only_ ones, and the rest of the human race will have to be humbly
reverent toward them or suffer for it.  That can surely happen, and when
it happens, the word Irreverence will be regarded as the most
meaningless, and foolish, and self-conceited, and insolent, and impudent
and dictatorial word in the language.  And people will say, "Whose
business is it, what gods I worship and what things hold sacred?  Who has
the right to dictate to my conscience, and where did he get that right?"

We cannot afford to let that calamity come upon us.  We must save the
word from this destruction.  There is but one way to do it, and that is,
to stop the spread of the privilege, and strictly confine it to its
present limits: that is, to all the Christian sects, to all the Hindu
sects, and me.  We do not need any more, the stock is watered enough,
just as it is.

It would be better if the privilege were limited to me alone.  I think so
because I am the only sect that knows how to employ it gently, kindly,
charitably, dispassionately.  The other sects lack the quality of
self-restraint.  The Catholic Church says the most irreverent things
about matters which are sacred to the Protestants, and the Protestant
Church retorts in kind about the confessional and other matters which
Catholics hold sacred; then both of these irreverencers turn upon Thomas
Paine and charge _him_ with irreverence.  This is all unfortunate,
because it makes it difficult for students equipped with only a low grade
of mentality to find out what Irreverence really _is_.

It will surely be much better all around if the privilege of regulating
the irreverent and keeping them in order shall eventually be withdrawn
from all the sects but me.  Then there will be no more quarrelling, no
more bandying of disrespectful epithets, no more heart burnings.

There will then be nothing sacred involved in this Bacon-Shakespeare
controversy except what is sacred to me.  That will simplify the whole
matter, and trouble will cease.  There will be irreverence no longer,
because I will not allow it.  The first time those criminals charge me
with irreverence for calling their Stratford myth an
Prophet-of-Khorassan will be the last.  Taught by the methods
found effective in extinguishing earlier offenders by the Inquisition, of
holy memory, I shall know how to quiet them.


Isn't it odd, when you think of it: that you may list all the celebrated
Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotchmen of modern times, clear back to the
first Tudors--a list containing five hundred names, shall we say?--and
you can go to the histories, biographies and cyclopedias and learn the
particulars of the lives of every one of them.  Every one of them except
one--the most famous, the most renowned--by far the most illustrious of
them all--Shakespeare!  You can get the details of the lives of all the
celebrated ecclesiastics in the list; all the celebrated tragedians,
comedians, singers, dancers, orators, judges, lawyers, poets, dramatists,
historians, biographers, editors, inventors, reformers, statesmen,
generals, admirals, discoverers, prize-fighters, murderers, pirates,
conspirators, horse-jockeys, bunco-steerers, misers, swindlers,
explorers, adventurers by land and sea, bankers, financiers, astronomers,
naturalists, Claimants, impostors, chemists, biologists, geologists,
philologists, college presidents and professors, architects, engineers,
painters, sculptors, politicians, agitators, rebels, revolutionists,
patriots, demagogues, clowns, cooks, freaks, philosophers, burglars,
highwaymen, journalists, physicians, surgeons--you can get the
life-histories of all of them but _one_.  Just one--the most
extraordinary and the most celebrated of them all--Shakespeare!

You may add to the list the thousand celebrated persons furnished by the
rest of Christendom in the past four centuries, and you can find out the
life-histories of all those people, too.  You will then have listed 1500
celebrities, and you can trace the authentic life-histories of the whole
of them.  Save one--far and away the most colossal prodigy of the entire
accumulation--Shakespeare!  About him you can find out _nothing_.
Nothing of even the slightest importance.  Nothing worth the trouble of
stowing away in your memory.  Nothing that even remotely indicates that
he was ever anything more than a distinctly common-place person--a
manager, an actor of inferior grade, a small trader in a small village
that did not regard him as a person of any consequence, and had forgotten
all about him before he was fairly cold in his grave.  We can go to the
records and find out the life-history of every renowned _race-horse_ of
modern times--but not Shakespeare's!  There are many reasons why, and
they have been furnished in cartloads (of guess and conjecture) by those
troglodytes; but there is one that is worth all the rest of the reasons
put together, and is abundantly sufficient all by itself--_he hadn't any
history to record_.  There is no way of getting around that deadly fact.
And no sane way has yet been discovered of getting around its formidable

Its quite plain significance--to any but those thugs (I do not use the
term unkindly) is, that Shakespeare had no prominence while he lived, and
none until he had been dead two or three generations.  The Plays enjoyed
high fame from the beginning; and if he wrote them it seems a pity the
world did not find it out.  He ought to have explained that he was the
author, and not merely a _nom de plume_ for another man to hide behind.
If he had been less intemperately solicitous about his bones, and more
solicitous about his Works, it would have been better for his good name,
and a kindness to us.  The bones were not important.  They will moulder
away, they will turn to dust, but the Works will endure until the last
sun goes down.

                                                               MARK TWAIN.

P.S.  _March_ 25.  About two months ago I was illuminating this
Autobiography with some notions of mine concerning the Bacon-Shakespeare
controversy, and I then took occasion to air the opinion that the
Stratford Shakespeare was a person of no public consequence or celebrity
during his lifetime, but was utterly obscure and unimportant.  And not
only in great London, but also in the little village where he was born,
where he lived a quarter of a century, and where he died and was buried.
I argued that if he had been a person of any note at all, aged villagers
would have had much to tell about him many and many a year after his
death, instead of being unable to furnish inquirers a single fact
connected with him.  I believed, and I still believe, that if he had been
famous, his notoriety would have lasted as long as mine has lasted in my
native village out in Missouri.  It is a good argument, a prodigiously
strong one, and a most formidable one for even the most gifted, and
ingenious, and plausible Stratfordolater to get around or explain away.
To-day a Hannibal _Courier-Post_ of recent date has reached me, with an
article in it which reinforces my contention that a really celebrated
person cannot be forgotten in his village in the short space of sixty
years.  I will make an extract from it:

    Hannibal, as a city, may have many sins to answer for, but
    ingratitude is not one of them, or reverence for the great men she
    has produced, and as the years go by her greatest son Mark Twain, or
    S. L. Clemens as a few of the unlettered call him, grows in the
    estimation and regard of the residents of the town he made famous and
    the town that made him famous.  His name is associated with every old
    building that is torn down to make way for the modern structures
    demanded by a rapidly growing city, and with every hill or cave over
    or through which he might by any possibility have roamed, while the
    many points of interest which he wove into his stories, such as
    Holiday Hill, Jackson's Island, or Mark Twain Cave, are now monuments
    to his genius.  Hannibal is glad of any opportunity to do him honor
    as he has honored her.

    So it has happened that the "old timers" who went to school with Mark
    or were with him on some of his usual escapades have been honored
    with large audiences whenever they were in a reminiscent mood and
    condescended to tell of their intimacy with the ordinary boy who came
    to be a very extraordinary humorist and whose every boyish act is now
    seen to have been indicative of what was to come.  Like Aunt Beckey
    and Mrs. Clemens, they can now see that Mark was hardly appreciated
    when he lived here and that the things he did as a boy and was
    whipped for doing were not all bad after all.  So they have been in
    no hesitancy about drawing out the bad things he did as well as the
    good in their efforts to get a "Mark Twain story," all incidents
    being viewed in the light of his present fame, until the volume of
    "Twainiana" is already considerable and growing in proportion as the
    "old timers" drop away and the stories are retold second and third
    hand by their descendants.  With some seventy-three years young and
    living in a villa instead of a house he is a fair target, and let him
    incorporate, copyright, or patent himself as he will, there are some
    of his "works" that will go swooping up Hannibal chimneys as long as
    gray-beards gather about the fires and begin with "I've heard father
    tell" or possibly "Once when I."

The Mrs. Clemens referred to is my mother--_was_ my mother.

And here is another extract from a Hannibal paper.  Of date twenty days

    Miss Becca Blankenship died at the home of William Dickason, 408 Rock
    Street, at 2.30 o'clock yesterday afternoon, aged 72 years.  The
    deceased was a sister of "Huckleberry Finn," one of the famous
    characters in Mark Twain's _Tom Sawyer_.  She had been a member of
    the Dickason family--the housekeeper--for nearly forty-five years,
    and was a highly respected lady.  For the past eight years she had
    been an invalid, but was as well cared for by Mr. Dickason and his
    family as if she had been a near relative.  She was a member of the
    Park Methodist Church and a Christian woman.

I remember her well.  I have a picture of her in my mind which was graven
there, clear and sharp and vivid, sixty-three years ago.  She was at that
time nine years old, and I was about eleven.  I remember where she stood,
and how she looked; and I can still see her bare feet, her bare head, her
brown face, and her short tow-linen frock.  She was crying.  What it was
about, I have long ago forgotten.  But it was the tears that preserved
the picture for me, no doubt.  She was a good child, I can say that for
her.  She knew me nearly seventy years ago.  Did she forget me, in the
course of time?  I think not.  If she had lived in Stratford in
Shakespeare's time, would she have forgotten him?  Yes.  For he was never
famous during his lifetime, he was utterly obscure in Stratford, and
there wouldn't be any occasion to remember him after he had been dead a

"Injun Joe," "Jimmy Finn," and "General Gaines" were prominent and very
intemperate ne'er-do-weels in Hannibal two generations ago.  Plenty of
gray-heads there remember them to this day, and can tell you about them.
Isn't it curious that two "town-drunkards" and one half-breed loafer
should leave behind them, in a remote Missourian village, a fame a
hundred times greater and several hundred times more particularized in
the matter of definite facts than Shakespeare left behind him in the
village where he had lived the half of his lifetime?

                                                               MARK TWAIN.


{1}  Four fathoms--twenty-four feet.

{2}  From chapter XIII of "The Shakespeare Problem Restated."

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