The old Ham said something of the sort. I just deleted 154 junk mails, which is kind of apt for this 443rd anniversary, give or take a day or two either way. I’m celebrating in the Damage in my way the birth of our sweet gentle Will. The TLS this week has Jonathan Bate touting his Folio book with an excellent examination of its provenance in the hands of scholars. Speaking of which, i must find the Herbert Farjeon edition. Random House please re-publish it!
My own First Folio facsimile was found in a dead man’s apartment in Peurto Rico. He had been a theology professor who had lost his faith and ended up as a bartender in Old San Juan. Terry was a culture vulture with reams of Opera videos, classic movies, and Shakespeare films, which i inherited too. Emptying Terry’s apartment was a dizzying trip of frustrated and enlightened humanity. He died leaving the bar after his shift, he made his idiosyncratic wave to the regulars, then dropped to the floor dead.
The task of cleaning his apartment fell to his friends Paco and Colin. I was visiting Colin and there among the detritus of his last years was my Folio facsimile. He had bought it in the 1950’s and signed it. I claimed it in his memory and Shakespeare’s. ‘Read him and read him again’. as his fellow players Heminges and Condell said. Above all, ‘Remember me!’
‘Still there old mole?’ The mole is an apt metaphor for our Shakes, rooting around and tunneling through his own age’s past and rarely being seen except for the mounds of dirt his writings left us. Blind to what the future may think of him. What was his true face? Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel believes she has found it using German Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation CSI techniques. I am more inclined to believe David Crystal’s ‘H’ Quarto of Hamlet. But then again, given her initials, maybe she knows of this little known malady.
The ‘H’ Quarto is for those lovers of the eighth letter of the alphabet, or octolitteraphiliacs. Something so rare only psychiatrists and linguists can appreciate it. We’ll see if David will let me link its contents. After all a scoop is a scoop. He found it apparently so it is his to share or not. As his opening paragraph states:
‘I was walking through the grounds of the house where Shakespeare lived, New House, in Stratford, in a part of the garden where tourists rarely go, when I tripped and fell full length on the grass. As I lay there, I realized I could see into a broken drain, and inside it was a tiny waterproof bag, containing a manuscript. The bag was lying near the surface, dragged there, I suspect, by rats – there is evidence of chewing on some pages, and some water has got in, for some pages are discoloured. It was a previously unknown quarto edition of Hamlet, in which every word – apart from the character names – began with the letter H.’
However they must be smirking and apoplectic that the world is making such an egregious error in celebrating today, smug in the satisfaction that the ‘H’ Quarto is a fabrication and Sh wasn’t really that bumpkin from Stratters. I’ll leave you with these words.
‘Such is my love, to thee I so belong,
That for thy right, myself will bear all wrong.’
‘My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more, to shame nor me, nor you.’