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RIP Louis Marder…

…the world has lost another Shakespearean Antiquarian. Louis Marder’s life is illustrated below by those who knew and loved the man. Here i would like to add my acquaintance with the scholar whose work I knew was integral to my own method.

The date the early 1990’s, neophyte Will asking for answers on the Sh riddles he was dealing with. Louis Marder replied with a list starting with there is not a scintilla of proof, not an iota of doubt, not a shred of evidence etc for some 60 replies to the common arguments used against the Stratford man. Unfortunately the list was incomplete.

Eager for more i mailed him back and he replied something went wrong with the email but he hoped to have it all finished and ready for eventual publication as the Shakespeare Data Bank. Reading his obituary I understand why it never came to pass. I’ll find the list and post it as a page.

Anitquarian is probably the best term for scholars like Louis. For one it feels okay to use his first name and not his title. For two it best describes how scholars like him go to work: i.e. uncover everything known about SH however tenuous. Lastly antiquarians leave so much research material behind, thousands of future scholars can find material for papers and theses.

Imagine if you could unleash the zeal of Conspiracists on the historical record reasearching the acknowledged author in all his mundanity and genius? That may offer up a result, as to whether he did or didn’t write the plays, quicker than postulating and ululating upon some Noble candidate or dead playwright.

Nuff said.

From: Hardy M. Cook
Date: Monday, December 14, 2009
Subject: Obit: Louis Marder

Louis Marder

I learned late last week from a SHAKSPER digest that was returned to me that Louis Marder died on December 3.

Louis Marder, of course, founded the Shakespeare Newsletter (ShN) in 1951 and edited it until 1991 when the English Department at Iona College began publishing it under the editorship of Tom Pendleton and John Mahon. I worked with Louis during the late 1980s until the transfer of ShN and then continued to work as a Contributing Editor with John and Tom for many years after that.

I was fond of Louis Marder; he was a character, a Damon Runyonesque character.

He was a walking advertisement for his projects, seeking donations from anyone who would give. He was persistently hustling for the projects close to him. He would carry back issues of ShN to SAA meetings and give them out as enticements for people to subscribe. He would carry signed copies of his book _His Exits and His Entrances: The Story of Shakespeare’s Reputation_ with him virtually everywhere he went to peddle to anyone who would purchase a autographed copy or two. At the Boston Bar Association Mock Trail broadcast over PBS at which he defended William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon as true author of the plays and poems bearing his name, he even tried to sell copies to those present:

WFL: Good. Are you also the author of a book on Shakespeare entitled His Exits and His Entrances: The Story of Shakespeare? LM: Affirmative. I have copies to sell.
WFL: And do you have extra copies of that tonight?
LM: Autographed!

He shamelessly solicited copies of books (on virtually any topic however tenuously related to Shakespeare studies for his enormous library and collection of Shakespeareana). In 1993 claimed to have 20,000 items of Shakespeare memorabilia in his collection. He once told me that “I’m not a scholar; I’m an antiquarian,” but is also quoted as saying, “I know more crap about Shakespeare than anyone else in the world.” He accepted advertisements in ShN from Oxfordians and other Anti-Stratfordians, but he was among their fiercest critics, speaking out at every opportunity afforded him. Marder was, nevertheless, considered a friend by many Oxfordians, including except Russell des Cognets, whom Marder referred to as “my personal friend and sometime patron.”

Louis was never tentative in his remarks. No, he told it as he saw it — If you idea was crap he would say it was crap. Blunt, to the point, that was Louis Marder. He also was a bit crude. He told me on a number of occasions the story about the subscriber who would tell him that he loved The Shakespeare Newsletter because he could read it all in one shitting.

Surprised that I was not able to find an obituary for him online, I decided to make one of my own.

Louis Marder was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1915, the son of an Austro-Hungarian immigrant who washed windows in Brooklyn.

In 1990, he wrote in his own obituary:

“He won a prize for a Shakespeare skit on Julius Caesar in a charity camp when he was fourteen. He memorized Shakespeare quotations. After two of his eight years in night school at Brooklyn College as a pre-med (he worked during the day) he became an English major and went back to his old love, Shakespeare.”

“He had a year of Shakespeare at Brooklyn College, started a Shakespeare Club there with the motto, Spirits are not finely touched but to fine issues, founded an Arts Appreciation Society, married me [Louis was pretending to be his own wife writing the obit.] in 1940 [we have two children, M.B.A Dan a computer engineer with Xerox and Dr. Diana a clinical psychologist], won the Senior Award and Student Council Award at graduation in 1941, went to Columbia in 1941, was drafted in 1943, served three years and two days, came home in 1946, went, back to complete his M.A (1947), earned his Ph.D. in June 1950, and started The Shakespeare Newsletter in March 1951. After that, for forty years I wondered whether he was married to me or to Shakespeare.”

Marder spent most of his teaching career at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The reason for posting his obituary was to find a home for ShN so that he could work full-time on his latest project, The Shakespeare Data Bank (SDB). Marder’s idea for the SDB was expansive:

“There are many thousands of references and no library can have them all. With the SDB fully implemented every scholar would have the same access to all the material. He thought that many controversies and questions would be resolved, better teaching and study possible, staging would be improved, and repetitious scholarship eliminated if there was the solid foundation of a Shakespeare Data Bank in which all that we know and all that will be known is compiled, condensed, simplified, fully cross-referenced and indexed for easy reference wherever a computer was available. We would be able to see all problems steadily and see them whole.”

Marder understood intellectually the power of computers, but the specifics of how computers worked escaped him. He would call me and ask what I considered naive questions for someone planning a project as large as the SDB. I think that had I been wealthy enough or without a wife and family that he would have loved me to move to Evanston so that I could deal with the technical matters associated with this project for him.

With the exception of some vanity work and a glossary, his only book was _His Exits and His Entrances: The Story of Shakespeare’s Reputation_ (386 pgs. J. B. Lippincott: Philadelphia, 1963). Copies of this book can be found at online second-hand and rare books sites like Alibris. Members of Questia ( can read it online.

Louis Marder will probably be long associated with the Boston Bar Association’s Mock Trial that was featured on the PBS Frontline program “The Shakespeare Mystery” (Nov. 12, 1993). Marder was the expert witness who presented the case for William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon. WFL: Excuse me. Now, Mr. Marder, I’d like to go to the merits of the controversy and first ask you whether or not, in your opinion, you can prove to this jury that William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon was the Shakespeare of London who wrote the plays attributed to him?
LM: One can answer the question, Can I? Yes, I can.

This answer is Louis Marder at his best, confident and direct.

In the years after transferring the ShN to Iona College, Marder continued to work on his beloved SDB and periodically made an appearance when the Anti-Stratfordians would rear their heads. In 1999 he sent a letter to Harper’s rebutting the claims of Oxfordians. A revised version of that letter was published on SHAKSPER .

The last reference to him online that I can find is his 2007 being awarded the honorary title Director Emeritus by The Board of Directors of the Shakespeare Society of America (SSA), an organization he helped found. The award reads,

November 15, 2007

The Board of Directors of the Shakespeare Society of America (SSA) are proud to acknowledge that Dr. Louis Marder has distinguished himself through his lifelong dedication to the Works of William Shakespeare and his scholarly support of the SSA. Herein we bestow the honorary title of Director Emeritus with membership in the Shakespeare Society of America for life. Dr. Marder’s illustrious academic career began at Kent State University in Ohio before he relocated to the University of Illinois in Chicago, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of English. He produced the Shakespeare Newsletter (SNL) for forty years. That dedication speaks volumes about his endurance as a globally recognized Shakespearean Scholar to promote the Works of Shakespeare.

Yes, it does. Rest in peace Louis Marder.

Hardy M. Cook
Editor of SHAKSPER

PS: In addition to the links mentioned above, I have scanned Marder’s 1990 April Fool’s obituary and mounted it on the SHAKSPER server at Marder PDF I hope that John and Tom will not mind.

And a final note after that intimate biography from Hardy. Thanks to the interweb the full text of his book is available to be read online here.

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