Shakespeare-Oxford Society

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History of Doubts surrounding the authorship of Shakespeare’s Works

1728 -

Publication of Captain Goulding’s Essay Against Too Much Reading in which he comments on the background Shakespeare would require for his historical plays and suggests that Shakespeare probably had to keep “one of those chuckle-pated Historians for his particular Associate…or he might have starvd upon his History.” Goulding tells us that he had this from “one of his (Shakespeare’s) intimate Acquaintance.”

1769 -

Publication of The Life and Adventures of Common Sense, an anonymous allegory which describes a profligate Shakespeare casting “his Eye upon a common place Book, in which was contained, an Infinite Variety of Modes and Forms, to express all the different Sentiments of the human Mind, together with Rules for their Combinations and Connections upon every Subject or Occasion that might Occur in Dramatic Writing…”

1785 -

Rev. James Wilmot, D.D. attributed authorship to Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam.

1786 -

The Story of the Learned Pig , an anonymous allegory by an “Officer of the Royal Navy,” in which The Pig describes himself as having variously been a greyhound, deer, bear and a human being (after taking possession of a body) who worked as horseholder at a playhouse where he met the “Immortal Shakespeare” who’s he reports didn’t “run his country for deer-stealing” and didn’t father the various plays, Hamlet, Othello, As You Like It, The Tempest , and Midsummer’s Night Dream. Instead the Pig confesses to be author.

1848 -

In The Romance of Yachting by Joseph C. Hart, a former American consul at Santa Cruz, provides Considerable anti-Stratfordian opinion. Favors Jonson as probable author of Shakespeare’s plays.

1852 -

August issue of Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal contained an anonymous article, ‘Who Wrote Shakespeare” The author suggests that Shakespeare “kept a poet.”

1856 -

Bacon is proposed as author of Shakespeare’s plays in Putnam’s Monthly (January issue) which contained “Shakespeare and His Plays: An Inquiry Concerning Them” by Delia Bacon, an American bearing no family relationship to Francis Bacon.

1857 -

Publication of The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded, a book by Delia Bacon in which she considers the possibility of several authors. Nathanial Hawthorne helped Delia Bacon publish this book, for which he contributed a preface.

1891/92 -

James Greenstreet, a British archivist, in a series of essays in The Genealogist, proposed that William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby was author of the Shakespeare plays.

1892 -

Our English Homer listed several writers as a group who were responsible for writing Shakespeare’s works: Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Nashe, Lodge, Bacon and others.

1895 -

It Was Marlowe: A Story of the Secret of Three Centuries, a novel by Wilbur Ziegler, proposed that Marlowe, Raleigh, and the Earl of Rutland were authors of the Shakespearean canon.

1903 -

Henry James in a letter to Miss Violet Hunt says “I am ‘a sort of’ haunted by the conviction that the divine William is the biggest and most successful fraud ever practised on a patient world.”

1908 -

Sir George Greenwood, scholar and Member of Parliament, exposed the major arguments and scholarship against the Stratford man as author of the Shakespearean canon in his book, The Shakespeare Problem Restated, the first in a series of volumes that Sir George devoted to the subject.

1910 -

Bacon Is Shakespeare by Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence (New York, John McBride Co.) cited arguments that Bacon is Shakespeare and that the following are distinguished men who perceived “the truth respecting the real authorship of the Plays:”

–Lord Palmerston, British statesman, 1784-1865.
–Lord Houghton, British statesman, 1809-1885 (better known as Richard Monckton Milnes).
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, British critic and poet, 1772-1834
–John Bright, British statesman, 1811-1889 (“Any man that believes that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote Hamlet or Lear is a fool.”)
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher and poet, 1803-1882
–John Greenlief Whittier, American poet, 1807-1892 (“Whether Bacon wrote the wonderful plays or not, I am quite sure the man Shakspere neither did nor could.”)
–Dr. W. H. Furness, eminent American scholar and father of the editor of the Variorum, 1802-1891 (“I am one of the many who have never been able to bring the life of William Shakepeare and the plays of Shakespeare within planetary space of each other.”)
–Mark Twain, American author and humorist, 1835-1910
–Prince Otto von Bismarck, 1815-1898

1915 -

The Derbyite theory, suggesting that William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby was the true author behind the Shakespeare name, was revived by Robert Fraser in The Silent Shakespeare.

1919 -

Abel Lefranc, a French scholar, also supports the Derbyite theory in his Sous le Masque de “William Shakespeare”: William Stanley, VI Comte de Derby.

1920 - J. Thomas Looney, British schoolmaster and scholar, evolved the theory of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as author in his book, “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford.

1922 -

The Shakespeare Fellowship, an organization devoted to research on the Shakespearean authorship, is formed with honorary president Sir George Greenwood, and officers including J. T. Looney, Colonel B. R. Ward (father of the biographer of Edward de Vere) and Abel Lefranc.

1926 -

Sigmund Freud adopts J. Thomas Looney’s theory on the 17th Earl of Oxford. (One of Freud’s teachers, Theodor Meynert, had believed in Bacon as the true author.) Freud later confirmed this advocacy in 1935 with the revision of his Autobiographical Study.

1930 -

Canon Gerald Rendall, Gladstone professor of Greek at Liverpool’s University College, publishes Shakespeare Sonnets and Edward de Vere –another book that influenced Sigmund Freud.

1930 -

Eva Turner Clark publishes a book, Shakespeare’s Plays in the Order of Their Writing, which proposes that the 17th Earl of Oxford wrote the plays and at a much earlier date than supposed.

1943 -

Alden Brooks advocates the candidacy of Sir Edward Dyer as author in his book, Will Shakspere and the Dyer’s Hand.

1952 -

Dr. A. W. Titherley, onetime dean of the faculty of science at the University of Liverpool wrote Shakespeare’s Identity in which he tried to establish the Derbyite theory through a series of scientific formulas.

1955 -

Calvin Hoffman in his book, The Murder of the Man Who Was “Shakespeare”, reawakened interest in the theory that Christopher Marlowe was author of Shakespeare’s plays.

1956 -

George Elliot Sweet’s Shakespeare the Mystery presents the case for Queen Elizabeth as author.

1957 – present

Incorporation of the Shakespeare Oxford Society. From its inception (originally as the Shakespeare Fellowship in the l930s) a stream of publications in the form of books, newsletters, and journals advanced the evidence for Edward de Vere’s authorship of the Shakespeare canon. Noted writers: Charlton and Dorothy Ogburn, Charlton Ogburn, Jr., Charles Wisner Barrell, Louis Benezet, Gelett Burgess, Ruth Loyd Miller, Dr. A. Bronson Feldman.

1962 -

Historian Hugh Trevor-Roper in Realites ( Nov. 1962) says, “One-hundredth part of the labor (expended on Shakespeare’s curriculum vitae) applied to one of his insignificant contemporaries would be sufficient to produce a substantial biography.”

1964 -

Justice Wilberforce in a court case in England brought by the heirs of the deceased Evelyn May Hopkins, challenging the validity of her gift to the Francis Bacon Society, Inc., gave an opinion in favor of Miss Hopkins’ intentions, indicating that “the evidence in favour of Shake-speare’s authorship is quantitatively slight. It rests positively, in the main, on the explicit statements in the First Folio of 1623 and on continuous tradition; negatively on the lack of any challenge to this ascription at the time.” He goes on to say that the noted English historian, Professor Trevor-Roper also considers that the case for William Shakespeare rests on a narrow balance of evidence and that new material could upset it”


Reprint publication of Looney’s Shakespeare Identified (edited by Ruth Loyd Miller) from Minos Publishing.


Publication of Charlton Ogburn’s The Mysterious William Shakespeare results in a burst of new interest in the authorship that continues today


The Moot Court Debate in Washington DC presided over by three sitting Justices of the US Supreme Court. Two of the three justices (Blackmun and Stevens), while voting for Shaksper of Stratford on narrow legal grounds, express their great interest in the issue and later express opinions that Edward de Vere may very well be the true Shakespeare.


Broadcast on PBS’ Frontline of The Shakespeare Mystery further increases awareness and interest in the authorship debate.


The new technology of the Internet provides electronic forums and electronic publishing for the Shakespeare Oxford Society to reach increasing numbers of people, especially students, around the world.


A Shakespeare Oxford Society Home Page and a new electronic magazine (The Ever Reader) are started on the World Wide Web, bringing the authorship resources and news of the debate to a global audience. Teachers at both the high school and college level increasingly have class assignments on the authorship debate and use the Internet as a primary resource for up-to-date information.


The Edward de Vere Studies Conference is founded by Dr. Daniel L. Wright (Head, Department of English) at Concordia University (Portland, Oregon).

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