Worth Reading (Fiction)

  • Mamet, David: Chicago: A Novel
    In Roaring 20's Chicago, a Great War veteran turned hard-boiled reporter falls in love with the wrong woman and then seeks to find her killer.
  • Nelson DeMille: The Cuban Affair: A Novel
    Two million dollars to charter a boat for a fishing tournament? A great way for the owner to pay off the boat's mortgage, but it turns out to include slipping into Castro's prison island in search of a lost (and perhaps imaginary) treasure.
  • Kate Atkinson: Life After Life: A Novel
    Ursula Todd has the opportunity to relive her life, over and over and over, moving steadily through the Great War and its sequels and accumulating shards of memory.
  • Connie Willis: Crosstalk: A Novel
    An empathy app leads to complications involving telepathy, Irish women and a true love that runs most unsmoothly. Classic Willis comedy.
  • Mark Steyn: The Prisoner of Windsor
    In a 21st Century sequel to Anthony Hope, the heir to the Ruritanian throne must fill in for the kidnaped Prime Minister of Great Britain.
  • Tim Powers: My Brother's Keeper
    Werewolves, the Brontë sisters, their wayward brother, their heroic dog and a conspiracy to unleash an almost dead deity.
  • Tim Powers: Declare: A Novel
    An intricate Cold War fantasy that seems so plausible that one wonders whether it is the true story of why the Soviet Union rose and collapsed.
  • H.F.M. Prescott: The Man on a Donkey
    Set during the Pilgrimage of Grace, this is the rare historical novel that captures the mindset of the actors. The hero, Robert Aske, was martyred in a way that makes burning at the stake look merciful.
  • Theodore Odrach: Wave of Terror
    Based on the author's experiences when the Soviet Union occupied his homeland after the Stalin-Hitler Pact, this book melds Chekov and Solzhenitsyn. By stages, the isolated folk of the Pripyet Marshes learn that there are worse masters than their former Polish overlords.
  • Simon Montefiore: Sashenka: A Novel
    Both grim and funny, this historical novel peers into the inner world of an upper class Russian girl turned loyal Bolshevik, highlighting her youthful fling at revolution-making in Petrograd, her fall from grace under Stalin, and an historian's effort, after the end of communism, to ascertain her fate.
  • Harry Turtledove: The Man with the Iron Heart
    Can the U.S. maintain its resolve against a defeated enemy's terrorist campaign? Imagining a post-World War II Nazi insurgency, Harry Turtledove puts this question into a new context. As Reinhard von Heydrich's "werewolves" devastate Germany, war-weary Americans call for withdrawal, regardless of the consequences.
  • Neal Stephenson: Anathem
    If you have not a smidgen of interest in how Platonic philosophy relates to the "many worlds" version of quantum mechanics, you still may like this novel, though you'll probably wish that the characters talked less. Persevere. After a slow start, the story grows compelling, and the intellectual dialogues turn out not to be digressions.
  • Alfred Duggan: Lord Geoffrey's Fancy
    Perhaps the finest book of one of England's finest historical novelists. The setting is 13th Century Greece, where Crusaders fought each other and the shattered Byzantine Empire. The history is accurate, the writing graceful and the characters not merely modern people in fancy dress.
  • Rodney Bolt: History Play : The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe
    A pseudo-history springing from the premise that Shakespeare's flashy predecessor survived the famous Deptford brawl and fled to the continent, where he secretly wrote almost all of the Bard's works. A clever, tongue-in-cheek reworking of literary history that also recreates the milieu shared by many real Elizabethan exiles.
  • Charles W. Chesnutt: Stories, Novels, and Essays (Library of America, 131)
    Fiction and essays by a black American writer who deserves a wider audience.
  • Harry Turtledove: Gunpowder Empire
    Debut of a juvenile series set in parallel worlds. 22nd century teen siblings, trapped without adult aid in a besieged city, must cope with the bizarre (to them) customs and prejudices of a never-fallen Roman Empire.
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4. ***Strachey’s last recorded incident is a stern message sent to Chief Powhatan (well known to history and fable) threatening his tribesmen with murder, pillage and arson unless he releases a number of English captives and enters into peace negotiations with the colony. He continues:
What this will worke with him, wee know not as yet, for this was but the day before our ships were now falling to Point Comfort, and so to set sayle for England: which ships riding before Weroscoick to take in their fraight of Cedar, Clap-boord, Blacke Walnut, and Iron Oare, tooke Prisoners likewise the chiefe King of Weroscoick, called Sasenticum, with his Sonne Kainta, and one of his chiefe men. And the fifteenth day of Iuly, in the Blessing, Captaine Adams brought them to Point Comfort, where at that time (as well to take his leaue of the Lieutenant Generall Sir Thomas Gates, now bound for England, as to dispatch the ships) the Lord Gouernour and Captaine Generall had pitched his Tent in Algernoone Fort.
The Kings Sonne Kainta the Lord Gouernour and Captaine Generall, hath sent now into England, vntil the ships arriue here againe the next Spring, dismissing the old Werowance, and the other with all tearmes of kindnesse, and friendship, promising further designes to bee effected by him, to which hee hath bound himselfe, by diuers Sauage Ceremonies, and admirations.
***Note that Gates’s imminent departure is stated as the reason why Strachey does not know how the threat to Powhatan will work out. Could these paragraphs have been written, as S&K contend, over a year later, after “the next Spring” had passed and the writer himself was back in London? Only if he was engaged in an incomprehensible mystification!


I wanted to add...that also there is also interesting conversation that the reason Sir Thomas Gates imminent departure took place was because Pocohontas has been kidnapped previously per Gates orders to begin with and she could not escape..Was she treated so well up to meeting John Rolfe? That her son Thomas was not named after Thomas Dale. But another. Needless to say Chief Powhatan was not amused but allowed his daughter to marry to bring peace to the colony. Was Pocohontas with childe before she married John Rolfe? The Spring that Sir Thomas Gates left? One might also be certaine of the dates of both events. Why was King James so mad about her marriage to John Rolfe? Her death in England upon leaving Gravesend. This broke Chief Powhatan's heart..The Massacre of 1622 took place after the Chief's death the following yeare. You must also remember that Sir William Strachey collected the language of the natives and learned to understand them more and more. Even writing a dictionary later of the Algonquinian language. I certainly did not see John Smith writing anywhere about learning the language while wooing his little "wanton" one. John Smith and William Strachey were friends indeed. William Strachey also collected much history about what happened to the Lost Colony..Sir William Strachey truly got around back there in Jamestowne and back to England. Getting back to Shakespeare...The POET or the ACTOR? Mind you...also note his Sonnets..they tell quiet a story as well.
Between all the literary greats, Grey's Inn, The Middle Temple, The Inner Temple, BlackFriar's Theater, Mermaid Tavern, certainly one must wonder how WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was truly able to WRITE IT ALL.

I think perhaps you better research the true lineage of William Strachey so that you can perspectively look at all of this in a different "light". William Shakespeare was many men. They met quiet frequently at the Mermaid Tavern...Between the Shakers of the Helmet and Pallas Athena..and all the great literary writers..You will find many comparisons in William Shakespeare and all the other writers. Oddly though, for such a great writer like William Strachey, to be given such a task as recorder and secretary to have "plagerized" anything. William Strachey did travel abroad as well..the Levant Company. Where did William Shakespeare ever travel to? How did he learn such intricate langueages and cultures? Perhaps he COPIED more than you account for?
Did Queen Elizabeth I have anything to hide? There certainly is whole debate there in itself along with King James. How cast away was much of England then to the New World?
Giggle....Amazing at the same time, that man has changed much of the history of events then too...as years before. Certainly women recieved no credit but no less..kept records too.
I love reading all these posts..Yes William Shakespeare was ONE of MANY to say the least.

Part Deux

***Internal evidence strongly suggests that the True Reportory’s text dates from 1610:

1.***The last part of the letter consists of a chronicle of events in the Virginia colony from early June through July 15, 1610. It ends on that day, as Sir Thomas Gates is about to set sail for England, and refers to no later event.

 This, as you know full well, is untrue. Gates’ return in September to England, and the publication of True Declaration are referred to. You can try to explain them away, but you can’t exclude them for no reason.

2***Discussing complaints that the location of Jamestown rendered it unhealthy, Strachey writes:
. . . some experience we haue to perswade our selues that it may be so; for of foure hundred and odde men, which were seated at the Fals the last yeere when the Fleete came in with fresh and yong able spirits, vnder the gouernment of Captain Francis West, and of one hundred to the Seawards (on the South side of our Riuer), in the Country of the Nansamundes, vnder the charge of Captaine Iohn Martin, there did not so much as one man miscarry, and but very few or none fall sicke, whereas at Iames Towne, the same time, and the same moneths, one hundred sickened, & halfe the number died.
***These events took place in 1609, so, unless Strachey was extremely confused, he was writing in 1610 (or to be precise, no later than March 24, 1611, as the English civil year then began on March 25th).

 Your dates are flimsy, and Tom, really, how can you determine the date on which Strachey was writing? Have you never heard of after-the-fact composition, or amending an earlier copy? There are many, many examples of it. In this case we believe that Strachey was embroidering an earlier text, most likely of his own, often with the help of earlier sources. The passage you give above, by the way, is in True Declaration. Since Strachey wasn’t even in Virginia at the time these events occurred, the source for True Dec was more likely to be someone such as George Percy, who was.

3. ***Strachey records the dispatch of ships to Bermuda to fetch provisions:
In Counsell therefore, the thirteenth of Iune, it pleased Sir George Summers Knight, Admirall, to propose a Voyage, which, for the better reliefe, and good of the Colony, he would performe into the Bermudas, from whence he would fetch six moneths prouision of Flesh and Fish, and some liue Hogges to store our Colony againe: and had a Commission giuen vnto him the fifteenth of Iune, 1610, who in his owne Bermuda Pinnace, the Patience, consorted with Captaine Samuell Argoll, in the Discouery (whom the Lord Gouernour, and Captaine Generall, made of the counsell before his departure) the nineteenth of Iune, fell with the Tyde from before our Towne, and the twenty two left the Bay, or Cape Henry a sterne.
***That is the last that the True Repertory has to say of the admiral.
***As it fell out, he died in Bermuda on November 9, 1610, and his son took his body back to England for burial “with pomp and ceremony” [Oxford DNB s.v. “George Somers”]. Given that he is one of the major figures in Strachey’s narrative, the silence about his fate is strange, if it occurred before the book was finished.

 Surely even Strachey could take note of dates, or elaborate on an earlier letter, or copy what he needed from his journal, if he had one as in later years. If he was trying to publish a shaped account, he would have stopped before the death of Somers. Not only that. It is quite possible that his editor, Purchas, could have truncated Strachey’s narrative. Purchas was known for adding or subtracting material at whim. It is entirely possible that Strachey continued afterwards, and Purchas abridged the contents to suit his book and its time frame, adding the last part of True Declaration to the end. That end, we hope you agree, is rather a mess.

4. ***Strachey’s last recorded incident is a stern message sent to Chief Powhatan (well known to history and fable) threatening his tribesmen with murder, pillage and arson unless he releases a number of English captives and enters into peace negotiations with the colony. He continues:
What this will worke with him, wee know not as yet, for this was but the day before our ships were now falling to Point Comfort, and so to set sayle for England: which ships riding before Weroscoick to take in their fraight of Cedar, Clap-boord, Blacke Walnut, and Iron Oare, tooke Prisoners likewise the chiefe King of Weroscoick, called Sasenticum, with his Sonne Kainta, and one of his chiefe men. And the fifteenth day of Iuly, in the Blessing, Captaine Adams brought them to Point Comfort, where at that time (as well to take his leaue of the Lieutenant Generall Sir Thomas Gates, now bound for England, as to dispatch the ships) the Lord Gouernour and Captaine Generall had pitched his Tent in Algernoone Fort.
The Kings Sonne Kainta the Lord Gouernour and Captaine Generall, hath sent now into England, vntil the ships arriue here againe the next Spring, dismissing the old Werowance, and the other with all tearmes of kindnesse, and friendship, promising further designes to bee effected by him, to which hee hath bound himselfe, by diuers Sauage Ceremonies, and admirations.
***Note that Gates’s imminent departure is stated as the reason why Strachey does not know how the threat to Powhatan will work out. Could these paragraphs have been written, as S&K contend, over a year later, after “the next Spring” had passed and the writer himself was back in London? Only if he was engaged in an incomprehensible mystification!

 Have you not seen our arguments concerning after-the-fact composition, amending or elaborating upon an earlier copy, or interference by Purchas? After-the-fact composition was relatively common. You might like to look at Fernando Columbus’s narratives about his father, to take just one example. The events, although sounding immediate, were written long afterwards; some occurred while Fernando was still a small child. Amending or elaborating on an earlier draft, or even plagiarism of other texts, is even more common today. And Purchas’ rewriting, adding and removing text, is a matter of record.

***S&K assert that Strachey’s language can be taken as putting the ships’ departure in the past (“now bound for England”, “hath now sent into England”). Their reading goes well beyond what grammar demands. Even if it were sound, it would be of little use to their case, for their crucial hypothesis is that Strachey had the Council of Virginia’s True Declaration open in front of him as he wrote.

 That the people on the ships had been sent, but had not departed, is a strained interpretation to begin with. But another problem is that Strachey has used the same construction elsewhere with regard to the same departure:
The governor and his women fled (the young King
Powhatan's son not being there), but left his poor baggage and treasure to the spoil of our soldiers; which was only a few baskets of old wheat and some other of peas and beans, a little tobacco, and some few women’s girdles of silk, of the grass silk, not without art and much neatness finely wrought; of which I have sent divers into England (being at the taking of the town), and would have sent Your Ladyship some of them had they been a present so worthy.

These events took place on July 9th. There would be no other ships until Gates’ships departed around the 15th. So the girdles of grass silk must have been on those ships. When Strachey says “which I HAVE SENT…and WOULD HAVE SENT Your Ladyship some of them HAD THEY BEEN a present so worthy… ” we can be fairly certain that the ships had already left because of his usage of tenses. If the ships were still at Port Comfort, surely Strachey would have written, “which I am sending to England…and would send your ladyship some of them if they were a present so worthy.”

***But Strachey was in Virginia until the autumn of 1611. Assuming that a copy of the True Declaration was superfluously dispatched to the colony, would he have received it before any developments occurred in the standoff with Powhatan and the English ships returned in the Spring? S&K are at pains to emphasize only one English vessel is known to have called at Jamestown “between Gates’ departure in July 1610 and Sir Thomas Dale’s arrival from England in May 1611”. That was “a small ship called The Hercules[, which] may have left England sometime after December and arrived in Virginia on or around 20 April 1611”.

 No, we weren’t at pains. We were merely repeating what we found when researching the project. Do you have other information? It is pretty clear that the reason the manuscript had to be on the boat was because there were no other means to get it to London in time for Shakespeare to use it for his play, and so the people at pains to make this case are in fact those who support the “conventional wisdom."

***It might have brought the True Declaration, and Strachey might then have composed his True Reportory during the few weeks before Dale’s fleet came, and he might for some reason have left out all incidents between Gates’ departure and the time of writing. By that thread S&K’s whole theory is suspended.

 Not at all. Our purpose was to show alternatives to the accepted “wisdom.” We did so in many different ways, and each one made the traditional story less credible. And that’s before all our other papers are published. But should you feel that using the word “might” is the word that suspends our theory on a thread, may we suggest that it is your word. You may also wish to look at Furness, whose theory is founded (and in fact founders) on mights and maybes. Strachey MIGHT have published True Rep in 1612 (he didn’t), and the first performance of Tempest MIGHT have been delayed until 1613 (it wasn’t). Even Furness, who with the use of these maybes furnished his entire theory, wouldn’t accept it now. His standard appears to have been that a source should be published.

***Absent the improbably timely apparition of the True Declaration in the New World, the only conclusion reconcilable with the internal evidence is that the True Reportory was written and sent to England in July 1610, in plenty of time to serve as a basis for the True Declaration.

 No, of course this isn’t the only explanation. By far the best explanation is that Strachey embellished the manuscript in England after his mentioning in Lawes in 1612 that he would do so. In England he would have a much better library with which to complete his work, and he likely had hopes of publication or a patron to spur him on. The internal evidence demonstrates that Strachey employed the same library in writing or embellishing True Rep as he used for History of Travel, generally believed composed circa 1612. To these sources he would have added documents from the Company, which would have been available to him at that time.

***Let us now turn to the relationship between those two works. As noted before, Strachey’s work takes the form of a letter to an “excellent lady”. The epistle closes just after the paragraphs quoted above regarding the return voyage to England:
And thus (right Noble Lady) once more this famous businesse, as recreated, and dipped a new into life and spirit, hath raysed it (I hope) from infamy, and shall redeeme the staines and losses vnder which she hath suffered, since her first Conception: your Graces still accompany the least appearance of her, and vouchsafe her to bee limmed out, with the beautie which wee will begge, and borrow from the faire lips: nor feare you, that shee will returne blushes to your cheekes for praysing her, since (more then most excellent Ladie) like your selfe (were all tongues dumbe and enuious) shee will prayse her selfe in her most silence: may shee once bee but seene, or but her shadow liuely by a skillfull Workman set out indeed, which heere (bungerly as I am) I haue presumed (though defacing it) in these Papers to present vnto your Ladyship.
***In Purchas’s edition, these words are followed by –
After Sir Thomas Gates his arriuall, a Booke called A true Declaration of Virginia, was published by the Company, out of which I haue heere inserted this their publike testimonie of the causes of the former euils, and Sir Thomas Gates his Report vpon Oath of Virginia.
***Then comes a long extract from the True Declaration, printed in italic type. S&K insist that this appendix must be part of Strachey’s original text, proving that the whole of the True Reportory was written after the True Declaration.

 No, we don’t insist at all. We mention the possibility that it was added by Purchas.

***They offer only two feeble arguments, both circular. One turns on the pronoun “I”: It supposedly “raises significant questions concerning True Reportory’s authenticity and integrity” to posit “the insertion of the first person pronoun by Purchas into a text ostensibly written in its entirety by Strachey”, but that is true only if one begins by assuming that the appendix belongs to Strachey’s ostensible text, which is the point to be decided. Similarly question-begging is S&K’s argument that the True Declaration’s priority is demonstrated by the fact that “material redacted [sic] from the concluding excerpt of True Declaration is sprinkled throughout Strachey’s text”. It is their a priori assumption that Strachey was the borrower.

***No one who did not have a thesis to prove can regard it as probable that the appendix is anything other than an insertion by the editor, Samuel Purchas, designed to record the Council of Virginia’s view of the causes of the Jamestown colony’s early misfortunes. Apart from the indications already mentioned – its placement after the formal close of the letter to the “excellent lady” and its printing in a different typeface from the letter –

 This italic typeface appears throughout True Reportory and other narratives edited by Purchas, often, but not always, to set off a quote. In other words, it is nothing unusual and cannot be used to prove that Purchas added it, unless he added every other quote also. We are surprised that Tom Reedy didn’t tell you that, as you clearly haven’t looked at Purchas His Pilgrimes yourself, or you would have seen that this was the case.

*** another sign of its independence is the bald reference to “Sir Thomas Gates”, whose name is throughout the letter adorned with his various titles. Out of dozens of references to him, there is only a single exception.

 Yes, that was an interesting observation of Tom Reedy’s, if not provable from a single instance. It is also interesting to note that Strachey doesn't follow his formula in the earlier draft, but often refers to Gates as "the governor."

***Yet in the appendix, where his official declarations to the colonial council are being reproduced, he is merely “Sir Thomas”.

 This is not an appendix, if you are referring to the excerpt from True Declaration. It is the end of the text. And Gates is certainly referred to by his full name in it. In our essay we looked at the possibility that Purchas added the end text from True Declaration, and suggested it was possible— but that it created other problems. For the most part, for example, the bits of True Dec that are strewn through the text are cut from the end portion, along with other material. This looks deliberate. And the “intrusion” of Purchas’s remarks into the body of the text in the first person also raises the distinct possibility that he made other emendations, as was his wont, so that the text we have today is not necessarily the one that Strachey sent to Hakluyt by 1615, let alone the one that was allegedly transmitted to England in 1610.

***Tom Reedy’s forthcoming essay elaborates on this and other reasons for attributing the appendix to Purchas. He also details how the True Reportory and the True Declaration agree against other eyewitnesses on key facts about the Bermuda shipwreck. For instance, both give the same date for the beginning of the storm, the same latitude of its onset and identical details concerning the three days of desperate pumping to keep the Sea Venture afloat. On all these matters, they differ from the first hand accounts of Admiral Somers (in a report to Sir Robert Cecil) and the seaman Silvester Jourdain (A discovery of the Bermudas, otherwise called the isle of devils, a pamphlet published in October 1610). The compiler of the True Declaration took his information either from Strachey or from an unknown tertium quid. S&K must assume the latter and then hypothesize that Strachey, who lived through the wreck, turned for information about it not to his own memory but to the True Declaration!

 As we have already explained to Tom Reedy, True Declaration itself states that there was input from Gates and others, as well as at least one other document from De La Warre. Since we also know from another account that Captain Newport submitted a report to the Company concerning the voyage and shipwreck of the Sea Venture in 1609, it is much more likely that True Declaration received these technical details from him rather than from William Strachey, who was not a mariner. It is quite possible that the details in Strachey’s first and second manuscripts were obtained from either True Declaration, or Newport himself, just as Strachey’s technical details in History of Travel were derived from Smith and others who were more experienced in these matters. And you should ask yourself the following: Strachey’s MO was to copy. In True Reportory he copied from Martyr and Oviedo in Eden /Willes, from Acosta, and from either Erasmus or Ariosto or Tomson in Hakluyt, etc. He may even have taken from Percy. In History of Travel he used at least a dozen sources, including Hakluyt, Smith, Eden/Willes, Davies, Rosier, Brereton, and Percy, in many cases lifting entire chapters or narratives from these writers. To be honest, we don’t even know for sure that the first draft of the Strachey letter was actually his. It appears to be, but it rests on only one piece of evidence—that he had been previously gone east to Algiers, etc. Of course, this would likely be true of several persons on the Sea Venture, especially the mariners, and in the early draft the point of view is quite different, and the language is much less ornate. And there’s no name on the letter. But leaving this last aside, isn’t it more likely that Strachey, who took great chunks of material over and over again from other writers, was more likely to have taken from True Declaration than vice versa?

***If the True Reportory was a source of the True Declaration, it must have been available in England by late 1610, when the latter was published. Since S&K cast no substantial doubt on the conventional understanding of the relationship between the two documents,

 See above. It was Strachey’s habit to copy. He even preferred to copy rather than write of his own experiences. It seems peculiar to us, but it was undoubtedly the case, and certainly not unknown during the period. Knowing this as we do, is it not likely that he took from True Declaration also, as either he or Purchas, another well-known embroiderer, did in the last section of True Reportory? To say that we have not cast doubt on the conventional view of the relationship between these two texts is not merely to misrepresent the contents of our article, it is also to ignore and excuse a long tradition of Strachey scholarship that has perpetuated a double standard big enough to drive a Mack truck through with respect to Strachey’s well known “outside of Tempest scholarship” habit of stitching together his compositions out of the shreds and patches of texts by other writers.

***their remaining arguments, consisting of alleged anomalies and Strachey’s supposed borrowing of two short passages from Captain John Smith’s Map of Virginia (1612), require no discussion. The anomalies are not very strange, and their only reason for thinking that Strachey was the copyist, rather than Smith, is that Strachey’s major opus, The Historie of Travell into Virginia Britania, “borrowed heavily from the work of earlier authors, including Richard Willes, James Rosier, and John Smith” [Oxford DNB s. v. “William Strachey”]. They repeat “Strachey was a plagiarist” over and over, as if a man who plagiarizes in a work based on research is bound to do the same when he writes about what he himself lived through.

 But he DID do the same. He even refers to Eden and Acosta, etc., in some passages of True Rep, though their work is taken but remains unattributed in other passages even if it is verbatim or close to it. Even Tom Reedy has realized this with regard to parts of the storm set. I’m surprised you do not. It suggests to us that you haven’t read True Reportory or Eden or other early texts carefully. It is the inability to recognize that True Rep, although ostensibly a true account, borrows widely from numerous literary sources available to Shakespeare, which has allowed the Strachey theory to endure, and indeed, flourish, in the absence of significant evidence to recommend it.

***What can one make, then, of S&K’s claim to have proven “that Strachey’s True Reportory is no longer even a possible source for Shakespeare’s Tempest.”? They have, so far as I can see, done nothing more than proffer an alternative reconstruction of the True Reportory’s history, one that cannot, for want of evidence, be conclusively rejected but that is not likely or even plausible.

 It is astonishing to us that you make such pronouncements, when you haven’t even demonstrated how Shakespeare of Stratford was a friend of those who ran the company, or how he received a copy of a twenty three thousand word document in time to compose the play, or how it went to the company in the first place as it was addressed to a “noble lady,” or why Shakespeare even needed Strachey when there were other richer sources and parallels available, or how Strachey managed to obtain all those sources himself in time to write True Reportory, after saying himself that almost everything was thrown overboard in the storm: “We much unrigged our ship, threw overboard much luggage, many a trunk and chest (in which I suffered no mean loss)…” The first draft of the manuscript reinforces this theory as it is missing almost all the sources that Strachey used in True Rep except the storm set, which was likely influenced by Tomson and/or de Ulloa in Hakluyt, a text we thought from our research might have been on the ship or on De La Warre’s ship. Even Tom Reedy has agreed on HLAS that Strachey’s description of St. Elmo likely came from these earlier writers. There is also in the earlier draft what appears to be a memorial reconstruction of a short passage from Oviedo in Eden. It is misquoted. There are, in fact, very few extraneous references, unlike in True Reportory, and this provides compelling witness to the process of revision, which you seem to deny ever took place. It is also astonishing to us, by the way, that you continue to deny that Strachey used these sources, even though he mentions some of them by name. While you castigate us on many points, including our belief that Oxford wrote the canon, your material used to try to rebut our essay seems extremely weak and implausible, as at times it doesn’t even appear you have explanations for certain parts of the Strachey theory. And indeed, that True Reportory in its finished form arrived at the Company in September 1610, or it went from thence to Shakespeare, or that Shakespeare the author had not yet written Tempest, are all articles of faith, still very poorly evidenced, if evidenced at all.

***To recap, in the S&K universe, William Strachey perpetuated an elaborate hoax for no apparent purpose but the bafflement of posterity.

 No. As you say yourself, he was likely looking for publication or at least a patron as he was broke, especially after being dropped by the Company, so he embroidered his earlier text with many other sources, a trait for which he became well known. But don’t rely on us for this information. Check Culliford’s biography of Strachey, in which he demonstrates that Strachey used the works of others over and over again to write History of Travel, his only other work of any significance, and that apart from the introduction, he wrote nothing of Lawes. If Culliford is not enough for you, please refer to the scholarship of C. D. Warner or C. H. Adams.

***Writing in late 1611, at the earliest (after 1612, if S&K are serious about his purported plagiarism from John Smith), he cast his mind back to July 1610 and carefully avoided referring to anything that happened after that ostensible date, to the point of leaving such incidents as the tension with the Indians and the fate of Sir George Somers in medias res.

 We have also responded to this point several times.

***He also, in recounting incidents that he had seen himself, turned to the second hand True Declaration and drew on it liberally in preference to his own recollection.

 But indeed, odd though this may seem, it was his preferred method of writing, as we have demonstrated over and over again. He spiced his narrative with the material of others, whether that material was first or second hand. This can be easily demonstrated by comparing the bits that it appears he borrowed with other narratives or pamphlets of the events. His “borrowings” do not appear in them. If True Declaration took from Strachey, by the way, why would it not at the very least mention the miracle of St. Elmo, such a positive sign as well as such an unusual event? After all, “Sir George Somers called divers about him and showed them the same…” and apparently it struck amazement in all, yet not even Somers mentions the episode afterwards. We do find similar accounts, however, in Eden, Erasmus, Ariosto, De Ulloa, Tomson, Gilbert, Columbus (fils) and the work of several other authors of the sixteenth century. It became a kind of emblem for shipwreck or of safety from the storm, depending on whether one or two separate streams of fire were observed (or copied). The description of the emblematic St. Elmo can in fact be found as far back as antiquity in Pliny and others. Shakespeare seemed well aware of St. Elmo as symbol, and almost certainly took most of his account from Eden, not Hakluyt, as Strachey appears to have done.

***No one who believes that the Earl of Oxenford secretly composed the works of Shakespeare, or that (as Dr. Stritmatter maintains in other writings) he was Queen Elizabeth’s sub rosa paramour, or that (Dr. Stritmatter again) he infused much of “Shakespeare” with bitterness over the Queen’s refusal to acknowledge their illegitimate son as the heir to the throne, will see anything untoward about the theory advanced in “Shakespeare and the Voyagers Revisited”. Elsewhere, I anticipate that it will receive the same credence as its authors’ other peculiar notions of reality.

 Again, your prose is not to the point and has merely become a nasty habit, an attempt to cast a slur on us as writers. We should perhaps convey to you the fact that not only do our perspectives on Oxford differ, but also that we do not mention him in any of our articles. But since you feel that our work lacks credibility, perhaps we should mention that it has already received much positive feedback from several orthodox scholars, so we are not in the least alarmed. And so far, we feel obliged to point out, you have added very little new or of substance to the debate. We will take up your appendices in the summer, if not before. Thank you for the conversation. We are delighted to be able to share our perspective with a new audience.

Lynne and Roger's Rebuttal

***One of the not-quite-fixed points in Shakespearean studies is the inspiration for The Tempest. For a couple of hundred years, it has been widely believed that Shakespeare wrote it after reading William Strachey’s account of a shipwreck in Bermuda in 1609 (A True Reportory of the wracke, and redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight; upon, and from the Ilands of the Bermudas). Strachey in not the play’s “source” in a conventional sense: He drops no hints of Prospero or Ariel or Miranda or Caliban, and nothing supernatural occurs. Rather, the playwright seems to have taken the mundane events of the True Reportory and transferred them to a fantasy realm. Bermuda was sometimes called “the Isle of Devils”, so he imagined an island where magical beings dwelled. A modern parallel is Fletcher Pratt’s novel The Blue Star, in which late 18th Century Europe and America are transformed into a parallel world where witchcraft is a reality.

Your essay seems to have been written too hastily to take into account the history of Tempest scholarship. In fact, as you know from having read our article, the authorship reliance on Strachey as a source is little over a hundred, not two hundred years old. It was not until after Furness’s 1892 Variorum edition that Strachey eclipsed a prior favourite, Silverster Jourdain.
But you are quite right in thinking that Strachey could not be a main source. He is missing many of the elements important to Tempest that can be found elsewhere.

***The resemblances between what happened to Strachey and his companions and what happens in The Tempest have been spelled out many times. A convenient on-line article is David Kathman’s “Dating The Tempest”. The case is not, and in the nature of things could not be, absolutely water-tight. Still, if Shakespeare did not read Strachey (or someone else who presented the same facts in very much the same way) before writing The Tempest, we have a remarkable literary coincidence.

We are interested that you have put up a link to David Kathman’s essay, and not our response in the form of a table, which shows earlier sources. The table has been up for several years, and we have asked David, without success, to respond to it. The table can be found here:


David Kathman does not do the research to show that Strachey took much material, with or without attribution, from Richard Eden’s 1555 Decades of the New World, and the storm and other material from Ariosto, Erasmus or Tomson (who copied Erasmus). These sources were all available to Shakespeare, were published many times in different languages, and in the case of Eden, Ariosto, and Erasmus, were much more famous. They also supply many profound parallels that are not in Strachey. We know for a fact that Shakespeare used Eden, and so did Strachey. The storm set, on the other hand, recurs in many narratives or fictional works of the time, and can be traced for the most part back to the Aeneid. The storm in Strachey’s narrative no doubt happened, but he includes several events such as Elmo’s Fire and the cutting down of the mainmast that can be found in earlier works, but not in other pamphlets or narratives of the voyage which are ostensibly describing the same storm.

***Strachey’s tale, in the form of a letter addressed to an unnamed “excellent lady”, was not published until 1625, as part of Samuel Purchas’s huge collection of travel and exploration narratives. Purchas dates it “July 15, 1610”. Its narrative ends on that date, when a flotilla is on the eve of sailing from the Jamestown colony to England. The conventional opinion is that Strachey’s letter went back with the ships.

The conventional opinion is not always right, as you know. Would you like us to furnish examples? Our paper demonstrates that it would be hard to construct a ms of almost 24,000 words using a multitude of sources in a few weeks in Virginia, and that it would be difficult to talk in a manuscript about a ship leaving if that manuscript was supposed to be on the ship; there are no more grounds for “conventionl opinion” than there are to believe that Moses could have written Deuteronomy, which describes his death; however, we did say that we felt an earlier draft could have gone back on the boat, and evidence of such a draft has been discovered since, and reported in a paper by Hume in Avalon Chronicles in 2001. This draft was around 3,500 words, comparable to what Jourdain and De La Warre sent back, and to our mind is a more sensible possibility.

***How a copy then found its way into Shakespeare’s hands is unknown, but the degrees of separation between the traveler and the dramatist were almost zero.

Huh? Really, Tom, this is just the same old, same old. You haven’t even proved the document in its finished state got back to England by September. By the way, what does “almost zero” mean? What exactly is the evidence that an unpublished manuscript of 24000 words that has no record in the Virginia Company, possibly because it was not addressed to the company at all, but to a “noble lady,” got to Shakespeare in time for him to write Tempest? If the ms did find its way back, why was Richard Martin, the secretary of the company, writing to Strachey in December 1610 for information contained in True Rep? And what was Strachey talking about to the Company in 1612, when he said the following:

I have both in the Bermudas, and since in Virginea beene a sufferer and an eie witnesse, and the full storie of both in due time shall consecrate unto your viewes, as unto whom by right it appertaineth, being vowed patrones of a worke, and enterprise so great, then which no object nor action (the best of bests) in these time, may carry with it the like fame, honour, or goodnesse. Howbet since many impediments, as yet must detaine such my observations in the shadow of darknesse, untill I shall be able to deliver them perfect unto your judgements why I shall provoke and challenge, I do in the meane time present a transcript of the Toparchia...

To those traditionalists who insist that Strachey must have been talking about his other work, History of Travel, we respond that Strachey’s own title of the work, The History of Travel in Virginia Britannia, Expressing the Cosmography and Commodities of the Country, together with the Manners and Customs of the people, precludes this possibility, even if the work was unfinished. It mentions nothing of Bermuda, either in the title or the text. Your readers might also like to know what Arthur Kinney had to say on this subject: “How Shakespeare could have seen this letter, which circulated at court in one or more manuscript copies at the time, is unclear: there is not a shred of evidence, in fact, that the playwright, not privy to the court himself, ever did see it.”

***Strachey was a would-be litterateur with a strong interest in the theater. He published several poems, for a time owned an interest in the Blackfriars Theater, and wrote a puff for Ben Jonson’s play, Sejanus His Fall.

Your readers might like to know that at least one orthodox scholar feels that Strachey’s prefatory poem for Sejanus was influenced by the storm in King Lear. He wrote very little poetry, and what he did write was quite inferior. He had written close to nothing before he wrote True Reportory, except, most likely, the earlier draft of it.

***On the other side, Shakespeare, as Dr. Kathman details, was well acquainted with a number of shareholders in the Virginia Company.

Could you give evidence for this, please?

***Moreover, both the form and content of the missive to the “excellent lady” strongly suggest that Strachey intended it for publication and thus had an incentive to send it to parties other than just his employers; for instance, to William Shakespeare, a partner a leading acting company and, perhaps more pertinently, a fellow townsman of the prolific printer Richard Field.

This is simply speculation. There is no evidence the whole narrative was written by 1610; there is no evidence that it went to the company at that time; there is not a jot of evidence that Strachey sent it to Shakespeare because he wanted it published or for any other reason. And Shakespeare was not a publisher, after all, even if he did come from the same town as Field the printer. If Strachey had wanted Field to publish, he could have gone directly to Field; however, there is some evidence that Strachey did want it published at some point, because it was sent to Hakluyt in or before 1615. And that is the first mention of the document, as relayed by Purchas in 1625. Given that you believe that the Tempest was written in 1611 because that is the first record of it, we could say in response that Strachey was written in 1615 because that is the first record of its existence. The logic is exactly the same. Not only that. We have other reasons that demonstrate that Strachey’s True Reportory probably could not have been completed before 1612 at the earliest.

***All of the preceding is of interest, for the most part, only to scholars and Shakespeare buffs,

Then perhaps they should have researched the question more profoundly and more accurately, rather than trying to ignore Furness’s terrible mistakes when publishing the original Strachey theory.

*** but one group finds it exceedingly troublesome, namely, the devoted believers in the theory that the works ascribed to the Bard were really written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxenford.

First, we should point out that as we two are engaged in scholarly research, having been published in peer-reviewed journals, we are as entitled to be called scholars as anyone else. Your trying to besmirch us as Oxfordians does you no credit. In fact, we are writing these articles not because we are Oxfordians, but because there are glaring problems with the Strachey theory. We are by no means the first. Lindley, for example said that Strachey was a possible but not a necessary source. He’s not an Oxfordian. McCarthy dates the play to around 1599. She’s not an Oxfordian. Gurr dispenses with Strachey as a necessary source in his essay on Blackfriars and The Tempest. He’s not an Oxfordian. And as long ago as 1977, Muir declared that “the extent of the verbal echoes of [the Bermuda pamphlets] has been exaggerated.” Several earlier writers, including Hunter, date the play much earlier than the Bermuda narratives. We feel it is unwise and unbecoming of you to impugn either our motives or our scholarship.

***Oxenford unfortunately died in 1604.

Death is usually unfortunate.

***William Strachey’s sea adventure took place five years later, and the first recorded performance of The Tempest was on November 1, 1611, when it opened the Court season.

But first “recorded” performance is not necessarily first performance, as we’ve repeatedly pointed out. Even Chambers talks about the difficulty of ascertaining a terminus a quo. By the way, we are about to publish a paper in The Shakespeare Yearbook that demonstrates that Tempest was most likely a Shrovetide, rather than a Hallowmas play. A later paper will give our reasons for dating the play much earlier than 1611.

***A dead man writing strains even the vast credulity of the Oxenfordians. The originator of the sect, J. Thomas Looney, conceded that the evidence for a post-1604 date for the play was irrefutable, so he denied that it belonged with the works of Shakespeare. In his opinion, it was the inferior work of some unknown hack, accidentally annexed to the canon.

That’s a mischaracterization of Looney’s argument. And we are Oxfordians, not Oxenfordians. Also, we are not a sect. You are using such terms to try to discredit our argument. It won’t work, except among the very gullible.

***The more imaginative Paul Streitz, who has a Supreme Court Justice in his camp, declares that Oxenford was able to write the play after all, because his death was a hoax. In reality, he was spirited off to the Isle of Wight, where he lived covertly and, among other projects, ghost-translated the King James Bible.

We are neither J. Thomas Looney nor Paul Streitz. Nor do we agree with either of them on this issue, so we’re not sure why you’re dragging them into your post, unless to condemn us by association. A very poor tactic, and a desperate one, in our estimation. We notice that you frequently assert how idiotic, ill-educated or just plain off the wall Oxfordians are, rather than giving evidence for your position on the subject at hand.

***Those may not be the most fruitful lines of argument. Better for the Oxenford camp if it could divorce The Tempest from Strachey, leaving room for the possibility that the play’s real date was years earlier than commonly thought. A recent essay by two fervent Oxenfordians, Roger Stritmatter and Lynne Kositsky, “Shakespeare and the Voyagers Revisited” (in The Review of English Studies (Sept. 2007)), makes that attempt. So far as I can tell, it isn’t yet available on-line without paying for it, but I’ve perused it; you can save your money. (N.B.: Tom Reedy, co-author of the useful “How We Know That Shakespeare Wrote Shakespeare: The Historical Facts”, is preparing a properly scholarly response to the Stritmatter-Kositsky article. He has allowed me to read a draft, from which I have borrowed a number of observations. His approach is, however, somewhat different from mine, and he is not responsible for any of this post’s inadequacies.)

We’re glad to hear that as your post so far is indeed inadequate, as well as inaccurate: it contains no new theoretical material, makes factual mistakes, and doesn’t even mention many of our points. Perhaps that is why you prefer people not to read our article, but to rely on you and/or Tom Reedy for information about it. By the way, we will be responding to Tom Reedy’s essay too once it is printed.

***I understand that Dr. Stritmatter and Mrs. Kositsky (S&K from now on) are embarked on a series of pieces that will argue that The Tempest first appeared in 1598 under the name The Spanish Maze

No, we give evidence for what we believe is a strong possibility. You have made yet another mistake. It is always unwise to condemn something without reading it. Spanish Maze has been published in The Oxfordian, and the date we give for its first known performance is 1605.

***and presents a political allegory centered on early 16th Century Italian politics.

That is a complete mischaracterization of anything we have written or will write. What we do say is that Tempest is inspired by the fusion of New World adventurism, fully elaborated in Richard Eden’s 1555 translation of Peter Martyr and other Iberian travel narratives, with the Old World Milanese-Neapolitan political intrigues of Martyr’s patrons. We have never characterized Tempest as a political allegory and we never would.

***Hence, there may be some strange stuff to come, but this first installment has a relatively sober thesis: that Strachey’s letter is a fabrication,

No, again you are in error. We believe it was an account of a real voyage to Bermuda, embellished by use of a range of sources including Eden.

***ostensibly sent from Virginia in 1610 but actually put together in London in 1612 or later. Hence, it postdates Shakespeare’s play.

You have ignored most of our evidence in laying out the reasons for this. We believed True Reportory might have been based on an earlier draft—this now appears to be the case—gussied up with many well-known sources, likely unavailable in Virginia at that time. We give evidence of Strachey’s own words of 1612, as above, and of Martin’s letter of December 1610 asking Strachey for material that would have been in True Rep. We give evidence in fact that the full ms was not on the ship. Indeed, it could not have been.

***When I say “relatively sober”, I mean, relative to many of S&K’s other beliefs. Their hypothesis demands fairly odd behavior by William Strachey. We are asked to accept that, for no discernible reason, he carefully devised a narrative whose internal evidence points to a date at least two years prior to composition and that he plagiarized important details about incidents to which he had been an eyewitness. These extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Do S&K supply it?

We find it odd that you find the notion strange that some of the material might have been written earlier and improved upon, perhaps in hopes of publication, as you've said above. And in fact this idea of improvement has now been evidenced by the copy of the first letter Strachey wrote, which is much plainer in style and leaner in content. Unfortunately for your theory it does not include nearly as much material that can be said to parallel Shakespeare’s play, and the parallels that are in it are for the most part much weaker and missing many of the early sources to be found in True Reportory. For those who wish to see if Strachey copied earlier sources which Shakespeare no doubt used, and can be proven to have used in some cases, again please read our table at

***They certainly think so. At the end of their essay, they write, “In view of the extensive evidence cited here it may safely be concluded, we submit, that Strachey’s True Reportory is no longer even a possible source for Shakespeare’s Tempest.”

It is interesting to note that you omit Lindley’s quote to which we are replying; namely, that Strachey is not a necessary source, only a possible source. Lindley, editor of the Cambridge edition of Tempest, does not agree with you that Tempest conclusively requires familiarity with Strachey’s pamphlet. This is in no way to imply that Dr. Lindley agrees with our position on other matters concerning Tempest.

***To reach this bold conclusion, S&K must overturn conventional wisdom,

Why is the conventional necessarily wise?

***which holds that Strachey wrote the True Reportory in Virginia and sent it to England with the ships that departed the colony on July 15, 1610. (Strachey himself stayed there for another year.) It reached London in time to serve as one of the sources of a pamphlet issued by the Council of Virginia in November 1610, titled A True Declaration of the estate of the Colonie in Virginia.

We never understand this position, which is a lead in to how Shakespeare got the manuscript. There is no evidence that the manuscript ever reached the company, as we keep saying, though the earlier draft might have. And taking into account the fact that Strachey copied many of his parallels from earlier sources, some actually with attribution, why should one assume that True Dec copied from Strachey? And why should one then automatically assume that Shakespeare received and copied from the unpublished manuscript of an unknown voyager, rather than from famous, much published and richer sources? And why, indeed, would Shakespeare the famous copy from Strachey the obscure rather than Strachey the obscure copy from Shakespeare? We don’t make this argument, but since you insist that Shakespeare, as well as True Dec, copied from Strachey, how have you ascertained direction of influence apart from Tempest’s first recorded performance?

***Because the two works contain passages that are identical almost to the word, it has hitherto been assumed that the anonymous author of the True Declaration borrowed from Strachey.

Now, why would this be? True Declaration had many other sources to copy from which are not extant: Gates, Newport, and probably another report of De La Warre’s that is mentioned in True Declaration. Given Strachey’s MO, it is much more likely in our opinion that Strachey borrowed from True Declaration rather than the other way around. Although if his earlier letter went back, True Declaration might have taken some phrases from it. But this is by no means proven. The long passage that is in both True Declaration and True Rep is intertwined in Strachey by a passage derived from Eden. There is no trace of this in True Declaration, suggesting to us that it was the earlier version.

***The heart of S&K’s case lies in their attempt to demonstrate vice versa. On their theory, the composition date of the True Repertory is some time after Strachey returned to England in the fall of 1611. He is there supposed to have put it together largely by borrowing passages from other writings, with the True Declaration as a principal source.

We don’t remember saying that True Declaration was the principal source, although a long excerpt from it can be found at the end of True Reportory and other parallels are in the text of True Rep; since True Dec wasn’t published until November 1610, and the text of True Rep mentions that it is already published, there can be no doubt about direction of influence, at least of the last part. But Strachey was an equal opportunity copier. There is much else in True Rep from Eden, from Ariosto or Erasmus, from De La Warre’s dispatch—which Strachey signed and may have had some hand in—and from several other works.

***If one accepts their case in full, the terminus a quo is mid- to late 1612.
S&K do not bother to address the reasoning behind the standard chronology. Indeed, they imply that it was cobbled together simply in order to give adequate time between the True Reportory’s arrival in England and the opening night of The Tempest.

We couldn’t possibly imply that because Furness’s theory predates Looney’s book on Oxford; however, it is the case that in coining his own theory, subsequently so influential, Furness made quite awful factual errors that have been entirely ignored by his followers. Chief among them is that True Reportory was published in 1612, and that Tempest post-dated it.

***That is hardly the case. The scholarly world doesn’t revolve around Shakespearean authorship (contrary to what many anti-Stratfordians imagine), and there is straightforward proof of Strachey’s priority.

There is? If so, what is it?


You have made several errors here, Tom, not least missing out information in our essay which suggests a later date for Strachey's True Rep, and saying that we date the play to 1598. It is Penny McCarthy who does so, not us. We mention her theory in passing, but all we conclude from our evidence is that it was almost certainly written by 1603.

We will be writing a response to you (and eventually to Tom Reedy), which I'll be glad to post here, but don't hold your breath. Unless we can get it out in the next two days, it will likely have to wait until summer.

Thanks for taking the time to respond to our essay. It begins a dialogue that is long overdue. At least one academic said we would be totally ignored. My feeling at the time was that she was wrong, and this proves it. As do the other two responses to our essay that are now in the pipeline.

Written in haste,


P.S. I'd be grateful if you would not in your responses to our essays cast a slur on Roger and me as Oxfordians, or on Oxfordians in general. It appears to me to be a poor strategy. If you wish to argue, please argue the facts and theories in our articles.

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