6.1. Alexander Standish[10A1]

6.1. (44) AS A Few Notes on Lancashire Legends

Helen Moorwood 2013

N.B. By clicking on the coloured title you can return to the original articles written in early 2004 and placed by Peter Duxbury on A Duxbury Family Website in March 2004, where it still is, under:

Helen's Story: from Duxbury to Shakespeare. The story of William Shakespeare's Lancashire Ancestry, by Helen Moorwood

10. The Biography of Alexander Standish

N.B. Most of this still stands, but where appropriate the 2004 version is now updated below by interspersed commentary in square brackets and italics. Some reformatting was necessary, and the occasional typo – whether by Peter or myself - has been silently corrected. Asap a shorter narrative version of his biography will appear, based, of course, on all details and documents in this file. Meanwhile, this is part (44) of (1) to (45) AS. [2013 HM]


(44) A few notes on Lancashire legends

N.B. The following notes were written many months (sometimes years) ago and not all incorporated above.

Recent interest in traditions seems to be confirmed by facsimile reprints of Harland and Wilkinson (1993 by Llanerch Publishers, Felinbach, ISBN 1 897853 06 8) and a whole series of reprints of Frank Hird’s Lancashire Tales, selected by Cliff Hayes (by Aurora Publishing, Bolton). Frank Hird published 900 pages in two volumes at the beginning of the 20th century (no date, but c.1910). No publication date is given in these reprints (I presume during the 1990s), but the ISBN number of 1 85926 040 3 should allow the location of this one. Others in the series are Stories and Tales of Old Lancashire, Stories and Tales of Old Manchester and Stories and Tales of Old Merseyside. William E. A. Axon’s A Lancashire Treasury has also been reprinted by the same publisher, albeit containing mainly later stories.

The earlier stories were presumably well known to AS and his contemporaries - and Shakespeare in his Lancashire days. There are enough ghosts, fairies, witches, magic potions, statues with magic powers, pacts with the devil, and sundry other standard folklore ingredients to allow someone a field day in trying to relate any of these to Shakespeare. Most Lancashire stories refer to specific people in specific places and therefore presumably contain at least one kernel of truth. One piece of information that struck me rather forcibly is that earlier research into Warwickshire folklore produced not a single jot of local folklore or memorable local events finding their way into Shakespeare’s works (Michell, Who Wrote Shakespeare? p. 103 ff.)

Keen noted in 1954 one Lancashire story as a potential inspiration for Shakespeare, that of ‘Fair Ellen of Radcliffe’, who appears in a Snow White type story with a wicked step-mother and ended up as minced meat fed to her father (echoes of Titus Andronicus?) (Keen, The Annotator, pp. 67-8). At the very least we can be fairly sure that AS knew this one as he had so many Radcliffes in his family. Harland, eighty years earlier, reported that the story of Sir Tarquin of Manchester, a combatant against Sir Lancelot of the Lake, ‘has been alluded to by Shakspeare [sic] in the second part of his Henry IV’ (Harland and Wilkinson, p. 273). This allusion might, of course, have come from the same story reported by Chaucer and in Morte d’Arthur, which was obviously known all over the country and not confined to knowledge in Lancashire of the story and ballad (given in full by Harland, p. 273 ff.). What, one might wonder, was Sir Lancelot doing in Manchester? Well, other local traditions place four of Arthur’s battles in the Wigan area. Maybe they did happen there?

[I fully realize that any talk of folk-tales and old traditions sounds whimsical rather than scholarly, but if my findings about John Shakespeare’s ancestry and therefore William’s ‘new’ biography are accepted as fairly close to the historical truth, then I predict that Lancashire Legends will be on the agenda of several in future who wish to delve further into the ‘Lancastrian Shakespeare’ theory. 2013 HM]


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