1.6. Interview via FAQs (2002)

Helen Moorwood 2013

1.6.14. Mainly about the future

And the future?

It has become increasingly obvious that a complete reappraisal of Shakespeare’s ‘conventional’ biography will happen during the next few years. Some of Enos’s and Hammerschmidt-Hummel’s‘Catholic Shakespeare’ biographical proposals, claims and conclusions are intriguing but I am reserving judgment on some for the moment. Many of their dates fit in with my findings and all may contribute in the future to solving a few anomalies that still remain, but it is too early to say what the final consensus of opinion might be. If some of Hammerschmidt-Hummel’srather dramatic claims are researched further and even one of these proves to be true, then, put together with mine, we really will be very close at last to the elusive Bard’s biography. This must remain an ‘if’, however, until every last claim has been thoroughly checked and more necessary research undertaken. I have indicated where some of this might lie in my annotations to Father Thomas Conlan’s letters.

Will this affect Shakespeare studies in general?

Not at all in the seemingly thousands of valuable works of the last century on the Elizabethan stage or life at the time and in many other related areas, which have contributed towards an ever deeper understanding of the man, the social and historical background, his Works and how they were performed or interpreted at the time and ever since. But it has to affect any future study dependent on his biography. Every previous full biography has been an honest attempt to present and interpret all documentary details known at that point in time, and to present the current consensus of opinion or the author’s own conclusions, with reasons. I salute them all, from Rowe in 1709onwards. It just happens that none of them knew about John and Mary’s ancestries and the enormous implications of these for their own and William’s biographies.

Can you make any predictions?

(1) The explosion of books on ‘Catholic Shakespeare’ will probably continue unabated and totally regardless of my findings. At least two have been announced during the last year in the Times Literary Supplement. Many more will probably reanalyse his works in this light, although in this field Peter Milwardhas a head start of thirty years.

(2) I dare to predict that sooner or later my genealogical findings will be accepted as valuable documentary support for their intuitions from internal evidence. In the immediate future, I predict turbulence, to say the least, as my findings are pitted against the ‘conventional’ stories. I have often thought about the story of David and Goliath, with me playing the role of David. My main comfort from this story is that David won.

(3) ‘Heretical’ alternative authorship candidates are unlikely to gain any more supporters. The anomalies that led to their proposals in the first place are explained so much more logically by John and Mary’s ancestries and Catholic family connections. Having said this, I must express my enjoyment while reading so many of the potty theories - and the one about William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby, turns out to have been not quite so potty after all. 

(4) This William Stanley (and all the others with this name) will be the subject of much interest in future.

(5) The next main publicity for ‘Catholic Shakespeare in Lancashire’ will probably come from Michael Wood’s four-part documentary series on Shakespeare’s biography, due to be broadcast by the BBC in 2003. He is another Lancashire lad (Manchester Grammar School), who certainly did his historical homework for this series up to the time of filming. I, for one, await this series with bated breath, along with several other Duxbury ‘cousins’ who are fans of his previous historical documentaries. I wonder how many Shakespeare ancestral and biographical details will be included that he first heard from me a year ago? We shall see as we watch. Maybe this will lead to a future publication on Shakespeare by Wood and Moorwood - or maybe not, but our surnames and current research interests are whimsically connected.

[The Series was highly enjoyable and well received, but, ten years on, seems not to have had any great impact on ‘Shakespeare in Lancashire’ research. HM 2013] 

(6) There will a new lease of life for anyone trying to identify the Dark Lady, on the assumption that the Sonnets are autobiographical. One reason for the dismissal of aristocratic candidates so far is the assumption that a lowly actor would have had no access to court circles. Mary’s connections in high places now completely remove this objection. The three main ones so far have been Mary Fitton (a close relative of the Cheshire Ardernes - see Keenand Ormerod), Penelope Rich (whose suggested ties to Shakespeare via Willobie his Avisa have received some confirmation in Father Conlan’swork) and Elizabeth Vernon (another close relative of the Cheshire Ardernes and Staffordshire Arderne-Stanleys - see Keen, Ormerodand Hammerschmidt-Hummel). Shakespeare must have known them all, whether or not they were the object of his desire, and their families all deserve more research. I wish good luck to any traveller setting forth in this direction. 

(7) And then there are all the conspiracy theorists! They will have a heyday when they realise that Father Conlanassociated him with the Gunpowder plotters and Hammerschmidt-Hummelsees him active and right at the centre of underground Catholic activities all his life. All heady stuff, and the material is already there for a few more novels. Maybe the first will be by Peter Ackroyd, who has announced Shakespeare’s biography as his next target? How far these will be based on the final consensus of scholarly opinion remains to be seen.

(8) The ‘Swan of Avon’ will continue to tantalise us. 

(9) Tourism in Lancashire will increase, and a good thing too, as long as development is controlled. It’s not all clogs and cotton-mills (it never was) and has some of the finest Elizabethan country houses in the country. Pevsner rated Rufford Old Hallas one of the top four Elizabethan timber-frame buildings, the other in Lancashire being Speke Hallnear Liverpool, home of the Norris family, who played a minor role in the ‘Duxbury to Shakespeare’ story. The other two are over the border in Cheshire, Bramall Hall(where some of the Arderne family papers found their home after two Arderne-Davenport marriages in the 17th century) and Little Moreton Hall. In case this has whetted anyone’s appetite for more, visit Lancashire Hotpots.[This site has since disappeared, although there is apparently a musical group with this name.  HM2013]

Have you told us all your conclusions about Shakespeare's biography?

I’m afraid not. The main conclusions, yes, but not many others concerning specific details of the biographies of John, Mary, William and other family members. I have to keep a few secrets up my sleeve, so that someone might buy my Shakespeare book. Until this has been published, I shall keep these to myself and a few trusted associates who have already read early draft versions of some chapters, and have generously offered to read my final draft version.

When will this be finished?

When it is. This partially depends on how much more information I put on this web site in the near future. Many mini-essays on relevant background areas and brief biographies of relevant individuals are already largely written, but completion of these and other related distractions will all postpone the final books.

[One main ‘distraction’ was all the research that produced ‘Shakespeare’s Stanley Epitaphs in Tong, Shropshire’, published 2013. The rest will follow asap, on this website or in further publications. HM 2013.]



Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved.