1.5. Interview via FAQs (2002)

Helen Moorwood 2013

1.5. (12) Mainly about questions surrounding the peculiar

Hoghton Will of 1581

 What was the relevant history of the Hoghtons?

In 1569 Thomas Hoghton, the head of the family, went into exile in Flanders ‘for conscience sake’ (Miller and passim in ‘Shakespeare in Lancashire’ literature). The very date leads one to suspect that he played some role in the Northern Rebellion in that year. He left the estates in the hands of his horde of younger brothers and half-brothers (Lumby)and when he died in Flanders in June 1580, these came to his brother Alexander, who promptly organised a very peculiar and elaborate scheme for ownership of the estates and the setting up of a trust fund. Details of this fund were repeated in his Will of the following year, which named William Shakeshafte and Fulk Guillom three times. These two were bracketed together three times and obviously very special ‘servants’ among the thirty ‘servants’ listed elsewhere in the Will. I had read scores, if not hundreds, of Lancashire wills, but never come across one like this before. The first full transcription of these Hoghton documents was by Honigmann (1985),and when I first read these I could fully understand his puzzlement about the possible story that lay behind the very peculiar arrangements. I started asking myself a lot of questions and exploring previous and subsequent ‘Shakespeare in Lancashire’ literature.

What were some of these questions?

The most important were:

(1) Was it merely a coincidence that Alexander Hoghton’s period of ownership from mid-1580 to mid-1581 was exactly the same as the Jesuit mission led by Robert Parsonsand Edmund Campionand that Campion spent much of his time at the Hoghtons’ and other local relatives’ houses? When Thomas left in 1569 this was just one year after his friend William Allenhad founded the school in Douai and Thomas supported it. Parsons and Campion visited it many times, most recently on their journey from Rome to England in 1580. 

Were all these facts somehow connected?

(2) Was Honigmanncorrect in tentatively proposing John Cottam/ Cottom/ Cotham as the main link between the Shakespeares in Stratford and the Hoghton tradition in Lancashire? He had been long established as a Catholic schoolmaster at Stratford Grammar School in 1579-81 (Baldwin)and his brother Thomas was on the same Jesuit mission to England as Parsons and Campion, and shared Campion’s fate as a martyr, with all the gruesome details of being hanged, drawn and quartered. Honigmannprovided the valuable transcription of John Cottam’s will and many other genealogical and biographical details of the Cottam family (originating from Cottam Hall near Preston). And yet this obvious connection had not been accepted by Shakespeare academia as providing anything other than yet another piece of circumstantial evidence.

(3) How important might it have been that three other schoolmasters in Stratford during the relevant period were from Lancashire?

(4) Was Richard Wilson (in his article in the Times Literary Supplement on December 19, 1997, pp. 11-13) correct in suspecting that Edmund Campion played a vital role in leading young William Shakespeare by the hand from Stratford to Lancashire? Honigmann noted this in 1998 (in his Preface to the second edition, p. xiv), but made no comment. 

(5) Was it possible that Keen’ssuggestion in 1954 that young Shakespeare might have attended Douai school could actually be true? Was this the main link that took him to the Hoghton household, in addition to family connections? It would certainly go part way to explaining John and Mary’s peripatetic life around this time.

Such was my thinking, pondering, asking questions which had elusive answers and never knowing what the next document perused might produce, when I became ever more aware of the explosion of ‘Catholic Shakespeare’ literature.


Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved.