The Authorship Question

Max Beerbohm, “William Shakespeare, his method of work”, satirising Baconian theories, 1904

It’s no secret – there have been oodles of questions raised in the last 170 years about who wrote these plays and poems. It’s also no secret – to those of you who’ve listened to Episode 6 – that I think the whole thing is a bundle of hokum. Nevertheless, for your reading pleasure, I provide below a host of links and documents, including several full-length books as PDF files, that have been at the forefront of this so-called controversy. Happy reading!

SIR FRANCIS BACON (1561 – 1626)



Supporters of Bacon

Delia Salter Bacon (1811 – 1859):

Walt Whitman:

Ignatius Donnelly:

Elizabeth Ward Gallup:

Dr. Orville Ward Owen, Sir Francis Bacon’s Cipher Story (1893-95)PDF

Mark Twain:

Henry W. Fisher, Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field, Tales they told to a fellow correspondent, (1922)PDF – see page 49 for Twain and Fisher’s anecdote Queen Elizabeth being a man.

Walter Conrad Arensberg:

Anonymous, Who Wrote Shakespeare?“, Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal, August 7, 1852, no. 449

James M. Barrie quoted on Bacon (comedically):

“I know not, sir, whether Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare, but if he did not it seems to me that he missed the opportunity of his life.”

Baconiana magazine, issue VI, Third Series, no 23, July 1908 – PDFsee page 193 for the claim by R.A. Smith that a Mr. Return Jonathan Meigs discovered Bacon’s identity independent of Delia Bacon.

“In 1844, Mr. Return Jonathan Meigs in Nashville TN was reading Bacon in the original Latin. He suddenly closed the book and exclaimed: “This man Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare.”


Supporters of Oxford

John Thomas Looney (1870 – 1944)

The De Vere Society of Great Britain

The Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship – se

Why I Became an Oxfordian at the “Shakespeare Authorship Sourcebook”

Charlton Ogburn:

Michael Brame and Galina Propova, Shakespeare’s Fingerprints (2002), discussed in Washington University News, January 23, 2003

Percy Allen, Life Story of Edward De Vere (1932)PDF

Richard F. Whalen (ed), Macbeth, annotated from an Oxfordian perspective, Oxfordian Shakespeare Series

C.S. Lewis dismissed Oxford in Poetry and Prose in the Sixteenth Century (1944)

Trailer for Anonymous, directed by Roland Emmerich (2011)


“He was like nothing, I told him, but the maniacs who embrace some bedlamitical theory of the cryptic character of Shakespeare. To this he replied that if we had had Shakespeare’s own word for his being cryptic he would at once have accepted it.”


The First Folio at the Bodleian online

Shakespeare suing for minor debts – at

The Shakespeare Authorship Page – a vital resource

David Kathman:

James Shapiro, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? (2010)

Irvin Leigh Matus:

Samuel Schoenbaum, Shakespeare’s Lives, 1970

William F. Friedman & Elizebeth Smith Friedman:

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Representative Men – chapter 6 Shakespeare or the Poet(1850) – PDF

Terry Ross, The Code that Failed: Testing a Bacon-Shakespeare Cipher at The Shakespeare Authorship Page

Don Foster:

The moot trials of Shakespeare:

  • 1987 trial – at PBS
  • 1987 trial – the New York Times
  • A 1993 trial at the Boston American Bar Association – at PBS

Alan Nelson’s sadly defunct website featured discussion of historical evidence of Shakespeare’s literacy, Oxford’s degeneracy, and interesting revelations about Elizabethan and Jacobean lives – available at The Web Archive

Giles Dawson and Laetitia Kennedy-Skipton, The Survival of Manuscripts, from Elizabethan Handwriting, 1500-1650: A Manual, W.W. Norton & Co, 1966 at The Shakespeare Authorship Site

Lytton Strachey, Shakespeare’s Final Period” (1906) in Books and Characters (1922) – PDF to come

David Chandler, Historicizing Difference: Anti-Stratfordians and the Academy published in the Elizabethan Review (1991) – PDF to come

E.K. Chambers, “The Disintegration of Shakespeare” in Shakespearean Gleanings (1944) – PDF to come

Muriel St Clare Byrne, The Social Background“, in A Companion to Shakespeare Studies, page 190, edited by Harley Granville Barker and G.B Harrison (1934)

William Wordsworth, Scorn not the Sonnet (c. 1807)

Robert Browning, House (1876)

Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8-vol (1957 – 1975), at the Play Shakespeare document library

Robert Bell Wheler:

C.J. Sisson, Lost Plays of Shakespeare’s Age (1936) discusses how the playhouses worked

T.S. Eliot in Selected Essays, 1917-1932 (1932), says:

“I am inclined to believe that people are mistaken about Shakespeare just in proportion to the relative superiority of Shakespeare to myself.”


Marlovian theory of authorship

Wilbur G. Zeigler, It was Marlowe: A story of the secret of three centuries(1895) – PDF to come

The Marlowe Studies

The International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society

The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection


Wikipedia’s list of 87 (at July 2018)

Robert Frazer, Silent Shakespeare (1915) PDF

Gilbert Slater, The Seven Shakespeares (1913)

Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex, in Latham Davis’ Shake-speare England’s Ulysses: The Masque of “Love’s Labor’s Won” or “The Enacted Will”, c. 1905 – PDF to come

Michaelangelo Florio, aka Crollalanza

Roger Manners, Earl of Rutland, in Claud Walter Skyes’ Alias William Shakespeare, Aldor, 1947

Henry Neville, a very peculiar theory – with Tom Veal’s response

William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby