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PROOF

THAT

WILLIAM SHAKSPERE

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COULD NOT WRITE.

The Sonnets

WRITTEN BY

FRANCIS BACON

TO THE

EARL OF ESSEX AND HIS BRIDE,

A. D. 1590.

BACON IDENTIFIED

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AS THE CONCEALED POET IGNOTO.

A. D. 1589-1600.

BY

WM. HENRY BURR,

WASHINGTON, D. C.
JANUARY 22, 1886.

Copyright, 1885, by W. H. Burr.

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No handwriting of Shakspere has ever been discovered except five autographs. In March 1613, when he was nearly 49 years old, he signed his name to a mortgage, and again to a deed relative to the same transaction. Three years later he subscribed his name to three briefs or sheets of his will. The five facsimiles are here reproduced:

4

Wor G Gabpr
Milliand
Geflf per

Sizlerann
Əfor pr you

vein. Sauft Million Shjalta

They are all such signatures as an illiterate person, unaccustomed to write, would be likely to scrawl; and

they are so different that an acquaintance with one is little help to the recognition of another.

In the first signature he writes Wm. for William. The second and third autographs have William written above Shakspere Who but an illiterate person would sign his name thus?

In the last two signatures (being told perhaps that his name ought to be written on one line) he puts William before Shakspere; but the fourth William reads Willin.

See now how differently each letter is formed in the name Shakspere, beginning with the initial:

3

S S

Did anybody ever write the first letter of his name so differently? After four attempts to form a capital S he succeeds tolerably well the fifth time. The second S, though of singular shape, appears to have been a customary one as early as 1598. (See examples of that year below.) Shakspere's first attempt to form the crooked letter is a failure, but the second passably good. So again in 1616, when he has a different form to copy, his first attempt is futile, the second is passable, and the third quite successful.

But in attempting the next letter he makes it worse every time:

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With the letter a he is more successful, making it legible three times out of five:

&

or a

a

а

But the attempt to form a k is a signal failure :

E & ⇓ & E

E

With the long s he succeeds best the first time, and worst the second and third:

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The letter p is legible the first time, but grows worse and worse to the last:

It seems as if in the first attempt to sign his name in 1613 he thought it was complete when he made it end with spe; but being reminded that it lacked a letter or two he undertook to add one by putting an a over the e thus:

35

The next time, which was probably the same day,* he seems to have written his name Shaksper, though the terminal letters are uncertain :

Fr

The third time he gets it more like Shakspoze :

Bi

* The deed to Shakspere and two other trustees is dated March 10 and signed Henry Walker. The mortgage from Shakspere and the other trustees is dated March 11. But for some unaccountable reason a duplicate verbatim copy of the deed from Henry Walker is signed by William Shakspere. This duplicate is in the Library of the city of London; the mortgage is in the British Museum. The duplicate deed we suspect was signed after the mortgage. Hence the improvement in the autograph; it was probably Shakspere's second attempt to write. Compare it with the third.

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