The Bard II

The Bard II
Workers place a statue commemorating Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon theatre in Warwickshire in 1933. Credit: Getty Images

 

George Wyndham was Tory MP for Dover (1889-1913) and former private secretary to Arthur Balfour. In 1898, he edited a book of Shakespeare’s poems. On the question of whom the sonnets were dedicated to, he wrote: “A riddle will always arrest and tease the attention: but on that very account, we cannot pursue the sport of running down the answer . . . much in the manner of trippers to Hampton Court who spend their whole time in the maze.”
 
John Mackinnon Robertson was Liberal MP for Tyneside (1906-18) and a leading free thinker, questioning religion in works such as Pagan Christs (1903) and The Jesus Problem (1917). A “pro-Stratfordian”, prompted by the revelation that Mark Twain had died a “Baconian”, he wrote The Baconian Heresy (1913), hoping, in his introduction, that the term heresy wouldn’t offend his opponents: “The present writer, being himself open to indictment . . . in more than one field of doctrine, is not likely to employ it as an aspersion.”