The Unreadable Delia Bacon
By common consensus, among both her admirers and her detractors, Delia Bacon’s pioneering book on Shakespeare authorship, The Philosophy of Shakesperes Plays Unfolded (1857), is ‘unreadable’. The case she presents, for an alternative theory of Shakespeare authorship, remains unproven, since (as she herself came close to admitting), she could adduce no direct evidence whatsoever to support it. Her work cannot truly be described as comprehensively influential, even within ‘Shakespeare authorship studies’, as her hypothesis was one of collective and collaborative authorship, whereas virtually all alternative authorship claimants favour a particular individual. Her methodology, which was to elicit from the plays a ‘philosophy’ that could in her view have been understood and expounded only by writers other than William Shakespeare of Stratford, has in the present been superseded, in alternative candidature polemics, by largely biographical readings of the works. So why should anyone bother to read the writings of Delia Bacon? Why attempt to read the unreadable?