• Alexander Waugh


      Books that pitch into live quarrels are always fun, and I expect at least one good potboiler on the Shakespeare authorship question to be published every year. In 2010 I was convinced by James Shapiro’s "Contested Will," which argued that anti-Stratfordians were all barmy romantics. This year A.J. Pointon, in his clearly articulated counter-treatise, "The Man Who Was Never Shakespeare," convinces me that Mr. Shapiro and his fellow Stratfordians are the ones who are really off their heads.


      Mr. Pointon’s book sets out to prove that "William Shakspere" (an illiterate player and tradesman from Stratford) never wrote the poems and plays credited to the pseudonym "William Shakespeare." The book’s strength is that it doesn’t attempt to peddle any of Mr. Pointon’s own theories as to who actually did write them. His evidence is clear and compelling. So I am currently on Mr. Pointon’s side against the Stratfordians, enjoying my gullibility and looking forward to re-reversing my views many more times in the coming years. The two books that I think have given me the most straightforward pleasure this year are "P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters" (edited by Sophie Ratcliffe) and Tim Bonyhady’s rich and enthralling "Good Living Street: Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900." Of both one could say: "They needed to be written."

       —Mr. Waugh is the author of "The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War."

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