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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Emily Ring
Interviewee: Winifred Frazer
April 7, 1992
R: Today is April 7, 1992. My name is Emily Ring. I will be interviewing Winifred
Frazer, [a] retired professor of English [from] the University of Florida. We are at my
home on 7th Lane, and she has come from her home on 14th Avenue.
Winifred, tell us, please, about your early years. Where were you born? Who were
your parents and grandparents?
F: I lived in Colorado all of my life, up until the time I went to college. This was
southwestern Colorado in the San Juan Mountains in Montrose County in the
Uncompahgre Valley. I was actually born in Chicago, because my father was a
Chicago native. He thought that the primitive West was no place for a baby to be
born, so I was born in Chicago. It was just at the time of my birth that my parents
went to Chicago. Otherwise, I grew up on a ranch eight miles outside of Montrose,
[Through eighth grade I rode a truck-bed school bus to] a three-room schoolhouse
[which was later expanded to four]. They had three grades in some rooms, and two
grades in [others]. After the eighth grade, I went to Montrose County High School in
the town of Montrose, a town of about 5,000 [people]. It was a farming community.
My mother's family was from Wisconsin. Her name was Margaret Isabel Johnson.
Her mother was a Buchanan and had come from Scotland. Her father was named
Christian Johnson. On my father's side, they were from Chicago. My father was an
engineer who got his training at the University of Wisconsin, where he met my
mother. [She] got a degree in music at the University of Wisconsin. They both
graduated in 1907. My father's father was quite a prominent Chicago lawyer. His
name was Frank J. Loesch.
R: Is that a German name?
F: Yes. His parents had come from Germany. He was the president of the Chicago
Crime Commission in the Al Capone era. Supposedly, he battled Al Capone for
some years to try to get free elections in Chicago. It is ironic, but he claimed that Al
Capone guaranteed him on one election that there would not be any criminal activity
during the election. This shows how powerful the gangs in Chicago were. My
grandfather also served on President Hoover's Wickersham crime commission,
which was, I believe, one of the first presidential commissions appointed by a
president. [It was] a lay commission appointed by a president for a particular
purpose like that.
R: So he was an upstanding citizen.
F: [My grandfather] was very well known in Chicago. The main cartoonist for The
Chicago Tribune was a man named McCutchin, who drew many famous cartoons.
One he drew when my grandfather was seventy-six years old, and he had sprained
his ankle and walked on crutches for a period. When he gave a talk to the crime
commission in Chicago, McCutchin drew a cartoon showing my grandfather
hobbling along on crutches saying, "The spirit of '76 may yet save the city's good
R: [That is] wonderful. Do you have a copy of that?
F: Yes, I do. So he was quite prominent. My grandmother, his wife, Lydia Richards,
was from Scotch ancestry. She had taught school and helped him get a start. They
had four children: my father, his brother, and two sisters. The two sisters always
lived in Chicago. One married a lawyer and one [married] a doctor. My uncle, my
father's brother, moved to Colorado with my father. They both came out there in
1916 (or earlier), and bought a ranch, and started farming although neither one,
having been brought up in the city, knew anything about farming. [laughter]
Apparently, it was to get away from the city, which they both felt oppressed by.
Their father and mother did not get along very well, and I think that they somehow
felt that getting away from the family was a good thing.
R: Did they raise sheep or cattle?
F: They did all kinds of things. They tried having a Holstein dairy ranch. They had a
good many cows, and they hired a work crew to milk them and to take the milk into
the dairy in town. They raised potatoes, corn, and wheat, and eventually onions
when there was Mexican labor to help weed. (Of course, in my youth, it was the era
before pesticides, so it was a question of hand-weeding if any crop was going to
grow.) Then they tried sheep for a while. They tried a peach orchard and various
things. The Uncompahgre Valley was one of the first to get irrigation. There was a
great tunnel made through the mountains that brought irrigation water to what
otherwise would have been completely dry land.
R: Which one of the Indian tribes was nearby?
F: The Utes were the nearest. Chopeta and Ouray were the Ute Indians who are still
memorialized there in Ouray, Colorado. As I judge, there were not many Indians
living in the valley or anywhere at the time that my parents and my uncle and his
wife moved out. They both came with their young brides. My uncle and his wife had
three boys. My father had three boys and me. So I grew up with six boys on this
R: Were you the youngest?
F: I was the oldest of all three little brothers and three little cousins. We all lived quite
close together. I did grow up taking quite a bit of responsibility and also feeling
somewhat isolated. We just had to ride an old truck bed; the school bus was a truck
bed. That got us to this little three-room school. But I did not have much female
companionship as a child, so I kind of grew up with six boys as my main associates.
The school bus was just a tent, kind of canvas, put over the back of a truck bed with
seats along the side. So it was pretty cold in the winter, and pretty bumpy, too. I
can remember stamping our feet to try and keep warm on winter days. We walked
about half a mile to pick up the bus.
R: Did you have much snow?
F: Some years it snowed a lot in Colorado, but it is very dry. So the snow was not a
big problem, as I remember it, on the roads. The roads were very bumpy and
washboardy, and not paved, of course. But I cannot remember the snow being
terribly deep, not in the valley where we lived, but up at Ouray. I still have a cabin
up there. I was talking to a plumber who I called the other day, and he said, "We
have three feet of snow against the cabin door," and you really could not get in. So
there was much more snow higher up.
After I graduated from Montrose County High School, I went to the University of
Wisconsin, where my parents had gone. I was there four years, and then I
graduated from there in 1937.
R: What was your major?
F: I majored in speech, and I minored in Spanish. However, I really got a degree in
R: So you could be a teacher if you wanted to?
F: Yes. I really had an arts degree as well, but I had a degree in the College of
Education, also. Then, at Wisconsin, I met Delwin Dusenbury, who was also in the
speech department. He and I were married just after he got a master's degree at
the University of Minnesota. Then we lived in Maine.
R: He was in dramatics also?
F: Yes. He was in theater, radio, and speech.
R: What were the years of your time at the University of Wisconsin?
F: 1933 to 1937. Then we moved to Maine for three years, where he taught at the
University of Maine in Orono.
R: How did you like living in Maine?
F: It was kind of cold. During the summers we were gone; he went back to school. He
went to Cornell or Minnesota, so I did not get the benefits of the nice summer
weather. It seemed very cold to me in Orono. It is not far from Bangor. Our son
John was born in Bangor, Maine, in 1940. Then we moved back to the University of
Minnesota where he worked on a doctorate and taught in the speech department.
I got a master's degree in English at the University of Maine while we were there. At
the University of Minnesota, I started taking graduate work in English. We were
there for seven years, so I took a great deal of work through those years toward a
Ph.D. in English. We had a son, Richard, born in Minneapolis.
R: What year was he born?
F: He was born in 1943. Then we moved to Gainesville, Florida, in 1947 with the two
young boys. Delwin had a position as the director of the theater, which Professor
[Henry Philip] Constans had organized and started some years before. Delwin took
over as director of the theater and taught speech.
R: Was that before the beautiful Constans Theater was built?
F: Yes, it was before that. The plays were put on in what is now the College of
Education auditorium. Students were not very familiar with drama. A good many of
them had not had much experience with anything except the movies. For a good
many Florida students at that time, it was quite enlightening to see some very
respectable American plays, and others, put on.
[Delwin] taught until 1955. Then he decided to go north; he really did not want to
stay here anymore. He went north to the Temple University in Philadelphia. He
married Barbara, who had been the costumer for the Florida Players. They were
married after he went north. We had had a third child, David, in 1948.
R: You were left to bring up the three boys?
F: Yes. I brought up the three boys, and I was fortunately given an appointment in
what was then the freshman English department. [It was] a comprehensive English
course that I taught.
R: At that time there were very few women teaching at the University.
F: That is true. There were more [women] in the University College than in the upper
division departments. Even when the departments were combined, which was many
years later, there were still very few women [on the faculty].
R: Do you remember some of the names of the first women to teach in [the] English
F: The first one, I think, was named Lalia Boone. She was in the field of linguistics.
She had done quite a bit of work. She wrote on the language of the oil drill workers
in Oklahoma and the Midwest. That was one book that she worked on. Then she
went to the University of Oklahoma.
There really were not, as far as I can remember, any other women in English for a
considerable time. I taught English courses, even though I was in the University
College. I can remember being the only woman who was really connected with the
R: Who was the woman who died?
F: Jane Harder taught for a while in English. But this was fairly lately that she was
appointed head of linguistics for foreign students. It was not essentially in the
R: When did Bertha...
F: Bertha Bloodworth came quite a bit later. Irene Thompson was also later. Now
there is a woman chair of the English department, and I think [there are] three
women professors. There are now quite a number of very good scholar-teachers
who are women. So it is a change that matters.
I taught twenty-six years, from 1955 to 1981. I remember one time years ago, when
there was some move to inquire whether women were discriminated against. This
was years before there was any real action about it. I was called in by the acting
chair to be questioned by him as to whether I had felt any discrimination. I said I
had not. I said, "Of course, I think if I aspired to chair the department I would
experience some discrimination." [laughter] He looked quite surprised to think that
a woman would consider that, or even have the idea in her head. It was some years
later that Irene Thompson quite actively led a fight for equalization of salaries.
R: Every woman was coupled with a man of equal background and status to see if she
was earning much less than he. And of course they found out she was.
F: I got a $2,000 raise, which was quite a bit in that time. It kind of surprised me,
because I really did not have any feeling [of discrimination].
R: Do you remember who you were matched with?
F: I remember, but I do not think it makes any difference to [name him]. I had certainly
done more writing than he had.
R: We want to get into that too. Was Lotte Graeffe in the department when you were
F: No, she was much later than this equalization, I think. I am not absolutely sure. I
remember when she got her doctorate, and I know she taught several years.
R: But she told us she was not allowed to teach until after he [her husband A. Didier
Graeffe] died. [Graeffe was professor of humanities. Ed.]
F: This is probably true, and that is what Irene felt, too, that there was a regulation
R: Did the state legislature not pass that law [against nepotism]?
F: I think it was, yes. It probably goes clear back to the days of the 1930s, when if a
man had a job, a woman was not supposed to be taking up a job. I believe that it
did go back to that. I think it is true, but I think they had made some exceptions.
R: When they really needed somebody?
F: Yes, I think so. But I certainly agree with that. I think that both Lotte and Irene
contributed a great deal. They both were available because of their husbands
having been very prominent professors. I think that, with the good old noblesse
oblige idea, if a woman was left widowed and her husband had been a prominent
employee, she was given employment, which was not unreasonable, but not
something that a lot of women today consider the best practice. I think that young
women that I see today are wanting more and more to stand on their own.
R: Not to wait until they were widowed.
F: That is right. They do not want to be accepted because of what their husbands are.
So it is a much healthier era today than it was then.
R: That happened in my case. I would have loved to have taught in the University
College social science course. I would have been acceptable to the chairman, but I
had to wait until I lost my husband [Alfred] before they asked me to teach. One
factor, of course, was the 2,500 new freshmen that we got every year; they had to
have somebody to teach all of those freshmen.
F: I came along at a very fortunate time. I see people today who need teaching jobs
and how very difficult--at every level--it is [to find a job]. It is a very different
situation. That certainly worked in my favor.
R: What did you write your dissertation about?
F: It was on American drama--the theme of loneliness in modern American drama. My
main interest was American literature, particularly American drama. Later, I wrote
two University of Florida monographs on various aspects of Eugene O'Neill and The
Iceman Cometh. I wrote a good many articles, too, for Modern Drama and
American Literature, this kind of publication. Later, I published a book called Maple
Dodge Louhan, who was very interesting. [She was a] prominent woman at the turn
of the century who knew Gertrude Stein, who moved to New Mexico, and who
brought D. H. Lawrence [20th century English novelist and poet] to this country.
She contributed a lot, one way or another, to our literature. That interested me quite
a bit, too.
R: You wrote something about Emma Goldman, did you not?
F: Yes, and that was especially in connection with Eugene O'Neill. I think that I proved
that Emma Goldman was highly influential with Eugene O'Neill, whom you might not
expect to be a radical in his youth. He really thought that anarchism was the way we
should go. He said they should put J. Pierpont Morgan on a tumbrel, carry him
through the streets, and chop off his head. Emma Goldman influenced him a lot.
This monograph I wrote was called E.G. and E.G.O. Emma Goldman was called
E.G. by a lot of friends. It was her outstanding forwardness that made her seem
kind of manly. It was a good designation. O'Neill was very much aware that his
initials spelled ego--Eugene Gladstone O'Neill. His father named him Gladstone,
because Gladstone was trying at that time (his father thought) to free the Irish from
the English. So his name was E.G.O., and I concluded this by saying that O'Neill
had to say, "E.G., you are indelibly imprinted on my E.G.O." I think she had a great
deal of influence on him. So I did do quite a bit of work on her.
R: When did you get interested in William Faulkner?
F: Since I moved south in 1947, I realized how much he was a part of the South. I
married Percy Warner Frazer in 1967. He was from a southern family and liked to
tell stories about his family.
R: He was from Nashville, was he not?
F: Yes, he was really from Tennessee.
R: And he was in the forestry department?
F: Yes, here at the University. He liked to tell stories about his family and about how
he grew up. He had lots of cousins and quite an extended family.
R: His first wife came from a very prominent family?
F: That is right. His first wife, Elizabeth Kirby Smith, who had died many years before,
was also from a very prominent southern family. He used to relate lots of tales. It
got me much aware of how Faulkner did fill a place in the South that was quite
common among a great many people--the kind of rambling, family-like storytelling.
R: At the time you married him, Warner Frazer had two grown children, Betty and Lee?
F: Yes. They both live not very far from Gainesville, so they are still close by.
I always appreciated the genius that Faulkner was, but somehow I could read
Faulkner better--with more understanding--when I got used to hearing Warner
R: Most people did find him difficult to read, even if they were brought up in Mississippi
and Alabama. I remember with pleasure auditing your course on Faulkner. Was it
one spring or one summer that we went up to Oxford, Mississippi, to the Faulkner
F: I have been to two Oxford conferences, and they are really wonderful. [It is a thrill]
to be able to walk on what is almost literally holy ground! [laughter] That is right
where he wrote his last book. It is something that is quite thrilling.
R: And to see his home.
F: Right in his study they even have his old typewriter.
R: He also wrote part of one of his novels up on the wall.
F: That is right; [he did that] to plan it out. I think that Oxford itself, the whole square,
had not changed anything like the way most towns have. So you can still identify
lots of places that he wrote about.
R: I can see where my father and my brothers went to law school. It is just a wonderful
F: I read a paper at the second one I went to on something from one of his [works]. I
have forgotten the title of it now. The conference is so relaxed and genuine. They
take a whole week for the conference, and they have morning and afternoon trips
around. So one kind of gets the ambiance of the whole county. Therefore, it is one
of the most delightful.
R: The year that I sat in on the class, you were reading the long short story [called]
F: Oh, yes, that is certainly typical of Faulkner, with such deep mythological undertones
to it, [such as] becoming a man through hunting a bear. Faulkner says that is part of
the difficulty today: no young man knows when he is a man, because he cannot hunt
R: Hunting has played [a role] in growing up among southern males. It is very difficult
for them to think of giving up their rifles.
F: Yes, I think it is.
R: I had one boy who was in love with guns. Fortunately, he does not have guns
today, but they meant a lot to him. Growing up, his father did not hunt, but other
people in the neighborhood took him hunting. That was a phase of his life. Then,
fortunately, he got interested in railroads instead.
F: Well, that was healthier, I think. But it is kind of easy to understand [his love for
guns]. There is just so much power that is there. Especially for young people, it
does seem a kind of emasculation if they cannot have a gun. I do not know what
the outcome is going to be, but I was talking to a woman from Austria, and she said,
"Our rate of homicide is not very high there, because nobody can have a gun or any
sort of weapon unless he is going hunting. [And then] he has to go check one out,
sign for it, and register it." [laughter] So there is kind of a different attitude about
weapons in other countries. It is not easy to know the solution.
R: Now, what year did you retire?
F: I retired in 1981.
R: We still have not gotten to the Charley Johns era, which was [at the same time as]
the [U.S. Senator Joe] McCarthy era. [Charley Johns was president-designate of
the 1953 Florida Senate. Upon the death of Governor Dan T. McCarty in 1953,
Johns served as governor of Florida until 1955.]
F: I think that was around the early 1950s or late 1940s. As I remember it, it was
connected with the McCarthy hearings in Washington, as I guess the entire country
from north, south, east, and west was affected by those hearings.
R: The "Red Scare"?
F: Yes. Just the very word communist seemed to make us shiver without any reason.
Very few people knew exactly what it stood for. [laughter]
R: It was a convenient political tool to label your opponent with.
F: Yes, it was. It certainly worked very well. I remember when Claude Pepper [U.S.
Senator from Florida] was charged with being a Communist. He had visited Russia.
I think he was one who really felt we should try to know as much as we could about
this former ally, who really was an ally. Fortunately, it is a changed era today. We
have lived to see some hopeful and helpful changes.
One instance I remember about the Charley Johns era is [that] he seemed to get on
[the cases of] both communists and homosexuals. I do not know exactly how it
R: It is difficult to see how he could have linked them.
F: I am not sure that he linked them, but he was after both. [laughter] The one
instance I remember was of a man named [John Henry] Reynolds [assistant
professor of social studies] who refused to testify in Washington before either the
McCarthy or Jenner committee. Consequently, you were tarred with a brush. If you
were subpoenaed and went to testify and did not name names, you were tarred
whether you had been a communist yourself or not.
So [Reynolds] lost his position. He was a professor in history, and he lost his
position here. I am not sure of what year. It seemed there were a number of people
on the faculty who tried to defend him and tried to collect some money for his
support. In the long run, I think Reynolds decided it was better to just resign without
question. So he and his family left. That was, of course, only one incident of what
was happening all over the country; it was not particular to Florida. Was Charley
R: Yes, he was governor.
F: Then, what really decimated the University was his attack on homosexuals.
R: Nobody at that time knew a darn thing about homosexuals.
F: That is true. There were at least three or four prominent professors who managed
to be charged with homosexuality. Perhaps they were [homosexual], but they had
not proselytized, and I know [that] none of the four had tried to approach students in
So it was not a question of having subverted the young, and it was not a question of
their competence in their fields at all. There was simply no question that Johns had
the power somehow, through the public approval in the long run, and [through] the
legislative approval, too. All four of these [professors] resigned. There were a good
many others, too, but I think it was the University's loss. They were very fine
I think that people felt pretty helpless in the face of this kind of phobia. I guess that
one always does.
R: It was a phobia, yes. I found out that one of them was the liberal arts dean, and
[another was] the assistant dean.
F: Yes, and two [were] English professors. [There were] two prominent English
professors, and a professor of geography who had chaired the geography
department for some time.
R: It was a terrible tragedy for their wives and their families.
F: Yes, it was. As far as I know, all the ones I know left and got jobs elsewhere. But it
was very sad for everybody in these departments who had no inkling that there was
anything inappropriate among any one of them, and [among] any students. So it
was one of those kind of sad eras, when people seem fairly helpless.
R: In a way, it was a symbol of this era--being frightened about sexual harassment.
F: In a way, except that I think things are much more in the open today. Women who
are being--and have been--sexually harassed are not so afraid, or I hope are getting
less afraid, to bring it out. I do not think it is quite comparable. Then, everybody
was just pretty helpless to do anything for these people charged, against whom no
particular charges were brought. It was just simply that their orientation was toward
other men. But they had not approached other students anymore than a
heterosexual professor had tried to make love to his female students. So it was sad.
R: I remember at that time Winston Ehrmann in our sociology department did a study
on the dating practices of the University of Florida students. It was a five-year study.
Of course, it created quite an uproar. The librarians put that book way up on the
top shelf where nobody would notice it. [laughter]
F: It kind of corresponded to the Kinsey report in a way. It was quite enlightening.
Ehrmann did not get into the problem of homosexuality, I think. Of course, he was
interested in the dating practices of the coed. But he did research that. It has been
quite useful and enlightening, I think.
R: One of the jokes that Alfred Ring tells about Charley Johns was that he tried to
scare the legislature by telling them that the University of Florida boys and girls
matriculate together. [laughter]
F: [laughter] I think that is an old political joke.
R: That was an interesting era.
F: As you look back, I guess my feeling was of such helplessness; you felt things were
so wrong. I was thinking about this movie in which Woody Allen appeared in fairly
late years about the McCarthy era in Hollywood and how the scriptwriters were
blacklisted, just because they presumably might have had some associations with
communism. [They were] just bereft of their livelihood for no reason at all. In this
movie, Woody Allen plays his usual ineffectual character, but he is the front for a
scriptwriter who turns in his script through the name that Woody Allen bears. It
makes it kind of funny, but it reminds you of how horrifying that era was. When you
see how brainwashed we all were--if it was even breathed that someone associated
with the communists, that person was ostracized--it was very sad. I hope we cannot
be persuaded of things like this anymore, but it seems as if right up to Russia's
collapse we have thought that Russia was our terrible enemy, and we must spend
all of our wealth on weapons to combat Russia when the truth is that they were
falling apart all of the time and [were] not an enemy to be feared.
R: I remember how upset I was all the time I was teaching in the 1960s. This was the
era of the Vietnam war. Many, many students were opposed to the war. I myself
was vigorously opposed to the war, as you were. I remember marching down
University Avenue with the peaceniks (as we called ourselves) and trying to have a
talk in front of the courthouse. We were drowned out by one of the fraternity glee
F: Yes, and I think you were very forward in the fight. I think your picture was taken by
the University officials. They took the pictures of people who opposed the Vietnam
war and even had them on file.
R: We had teach-ins on campus, and I was spoke at one of the teach-ins.
F: This was quite terrifying.
R: I want you to talk about your theories on who wrote Shakespeare's plays. At a
recent meeting of the retired faculty and our seminars, which we have every
Wednesday out at the credit union, the speaker did not show up, and everybody got
a little nervous. Finally, the program chairman said, "Well, let's all tell jokes."
Several guys got up and told jokes, and that was OK. Finally, he said, "Winifred, I
have been holding you in reserve to speak to us in case the speaker did not come.
How about doing it now?" So you gallantly went forward. You had your notes with
you which you carried to every seminar just in case, and you gave a talk which
fascinated everyone. [It was] on your theory that Shakespeare did not write his
plays. Now, tell us about that.
F: Well, it is interesting that one [who is] long retired would get so fascinated in a
project. I have learned a great deal working on this that I did not know when I was
teaching. I do not know how many of us oldsters get fascinated by a project that we
cannot seem to leave off, that we feel so strongly about, that we continually want to
work on. Also, I have come to know what it feels like to be a complete outsider,
since the establishment and the professional Renaissance and Shakespeare
scholars all think that a man named William of Stratford on Avon [actually] wrote the
plays that are under the name of William Shakespeare.
The first thing that got me quite interested in this subject was that William Buckley
had a writer named Charleton Ogburn on his [TV show] Firing Line. William Buckley
also had a professor of Shakespeare from Rutgers named Charney. These two
men took opposing sides on whether the Stratford man to whom the plays had been
attributed for many years wrote the plays, or whether it was the Earl of Oxford who,
since 1920, has been proposed as a possible author of the plays.
As I listened to these two opponents, with Buckley asking them questions, I got
more and more disturbed that Charleton Ogburn, speaking for the Earl of Oxford,
seemed to me to have the better case. I was distressed that Professor Charney
kept saying, "Oh, that is ridiculous." If Ogburn said the name Shakespeare was
frequently hyphenated, which meant that it was a pseudonym, that it was somebody
"shaking a spear," Professor Charney would say, "Oh, that is ridiculous." After he
said that a number of times on the program, I got to thinking, "Well, I can make a
better case for the Stratford author than Charney did."
Out of curiosity and to challenge myself, I got to working on what the evidence is for
the Stratford authorship. I found out that I could not make a case at all for this man
from Stratford. In the first place, the name Shakespeare was not the name used in
Stratford. It may be spelled Shax or Shak or Shag, but it had no e in it. It was not
Shake; it was Shag or Shax. The [ending] was sper. When Shakespeare's sonnets
were published, there was no author given where the name of the author usually
appeared. They were just headed: "Shake-speare's sonnets." All of this gradually
convinced me that there is really no case for that Stratford authorship, and that as
much investigation as has been done for nearly three centuries, anyway, a case
simply cannot be made.
So then I began looking more into the case for the Earl of Oxford. It seemed more
and more reasonable to me. One man, Joseph Sorbin, was an editorialist and writer
for a Washington newspaper. He wrote a long review of Ogburn's book. He was so
convinced that the Earl of Oxford was the author that he began his review by saying:
"Now, I have news for all of you who own real estate in Stratford. Sell, sell, sell
while the market still holds!" This is the way, I think, more and more people have
been feeling. This is not the case with the professional scholars. So it has been
quite a blow to someone like me to find that, instead of an essay or article being
accepted, it is turned down with ridicule. Yet, that is typical [of what happens to
The Folger library did put out an edition of each volume of Shakespeare plays in
separate volumes. In each one, in some form or other, they give a little sketch of
the Stratford man's life. They say if you do not believe he was the author, you are
either "naive" or "ignorant," and in some of the editions they say you are obviously
"elitist" if you do not believe this. Well, it seemed that this was the kind of typical
charge. One professor to whom I had sent something wrote me back. He said he
thought a disgruntled student must have forged this letter, because it contained such
So the establishment that has the power and the influence in the Shakespeare
Renaissance era is not going to budge on what it seems to me they have gotten
themselves into. They are adamant, and they attack anyone who takes the case for
the Earl of Oxford. It has not been quite so bad in the last few years as it has been
for several others up to now, because a great many lay people are quite convinced
that the evidence is too slight that the Stratford Shaksper wrote the plays.
R: There is man over in South Carolina, at Beauford, who believes that Oxford wrote
the plays. He was on television one night.
F: I think that is Charleton Ogburn. That is where he lives. At this time in this country,
Lord Burford, whose name is Charles Vere, is descended from the same
grandfather as the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, the Renaissance writer. He has
been making talks all over. In fact, all us Oxfordians were pretty astonished when
the Folger library allowed him to speak last fall there. They had a very overflow
crowd. Of course, he is the president of the Oxford society in England, and it did
show that the Folger is not quite as adamant as they used to be, or they never
would have allowed a talk to go on which made a case for Oxford.
R: You recently went to England to meet with these Oxfordians.
F: Yes. We took a trip around England to the sites where the Earl of Oxford lived. He
was the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, born in 1550, and [he] lived
until 1604. He was a very prominent British lord. In fact, his father had presided at
the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and his family had been the dignitaries to be in
charge of that kind of function through the centuries. So, he was a very prominent
He did marry Lord Burghley's daughter. Lord Burghley was the Lord Treasurer and
Lord Chamberlain who pretty well ruled England under Queen Elizabeth for forty
years. Oxford not only had his own family name to maintain, [but] he could not be
connected with the stage and still maintain his status as a prominent earl. Also,
Lord Burghley enforced great censorship on all of England and on his son-in-law.
He felt it would have degraded him to have a son-in-law connected with the stage.
But we think that the earl got away with a great deal because he pictured Polonius in
Hamlet as a kind of old fuddy-duddy court advisor. For a long time it has been
considered that this was a take-off of Lord Burghley, because some of the same
precepts Burghley wrote out for his charges that Polonius uses were sort of
paradoxical, [such as] "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." The way Shakespeare
puts it is very interesting, but it is obviously a take-off. It is this kind of thing that
makes me more and more convinced that Oxford was the author.
He knew Lord Burghley from being brought up under him--the earl's father had died,
and Lord Burghley was in charge of him. He knew, from living at court and from
being a very prominent courtier and great favorite of the queen, exactly what Lord
Burghley was like. He got away with what would be a very serious parody--he was
powerful enough--by using an assumed name.
I am so thoroughly convinced, but the articles I keep writing keep coming back. For
instance, I wrote one that came back from PMLA [Publication of the Modern
Language Association]. One of these editorial readers said, "This writer is obviously
an informed and competent writer. But it is most unfortunate that he or she is not
treating a more worthwhile subject."
R: That was certainly a put-down.
F: It was certainly a compliment in the fact that the reader thought I was informed and
a good writer, but to make a judgment about a piece [was presumptuous]. He or
she did not say the facts are not corroborated. He did not say that the evidence was
not there for the claims. He just simply concluded that the paper was on a subject
that was not worth treating. So there is still this complete wall which all Oxfordians
struggle against one way or the other, which makes it very, very difficult.
It also makes me more and more aware of what people who try to work into or
against the established view of things are up against. Whether it is Galileo or the
man named [Alfred] Wegener, [a German geophysicist] who proposed the
continental drift theory, they are just laughed at. When I took geology, they just
would have howled. We thought we were on solid ground at that time. So it was
fifty years after he proposed it before it was given any credence.
R: When I had a chemistry class in college, they showed us pictures of anatomy and
the lungs of dead people and what the lungs looked like after smoking cigarettes.
They were all blackened. Well, nobody believed him. Many people have had to die
of lung cancer before we began to realize.
F: Absolutely. That is an example.
Of course, many people have lifetimes invested in research and writing (even if it is
critical writing) on the basis that the Stratford man is the author. There could not be
any greater disruption or any more force for a revisionist history of the Renaissance
R: They have so much at stake.
F: Yes, it is a vested interest. Then, of course, so is the tourist industry in Stratford. Of
course, we Oxfordians who have been to the sites where Oxford lived, which are
very protected and still preserved, would like to keep the people at Stratford. We do
not want to overthrow the Stratford industry. We just want the truth to be known.
[laughter] I think that nobody knows who put up the bust of Shakespeare. It was
not put up until about seven or eight years after his death, at the time when all of the
plays were printed in London.
R: Do they show the tourists the house where he lived?
F: Yes, and [they show] his birthplace.
R: Do they talk about his wife?
F: Yes, and supposedly Anne Hathaway's cottage is shown, too.
This is how the tourist industry grows up. Nobody really paid any attention when
Shakespeare died; there was no grieving, no celebration, and no broadside ballads.
There was complete silence.
Almost a century and a half later David Garrick, who was an actor, got a festival
going in Stratford. Ever since then it has been booming. Of course, they do have a
beautiful Shakespeare theater. It is very exciting to go there and see plays. So
there is no reason--whether it is Stratford, Connecticut, or Ontario--why the
Stratfords cannot keep on having plays, even if they are all Oxford groups.
R: You wrote a play about this. It was at the Brown Derby dinner theater here in
Gainesville [in July of 1991]. People here enjoyed going to it. Tell them about that.
F: It was called Truth is Stranger. David Stryker, a local musician and former English
professor, wrote music for it. We wrote lyrics. Some of it was sort of a Gilbert and
Sullivan type thing. Some of it was sort of a take-off on the image of professors.
It is about a graduate student who believes that Oxford was the author, but of
course his committee of professors does not, so he is up against them. The Earl of
Oxford appears in his visions, along with a good many scenes from the
Renaissance. So it is kind of a spoof, but it did make converts of two or three
people. Two are hard-headed history professors. I feel that at least it made them
curious to know more about Oxford. At least they inquired. [laughter]
R: It was a very successful musical and played to a packed house.
F: Yes. From our point of view, it was very successful. The reason it was called Truth
is Stranger is that the motto of the Oxfords was Vero nihil verius, which means
"Nothing truer than truth," or, of course, "Nothing truer than Vere." Vere is the
French word, and really our word, too, for truth. It seemed appropriate that this
young graduate student was searching for the truth, but his professor just said:
"Hang the truth. What you need to do is get your degree." So there was quite a
controversy between them, and until the end of the play you do not know whether he
is going to get his degree and give in or not. He finally does give in and says: "Well,
Galileo gave in. I guess I will, too." [laughter] So then he just chants the typical
biography of the Stratford man while the professors bow their heads and say,
R: Anything to get your degree.
F: That is right. So he does succeed. The last song he comes on and sings says,
"You will be known, you will be known. I'll tell the truth yet," because he got his
Ph.D. It was quite a bit of fun. I think it made more people think about it than
anything scholarly that seems to get written.
R: You and David ought to try to get that put on by the Florida Players at the Constans
F: We have given it to the Players and told them that they could put it on for no royalty
fee. I think that if any prominent Shakespearian professors took an open-minded
view, and especially if they said, "Not only were we wrong about Stratford, but we do
think there is evidence for the Earl of Oxford," then I think it would be national news,
and the play might have quite a bit more interest.
R: You could put it on public television.
F: Yes. That is right. [laughter]
R: We could always hope for that.
F: Everybody knows that Shakespeare used Hall's Chronicle. A man named Hall wrote
a chronicle. Hollingshead and Hall wrote histories of Britain. And, of course,
DeVere knew history because he lived with family portraits all around his family
castles, and they had several country houses and really huge domiciles. Way back,
from Aubrey DeVere and from William the Conqueror, he knew these histories. But
for the plays, he used both chronicles of Hollingshead and Hall. There is a volume
in the British Museum Library called The Annotator. This is a volume of Hall. It was
an edition printed in 1550, and there are annotations all along the sides. These
annotations correspond to the actions in two or three of Shakespeare's plays. On
one page the word Edward is written in what is deduced to be a fairly immature
hand, and the word Edward is pricked through on one page with a pin. There is just
an outline from the pin. What we Oxfordians are hoping is that this handwriting
could prove to be Oxford's handwriting. The British Museum will not allow us to
xerox it, so it has to be examined there. But we are trying to get a handwriting
expert over there to make some analysis about it.
Long ago somebody tried to prove that it was Shaksper's handwriting, the Shaksper
from Stratford, but all that exists are six signatures from him, and they were all
written in his late life and are all abbreviated and not clearly done. Three of them
are on his will. But for Oxford, there are a lot of scripts preserved. He wrote lots of
letters from Italy, Genoa, Venice, Verona, and Padua, so there is a lot of his script in
existence. If it could be proven that these annotations are by Oxford, it would be a
very exciting development.
R: Are there good many people in England who belong to the Oxford Society?
F: There are quite a few. This young man, Charles Vere, Lord Burford, is the president
of it. There are quite a few. I think perhaps the American society is more active in a
way. The British do not seem as excited about this, and I do not think that maybe
there is as much vested interest in their professors' treatment of the Stratford
Shakespeare. I think maybe they have gone for other kinds of criticism. I am not
sure what it is, and I do not have much way of gauging.
I have met two very ardent Oxfordians over there. One is a woman named Verily
Anderson. Somebody asked her how she got her name, and she said, "Well, my
father just ran out of names, so he named me Verily." She has just completed a
book on the earls of Oxford from way back. Her publisher insisted that she write on
the whole line and not just on the seventeenth earl. But I think about 90 percent of
the book is on the seventeenth earl.
Another woman I know lives in Ipswich. She is ardently Oxfordian, and says that the
Warwickshire dialect [of Stratford] just is not what the plays are written in. She goes
through libraries and leaves little propaganda items in books on Oxford. If they
accuse her of it, she says, "Oh, I forgot my bookmark."
R: I love that. [laughter]
F: A lot of people are doing their little bit. One woman in Canada is trying very hard to
trace books that Oxford might have owned. Of course, his daughter was the
Countess of Montgomery. The folio of Shakespeare's plays that preserved the plays
for us in 1623 (otherwise we would not have had half of them) was dedicated to the
Earl of Montgomery, and his wife was Susan Vere. This woman in Canada is at the
present trying very hard to trace any volumes that might have come directly from
Oxford's library. So there are a lot of ways of working at it.
R: That is wonderful. Thank you so much for telling us about it. I hope that in the
future your side is going to win.
F: Thank you, Emily. I feel quite hopeful. [laughter]
R: Of course, you know that the story of your life will be typed out, and you will have a
chance to correct or add anything that you wish. We will do the final copy at the
[Oral History Program in the Florida] Museum [of Natural History] archives, and it will
go into the files for posterity. So, thank you so much.
F: Thank you, Emily. I think this was very interesting.