Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets

Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets: A Restoration of the Runes
by Roy Neil Graves, Professor of English
The University of Tennessee at Martin

Then others, for the breath of words, respect
(Sonnet 85.13)

           The short list here
of people and institutions whom I owe thanks for helping to advance this project excludes many teachers, mentors, colleagues, students, family members, and friends who have helped in this endeavor—some quite consciously, but many without their knowing it. In any case, I’m grateful to all those who have supported me professionally and personally over the years and have contributed in ways subtle and profound to making this internet publication possible in 2003-2004 and in later years.

           Finding a name listed here, of course, in no sense implies that that person supports my findings or believes them to be valid. Of all living people to date, so far I alone have been in a position to survey the full range of evidence that validates the authorization of Shakespeare’s Runes. More or less on faith, a few of my friends and colleagues—and all of my family—have had confidence in my work anyway and have chosen on the basis of what they know about me otherwise to believe that what I tell them about Shakespeare’s Runes is likely to be true.

           The artists and scholars whose printed works I’ve relied on and used in this project—from Shakespeare onward, and backward—also merit full credit. Some of them I’ve listed as sources, and I hope I’ve used their materials fairly. I appreciate in a special way the early work on Shakespeare’s handwriting of Sir Edward Maunde Thompson, as well as the more recent editorial labors of Stephen Booth, along with similarly tedious work by numerous other scholars whose efforts, without their active complicity, now help to underpin various components of the discussion that follows—lexicographers, biographers, critics, anthologizers, and editors of numerous works of literature that I’ve used in essential or tangential ways.

           None of these persons knows of my work or has offered any conscious support for it, but I’m nonetheless aware of my indebtedness to them.

           Former teachers who stand salient in my heart for having worked over the years to assuage my ignorance, shape my interests and values, and teach me things about language, literature, writing, and life include, particularly, Rayburn Cagle, Betty Sue Smith, Mildred Utley, Mary Dawson, Frances Coleman Reasons, and Frances Neisler at Medina High School; Jack Farris at Union University; Carlos Baker, Edward Hubler, and Willard Thorp at Princeton; Arlin Turner at Duke; and Evans Harrington at Ole Miss. Charles Ogilvie guided the faculty development tour I made, with other friends, to Stratford. T. J. Ray, who directed the seminar on the Pearl/Gawain texts in which I first found the antecedent runes, allowed me to pursue my own befuddled and indeterminate track in the course and still get academic credit for it.

           David Taylor, an old friend from UT-Martin and my graduate school sidekick at Ole Miss, was the first believer in the reality of the runes.Way back in high school, Glenda Smith (now Tate), with small-town irony, puffed my ego and probably helped seal my fate by calling me “Shakespeare.”

           I’m also indebted in specific ways to a number of academic colleagues who’ve helped by making me aware of materials that are relevant to this project, works that in most cases are listed among my published sources: Martha Battle introduced me to the findings of Hieatt and of de Saussure, both of which provide key parallels with my own discoveries. David Taylor made me aware of the Grands Rhétoriqueurs, an important antecedent group whose practices help us to understand those in Q as conventional and inherited. Anna Clark pointed out germane materials in Thomas Wolfe and in Black spirituals and, in her role as adviser to the yearbook/directories of the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Humanities, also helped me publish six edited Shakespearean runes on “my page” of these yearbooks during 1991-96, when I was a GSH faculty member. Phillip Miller showed me materials in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and, in many other ways as supportive department chair and friend, advanced the interests of my project. Keith Daniel told me about Augenmusik, a playful analogue to Will’s “O-wit.” Cary Ader, a student at Miami-Dade Community College, made seminal, independent discoveries in the rhyme scheme patterns of Herbert’s “The Collar,” and Norbert Artzt, his professor, passed Ader’s findings on to me. Ruth Tonner revealed acrostic bawdry in one of John Peale Bishop’s sonnets—a modern instance of suppressed coterie wit—and William Shurr informed me about acrostic gaminess in a Nabakov story. James Adams sent me the Satinover essay on Biblical encodings. My daughter Anna, with the luxury of daily access to the New York Times, introduced me to Vendler’s work on the Sonnets. Bryan Horton first told me about the Inklings. And Bill Austin helped me calculate the statistical odds against accidental self-generation of the acrostic epithet AVON in Rune 1. My son, Ben, a singer-songwriter, has kept my web pages (including this site) linked to his own, thus fundling here a host of potential readers.

           Other colleagues at UT-Martin who’ve figured in this project with particular kinds of support and information include A. L. Addington, Robert Allen, Kendall Blanchard, Taylor Corse, Robert Cowser, David Grubbs, Walter Haden, Larry McGehee, Judy Sandefer and several of her student assistants, Robert Smith, and Lana Taylor; the staffs of the Paul Meek Library, the UTM University Relations office (notably Joe Lofaro, Vernon Matlock, Glory Williams, Bud Grimes, Kara Hooper, Robert Muilenburg, and Trevor Ruszkowski), the UTM Printing Office; and especially the staff of the Faculty Multimedia Center (later the Instructional Technology Center), including Jennifer Abney, Craig Ingram, Weston Gentry, Josh Kugler, and Steve Holt.

           Since 1977, my departmental colleagues have framed a better work environment than any teaching writer merits, sharing some of my non-teaching tasks during the three terms of academic leave I’ve taken over the decades to work on this project. Colleagues in the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Humanities have also helped—notably Ernest Lee and students in my GSH Shakespeare classes.

           Other friends and scholars I’m indebted to include Reed and Joyce Graves, Sue Lain Graves, Molly Graves, Harold James, Charles Kolesar, Cliff Laird, Robert McCluskey, Jane Harris, and Larry and Joyce Patton.

           Reporters and newspaper editors who during the period 1984-2010 have shown a more careful and open-minded interest in my discovery than any academicians except a colleague or two include Harriet Riley, William McDaniel, John Gilbert, Robert Nanney, Jon Ivins, Jennifer Phelps, Kathy D. Thomas, Bartholomew Sullivan, Penny Wolfe (for her artwork), Wendy Isom, Brian Kindle, and especially Richard Higgins of The Boston Globe.

           Uniquely, editor Eric Paquette of The Norris [Tennessee] Bulletin has my on-going gratitude for affording me the venue of a column on the runes that—at his instigation—began running in July 2001; these weekly articles have made possible the first modern publications and discussions of a majority of the Runes, and I hope that history soon vindicates Eric’s trust in my findings and records him as, in effect, the first publisher of the Runes. A booklength compilation of the Norris Bulletin essays now provides the best single overview in print of my findings and of this project.

           Melanie Paquette, Brandon Hall, and Shannan Greenhouse, as layout editors for The Bulletin, also have my gratitude, especially because of my persnickety, jot-and-tittle concerns about the details of the published texts—lineations, long dashes, italics, you name it— that they had to make fit the space and look good week after week

           My early advocates at university presses were Carol Orr of The University of Tennessee Press, Karen Orchard of The University of Georgia Press, and Thomas Yoseloff of Associated University Presses. Though finally unsuccessful in their efforts to secure interest among academic peer readers, the prescient perceptiveness of these scholars should not go unnoticed.

           I’m also indebted to editors James Andreas of The Upstart Crow, Patrick Cullen and Thomas P. Roche, Jr., of Spenser Studies, and Beverly Glover-Wood of The Explicator, and to Robert E. Bjork, director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and to the successive editors of the Journal of The Tennessee Philological Association. Joe McGinity edited the Princeton Class of 1961 40th Reunion booklet in which some of mind findings appear. All of these editors have worked on my behalf to allow me to publish my findings and have my say.

           Taking the long view back, I’m particularly grateful to my parents for the high value they placed on education and for the range of personal freedom they established in our household when my brother and I were trying to work out our futures; for my three years of support at Duke to do graduate study (1961-64) under the National Defense Education Act, even if the NDEA grant for studying post-baccalaureate English did require me to sign a loyalty oath that Professor Thorpe—as an old ’30s liberal and one of my respected mentors about 1962—condemned, benignly, as an unconscionably pragmatic sell-out on my part; for the Carnegie grant, UT-Martin faculty development and incentive funds, and gifts from Walter E. and Flossie Patton Hunt that helped make possible my graduate studies at Ole Miss during 1976-77; for support from my department during 2003 in the form of a one-course release time award to allow me time to initiate this web site; for support from the UTM Faculty Multimedia Center (later the Instructional Technology Center) in the form of two workshop grants that helped me develop this web site and my academic web page, along with another chance to take part in a summer 2010 workshop; and for further support at UTM from the Cunningham and the Alma and Hal Reagan endowments—particularly for the two semesters of academic leave funded by Reagan grants that have allowed me time to develop the substantive textual materials that this site houses—and thus to open up Shakespeare’s mind-boggling trove of Lost Sonnets to readers of every future generation, until the Last Trump halts all our mundane perusals.

                                                                                                      RNG 14 May 2003, with additions 20 May 2010.

Return to Index Page: Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets