In today’s On the Square feature, David Bentley Hart takes on the “Oxfordian hypothesis” and its champions:
If you are unacquainted with the “Oxfordian hypothesis,” count yourself blessed. It was born in 1920, in a book by a demented English Comtean whom Fate, with her unerring sense of poetic justice, had given the name J. Thomas Looney—a man whose ignorance was so profound it verged on a kind of genius. Looney offered no actual proof for his claim; instead, he attempted to divine the private philosophy of the author of the Shakespearean corpus and then sought out a highborn Elizabethan gentleman who seemed to fit the portrait he had drawn. He also asserted that Oxford was the true author of the works of John Lyly, Anthony Munday, and Arthur Golding (an incoherent farrago of disparate styles, true, but—hey—in for a penny, in for a pound).