“I’ll praise the Sweet Swan of Avon and make it sound as if he had a tin ear for Latin and a mildewed ear for Greek. I’ll have Shaxper’s fellow shareholders Hemminge and Condell write a brash and annoying sales pitch to the reader. The whole thing will look like a hugger-mugger patch-up job, but if the folio looks common, people will think it’s the work of a commoner.”
“What a shame,” Susan said. “It was supposed to have been an enduring tribute.”
“Oh, it will be. Your father’s plays are immortal. I’ll just remind his readers of that fact, and tell them not to pay any attention to the picture or the introductory doggerel.”
“Michael won’t be pleased at having his poetry called doggerel.” “Drayton? Well, I’ll give him a chance to withdraw from the project as a courtesy.”
“And the others?”
“Your father’s friends? We do need a little sincerity in the book. It can’t all be tripe and trumpery.”
“Whatever you do, please don’t harm my brother.”
“On my honor, I won’t. King James is too bland to understand riddles and subtleties, but I warrant you he’ll be very pleased with the finished product. I’ll even devise some convoluted drivel for that ridiculous monument in Stratford.”
“Isn’t that going too far?”
“Not at all. It’ll keep ‘em guessing about the authorship for generations.”
“I suppose,” the Countess sighed. “Still, it’s not the memorial I wanted for my father.”
“No, nor I,” Jonson replied. “But the truth will out. Who would be so foolish as to believe that a merchant from Stratford, with not one word of literary juvenilia or poetic practice to his name, could emerge from the ether to create the greatest plays ever written?”
In a corner of the home’s foundation, a gust of wind blew some ashes into a circle.
The long rain had begun.
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