What comes first: a great intellect or a great memory? Can you have one without the other?
We have just waved goodbye to a couple of visitors, family, who are doing a tour of the UK and came for a flying visit lasting less than 24 hours. Eve is of ordinary intelligence, artistic, Adam's the brain box.
It’s impossible to have an argument with Adam. He’s read every book on every subject remotely connected with natural sciences, history, the environment, literature, etc. etc. He remembers them all and can quote every argument expounded in them. It’s most tiresome.
Not every book written is worth the pulp it’s made from, whether wood, cloth or grass. New research unearths new facts and findings all the time; some last, others are overthrown. My mum used to say “paper is a patient medium, you can tell it anything, it never complains”.
We were talking about the theatre. Beloved and I are enjoying a particularly rich period of play-going, mostly Shakespeare. We love it.
“Ah”, says Adam, “ did you know that there are great doubts that Shakespeare wrote the plays?”
Yes, we had heard. Theories as to who wrote ‘Shakespeare’ are as old as the hills.
Most people are content to accept that an Englishman with that name was born in 1564, died in 1616 and wrote plays, sonnets and poems in the interim that changed English literature forever.
Some, however, see things differently. They don't doubt that the man from Stratford-upon-Avon existed, or that the plays attributed to Shakespeare are foundational and sublime. But elements of the Shakespeare canon are incompatible with his known biography, they say. An intimate knowledge of court affairs. Fluency in French. Familiarity with Italy. Shakespeare, they claim, was not written by Shakespeare.
Not only that, but no hand written manuscripts are in existence and his signature appears only twice, with different spelling.
It seems that a Stanford Physics Professor has developed a scientific way of evaluating Shakespeare.
Adam had obviously either read the new book or detailed reviews of it. We hadn’t and aren’t likely to do so. He had us silenced pretty quickly. I couldn’t even work out if Adam himself believed in the theory he threw at us, or if he was merely playing Devil’s Advocate. Don’t you just hate it when somebody’s superior intellect and phenomenal memory grind you into the dust?
There were other debates and arguments, none of which we won. We are exhausted.
Eve spent a lot of the visit texting and phoning.