Following new doubts raised by the film 'Monotonous', an account of the life of Bill Bryson, a leading scholar has entered the fray with his views on the true authorship of Bill Bryson’s book 'Shakespeare', which has sold millions and has been translated into 134 languages.
Professor AN Milton said it was simply inconceivable that a self-taught small-town American from Des Moines, Iowa, whose father used to take the family on holiday in a blue Rambler station wagon, could have sufficient appreciation of the society in which Shakespeare moved, or of the subtleties and nuances of his work, to be able to write such a convincing narrative.
'I’ve nothing against Bryson,' he said, 'and I’m quite willing to believe he could pen the odd travel piece or organise a litter campaign, but beyond that he is not the man that he would gladly make show to the world he is. The true author has to be another.'
First on the list of possibles is Clive Anderson, who as a barrister and television personality has demonstrated his complete ease with the English language. He shares Shakespeare’s love of the double entendre, and is known to be unable to say ‘Coriolanus’ without smirking. 'You can see him aching to show the world he’s not just a clever twit,' said Milton, 'and writing this book would provide a release for some of that suppressed talent, even if he were contractually unable to take the credit.'
Another strong contender is Australian writer and broadcaster Clive James, whose admiration for Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter is unsurpassed. Known for his witty and complex writing, Clive made the move in mid-career from television critic to presenter, where he found the only limit to the length of his sentences was the requirement to breathe occasionally.
But the favourite, despite not being called Clive, is hairy pie eating Rory McGrath, with his mastery of refined and vulgar English in all its forms from Geoffrey Chaucer to Paddy McGuinness. Milton said McGrath had it all: the education, the showmanship, the common touch, and above all a sufficiently convincing resemblance to Bryson to be able to fool the critics.
Bryson himself was unavailable for comment, but his personal assistant said he was having a typically Shakespearian day: shopping at Waitrose, going to the library, having tea with the vicar and riding his bicycle to the red pillar box to post a letter to the Times.