Books: No Poet

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Outside Westminster Abbey, while London police stood guard before locked doors, passersby saw a glint of light through stained-glass windows. Inside the Abbey, from behind a canvas screen in Poets’ Corner, came the clanking of picks. Near the base of Edmund Spenser’s monument gravediggers scooped up sand from beneath the stones, uncovered a lead coffin and evidences that two more bodies had been buried in the same grave.

Reason for this ghoulish hocus-pocus was that a minor Elizabethan historian of doubtful veracity once wrote that when Spenser was buried, a cluster of poets, including Shakespeare, placed poems in their own handwriting in his grave. For 20 years the Baconian Society has been pleading to have the grave examined, arguing that comparison of the handwriting of the poems would prove once & for all that it was Bacon who wrote Shakespeare.

When the stones were taken up, nothing was discovered except that Spenser’s monument rested on somebody else’s bones. Authorities hastily covered the graves, announced firmly that there would be no more digging in Poets’ Corner.

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