J. P De Fonseka and the authorship debate: A quiz published in the Dallas Morning News, Texas USA in recent times, highlights an amazing theory proposed by J.P. de Fonseka to the literary world in 1938. This contribution by J.P to a world famous authorship debate, is one of the lesser known things about J.P.
The Internet has always been a source of some amazing material. Surfing the web, has always thrown out something new and interesting at me. While scouring the web for information on the ‘De Fonseka’ name in November 2000, I came across an extraordinary article, which had the name of J. P De Fonseka in it. The article came from a website called www.findarticles.com, an article search service which covers over 300 journals and magazines. It contained a quiz, which was published in the Dallas Morning News Texas, USA on the 16th of April the same year. The quiz, which is about a mystery author, is reproduced below.
CARPERS’ CHORUS. ( Sunday Reader – A Few Words )
Author/s: Laurence Mcnamee
Perry Lee of Dallas, a literary scholar, sent us a puzzle about a mystery author.
- France’s Voltaire (1694-1778) called his works “a few pearls” on a pile of you know what.
- Russian Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) found the works of Mr. X “unpleasant.”
- German poet J.W. von Goethe (1749-1832) said, England’s Lord Byron “did the right thing in not showing him too much respect.”
- German critic Johann Gottsched (1700-66) complained of translation of works by Mr. X into the German language: “Why bring something into the language that is so vile and barbarous to read?”
- Speaking of barbarous, English critic Thomas Rymer (1639-1714) also used that word when he called the works of Mr. X “barbarous, irrational, overexuberant.”
- American-turned-Brit poet–critic T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) carped that the philosophy of Mr. X was “inferior” to Dante’s.
- Another Brit, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), resented the lack of social message in the pages of Mr. X, as well as his selection of heroes. “What a crew they are . . . drunkards, hypochondriacs and cowards who mistake themselves for philosophers.” GBS said he’d like to dig him up and throw stones at him.
- American journalist J.P. De Fonseka theorized in 1938 that author X wasn’t the author of those works at all, merely a front man for his wife, who was the real creator of the extensive X files.
Identified Mr. X?
You’re invited to send questions about language and lifestyle to “A Few Words,” in care of The Dallas Morning News, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265 (or e-mail dr_ firstname.lastname@example.org).
Professor McNamee is an author and lecturer. Mr. Biffle is “Texana” columnist for The Dallas Morning News.
Got it? Scroll Down for the answer.
The answer of course is William Shakespeare ( 1564 – 1616 ). That was easy. The real problem was the identity of the particular J. P. De Fonseka mentioned in the article? Was it our own J. P? (Joseph Peter De Fonseka, see the family tree of Frank De Fonseka). If so, why is he referred to as an American Journalist? Could he have contributed to the well-known Shakespeare Authorship debate? The thought bugged me from then on. As I have studied some of the works of J.P I was quite positive that the particular reference made, was to him, although he was far away from America at all times.
An email sent to the author Professor Laurence Mcnamee bounced back with an ‘Account Closed’ message. A search of all the Perry Lees (the literary scholar / originator of the puzzle) from the Yahoo People Search gave around four possible ‘suspects’ that came from around Dallas, Texas. No reply ever came back from any. In desperation I looked at all the top Shakespeare sites in the Internet. This revealed an interesting side of the Shakespeare story. There exists a large group of people who believe that Shakespeare of Stratford on Avon never wrote anything at all. Many claim Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as the true Shakespeare; some claim it to be Sir Francis Bacon, some claim it to be Queen Elizabeth I, and the list goes on. A quick ‘Did you know of any J.P. De Fonseka who theorized ….’ email to the contacts of these societies did not again yield any result. I was truly at a dead end.
Things changed in April the next year. After receiving a copy of the CEYLANKAN, the official newsletter of the Ceylon Society of Australia from Dr Srilal Fernando of its Melbourne Chapter, I decided to reply to a person who was seeking details of E.V. Lucas, the poet who was introduced to him by his beloved English tutor at St Joseph’s College, J. P. De Fonseka. I went thru some of the articles in a book about J.P. De Fonseka that I had in my collection, as I remembered that this book had references to E.V. Lucas, G.K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw among others. A few pages later, I could not believe what was before me. The answer to the puzzle was starring right back at me. An article titled ‘The Humor of Orthodoxy’ by renowned journalist Noel F. Crusz (now domiciled in Australia) finally confirmed J. P. De Fonseka’s ‘contribution’ to the two centuries long Shakespeare Authorship debate. The literary Scholar from America may not have been able to figure out J.P’s humble origins in Ceylon.
The relevant portion of Noel Crusz’s article is reproduced below. This article has been written after J.P.’s death in 1948, at the invitation of Hilaire Jansz the editor of the Ceylon Observer. This was subsequently published in the prestigious Indian Journal.
There were times in our hero’s life when he was afraid that he too ran a hot favorite for the authorship of Shakespeare. In 1927 he wrote from Cambridge: `I have been through the Cambridge University library with its prodigious store of print. I handled for the first time a first folio of Shakespeare, which any day can find a buyer for 10,000 pounds with ease’. Bernard Shaw repudiated his authorship of Shakespeare by `roundly asking his voters how the devil they could think that he could stoop to such piffle’.
J.P. de Fonseka thought otherwise and fought otherwise. With dramatic irony he asserted:
`Shakespeare was a female all right, and the greatest poet of the world was a poetess. Some distant day when the male has shaken off his dependence on women and has a room of his own, then, and not till then, will the world have the strange revolutionary pleasure of a male Shakespeare’.
Till then it would not be idle to see our bard, having a house of his own, and dreaming the dreams and visions of poetry.