Charles Wisner Barrell
Charles Wisner Barrell (July 6, 1885 – July 1974) was a writer, art critic, American film maker and a prominent supporter of the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship.
Advocate of Oxfordian theory
In 1934 he came to England looking for archival evidence to link de Vere to the works of Shakespeare. He hoped to identify the illegitimate son of Oxford and Anne Vavasour, who he believed to be the Fair Youth of the sonnets. He successfully identified Edward Vere, the couple's son, publishing his findings in 1941. When the Second World War curtailed his activities in England, Barrell helped to establish an American branch of the Shakespeare Fellowship and publish a newsletter.
Barrell claimed to find hidden references to Oxford's secret authorship in the writings of Thomas Edwards, whose poem Narcissus (1595) uses allegorical nicknames in praising several Elizabethan poets, among them "Adon" and an anonymous poet dressed "in purple robes", "whose power floweth far." Barrell argued that the stanzas about Adon and the anonymous aristocrat must be seen together. He stated that Edwards is revealing that Adon, a reference to Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis, is really the Earl of Oxford, forced by the Queen to use a pseudonym. Barrell also originated an argument that the phrase "Swan of Avon" in Ben Jonson's 1623 poem praising Shakespeare could refer to Oxford, as he owned Bilton Hall, a house near the Avon. Irvin Matus later demonstrated that Oxford had sold the house 42 years earlier.
He is best known for his studies of The Ashbourne portrait, which had been believed to depict Shakespeare. He examined the portrait using X-ray and infra-red photography in hopes of finding hidden clues to its origin. He stated that he had found evidence that it was a portrait of Oxford and that the initials C.K. were visible beneath the surface. He took the view that these were the initials of Cornelius Ketel, an artist known to have painted a portrait of the Earl of Oxford. Later studies contradicted Barrell's evidence, identifying the portrait's sitter as Hugh Hamersley. Barrell also claimed that the Janssen portrait depicted the earl. More recent studies identify it as a portrayal of Thomas Overbury.
- Pressly, 63
- Alan H. Nelson, Monstrous Adversary:The Life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, 2003, p.472; Barrell, Charles Wisner (1941–42), ‘“Shake-speare's” Own Secret Drama: Discovery of Hidden Facts in the Private Life of Edward de Vere, Proves Him Author of the Bard's Sonnets ’, Shakespeare Fellowship Newsletter, 3, pp. 1–5, 13–17, 23–33, 45–52, 57–65, 69–77.
- Hope, Warren; Kim Holston (2009). The Shakespeare Controversy: An Analysis of the Authorship Theories. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-7864-3917-1.
- Barrell, Charles Wisner. “Oxford vs. Other ‘Claimants’ of the Edwards Shakespearean Honors, 1593”; The Shakespeare Fellowship Quarterly (Summer 1948)
- Thomas A. Pendleton review of Irvin Matus's Shakespeare, IN FACT, The Shakespeare Newsletter, Summer 1994.
- Folger Shakespeare Library