I signed the Declaration on January 2, 2008. Just over four years later, on January 14, 2012, in my almost fruitless quest to interest a single Shakespeare scholar, literary critic, or well known Stratfordian in reading The Apocryphal William Shakespeare, I wrote to Stuart Hampton-Reeves to see if he might be interested in my book. Like all but one person whom I contacted, he wrote back that he thought my book's conclusions were wrong without taking the time to actually read it. (That is, when people bothered to write back at all. Hampton-Reeves was polite and friendly, just totally uninterested.)
To my surprise, he also already knew who I was: "It’s funny you should email me – you might be surprised to learn that your name has cropped up in a paper I am writing for Cambridge University Press." He wondered if I would be willing to answer some questions related to his chapter on the Declaration:
"I would be very interested to know more about why you signed it, what you have got from it, whether it has caused you any benefits or difficulties professionally (as an academic). I’m also interested in the process of signing and verification, and any other remarks about your experience. I should be clear that I do not support the Declaration and that the chapter will be a critique, but it will not be a polemic, nor will it try to psychoanalyse anyone! The thesis is that the DRD has two principal aims – to make the authorship issue a legitimate issue for academic debate, and to show that there are many reasonable people who sincerely believe Shakespeare did not write the plays – and that it has succeeded in the second of those aims, but not the first."
Here's my reply:
I am indeed surprised (and amused) to learn that my name has cropped up in your Cambridge University Press paper! I'd be more than happy to answer your questions.
(1) I signed the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt because I'm convinced that investigations of whether William Shakespeare actually wrote the Bard's works are useful and legitimate, whether or not the skeptics are right, and despite the difficulty in separating the wheat from the chaff among the authorship literature. The evidence for William Shakespeare as the true Bard doesn't strike me as so abundant, straightforward, and compelling that any doubts on the matter can be dismissed out of hand as the ravings of conspiracy theorists and snobs. In particular, I find Shakespeare's knowledge of obscure details concerning the law, Italian culture and geography, Italian literature, aristocratic sports, and the people and events of the English court to be impressive and surprising in the context of William Shakespeare's life. Beyond that, I find the direct title page evidence that William Shakespeare wrote a series of works that scholars don't now attribute to him to be fascinating, and I'm interested in many apparent satirical hits at William Shakespeare's playwriting abilities and character in contemporary works such as Mucedorus, Guy Earl of Warwick, Greene's Groatsworth of Wit, Skialetheia, The Scourge of Villainy, Every Man Out of His Humour, The Woman Hater, Ratsei's Ghost, and so on. I also think it's surprising that traditional scholars appear to be unaware of definite evidence uncovered by authorship skeptics for the existence of a major hidden court poet who was much admired by members of the Elizabethan literati during the period when Shakespeare's works were being written.
(2) Ramifications from signing the declaration: none at all. You're the first person to notice that I signed it, to my knowledge. (Although my experience may not be typical.) Signing the declaration has not caused me any benefits or difficulties professionally, but on the other hand I never talk about my interest in the Shakespeare authorship question at work. The people I work with aren't interested in the question, if they even know about it. There is a widespread sense among people who have never researched the subject that questioning Shakespeare's identity is equivalent to being a flat-earther, moon landing doubter, or worse.
(3) Concerning the process of signing and verification: I don't have much insight into that. I hit "submit," then a couple of weeks later my name popped up on the website.
Other remarks about my experience that might interest you.
It is very difficult for anyone to raise new questions or promote new research on Shakespeare's identity. Over the last few years I have written to more than 100 Shakespeare scholars about my new theory, and only one has been willing to read my The Oxfordian article and my book The Apocryphal William Shakespeare. Setting aside the question of whether my ideas have any merit, I think it's strange that more than 99% of traditional Shakespeare scholars are willing to dismiss my ideas entirely without reading what I have to say. This is not meant to be a plug for you to buy my book, by the way.
What surprises me more, I've had a very difficult time convincing any authorship skeptics to read my article or book. My applications to speak at three different Oxfordian-slanted authorship conferences were declined, and it was only through luck and persistence that I finally managed to give a talk on the Sackville theory at the Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable in Los Angeles in January of 2010, and to get my research published in The Oxfordian in late 2010. Only within the last few weeks has The Apocryphal William Shakespeare begun generating any sort of buzz, and that only at a single Facebook site dedicated to the Oxfordian position. Leading Oxfordians whom I've contacted have ignored the fact that Sackville was a better poet who lived 4 years longer than Oxford, and not one contacted me after my article on the case for Sackville appeared in the 2010 The Oxfordian.
I did not intend to exaggerate with my last sentence, but it wasn't quite true. I was temporarily forgotting that one Oxfordian, W. Ron Hess, read my article with great interest and wrote a response arguing that Sackville was the Earl of Oxford's literary mentor in the 2011 edition of The Oxfordian: Did Shakespeare Have A Literary Mentor?. The 2011 The Oxfordian also printed my response, A Response to Hess. I probably forgot these articles because they dropped into the world like rocks down a deep well. Finally, I would be remiss not to mention that soon after I wrote back to Hampton-Reeves, my application to speak at the October 2012 Shakespeare Authorship Conference in Pasadena was accepted. And I've had the opportunity to give three talks about my authorship theories at the Los Angeles Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable, thanks to the support and encouragement of Carole Sue Lipman, now a good friend.