A Brief Biography of Sir George Greenwood


In November 6, 1922, Colonel B. R. Ward, father of B. M. Ward, the first biographer of Edward De Vere with The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, founded the Shakespeare Fellowship to ascertain the truth of the authorship of the Shakespeare poems and plays.

Sir George Greenwood, former Member of Parliament, served as its first president.

Lt.-Colonel M. W. Douglas wrote about those days in The Shakespeare Fellowship News-Letter:

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By Lt.-Colonel M. W. DOUGLAS, C.S.I., C.I.E.

In recalling the beginnings of the Shakespeare Fellowship, three distinguished men come to mind. Sir George Greenwood, first President, and author of the Shakespeare Problem Restated and other volumes (1908-1925), in which he confounded the orthodox, and convinced the interested and impartial, that the “Stratford rustic” was not “Shakespeare.” J. T. Looney, who, convinced by Greenwood, employed deductive reasoning, confirmed by unanswerable evidence, to identify the Poet in Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. Colonel Ward’s intellectual powers covered a varied range: he had also a wide circle of friends. In 1922 he read Shakespeare Identified by J. T. Looney, and Sous Le Masque de William Shakespeare by Professor Le Franc. He found the case proved for Oxford as the main author, in some collaboration with his son-in-law, Lord Derby. The quest was worth the toil, and Colonel Ward called a meeting on the 6th November, 1922, over which Sir George Greenwood presided. Colonel Ward explained the results of his researches, and the need for collective action. Sir George stated that, since his Eton and Cambridge days, his works on Shakespeare had been destructive, but he hoped he had now entered on a period of construction. It was agreed that the Folio was the work of “many pens and a Master mind”; that Ben Jonson wrote the preface signed by Heminge and Condell.

It was resolved that the Shakespeare Fellowship be founded to ascertain the truth, and unite in one brotherhood all those who were dissatisfied with Stratford orthodoxy, and who desired to see the principles of scientific historical criticism applied to the problem of Shakespearean authorship. A vote of thanks to Colonel Ward, the founder, was passed.

The President was Sir George Greenwood, K.C.; Vice-Presidents: the Hon. Sir G. Cockburn, K.C.M.G., M.D.; Mr. W. T. Smedley (Baconians); Mr. L. T. Maxse (Editor National Review: Independent); Professor Abel Le Franc; Mr. J. T. Looney. Colonel B. R. Ward, C.M.G., was Hon. Secretary and Treasurer. The Executive Committee were Sir George Greenwood, Mr. Francis Clarke, Colonel M. W. Douglas, C.S.I., C.I.E.

The Executive Committee set to work to enlist members, develop research, and contribute articles to the Hackney Spectator. Although the work moved round Oxford clues, Sir George, with the valuable support of Colonel Ward, took the greatest interest in our research, in which his wide knowledge as scholar and lawyer and wonderful grasp of detail were always at our service. He belonged to the Baconian Society, but was not a Baconian. He preferred to remain a critic, and to retain an open mind as to the author. When accepting office, he “hoped to be entering a period of construction,” and we may reasonably assume that the case for Oxford, as presented in Shakespeare Identified and Colonel Ward’s Mr. W. H., impressed him. Bacon and Oxford were doubtless among his “many pens,” and one or other was “the Master mind.” He considered that Shakspere of Stratford under certain conditions (collaboration?) might have written plays, but never a sonnet. His name was in use as a pseudonym; he acted as agent for the anonymous authors, and put their plays on the stage. They became, or some of them, Shakespearean plays. When, in 1928, Sir George Greenwood died, Colonel Ward preferred to remain as Secretary and Treasurer, and I was elected President.

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In 1962, Sir George’s daughter, Elsie Greenwood, wrote down memories of her father in the Shakespearean Authorship Review:

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By Elsie Greenwood

GEORGE GRANVILLE GREENWOOD, was the second son of John Greenwood, Q.C., for many years Solicitor to the Treasury. He was sent to Eton and was in the “select” for the Newcastle scholarship. Going up to Trinity College, Cambridge, as a foundation scholar, he took his degree with a first class in the classical tripos in 1873. Having been called to the Bar by the Middle Temple in 1876, he joined the Western Circuit. He married in 1878 Laura, daughter of Dr. Cumberbatch and had one soil and three daughters.

He contested Peterborough in 1876 and Central Hull in 1900. In 1906 he won Peterborough for the Liberals and held it till December, 1915, when forced by rheumatism to retire. He was knighted in 1916.

My father was an ardent supporter of all measures for the protection of animals, and was on the Council of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and was President of many similar societies. While he was in Parliament his consistent vigilance and practical knowledge were of great service.

He was one of the doughtiest fighters in the controversy over the authorship of the Shakespeare plays and published many books on the subject. He was a frequent and valued correspondent of The Times, both on Shakespearean Subjects and on the protection of Animals.

Writing in the Sunday Times, 4th November 1928, Atticus says of him:

He was an eager and an enthusiastic soul. I have scarcely ever seen a face which reflected so much goodness of heart and eagerness of temperament. With his gleaming eyes, palpable eagerness and incessant enthusiasm were written in his face, his gestures and his acts. Three things mainly interested him in life: his Liberal principles, his pity for animals, and his enthusiasm in the constant controversy over the authorship of the Shakespeare plays.

What was most delightful in him was that keen, incessant, eager as was his advocacy of these three causes, he always put them forward with a persuasive gentleness that demanded and obtained immediate attention.

And then in the midst of all these pursuits and of his life generally, ill health came upon him in the shape of chronic rheumatism. He had to walk with the assistance of a stick, and had reluctantly to abandon his Parliamentary career. His country, never in my experience, produced a more characteristic and a nobler spirit.

To live with my father was truly a liberal education in more than one sense; he, however, wore his learning lightly, and it was delightful at meals to hear him break out in a stanza from Shelley or Byron, or a quotation from a Greek or Latin poet. He took with the greatest good-humour an amount of chaff from his daughters that would have shocked many a Victorian parent. He had a very keen sense of humour and would amuse us by singing some absurd old Victorian songs whose “perfect inanity proved their insanity.” One of these songs “Up in a Balloon” had a particularly catchy air and I often found myself in after years singing or humming the chorus. A favourite song was “Juanita” by Mrs. Norton, the great friend of Palmerston, and it is still one of my “haunts.” But when he sang “The Eton Boating Song” he looked ten years younger and one could see he was back in those happy memories of boyhood.

He used when an M.P. to entertain us and his friends by amusing little personal anecdotes of life in Parliament. I found it great fun being the daughter of an M.P., it got one past the red ropes, so to speak, and it was most interesting meeting all the leading political figures at the Downing Street Garden Parties and At Homes, to say nothing of being “presented” to King Edward VII and his lovely Queen Alexandra.

My father’s attitude to us and ours to him was more that of all elder brother than a parent, and. what was so delightful about him was the way in which he adopted the wildest of our sagas, often about people not personally known to him, as indeed in some cases they were not even known to us! He gaily accepted with the greatest good humour the many and odd nicknames that we bestowed upon him. But it was my two younger sisters who evolved the nickname that remained to the end and was known to all our relations and friends. It was a name that as my mother said was very suitable as “Grimeo” sounded so Shakespearean, and so we called him to the end of his days.

When ill health due to lameness caused by rheumatism made him retire front Parliamentary life he still came down to breakfast, and on the last day he went into his library afterwards to write letters. When I peeped in he was still writing so I went away. My mother looked in shortly afterwards and found him lying over his writing table, half way through a letter on animal welfare. So he died as he would have wished, “in harness,” aged 78.