In 1925, Lillian Gilchrist Thompson had a Eureka! moment. She was working through the Titchfield Parish Register 300 and discovered an entry for the baptism of Augustine Gobbo. Aha! She thought. This is the source of the name for Lancelot Gobbo in the Merchant of Venice. Enthused by this discovery, she wrote to the Times Literary Supplement to champion her revelation. It was taken seriously and everybody assumed that as a reputable scholar she must be right. This information crept into A Companion for Shakespeare Studies, written by the distinguished theatre director Harley Granville-Barker and the equally distinguished Shakespeare scholar G B Harrison in 1934. Thirty years later, anther distinguished scholar, A L Rowse, accepted the same story, using the Granville Barker/Harrison book as his authority
The name of Gobbo – old Gobbo with his son Lancelot – sounds Italian enough in this Italianate play, but in fact it was a name well known in the parish of Titchfield and turns up in the registers there.1
Three years later, the Canadian professor, G V P Akrigg, who had spent many patient summers researching all sources for his own book, Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton, published a correction 1968. He was the first to notice that Miss Thompson misread the handwriting. What she thought was a capital G was in fact the conventional way of writing ‘H’ in the 1600s, and the ‘o’ at the end of the name was an ‘e’ or ‘es’. The actual entry, when properly read, was baptised ‘Awgustine Holte the 23 daye.’2
There were of course Hobbes families in Titchfield and entries for both Holte and Hobbs in the 17th century, appear to be written as Gobbo, but are in fact solid English names.
1 A L Rowse Shakespeares Southampton. (1965) p 117.
2 GVP Akrigg Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton. (1968)p. 223,