The Medieval Review 14.02.02


Cerasano, S.P. and Steven W. May. In the Prayse of Writing: Early Modern Manuscript Studies. English Manuscript Studies. London: British Library Publications, 2012. Pp. xxi, 328. $85.00. ISBN: 9780712358576.



Reviewed by:


Rebecca Brackmann
Lincoln Memorial University
rebecca.brackmann@lmunet.edu

This book honors Peter Beal's foundational role in the study of English literary manuscripts, and especially celebrates the launching of the massive online Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450- 1700 (https://celm2.dighum.kcl.ac.uk). Beal is also the co- founder and editor of the journal English Manuscript Studies 1100- 1700 and the author of the Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology 1450-2000, both enterprises of value to medievalist paleographers as well as those whose work spans the medieval and early modern periods. The essays in Cerasano and May's volume are a worthy tribute to Beal's multi-faceted and influential career.

Julia Boffey ("The English Verse of Robert Fabyan," 1-24) investigates the interplay between verse and historical narrative in the New Chronicles of England and France by Robert Fabyan (d. 1513), examining its relationship to other manuscript works of Fabyan's, such as the later portion of the Great Chronicle of London. Fabyan not only composed his own verse, but edited and translated Latin and French poetry from his sources as part of his chronicle. Boffey's essay includes an appendix of first lines of Fabyan's verses from his two chronicles as well as those which he wrote in his copy of the Nuremberg Chronicles.

The examination of Surrey's poetry undertaken by A.S.G. Edwards ("Print and Manuscript: The Text and Canon of Surrey's Lyric Verse," 25-43) focuses even more closely on the interplay between manuscript and print versions of literary works, as he raises some textual issues that must be addressed before Surrey's work can be edited (which it has not been since 1928). Edwards persuasively challenges the assumption that manuscripts of Surrey's verse are inherently superior to the versions printed by Tottel in 1557. He also discusses the issue of poems that differ so radically in various manuscripts that critically editing them seems impossible, raising questions of authorship.

H.R. Wouldhuysen ("Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella Abbreviated: A Note on Rowland Woodward," 44-69) gives what is known about the life of Rowland Woodward, an associate of both Donne and Jonson, and examines the abbreviated version of part of Sidney's Astrophil and Stella written on an endpaper of Woodward's copy of Bernard Tasso's letters. Wouldhuysen edits the verse, determining that it must have been drawn from one of the early quarto editions of Sidney. Whether or not these excerpts were written by Woodward (which cannot be determined with certainty), Wouldhuysen speculates that perhaps the copyist had limited access to one of these prized quarto editions, and transcribed an abbreviation as an aid to his memory. The essay concludes with a catalogue of books owned by Woodward.

Paul E.J. Hammer ("'Like droppes of colde water caste into the flame': Lord Henry Howard's Notes on the Fall of Essex," 70-92) examines British Library MS Cotton Vitellius C.XVII, an autograph narrative written by Lord Henry Howard about the fall of the Earl of Essex. Copied into a gathering containing other materials about Essex, the neatly-written narrative was probably composed after March of 1602 but before the death of Elizabeth the following year. Hammer believes the text was written for James VI of Scotland, who had been in communication with Essex before the latter's disgrace and death. Howard claimed that Essex's decision to rebel came about because Essex's secretary, Henry Cuff, kept Essex from following the wiser counsel given him by Howard and others. Even though the narrative was written for Howard's purposes, its facts can be corroborated and it provides a valuable insight into the Essex circle.

The Corrected Historie of Gwy Earle of Warwick (1621), an autograph rime-royal poem of over 17,000 lines written by John Lane, a close friend of John Milton's father, is the subject of Katherine Duncan-Jones's essay ("Poetry and Poets in John Lane's 'The corrected historie of Gwy Earle of Warwick,'" 93-113), which focuses on Lane's view of contemporary poets and poetry. Lane's text about the legendary medieval hero is roughly based on John Lydgate's short poem on Guy. At his poem's close, Lane imagines a conclave of poets to argue about Guy's status as one of the "9 Worthies"; this list includes John Rouse, who was not a poet but whose genealogical research included Guy, and Sidney, for his general praise of "poesy." Lane's list shows some interesting blind spots, particularly contemporary drama.

John Pitcher ("Margaret, Countess of Cumberland's Prayse of Private Life, Presented by Samuel Daniel," 114-144) discusses the attribution of The Prayse of Private Life to John Harington, which Pitcher convincingly argues is erroneous. Instead, the work was written by Samuel Daniel, who presented it to the Countess of Cumberland. A 19th-century transcriber of the text was misled by the name "Harington" on the title page of his copy-text (now lost); the word also appears on other surviving copies or fragments. However, the text states that it was presented to the countess by Daniel, which would usually imply authorship, and is a better fit with Daniel's interests and style. In fact, the "Harington" written on these manuscripts may not refer to John Harington at all, but an Exton family named Harington with whom Daniel had connections and to whom he may also have presented a copy of his work.

Grace Ioppolo's essay ("Creating the First Early Modern English Theatre History Archive: Edward Alleyn, William Cartwright and British Library Egerton MS 1994," 145-169) reminds us that manuscripts take some of their meaning from their place in collections, even if they later become separated from them. She details the attempt of Edward Alleyn and William Cartwright to establish an archive at Dulwich College (which Alleyn founded) for the history of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. However, 18th- and 19th-century scholars such as Edward Malone often borrowed manuscripts and did not return them, with the result that the manuscripts were sold upon their deaths and several now remain in other repositories. A manuscript list of plays in British Library Sloan MS 2893 by Abraham Hill, a book dealer in the late 17th century, may in fact be a catalogue of Cartwright's collection of manuscripts. A volume that almost certainly belonged once to Cartwright is now British Library Egerton MS 1994, which contains fifteen plays dating from the 1590s to 1640 (she gives a full contents list). The manuscript, Ioppolo argues, "represented the wide- ranging extent of the acting careers" of the Cartwright family and its long-standing association with colleagues such as Alleyn. An appendix transcribes Hill's list.

In a fascinating study, Heather Wolfe ("'Neatly sealed, with silk, and Spanish wax or otherwise': The Practice of Letter-Locking with Silk Floss in Early Modern England," 169-189), examines how sealing mechanisms for early modern correspondence extended the meaning of the enclosed missive by studying the use of colored silk floss in binding letters. Flossed letters would have been more personal, and the use of floss encodes the artifact as "an intimate gift, more private and meaningful than a letter folded and sealed in a more typical manner" (170). The color of the floss itself could convey meaning, according to widely-understood color symbolism. Wolfe examines the flossed letters sent by and to Elizabeth I, who seems to have introduced the practice in England. Her personal correspondence with James VI of Scotland mostly made use of floss to seal the letters--unless she was angry with him. James likewise communicated with her in both "public" letters copied by scribes and traditionally folded and sealed, and private letters sealed with floss. The practice was adopted quickly by the nobility, although Wolfe disagrees with previous claims that floss was used particularly for love letters.

Stephen May ("Samuel Watt's Anthology," 190-211), examines a previously-unstudied early Stuart manuscript miscellany, Somerset Heritage Center DD/SF10/5/1, compiled (mainly) by Samuel Watts of Winscombe between 1616 and 1622. Most of the verses were copied from printed texts, but some only exist in a few other manuscripts and two are unique to this volume. Although the majority of texts focus on love and courtship, there is no clear organization. Anomalously, all but one of the contents date from the reign of Elizabeth I. May suggests that the book may have been composed as an aid to courtship for Watts and his family members.

S.P. Cerasano ("Of Minstrels, Mastiffs, and Mole-Catchers: Collier's Gathering of Theatrical Papers," 211-235) returns to the Dulwich College archive that Edward Alleyn and his business partner Philip Henslow attempted to found. Cerasano focuses on the interventions of the Shakespearean scholar--and forger--John Collier (1789-1883), examining British Library Egerton MS 2623, a volume which Collier compiled and which contains several items linked to the Dulwich College papers. Collier, who inserted forgeries in genuine manuscripts to support his own arguments about the early modern stage, may have collected some of these for that enterprise. Nevertheless, the volume contains important texts, particularly the fragment of Henslow's diary that Collier collected shows Alleyn's growing management of their theatrical company, and provides an example of his hand. An appendix to the essay transcribes a bond copied by Alleyn engaging William Kendall to act only in Henslow's playhouse for a period of two years.

British Library Sloane 1446, an under-studied poetical anthology with unusual features, is the subject of Arthur Marotti's analysis, "Rare or Unique Poems in British Library Sloane MS 1446" (236-265). The volume contains several sonnets, not usually present in seventeenth- century collections of verse, one of which is unique to the manuscript. Two other poems on the subject of "parting" are also only found in Sloane 1445, and perhaps show the influence of Donne, who wrote several poems on the topic. Marotti transcribes all of these, as well as versions of poems by Jonson, elegies unique to this volume, witty poems that indicate the "incubation period of Cavalier verse," and others (260). In all, Marotti estimates that 15% of the poems in Sloane 1446 are unique, and calls for these verses to be studied more widely.

Hilton Kelliher's essay ("Foreign Piracies of the First Defence: A New Letter to Milton," 266-280) describes a previously-unknown letter to John Milton from the publisher and bookseller Octavian Pulleyn. Pulleyn's letter complains about foreign "pirated" versions of Milton's Defensio Pro Populi Anglicano, which were damaging his own sales. He states that he sends Milton a copy of Harvey's de Generatio, and asks for Milton's help for his friend George Thomason. Pulleyn's letter reveals his hitherto-unsuspected role in arranging for the sale of the work that cost Milton his sight; it adds Harvey's volume to the small total of books that Milton was known to possess; and it suggests that Milton was responsible for Thomason's release from prison following his involvement in a plot to join with the Scots and restore Charles II. The letter, brief as it is, adds materially to our knowledge of Milton's connection with the book trade, his library, and his associations.

Anna Cromwell William's mid-seventeenth-century collection of prayers and devotions, described by Margaret J. M. Ezell ("The Exemplary Wife: Anna Cromwell William's Book of Secrets," 281-299), shows how Williams and the women in her own and her husband's family negotiated the political currents around them. Not least of the alterations to the volume is her deletion of "Cromwell" from her name, as her husband abandoned the surname his ancestor Richard had adopted in the 1530s to acknowledge the patronage of Richard's uncle, Sir Thomas Cromwell. A later addition, in shorthand, to the title page also quotes a Bible verse which she and her husband may have found apt after the Restoration: "Accuse not a servant unto his master" (Proverbs 30:10). In the 1660s the manuscript became much more private, as Williams's conception of it changed, and she began to focus on verses that underscored the need to listen to conscience while yet serving obediently. The book's context, both familial and national, shows the author navigating private needs with the networks in which manuscripts circulated.

The final contribution to the volume is Alan H. Nelson's diplomatic transcription of Richard Chiswell's sale catalogue of Richard Smith's library in 1682, with identifications of eight of the manuscripts that Smith owned ("Manuscripts from the 1682 Sale of Richard Smith's Library," 300-316). Since many of these volumes were purchased by William Boothby, and since a copy of the sale list survives noting the eventual purchasers, the sale list also enhances our knowledge of Boothby's collection.

The collection of essays admirably demonstrates the vast range of questions and conclusions about authorship, provenance, collections, and meaning that close examination of manuscript evidence can facilitate. Rather than try to focus the volume around a particular theme, the book instead celebrates the variety of scholarship that Peter Beal's work has enabled, and will continue to enable for years to come. Although some of the images provided were more effective than others, the book overall aptly celebrates Beal's career and its contributions to so many angles of inquiry into early modern England and its texts.



Copyright (c) 2014 Rebecca Brackmann



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