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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: October ::
Shakespeare's "first serious critic" revealed by
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2001  Wednesday, 15 October 2003

[1]     From:   Stanley Wells <
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        Date:   Monday, 13 Oct 2003 12:54:53 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1985 Shakespeare's "first serious critic" revealed by
Stanley Wells in TLS

[2]     From:   Katherine Duncan-Jones
<
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Oct 2003 10:25:41 +0100
        Subj:   'Shakespeare's first critic'


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stanley Wells <
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Date:           Monday, 13 Oct 2003 12:54:53 +0100
Subject: 14.1985 Shakespeare's "first serious critic" revealed
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1985 Shakespeare's "first serious critic" revealed
by Stanley Wells in TLS

The answer to the question 'What could keep photocopies of [the
document] from being released' is simple: the owners are unwilling for
it to be photographed at all for reasons of conservation. I had to read
it all aloud to a colleague, who took notes on selected passages under
my guidance and at my request. It seems to me that the owners have a
perfect right to keep it under wraps until such time as they decide to
do otherwise.

I am having to try very hard not to say that I should have hoped my
reputation as a scholar and an honest man would have helped to dispel
doubt.

Stanley Wells

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Katherine Duncan-Jones
<
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 14 Oct 2003 10:25:41 +0100
Subject:        'Shakespeare's first critic'

Several scholars have used the SHAKSPER website to air suspicions that
the document discussed by Stanley Wells (TLS September 26 2003) may be a
fabrication. In response, Wells replies (10 October)  'trust me, I'm an
expert' - : 'I have had quite a lot of experience in reading Elizabethan
manuscripts'. That may be so. But it doesn't inspire total confidence in
his expertise that Plate 38 in his /Shakespeare For All Time/ (2002),
captioned as 'showing the formation of letters in the secretary hand,
the one most practised by Shakespeare', shows no such thing.

However, I am strongly inclined to believe in the  authenticity of the
document described by Wells, and greatly interested in what it could
tell us about the network of literary connexions surrounding Sir Henry
Lee- Queen Elizabeth's Champion, and possibly also her 'base-born
brother'. These included his fellow-tilter Sir Philip Sidney. Sidney's
/Defence of Poesy/ appears to have been an immediate source for William
Scott's /Model of Poesy/, for instance in the latter's slighting
reference to the 'old words and phrases' used by Spenser in /The
Shepheardes Calender/. To me, the most fascinating component of this
manuscript is not its analysis of lines in Shakespeare's /Richard II/,
striking though that is, but the translation of the first and second
'Days' of Du Bartas's /La Sepmaine/. We know that Sidney began to
translate this poem near the end of his life, but none of his version is
known to survive. Could Scott- aged 15 at the time of Sidney's death -
have been assigned the task of working up Sidney's drafts?

This is among the many questions that scholars will want to investigate
properly when full scrutiny of the manuscript becomes possible. The
document appears to have been seen by Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson.
I hope that they will soon persuade the owner that there is everything
to be gained and nothing to be lost by permitting full access either to
the manuscript itself, or a facsimile.

Katherine Duncan-Jones

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