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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: October ::
Shakespeare's "first serious critic" revealed by
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2024  Friday, 17 October 2003

[1]     From:   Daniel Traister <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 Oct 2003 10:17:46 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   SHK 14.2015 Shakespeare's "first serious critic" revealed by
Stanley

[2]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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 >
        Date:   Thursday, 16 Oct 2003 17:19:45 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2015 Shakespeare's "first serious critic"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Daniel Traister <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 Oct 2003 10:17:46 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Shakespeare's "first serious critic" revealed by
Comment:        SHK 14.2015 Shakespeare's "first serious critic" revealed by
Stanley

Bob Grumman writes: "Okay. I'm ignorant of such matters, so assumed some
expert in photographing such material could have been hired to do so --
and would have been long before this time, if the owner of the
manuscript had any feeling of responsibility to Literary History."

Tom Pendleton, in the same post, says: "The one point on which I would
take issue with Wells is his claim that the owners of the manuscript
'have a perfect right' to keep it private, seemingly for as long as they
wish. I suggest that a document of this importance 'belongs' to a
community larger than the people who own the paper; this seems to me a
case of at least moral eminent domain. The owners certainly have the
right to control and limit access to the document, but not to prevent
its examination by other scholars."

As someone who has spent much of a working lifetime involved with rare
books and manuscripts from a curatorial point of view -- *and* from the
point of view of a user of them -- I find myself incredulous reading
these remarkably ill-informed words and wonder if Mr. Grumman, Mr.
Pendleton, and I live on the same planet.

"Responsibility to Literary History"?

"A document of this importance 'belongs' to a community larger than the
people who own the paper"?

"Moral eminent domain"?

I'm terribly sorry to say this -- since I understand perfectly the
motives that impel both good-hearted souls to write such literally
meaningless words -- but in law they are simply wrong.

One may agree, one may disagree, with the ways in which most western
societies regulate property and its rights. Whatever one's theoretical
position about such regulations, they are in practical force and they
are practically enforceable. The restrictions Mr. Wells faced are in
fact legal. Perhaps one may also note that, in law, they are even
thought to be moral.

The owner of the MS had at all times a perfect right to send Mr. Wells
to the tradesman's entrance and then laugh heartily at his request to
see the piece at all, before having him escorted from the premises.

One may not like the conditions under which his transcriptions were
made. But it is normal scholarly practice in such situations, whatever
the conditions enforced, to grin, bear it, and thank the owner in the
acknowledgements for His Grace's gracious permission, etc.

It is perhaps less normal to berate an owner who has granted permission
-- it is, of course, perfectly ordinary to berate those owners who grant
no permission at all -- and then to follow up such ingratitude by also
shooting the messenger.

Daniel Traister
University of Pennsylvania

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 16 Oct 2003 17:19:45 +0100
Subject: 14.2015 Shakespeare's "first serious critic"
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2015 Shakespeare's "first serious critic"

A very small point, but Stanley Wells' TLS transcript of the MS gives
the title as "[The Model] of Poesy".

The earliest OED2[3] citation for this sense of "model" is 1626:

I.b. transf. A summary, epitome, or abstract; the 'argument' of a
literary work. Obs.

a1626 Bacon Let. to T. Matthew in Spedding Life & Lett. (1870) IV. 133
Of this, when you were here, I shewed you some model.

In itself, this isn't particularly significant -- a 25 year pre-citation
for the OED isn't beyond belief.

But (again based on the TLS description) running through the text is a
rather interesting play on the concepts of model/epitome/idea/archetype,
where at the extreme, the author of the text seems to present his
material in a stunning prefiguration of Burton's _Anatomy of
Melancholy_.

When I get to the point where I'm expected to accept that a teenager in
the early 1600s was not only playing games with Ramist logic, but
anticipating Burton ...

Why not "An Anatomy of Poesy"?

I'm reluctantly drawn to the conclusion that, with whatever
qualifications, the text is authentic.

If so, it's a bombshell that blows away a really quite incredible number
of presumptions about 16/17thC logic and literary criticism.

Robin Hamilton

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