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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: August ::
Hand D and Sir Thomas More
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0503  Wednesday, 27 August 2008

From:       Gerald E. Downs <
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Date:       Saturday, 23 Aug 2008 23:10:48 EDT
Subject:    Hand D and Sir Thomas More

[Editor's Note: While this post is not an authorship post per se, I am moved, 
nevertheless, to provide some context for it. In order to reject the 
overwhelming evidence that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was the 
author of the plays and poems attributed to him, Anti-Stratfordians vociferously 
have attacked such confirmations as the dating of _The Tempest_ based on William 
Strachey's _True Reportory of the Wrack, and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates 
Knight_ and the attribution of Hand D in _Sir Thomas More_ to the playwright 
William Shakespeare (See David Kathman's arguments at 
<http://shakespeareauthorship.com/>). Gerald E. Downs in this post is providing 
information about the publication history of an essay of his that argues that 
Hand D in the pages of the manuscript of _Sir Thomas More_ is a scribal copy of 
another's work rather than the handwriting of a playwright in the act of 
revising a playscript. I will consider distributing any responses submitted to 
me regarding this essay. All submissions on the so-called "authorship question," 
however, will be ignored and deleted without comment or response.  Obviously, I 
have an inherent prejudice here since an ancestor of mine was, I believe, the 
navigator of the Sea-Venture of Strachey's report. -HMC]

In 2004 I submitted an article on the nature of the 'Hand D' pages of the "Sir 
Thomas More" play-text to a highly respected journal. After a lengthy peer 
review and a short negotiation of revision, the article was projected to appear 
in the summer of 2007.

By happenstance, I had earlier in 2004 shown the essay to the editor of a 
different journal, who twice asked me if I would submit it to his publication. 
Though I declined his invitations and informed him more than once in 2005 that I 
had been accepted elsewhere, without further correspondence or peer review the 
article in its earlier form was printed in his journal last year. When I learned 
of the matter, I informed the editor who had planned to publish the piece, which 
was withdrawn.

The upshot (beyond the manifest injury) is that an article of considerable 
importance to Shakespeare textual studies has been deprived of wide circulation 
(including Internet access) and an earned scholarly imprimatur. Further, the 
prospect of citation of an early version of my paper from an unauthorized source 
is not attractive to me. Although the U.S. Copyright Office informs me that 
printing without permission is not publication, no recourse seems available to 
me other than to disseminate the article myself essentially in the version that 
passed a rigorous review.

As for the Hand D topic, MacDonald P. Jackson suggests: "Most scholars, perhaps 
all, who have studied this evidence with due care have been persuaded that Hand 
D's pages are Shakespeare's. I say 'perhaps  all' because it is hard to know how 
familiar with the evidence are the few dissenters" (EMLS Jan., 2007). All who 
dissent are unfamiliar with the evidence (? Perhaps), but 'due care' and 
'familiarity' are not necessarily cause and effect (in either order).  Most 
scholars, caring or not, neglect the fundamentals of manuscript study to 
misinterpret some of the evidence and consequently, in my opinion, they fall 
into greater error.

My title alludes to the neglect: "A Question (not) to be Askt: Is Hand D a 
Copy?" Study of any manuscript should begin with the question of transcription; 
Shakespeareans seemingly give it little thought in respect of Hand D, as if the 
scene is self-evidently a 'rough draft,' a status challenged eighty years ago by 
Van Dam, and independently by Schucking. Proponents of Shakespeare as D did not 
answer these critics. Recently, in Dramatists and Their Manuscripts, Grace 
Ioppolo argued that Hand D is Shakespeare's own transcription. Her treatment is 
a limited step in the right direction; otherwise, published justification of the 
'foul papers' assumption is not to be found.

R. J. Tarrant, in his "Classical Latin Literature" in Scholarly Editing (1995), 
aptly quotes Paul Maas: "To present what is doubtful as certain is to remain 
farther from the goal than if one were to confess one's doubt" (99).  Equally 
distant is not to doubt when one ought. I am not out to convince anyone that D 
is not Shakespeare, but I do emphasize the uncertainty of the identification. 
Hand D is potentially the most significant of all Shakespearean evidence. Yet if 
it is not Shakespeare, then textual studies accepting the attribution are 
invalid. 'Not proved' and 'taken as proved' equates doubt and certainty.

I will provide a copy of my article to the interested and I invite discussion of 
this important issue.

Gerald E. Downs

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