The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.075  Wednesday, 22 February 2012


From:        Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         February 22, 2012 12:07:38 AM EST

Subject:     Foul Foul Papers Papers


I’ve been reading up on 2H6. The mishandled ‘bad quarto’ complication is only part of the textual problem; the ‘bad folio’ is passed over in standard ways I’ve noticed again, which may bear discussion. Editor Ronald Knowles alludes to F’s usual explanation:


“Paul Werstine has re-examined the development from Pollard to Greg to McKerrow of the concept of printed texts as deriving from foul papers and finds that it has next to no foundation in empirical evidence. Furthermore, there is evidence to show that the distinctions usually made between foul papers and promptbooks are frequently unsustainable . . . . The implications of Werstine’s full argument, which he refrains from spelling out, are that if we can no longer feel assured of foul papers behind a printed text, but instead have to posit a transcript of some description, then the reliance on detail of the printed text as likely to derive directly from the author can no longer have so firm a theoretical basis. In the light of Werstine’s scrutiny we have to acknowledge that there can be no certainty in discriminating among possible various agents whose interventions may stand between authorial manuscripts and the printed texts of Q and F” (Arden 3, 141).


Acknowledging uncertainty (or getting mad) only goes so far. “Transcripts of some description” don’t fall far from the foul papers tree. Knowles notes that the ms. “behind the Folio is Shakespeare’s, or derives from Shakespeare’s papers,” but unless its problems are explained the uncertainty remains for Ronald Knowles.


Some editors acknowledge problems only in passing. For example, Richard Knowles, editor of the forthcoming Variorum Lear, tips his hand in “Shakespeare and Shorthand Once Again,” PBSA 104 (2010): 141–80, to demonstrate the indispensability of foul papers; “The old notion that the company kept the author’s ‘foul papers’ . . . has now come to be generally doubted for lack of any evidence . . .” (159).


Yet (in the same paragraph) it is “possible to explain . . . acquisition of Shakespeare’s finished rough draft—now increasingly believed to be the copy for Q1 [King Learfrom the scribe who prepared from it the fair copy . . . .” But ‘finished rough draft’ still means ‘foul papers’; and there is still no evidence—however ‘increasingly believed,’ or however ‘possible’ the narrative of a dishonest scribe.


Speaking of beliefs, I keep an unofficial log of Blayney Citings (Thar he goes!) on Lear. A late one is Brian Vickers, SQ 62, 2011: “For instance, we now know that the 1608 quarto was not pirated, that its inaccuracies are due not to a shorthand report but to a messy authorial manuscript [by another word, ‘foul papers’] . . . . Blayney shows . . .” (130). But Blayney never argued the foul papers/Lear question: how can ‘we now know’ if Blayney is our reason for knowing? The printing problems Vickers cites as leading somehow to proving his statement haven’t been described by Blayney, as far as I know. Richard Knowles appears to stake his ‘foul papers’ claim on Doran’s 1935 assumption, which she later dropped.


Richard Knowles “focuses on the crucial advances made by three modern scholars:


[Greg, Doran, & Blayney]” (“Evolution of the Texts of Lear” SS ‘02, 125) and states, “No one today seriously doubts that the [F text] is derived closely, if not immediately from the company’s playbook” (130). He adds: “That a scribal copy of the playbook was prepared for the printers of F1 Lear is . . . a warranted assertability [Hewey, Louie, Dewey-Speak for the truth]” (142). However, Blayney (himself) believes “the adaptation was made by someone other than Shakespeare from the printed Q1 rather than from a playhouse manuscript of any kind.” Sounds (to me) like serious doubt from a crucial modern scholar. If a playboook behind Lear is uncertain; if foul-paper Q1 copy is uncertain; how is a scribal copy of that playbook certain? Maybe the warrant oughta be arrested.


The Lear editor has argued against Shakespeare’s revision (from a Q-like text to an F-like text) for many years; presumably his edition will do likewise. And yet he supports the main prop of ‘revisionist’ argument—foul-paper Q1 copy—for which convincing argument has never been offered. The convincing argument is against foul-paper copy in any case. Nevertheless, Shakespeare scholarship teems with the assumption.


That’s good analytical reason to switch from play to play; we can learn from scattered evidence, but not from assumption. For instance, I lately read Richard Hosley’s SQ 5, ‘54, “Corrupting Influence of the Bad Quarto on . . . R&J,” which accepts Q2 foul-paper copy; straight from Shakespeare, as it were. Thus at 2.2.182ff, Hosley sees Q2 as substantially correct (that is, not corrupt):


     Ro.  I would I were thy bird.

     Iu.   Sweete so would I,

           Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing:

           Good night, good night.                             186

           Parting is such sweete sorrow,

           That I shall say good night, till it be morrow.

     Iu.  Sleep dwel vpon thine eyes, peace in thy breast.

     Ro. Would I were sleepe and peace so sweet to rest


Hosley follows Q3 emendation in giving Romeo line 186. I seldom retain familiarity with such passages, but it seemed clear to me that Q2 is wrong in the lining of 186 and with Juliet getting the first line of Romeo’s couplet, and Q3/F is wrong with the Romeo prefix at 186. Hosley’s next page, despite his opinion, shows Q1 and modern editions have it right (I checked Arden2), as anyone can see. Now Q1, an assertibilitifiable bad quarto, often spoils Q2 by the printer’s use of it to supplement ms. copy; but on occasion it can be used to correct Q2, as in this case.


By assuming foul-paper copy, Hosley trumps the textually better reading to insist that Shakespeare wrote as Q2 (including a speech heading that was omitted). Rather than to be led on by these unlikelihoods, I think it more productive to recognize that Q2 copy was itself corrupt; then one may guess at how it happened. Unquestioning acceptance of foul papers simply ends investigation of Q2 copy. Not a good idea.


On 2H6, Ronald Knowles notes F features seemingly indicating foul papers: “textual scholars past and present differ absolutely on some of the same evidence—like F’s ‘Enter Beuis and Iohn Holland’ at 4.2 . . . . Arguing against Dover Wilson, Greg thought that these could not possibly be authorial, while Wells and Taylor find no objection to attributing these . . . to Shakespeare. In retrospect, it is difficult to see how Greg could be so confident” (139-140).


Well, how could Wells be so confident? Werstine observes that manuscripts have no authorial mention of actor’s names. John Holland gets three entries from a theatrical reviser in John of Bordeaux, the manuscript I contend is transcribed from shorthand. That seems at least suggestive and it’s not imaginary.


Gerald E. Downs 


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