The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0498 Thursday, 17 March 2005
Date: Wednesday, 16 Mar 2005 17:17:25 -0000
Subject: 16.0473 Date of King John
Comment: Re: SHK 16.0473 Date of King John
Bob Grumman wrote
>I am making the simple distinction between the objective evidence of a
>letter by an Elizabethan that says Peele wrote such-and-such, and
>someone's opinion that some line in a play sounds like Peele. The
>latter can be persuasive--but not CONCLUSIVE.
What you call the "objective evidence" of the letter is only worth
something if one thinks it reliable, which may well depend on who one
thinks is the author of the letter. Such a letter might purport to be by
an Elizabethan but if it "sounds like" a forgery by, say, William Henry
Ireland ("Peelle wrotte thee playye off . . . ") then its value as
evidence falls. That's why your objective/subjective distinction is
false. Furthermore, stylometry isn't restricted to matters of opinion
about what "sounds like" what. Having suspected that the letter might be
an Ireland forgery, one would seek to test its internal features (not
really style, but quasi-objective matters about writerly habits) against
other texts that are accepted as Ireland forgeries.
By your criteria, Bob, the ineluctable danger of forgery would mean that
no argument could be conclusive. Yet you set out to show that conclusive
argument was possible, only Vickers couldn't have made it by his methods
(of which you appear ignorant).
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