Scholars and Gentlemen: Shakespearian Textual Criticism and Representations of Scholarly Labour, 1725-1765

By Simon Jarvis | Go to book overview

APPENDIX 1
The authorship of An Answer to Mr. Pope's Preface to Shakespear (1729)

It is indeed 'tempting', as Brian Vickers suggests,1 to ascribe An Answer to Lewis Theobald, not least because so many of the bibliographical arguments with which Peter Seary credits Theobald are first found, in more explicit form, in An Answer -- for instance, the first suggestion that Quartos may have provided Folio copy.2 Since Seary argues that Theobald's ideas would have been presented in a more developed account had not that editor feared charges of pedantry,3 a pamphlet outlining very similar views beneath the shelter of a pseudonym would indeed seem a plausible candidate for ascription to Theobald: perhaps the bibliographical information to be found here might represent material dropped when, worried by the Dunciad Variorum's mock 'Prolegomena', Theobald announced in a letter that 'The whole affair of Prolegomena I have decided to soften into Preface'?4 However, there are several possible objections to such an identification of An Answer's author.

First, its references to Theobald are mixed in their tone: although there is an enthusiastic passage eagerly anticipating a new edition of Shakespeare from 'The RESTORER' and accepting that 'That Gentleman has fully prov'd his Capacity superior to every former Editor',5 another offers 'a presumptive Observation, that has escaped Mr. Pope and Mr. Theobald, among all their Guesses',6 a phrase which suggests some triumph over both editors. Shakespeare's name is persistently spelt as Pope, rather than as Theobald, spelt it: since the very first note to the Dunciad Variorum (which had been published the previous April and some verses from which are satirically misquoted on An Answer's title-page) had mocked Theobald at length for his pedantry in this respect, the spelling is not likely to have been accidental, nor is it likely that Theobald wished to retreat from the spelling given in Shakespeare Restored, since he later retained it in his edition. Finally, Theobald himself dissents from one of the pamphlet's claims in the preface to his edition of Shakespeare: he mentions its assertion that many Shakespeare manuscripts had

____________________
1
Brian Vickers, ed., Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, 1733-1752 ( London, 1975), 449.
2
An Answer, 33.
3
Peter Seary, Lewis Theobald and the Editing of Shakespeare ( Oxford, 1990), 142.
4
John Nichols, Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century ( 8 vols., London, 1817-58; repr. New York, 1966), ii. 621.
5
An Answer, 26.

-191-

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