Love in a Wood; The Gentleman Dancing-Master; The Country Wife; The Plain Dealer

By William Wycherley; Peter Dixon | Go to book overview
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NOTE ON THE TEXTS

SOME authors are given to revising their work once it is in print. Wycherley was not. For each of his four plays the first quarto edition, deriving from his own manuscript, is the only authoritative text.

Love in a Wood was published early in 1672 (the year given on the title-page) or possibly late in 1671. It is the least satisfactory of the quartos, with more than its fair share of omissions and errors.

Two features of the first quarto of The Gentleman Dancing-Master ( 1673) call for particular comment:

First, the printer's difficulties with Don Diego's unfamiliar Spanish expressions were finally resolved only in W. C. Ward's edition of Wycherley ( Mermaid Series, 1888). I have silently incorporated his emendations.

Secondly, to indicate the pronunciation of the mangled French and corrupted English used by Monsieur de Paris, Q1 sprinkles his speeches, rather too lavishly, with grave accents. I have eliminated the accent wherever the frenchified sound is clear from the spelling alone (e.g. 'indèet', 'vèl', 'wàt'). Where the accent simply tells us that Monsieur is using a French word ('Bòn, bòn'), the modern convention of printing foreign words in italic fulfils the same role. Additionally, however, an accent is employed to mark an exaggerated emphasis on a final syllabic 'e', both in French ('Cousinè') and in English ('tinkè', 'oatè', for 'think' and 'oath'). I have retained the accent only where Monsieur puts the stress unexpectedly at the end of an English word ('togedèr', 'vanitỳ'), elsewhere relying on the actor or reader to lean heavily and ludicrously on all Monsieur's final 'e's--some of which, as in 'amoure', are his own invention. Since it is unfair to make Monsieur even more incorrect to the reader's eye than he is to the spectator's ear, I have modified his French in a few cases where no change of pronunciation is involved; so the quarto's 'les grosse villaines' becomes les grosses vilaines.

The first quarto of The Country Wife ( 1675) is a carefully printed text, its errors mainly confined to speech-prefixes. Punctuation is light, but not always unambiguous.

In contrast, the first quarto of The Plain Dealer ( 1677) is notable for a heavy punctuation which contributes to the thrusting forcefulness of the play's satire. Four significant new readings appeared in the

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Love in a Wood; The Gentleman Dancing-Master; The Country Wife; The Plain Dealer
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