The Description of England: The Classic Contemporary Account of Tudor Social Life

The Description of England: The Classic Contemporary Account of Tudor Social Life

The Description of England: The Classic Contemporary Account of Tudor Social Life

The Description of England: The Classic Contemporary Account of Tudor Social Life

Synopsis

Originally written as part of an introduction to Holinshed's Chronicles, this history provides an unparalleled account of life in Shakespeare's England. Its detailed accounts address nearly every aspect of 16th-century life, including food and diet, laws, clothing, crime and punishment, castles, antiquities, animals, languages, inns and thoroughfares, and many other topics.

Excerpt

Harrison's Descriptions have been reprinted four times. The only complete version is that which appears in the first volume of the 1807–1808 reprinting of Holinshed’s Chronicles. The 1587 text is there reproduced intact, faithfully and readably, but without editing of any kind. The standard edition has been that undertaken by Frederick J. Furnivall for the New Shakspere Society under the title, Harrison’s Description of England in Shakspere’s Youth (4 parts; London, 1877–1908). Furnivall reprints, with reasonable accuracy, the entire Description of England, four complete chapters as well as briefer selections from The Description of Britain, and a few excerpts from Harrison’s Chronology. This edition also contains a great deal of useful material from other sources on Elizabethan social history, but the Descriptions are fitfully and quixotically annotated. Furnivall’s edition will remain of great value for some purposes, since it preserves the original spelling and is printed so as to indicate conveniently the changes and additions made by Harrison in 1587; for this reason I have included on pages 463–464 a list of substantive corrections to Furnivall’s text. Lothrop Withington’s edition in the Camelot Series (London, [? 1889]), which is derived from Furnivall’s, is the first to modernize Harrison’s spelling; the text is inaccurate, arbitrarily rearranged, and radically excerpted, nineteen of the chapters printed by Furnivall being omitted, as well as sections in most others. The surprisingly lengthy version in the Harvard Classics, comprising almost half of Volume XXXV, is reprinted from Withington’s text, with further deletions.

The present edition is based on a collation of Furnivall’s text with three copies of the 1587 folio. The Description of England is reprinted complete, except for four lengthy and readily detachable historical digressions: the catalogue of bishops and deans . . .

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