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

By Simon Jarvis | Go to book overview

1
The Culture of Scholarship in Early Eighteenth-Century England

THE RELATIONSHIP between eighteenth-century Shakespearian textual criticism and its classical and scriptural relatives has sometimes been approached from a rather misleading angle. Some attention has been paid to the derivation of early Shakespearian editorial procedures from classical scholarship (although there has been almost no recognition of the relationship between scriptural and Shakespearian textual criticism).1 But scholars have more often wished to lament the influence of classical scholarship on what is taken as the fundamentally different discipline of Shakespearian textual criticism. This is particularly true of accounts deriving from a New Bibliographical perspective.2 The distinction between the editing of printed books and the editing of codices was an essential one for Greg and McKerrow: because any stemma of printed books was likely to be unilinear, rather than (as so often occurred with classical manuscripts) branched, an entirely different series of editorial procedures were considered applicable to manuscript textual criticism than to that of printed texts.3 McKerrow's article on Shakespeare's text in the early eighteenth century emphasized the responsibility of classical textual criticism for the bibliographical eclecticism of editors from Rowe to Johnson, rather than the fact that, without classical textual criticism, there would have been no attempt to re-edit, rather than reprint, the text of Shakespeare at all, or that procedures of eighteenth-century classical textual criticism were not in fact undifferentiatedly eclectic.4 Conversely, where the aim

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1
See, in particular, R. F. Jones, Lewis Theobald, his Contribution to Scholarship ( New York, 1919), 71-92.
2
See, for an example, S. K. Sen, Capell and Malone, and Modern Critical Bibliography ( Calcutta, 1960), 7.
3
See F. P. Wilson, Shakespeare and the New Bibliography, rev. and ed. Helen Gardner ( Oxford, 1970), 97-8.
4
R. B. McKerrow, "The Treatment of Shakespeare's Text by his Earlier Editors (1709- 1768)", in P. Alexander, ed., Studies in Shakespeare: British Academy Lectures ( Oxford, 1964), 103-31.

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