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

By Simon Jarvis | Go to book overview

2
The Idea of a Settled Language and the Instability of Gentlemanly Editing

1

THE CONTROVERSIES over the criticism of classical and scriptural texts bore witness to anxieties at the possible depredations of low and interested specialists upon a public cultural inheritance. But at the beginning of the century the minute criticism of vernacular texts lacked sufficient examples to seem worrying in any parallel way. It was certainly the case that edited texts of works in the vernacular had appeared prior to 1700. Shaaber and Black have demonstrated that the Second, Third and Fourth Shakespeare Folios can scarcely be regarded as mere reprints but must be thought of as edited texts;1 the extent of Jacob Tonson's labours on the 1688 text of Paradise Lost indicates that he must be thought of as the editor, rather than merely as the publisher, of that volume.2 But these publications lacked named editors and, equally significantly, lacked the obtrusive evidence of editorial labour which so offended the wits in edited classical and scriptural texts of the period. Late seventeenth- and early eighteenthcentury edited and annotated texts of earlier vernacular works appeared for a wide variety of reasons, yet the desire to restore sick or damaged texts to health or wholeness, so often appealed to by the classical scholars, was rarely emphasized.

On occasion the publication of an edited text could be prompted by quite openly political motives. The edition of Drummond of Hawthornden which appeared in Edinburgh in 1711 wore its Jacobitism on its sleeve: 'Our Author was a true TORY, and seriously concerned about the

____________________
1
Matthew W. Black and Matthias A. Shaaber, Shakespeare's Seventeenth-Century Editors, 1632-85 ( New York, 1937).
2
Stuart Bennett, "Jacob Tonson an Early Editor of Paradise Lost?", The Library, 6th ser. 8 ( 1986), 156-9.

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