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[ 221 Tourneur and The Revenger’s Tragedy To the Editor of The Times Literary Supplement The Times Literary Supplement, 1509 (1 Jan 1931) 12 Sir, – I am gratified that so distinguished a scholar as Mr. Oliphant should express approval of my article on Cyril Tourneur in your issue of November 13.1 To the points he raises I should like to reply as briefly as possible. I am sorry if Mr. Oliphant thinks that I attach excessive importance to the chronology of the Stationers’ Register. I am by no means one of those who consider these records decisive. My point is really this: in the absence of any really cogent evidence to the contrary I submit that the evidence of the Stationers’ Register must be treated with respect. As I made clear in the article, I was once convinced that The Atheist’s Tragedy was earlier than The Revenger’s Tragedy; and I tried to present the considerations which now leave me with an open mind. Mr. Oliphant does not himself offer any strong reasonsforbelievingthatTheRevenger’sTragedyisthelaterplay,andindeed, as he does not believe they are by the same author, he is not in a position to do so. But I confess I cannot see why Mr. Oliphant should raise this point at all or why he should question the Stationers’ Register in this context, inasmuch as he maintains his faith that The Revenger’s Tragedy was written by Middleton.2 He says, “. . . would anyone dream for a moment of connecting the play with Tourneur but for the slight shred of external evidence in his favour?”3 If there were any considerable body of dramatic work definitely agreed upon to be Tourneur’s, and if this body of work was closely similar to The Atheist’s Tragedy and equally diverse from The Revenger’s Tragedy, the shred of evidence would be very slight indeed. But, as things are, I cannot help feeling that Mr. Oliphant has concentrated his attention more on the difference between the two plays attributed to Tourneur than on the difference between The Revenger’s Tragedy and those tragedies which we are sure were written by Middleton. We know more about Middleton than we do about Tourneur; and I submit that the differences between The Revenger’s Tragedy and the whole of Middleton’s work in tragedy are Essays, Reviews, and Commentaries: 1931 222 ] more significant than the differences between the two plays attributed to Tourneur.4 I am, Sir, yours, Your Reviewer Notes 1. Written on 19 Dec 1930 in response to E. H. C. Oliphant’s letter in the TLS of 18 Dec defending the theory of Middleton’s authorship of The Revenger’s Tragedy. Oliphant wrote to express his admiration of TSE’s anonymous review article “Cyril Tourneur,” asserting that “Nothing finer on the subject has been written” (1087). In “Problems of Authorship in Elizabethan Dramatic Literature,” Oliphant noted: “the quiet acceptance of Tourneur’s authorship of The Revenger’s Tragedy is strange” (Modern Philology, Jan 1911, 427). However, not until the publication of “The Authorship of The Revenger’s Tragedy” did he confidently attribute the play wholly to Middleton on the basis of similarities of tone, expression, syntax, and vocabulary (Studies in Philology, 1926, 157-68). TSE published Oliphant’s article on “Marlowe’s Hand in Arden of Feversham” in the Criterion for Jan 1926. 2. The Revenger’s Tragedy was registered in 1607, The Atheist’s Tragedy in 1611. In his letter, Oliphant questioned whether plays were always entered on the Stationers’ Register “in the order of production on the stage?” In a further letter to the TLS (5 Feb 1931), Oliphant repeated his contention that “priority of entry . . . does not help in any way to fix the chronology” (99). 3. The “slight shred of external evidence” refers to the bookseller Edward Archer’s ascription of the play to Tourneur in his 1656 play list (appended to The Old Law). Francis Kirkham followed suit in his play lists of 1661 and 1671. 4. Oliphant later retorted in “Tourneur and Mr. Eliot”: “Not only has Mr. Eliot erected his edifice on an unsure foundation; but he has, I think, miscalculated the extent to which the traditional view, his own view, is held by scholars” (Studies in Philology, 1935, 547). Summarizing the consensus of modern scholarship, Brian Vickers states: “we know that Middleton, not Tourneur, wrote The Revenger’s Tragedy.” Shakespeare, Co-Author (Oxford UP, 2002), 260. ...


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