- New Ways of Looking at Old Texts, III: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 1997–2001
For anyone working in the field of manuscript studies this collection of papers of the Renaissance English Text Society will have both the attractions of a yearbook (full of the wise words of old friends and admired maestri) and all the fascination of a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the process of editing some landmark texts (like the First-Line Index of Elizabethan Verse or Early Modern Women's Manuscript Poetry). Even more importantly it contains some authoritative indications of editorial trends and therefore useful signposts for those starting down the road.
Heather Wolfe ends her account of the editorial history of Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland: Life and Letters (2001), a masterpiece of editing by any criterion, by referring to the way "textual criticism continues to become less focused on the author's original or final intentions, and more focused on the representation of meaningful ambiguities and multiple intentions" (108). This is probably as good a statement of principle as one is likely to find, but Wolfe's essay also includes a fascinating account of two nineteenth-century editions. Richard Simpson published his edition of Lady Falkland: Her Life (1861) to "placate" (101) those whom he had angered by criticism of the papacy in his biography of Edmund Campion, which had been appearing chapter-by-chapter in the Rambler. Simpson's editorial practice would be shocking to a modern editor (including silent insertion of marginal additions), but his priority, Wolfe generously asserts, was "historical contextualization" rather than "faithful transcription" (102). Lady Georgiana Fullerton's adaptation of Simpson's edition receives shorter shrift since she "empathized with her source material so passionately that she could not resist taking creative liberties with the text" (102).
Steven W. May's account of his First-Line Index of Elizabethan Verse (2005) combines precise indications of his editorial practice with a fascinating example: a detailed study of Queen Elizabeth's poem, "The doubt of future foes": "The manuscript sources discovered in the course of preparing the Index bring the text of the Queen's lyric into sharper focus, while they reveal how widely the poem circulated" (6). Arthur Marotti's essay, "A Response to Michael Rudick," uses Rudick's doctoral edition of Ralegh's poems as an exemplar of the method other editions might soon follow. Rudick "unedits" Ralegh by "presenting each of the poems in his edition as a particular text found in a single source, rather than constructing an 'ideal' or corruption-free text by means of genealogical detective work" (144). While Marotti — whose own Manuscript, Print and the English Renaissance Lyric (1995) transformed our view of Donne — supposes Donne might benefit from such an approach, Gary Stringer provides an example by tracing the textual genealogy of "The Bracelet." A Variorum edition of Donne, he argues, would highlight the way a "corrupt redaction" (16) became the basis for all subsequent editions.
An important insight into the current state of "Anthologizing Women's [End Page 627] Manuscript Compilations" is provided by Victoria E. Burke and Elizabeth Clarke, who write: "The authorship conditions within which manuscript verse was composed and circulated problematize the stable versions of authorship and text which are offered by the layout of our modern anthologies" (49). The problems of the genealogy of a corrupt text are the subject of Elizabeth H. Hageman's fascinating study of Katherine Philip's 1664 Poems. Her final sentence will surely find an echo in the heart of many an editor: "I, at least, am left wishing that Marriot had had a copy of the poems in Philips's own hand — or that the copyist of Clarke had been a more accurate scribe" (95). Similarly, David Norbrook, now working on an edition of the complete works of Lucy Hutchinson, laments the silent editing (omitting and adding) in...