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The Bodleian Manuscript and the Text of Herbert's Poems by Mario A. Di Cesare The chief question about the Bodleian manuscript (Tanner MS. 307, referred to as B) must be its relationship to the text the author finally intended. As Hutchinson unpretentiously put it: "An editor's business is to present the text as near to the author's intention as he has the means of judging; but this is not identical . . . with a mere reproduction of a copy which the author never saw ... or of the first edition, however much care was bestowed upon it by the original editor and by a scholarly printer."1 In preparing his magisterial edition of Herbert. Hutchinson considered B as the copy text probably used by the printer in 1633. But he did so with some apparent unease. He set aside problems such as the spotlessness of the manuscript, arguing that it is "not inconceivable that if this fine copy were put in the compositor's hands with an injunction to treat it with special care, it might escape injury" (p. Ixxii). Nonetheless, he could not accord definitive authority to B and finally decided to follow B verbally while largely accepting the 1633 edition (referred to as 1633) for "minor details" — "spelling, punctuation , use of capitals, and italics" (p. Ixxiv). He justified this eclectic approach on the grounds "that there would be no advantage to the reader in the reproduction of the copyist's spelling vagaries. . . . The punctuation of B is often defective . . . ." Finally, he kept the B manuscript firmly in its place as a "mere reproduction of a copy which the author never saw" (pp. Ixxiv-lxxvii). 'This essay and the preceding one by Amy M. Charles will, in an expanded form, be included in the Introduction to their facsimile of the Bodleian manuscript, forthcoming from Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints. 15 Mario A. Di Cesare Hutchinson's modest example has not been followed by all subsequent editors, partly because of uncertainties about the historical facts, partly because of the vagaries of the punctuation and the orthography in B. Proponents of the authority of 1633 reject as largely fiction Walton's claim that Duncon told him the story of receiving the manuscript from Herbert just before his death and of conveying it to Ferrar. In this view, Walton's "little book" must have been the manuscript of The Country Parson. Rather, it has been argued, Herbert must have sent the manuscript of his poems to Nicholas Ferrar considerably earlier than February 1632/33 in a fair copy that provided the basis for the first edition. It is further argued that Nicholas Ferrar's preface was derived from the poems, not from any message which Walton says Duncon conveyed; that the process of printing the work took a full year; and that the handwriting of B is not a Little Gidding hand anyway.2 The difficulties with this approach are manifold. In the absence of clear historical evidence, "critical analysis" of the Walton story is often more speculative than Hutchinson's view ever was. One may indeed make a chain of educated guesses, but such a chain is neither necessary nor cogent, no more inherently probable than other such chains might be. That the handwriting is distinctly Little Gidding, no one who has examined several of the Little Gidding works would doubt fora moment. That 1633 appeared within at most seven months of Herbert's death is now completely clear. The emphasis on rebutting Walton ignores other evidence, such as the independent testimony of Nicholas Ferrar's older brother John (1590-1 657), already cited above, and that of Arthur Woodnoth, a frequent correspondent of Nicholas. True, in numerous letters among the Ferrar Papers, Woodnoth's handwriting is difficult to decipher, as Ferrar himself pointed out: "Onely lett mee desyre you when yu write the Names of any in your Letters to putt soe much more tyme as they can be playnely reade —For other matters wee can make them upp by Senee.'^ While Amy Charles and I both remain uncertain of Woodnoth's precise relevance, a recent study of the letters argues that Edmund Duncon was indeed "involved in the transmission of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1192
Print ISSN
0161-7435
Pages
pp. 15-35
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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