University of Virginia Library



Read before the English Institute on September 10, 1949.


The Tragedy of Hamlet . . . ed. by George Lyman Kittredge (Boston: Ginn and Co., 1939), p. viii. "An editor must use his best judgment, and the authority of the quarto does not warrant an inferior reading where the Folio furnishes one that is manifestly better. Otherwise we are forced to infer that prompters and proofreaders can (or could) improve Shakespeare."


Louis Havet, Manuel de Critique Verbale Appliquée aux Textes Latins (Paris: Hachette, 1911), pp. 254-55, gives some interesting examples of author's faults, drawn from his own writing, as "en autant la virgule," for "ótant," and "avec écarté," for "avait écarté." Havet draws no conclusion from these variants, but it is almost certain that were they found in a mediaeval manuscript, an editor would assume them to be scribal.


Elsie Vaughan Hitchcock, in The Life . . . of Sir Thomas Moore, EETS, or. ser. no. 186 (1932), p. xxiv. "The only method by which we can arrive at any classification is to begin by examining the individual readings of the manuscripts on their merits . . . judging solely on intrinsic probability." Edwin Wolf 2nd, "If Shadows Be A Picture's Excellence: An Experiment in Critical Bibliography," Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, LXIII (1948), 846. "There are certain hypotheses which should be accepted before an attempt is made to analyse the text. 1) that the author's original or his own revised version—the text which we seek to recover—made sense and was a smooth-flowing verse, so that any variants which abruptly break the flow of a line or make no sense may be classified as corruptions."


This statement of circularity is not without precedent, since it is inherent in the writings of the learned Dom Quentin, who made a determined effort to avoid treating readings as right and wrong, and to study them all equally as variants. Curiously enough, however, the clearest statement of the circularity of the method based on "common mistakes" is found not in Quentin's writings but in the unfriendly book of P. Collomp, La Critique des Textes (Publications de la Faculté des Lettres de l'Université de Strasbourg, 1931), p. 61. "Mais il faut dès à prèsent réfuter l'accusation de pétition de principe qu'on pourrait élever contre le système des fautes communes. Le but de la critique, pourrait-on dire, est de reconstruire le vrai texte; or c'est par le vrai texte qu'on définit les fautes, par les fautes que l'on construit le stemma, par le stemma qu'on retrouve le vrai texte. . . ." Collomp then goes on to reject the charge of circularity, not I think with clarity equal to that with which he has stated the charge.


Hazelton Spencer, Elizabethan Plays (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1933), p. 817, textual note.


See below, section XXIV, and note.


See below, sections X-XIII for definitions of these terms.


This example might also be regarded as a merely naive use of the genealogical method.


Typical is this note by G. C. Moore Smith in The Life of Henry The Fifth (Arden Shakespeare), p. 155. ". . . the words suggested by Theobald are so much in the spirit of the rest of Shakespeare's description, that it is hard to believe that they are not very near to what Shakespeare wrote." Another typical example of this sort of criticism is to be found in Georg Witkowski, Textkritik und Editionstechnik neuerer Schriftwerke (Leipzig: Haessel, 1924), p. 20. "In Lessings Nathan der Weise (II,5) heiszt es in sämtlichen Drucken (Handschrift ist nicht vorhanden): Der grosze Mann braucht überall viel Boden, und mehrere, zu nah' gepflanzt, zerschlagen sich nur die Äste. Es ist höchst wahrscheinlich, dasz Lessing geschrieben hat (oder schreiben wollte): Der grosze Baum braucht überall viel Boden; denn nur so ist das Bild durchgefährt, anschaulich."


The statement "compatible only with radiation" is taken to mean that radiation is the simplest hypothesis which will explain the arrangement of variants. The nature of simplicity is taken up below, sections XXVI-XXVIII.


Aage Brusendorff, The Chaucer Tradition (London: Humphrey Milford, 1925), p. 253, note. But see also George B. Pace, "The Text of Chaucer's Purse," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, I (1948), 107.


This statement is a reshaping of Greg's postulate of spontaneous variation, op. cit. pp. 9-10.


Robert J. Menner, Philological Quarterly, X, 136. The line (Gaw. 1725) has usually been emended, but the occurrence of the phrase "lag man" elsewhere in Middle English shows that the emendation is unjustified. A similar example of a form, otherwise unknown, which is certainly existent is quoted by Collomp (op. cit. p. 63) from Plato's Theatetes. The form is tau, completely unknown elsewhere. But since the form is glossed, and stated to be a synonym for mega, it is clearly existent.


"A Chapter of the Manuscript History of the Canterbury Tales," PMLA, LXIII (1948), 459.


It is, of course, possible to judge trees built on different postulates by the worth of the postulates. I am here assuming that the alternate trees have been based on the same postulates.


Op. cit., p. 459, fn. 11.


This particular scoring device is arbitrary in the details of its weighting. Other ways of weighting might perhaps be more theoretically defensible, but I have adopted this one since it is convenient, and since I have not found that it distorts the facts.


Greg, op. cit. p. 21. The statement by Greg was independently arrived at by Bedier, op. cit. p. 53.