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Dryden's Mac Flecknoe: The Case for Authorial Revision by Vinton A. Dearing
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Dryden's Mac Flecknoe: The Case for Authorial Revision
Vinton A. Dearing

In an important article on "The Text of Dryden's Mac Flecknoe" (Harvard Library Bulletin, VII (1953), 32-54), Professor G. B. Evans has called the attention of future editors of the poem to the textual evidence provided by seven early manuscripts and the printed texts of 1682 and 1684, which he has assembled in several pages of detailed collation. He is unable to establish the relationship of these texts, except that he believes that one of the manuscripts is simply a copy of the 1684 edition, but he argues that when all or almost all of the other texts oppose the text of 1684 they present genuine early readings which are sometimes preferable to the readings of 1684. It is the purpose of the present paper to suggest a relationship for these texts, and on that basis to attempt to distinguish early readings from late and to investigate further the likelihood that the 1684 text is in some places corrupt. The concepts and methods employed are in part, I believe, new, and will, I hope, prove generally useful.

Professor Evans designates his texts by the sigla 82, 84, L, H, B, C, F, M, and I. In his list of variations he had recorded a number of accidentals-- differences in spelling ('upward(s),' line 215), hyphenation ('Royal(-) Barge,' line 39), and the like--which, as Greg has warned, only obscure the relationship of the texts in question.[1] The list should be confined to substantive variations, and to variations in punctuation that markedly affect the sense and so may be called substantive. Substantive punctuational variations are subject to a further restriction, because H and M have almost no punctuation. Therefore, so far as their punctuation is concerned, H and M are the equivalent of imperfect manuscripts, and their punctuation


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may be counted only when it is present. The selection of variations which results from the application of these principles is as follows:
61, 62, 91, 10, 112 (omitting 'his Sons'), 113,12,14, 193, 21, 231, 232, 272, 292, 312, 313, 331, 332 ('clad':'cloath'd':'drest'), 333 ('Norwich drugget':'Drugget Russet':'rusty drugget':'Russell drugget':'rustick drugget'), 36, 37, 391 (ignoring hyphens), 412, 413, 421 (inversion), 422 ('Blankets':'Blankett'), 43, 441 ('still':'she'), 442 ('trembling':'trembles'), 443, 451, 46 (punctuation), 471, 481, 501 (omitting 'along' and punctuation), 502, 503, 51, 522,53 ('Andre's':'Andrew's'), 541, 543, 545, 552, 553, 562, 58, 591, 592 (ignoring italics and spelling 'ous'), 61, 642, 643, 65, 671 ('of':'on'), 673, 69, 71, 721, 722, 73, 75, 77, 79, 821, 822, 831, 84, 86, 88, 891, 902, 921 (plural:singular), 923, 961 ('of':'o'th'), 962 ('Fame':'Pomp'), 97, 981, 99 (ignoring apostrophes), 100, 1031, 1041, 1042, 105 ('Herringman': 'Herringham'), 107, 1082, 1092, 1101, 1102 (hyphenation), 111, 1121, 1122, 1141, 1143, 115, 1171 (omitting 'Sense' and punctuation), 1172, 1211, 1212, 1241, 1243, 125, 1262, 1281, 1282, 132 ('admiring': 'advancing'), 1341, 1342, 1361 ('of':'on'), 1362 (punctuation after 'dullness'), 1381, 1382, 1383, 139 (plural:singular), 140, 141, 142, 1431 (singular:plural), 1432, 1441 ('paus'd':'said'), 1442, 1443 ('cry d:'said'), 145 (punctuation after 'thus'), 146, 147, 148, 1501, 1502 ('thy':'the'), 1503 ('toyl':'Soul':'soil'), 1512, 1521 ('Make':'Lett'), 1522 ('Loveit':'love it's'), 1531, 1534, 154, 1551, 1552, 1572, 1573, 159, 1601,1602, 161, 1621, 1622, 1632 (ignoring spelling and dashes), 164 (omitting 'Epsom prose'), 1653, 1671 ('and':'on th''), 1672 ('and in each':'in every'), 1681, 1682, 1691, 1692, 1701, 1702 (plural:singular), 1751, 1752, 1753, 176, 1771, 1772, 1781, 1782, 1791, 1792 (ignoring italics), 180, 1812 (ignoring italics), 182 ('dwindled':'windled'), 1831, 1832,1833 (ignoring italics and apostrophe), 1841, 1843, 1851, 1852, 1853, 1854, 1871, 1872, 1881, 1882, 189, 190, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1921, 1922, 193, 1961 ('But': 'Yet'), 1962 ('sure thou'rt but':'sure thou art':'thou art but'), 197, 1981, 1982, 199, 2021, 203 ('thee':'the'), 204, 207 (ignoring spelling), 208 ('Ten':'a'), 2091, 2092, 2101, 2131, 2133, 214 and 217.

An examination of this list discloses that there are type-1 variations for each text, but it must be noted that there are none for 84 when I is present. It follows, according to the usual reasoning (see Greg, Calculus, p. 55), that I derives from 84; and accepting this relationship for the present we may ignore I for the time being, and turn our attention to the other texts. An analysis of the type-2 variations and of such of the complex variations as can be reduced to the simple types discloses no consistent pattern, except that of inconsistency. To put it another way, no group of texts occurs (I being now out of the question) from which all the others are excluded or almost always excluded. It is for this reason that Professor Evans, though he persists in thinking of his texts as falling into groups (pp. 43-45), devotes his attention almost exclusively to the instances where the readings in 84 are opposed by all or the majority of the other texts. It does not follow, however, as Professor Evans suggests that it does (pp. 43-44), that the edition of 1682 has no more authority than the manuscripts. Distributional study can indicate no more than something of the transmission of a literary text through or to its various exemplars. Decisions as to the authority of these exemplars must rest upon external evidence, in this case the long


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recognized corrupt state of the text in the 1682 edition (cf. Evans, p. 44, n. 18). Professor Evans uses the standard argument when he reasons from the corruptions in L that it did not emanate directly from the author (p. 33).

Hill would interpret the variations listed above as indicating that the texts are collaterals independently derived from a common ancestor in the relationship called radiation.[2] Greg's logic allows him to assume simple radiation only when all the texts have type-I variations alone or almost alone; if other variations occur with any frequency he can see no course other than to assume some sort of conflation somewhere (Calculus, pp. 21, 56; 43).[3] Greg does not deal explicitly with chance coincidences, but Hill points out that they occur constantly and indicates something of how often any one may recur and still be accepted as chance (p. 77). The present set of variations, however, is not explicable as the result of chance coincidence or conflation or both. The proportion of chance or the amount of conflation or both would be unbelievably large, for only B agrees, in different variations, with as few as four of the other texts, and 84, L, and H agree in one variation or another with all the others. The only alternative, it would seem, is to accept the relationship of the texts as radiation and to explain the conflicting variations as resulting from authorial revisions, with perhaps some admixture of chance coincidence or conflation or both.

Under the circumstances, it appears likely that I is a collateral instead of a descendant of 84, for in 177, 2 where 84 agrees with B, I agrees with the other texts, and Professor Evans mentions other details in which similar relationships may be observed (pp. 34; 41, variation 211 1). These details seem too many to explain as coincidence, and yet too minute to explain as conflation, and coincidence and conflation are last-ditch explanations in any event. Once it is seen, however, that Dryden allowed copies of his poem to be taken before it was published, and that he revised the text between these copies, then the differences between I and 84 are simply explicable as resulting from small final changes made before he sent his manuscript to the press in 1684.


So far as I know, no general treatment of patterns of authorial revision has been attempted, and it will be well, therefore, before going further,


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to investigate what might be called its theory. There are three general types of revision that may occur: simple revision, which may be addition, rejection, or substitution; reverse revision, returning to the original reading; and continued revision, where a new revision is substituted for the rejected one. Combinations of two or all three types are also possible. Simple revision results from a single decision on the author's part (pattern ab), reverse revision from two (pattern aba), continued revision from two or more (pattern abc, abcd . . .), and combinations of types from three or more (simple and reverse: abab, ababa . . . ; continued and reverse: abac, abca, abcb . . .; all three: ababc . . .). In accordance with the concept of simplicity introduced by Hill, we may say that where there is a choice in postulating types of revision, the type resulting from the fewest decisions is, all other things being equal, to be preferred.

Hill has maintained that the usefulness of distributional study is at an end when authorial revision has been established (p. 69), but this would appear to be generally true only when the study is intended as a help in establishing the genetic relationships of a group of texts. If the relationship can be established as radiation, the distributional evidence may continue to be of paramount importance, for by it it may be possible to range the texts in successive order from that representing the earliest recoverable state of revision to that representing the latest, or the reverse. The axioms governing the analysis of this order are as follows:

  • Given that the texts are in radiational relationship, a reading found in only one may be taken to have resulted from copying rather than from revision, until the reverse can be proved. This is a restatement of what Greg calls the assumption of universal variation, "the process of transcription is characterized by variation, and it is only in the process of transcription that variant readings arise" (Calculus, p. 8).
  • Given that the texts are in radiational relationship, a reading found in two or more may be taken to have resulted from revision rather than from copying, until the reverse can be proved. This is a restatement of what Hill calls the postulate of unity, "it is more likely that unity of manuscripts represents unity in their source than that it represents coincidence" (p. 64).
  • Unless there is evidence to the contrary, revisions may be taken to have been clearly indicated in writing (or by marks of deletion). This is a specific application of the assumption behind all textual analysis that there has been no memorial transmission (Greg, Calculus, p. 1, Hill, p. 69).
  • The best arrangement of the texts will be that which will require the positing of the fewest decisions on the author's part to explain all the variations.


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    This is a specific application of the concept of simplicity. It is at the same time obvious that such a simplification does not necessarily represent the facts; the author may well have changed his mind more often than was logically necessary to achieve his final revision. There is, therefore, always an appeal open from the distributional to other types of evidence, especially when the distributional evidence is not clear-cut. On the other hand, mere distrust of the results obtained is not sufficient to overthrow them, for unless there is evidence that the author was by nature undecided, we must fall hack on this fourth axiom; its opposite, that the texts should be arranged in such a way as to require the most possible decisions on the author's part, is contrary to reason and experience. As Hill puts it, in another connection, "the more complex [arrangements] are always unnecessary, and will never be used by a consistent student, no matter if there is a danger that later evidence might show him that his assumption of a simpler [arrangement] was actually false" (p. 92).

As a preliminary to calculating the best arrangement of the texts the variations should be tabulated, using Greg's notation, with Σ: and its subscript and superscript sigla, so that their exact nature may be seen at a glance. Factoring the variations will often facilitate subsequent calculations. Since author's decisions are being measured, all readings found in only one text may be ignored, and since only these variations can occur where there are only two or three texts in question, it follows that the method is applicable only to four or more.

In any single variation, arranging the variant texts together will always decrease the number of decisions that have to be posited, and dividing them will always increase it.

The first step in the calculations, therefore, is to group together the texts with the greatest number of mutual agreements. Normally there will be only two texts in the group, for if there are to be more than two, each must agree equally often with at least two of the others. If two or more mutually exclusive groups are found to occur with equal frequency, that one to which more texts may be added has the priority.

To this nucleus should be added any texts that agree with one of its members more often than with any others outside the group. If there are other texts which agree with the newly added members of the group more often than with any other texts outside it, they too may be added. When the group has been expanded as much as possible, the process is repeated with the ungrouped texts, and continued until all have been arranged in groups. These groups do not indicate any genetic relationship; that is already established as radiation; they are simply a mechanism for clarifying and simplifying calculation.


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If there are only two groups, their original nuclei should be placed at the extremities of the arrangement, as this will insure the greatest number of single-decision variations. To secure the greatest number of three-decision variations without lessening the possible number of those requiring only two decisions, that member of the nucleus should be placed at the extremity which agrees most often with texts outside the nucleus, unless it can be placed contiguous to a text with which it agrees more often than the difference between its outside agreements and those of the member of the nucleus having the next largest number. The remaining texts should be arranged so as to secure the greatest number of agreements between and among contiguous texts, for this will give the maximum number of two-decision variations.

If there are more than two groups, all the possible arrangements of the groups must be tried, arranging the members of the terminal groups on the principles above, and the members of the inner group or groups so as to secure the maximum number of agreements between and among contiguous texts.

In calculating the number of decisions required, special care must be taken when counting the variations where one or more texts are imperfect, for to count a text as present when it is in fact absent may add two to the number of decisions. Thus, in testing an order ABCDE, to read ΣD:CE as Σ:CE will result in the erroneous count AB/C/D/E. The same precaution must be taken when there are more than two alternate readings in a variation, especially when some or all of the additional readings occur in only one text apiece. It is, by the way, unnecessary and indeed useless to speculate on the readings in the missing portions of imperfect manuscripts; we can work only with what we have, and to refuse to employ the talent that is given us is to remain in willful ignorance.

Once the desired order has been established, distributive study is at an end. To determine which extremity of the arrangement of the texts represents the latest recoverable stage of revision must be left to external or literary study, preferably the former. Dates of copying the texts, even if determinable, are meaningless, as always, for there is no assurance that they were copied from the author's original. On the other hand, reasoning may be possible if one or more of the texts is, or has as a descendant, a printed version. Once a work is in print, interested persons will normally prefer buying the book to copying the author's manuscript, unless the author is known to be still improving it. A printer will normally choose printed over manuscript copy. And an author is not likely to sanction the publishing of an early revision of his book if a later one is already in print. Where external evidence fails, one will normally assume that the more


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satisfactory of the terminal texts, so far as he can judge of it, is the later.

Complete proof that the order and its direction are correct is impossible, but the likelihood may be demonstrated pragmatically by showing that the variations fall into consistent patterns and that they suggest or allow reasonable interpretations for a maximum number of individual variations. Included in the interpretation should be a careful investigation of readings found only in the final text, since, the pattern of revision having been established, these readings may no longer be dismissed as unauthoritative.

Once the order and its direction have been established, the texts are, in a sense, no longer in a radiational relationship, for, as Greg points out, a text which has been revised is tantamount to a transcript of the unrevised form (Calculus, p. 8, n. 2). This fact reminds us that while it is especially tempting when dealing with authorial revisions to think of the ancestor of the extant texts as the author's original manuscript, the original is in fact irrecoverable. The author may even have made a new copy each time he revised-if many of the revisions are of the complex kinds it is quite likely that he made a clean copy at least once-and while we have some idea of the alterations of the text as it passed through various stages we can have no certainty that we have recovered all of these or the state of the text before, or, if the author did not publish the work, after revision.

If we think of the revisions as the same as transcripts, the tree which results is identical with one indicating successive variation, but reached in this fashion there are no anomalous variations. Any decision that some of the variants are the result of chance coincidence or conflation will have to be estimated by some other method than distributional study.

It is, therefore, of some interest to examine into the likelihood of the occurrence of the various patterns of revision. The Cambridge manuscript of Milton's minor poems shows for his sonnets, besides a number of simple revisions, some of the patterns aba (XIII, 4, 5; XIV, 9) and abc (IX, 7; XIV, 9), with variants abbc (XI, 10) and abbcc (XIII, 3), and one more complicated, abcb (XII, 10).[4] Milton is more likely to reverse his revisions than to continue them, though on two occasions in Comus we find abcd (351,833); and he often combines the two processes, so that in Comus again besides the common aba and abc we find abac (389), abaca (554),abca (254), abcbc (544), and abcada (a canceled passage following line 4). Pope's penchant for revision is notorious; the editors of the Twickenham


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edition of his poems preferred not to try to indicate the variant readings in his manuscripts. To take a random example, if the opening couplet of the Essay on Man, Epistle II, quoted from the Harvard and Morgan manuscripts by Professor Sherburn, be compared with the textual notes in the Twickenham edition,[5] it will be seen that beside two changes of the pattern ab in the first line there is one aba ('then thyself'/'we ourselves'/'then thyself'), another aba in the second line ('study'/'science'/ 'study'), and a more complicated pattern, abcdce at the beginning of that line ('And know the'/'But know the'/'The only'/'Convinced the'/'The only'/'The proper'). Finally, to go no farther than the end of the eighteenth century, the manuscript of Blake's 'The Tiger,' taken with the first edition,[6] shows the pattern ab in lines 3, 15, 16, and 19, aba in lines 4, 5, 6, 13, 16, 19, and 20, abab in line 19, and aabcb in line 15. This cursory survey indicates that the patterns of revision may be of almost any nature, and that it would be unwise to reject any in advance as unlikely to occur.


Before proceeding to investigate Mac Flecknoe further, it should be said that we possess none of Dryden's working manuscripts. We do not even have a holograph fair copy of any of his poems) except for the verses sent in a letter to his cousin Honor. We do have manuscript versions of several of his poems written before or about the time of Mac Flecknoe which indicate that the printed texts are only the -final polishing of works that were in private circulation earlier, and in the case of prologues and epilogues perhaps even in public circulation. But for none of these do we have more than three texts in radiational relationship to their common ancestor, and so it is impossible to reason about Dryden's methods of revision beyond the obvious likelihood, amounting normally to certainty, that he did make simple changes of the pattern ab. We have no record of the amount of polishing to which Dryden subjected his work before he sent it to the press. We can have, then, no preconceptions as to Dryden's methods of composition.

Following is a tabulation of the variants significant to this investigation:



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These factors are entered below in the appropriate places and marked with an 'f.'

The group occurring most often is L C, and no other texts are to be added to it. The next most frequently occurring group is 82 M, and to this group B may be added. The next most frequent grouping is 84 I, and to this group F may be added, and H added next. Arranging the groups


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according to the principles given above results in the alternatives 82 M B L C H F I 84, M 82 B H 84 I (or I 84) F L C, and C L M 82 B H 1 84. The total of decisions required in the first arrangement is 167, in the second 160, in the third 159. The first of the alternatives, requiring 5% more decisions than either of the others, may with some confidence be rejected. This is the limit, in the present instance, to which distributive study will take us.

The direction of revision in the remaining alternate arrangements of the texts is from left to right, as the positions of the editions of 1682 and 1684 make clear. The second arrangement would indicate that Dryden had continued with considerable revisions of the poem, and yet had not felt it worth while to have them inserted in the reprints issued by his publisher. The third arrangement is therefore the more likely on external grounds. It is also the more attractive on internal or literary grounds, for the more obvious errors appear more regularly in contiguous texts, and the apparently later readings are in general more attractive. The following remarks, the assume that the progress of Dryden's revisions is most accurately shown when the texts are in the order C L M 82 B H F I 84, without arguing the case in detail.

Simple revisions (pattern ab) occur in 112, 332, 422, 552, 79, 1172, 140, 141, 1503, 159, 1782, 1812, 189, 190, 204, 207, and 2092. Other variations treated in the distributional analysis as involving only a single decision are seen, once the arrangement of the texts is established, to be part of larger patterns of revision, and will therefore be discussed below. They occur in 333, 1443, 176, 1781, and 1852. In the following quotations accidentals have been normalized.

Several of the simple revisions appeal at once as genuine corrections or improvements. The substitution of 'sense' for 'verse' (552) seems pretty certainly a correction, since the phrase 'in numbers as in verse' is tautological The substitution of 'altars' for 'trophies' (207) results in a more accurate description of the verse-forms upon which Dryden is animadverting. The substitution of 'one' for 'each' (190) corrects a quotation from Shadwell. It is true that 'thy mind' is a less accurate quotation of Shadwell than 'the mind' (189, cf. Evans, p. 51), but here the unaltered quotation is awkward in the sentence Dryden has constructed. At the same time, he was apparently content to let the full quotation stand for some time.

Less certain are a number of shifts from singular to plural. Since Shadwell can compose, sing and play the lute, perhaps these are better described as 'talents' than lumped together as a 'talent' (2092). The substitution of 'arts' for 'art' may similarly sharpen the idea of Shadwell's ignorance (1782). It is perhaps better to speak of Fletcher in 'buskins' instead of


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'buskin' (79), especially if Jonson is to appear in 'socks' just below. Metaphors are difficult of analysis, but it might be argued that 'mild anagram,' instead of 'kind anagram' (204), implies a lack of control of one's medium consistent with the idea of Shadwell's dullness. It is also, perhaps, a completer antithesis to 'keen iambic' in the same line. Professor Evans remarks on the attractiveness of 'soil' rather than 'toil' in another metaphor (1503, cf. Evans, p. 50), and it would indeed appear that Dryden did not abandon his earlier reading until a fairly late stage of revision.

Dryden's ear may have suggested to him that 'blankets tossed' was preferable to 'blanket tossed' (422), but such an argument is not very forceful, for if he avoided a hiatus by preferring 'to future' over 'to after' (159, cf. Evans, p. 46), he introduced another by changing 'mine' to 'my' (1812), and as may be seen from some of the more complex revisions, he apparently hesitated fairly often over matters of this kind. Matters of grammar are similarly inconclusive, for if Dryden substituted 'nor' for 'or' after 'Ne'er' (1172), he abandoned the subjunctive 'were' for 'was' after 'pond'ring' (112), and the more complex revisions show that this inconsistency is characteristic. The reasons for changing 'clothed' to 'clad' (332), 'fair' to 'far' (140, cf. Evans, p. 50), and 'dominions' to 'dominion' (141) are not beyond all conjecture, but they suggest nothing that would be likely to carry wide conviction.

Reversed revisions (pattern aba) occur in 37, 53, 58, 822, 97, 981, 1512, 1572, 1573, 1622, 1672, 1682, 180, 1831, 1871, 2133, and 217. Two others, 46 and 562, are part of larger patterns of revision. No reason suggests itself for most of these, but it is of some interest to observe the different shades of meaning or possible misunderstanding resulting in three of them, those in 97, 1622, and 1871. The decision between 'bore' and 'wore' (58) would seem to have depended on whether 'lute' or 'sword' was felt to govern the verb. The indecision over 'St. Andre's' and 'St. Andrew's' (53) is paralleled in even greater indecisions over 'Vilerius' and 'Valeri(o)us' (592, pattern abab) and 'Nicander's' and 'Alcander's' (1792, pattern ababa, cf. Evans, p. 53). Apparently Dryden's memory was uncertain of these names, but he took the trouble to get them right for the edition of 1684.

Three of these readings are not strictly the result of two decisions on the author's part, for the readings of 'varnished' for 'vanished' (822, cf. Evans, p. 45, n. 19), 'durst' for 'dust' (180) and 'declining' for 'declaiming' (2133, cf. Evans, p. 53) make nonsense, or at best an unsatisfactory sense, of the passages. As they all occur in at least two contiguous texts, they seem to indicate that the ancestor had become illegible at these places for a time, or that they are slips of Dryden's pen as he copied his original which he over-looked as he made successive copies. Another passage that


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may have become difficult to decipher is 1653, where for 'cull' H reads 'smell' and F reads 'pull.'

The four other variations of this pattern are associated in pairs. Two, 1572 and 1573, combine to produce three alternate readings, 'by thy own,' 'of thy own,' and 'by thine own,' the first being returned to after the second and again after the third. No reason appears for the changes, nor for the more striking series of changes in 1672 and 1682. Ignoring the other substantive variations, the lines appear to have been altered as follows:

But write thy best and top, and in each line
Sir Formal's oratory will be thine.
C L  
But write thy best and top, and in each line
Sir Formal's oratory wit be thine.
M 82  
But write thy best and top in every line,
Sir Formal's oratory wit be thine
B H  
But write thy best, and top,(;) and in each line,
Sir Formal's oratory will be thine.
F I 84  
So that we find Dryden returning to his original form after a wide excursion.

Combinations of simple and reverse revision in the pattern abab occur in 12, 14, 292, 391, 442, 541, 592, 65, 923, 962, 111, 115, 1241, 1361, 1382, 1431, 1601, 1772, and 1851. The pattern ababa is found in 503, 71, 107, 1752, 1792, 1962, 203 and 208, and the pattern ababab occurs in 1833. Those in 592 and 1792 (Vilerius, Nicander) have been discussed above. Those in 503, 962, 1361, and 1772 are better discussed in company with other variations as examples of continued revision. And many of the others defy analysis, either as to the reason for the original revision or as to why there was any question about it once made. It should perhaps be emphasized that there is nothing in this situation to make it an unlikely one, as a glance again at Blake's revisions of 'The Tiger' will make clear.

One of the variations, the substitution of 'the' for 'thee' (203, cf. Evans p. 45, n. 20) in 82 and H, is almost certainly the result of chance coincidence in error. It is also tempting, but not strictly necessary, so to interpret the apparent constant wavering between 'Fletcher's' and 'Fletcher' (183 3), where either will apparently make equally good sense.

On occasion it is possible to assess the attractions for one or other of the alternate readings. Thus, in 12, an 'immortal war' may be an endless one, while 'immortal wars' can only be ever-memorable. In 14, the decision for 'who' over 'that,' or the reverse, seems to reflect varying attitudes toward the logic of gender, similar to the indecision in 923 as to whether the man


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('he') or the instrument ('it') is more strongly felt in the words 'his pen' in the line above. Professor Evans has remarked on the attractiveness of the metaphor 'well-tuned oars' (391, cf. Evans, p. 51), and it is not perhaps surprising to find Dryden hesitating before abandoning it for 'well-timed oars.' The eventual decision for 'Kingdom' over 'kingdoms' (1431, cf. Evans, p. 53) shows Dryden abandoning a sly allusion with some regret. His apparently greater indecision between 'throne' and 'state' (107) may possibly reflect a fear on the one hand that the former might be taken in its slang sense, under the influence of line 101 just above, and on the other a dislike of using the latter when it was to be the rhyme word two lines below.

Line 185 has, besides the complex revision 'transfuse': transfused,' a simple change from 'oils' to 'oil.' Professor Evans remarks that the passage 'has always caused difficulties,' and proposes to emend the standard text at the latter, if not both places (pp. 46-47). It is more likely that the earlier editors were not emending the text here so much as handing on a corruption introduced in 1716, and while Christie and Sargeaunt certainly made difficulties, Noyes, easily the best of Dryden's more recent editors, found plain sailing. It seems quite possible that 'transfuse' was considered for a time because of 'transfuse' in the line above, which is the reason it appeals to Professor Evans, and reasonably certain that 'oil' was adopted because of the singular verbs in the line below.[7]

We may turn finally to those variations which show Dryden continuing to improve his poem through several revisions. In four instances, 333, 562 (when taken with 545, 551 and 553), 88, and 1443 (taken with 1441), the revisions proceed without interruption, but in the others, 46, 503 (taken with 502), 962 (taken with 961, 1361 (taken with 1362), 1753 and 176, 1772 and 1781, and 1962, there is an admixture of reverse revision. In the following quotations, only those variants which are pertinent to the discussion at hand are reproduced, the rest of the text being normalized.

In 333, Crusty drugget' (L) gives place to 'drugget russet' (M 82), which in turn becomes 'rustic drugget' (B F, taking His 'Russell drugget' as a corruption), supplanted in its turn by the 'Norwich drugget' of 84. The final version) of course, adds a further dig at Shadwell, who was born near Norwich. Lines 54-56 (cf. Evans, pp. 51-52) offer a complicated array of punctuational variations that may be summarized as follows: M and H have no punctuation; C, L, and 82, having uniformly heavier terminal punctuation in lines 54 and 56 than in line 55, connect the two latter; F, having no punctuation in line 54, line 55 in parens, and a semi-colon


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at the end of line 56, connects the first and third; and 84, having a colon at the end of line 54, a semi-colon at the end of line 55, and a comma at the end of line 56, gives line 55 something of the feeling of an interjection, as in F, but connects line 56 to line 57. Apparently dissatisfaction with the shifted tense in line 55 (forced by the rhyme) had something to do with the change. In F the difficulty is resolved by making line 55 parenthetical. In 84, it is resolved by making 'they' in line 56 refer to 'papers' in line 52 instead of 'feet' in line 54. The second solution also makes natural use of the fact that line 56 begins 'So' and line 57 'That,' a circumstance always likely to cause confusion when line 56 as well as lines 53-55 interrupted the connection between lines 52 and 57.

In 88, 'place' (L C) gives way to 'isle' (M 82 H), which gives way to 'pile' (F 84). 'Isle' seems to be the least satisfactory reading, and if one does not wish to credit Dryden with having failed consistently to improve his work, it may be argued that he changed 'place' to the more vivid 'pile' by crossing out only 'lace' and writing 'ile' above 'ile' (a normal variant spelling of 'isle') being taken by a series of copyists as a revision of tile whole word. Finally, line 144 shows a consistent evolution in vividness of expression:

He said, and all the people said, Amen.
He paus'd, and all the people said, Amen.
He paus'd, and all the people cry'd, Amen.
the rest  

In 46 (cf. Evans, p. 49) the lack of punctuation in L and M (normal for M) leaves the meaning ambiguous, 82 provides one alternative, 'the treble squeaks for fear, the basses roar,' B, H and F the other, 'the treble squeaks, for fear the basses roar,' and 84 returns to the reading of 82. No reason appears for the alternation between the last two readings. Line 50 (cf. Evans, p. 51) shows the following development:

As at the morning tide that floats along
As at the morning, toast that floats along,
L, B H, 84  
As at the morning toast that wafts along
M, F  
The reading in 82, 'And gently waft the over all along,' would appear to be simply a corruption of the third version of the line. The alternation between 'floats' anti 'wafts' (M and 82 falling between L and B, F between H and 84) may have resulted from dissatisfaction with the echo introduced by the substitution of 'toast' for 'tide.'


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Line 96 shows the following development, best explained in context with the two preceding lines:

Now Empress Fame had published the renown
Of Shadwell's coronation through the town.
Roused by report o' th' pomp, the nations meet
Roused by report of Pomp, the nations meet
L M 82, F  
Roused by report of Fame, the nations meet
Changing 'o' th'' to 'of' resulted in the personification of 'Pomp,' and so introduced an inconsistency into the lines. Perhaps Dryden's apparent hesitancy in substituting 'Fame' for 'Pomp' (F falling between H and 84) indicates that he felt some awkwardness in using the name twice in such quick succession.

Line 136 (cf. Evans, pp. 49-50) must be discussed in relation to the lines immediately above and below:

And from his brows damps of oblivion shed,
Full of the filial dullness long he stood,
Repelling from his breast the raging god.
... shed;
[a blank ] dullness long he stood
... shed
Full on the filial dullness long he stood
... shed:
Full of the filial dullness long he stood,
... shed
Full of the filial dullness long he stood-
Full on the filial dullness long he stood
... shed
Full on the filial dullness: long he stood,
The punctuation in H is simply inconsistent. It is normal for M to have no punctuation, so its variant tells us nothing. The state of L suggests that Dryden had improved the punctuation to fit the reading 'of' and then


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changed 'of' to 'on,' without repointing the lines, so that the copyist, unlike the copyist of F, was stumbled by the inconsistency. A similar delay on Dryden's part in making his punctuation fit his other revisions appears to have occurred in line 175.

The punctuation in line 175 is connected with a simple revision in line 176. There appear to be four versions of the couplet that should be distinguished:

Thou art my blood, where Jonson has no part
For what have we in nature or in art?
C L  
Thou art my blood, where Jonson has no part,
What share have we in nature or in art?
M 82 B H  
Thou art my blood, where Jonson has no part
What share have we in nature or in art?
Thou art my blood, where Jonson has no part;
What share have we in nature or in art?
I 84  
M and H are grouped with 82 and B because, having no punctuation at all in line 175 (normal for them), their reading is like that of the other two texts ambiguous. On the whole it seems more likely that the punctuation in F is the transcriber's, indicating that the punctuation of the ancestor was still ambiguous, than that Dryden experimented with alternate readings. What probably happened was that he changed line 176 without at once seeing that he would have to supply emphatic punctuation at the end of the line above to preserve his original meaning clear.

Two other variants, 1772 and 1781, combine as follows (cf. Evans, pp.50-51)

Where did his wit or learning fix a brand?
Or rail at arts he did not understand?
C L M 82, H F  
Where did his wit on learning fix a brand?
Or rail at arts he did not understand?
Where did his wit or learning fix a brand,
And rail at arts he did not understand?
Where did his wit on learning fix a brand,
And rail at arts he did not understand?
Here it seems possible that Dryden was dissatisfied with the repetition of 'or'; changed the first 'or' to 'on' (B); but decided against it (H F); then changed the second to 'And'; and then keeping the second change, went back to the other also. Finally, in 1962, we may see Dryden wavering between


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'sure thou art' (C L, 82 B H) and 'thou art but' ( M, F), and resolving his difficulties by combining his alternates into 'sure thou'rt but' (I 84).

The foregoing series of developing revisions offers convincing evidence that the order of texts chosen is indeed the most nearly correct one that reasoning will enable us to discover. It raises in addition the question of whether the type-1 variations in 84 may not also be the result of revision. In the usual textual relationships, it might reasonably be contended, with Greg, that the possibility of compositor's errors should be considered, and that indifferent or inexplicable, as well as manifestly inferior or uncharacteristic readings should be rejected ('Rationale,' p. 32). But we have seen that Dryden was revising his poem to the very last-even, in details, subsequent to the state of the text found in l and a large proportion of these revisions are apparently inexplicable or indifferent. We must insist, therefore, that the type-I variations in 84 be manifestly inferior or uncharacteristic before we reject them. In the list with which we began, there are six of these readings, 545, 642, 1262, 1362, 139, and 145, and Professor Evans (p. 48) calls attention also to a spelling variant in line 108. As we have seen, two variants, 545 and 1362, are improvements; 642, 1262, 139, and 145 are indifferent. Professor Evans (ib.) urges that line 145 be emended, but the opening words of the line, if they are taken as part of Flecknoe's speech, may be interpreted either as a further adjuration to the 'heavens,' or, better, as pointing Shadwell to the methods of advancement retailed in the succeeding couplets. The reading of 'sat' for 'sate' in line 108, on the other hand, is both inferior (it rhymes with 'fate') and uncharacteristic (Dryden prefers perfect to imperfect rhymes), and therefore, as Professor Evans notes, should be altered by a careful editor.

There is an additional possibility. If the type for 84 was set from a copy of 82 that had been corrected by the author, we might expect to find that certain readings had been left uncorrected. The process is mechanically the reverse of conflation, but the results are the same. Only those readings which do not appear in any texts intermediate between 82 and 84 may be considered, for all the rest were clearly still under consideration at a period subsequent to the state of the text represented by 82. There are three of these variations, 46, 592, and 1382, but the reading of 82 and 84 in 592 is right, and those in 46 and 1382 apparently indifferent. There is no evidence for conflation of any of the other texts.

The very considerable importance of Professor Evans's collations would seem to lie, then, not so much in their possible use in emending the text of 1684 as in their indication for the first time of Dryden's methods of composition. Until Professor Evans had published his essay, materials for such a study were almost totally lacking, nor was there even any collected account


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of the manuscripts which he has assembled. The present investigation has sought to determine how far the standard methods of textual criticism might by suitable modifications be fitted to deal with this new and at first glance intractable body of data. It is to be hoped that inasmuch as two new scholarly editions of Dryden are now in progress, the whole subject may be canvassed to the full.



Sir Walter Greg, The Calculus of Variants, Oxford, 1927, pp. 17-18. The technical terms used below are all to be found explicated in this work and an article by the same author, "The Rationale of Copy-Text," Studies in Bibliography, III (1950), 19-36.


Archibald A. Hill, "Some Postulates for Distributional Study of Texts," Studies in Bibliography III (1950), 77, 92. This and Greg's "Rationale" were read before the English Institute in 1949.


Actually Greg holds that radiation can never be logically demonstrated and that the best we can say when all the texts have type-l variations is that all but one of them is derived from a common ancestor, but Hill's concept of simplicity (p. 87) allows, indeed forces, the conclusion of radiation in this case.


The Works of John Milton, ed. Frank Allen Patterson, et al., New York, Columbia University Press, 1931-38, I, ii 435-444. For the revisions of Comus referred to below, see pp. 474-577. The revisions of Arcades and Lycidas, pp. 452-474, present nothing of interest in patterns of revision.


George Sherburn, "Pope at Work," Essays on the Eighteenth Century Presented to David Nichol Smith (1945), p. 62; An Essay on Man, ed. Maynard Mack [1950], p. 53 (The Works of Alexander Pope, vol. III i).


The Poetical Works of William Blake ed. John Sampson (1914), pp. 85- 88.


From which it appears that 'waters' is preferably to be understood as 'water's' rather than 'waters'.'