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We would like to thank Lord and Lady Lothian, Lord Ralph Kerr, Lord John Kerr, Professor Richard Proudfoot, Professor Richard Morton, Mr. Osman Azis and Mr. Felix Pryor for their various help in the work that went into preparing this article. Thanks are also due to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for their financial support, to the Huntington Library, and to Mrs. L. Leclair, the librarian of Worcester College, for her special assistance. The facsimiles of the manuscript are reproduced with the kind permission of Lady Lothian and the Melbourne Garden Charities, who also gave permission for the transcription printed in the Appendix to this article to be made.


Mr. Pryor has described the finding of the MS and the processes which led him to attribute it to Webster in an article, "From Packet 3 to 'The Duke of Florence'", in The Spectator, 14 June 1986, pp. 34-35. Coke's very extensive correspondence was calendared by William Dashwood Fane for the Historical Manuscripts Commission, who docketed this particular piece of paper as belonging to "Packet 3" (which contained correspondence by Coke dating between 1601 and 1630, and Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke's household accounts for 1602-03), but did not otherwise remark on it.


"A Jacobean dramatic fragment", TLS, 13 June 1986, p. 651. Proudfoot is careful in this piece not to endorse Pryor's claim that the MS is Webster's, though he does not reject it either.


TLS, 4 July 1986, pp. 735-736.


TLS, 18 July 1986, p. 787.


TLS, 22 August, 1986, pp. 913-914. Proudfoot objects to some of Shapiro's palaeographical arguments in this letter, concluding "Much, then, as I should like to accept Mr Shapiro's attractive conjecture, I cannot share his confidence that the evidence points unequivocally towards it."


It is true that in some ways the Book of Sir Thomas More is "foul", but only in a special sense—namely that it contains newly drafted passages designed to overcome censorship problems. It cannot be considered a "classic" foul papers, defined by Bowers (On Editing Shakespeare [1966], p. 13) as "the author's last complete draft in a shape satisfactory to him to be transferred to a fair copy".


Sketched, the watermark looks like the attached illustration. It is similar to Nos. 12790-92 in Briquet, but not identical (these watermarks have only one handle to the pot). A (necessarily cursory) search through Coke's correspondence at Melbourne failed to reveal any identical paper. We were not, of course, expecting to find any, but it seemed worth while taking a look just in case: since Coke's correspondence is often carefully dated, it might have helped to have established some dating limits for the MS had a dated letter been written on the same paper.


Pryor, in his sale-catalogue for Bloomsbury Book Auctions, refers on pp. 11-12 to Bernardo Segni's Storie Fiorentine, which, though it was not published until 1723, was written in the sixteenth century, and circulated in manuscript form. This work could have provided the author of the MS with Lorenzo's double-bluff defence of himself; it also is one of the texts which stress Lorenzo's erudition. Other possible sources include the fifty-fourth "novell", "The Incontinence of a Duke and his Impudencie to Attain his Purpose", in William Painter's translation of the Heptameron, The Palace of Pleasure (which however does not name the characters). Some more detailed account of Florentine history, Segni's or another, must have been used for these details. A good concise account of the sources for The Traitor is found in John Stewart Carter's edition of the play (Regents Renaissance Drama, 1965).


The word "grizlie" was also altered at some stage. For ease of discussion, the conventional modifications of the MS's i/j and u/v are made throughout this article, and abbreviations are silently expanded. The transcript of the MS in the Appendix, however, is diplomatic.


A small, but telling piece of evidence for date: such a correction is much more likely to have occurred to an author after 1606. Too much weight cannot be attached to this, however, since "'slide" appears only five lines down.


"An intimate private friend, confidant; the favourite of a ruler." (OED) We are grateful to Professor Shapiro for supplying us with the correct reading of this word.


He says of these speeches, "They are written in a style which had no imitators" (Catalogue, p. 7), but this is not true. In the disputed play The Honest Man's Fortune there are several such passages, which read very much in this vein. However, Cyrus Hoy has decisively rejected J. W. Gerritsen's opinion that Webster had a hand in this play: the passages in question are in parts of the play that Professor Hoy attributes to Nathan Field. See "The Shares of Fletcher and his Collaborators in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon (IV)", Studies in Bibliography, 12 (1959), 91-116, especially 100-108 and 114.


There is one exception: a suggestive point raised concerning an otherwise obscure piece of dramaturgy in The White Devil. Zanche, Vittoria's Moorish maid, has no source so far as her name, race, or sexual enthusiasm are concerned. Pryor points out that Alessandro was known as "Il Moro" because his mother was (reputedly) a mulatto Moorish serving woman. Webster was undoubtedly interested in the misdoings of the Medici family, and, if he were the author of the MS, the association of the family with the Moors might well have suggested these aspects of Zanche, as well as Francisco's (historically improbable) disguise as Mulinassar the Moor in the latter acts of the play. To be sure, Webster could have obtained this information from his reading about the Medicis; in other words, he did not need to write the MS in order to develop these points. But if he had written a play about Alessandro Il Moro, it is plausible that the Moorish connexion would have continued vivid in his mind for his next play about the Medicis. However, this argument depends upon the assumption that the MS pre-dates The White Devil.


Private communications. As noted above (note 3), Proudfoot has neither endorsed nor contradicted the ascription to Webster; in his response to Shapiro (see note 6) he declines, on palaeographical grounds, to accept Shapiro's attribution of the MS to Shirley, but does not make any alternative suggestion concerning authorship.


Bodl. MS. Rawlinson Poet. 28, stanza 70; see G. E. Bentley, The Jacobean and Caroline Stage, V, 1245.


It is worth observing that the censor might well have found fault with the material of the scene. For instance, Lorenzo's satirical dismissal of princes who "growe bookish" would very likely have seemed offensive to King James, who fancied himself a scholar; and Lorenzo's scornful rejection of the claims of mistresses upon a royal favourite (ll. 59-70) would not have been tactful during the years of Buckingham's excesses, or shortly thereafter. However, the MS is foul papers, and one cannot say what milder version of these passages might have ended up in the book, when it was ready to be submitted to the Master of the Revels. And one could, without much difficulty, find equally opprobrious passages in the performed and printed works of such dramatists as Marston, Middleton, and Webster himself. Thus although it is possible that trouble with the censor might have prevented the MS from being staged in its present form, on the basis of this fragment alone it is far from a certainty.


TLS, 4 July 1986, p. 736.




Professor Proudfoot's (privately communicated) opinion is that it is likely to be later rather than earlier. The fact that the author capitalized the first word of most verse-lines suggests a later date, but is not a sure guide: there are manuscripts with this feature before 1600, though its universal adoption came later.


See below for a further treatment of this question.


Miss Mary Edmond, whose researches last decade put the biography of Webster on an entirely new footing, and whose expertise in reading the handwriting of documents of the period is unquestionable, wrote to Lord John Kerr disputing Professor Shapiro's assertion that the MS's handwriting was Shirley's. Unfortunately her letter was not intended for publication.


Trois Masques a la cour de Charles Ier d'Angleterre: The Triumph of Peace, The Triumphs of the Prince d'Amour, Britannia Triumphans. Livrets de John Shirley et William Davenant. Ed. Murray Lefkowitz. Editions du Centre National de la recherche scientifique. Paris, 1970.


See Anthony G. Petti, English Literary Hands from Chaucer to Dryden (1977), pp. 20-21, for a brief discussion of the historical development of round hand from the earlier forms.


Worcester College MS 120 (Plays 9.21), where it is labelled on the binding Don Manuel.


There are interpolations on fols. 6r and 21r in a different, vertically-oriented secretary hand; there are also some printed words e.g. on fol. 23v. None of these seems to be Shirley's. See Howarth's articles in RES, 7 (1931), 302-313 and 8 (1932), 203.


Unfortunately, one of the longest additions, on fol. 15r, is written vertically in the margin, and the letters are so squeezed as to make them unreliable as evidence.


A Concordance to the Works of John Webster, prepared by Richard Cornballis and J. M. Harding. Salzburg, Institut fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik (Salzburg Studies in English Literature: Jacobean Drama Studies 70), 3 vols in 11 parts, 1979.


That is, a compositor who did not hold rigid preferences concerning spelling alternatives, or other formal matters, and so was unlikely to alter radically his author's system of punctuation, and would preserve more of his copy's spellings than a more experienced or more opinionated workman.


See J. R. Brown, "The Printing of John Webster's Plays (I)," Studies in Bibliography, 6 (1954), pp. 117-128 for the most complete summary so far in print concerning the nature of the copy for The White Devil. Brown concludes that some features of the text are best explained by postulating that the copy was foul papers, or at least that it was an authorial manuscript.


See Antony Hammond, "The White Devil in Nicholas Okes's Shop", Studies in Bibliography, 39 (1986), 135-176, in which the naive Compositor N was first distinguished from the two more sophisticated Compositors A and B.


"pottle" occurs in A Cure for a Cuckold, sig. F1r


That the author of the MS actively preferred verbal nouns can be seen in l. 69, where "expectation" has been changed to "expecting".


Proudfoot, in his TLS article (13 June 1986, p. 651), observed the frequency of these doubled final consonants. Interestingly (as Professor Shapiro has remarked to us), these are a feature of some of Shirley's manuscripts: there is a large number of them in the Rawlinson, for instance, but of those we noticed, only "sett" "lett" and "gett" are common to the Rawlinson and the MS, and "upp", so spelled in Rawlinson, is "up" in the MS. In the 1646 printed text of the Shirley's Poems, most of these doubled consonants are singled, as one would expect. Thus "Sinn" becomes "Sin", "Penn", "pen", "upp", "up", and so forth. Too much cannot be made of this, since the Rawlinson manuscript was most certainly not the copy for the 1646 edition, but the fact that Shirley, writing his poems, doubled his final consonants frequently, and Humphrey Moseley's compositor, typesetting them, did not, illustrates the point made in the next paragraph about the MS, that such old-fashioned features in printer's copy were among the first candidates for regularization.


It would be of great interest to perform a similar comparison of the MS's vocabulary and spelling with Shirley's dramatic work. Unfortunately, at the moment there is no concordance to Shirley.


But see the transcription in the Appendix to this article, note 15.


For a discussion of the punctuation of The White Devil, see Hammond, op. cit., pp. 142-144.


One instance, of great interest to the Cambridge edition of Webster, is that the MS agrees with the early gatherings of The White Devil in frequently failing to provide terminal punctuation at the end of speeches, or in punctuating them other than with a period.


Hoy, loc. cit.


The "'s" form for "his" (as in "in's" and other such combinations) does not yield readily to a search in the concordance, and has been omitted in this article.


At this point it is important to note that the MS also lacks any of Shirley's most common linguistic habits: his penchant for such formulations as "ha'", "sha'not" and "shan-not", "shat" (="shalt"), "wo'", "wo't" and "wot", "wo'not" and "wonnot", and "d'ee", which are highly idiosyncratic features of his style (see Hoy, op. cit., pp. 108-110); none of these is to be found in the MS. While on the subject, it is worth noting that the MS does


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not use Field's most familiar linguistic forms: "ye", an even preference for "them" and "'em", and, like Shirley, a fondness for the contraction "d'ee".


Private communication to Antony Hammond, reproduced here with permission and with our thanks. There are three possible explanations of the similarity in subject-matter between the MS and The Traitor: first, as Shapiro proposes, that the MS is a draft by Shirley, which he discarded virtually completely when he came to re-compose the scene in The Traitor. For all the reasons expressed in this article, we cannot accept this option as a satisfactory explanation. Secondly, there is Pryor's view, which is that Shirley actually used the MS as a source for The Traitor. Morton gives good reasons for doubting that this was the case, but we feel that it is not impossible that Shirley was aware of the MS, that its existence may have prompted him to write his very different version of the scene in The Traitor. There is no way of knowing whether this happened, nor any way of telling whether Shirley knew any more of the play of which the MS is a fragment than this single sheet. The third possibility is that the two works are independent: that both derive from the same or similar sources, but that otherwise there is no direct connexion between them. There are enough instances of Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists duplicating play-subjects for this scenario to be plausible. For it to be demonstrated, a much more extensive exploration of source-materials would have to be undertaken.


This is not meant to say that such a successful imitation is impossible: as was noted earlier, Field could write a convincing pastiche of this style. But as we have seen, Field is not a plausible candidate as author of the MS.


Cf. The White Devil, II.i.


Pryor points out that Lorenzo also declares that he has "putt on the Person of sinon" (ll. 142-143), and that Arruntius in Sejanus alludes to the same individual. It is also worth nothing parenthetically that Oedipus is one of the few classical allusions made in the MS that also occurs in Webster (White Devil, V.i. 197-200).


A Jacob's staff was a forerunner of the sextant, a simple instrument used for taking the altitude of the sun, or for surveying purposes. It seems to us significant that in the two examples quoted the instrument should be mentioned in the same context as mathematics (Devil), and geometry (MS).