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The Melbourne Manuscript and John Webster: A Reproduction and Transcript by Antony Hammond and Doreen Delvecchio
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Page 1

The Melbourne Manuscript and John Webster: A Reproduction and Transcript
Antony Hammond and Doreen Delvecchio [1]

In the summer of 1986 the scholarly world was intrigued by the announcement of a major discovery: the manuscript of a hitherto unknown play by John Webster. In fact, what had been discovered in the muniment room at Melbourne Hall in Derbishire was an unidentified fragment of a play, which the co-discoverer, Mr. Felix Pryor, came to believe was by Webster. Mr. Pryor wrote a lengthy sale-catalogue describing the manuscript, and arguing for Webster's authorship of it, for Bloomsbury Book Auctions. This firm attempted to auction the manuscript on June 20, 1986, and set its anticipated price as between £200,000-£400,000; in the event, it did not reach its reserve, and as yet remains unsold. Thanks to the courtesy of the Marquis of Lothian, and the Trustees of the Melbourne Garden Charities, we have been enabled to make a fairly detailed examination of the manuscript, and to consider the question of attribution in greater depth. This article is a report on the results of that investigation.

First, a slightly more detailed recapitulation of the events of 1986 will help to clarify the questions under investigation. The Melbourne Manuscript, as the document has come to be known (hereafter in this article simply the MS), was discovered in 1985 by Mr. Edward Saunders, who was sorting through the correspondence of Sir John Coke at Melbourne; Mr. Saunders then invited Mr. Pryor, who had formerly been a member of the staff of Sothebys, to attempt to identify it. Coke's letters were tied up in packets and kept in the Hall's muniment room; the MS under discussion had been used as wrapping paper for one of these packets (the words "Packet 3.", in pencil, are visible on the upper left corner of fol. 2v).[2] For reasons which are not entirely clear, no scholarly expert on Webster, or on the Jacobean drama in general, was permitted to examine the MS in any detail prior to the auction attempt. Professor Richard Proudfoot was permitted to inspect it, albeit rather cursorily, and wrote an announcement concerning it in the Times Literary Supplement.[3]


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The abortive auction followed on 20 June. Early in July Professor I. A. Shapiro challenged the attribution to Webster, in a letter to the TLS, in which he declared bluntly that "there are no grounds for attributing [the MS] to Webster, or to any pre-Restoration dramatist other than Shirley".[4] Shapiro's argument, which will be discussed in detail below, was based on the fact that the subject of the MS was derived from the same source-material as James Shirley's play The Traitor; Shapiro believes that the handwriting of the MS is Shirley's, and he further demonstrated a plausible scenario to account for the MS's coming into the Cokes' possession. It is true that a central problem in Pryor's attempt to identify the MS as Webster's is that no Webster autograph of any kind exists. Shapiro (after a brief reply by Pryor[5]) expanded on his argument in a second letter on 8 August, which was responded to by Proudfoot, who was not persuaded by Shapiro's arguments.[6] The issues raised in this correspondence will be addressed presently. At the time of writing, the matter rests at least so far as public debate on the MS is concerned.

The net effect of the dispute has been unfortunate: it has drawn attention away from the indubitable fact that the MS is a fragment of foul papers from the Jacobean period, the only such fragment ever to have come to light[7] (a fact which alone makes it of inestimable value, no matter who wrote it). Instead it has focussed debate upon the matter of authorship, a question which, past experience should have warned everyone, is unlikely to be susceptible of rapid and universally-accepted conclusions. We address both issues in this article, but to redress the balance so far struck, treat the first as the more important.

The manuscript

The MS is written on a single sheet of fairly good-quality writing paper, watermarked with a pot containing the initials PD;[8] the sheet

measures approximately 15.5 by 12 inches, and was folded once to create pages of about seven and three-quarter by twelve inches (i.e. a normal foolscap dimension). The paper itself, subsequent to its being written upon, was folded twice more for use as a wrapping for the correspondence, and the outermost page (fol. 2v) has suffered as a consequence. An area of about a third of the page is discoloured and faded, and several words have been rendered illegible at the creases. There is also a small hole in the second folio, coinciding with one of these creases, and an ink stain near the top of fol. 1v which obscures one word. Despite these damages, the writing is for the most part well-preserved, and the good general condition of the MS, considering the use to which it was put, is remarkable. However, the paper is clearly not strong, and the creases


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are in danger of tearing; we have recommended that preservative work be done on it to protect it from further deterioration.

The text written on this paper is a part of a scene from a play (a modified typographical facsimile is provided at the end of this article). The scene is in progress at the beginning of the first page (which is numbered "2.", implying that the events it contains occur early in the dramatic action); it consists of a dialogue between Prince Alexander and his favorite, his cousin Lorenzo. The Prince begins by dismissing his attendants, and the only other speaking character (Alphonso); they leave in l. 7. The rest of the scene consists of Lorenzo's clever evasion of a charge of conspiracy, which the Prince has received against him in the form of a letter. Lorenzo establishes a humorous, witty tone with his cousin, affecting to think the whole matter a nonsense. He then turns round and admits the charge, but declares he was acting the role of a double agent, only seeming to join the conspirators in order to gain entry into their ranks and so to prevent their purposes. It is a lively scene, Lorenzo's prose in particular being racy and vivid, a highly theatrical mixture of colloquial, "low" style and learned allusion. The Prince's speeches, which are in verse, are more formal, but in no way incompetently written or uninteresting. In other words, the author of the MS was beyond any reasonable question a competent dramatist with a good deal of verbal and theatrical skill; there are none of the signs of the amateur or the closet-author in these pages.

It is immediately evident that this scene has much in common with Act I scene ii of James Shirley's play The Traitor, in which the Duke of Florence (Alexander de Medici) confronts his cousin Lorenzo with an accusation of treason; Lorenzo defends himself, though in a different way (he straightforwardly appeals to the record of his loyalty) and uses very different language. At the very least this would suggest that the writer of the MS and Shirley were using a common source, but if so it is a source that has not been satisfactorily established.[9] At any rate, it is clear that the author of the MS followed customary Jacobean practice in basing his plot on an historical source; he was also following fashion in using an Italianate setting and writing a plot of political and personal intrigue. These points are worth notice since they bear an obvious relationship to the question of what kind of document the MS is.

Until the discovery of this manuscript, everything that has been said about "foul papers" has been conjectural. Though there are several examples of fair copies, prompt copies, and scribal copies of Jacobean plays, hitherto there has been no known example of foul papers, whose characteristics have had to be inferred from casual contemporary comment, and from the characteristics of printed texts held to derive from them.


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The MS gives flesh to these inferences, and happily confirms them as far as its limits enable it to do. One immediately striking feature is that unlike prompt manuscripts, it does not divide one speech from the next by a horizontal stroke. The speech-prefixes are abbreviated, not consistently, but quite clearly (the Prince is either "Prince" or "Pr:", and Lorenzo is "Lorenz." or "Loren:" or "Lor:"), and placed slightly to the left of the dialogue, except in lines where revision has caused the writer to encroach upon the left-hand margin. The hand is current and fluent, but there is good cause to think that the author was careful and painstaking. Altogether there are at least 85 corrections in these four pages, more than one every second line. This is a high rate of alteration, and suggests at once a fastidious author, concerned with striking exactly the right note in dialogue, and with minor details of spelling and presentation as well.

This impression is entirely confirmed by closer examination. Consider, for instance, l. 10, which was changed from "The roome nor the grizlie monsters Companie" to "The chamber for the grizlie monsters Companie",[10] with evident improvement to the rhythm; both alterations were effected by writing over the original words "roome" and "nor" to convert them into "chamber" and "for", a practice the writer evidently was habituated to. Lines 15-16 originally read "though that danger had | death for his Page", which was clearly intended to conclude Alexander's speech. However, the author improved Alexander's line to "though that danger had | for his attendant death", following which Lorenzo's ensuing line "By heav'n my Lord" makes up the pentameter (which would not have been the case with Alexander's original line). This suggests not only that the change was made currente calamo but that Lorenzo's line was not written until the change had been made. An even more interesting feature of this alteration is that the author in cancelling "death" also unwittingly or carelessly cancelled "for", a situation editors often hypothesize to account for strange readings in printed texts. In l. 24 "But Can the" was changed to "And Can the", then cancelled, and written again, "And Can theare", an interesting instance of authorial dither. Line 43 was struck out altogether, and replaced by a line squeezed in between it and the next line of the original. This strongly suggests authorial reconsideration subsequent to the original drafting of the lines, though not necessarily at a subsequent date. Usually there is no way of knowing whether alterations were made in the course of composition or later, but here the interlined l. 44 must surely have been, to some extent, an after-thought.

In Lorenzo's satiric diatribe (ll. 49-70) the author can be seen carefully adjusting the colloquial language for maximum effect. In l. 50 the profane "slight" is changed to the milder "why"[11]; in l. 53 "such small"


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is cancelled, and replaced by the sharper word "pettie"; in l. 55 the striking phrase "Ile Conjure his Coat" is replaced by the commoner, though still forceful expression "Ile clapperclaw the villaine"; in l. 58 a reference to the "time of plague" is changed to "a Visitation"; most strikingly, in l. 61 the expression "ffavorite", used elsewhere in the scene, is deleted in favour of the word "privado", a much rarer noun.[12] A little later, at l. 74, the entire clause "Knowe you foster in your bosome a serpent" was carefully eliminated. There is an interesting false start in l. 106, which begins with a speech-prefix for Lorenzo, even though the Prince is in the middle of a sentence.

Finally, and most helpfully, there are four stage-directions in the pages. Unfortunately, they do not give any clue to which theatre or company the author was writing for, but still they yield valuable information. Though the mundane Exeunt at l. 7 is no great help, teares the subscription at ll. 47-48 is much more useful, since it indicates an action which cannot be inferred from the dialogue. Even more important is the direction at ll. 71-72, Hee reades the Prince attentively marking him, a perfect example of the kind of "literary" or "descriptive" stage-directions which Greg and others propose as characteristic of foul papers. Finally, at l. 82 we get a laconic read againe, in the imperative form allegedly characteristic of prompters. As the MS cannot be a prompt-book it is possible to deduce from this direction that the author was familiar enough with the theatre to know the form prompt directions took. A further inference from these directions is that the criteria for attempting to distinguish printed texts set up from foul-papers copy from those derived from prompt copy may have been too optimistic, since this author could obviously write directions that resemble both; presumably, so could other dramatists who were familiar with theatrical practice. These observations by no means exhaust the material available in the MS which confirms and extends our inferential knowledge of foul papers, but will serve to suggest the importance of the MS for study of this kind of dramatic manuscript, and cannot fail to cause thankfulness that, a piece of foul papers having been recovered, it should be so wonderfully informative.

One other feature requires brief mention. There are several revisions of a more mundane nature: the author seems to have been troubled by what he may have thought was his old-fashioned spelling: at l. 47 "theare" is changed to "theire" (though "theare" in the sense "there" is left to stand at ll. 24, 33, 126, and 129); at ll. 42 and 100 "heare" was altered to the more conventional "heere". The fact that the author was addicted to correcting words, changing one word to another by making a palimpsest of it (rather than always scoring out and writing afresh) again suggests


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that the MS was revised, not only in the course of composition, but also subsequent to its initial drafting. However, it is possible that the practice may rather reflect the author's habits of composition. Either way, it would pose a series of near-insoluble problems to a compositor. What can usually be determined under bright light and magnification in 1986, namely which letters were written first, and which written over them, would not have been a practicable matter in the busy and probably ill-lit conditions of a Jacobean printing-shop. One cannot generalize of course, but if a compositor were trying to set from copy such as this (rather than a fair-copy transcript), the practice of correction by palimpsest would surely be reflected in strange readings in the typeset text. It therefore is of more than a little importance that the author be identified, not just for the sake of this MS, but for the light it might shed upon his other writings, in their printed form.


Unfortunately, as has been observed, the attempt to identify the author of the MS as Webster ran instantly into controversy. It will be necessary to resume some of the arguments briefly before bringing some other evidence into play and making our own conclusion. Pryor's sale-catalogue attempted to make the case for Webster from a variety of angles. First, he argued on the basis of stylistic resemblance, citing the similarity between Lorenzo's verbal manner and the satiric mode of Flamineo in The White Devil and Bosola in The Dutchesse of Malfy.[13] He explained the connexion between the MS and Shirley's The Traitor by presuming that the former was a source for the latter, and discussed the various opinions extant concerning Shirley's other source(s). He then returned to considering the similarities between the subject-matter and characters of the MS and Webster's two principal tragedies, and also considered other dramatic sources for the MS, such as Hamlet, Marston's plays, and Jonson's Sejanus, (there is a reference to Sejanus in l. 137 of the MS, which might be to the play rather than to the historical character). From these he attempted to date the MS, lighting on the 1606-1609 period. Despite all the territory he surveyed, the only real argument he was able to advance for thinking the play Webster's was stylistic.[14] Unsatisfactory though this may be, it convinced the German critic and translator of Webster, Alfred Marnau, whose long familiarity with Webster's style from a translator's special viewpoint encouraged him to agree with Pryor that the MS is authentically Webster's. Two English scholars, Richard Proudfoot and Muriel Bradbrook, have been much more reserved in their responses.[15]

A natural objection to thinking that the play of which the MS is a


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part is Webster's is that he makes no mention of it anywhere. We know from his Preface to The Devils Law-case that he wrote a play about the Duke of Guise; in the same sentence he refers to "others" in addition to it, The White Devil and The Dutchesse of Malfy. Samuel Sheppard, in some laudatory verses written in 1624-25, speaks of Webster's "three noble Tragedies";[16] and—presuming the Guise to have been a tragedy—this leaves no room for the play of the MS. However, it is conceivable that the Guise may have been a "bitter" tragi-comedy like The Devils Lawcase, or that Sheppard may have been mistaken. And of course there is no physical evidence (a) that the MS was itself ever finished; (b) that if it was, it was itself necessarily entirely tragic in mode; (c) that the play was entirely one author's work; (d) that even if completed it was ever staged.[17] All that can be said with certainty is that the MS is not all of the play that ever existed (the numeral 2. at the top of fol. 1r implies beyond reasonable doubt a preceding sheet), and that James Shirley did indeed write a play about these characters.

This brings us to the controversy initiated by Shapiro, who declared bluntly, "It should have been obvious to anyone studying the Melbourne manuscript that it is a rejected early version of the second scene of Shirley's The Traitor", and commented that "readiness to accept, as reliable, 'conclusions' based only on stylistic 'evidence' by 'literary critics' (academic or other) has betrayed generations of undergraduates, and also some seniors."[18] Shapiro's authority is formidable, and his caveat well-taken, but what he declares to be "obvious" is not so to us. His own arguments are developed from two scholarly, rather than literary, bases: that the handwriting of the MS is recognizable as Shirley's, and that the provenance of the MS argues strongly for Shirley rather than Webster as the author.

There is a possible connexion between Shirley and the Cokes (set out at length in Shapiro's TLS letter of 4 July): Thomas Coke, Sir John's younger son, was at Gray's Inn at the time when Shirley, who was admitted to the Inn in January 1633/4, was appointed to write the masque, The Triumph of Peace, which was presented in February 1633/4. Thomas wrote in October 1633 about the forthcoming revels, and this interest, combined with the fact that Shirley was probably friendly with other members of the Inn before his admission, perhaps including Sir John Coke the younger, leads Shapiro to the conclusion that "We should not therefore be surprised to find that a sheet of manuscript from an early draft of Shirley's The Traitor was in 1640 lying discarded at Gray's Inn, and used for wrapping up a packet of documents."[19] Certainly this scenario is plausible, but it is not inevitable. Pryor himself believed the MS had been used as a source for The Traitor, and consequently


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that it must have come into Shirley's hands. Even if it were not exactly a source, there is nothing impossible in Shirley's having in his possession another dramatist's unwanted manuscript on the same subject as his intended play. And even if Shirley himself was not the means by which the MS came into Coke's hands, there are other possible scenarios to account for it. But here we wander into unprofitable speculation. It is preferable to turn instead to the palaeographical issue.


The MS is written in a mixed hand, chiefly secretary, with a fair number of italian (or italic) forms. Dating such a hand is extremely difficult; the most that can be said is that it is highly unlikely to be earlier than 1600, and (in view of the nature of the document) also unlikely to be later than 1630. But of course if the writer was old, or old-fashioned, it could be later. There is nothing inherently impossible in the writing alone to prevent its being dated around 1610.[20] The best compendium of holographs from the period is Greg's English Literary Autographs, a set of excellent facsimiles of the hands of known authors, and the natural first quarry for comparisons. It is interesting how few of the well-known dramatists failed to leave some scrap of their writing for posterity: Greene, Beaumont, Webster, Ford, and William Rowley are about the only men of note in the period for whom the record is blank. It is much to be hoped that no one will suggest that the MS might be by Greene, Beaumont, or Rowley; even on Shapiro's despised stylistic grounds alone such an attribution seems self-evidently impossible. Ford, actually, is not any likelier; but then, at this level of comparison, neither is Shirley, whose extant dramatic works do not at all resemble the dramaturgy represented by the MS.[21]

Of the thirty-seven hands illustrated in the Dramatists volume of Greg's survey, not one looks seriously like the MS. Field's has some general resemblance, but the formation of th is totally different. Shirley, Fletcher, and Middleton are found in Volume 3 of Greg, and our initial reaction was that none of these were possible candidates either. Professor Shapiro's authority, however, demands a re-consideration, and requires a short summary of his published arguments. His assertion that "anyone competent in handwriting of the period will agree" that the MS is in the same hand as that found in Greg, No. XCV(d) is, however, rather extreme (especially in view of the fact that he was relying on the much-reduced facsimile of the first page of the MS printed as a frontispiece to the sale catalogue).[22]

His subsequent letter (22 August 1986) draws attention to other documentary evidence. There is an autograph Latin attestation and signature


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of Shirley's, dated 1623, in an elegant italian hand, from the Hertford-shire County Record office; there is the Bodleian manuscript of his poems (MS. Rawlinson Poet. 88); and from Longleat documents relating to the organization and performance of the masque The Triumph of Peace: these are reproduced in a good modern edition by the musicologist Murray Lefkowitz.[23] This last, Shapiro declared, "puts beyond doubt, should any remain, that [Shirley] wrote the 'Melbourne Manuscript'", and, he maintained, demonstrates that the script found on plate VIII of Lefkowitz's edition is "unquestionably" the script of the MS. We do not agree at all with this asseveration. Part of the difficulty in making any identifications is that Shirley wrote both secretary and italian hand (and its development, the "round" hand),[24] and that much of his italian or round writing is of a formal, calligraphic nature. Like most writers in this period, he often wrote a "mixed" hand, in which secretary forms co-exist with italian, or vice-versa. The Longleat is of this nature: we were not able to see the original of this manuscript, but Lefkowitz's facsimile is quite good. It reveals a script largely italian in its letter-forms, though certain letters are secretary; the letters are cursively formed, but detached rather than linked together. It thus presents so totally different an appearance from the cursive mixed secretary of the MS—as one might say, the entire ductus is different—that we feel that any claim that their scribes were the same should be made, if at all, only with caution and reservation.

Comparison of letter-forms alone has been recognized as an inadequate guide to identification of scribes; it is preferable to examine entire lexical units such as words, or at least letter-combinations, as well as considering individual letters. Most of the material on Lefkowitz's plate VIII consists of proper names, none of which occur in the MS, but there is also an inscription, "The figure for | the first going | vp to the state". There are plenty of examples of "for" in the MS, none identical with this; there are four examples of "first", all distinctly different (the Longleat version is almost pure italian): when the MS forms the word the same way, the last two letters are always a digraph, with a characteristically low bar for the t, extended into a tail. There is a clear "state" in l. 24 of the MS, a much less clear "states" in l. 123, and a good "statesmen" in 128. The formation of the st in both ll. 24 and 128 shows that the connexion between the s and the t is formed in the MS with the direction of the pen's movement opposite to that in the Longleat, and the terminal e in the MS is looped, while in Longleat it is in a common secretary form which is found frequently in Shirley, but nowhere in the MS: an opened form, made something like two (modern) cs one above the other. This e is characteristic of the Longleat script.


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There are indeed some similarities between the letter-forms of the MS and the Longleat: the first word, "The" has a superficial resemblance to the MS's use of the word in, for instance, ll. 2 and 10, but in both of these examples (and elsewhere) the cross of the T is lower than the upstroke of the h. The capital P is strikingly similar, but is not the same: Shirley forms it in two strokes: a descending vertical with a serif to the right or the left, and a loop starting from halfway down the descending stroke and swooping elegantly over the top. The MS makes a P in a single stroke, beginning with the downstroke, making a serif from right to left and then carrying the stroke up and backwards to cross the downstroke and curve over the top of the letter. The word "Page" occurs both in Longleat and in the MS (l. 16, where it is cancelled, but perfectly legible), and these illustrate the difference in the letters admirably; they also show the difference in the letter e. Nor do the capital Ls look identical to us: those in the Longleat have a foot which may drop down (as in "W. Lawes"), or curve down then up again (as in "J. Lawes"), or else flat (as in "Laughton"). The MS has numerous capital Ls, thanks to the character Lorenzo; the characteristic form of the foot of the letter is a sinuous line, beginning with an upward movement, curving down, and then flattening or curving up again. "Ladies" in l. 69 is a good example, as is the "Lorenz." speech-prefix in l. 49, and the "Loren." prefix in l. 99. This form of the letter is not found in Longleat, much less the form in l. 75, where the foot is begun with a little loop to the left of the descending stroke. The Ls in the calligraphic Rawlinson MS are quite different; the two Ls on the last two, more current, pages, resemble that in "J. Lawes" in Longleat, but not those in the MS.

More important than any other Shirley document, however, is the play The Court Secret, the manuscript of which is held in the library of Worcester College, Oxford.[25] Since R. G. Howarth's work on the play, this has been regarded as a scribal manuscript, to which additions and corrections had been made in a late mixed secretary hand, which Howarth reasonably concluded was Shirley's:[26] it was from the final, secretary-hand page of this manuscript that Greg drew his facsimile, plate XCV(d). We examined the entire manuscript directly, with a full-size photograph of the Melbourne MS to hand, and in our opinion the handwriting of the secretary additions to The Court Secret is not the same as that of the Melbourne.

Most of the corrections in The Court Secret consist merely of deletions, but there are some score of secretary-hand interpolations.[27] These differ from each other to some extent partly because of their being crowded into margins and between lines. But they share a family resemblance;


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some of Shirley's very characteristic letter-forms are present, such as the e noted above. The other e commonly used is a Greek e, and there is an r not dissimilar in shape to it. As has been noted, Shirley's capital P is at first glance very like that of the MS, but is usually made with a flat foot; the MS's P loops back through the descending stroke. The th form varies, but none of Shirley's resemble those of the MS. Shirley's secretary handwriting in the play is very nearly vertical, while that of the MS is much more slanted, though to some extent that is circumstantial, deriving from the cramped conditions in which Shirley was correcting The Court Secret. Instead of the double long s used in the MS, Shirley uses a long s-short s combination (of course the corrections to The Court Secret are later in date than the MS is presumed to be). In the nature of things, there are similarities between the The Court Secret hand and that of the MS. On fol. 10r of the play, the word "ruine" has a flourish above the e not unlike some of those in the MS; there are other examples. In the additions on the blank final recto (the page Greg reproduced), in the fourth line the double f resembles the MS's way of forming these letters.

The words which exist both in the secretary-hand corrections to The Court Secret and in the MS provide the best sources for comparison, and by great good fortune there happens to be a character called Alphonso in both. The name is written in the annotations in The Court Secret on fol. 17r and three times on fol. 18v; each written form is marginally different, but all are basically similar. The MS uses the name twice, and an abbreviated form of it as a speech-prefix once, all in the first six lines. The capital As of the MS are narrower in their spread than Shirley's; the p is not closed, the h not as looped, and (most obviously) the MS uses a long s where Shirley uses an italian one. Capital A crops up twice again in The Court Secret: on the blank final recto both times it has little serifs; the MS has a number of capital As, none quite like this. The word "happinesse" occurs in both texts: l. 22 of the MS, and ll. 6 and 9 of the final page of The Court Secret. The writing could scarcely be more dissimilar, with Shirley's neatly looped hs, slightly differently formed, but perfectly consistent double ps, the characteristic "double c" es, and the long s-short s combination; the MS has an unlooped h, two wild flails for the ps, one normal secretary e and one italian, and a grandly soaring double s digraph, a form of s common in the MS and nowhere to be found in The Court Secret. Theatrical words like "Enter" and "Exit" also occur: the two "Exit"s on fol. 2r are worth comparing: the t of the first, looped up to the right to form the cross-stroke, is unlike any in the MS, but that of the second is a little more like some of the MS's ts, except that Shirley makes the bar near the middle of the letter, and the MS almost at its foot.


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Shapiro argues that Shirley, having been the employee of a professional scrivener, Thomas Frith, was trained to write different kinds of scripts fluently. This may very well have been the case, and it is not hard to believe that the elegant letter-forms and controlled tempo of the various examples of script that no-one disputes to be Shirley's, such as the Rawlinson and Longleat manuscripts, look like the work of a man with professional rather than merely school training. This being the case, it is not surprising to find that when Shirley is writing more casually, as in the corrections to The Court Secret, his writing remains relatively tidy and well-paced. It is a long way from such good writing to the characterful but erratic and careless script of the MS, which in our view is unlikely to be the work of a trained scrivener, even at his most insouciant.

Shapiro believes that the writing of a document intended for the scribe's eyes only will be ipso facto of a different order of neatness and legibility from any document intended for others to read. This may be true, or it may not: there are historical examples both ways, which of themselves have little bearing on this case. But there is a grave difficulty inherent in the argument, namely, that because the MS is "foul" its letter-forms will necessarily differ to a greater or lesser degree from those in the scribe's formal or public writings. If carried to a reductio ad absurdum, it would appear that Shapiro is asking us to accept the MS as Shirley's because its letter-forms are different from Shirley's. To state it thus is unfair; he, no doubt, would formulate it that the MS letter-forms are recognizable as variants of Shirley's "public" forms, the variation occasioned by the nature of the MS. We feel that in a case like this, the argument is not strong enough to carry conviction. What is needed are several letter-forms or combinations which are absolutely unique to Shirley, and which occur in exactly the same form in the MS. In our opinion, Shapiro has not been able to satisfy this stringent criterion, and consequently, in our judgement, the identity of the scribe of the MS remains open on palaeographical grounds.

Vocabulary and Spelling

A test on the vocabulary of the MS yielded interesting results. There are altogether 553 different words legible in the MS (illegible words and words we were obliged to guess at are omitted from the count), of which 29 are proper nouns and 15 are abbreviations of words which would normally be spelled out in full in a printed text. Eliminating the proper names, and such abbreviations as elsewhere are spelled in full, we are left with a vocabulary of 515 words. A reasonable test of Webster's possible authorship is to compare this vocabulary with Webster's usage, as


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derived from the concordance.[28] There are cautions to be observed here, since the concordance is based on an edited version of the texts (Lucas's), and while it concords some of the works in which Webster collaborated with other writers, it excludes the uncertain texts (Anything for a Quiet Life, A Cure for a Cuckold, and others even less likely). Nonetheless, it can yield some raw data.

Of the 515-word vocabulary of the MS, 388 words are found in the Webster concordance, an agreement rate of only 75%. At first sight a 25% disagreement rate would seem to rule out Webster's authorship. But the figures need to be refined. In addition to the 388 words which occur, another 59 occur but in different spellings. This leaves 65 words in the fragment which do not occur in the Webster concordance at all, a verbal novelty rate of 12.6%. This seems very large too, but a glance at the concordance will show that Webster enjoyed using words only once or twice. It seemed sensible to concord separately a passage of similar size to the MS from another work, and compare its rate of unique words.

This posed some stringent parameters. First, the passage ought to be unquestionably by Webster; second, it ought if possible to derive from foul papers; third, again if possible, it should have been set by a naive compositor,[29] fourth, it should involve subject-matter as close in style to that of the MS as possible. These conditions entailed choosing The White Devil for the experiment, the only unquestionable Webster text for which there is evidence of foul-papers copy,[30] and they entailed choosing a passage from the first few gatherings of the book, which were set by the naive Compositor N;[31] finally we settled on Act I scene ii as being closest in material and manner to the MS.

The passage chosen had a rather larger vocabulary than the MS: 595 words, of which only 7 were proper nouns, and none were abbreviations. After eliminating words which were spelled in more than one way, a vocabulary of 579 words was left. 29 of these words (5%) were spelled in ways not elsewhere found in the concordance, and no fewer than 52 words (9%) were unique. 9% of 579 is still not so large a percentage as the 12.6% of 515 of the MS, but it does not inhabit a different statistical world; on the contrary, it argues that there is no reason in the vocabulary to suggest that the MS could not have been written by Webster. Besides, there are other factors. If the number of unique words is expanded to include words that occur only elsewhere in The White Devil, the number rises from 52 to 63, or 10.9% (it is evident that Webster had a tendency to use a special vocabulary for each work).

A list of the 65 unique words in the MS follows (diplomatically transcribed), with some comments.


Page 14
  • alteration anticipation approaching attendant
  • attentively avowed bookish clapperclawe
  • condescending Conspiracie Converts damosell
  • discharging doubtefull easier enacted
  • expecting exhibited Exiles faultie
  • fauorite (and ffauorite) ffauorites fealing firde
  • foster grizlie hearted ieopardie
  • infallible inspecting innovate laconice
  • languishing marking mistresses myselfe
  • mysterie oblation owest pales
  • potle[*] pots priuado progenie
  • proscription quaffers resounding slight
  • soere (and soe're) spartan sphinx subscription
  • Tauerners thundring unlawfully unvolve
  • veritie vigilant virtue wedded
  • whosoeuer withdrawing

A first reaction to this list is that with very few exceptions ("clapperclawe", the latin laconice, "privado" [we now resume the conventional u/v, i/j spellings, and eliminate upper-case, for ease of comparison], and perhaps "unvolve"), the vocabulary is not unusual. Yet the impression is nothing more than that, and, it may be argued, is misleading. For instance, it is remarkable that in this short fragment there are no fewer than thirteen words which do not appear anywhere in Shakespeare: "attentively", "avowed", "condescending", "damosel" (though "damsel" and "damosella" do), "exhibited," "exiles" (though "exile" does), "innovate", "inspecting", "laconice", "privado", "quaffers", "resounding", "taverners", "unvolved"; other words are found in Shakespeare only once or twice. Nonetheless, the feeling persists that the vocabulary is not esoteric: indeed, it is rather surprising that Webster was able to do without some of these words: who would have guessed that "conspiracy", "doubtful", "favourite", "feeling", "mistresses", "myself", "mystery", "slight", and "virtue" did not form part of his vocabulary? Similarly, there are a few words in the MS which seem very characteristic of Webster, such as "intelligencers". But this leads us into stylistic comparisons, which are dealt with elsewhere.

A second impression, more persistent, is surprise at the number of verbal nouns in the list: no fewer than eleven. This is the sort of vocabulary feature which is virtually impossible to get statistical evidence upon without either a computer programme (which we do not have) or without very laborious manual searching and counting, which would hardly be worth the effort. So it must remain as an impression that the MS uses more verbal nouns than Webster habitually did.[32] A third impression, confirmed by inspection, is that a number of items on the list are unique only in a limited sense: other parts of the word occur elsewhere in Webster.


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Some details of these would be in order. It is true that, for instance, not only do "condescending", "fealing", "inspecting" and "languishing" not occur elsewhere in Webster, but neither do "condescend" or "condescension", "feeling" (there are some uses of "feelingly", but chiefly in Northward Ho!), or any forms of "inspect", or "languish". However, "discharge" and "discharged" occur, as do "enact", "exhibition", "exile", "expect", "innovation" (once, in Appius and Virginia), "mark(e)", "mistresse" (and the usual spelling, "mistris"), "my selfe", "owe", "proscribe" (also once, in Appius), "resound", "spie", "subscribed", "thunder", "unlawfull", "wed" and "wedding", and "withdraw". This makes the list of unique words sensibly less, and confirms the essential normality of the MS's vocabulary.

Let us turn now to spellings. Trevor Howard-Hill's aphorism, "all spellings are compositorial", must be kept very firmly in mind when comparing the spellings of a manuscript with those of printed texts: the raw statistics in such circumstances prove nothing whatever. Nonetheless, for the record, there are 59 words in the MS whose spellings differ from any of those recorded in the Webster concordance: 11.5% of the total. In the same passage from The White Devil, the parallel figures are 29 and 5%. These are larger figures than one would have expected in a printed text, but the high proportion of unique spellings may be attributed in part to the naive compositor, and in part to the large proportion of prose in the scene, which may well have tempted the compositor into some unusual justification-spellings.

Rather than list the unique spellings of the MS, it makes more sense to comment on the more significant examples. It will be easier to assimilate these if we arrange them (as it were) as the case for the prosecution against Webster's authorship, and the case for the defence. First, then, the prosecution: the MS's preference for "bee" over "be" (11 to 1) reverses the preferences of the printed texts (11.5 pages in the concordance of "be" compared with 2 pages of "bee"); likewise the MS's invariable "hee" (6 uses) disagrees with the statistics of the concordance (over 12 pages of "he" to 4 of "hee"). "Chaunge" in the MS is not found in Webster, where the word is always "change". "Companie" is always "company"; there is one "els" (as in the MS) to 37 uses of "else". In the MS "growe" occurs twice; in Webster it is always "grow"; similarly the MS uses "hande", Webster "hand". "Lett" is not found in Webster; nor is "myselfe" as a single word (invariably "my selfe"). The MS spells "noe" consistently; in the concordance there are six and a half pages of "no" to six individual uses of "noe"; even more telling is the fact that the concordance prints over eight pages of "so", and no instance of "soe", which the MS uses invariably (four times). "Putt", which the MS uses five times, occurs no-where


Page 16
in the printed canon, where the spelling is always "put"; another word with a doubled terminal consonant in the MS is "sett", which is invariably "set" in Webster.[33] The MS prefers "theare" (four times), a form unused in Webster. "Privat" is always "private" in Webster, and "wrongue" is always "wrong". This is only a selection of the spellings found in the MS which go against the common practice in Webster's printed texts.

Cross-examining, the defence properly points out that scribal spellings were, in the early seventeenth century, usually more archaic than compositor's spellings: the doubled consonants of "sett" and "putt", and the silent e at the end of "soe" and "noe" would be the first things a compositor would get rid of. It is interesting that most of the "bee" spellings in the concordance are from Compositor B in The White Devil, an early text in the Webster canon; the remainder derive from the Ho! plays (also early) and from Characters, a book set by compositors who did no other work on Webster. This suggests it is unwise to overlook the importance of house-styling: note for instance that while the MS spells "weele", a form that occurs quite frequently in The Devils Law-case and in Northward Ho!, in Appius and Virginia the usual form is "we'l"; in The White Devil it is "we'le", and in The Dutchesse of Malfy it is "we'll": evidence that many spellings are not so much compositorial as managerial. The defence rounds off its cross-examination by observing that the presence or absence of terminal silent e is too slight a reed to base any serious conclusions upon.

Turning now to its own case, the defence presents the following evidence. The MS follows Webster's preference for "hath" rather than "has", which does not appear in it. The combined word "infaith" which the MS uses is sufficiently unusual to remark upon its appearance in The White Devil and the Ho! plays. The MS's spelling "lesse" agrees with Webster's preferences, since "less" does not appear in the concordance; likewise the MS's "read", which appears four times to once for "reade", agrees with Webster's preferences. Anticipating the prosecution's complaint that such random agreements are inevitable, the defence cites the spelling "graund", as an honorific, which unusual form appears three times in the concordance, and "tyme", which to be sure occurs only once in Webster, but that once is in the verses to the portrait of King James and his progeny: verses which were engraved not typeset, and which for that reason may well preserve copy-spellings more exactly. Another similar case is the spelling "eare" (=ere), a form also found in the Portrait verses, and in The White Devil and Westward Ho!, both early texts.

The most that a fair judge can say in summing up this evidence is that it is equivocal. There are a fair number of spellings in the MS which cannot


Page 17
be matched in the printed Webster canon, but that fact alone is not at all surprising. The MS itself reveals a number of internal multiple spellings: "all" and "alle" ("alle" is not to be found in the concordance), "be" and "bee", "danger" and "daunger", "do" and "doe", "happie" and "happy", "heare" and "heere", "know" and "knowe", "maie" and "may", "read" and "reade", "recconings" and "reckoning", "run" and "runne", "safetie" and "safety", "theire" and "their", "waie" and "way". A seventeenth-century writer was under no compulsion to be consistent in his spellings, of course; neither was he likely, in a foul papers document like this, to vary spellings in order to fill out the lines. His mental attitude towards spellings thus was the reverse of a compositor's on these two crucial points. On the other hand there are no spelling usages in the MS which match any spectacularly unusual Websterian spelling that could help to clinch the case: disappointing, but not surprising, in view of the small size of the sample.

Nothing in the spellings found in the MS and not found in the concordance is so unusual as to be beyond the range of master-printer's or compositor's regularization, though some cases are certainly debatable. For instance, note the MS's spellings "all one" as two words (a form that occurs nowhere in Webster), for "alone" though it is possible that the spelling may reflect a pun, especially in view of the normal "alone" in the third line. Then there is "carreir" ("cariere" and "carreere" once each in The White Devil, and elsewhere not used), "choler" ("choller" once each in The Dutchesse of Malfy and The Devils Law-case), "curde" (once "cur'd", once "cur'de", thrice "cured"), "hart" (it occurs in Webster, chiefly in the Ho! plays, but the usual spelling is "heart"—note, however, the MS's "hearted"), "hight" ("height" or "heighth"), "hue" ("hew" twice), "howse" ("house"), "shune" (one "shunne", six "shun"), and others less telling. Probably little is to be gained by combing this evidence any more carefully. One must remember that the spellings in printed texts are not only compositorial, but may also reflect scribal practice (where printer's copy was a scribal transcript, as in the case of The Dutchesse of Malfy; the nature of printer's copy for some of Webster's plays is still an open question): two systems of spelling may well intervene between the author and the printed form, and the likelihood of drawing any correct inferences from such spellings as can be cited is thereby sensibly diminished.

The verdict, then, is that while the spelling-structures of the MS differ quite substantially from those found in Webster's published works, collectively the differences do not add up to a decisive case for the rejection of Webster as the author of the MS. Nor, it must be conceded plainly, do they provide any overwhelming ammunition to confirm it.[34]


Page 18

Another subject worthy of brief mention is the punctuation of the MS. In its 144 lines it uses 37 commas, 15 semicolons, 17 colons, 25 periods, 7 question-marks and one pair of inverted commas.[35] This is 101 punctuation marks for 144 lines, or an average of 0.71 punctuation marks per line. It is light punctuation, and as a reading of the transcript will show, not invariably helpful or intelligible punctuation, though often the pointing is vivid and characterful. The punctuation of that part of The White Devil set by Compositor N averaged 1.27 punctuation marks per line (by comparison with the much heavier punctuation, 1.5 marks per line, in those parts of the play set by Compositors A and B).[36] The most that can be said is that the punctuation is not unlike that of the early gatherings of The White Devil, but then as much might be said of any lightly punctuated dramatic manuscript. To put it another way, there is nothing in the punctuation of the MS which is in any way outré, or which cannot be matched in Webster.[37]

Linguistic Tests

As noted above, Professor Cyrus Hoy has done more to bring order to the attribution of authorship in the Jacobean era than any other scholar. It is owing to his researches that the respective shares of playwrights in the so-called Beaumont and Fletcher canon can now be discussed with some degree of confidence. Unfortunately, the data on Webster, which Hoy derived from the three major plays, contain some alarming inconsistencies. The survey he made to determine if Webster had a share in The Honest Man's Fortune seemed to establish that Webster had a strong preference for "hath" and "doth" rather than "has" and "does", and that he virtually never used the abbreviation "'em", preferring instead the full form "them", but that he did regularly employ such contracted forms as "i'th'" and "o'th'" (or "a'th") and "'s" for "his", but not the contraction "y'", or "ye" for the second person plural. Strangely, in The Devils Law-case, Webster uses "has" almost exclusively, and uses a few of both "y'" and "ye", a startling degree of inconsistency.[38]

It seemed worthwhile to extend Hoy's sample into the other concorded texts.[39] This search revealed that "a'th" and its cognate forms, "a'the", "a'th'", and "ath'" occur 21 times, almost exclusively in The Devils Law-case and The White Devil (there is one usage in Monuments of Honor, and one in the Characters). "Does" occurs 20 times, all but six in The Devils Law-case; "doth" 107 times; "'em" only four times, against "them" 382 times; "has" 98 times, all but 15 of which are in Devil's Law-case, against 256 uses of "hath". The contractions "i'th", "i'th'" occur 129 times, "i'th" chiefly in Devils Law-case, "i'th'" in the other works, but at a much lower frequency rate (36 for Devils Law-case compared to


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21 of both forms together in White Devil). "O'th", "o'th'" and "o'the" occur altogether 43 times, only one of which is from Appius and Virginia, and none at all from the Characters. Finally, the "y'" contraction occurs 13 times, as "y'are" 12 times and "y'ave" once; save one "y'are" in Monuments of Honor, all these uses are in Devils Law-case and Appius and Virginia. "Ye" is found eight times, but "you" occurs over 2600 times.

The MS agrees with these preferences in using "hath", "them" and "you" to the exclusion of "has", "'em" and "ye/y'"; neither "doth" nor "does" occurs; but most damagingly, none of the Websterian contracted forms is to be found. A closer look, however, reveals surprisingly few places where the contracted constructions could have been used: l. 58 ("in ye"), and ll. 76, 118 and 143 ("of ye"). Besides, of these four only one (l. 118) is in verse, where such contractions are, on the whole, more likely to be used. Still, the plain fact is that they are not used, and prima facie this is a major strike against Webster's authorship of the MS. However, it seemed an obvious step to examine the four pages of The White Devil selected above for vocabulary tests from this linguistic point of view also. Like the MS, it agrees with the general statistics by using "doth", "hath", "them", and "you"; it uses only one of the contracted forms ("ath'/a'the", thrice, in prose passages), and there are at least two places in the scene where a contraction might have been used but was not ("in the"). The relative infrequency of the use of contracted forms in the Webster canon, combined with the fact that he did use uncontracted forms on occasion, means that their absence from the MS cannot be regarded as absolutely ruling out Webster's authorship, in view of the agreement in the case of the more common linguistic preferences. But, once again, it strikes an equivocal note, weakening, not strengthening, the case.[40] Of course there are other verbal and linguistic tests that might be used to explore these questions further, especially the sort of collocational tests of linguistic patterns which computers are now beginning to perform on literary texts. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, we lack the appropriate programmes and facilities to carry out such tests; this must be a matter for subsequent investigation.

Subject-matter and Style

Despite Shapiro's brusque dismissal of stylistic comparisons, we feel that this subject must be at least considered. The heady old days of "parallel passages" are, no doubt, safely in the past. Yet it would be idle to deny that authors do have a characteristic style and tone, however difficult these may be to define: they write like themselves. Pryor's catalogue was undoubtedly over-enthusiastic in its stylistic comparisons, but we feel that there is an important kernel of truth in his observations which


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needs reiteration. The MS in many ways is strikingly reminiscent of some of Webster's most characteristic moments, in tone, in subject-matter, in imagery, and in language. By the same token, it does not strike us at all like Shirley, in any of his moods. Professor Richard Morton, also of McMaster University, whose reputation as a Shirley specialist is second to none, was kind enough to comment on this question for us.
The characteristic features of the scene are its richly allusive (one might say uncontrollably allusive) and figurative style and its eagerness to find sudden tonal shifts within the episode. Both are most uncharacteristic of Shirley, whose style tends to the placid and who, when he wants to intrude a bit of comic variation, does the decent thing and introduces a comic servant. . . . A further characteristic of the MS is its "rugged" versification [which] is far from Shirley's smoothness (Shirley being a very Waller among playwrights). I would say that given the text as it is, Shirley is one of the last playwrights one would think of as author. There remains the question of its relationship to Act I scene ii of The Traitor. Clearly it is the same lazzo—that is, the episode has the same narrative and character elements. . . . I do not see in the scene any clues that suggest that Shirley was writing with the MS in front of him, or that he was "play-doctoring" it. The two scenes seem to me quite different in intent and effect. Shirley's scene uses the letter as the basis for a formal, almost academic display of rhetorical technique by the putative traitor. The MS uses the occasion for a complex interchange between two equally interesting characters. Shirley keeps on stage a commenting crew of other courtiers (to help the audience figure out what is going on—a characteristic device) whereas the MS isolates the two central figures and thus builds up a strong emotional force out of moving topics such as trust, betrayal, loyalty and love, a force painfully delayed by Lorenzo's embittered comic turn. Shirley, at the beginning of his play, does not want an emotional peak; instead he provides a set-piece of rhetorical and political manipulation. The two scenes seem to me very different; I could not agree that the one is a draft—or, in a more serious way, a source—for the other.[41]

By now it seems evident to us that Shapiro's claim for Shirley's authorship of the MS cannot be accepted. Nor, indeed, are any of the other well-known Jacobean dramatists, with the possible exceptions of Marston and Middleton, plausible nominees for authorship on stylistic grounds; and neither of these seems as likely a candidate as Webster. (Both are ruled out by their handwriting in any event). Marston can at least be seen as an influence on the author of the MS (Pryor remarks on it in support of his urging of Webster's authorship), and of course everybody knows that Webster wrote the Induction for The Malcontent when the King's Men performed it in 1604. That much of Marston's style rubbed off on Webster is also a truism; one of the most characteristic products of this influence being the malcontent figure himself: witty, learned, discontented, defensive, changeable in mood and manner.

Flamineo in The White Devil and Bosola in The Dutchesse of Malfy


Page 21
are the two great malcontents of Webster's plays. It is clear that Lorenzo in the MS shares all these qualities with them, and that his verbal style is, as Pryor rightly remarked, similar to both these famous figures. Therein, of course, lies the rub: they were famous (Bosola, at least, was a figure in a successful play, and any budding author would have had access to the text of The White Devil, even if he had not seen it), and therefore meet subjects for imitation. But if the MS were written by an author in imitation of Webster's malcontent-style, the imitation is certainly extremely well done.[42] The Prince in the MS is certainly a much less vivid figure, obliged to play the straight man to the protean Lorenzo. Yet as a glance at I.ii of The White Devil (our sample comparison scene) will show, even the mercurial Brachiano was obliged to be rather stick-like when Flamineo was at his most inventive. Like Brachiano at a later point, the Prince boasts of his valor in ll. 8-16;[43] but as his role is essentially passive, it is difficult to find any particular precedent for him.

Other plays and playwrights are suggested by the scene to a greater or lesser degree. The scene in Beaumont's The Maid's Tragedy, in which Melantius denies his treason, as well as the plot of that play as a whole (the relation of brothers and sisters to the tyrannical king, for instance) has some resemblance to the MS, and The Revenger's Tragedy and Marston's Fawn have some obvious parallels. Most strikingly, there is an allusion in ll. 137-138 of the MS to Sejanus: this reference could, of course, perfectly well be to the historical figure. Nonetheless, the fact that Jonson's play was printed in 1605 makes it a likelier source for any allusion in another play, especially in view of the line from Sejanus, "By IOVE, I am not OEDIPVS inough, | To vnderstand this SPHYNX" (III, 64-65), which (though an entirely commonplace image) may have suggested the MS's "Not alle the witt I am Commander of | Can make me a wise Oedipus and unvolve | The mysterie of your Sphinx".[44] It is striking that all the works which seem to have influenced the MS date from earlier than 1610. This need mean nothing in particular, but such as it is, it suggests an earlier rather than a later date for the MS.

We would like to conclude this necessarily inconclusive section by noting a few of the ways the MS seems to us characteristic of Webster, not claiming that any of these "prove" anything about the attribution; merely that they struck us and that they are worthy of mention. The most obvious of these is, of course the unusual image of the Jacob's staff, which Flamineo alluded to in our sample scene from The White Devil, and which Webster used again in Monuments of Honor ("navigation with a Jacobs staffe and compasse", l. 325).[45] Lorenzo uses the image here in the context of a speech which the most sceptical must agree is in tone and manner very like Flamineo's.


Page 22

Weare it ath' old fashion, let your large eares come through, it will be more easy, nay I will be bitter, barre your wife of her entertaynment: women are more willinglie & gloriouslie chast, when they are least restrayned of their libertie. It seemes you would be a fine Capricious Mathematically jealous Coxcombe, take the height of your owne hornes with a Jacobs staffe afore they are up. (The White Devil, I.ii. 89-95)

What are you leane Epictetus; or have you read Boetius de Consolatione or els Catos sentences; well: it is a Commendable thing in a Prince, I hope you will in tyme write bookes, that the whole world may laugh at you? Yf you growe bookish we must all turn schollers, and every one buie his horne booke; marry those who are wedded may obtaine such volumes by deed of guift without troubling the stationer; When dionisius studied Geometrie, there was not a Courtier but walkd with his Jacobs staffe. (ll. 26-34)

Webster was very fond of personifying death, generally in a stoical context. Vittoria proudly claims "I shall wellcome death | As Princes doe some great Embassadors; | Ile meete thy weapon halfe way" (White Devil,; in the same scene Zanche has a similar response, and the stoical greeting of death by the Duchess of Malfy is very well-known. In the MS, the Prince proudly proclaims, "Why yf death weare here | And sett wide ope his jawes I would not shune | The chamber for the grizlie monsters Companie" (ll. 8-10). An image-association of death, soldiers and danger is also found often enough in Webster; it occurs in the MS in ll. 11-16. Treason and its unnatural character is a regular, if hardly exclusive, Websterian key, which in his imagery is often associated with physical disease or with poisonous creatures: "Keepe off idle questions; Treason's tongue hath a villainous palsy" (White Devil, III.ii.317); "You may be brothers, for treason, like the Plague, | Doth take much in a blood" (Dutchesse of Malfy, IV.ii.348-349); "Treason, like spiders weaving nets for flies | By her foule worke is found, and in it dies" (White Devil, IV.i.28-29). These may be compared with the MS: "Can horrid Treason, which for intrailes hath | The bowels of a serpent, and Converts | Into burnt choler what eare he eates" . . . (ll. 35-37). Role-playing is another Webster commonplace (again of course not exclusive to him). The MS's "sett such a face of harmlesse mirth on it" (l. 39) may be compared with "What appears in him mirth, is merely outside" (Dutchesse of Malfy, I.i.170) and "To put on this feigned garbe of mirth" (White Devil, III.i.30).

The stage-directions of the MS reflect two Websterian modes: the business with the letter, for instance, reminds us that Webster regularly used this stage-device; more significantly, the tone of the direction "Hee reades the Prince attentively marking him" reminds us of the descriptive character of a direction such as "Francisco speakes this as in scorne" (White Devil, III.ii.50), not to mention a number of instances in the


Page 23
dumb-shows in both tragedies (e.g. "Enter suspiciously, Julio and Christophero", "Sorrow exprest in Giovanni and in Count Lodovico" (both White Devil), or "in Friers habits, as having bin at the Bathanites" (Devils Law-case, V.ii.12). Other practices worthy of brief note are such things as Webster's fondness for the use of "why" at the beginning of a phrase (there is a long list in the concordance); two such usages turn up in the MS: "why I hope ffavorites may runne in debt" (ll. 50-51), and "why yf these things should goe by compulsion" (l. 65). Other such usages are "I could wish", which occurs in the MS at l. 76, or the formation of a verb from "to grow" plus an adjective; here "growe wearie" (l. 111); or there is the rhetorical figure of parison: "there are not jewes enough, priests enough, nor gentlemen enough" (White Devil, III.iii.40); compare the MS's "it shalbe comfort enough, and honor enough" (ll. 66-67). At another level are what might be called "Websterian words", such as "intelligencers", already mentioned, "abhominable" (l. 80, also in White Devil, Devils Law-case, Characters), or Webster's favourite round number, a thousand (ll. 110, 127; there are 47 uses in the concordance), or the ubiquitous word "devil" (variously spelled) which turns up in the MS as "devill" in l. 113—as good a point as any to stop. Doubtless, many of these usages could be paralleled in other Jacobean dramatists. This is not the point, at this stage of the discussion. Rather, the point is that the MS shares with Webster's work elements of style, tone, manner, verbal usage and vocabulary. And by the same token there is very little in the MS which either of us feel is entirely uncharacteristic of Webster. Such an impressionistic judgement is not, of course, offered as any kind of evidence concerning the authorship of the MS.


We feel that it is possible to draw some tentative conclusions from these studies. To summarize, we have here a MS written in the first quarter of the seventeenth century, by an author who was almost certainly a professional dramatist, whose handwriting (pace Shapiro) cannot be identified with any of the dramatists whose hands are known, who could write very much in Webster's vein, and who used a great number of expressions and images that Webster employed, who was a well-read man, and a careful, even finicky author. If this author was not John Webster, we would like to know who else meets all these conditions. We mean the question seriously, for if any of Webster's contemporaries were able to do all this, it would be valuable to know it. None of the known dramatists seems at all likely as a candidate, but of course we cannot, on that basis alone, rule anyone out. The number of professional dramatists of whose work nothing survives declines sharply in the Jacobean


Page 24
period, and we do not find it plausible to attribute this MS to an unknown. Our conclusion, bearing all the evidence in mind, is that the attribution to Webster is not impossible, and indeed that the evidence for his authorship is a good deal stronger than that for some of the works which have been attributed in part to him in the past. The Cambridge Webster will, for want of convincing contrary evidence, include some of these doubtful collaborative texts; it will also include, as a "possible" work, the Melbourne Manuscript fragment.


The Melbourne Manuscript: a diplomatic transcript

The following conventions for transcribing manuscripts are followed here: [] indicates deletions, <> indicates lacunae, and \/ insertions, usually by interlineation, but sometimes by over-writing. Where convenient, the < symbol is used to indicate of single letters that one has been made from another (for instance, at l. 47 thei<are means theare was written first, then the a changed into an i to produce theire). It has not been possible to be certain of all such alterations; some doubtful cases are passed over silently. The lineation reproduces that of the MS.

[fol. 1r]

And [I should] wrongue ye. judgement of ye. highest policy
The world adores. Goe my Alphonso goe
Leave vs alone; I [my]\&/[1] my deare cosen,
In priuat must discourse: Alphonso goe
And all withdraw.
Alp: As your highnesse wills soe
Must bee or. motion: Exeunt.
Prince. Why yf death weare heare
And sett wide ope his jawes I would not shune
The [roome]\chamber/[nor]\for/[2] ye. grizlie[3] monsters Companie.
Not anie beaten soldire with lesse feare
Dares see the Canon firde. then with fixd eies
Marke his Carreir in the resounding[4] aire
And heare his thundring whistle then I dare[5]
Encounter Danger, though that danger had
[death for][6] his [Page] attendant death.
Lor: By heau'n my Lord


Page 25
Not alle ye. witt J am Commander of
Can make mee [the] \a wise/ Oedipus and vnvolue
The[7] mysterie of yr. Sphinx: I Came
To bee ye. happie messenger of yr.
approachinge happinesse.
Prince: Good good infaith
[But\And/ Can the][8] And Can theare bee an happy state
Before man meetes with his last fate.
Lor: [Nay] \What/[9] are you leane[10] Epictetus; or haue you read Boetius
de Consolatione or [haue you read] \els/ Catos sentences; well: it
is a Commendable thing in a Prince, I hope you
will in tyme write bookes, that the whole world may
laugh at you? Yf you growe bookish wee must all
turne schollers, and euery one buie his horne booke; marry
those who are wedded, may [gett] obtaine such volumes by
deed of guift: \without troubling the stationer/ When dionisius s<ttudied Geometrie, theare
was not a Courtier but walkd with his Jacobs staffe.
Prince. Can horrid Treason, which for intrailes hath
The bowels of a serpent, and Conuerts
Jnto burnt choler what \soere/[11] eare hee <ea>tes
Oppressed Euer with inspecting[12] thoughts
sett such a face of harmelesse mirth on it?
Surely Castruchio banisht from his home
[will] not[13] by these false feares would make mee leane agt[14]
In his proscription: hee<are Lorenzo read
"[The[15] Causes of Alexanders feares]
\Then[16] haue a hart to doe the mentiond deed/
But giue it mee againe; it is not fitt
That who are vigilant for or. safetie
sho<auld<p putt in ieopardie thei<are owne tears the subscrip tion
Now take and read;


Page 26
Lorenz. What's this? some bill exhibited by my Tailor. against
mee for not discharging his bill; [slight] \why/ [yf] J hope
ffauorites may runne[17] in debt, and not bee forced[18] to [bee]
pay them, but bee borne out in greater matters
then [such small] pettie trifles: or ys[19] it [some] \a/ Complaint
of some of my Tauerners for his recconings, slid<ee yf
it bee Ile [Coniure his Coat] \clapperc<llaw/ the villaine, Ile braine him
with his own potle pots; besides withdrawing of my roaring
quaffers from him, his howse shall stand more emptie then
euer it did in ye. time of [plague] \a visitation/: my anger shall bee more
terrible then ye. red crosse: Or it maie[20] tis some \opprest/[21] damosell
petition, who[se] hath thought it ye. high of honor. to bee \all one/ with your
[ffauorite] priuado, [and I] condescending to her ambition
[haue made her greate] and now [falling] fealing[22] sicke of yr
mother wo<uld> haue mee compeld by the title of a father
to legitimate ye. vnlawfully begotten progenie; why
yf thi\e/se[23] \things/ should goe by compulsion J should haue as many
wiues as Salomon: noe \noe/ weele have it enacted[24] that it
shalbee comfort enough, and honor. enough[25] for anie ladie
to bee ye. Mistresse of ye. Princes fauorite, and that Matrimonie is a felicitie beyond ye. expect[ation]\ing/ [26] of fraile Ladies in
this vayle of miserie: but in ye. name of goodnesse lett mee
[fol. 2r]
read.[27] my Honored. Lord. [yr.]\I/[28] wish Hee reades ye. Prince attentiuely marking him.
you, what your nearest freinds would take from you
safety. [Knowe you foster in yr. bosome a serpent:]
Lorenzo Medices ha[ue]\th/[29] oft tymes avowed yr. death

Fol. 1r

Page Fol. 1r

Fol. 1v

Page Fol. 1v

Fol. 2r

Page Fol. 2r

Fol. 2v

Page Fol. 2v


Page 27
and alteration [is] of[30] ye. gouernment. I Could wish this
latter; but not b<oy ye. oblation of Cassius
sacrifice. [w] whosoeuer writt this was
a spartan on my life, hee writes soe laconicē
breifly and to ye. purpose. with an abhominable
deale of l<nove to ye. generation[31] of Hercules:
Ile gett it without booke. read againe
Prince. Treason is like the Cockatrice o<ince seene
It straite fals sicke, and after a few pangues
Giues vp the Ghoast. but heeres noe languishing[32]
Noe chaunge of hue, [bu<t>] noe guilty feare driues back
The bloud in to the hart, and pales the face.
Hee is all innocent, and that cleare virtue
makes him vndaunted;
Lorenz: Prince Alexander
Who soe're writt this Caueat had infallible intelligence,
Prince: Why is it true?
Lorenz: as ye. first veritie
But I am a better Phisitian then
Æacides hee hauing wounded curde
But I before the blow bee giuen Can helpe.[33]
My Lord you shall preuent
Prince: Preuent? what? and how?
Loren: Treason: ye. mean[s]es anticipation.
Hee<are take this blade: and run quite through a Traitor.
And yf you want a hart, or hande[34] to doe it,
speake to Lorenzo, and Lorenzo shall
Performe this justice:
Prince: why art thou faultie then?
[fol. 2v]
J knowe thou art not by ye. love thow owest mee tell
[Lor.]\mee/[why(?)/my(?)] [what][35] is theare ye. least ground of this letter? why
should that brest harbour ye. first thought of danger
Towards Alexander, Alexander would
[Himselfe] with his owne hands saue thee a killing labour
I haue <Allr>eadie liude a thousand yeares too longue
<my(?) first(?)> nearest freinds growe wearie of my being.
[<Taken>(?)] <p(?)eep...> <........>er[36] doubtefull: I aduise thee


Page 28
Lor: well <t>reason <is> a <..grim> devill an<d> y<our> <Hono>r
a learned Co<nveie>r. it shall Comme vp, and appear
in its likenesse. but first hee \must/ make his waie.
first tell mee Prince what services of frends<hip(?)>[37]
haue J n<dot done; how oft discouered
Plots of ye. ban<isht> partie, who would jnnovate
The forme of g<o> uernment; who did preuent
The last surpri<se> soe [likely] probable
by ye. Conspiracie of saluiatto that man
of daunger <di>d for his Cardinalls cap.
<.......................> ye. states of Italie;
<.........> <not> <...........>ie <store>(?).
Pr: ye. world saies soe:
Lor: Now[38] J Come to [show]\proue/[39] my[40] selfe <healie..ns>[41]; Theare
are a thousand waies of doing \good/ services in a Common wealth,
but are not all \those who doe these services/ yr. statesmen greate intelligencers and
without this[42] intelligence Can theare bee anie thing done
in this[43] \Common/ [world]\wealth/[44]: \or if/ why it is the spectacles wise men putt
on to reade others liues, and how they should direct
their owne acts. some w<hith infinite summes corrupt
those who are able to informe them[45]; Consales ye.
Graund [pr]\C/apitan[46], putt in fferdinands reckoning
a million of Crownes giuen to spies. Others with an
easier way, and sweeter know their enemies secrets
namely by lying with their wiues or mistresses; this was seianus
tricke with Liuia ye. wife of drusus; and in or. latter
daies it hath beene much more putt in practice:
but for mee to doe Alexander service to deliuer
Ilium to ye. Argiues I haue putt on ye. Person
of sinon; spoke against Agammemnon, ray<lld against
ye. Greekes, thereatened[47] my Prince, fauoured ye. Exiles
<&> all for ye. safety of my Prince, and to discouer ye. plots of ye. Exiles


Page 29



Page 30


Page 31

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


Page 32
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).



The ampersand is written over "my".


"chamber" is written over "roome"; "for" is written over "nor".


The word has been altered.


The pen was re-dipped in the middle of the word.


The word seems to have been altered.


The cancellation of "death" was inadvertently extended into "for".


The initial T was originally begun as another letter.


"And" was written over "But" (we think), and "Can" was written over something else.


"What" written over "Nay".


Reading uncertain.


The s in this word looks as if it were added later. By oversight, the following "eare" was not cancelled.


Probable reading. The word may be "suspecting", but if so it has the shortest initial s in the MS. "Inspecting" (=introspective) makes good sense.


The word "not" (which originally began with an l) ought to have been cancelled.


Probably an abbreviation for "against"; if so, the author no doubt intended to write "against him", but ran out of room at the end of the line and overlooked the necessary pronoun. Professor Shapiro suggests the abbreviation may be for 'a part'; the second letter may indeed be a p written to indicate abbreviation. If so, no pronoun would be missing, though the phrase is not exactly a common one.


It is just possible that the "are actually a double beginning to the capital T.


The e in this word is written over something else.


There are five minims in the word; minim-errors are common enough for us to be certain that "runne" was the intended word.


A correction; may have originally read "forcd"


A correction.


The word "be(e)" has been inadvertently omitted.


Word corrected.


"fealing" written over "falling".


The word originally written was "this".


This was begun as another word.


Word corrected.




This is not a stage-direction, but the last word of Lorenzo's sentence, which could not be squeezed in at the foot of fol. 1v. The word could be taken as "reads", palaeographically; there is a marked downward tail to the d. But terminal d made with such a final hook is not uncommon in the MS: cf. "should", l. 1; "world", l. 29, and "Oppressed", l. 38, in order of increasing size of the flourish.


The "I" written over "yr."


The th written over the ue.


"of" written over "is".


The word originally began as something else.


The l is written over another letter.


The l is written over another letter.


"hande" is re-created out of a word's whole first letter (under the a) was an l.


The line originally began "Lor. why [or] my". Over the second word, "what" was then written, then the word was cancelled. Over "Lor.", "mee" was written.


The word may be "Alexander": cf. l. 108.


The reading is a guess.


Altered from another word.


"proue" written over "show".


Written over "much", abandoned before the h was finished.


Apparent reading.


Altered from "that".


Altered from "that".


"wealth" written over "world".


In this word the t has been altered.


The C written over the pr.


Letters 2-5 of this word altered.