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Bartholomew Fair: Textual Essay

John Creaser

Bartholomew Fair was not published in Jonson’s lifetime, even though it was first performed as early as 1614. Jonson began writing the play in 1613 (Riggs, 1989, 193-5). It has been suggested that it must have been near completion by November 1613 because Robert Daborne refers to a forthcoming Jonson play in a letter to Henslowe dated 13 November (Bradley & Adams, 1922, 85), but this seems likely to refer either to another play by Jonson or to a play by another playwright called Johnson (private communication from Martin Wiggins; the Master of the Revels was to refer to ‘Young Johnson’ as a playwright in 1623). Whereas all the earlier plays that Jonson acknowledged as his — with the probable exception of Epicene — had appeared in quarto a relatively short time after their first performances, and all were to be included in the 1616 folio , Bartholomew Fair appeared neither in quarto nor in that folio, nor was it to be listed before publication in the Stationers’ Register.

It can only be conjectured why the printing of this major play was so long delayed. For Herford and Simpson, this was not a problem, since they argued that F1 was planned and went to press by 1612 or 1613. Consequently there could not have been room for the late addition of such a lengthy play (unlike the comparatively brief masque-texts of 1613-16) (H&S, 1.331-5, 9.14-15). But this argument was long ago undermined (Greg, 1926b, 137-8); moreover, it is now agreed that the printing of F1 did not begin until 1615 at the earliest and lasted until very late in 1616, with time available to print a text as substantial as Every Man In His Humour late in the process. Consequently, the exclusion of Bartholomew Fair must have been deliberate. See Donovan (1987) ; Bracken (1988) ; Bland (1998b) , 10. See also Gerritsen (1957) , 123, and (1959) ; Riddell (1997a) ; Gants (1998a) , 134-5.

Did Jonson choose this, or was it forced on him? It seems futile to assert, with Herford and Simpson and Frances Teague, that Jonson was dissatisfied with the play, or, with Kathleen Lynch, that it ‘was not deemed worthy of literary preservation by its author’, since he went on to dedicate it to the King and give it pride of place in the intended second collection. See H&S, 1.70 ; Teague (1985) , 50; and Lynch (1996) , 135. Teague adds (59) that Jonson probably held the play back in order to re-write it; I argue below that the published text was unrevised. It seems equally redundant to propose, with Stallybrass and White, that the play with its ‘low’ forms ‘would certainly have compromised the haughty individuation of the classical to which Jonson so avidly aspired’ (1986 , 78).

One wonders, to take one instance of hundreds, what the opening of The Alchemist was doing in such a haughty volume. Hazelton Spencer suggests in his innovative but usually overlooked edition of Bartholomew Fair that it may have been omitted ‘because the Lady Elizabeth’s Men, who acted it, were unwilling to release a still successful piece’ (Spencer, 1933, 412). This is less implausible, and it may be significant that none of the few plays introduced to the stage by Lady Elizabeth’s Company in its first phase of operation — from 1611 till around 1615 — was published before 1618, when the company had ceased operating independently in London and its former leading actor, Nathan Field, brought out his Amends for Ladies. The company’s patent was issued on 27 April 1611, but from around 1615 till 1622 it seems to have been absorbed into the Prince’s Men, except as a touring company. Amends for Ladies is by some years the earliest printed of the five surviving plays introduced to the stage by the company in this initial period, according to Gurr (1996) , 412. The same is true of the more speculative and extensive list for these years in Harbage (1964) .

On the other hand, it is unlikely that for such a new and struggling company Jonson would have sacrificed his authorial independence and his common practice of publishing a play in quarto shortly after the first performance. The patenting of Lady Elizabeth’s Men meant that from 1611 there were six acting companies officially tolerated in London, while there were only five playhouses licensed by the Revels Office, and two of these were the prerogatives of the King’s Men. Apart from a short and troubled period at the Hope Theatre, it was about 1622 before a company bearing this name was able to establish itself at a satisfactory London playhouse. Four of Jonson’s last five plays had been written for the far more powerful King’s Men (as all the plays later than Bartholomew Fair were to be except the last of all, A Tale of a Tub), and in each case Jonson had retained control of his text and published it early. He was now at the height of his powers and reputation, and was receiving regular commissions from court. So in giving Lady Elizabeth’s Company such a substantial work as Bartholomew Fair, he was probably helping out his old friend and pupil Field and others of the Blackfriars Boys or Queen’s Revels, which had amalgamated with Lady Elizabeth’s in 1613 and for which in early years he had written Cynthia’s Revels and Poetaster, and more recently Epicene.

Assuming, then, that Jonson chose to exclude the play from his folio, a plausible reason may be deduced from W. H. Herendeen’s analysis of how Jonson presents this work. Herendeen himself suggests that Bartholomew Fair was excluded on grounds not of date but of decorum, as it was too experimental to blend with the more homogeneous earlier work (Herendeen, 1991, 49 and 61 ). This is unpersuasive, because all Jonson’s plays in F1 are experimental, but Herendeen may be nearer the mark when he suggests that the barriers, masques and entertainments that close the collection are left without a dedicatee because they could only have been dedicated to James I, and the King ‘could hardly be relegated to the back of a folio consisting mostly of plays dedicated to lesser figures’ (57). It can be added that Bartholomew Fair could hardly have been dedicated to anyone but James — the court prologue and epilogue are addressed directly to him and the title-page states, though somewhat ambiguously, that the play was acted in 1614 and ‘then’ dedicated to King James. By the same token James’s play could not have come late in the volume, unless the whole collection had also been dedicated to him. This would have destroyed Jonson’s careful avoidance of traditional decorum in the presentation of his innovative collection. As Herendeen shows, by beginning with a warm dedication to a commoner — his teacher William Camden — and then presenting a series of ‘isolated, leaderless dedicatees’, diverse in their affiliations, disposed not by rank but as Jonson determined, Jonson was asserting his independence and, in effect, refusing to wear livery (50, 54). The attitude is, in fact, explicit in an early epigram: ‘May none whose scattered names honour my book / For strict degrees of rank or title look; / . . . And I a poet here, no herald am’ (Epigr., 9). Moreover, as Martin Butler (1993a) , 384 says of the dedicatees: ‘Even the nobles are treated as friends rather than patrons’ (see also Bland, 1998b, 29). The only courteous place for James — at the beginning — would have disrupted the whole volume. By 1631, however, when Jonson intended to begin a new collection of work with Bartholomew Fair, his situation is transformed. His position at court is much less secure, he is not in such high favour with the theatre-going public, and he is living in sickness and what he experienced as poverty. It was then a very appropriate time for him to produce a second substantial volume opening with a play whose dedication would remind Charles I of how the playwright had been esteemed by his royal father, and remind audiences of his great achievements, introducing the less popular recent work with one of his acclaimed earlier masterpieces. At the same time, the dedication of the first play to the memory of the late king would have freed Jonson from dedicating the whole volume, had it appeared, to the son with whom he had never enjoyed such mutual respect.

The frustration of this ambition through the carelessness of the printer John Beale is discussed in my general essay on the printing of the plays in F2(2). Nevertheless, the play survives, if only in printed copies apparently rejected by the playwright. The play was clearly intended to open the 1631 volume : its collation formula is: 2o: A6 B-M4 [$3 signed (-A1, 2, D3)]. In more detail: A1 and A1v blank; A2 title page; A2v blank; A3 prologue to the King; A3v persons of the play; A4-6 induction; B to M in fours, the text of the play, concluding on M4v with the epilogue to the King. The first three rectos of each gathering are signed, except A1, A2, and, by oversight, D3. In copies where A1 survives, it has normally been passed through the press a second time to have Meighen’s 1640 title page added, although it remains blank in Bod 4 (copy 4 listed below), which was once in the possession of W. W. Greg. The text of the play is paginated 1-88, accurately except that pages 12, 13, and 31 are misnumbered 6, 3, and 13, respectively, while the misnumbering of p. 55 as 57 was corrected early in the print-run. Pages 12-13 were misnumbered because the printers were using the same skeleton as for the cognate pp. 6 and 3 and forgot to change the numbers (Riddell, 1997b, 67).

In almost all copies the title page reads (within double rules): ‘BARTHOLMEW | FAYRE : | A COMEDIE, | ACTED IN THE | YEARE, 1614. | By the Lady ELIZABETHS [swash B and T] | Servants. | And then dedicated to King IAMES, of | most Blessed Memorie; [swash B and M; 4e tailed miniscule roman] | [rule] | By the Author, Beniamin Iohnson. | [rule] | Si foret in terris, rideret Democritus : nam | Spectaret populum ludis attentiùs ipsis, | Ut sibi præbentem, mimo spectacula plura. | Scriptores autem narrare putaret assello | Fabellam surdo. Hor.lib.2.Epist. i. | [device 374] | [rule] LONDON, [swash 1-2 N, D] | Printed by I.B. [swash B] for Robert Allot, and are | to be sold at the signe of the Beare, in Pauls | Church-yard. 1631.’ In the rare first state of the page, the author is recorded, without rules, in the form: ‘| BY [swash B] | The Author, Ben: Iohnson.’

It appears from the preliminaries being in a gathering of six rather than four leaves that they were, as usual, set last. The text of the play must at first have been set seriatim because the type is evenly spaced, and formes and gatherings frequently end in mid-phrase and even mid-word. See, for example, the end of gatherings B, C, and D: ‘a head full / of Bees !’; ‘a sleepy Watch- / man,’; ‘this is old / Ursla’s mansion’. It is probable, however, that — despite the difficulty set by a manuscript in prose — there was some casting off of copy later in the text, for no forme later than gathering F ends mid-word, while three of the last five gatherings (H, I, and L) end with crowded text run into the direction line. Moreover, p. 55 (H4) was originally numbered p. 57 (I1), both being set in the same skeleton. This suggests that at least the first formes of gathering I were being set before gathering H was entirely in type. The only sign of a shortage of type, however, is the occasional use of upper case ‘VV’ for ‘W’, appearing in most of the running headers, in entry stage directions (though only once, in 1.1, to begin the name rather than a later syllable, as in the occasional ‘Win-vvife’ or ‘Edgvvorth’), or, only in upper-case italic, in the main text where upper-case ‘W’ has been much used (in John Littlewit’s opening speech, for example, a fourfold address to ‘Win’ is followed by a fourfold ‘VVin’ ).

Three skeleton formes were used in printing the play. The first two are almost identical in typography and placing, but in the verso of skeleton 1 the initial letters ‘Barth’ sink from a higher to a lower position, the rest of the word being straighter and higher, while in the verso of skeleton 2 ‘Barth’ is set evenly and in the recto the serifs at the top left of ‘m’ and ‘F’ and at the top right of 1‘ e’ are scarcely visible. Skeleton 3, however, is clearly distinguished on the verso by having ‘w’ (in a smaller font) for ‘vv’ and in having only a small gap between the two words of the title. The skeletons are deployed as follows (this analysis is indebted to Riddell, 1997b , 75, but corrects various errors and omissions there):

Skeleton 1

B2v:B3, B1v:B4, B4v:B1, C1v:C4, D2v:D3, D3v:D2, E2v:E3, E4v:E1, F3v:F2, G3v:G2, H3v:H2, H1v:H4, I4v:I1, K3v:K2, L3v:L2 (first setting), M4v:M1

Skeleton 2

B3v:B2, C2v:C3, C3v:C2, C4v:C1, D1v:D4, D4v:D1, E1v:E4, F2v:F3, F4v:F1, G1v:G4, H2v:H3, I2v:I3, I1v:I4, K1v:K4, L3v:L2 (second setting), L4v:L1, L2v:L3, M2v:M3, M1v:M4

Skeleton 3

E:3v:E2, F1v:F4, G2v:G3, G4v:G1, H4v:H1, I3v:I2, K2v:K3, K4v:K1, L1v:L4, M3v:M2

In sum, skeletons 1 and 2 alone are used in a patterned way in gatherings B-D. All three skeletons are used in each of gatherings E-M, each in turn being used for two of the four formes per gathering.

This suggests that the working was systematic, in complex ways. Despite this, the type-setting was slipshod and the proof-correcting remarkably unsystematic. The forme comprising L2:L3v (pp. 75 and 78; in this edition 5.3.70-104 and 5.4.72-112) was re-set after some mishap in the course of printing — it must have been a mishap rather than a shortage of copies discovered later, because the pages are re-set within another skeleton of the original furniture — and it is evident from features such as the lineation that the compositor made good the shortfall by copying from a sheet of the first setting, and not from the manuscript. Even with clear print to follow, he introduced several substantive errors in these two pages — four words were omitted, for example, and three meanings changed by misspellings — and many of the forty changes in accidentals, especially those to punctuation, were detrimental. Significant errors in the first setting went uncorrected, and not a single change was an improvement. In hand-press setting it is impossible to avoid errors, but what must have seemed intolerable to Jonson is the grossly inadequate correction of the proofs. Even after stop-press corrections, there is not a single page without some errors: usually there are more than five, and there can be over twenty to a page (e.g. M1 and M1v, pp. 81-2). The last two gatherings, L and M, are particularly bad, but there are comparable concentrations of error earlier, for example in gatherings B, F, and G, so there is no simple picture of deterioration throughout the text. An all too typical example of the innumerable carelessnesses is Whit’s speech at 3.2.9-11 (F1, p. 33), where his stage-Irish might be expected to demand extra care (errors indicated here by boldface and underlining): ‘And shee shall shew tee as fine cut o’rke fort’t in her shmock too, as tou cansht vishe_i’faith; vilt tou have her, vorshipfull Vin_vife_? I vill helpe tee to her, heere, be an’t be, in te pig-quarter,gi’me ty twelpence from tee,’. Here, as elsewhere, most of the errors are trivial and easily spotted, though the dangers of such carelessness are shown by how ‘be an’t be’ has misled all editors except Hazelton Spencer in 1933 : it is not a meaningless variant on Whit’s stock phrase ‘an it be’ but an ‘Irish’ version of ‘by and by’. The inevitable errors of hand-press work – most of which were normally corrected from the first proof before other sheets were run off (see Gaskell, 1972 , 110-16; McKenzie, 1969 , 42-9) – here survive in droves. There are misspellings through letters being omitted or added or transposed or otherwise misplaced; instances of foul case (especially c for e and r for t); turned letters and stops; words repeated or omitted; misplaced apostrophes; mispunctuation; and mis-spacing (especially the omission of spaces in the last ten pages). Even corrected formes remain thick with error: D4 (p. 23), for example, exists in no fewer than three states, yet five obvious errors remain in the final state. It is only too apparent that the normal processes of proof-correction were not observed.

Nevertheless, as argued above in the general account of the 1631 printings, Beale’s men did preserve some of the author’s preferred layout and style. The many inconsistencies in spelling, for example, are hardly surprising, since (as will be argued below) compositors were setting from a manuscript almost twenty years old at a time of rapid linguistic change (or at the least from an uncritical copy of such a manuscript). Nevertheless, Jonsonian traces survive even in the spelling. Characteristic touches include the form ‘neuft’ — midway between the older ‘eft’ and the already established ‘newt’ — a form found also in Poetaster and recorded only in Jonson. His less distinctive spelling practices are reflected throughout the text: ’hem and ha’ are ubiquitous, and ’em and have do not occur, for example; colloquial abbreviations such as i’th- and o’th- are very common; Jonson’s preferred medial –ay- and –oy- are followed, so that spellings such as chayre, fayre, noyse, and avoyd are much commoner than those in i; his preferred shew occurs thirty-one times as opposed to only four for show (cf. Partridge, 1953a , 76-9, 204; Mag. La, ed. Happé , 46-7). The form [n]eyther occurs five times as against twenty-two instances of –ei-, suggesting that Jonson’s older preference is influencing the practice of compositors working to a more modern house style (cf. Bracken, 1987b ). The digraphs æ and œ are preserved not only in Latin quotations but also in occasional and unusual Latinate forms such as ædify. Jonson’s liking for hyphens within compound nouns is manifest, as in ‘And then for Kinde-heart, the Tooth-drawer, a fine oyly Pig-woman with her Tapster, to bid you welcome’ (A5v). Individual preferences such as vertue, moneth, and souldier, and -ick endings such as famelick and –ll endings such as civill are dominant.

Jonson was no doubt dismayed by the hundreds of errors in the punctuation of his text — nothing suffered more from the carelessness of Beale’s men — and yet even the punctuation cannot be discounted. However imperfect the realization in all too many passages, there are many others with signs of Jonson’s distinctively intrusive system and its minute syntactic discriminations. There are, for example, co-ordinate commas (‘a Sword, and Buckler man’), and commas dividing modifying phrases from what they modify (‘they are e’en upon coming, instantly’; ‘nor a little Davy, to take toll o’the Bawds’). More significant is the less systematic and more expressive use of heavier stops to articulate complex or lengthy sentences. At Induction, 95-6: ‘If there bee never a Servant-monster i’the Fayre; who can helpe it? he sayes; nor a nest of Antiques ?’, the informal punctuation registers the pacing of the exploratory syntax: a pause after the first clause, then the first question with the question-mark at its end, not conventionally at the end of the sentence; then the semi-colon after ‘sayes’ to give a brief hesitation before the unpredictable resumption of questioning and yet another question-mark.

Similarly, the elaborate and sustained syntax ending Justice Overdo’s soliloquy in 3.3 is, in the author’s terms, articulated to perfection:

The husbandman ought not for one unthankful yeer, to forsake the plough; The Shepheard ought not, for one scabb’d sheep, to throw by his tar-boxe; The Pilot ought not for one leake i’the poope, to quit the Helme; Nor the Alderman ought not for one custerd more, at a meale, to give up his cloake; The Constable ought not to breake his staffe, and forsweare the watch, for one roaring night; Nor the Piper o’the Parish (Ut parvis componere magna solebam) to put up his pipes, for one rainy Sunday. These are certaine knocking conclusions; out of which, I am resolv’d, come what come can, come beating, come imprisonment, come infamy, come banishment, nay, come the rack, come the hurdle, (welcome all) I will not discover who I am, till my due time; and yet still, all shall be, as I said ever, in Justice name, and the King’s, and for the Common-wealth. (F2v, p. 36)

The six members of the first sentence are held in parallel and yet distinct by the juxtaposition of semi-colons and capital letters; a moderate pause, against syntax, is indicated by the semi-colon after the first clause of the second sentence (at ‘knocking conclusions’); then the insistent climax of the second sentence is emphasised by the light pointing between eight repetitions of ‘come’; each sentence is brought briefly to an apt pause by an insertion in parentheses. Jonson would have nothing to complain of here.

As in this passage, brackets are frequent and well handled, to ‘mark off anything which interrupts the grammatical movement of the sentence or the current of the thought’ (H&S, 9.49 ). For example, they may indicate asides or a dropping of tone — ‘(I am looking, lest the Poet heare me, …’)’ — or some ironic underlining — ‘that will pretend to affirme (on his owne inspired ignorance)’ — or an interjection or change in the discourse — ‘(sirreverence)’; ‘(Now, Wit, helpe at a pinch …)’; ‘Yes, a great deale, John (uh, uh.)’ — or some new extension to the thought — ‘they meane some young Madcap-Gentleman (for the divell can equivocate …)’. Again, the ‘lewd printer’ has not disguised Jonson’s complex articulation of his colloquial but charged speech. This makes it possible that at times where editors have seen carelessness there is actually a recording of Jonsonian nuance. For example, at 4.6.39-40 when Wasp is being put in the stocks, he snarls at Bristle: ‘You stink of leeks, Metheglyn, and cheese. You Rogue’ (K1v, p. 66). The presence of both a full stop and a following capital suggests this is not simply inaccurate punctuation but an indicated pause: perhaps, for example, ‘You Rogue’ is an opportunity for some insulting blow or gesture from Bristle, in turn responding to Wasp’s prior insult. It must be acknowledged, however, that such apparent nuances may at times be the result of error. Less clear-cut examples are the full stops after ‘hearts’ and ‘charge’ at 1.4.48-52:

Was. Sir, I would have you to understand, and these Gentlemen too, if they please—
Win-w. With all our hearts. Sir.
Was. That I have a charge. Gentlemen.
Ioh. They doe apprehend, Sir. (B4v, p.8)

John’s intervention suggests that the stop after ‘charge’ indicates an insulting and unresponsive silence from Winwife and Quarlous, requiring the insistent ‘Gentlemen’ from Wasp. The stop after ‘hearts’ might likewise suggest an earlier insulting pause before the mock-politeness of ‘Sir’ at this first — and, in this scene, only — address to Wasp, an importunate social inferior. Here this is not necessarily confirmed, however, by the capitals on ‘Gentlemen’ and ‘Sir’, because these terms are invariably capitalised in the text. Nevertheless, this is the only time in the play that either of the two gentlemen addresses Wasp as ‘Sir’ rather than with the insolent familiarity of ‘Numps’, except for a moment of equally discourteous formality from Quarlous at 4.4.94 during the mock-polite exchanges of the game of vapours (‘Sir, you’ll allow mee my christian liberty’, I2v, p. 60). Again, therefore, it seems that the maligned printer may well be truer to Jonson than Jonson would have conceded.

This invites consideration of the nature of the copy supplied to Beale by Jonson. Was it, for example, the text as completed by him in 1614 or had it been revised for publication seventeen years later? Peter Wright finds the 1631 plays ‘remarkably different from those in the 1616 Folio’, assumes that they were revised for later publication, and finds this revision revealed by the presence of more, and more purposeful, stage directions than in F1 (Wright, 1991 , 284 and 281). At the least, it would seem, the marginal directions of Bartholomew Fair belong to 1631 rather than 1614. Comparison suggests, however, that the play’s directions are transitional rather than late, reflecting a change in practice over some years, not a concurrent revision of all three plays for their eventual printing. Its ninety-six marginal directions, for example, are closer in total to the sixty-three of Every Man Out of His Humour in F1 than to the 151 of Devil written only two years later (Fricker, 1972 , 99 has the Bart. Fair and Devil totals). Moreover, Bartholomew Fair stands between the earlier plays and the following pair in the style of the directions. In the early plays, these — though not phrased in a book-holder’s imperative — are very largely straightforward instructions on stage business, although there is occasional guidance on points of interpretation, such as ‘She kisses and flatters him along still’ clarifying Fulvia’s motive at Cat., 2.1.351, and ‘He answeres with feare and interruptions’ when Volturtius speaks before the Senate at Cat., 5.3.55. Those in Devil and Staple, on the other hand, are often more leisurely and explanatory, are more clearly addressed to the reader than to the actor or prompt, and are prepared to take the reader into the characters’ minds. Typical examples here are Devil, 3.5.36 and 63 ‘He longs to see the play’ and ‘He is angry with himselfe’; or 4.7.16 and 21 ‘Hee hopes to be the man’ and ‘She designes Manly’; or 5.1.25 ‘Ambler tels this with extraordinary speed’ and 5.6.36 ‘The great Deuill enters, and upbraids him with all his dayes worke’. There are more of such descriptive and explanatory directions in Bartholomew Fair than in the F1 plays (such as ‘This they whisper, that Overdoo heares it not’, D4; ‘The watch missing them are affrighted’, K3; ‘Mistress Overdoo is sicke: and her husband is silenc’d’, M4), but in prevailing style as well as frequency, Bartholomew Fair’s directions are closer to the early plays than those of its 1631 partners. This suggests that the text remains essentially that of 1614. Moreover, there seem to be no unmistakable allusions to events later than that year (except of course, on the title page, to James’s death).

One can go further and argue that printer’s copy was Jonson’s ‘foul papers’ of 1614, or at the most a close authorial or scribal copy of those papers, unrevised and without the intervention of prompt-copy or other second thoughts in the light of performance. This is contrary to G.R. Hibbard’s belief that the copy was ‘almost certainly a carefully prepared manuscript in Jonson’s own hand’ ( Bartholomew Fair, xxxiii ). These papers were not ‘foul’, however, in the sense of being rough drafts; they will have been, in Greg’s words, ‘a copy representing the play more or less as the author intended it to stand, but not itself clear or tidy enough to serve as a prompt-book’, and leaving occasional tangles (Greg, 1955 , 106). There are indeed minor inconsistencies and loose ends, and the realisation on stage of some details and characters has not been thought through.

The text retains, for example, signs of Jonson’s changes of mind. The character whom all modernising editors have identified as ‘Littlewit’ is in fact only so called in the first three pages of F2 ; thereafter he becomes ‘John’ almost without exception. This is presumably in order to emphasise his imbecility, because he is not a young man — Quarlous describes him as old enough to be Winwife’s father (1.3.69-70). Leatherhead becomes ‘Lantern’ when he appears in a new guise in Act 5, but occasionally Jonson — and this must be Jonson, not the compositor — reverts through habit to ‘Lea.’ or ‘Leatherhead’ (see L1v, p. 74, L2v, p. 76, L4, p. 79, M1, p. 81).

The frequent confusion of ‘Winw.’ (or ‘Win-w.’) and ‘Win.’ in the speech headings is another sign of an unrevised manuscript. ‘Winw.’ never occurs for ‘Win.’ — as it might do through compositor error — but ‘Win.’ is often used for Winwife when Win Littlewit is off-stage, and this abbreviation of his name creeps into scenes when she is also present (for example, ‘Win. Alasse, I am quite off that sent now’, B3v, p. 6; 1.3.80). This is too frequent to be a printing error. Similarly, the inaccurate identification of the speakers in the later stages of the puppet-play (M1v-M2, pp. 82-3) is likely to reflect authorial carelessness in drafting his text: since all the puppet parts were to be spoken by the actor playing Lantern, it is unsurprising that meticulous identification of them falls off towards the end of the episode. Is the ‘Pvp. D.’ who speaks the last line of 5.4 Puppet Damon or Dionysius? The puppeteers need to know, and a playhouse manuscript is likely to resolve such uncertainties. The hoverings of the speech headings between variant forms such as ‘Qua.’ and ‘Quar.’, or ‘Mistress Overdoo’ and plain ‘Overdoo’, also suggest closeness to the working manuscript.

More significant — and very representative of an author working out his text and not yet with every facet of stage production in his mind — are the frequent although minor loose ends in the articulation of the action, especially in complex scenes or more generally as certain minor characters are affected. The movements of Leatherhead and Trash as they come and go late in Act 2 and early in Act 3 are not always explicit. The actions and movements of characters in crowded scenes such as 4.4 are so inexplicit that modernising editors resolve them in diverse ways. Three Watchmen are named — one of them is left with two different first-names — but it is not always identified which of them must be on stage, nor is it ever acknowledged that three actors are not enough for all that the watch has to do. It seems, moreover, that Jonson had the late idea of making watchman Bristle a Welsh character, to match Whit’s Irishness (4.6.36n.). But this is not worked into his earlier appearances; nor does he speak a Welsh dialect (unlike the comic characters in For the Honour of Wales). Similar, and again very typical of foul papers, is the vagueness of references to mute characters, the Passengers and Boys. It is explicit that passers-by are on stage with the speaking characters from time to time, and that there are sometimes boys following at the heels of Cokes and Troubleall, but the text leaves realisation of how many and when and how to do this up to the playhouse. Likewise, ‘Porters’ occur in the Persons and were intended to be seen on stage, but they never recur in the text.

Similarly, the stage directions, invaluable and accurate as they are, fall short of completeness. They are clearly authorial — even though some are redundant. Many of the redundant directions come in two clusters: during the puppet play and at Justice Overdo’s attempt to deliver judgment on the other characters in 5.6. It is as if Jonson is here attempting to make scenes of complicated action as clear as possible. By contrast, there are no marginal directions in Act 1, when the action is domestic and relatively straightforward. See Barton (1984) , 256, for examples of directions that must be authorial because they are essential to understanding the action. Their descriptive style suggests authorial rather than playhouse origins. Some are too vague for a prompt copy: John is merely to enter the last scene ‘a while after’ Quarlous and Purecraft enter. The direction ‘The boyes o’the Fayre follow him.’ when Cokes tries to shoo them away early in 5.3 (sig. L1) is placed where a reader needs it, not the performers. Some directions do enhance the text with indications of performance: ‘Ursla comes in againe dropping’ (D3, p. 21; 2.3.31). More give information that cannot be deduced from the spoken text. How Cokes loses his second purse in 3.5, for example, emerges solely from the stage direction at line 127: ‘Edgworth gets up to him, and tickles him in the eare with a straw twice to draw his hand out of his pocket’ (G2v, p. 44). This seems all the more from the author’s working papers rather than from prompt copy because it is less than fully worked out: it does not explain what with its help can be deduced from the text (though no editor has done this): that Cokes has to be tickled twice because the first time Edgworth tries the wrong pocket and is able to steal not the purse but only the decorated handkerchief given Cokes by Grace Wellborn.

A further indication of the text’s origins in foul papers rather than prompt copy or a polished fair copy may lie in the very frequency of the printing errors. There is evidence, for example, that the quality of work produced by competent compositors varied markedly with the state of the copy followed. It has been argued that the same compositors set the second quartos of both Titus Andronicus and Hamlet, and that there are many more errors in Hamlet, where the copy was the heavily revised holograph (Brown (1955) , 31). Jonson’s hand was usually very legible, and it is striking that there are relatively few substantive errors in Bartholomew Fair, while the errors of detail, especially in the punctuation, are legion. This may suggest that the compositors were indeed setting from foul papers that were sometimes unclear and often incompletely punctuated, though certain passages must have been punctuated with care. (We might compare the sparseness of the punctuation in Milton’s Trinity Manuscript, the foul papers of much of his earlier verse. Even the more polished drafts are incompletely punctuated, but almost all the punctuation that is present is there for a good reason.) There is at least some consolation here: Jonson’s text has not been sophisticated by careful re-presentation. On the other hand, the wretched quality of the forme L2:3v when re-set from a proof of the first setting shows that Beale’s men were capable of shoddy work even with clear copy in front of them.

While no single argument from those above can prove beyond doubt that the copy was foul papers (or an uncritical copy of foul papers) rather than a polished fair copy or text revised in the light of performance, they point cumulatively to a working manuscript that has not yet been tidied up for or by the living theatre (for which it is anyway far too long). The forthrightness of the numerous oaths, such as Whit’s ‘O Creesh!’, would probably have been toned down in a playhouse manuscript after the 1606 Act of Abuses. The oath ‘’sblood’ in The Alchemist was weakened to ‘’slight’ in F1, whereas it survives three times in Wasp’s testy speeches. In F1 the colophon of each play bears a cast list and records that it was acted ‘With the allowance of the Master of Revels’, and the absence of these in F2 has the effect of removing the text further from the theatre.

So it was certainly not a playhouse manuscript. Despite the innumerable blemishes, we are left with the rather tantalising advantage of a text that is very close to the author at work. The traces of rather old-fashioned spelling, as discussed above, suggests that the printers were working from copy in Jonson’s own hand, since his spelling remained very consistent throughout his working life (Bracken, 1987b , 237). In addition, the substantives seem unlikely to have been seriously impaired by careless printing. Most of the haze of small errors that exasperated Jonson can be cleared away in preparing a modernized text. We have here a situation envisaged by Greg’s ‘bibliographical principle’: ‘Apart from ordinary typographical errors, the corruptions and abnormalities in the print should be traced to peculiarities in the copy rather than blamed on the assumed incompetence of the printer’ — and here those ‘peculiarities’ must very largely be the author’s own (cited Bowers, 1966 , 30).

Many more copies of F2 — forty-one in all — have been collated in full for this edition than for previous editions of the play, and a distribution chart of all the press variants is set out forme by forme in Appendix I below. They can be divided into the following phases (bearing in mind, of course, that the book was printed gathering by gathering, not seriatim):

1. Changes very early in the print-run: A2 (title page); B2v (p. 4), state 2; C4v (p. 16); D1v:4 (pp. 18:23), state 2; E2:3v (pp. 27:30); F3 (p. 37); H4 (p. 55), states 2 and 3; H2:3v (pp. 51:54); L2v (p. 76); M3 (p. 85).

2. Other early changes: D1v:4 (pp. 18:23), state 3; E4 (p. 13 for 31), state 2; G1v (p. 42).

3. Change in mid-run: C2 (p. 11).

4. Changes late in run: E4 (p. 13 for 31), state 3; L2:3v (pp. 75:78), forme re-set.

5. Changes very late in the run: A5 (induction); A3v (Persons); B2v:3 (pp. 4:5), state 3; B2 (p. 3).

The re-setting of forme L2:3v is clearly distinct. Of the rest, most changes — counting by forme, and not by the total of individual modifications — are, as one would expect, minor corrections early in the run that would suggest themselves to any compositor or corrector, usually without further need to consult the copy. The only changes even under phase 1 that might seem to involve consulting the manuscript are inserting the stage direction at D4 and moving the direction at M3, and of these only the second might seem to come from an author’s care for his text rather than routine correction. The M3 marginal direction ‘The Puppet takes up his garment.’ (5.5.84 SD) is moved up two lines and now stands appropriately at the end of Puppet Dionysius’ speech instead of besides the following words by Edgworth. Standing alone, however, this need be no more than a printer’s rare moment of attention to the copy.

Well into the run of certain formes, such as C2 and E4, the press was stopped to correct obvious errors that had escaped notice earlier. Up to and including phase 4 above, there are two puzzles: the first, as discussed already, is that so many obvious although small errors went uncorrected, even in formes that had been re-opened in order to correct equally small errors. The second is that a very few changes are less obvious than the others and so might be thought authorial. The most unusual of these, for they are the only stop-press corrections in their formes, are the minor changes between two possible punctuations (not substantially affecting the sense) at E2 (2.5.145) and the deletion of the word ‘you’ (again, not substantially affecting the sense) at G1v (3.5.46). Which are the later readings here is clearly established by their presence in large-paper copies, which, as discussed below, were the last to be printed. Other changes which might conceivably be authorial are also some revised spellings (tryumph/triumph; theives/thieves) at H2:3v and the insertion of a stage direction at D4 (2.4.35), but these are more likely to be the printer’s because they occur in formes where there are also corrections of errors that might strike any proof-reader. These few minutiae in these four formes and in M3 are the only corrections so far which might be Jonson’s, since, as Gerritsen (1957) , 122 has written, such changes are ‘indifferent alterations of the type that only someone who had more than a printer’s concern with the text would make’. (See also Donovan (1991) , 25, and Gants (1999) , 40, 42, 45-6, and cf. Honigmann (1965) for examples of this phenomenon.) On the other hand, compared to the much more extensive changes in F1, it seems inconceivable that in Bartholomew Fair revisions so few, on the whole so trivial and so unaccompanied by substantial revision should be Jonson’s, while clear errors remain uncorrected on the same pages and while hundreds of errors remain untouched elsewhere. The trifling changes made in E2, for example, leave uncorrected the bewildering speech heading ‘Era.’ (for Trash), which was not to be set right until 1716. It is more likely, therefore, that such emendations represent fitful tinkering by the printers.

Jonson’s hand is undoubtedly present, however, in many or even all of the changes very late in printing the four formes listed under phase 5 above (all of them unrecorded by previous editors).   This is most strikingly so at the remarkable total of sixty changes in forme B2v:3 (pp. 4-5; in this edition 1.2.59-1.3.68). Nowhere else in Jonson’s oeuvre is there evidence of his having revised a proof so thoroughly, with emendations which range from substantive corrections through a careful and dramatically apt re-shaping of punctuation to a tidying up of Jonson’s preferred accidentals and of the printer’s house-style.

The corrections may be classified as follows:

1.Substantive readings: ‘Fidiers’ for ‘Fidlers’ (4.13, re-correcting a miscorrection by the printer in state 2), ‘drinke’ for ‘drunke’ (4.31), ‘reformed’ for ‘reformed’ (5.21), ‘his brand’ for ‘the brand’ (5.39), ‘Afore I would’ for ‘I would’ (5.43).

2. Re-shaping of punctuation for syntactic coherence and dramatic pacing: 4.21, 27, 28-9, 37-40; 5.4-8, 13, 29, 35, 40, 42, 45, 47.

3. Systematic punctuation added: 4.1, 2; 5.19, 24, 26, 27, 38.

4. Systematic italics added: 4.4, 23, 35; 5.17, 44, 45.

5. Systematic reduction of capitals: 4.16-17, 23; 5.36, 43, 44.

6. Preferred spellings: 5.26, 43; 5.7 (Win-wifes for Winwifes).

7. Indifferent changes, neither systematic nor dramatic: 5.31 (‘carkasse;’), 46 (‘Drumme’).

8. Printer’s house style: full stops for commas in entry stage direction, 4.9.

Of the meaningful changes (that is, omitting 7), only the last might come from the printer rather than Jonson himself, and only the mere pair of changes in section 7 is indifferent.   The rest are improvements not only in terms of Jonson’s preferred orthography but also often in meaning, coherence, and dramatic efficacy. The third state’s re-correction of ‘Fidlers’ (4.13) to the ‘Fidiers’ of state 1 restores a rare but appropriate term (meaning ‘scavengers’, 1.3.4n. and Longer Note) for the compositor’s ‘Fidlers’, the apparently self-evident yet inappropriate misreading that has been accepted by all editors (inappropriate, because dawn is the least likely time of day for fiddlers, in any sense, to be hard at work). The italicising of ‘reformed’ (5.21) aptly adds a religious jibe to a moral sarcasm: if the gallant Winwife joins the Purecraft household, he will be ‘reformed’ only in a doctrinaire, puritanical way. The corrections at 4.31 and 5.43 resolve cruces that have troubled some editors. In addition, the unchanged attribution at 4.33 ‘Why Sir?’ to John Littlewit tends to confirm that the speech is his and not (as some editors amend) Winwife’s. The confused punctuation of states 1 and 2 is frequently resolved into pointed dramatic speech: for example, John Littlewit’s ‘No ? not concerning Win, looke you : there shee is,and drest as I told you she should be : harke you Sir,had you forgot ?’ becomes ‘No ? not concerning Win? looke you, there shee is! and drest as I told you she should be. Harke you Sir,had you forgot ?’ (4.28-9).

Had Jonson revised the whole of the play as intensively as he revised this forme, he would have made some 2,800 changes, and that is a measure of both how illuminating and how tantalising this finding of the revised forme is. It illuminates Jonson’s concern with nuances of expression and, invaluably, with the shaping of dramatic speech through punctuation, as well as more predictably with his preferred orthography. At the same time it tantalises by giving vivid reality to Jonson’s awareness of how imperfect the text as a whole is, and emphasises how irrecoverable is the text as he might have preferred it in every detail and nuance. This is not to say, however, that Jonson was such a perfectionist with textual minutiae as ever to have brought about such a perfect finish: his attention to such detail had been erratic in F1,   and here the erroneous plural in ‘he is Master Win-wifes friends’ (5.7) survives into the third state, even though the very phrase is changed by inserting a hyphen into the name.

Three initial reasons can be suggested as to why this forme was chosen for such care. First, it contained an unusually dense cluster of substantive errors. Second, it was the only forme in the gathering to be set so atrociously, with numerous accidental as well as some substantive errors on both pages. Third, it fell in the first gathering to be printed, the gathering where full co-operation between printer and author might most have been anticipated.

Thereafter, there is no clear sign of authorial correction until the very end of the printing process, the last copies of the preliminaries in gathering A. It is most unlikely that as late as this the lax printers would have noticed and made good the absence of the characteristic Jonson location ‘The Scene: Smithfield’ at the end of the Persons (A3v), or made the indifferent replacement of an ampersand by ‘and’ at A5 in the induction (‘King of England,France,and / Ireland, Defender of the faith And of Scotland …’ for ‘King of England,France,& Ire- / land, Defender of the faith . And of Scotland …’). But again crass errors remain evident.

One strange certainty among all that is bizarre in the printing of this play is that, with one exception in a single copy, all the late, phase 5 corrections occur only in the first and last gatherings to be printed and only in the large-paper, presentation copies, all of which contain these corrections.   Although it was not uncommon for such copies to be printed first and thus to contain the least-revised states, here in Bartholomew Fair they were clearly the last to be printed, for they alone contain the last states of the whole text.   Another certainty is that the extraordinarily detailed corrections made to forme B2v:3 are Jonson’s own. It has already been suggested why this forme was chosen for such treatment. It is, even so, strange to come across such extensive revisions anywhere, and least of all towards the end of a print-run. As James Riddell has written, it ‘flies in the face of both common sense and common practice’ to spend time on intricate corrections which few readers will see (Riddell, 1997b , 66). Here, however, it would have made sense to Jonson, because for him those copies to be presented to patrons and friends would have a special significance — if they cannot have the first, then let them have the best. The Earl of Newcastle, for example, was Jonson’s major patron at this period, and an important source of income in times of hardship — hence the begging letters to him that survive. As an imitator of Jonson in his own dramas, he could be relied upon to be reading the plays closely.

What Jonson will have seen as a properly politic courtesy must have seemed economic nonsense to Beale, and this may have caused a breach between them, for the next certainty is that Jonson played virtually no further part in the correction of the text until the very end of the printing process, the last copies of the preliminaries in gathering A, more changes that would have made no sense to Beale.

While what happened between the two men can only be conjectured, it seems very probable that Jonson, exasperated by the shoddy workmanship in the first proofs he received, exasperated Beale in turn by requiring uneconomic changes late in the run.   Whether the need to make the corrections so late was Beale’s fault, or Jonson’s, or merely an unavoidable consequence of the distance between them, cannot be known. Come what may, what followed was an extended period when either Beale did not send proofs to the author or ignored any corrections marked, or that Jonson, whose attention to proofs had always been erratic, simply gave up at the scale of correction that would have been required — correction so intensive that it was virtually re-editing. The poor quality of the workmanship may have made the task seem unmanageable. Even in gathering B, the corrections are oddly sporadic. The numerous minor errors in John Littlewit’s opening speech, for example, go uncorrected, and the only other correction that seems to be Jonson’s is a small improvement at B2: ‘much good do’ for ‘much do good’ (1.5.82). The apparent return of the correcting author in the very occasional corrections to the last copies of the last gathering to be printed is yet another oddity: it would be in keeping with the letter to Newcastle for this to have been a consequence of Jonson’s pressing Beale to have presentation copies made available. In a busy year, the projected folio was not an especially important commission for Beale, even though it was the second largest volume he printed that year, since it represented only about one-eighth of the recorded output. But for Jonson, this was a bizarre beginning to a substantial and major undertaking.


Fortunately, the play has been treated with more respect by later printers and editors than by Beale and his men. In preparing the text for this edition, all subsequent reprintings and editions have been examined, though not all in detail. These are listed at Appendix II. Straightforward reprints of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have not been collated, and minor editions consulted only at the (numerous) points of difficulty or editorial disagreement. This extensive review of editions has complicated the picture of the editorial tradition as advanced by H&S and the subsequent surveys under their influence. H&S, for example, overlook the two editions before their own that are most discriminating in textual niceties, and claim as innovations some of what those had anticipated. The established ‘apostolic succession’ of early reprints and editions — The Works (1692) ; Tonson’s printing of The Works in six volumes (1716-17) ; BJ’s Plays (2 vols., Dublin, 1729) ; Peter Whalley, ed., Works (7 vols., 1756) ; and William Gifford, ed., The Works (9 vols., 1816) — is misleading because it ignores ‘O rare Ben Jonson’: Favourite and Celebrated Comedies of BJ (1740) . Unlike the other volumes subsequent to F3 of 1692 , this does not merely reprint its predecessor — making a few corrections while adding new errors in the process — but returns to F2 and presents a somewhat modernised reprint that is more accurate and intelligent than that of F3. Similarly, awareness of the emergence of a critical text modernised to twentieth-century standards has been distorted by the frequent ignoring of Hazelton Spencer’s astute edition in his collection, Elizabethan Plays (1933) . Repeatedly, local emendations and innovations that later editors claim as their own are silently anticipated in Spencer.   Since Spencer there have been numerous soundly modernized editions — notably those by E. A. Horsman, Eugene M. Waith , G. R. Hibbard , Martin Butler , Gordon Campbell , Helen Ostovich , and Suzanne Gossett — and the realization of Jonson’s text has steadily improved. Of recent editions, the most provocative is Hibbard’s New Mermaids, which (as the textual commentary to the printed text records) brought a fresh attentiveness to the text by suggesting numerous and ingenious emendations, some of which are here accepted, and some rejected as unnecessary rather than implausible.

In keeping with the Cambridge edition as a whole, the current edition of Bartholomew Fair presents a conservatively modernised text. Jonson’s careful division of each act into six scenes — which emphasises symmetries within the play’s apparently sprawling action and which several editors since 1729 have overlooked — has been retained. The practice stemming from Whalley of overriding the care with which Jonson names his characters has been reversed: in F2, first names are used for the married couple the Littlewits, and this infantilising of them is retained here in naming them ‘John’ and ‘Win’; the shorthand term of ‘Justice’ rather than ‘Overdo’ is also retained, so emphasising the discrepancy between the social position and the man, and between the social ideal, so much invoked in the play, and the reality; and in Act 5 the transformed Leatherhead duly becomes ‘Lantern’. F2’s name for ‘Nordern’ the wrestler is retained, since that text consistently distinguishes between ‘Nordern’ the character and ‘northern’ the adjective. Otherwise, names are modernised, but since (with only one exception in each case) Cokes’s Christian name is consistently ‘Bartholmew’ in F2 and the pig-woman is ‘Ursla’, these intricate saints’ names are given the colloquial forms ‘Barthol’mew’ and ‘Urs’la’ in the spoken dialogue. This is in keeping with the play’s evocation of colloquial idioms, as are the innumerable elided and abbreviated forms, which are retained in this edition in original or modernised spellings, as appropriate. Another Jonsonian mode of colloquial language that is retained as conservatively as possible is the dialect of Whit and Nordern. The practice of seeking to regularise Whit’s erratic ‘Hiberno-English’ (Longer Notes 3.1.1) begins with the form ‘Mas<h>ter’ for ‘Master’ in the H&S text of his first speech, and in some later editors, such as Levin and Horsman, more extensive emendation is made without explanatory brackets and comments. To do this, however, is to turn dramatic colouring into a phonetic exercise, and also to be more Jonsonian than Jonson himself, since there is no objective standard by which to normalise the idioms, and since, strictly speaking, it would involve repeatedly going against the text to turn standard spellings into dialect. In Whit, for example, consistency would require amending ‘with’ to ‘phit’, a spelling that does not occur in F2, although ‘phitin’ appears once for ‘within’. Nothing of the prevailing effect is lost, however, in accepting Whit’s bizarre idiom as it stands, with all its inconsistencies, and with many words taking sometimes one of a variety of dialectal forms and elsewhere the standard form. The practice in this edition is, therefore, to retain unchanged all spellings that are there to show dialectal pronunciations, but otherwise to modernise as usual. This policy has the incidental benefit of retaining the mischievous emphases made possible by Jonson’s fitful Irish, as in: ‘Predee … helpe a very sicke Lady, here, to a chayre, to shit in’ (L2v, p. 76; 5.4.23-4).

Punctuation is revised and modernized, not least because it is so erratic in F2. Significantly more than in previous modernized editions, the text has as far as possible been cleared from the traces of a system both clumsily intrusive and imperfectly realized. Nevertheless, as argued above, the printers were working from an authorial manuscript of a writer for whom punctuation was important not only for reasons of systematic thoroughness but also for dramatic expressiveness, and sometimes we can be confident that dramatic niceties survive in the printed text. The original punctuation is therefore retained, or a modern equivalent found, when it favours a particular dramatic utterance or seems to preserve an interpretative nuance. Inevitably there are points open to dispute. When, for example, Edgworth says: ‘Guilt’s a terrible thing! ha’ you prepar’d the Costard-monger?’ (H3, p. 53; 4.2.10), the lack of a capital letter on ‘ha’’ may be a minor oversight, but it does give the impression that the cutpurse moves without a moment of reflection from conscience to conspiracy. Since this is the play’s only glimpse of conscience in him, the statement is likely to be facetious, and it seems appropriate for a modernizing edition to follow F2’s lack of the orthodox capital letter. Similarly, as mentioned above, Jonson’s italics are represented in the modernized text when they are inviting an emphatic and often ironic nuance of expression, as when Win says: ‘My mother will never consent to such a prophane motion : she will call it’ (C3, p. 3 for 13; 1.5.118-19). In practice, however, such italicized words and phrases are usually printed in roman, within quotation marks.

Although Jonson’s stage directions are often an invaluable guide to performance, he did not finally polish or revise the text in the light of playhouse requirements. Consequently the directions are filled out as economically as possible in this edition: for example, the comings and goings of Leatherhead and Trash, and of the various members of the Watch, and of characters in complex scenes such as 4.4 are clarified, as are intricate actions such as Edgworth’s thefts from Cokes in 3.5.



Copies Collated

  1. Harvard, Houghton Library, STC 14754.2 [Bridgewater]
  2. Bodleian Library, Don. d. 66
  3. Bodleian Library, Douce I. 303
  4. Bodleian Library, Gibson 518
  5. Bodleian Library, Gibson 519
  6. Bodleian Library, Vet. A2 d. 73
  7. English Faculty Library, Oxford, YK 1.1 [Sta] Rar.B.fol.94 [lacks gathering A]
  8. English Faculty Library, Oxford, YK 1.26767 1640 Rar.B.fol.56
  9. All Souls’ College, Oxford, pp. 4.10
  10. Balliol College, Oxford, 525 c.-2
  11. Brasenose College, Oxford [large-paper copy]
  12. Corpus Christi College, Oxford, ST 823 JO.1/640
  13. Exeter College, Oxford, 9M 14754
  14. Harris Manchester College, Oxford, F1640/2
  15. Jesus College, Oxford, I Arch 2.22
  16. Lincoln College, Oxford, L.321
  17. Oriel College, Oxford, 2W a. 11
  18. Queen’s College, Oxford, Sel b 160
  19. Wadham College, Oxford, A.39.13
  20. Wadham College, Oxford, A.39.10
  21. Worcester College, Oxford, Plays 9.8
  22. Cambridge University Library, Syn.4.64. 15
  23. Cambridge University Library, Brett-Smith.a.7.
  24. University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Pforz. 560.
  25. University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Pr 2600 1640 V2, copy 1.
  26. University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Pr 2600 1640 V2, copy 2.
  27. University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Wh/J738 +B641.
  28. University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Ah J738 +B616ab.
  29. University of Virginia Library, E1616.J64.v2.
  30. University of Wisconsin at Madison, 1084150.
  31. Durning-Lawrence Library, University of London Library, 3431 D9S3.
  32. British Library, C.39.k.9*.
  33. British Library, C.28.m.12.
  34. British Library, 79.l.4.
  35. British Library, 642.l.29.1-3.
  36. Trinity College, Cambridge, Capell.F.8
  37. Cambridge University Library, Sel.2.1231
  38. Newnham College, Cambridge, Young 205b
  39. Cambridge University Library, Syn.4.61.20
  40. Cambridge University Library, Keynes D.6.23
  41. Cambridge University Library, Syn.4.64.14

Also seen but not comprehensively examined: Huntington 62101, v. 2; Clark 1616a; and Jesus College, Oxford, I Arch. 3.7.



State 1 State 2
A1 (cover sheet) [blank] [Meighen title page]
A2 title page
10-11 By / The Author, Ben: By the Author, Beniamin
A5 Induction
15-16 France,& Ire- / land, Defender
Defender of the faith . And
France,and / Ireland,
of the faith ^ And
A3v Persons
33 [omit] The Scene Smithfield.
State 1 State 2 State 3
B2v 4
1 abomination ^ --- ~,
2 ſo^as --- ſo,as
4 Bishops --- Bishops
9 Qvarlovs,Iohn,VVin, --- ~.~.~.
13 Fidiers Fidlers Fidiers
16 Thornes --- thornes
17 Thistles --- thistles
21 rather, --- ~.
23 Wolfe … Proctor --- wolfe … Proctor
27 times --- ~:
28 Win, looke you: there ſhee is, --- Win? looke you, there ſhee is!
29 be: harke --- be. Harke
31 drunke --- drinke
35 two,and … Proctor --- two, and … Proctor
37 now ; --- ~ :
38 me: before --- me. Before
40 1 Iohn; --- ~,
B3 5
4 2 Win ! --- ~ ?
4 3 Win; --- ~.
5 Win ? --- ~ !
7 Winwifes … too: And --- Win-wifes … too. And
8 mother Win ; --- mother, Win,
13 againe --- ~,
17 foole-Iohn! --- Foole-Iohn!
19 respect --- ~,
21 reformed --- reformed
24 Totnam --- ~,
26 Smocke --- Smock,
27 Tripe --- ~,
29 one ; --- ~ :
31 worſe, --- ~ :
35 ’hem, thou --- ’hem. Thou
36 Torch … Lincke --- torch … lincke
38 inherit --- ~,
39 the brand --- his ~
40 embers; we ſhall ha’ thee --- embers! We ſhall ha’ thee,
42 face, --- ~:
43 legges … voyce --- legs … voice
43 I would --- Afore ~ ~
44 Sermons --- ſermons
45 be; I would een --- be: I would e’en
45 Fate --- Fate
46 drumme --- Drumme
47 Straw. --- ~ !
State 1 State 2
B2 3
17 do good good do
C4v 16
[heading] no rule over entry line rule inserted; heading realigned
C2 11
46 you head your ~
State 1 State 2 State 3
D1v 18
20 Wou’ld Who’ld ---
26 Heere. --- ~,
36 Egdeworth Edgeworth
39 morning. --- ~,
D4 23
1-4m [omit] [SD added] ---
3 ſing --- ~,
20 on on’hem --- one on’hem
26 here --- ~,
E4 13 (for 31)
9m Inſtice Iuſtice ---
9-10 Parent of / the of the Maſſacre. --- Parent of / the Maſſacre.
State 1 State 2
E2 27
37 Vrs. Take Vrs, take
E3v 30
24 bold all bold,all
F3 37
3 No matter. What here’s No matter what. Here’s
G1v 42
14 will you more will more
State 1 State 2 State 3
H4 55
rt 57 57 55
20 1I am ~ ~, ---
State 1 State 2
H2 51
25 Tryumph Triumph
41 rome roome
43 aſweare anſwere
H3v 54
1 Kig. Nig.
15 theiues,theiues thieues,thieues
22 courſe ~,
27 mnſt muſt
32 theiuing thieuing
34m thrwes throws
39 trimmph triumph
State 1 State 2
H2 51
25 Tryumph Triumph
41 rome roome
43 aſweare anſwere
H3v 54
1 Kig. Nig.
15 theiues,theiues thieues,thieues
22 courſe ~,
27 mnſt muſt
32 theiuing thieuing
34m thrwes throws
39 trimmph triumph
Setting 1 Setting 2
L2 75
2 Damon ; ~ ;
11 Sir. ~ ,
12 heere here
14 hoſtler. ~.
21 hight height
22 do doe
25 Mr. Littlewit? Mr Littlewit.
30-1 go- / ing go / ing
32 Trigſstayers, Trigſstayres,
33 hee he
36 iudgement Iudgement
38 I’ll I’le
41 drum Drum
sig L 2 L2
cw ACT Act
L3v 78
1 ready readie
4 bare headed bare-headed
6 Stocks ſtocks
10 fault in himſelfe fault ^ himſelfe
11 Numps Numpes
16 Numps …Stocks, Numps ? Numpes …ſtocks, Numps ?
18 Was. I pray you Was: I pray ^
18 let me ~ mee
19 Well then, we ~, ~ ~
21 neither, now I … mee neirher, now, I … me
22 Win-w … care, he Win-vv … care hee
23 him to expreſſe him ^ expreſſe
27 chief chiefe
28 cloth, ~ ^
30 Which … call it our Which … call ^ our
31 As [plain italic capital] [swash capital]
32 Now [swash capital] [plain italic capital]
32 as he ~ hee
33 to come to’come
36 Now [swash capital] [plain italic capital]
37 lacke [tailed roman ‘e’] [italic ‘e’]
38 Pvp. L. Cole, Pvp. L. Cole,
(Also 40, 42, 44, 46)
39 That is …controle. That’s … controle:
41 We doe Wee doe
43 Old cole? Old Cole?
43 how do you ſell? how doe you ſell?
44 o’your maners o’ you manners
44 here,and ~ ^ ~
45 hole, and ~ ^ ~
46 Why …I ſay, Cole VVhy … ~ ~ ^ ~
cw Pvp. [ omit]
State 1 State 2
L2v 76
36m By [B inverted] [B corrected]
M3 85
SD1 By lines 32-4 By lines 30-2



34 A few copies appear to read ‘thinke;’ rather than ‘thinke,’ but this results from inking, and is not a stop-press variant.


10-11 In state 1 the attribution to Jonson is not enclosed by horizontal rules, as in state 2, and ‘BY’ is centred on a separate line.


Some of the word-spacing in large-paper copies 11 and 28 differs from that in other copies. Line 26, for example, lacks the space in ‘to preſent’.


26 The comma after ‘leap’ fails to print in some copies; this is not a stop-press variant.

B4v 8

24 The last letter of ‘comes’ fails to print clearly in most copies; this is not a stop-press variant.

B3 5

43 Jonson’s insertion of ‘Afore’ in state 3 is anticipated in the state 2 of copy 6, where an early hand has inked in ‘Ere’ before ‘I would’. The same hand also corrects the misnumbering of pp. 12-13 as 6 and 3, deletes the superfluous ‘then’ at G1 41.30, carefully erases redundant ‘l’ from ‘talke’ at I4 63.1, and, more dubiously, inserts ‘the’ into ‘pay value’ at G3v 46.30.

E3v 30

24 The full stop after ‘time’ is smudged in most copies and appears a comma.

D1v:4 18/23

Although each page of this forme exists in three states, four versions of the forme as a whole survive. The first state exists in two phases, with a single initial correction to D1v (recorded in a single copy) briefly preceding the first corrections to D4.

G4v 48

1 The spacing varies from copy to copy.

I1 57

Running title and text out of normal alignment in large-paper copy 11.

L4v 80

The page has been re-imposed or altered. The vertical rule separating the marginal note from the main text lies slightly to the left in some copies, avoiding an impression of crowding.

L3v 78

33 Very occasionally, the apostrophe in to’come (state 2) fails to print.

M1v 82

8 A smudge makes the full stop after ‘now’ appear a colon in some copies.

46 The spacing varies from copy to copy.

M4 87

42 The spacing varies from copy to copy.

M2v 84

5 The comma after ‘tide’ fails to print in some copies, while the upper dot of the (italic) colon after ‘deſtruction’ is often faint. Neither of these is a stop-press variant.

State 1: 1, 2, 4, 5, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 29, 31, 33, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40

State 2: all other copies


State 1: Reported H&S 9.108 in editor’s copy

State 2: 3, 13, 15, 16, 117, 23, 24, 27, 29, 32, 37, 39

State 3: all other copies


As D1v, except that copies 27, 37, 39 also have state 1 (see notes above)


State 1: 12, 14, 17, 26, 27, 29, 34, 36, 37, 39

State 2: 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 41

State 3: 2, 3, 11, 13, 21, 28, 38, 40


State 1: 3, 4, 22, 30

State 2: all other copies


State 1: 8

State 2: all other copies


State 1: 9, 12, 14, 20, 25-6, 31

State 2: all other copies


State 1: reported H&S 9.109 in two of the editor’s copies

State 2: 8

State 3: all other copies


State 1: 36

State 2: all other copies


Setting 1: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39, 41

Setting 2: all other copies


State 1: 10

State 2: all other copies


State 1: 37

State 2: all other copies



The Works of Ben Jonson (1692) (F3)

The Works of Ben. Johnson (6 vols., 1716-17, Tonson’s edition)

Ben. Johnson’s Plays (2 vols., Dublin, 1729)

‘O rare Ben Johnson!’: . . . Favourite and Celebrated Comedies of . . . Ben Johnson (n.d. but 1738)

Peter Whalley, ed., The Works of Ben. Jonson (7 vols., 1756).

William Gifford, ed., The Works of BJ (9 vols., 1816)

Barry Cornwall, ed., The Works of BJ (1838)

Francis Cunningham, ed., The Works . . . Gifford (3 vols., 1853, rpt. 1871)

Francis Cunningham, ed., The Works. . . Gifford (9 vols., 1875)

Brinsley Nicholson, ed., and C. H. Herford, intro., BJ: The Best Plays of the Old Dramatists (Mermaid, 3 vols., n.d. but 1893-5)

C. S. Alden, ed., Bartholomew Fair (New York, Yale Studies in English 25, 1904)

Felix E. Schelling, ed., Complete Plays of BJ (Everyman, 2 vols., 1910)

E. H. C. Oliphant, ed., Shakespeare and His Fellow Dramatists (New York, 2 vols., 1929)

Hazelton Spencer, ed., Elizabethan Plays (1934)

H&S, vol. 6 (1938)

Harry Levin, ed., BJ: Selected Works (n.d., but 1939)

Five Plays by BJ (Oxford, World’s Classics, 1953)

E. A. Horsman, ed., Bartholomew Fair (Revels Plays, 1960)

Eugene M. Waith, ed., Bartholomew Fair (New Haven, Yale, 1963)

Maurice Hussey, ed., Bartholomew Fair (New Mermaids, 1964)

Edward Partridge, ed., Bartholomew Fair (Regents Renaissance Drama Series, 1964)

Michael Jamieson, ed., BJ: Three Comedies (Penguin English Library, 1966)

Douglas Duncan, ed., Bartholomew Fair (Edinburgh, Fountainwell Drama Texts 19, 1972)

David McPherson, ed., BJ: Selected Works (New York, 1972)

G. R. Hibbard, ed., Bartholmew Fair (New Mermaids, 1977) (rpt. in Brian Gibbons, ed., Elizabethan and Jacobean Comedy (Mermaid, 1984); 2nd edn, with introduction by Alexander Leggatt (2007)

G. A. Wilkes, ed., Works (Oxford, 4 vols., 1981-2) (rpt. in BJ: Five Plays, World’s Classics, 1988)

Simon Trussler, comm., Bartholomew Fair (Methuen, 1986)

Martin Butler, ed., Selected Plays of BJ (Cambridge, Renaissance and Restoration Dramatists, 1989, vol. 2)

Gordon Campbell, ed., The Alchemist and Other Plays (Oxford, World’s Classics, 1995)

Helen Ostovich, ed., Jonson: Four Comedies (Longman Annotated Texts, 1997)

Colin Counsell, ed., Bartholomew Fair (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1997)

Suzanne Gossett, ed., Bartholomew Fair (Manchester, Revels Student Editions, 2000)

The extensive changes to B2v:3 are first mentioned in Riddell (1997b) , 68-9, who found them in copies Huntington 62101, v. 2 and Clark 1616a (ibid. 73). There are, however, various errors and omissions in his list — he has not realized, for example, that there are three states of this forme — and he does not discuss the significance of the revisions. I am grateful to Dr Karen Britland for checking the Huntington and Clark copies on my behalf.

The use of commas rather than full stops between names in ‘massed entries’ is found only here, at the beginning of 1.3. Beale’s men must still have been settling the mode of presentation. Compare the experimenting with layout at the opening of Act 2.

‘Jonson’s involvement [in F1] fluctuated over time, between poles of very close oversight and almost complete negligence’, Butler (1999b) , 9, summarising Gants (ibid.).

This is true not only of the two large-paper copies discovered in preparing this edition (Ox (Bras) and TxU 5, numbers 11 and 28 below) but in the two other large-paper copies seen by Riddell (1997b), 79, n. 15. As Riddell also noticed (n. 16), the sole exception traced is that ‘The Scene: Smithfield’ occurs under the ‘Persons’ (A3v) on the standard pot paper of copy BL 5 (no. 35 below). It looks as if on both occasions Jonson’s corrections were aimed at the large-paper copies and the second set arrived just before the printing of the preliminaries on standard paper had been completed. Correction must have continued even into the printing of the large-paper copies, since the corrected reading on B2 (p. 3) is found in only one of the two large-paper copies examined for this edition, and is not recorded by Riddell. (BL 5 happens to have been the sole copy of F2 used by Hibbard in preparing his New Mermaids edition (p. xxxv) , and the location accordingly appears there, without any acknowledgement that it had not appeared in any previous edition.)

For large-paper copies being printed early, compare Gerritsen (1959) , 54; Donovan (1987) , 119; Riddell (1994) , 147-54. The large-paper copies of Staple were printed early (Riddell (1997a) , 73-4) — perhaps Jonson was agitating for them.

When Jonson brought out The New Inn in the same year, it was published not by Allott but by Thomas Alchorn (or Alchorne) and printed not by Beale but (much more carefully, and much more carefully proof-read) by Thomas Harper. Either Jonson had very quickly learnt that Beale was not to be relied on and sought a different printer, or, more probably, Harper’s work was done before Beale’s, exasperating Jonson all the more at Beale’s inadequacies. Alchorn entered the play on the Stationers’ Register on 17 April 1631, which may seem too early a date for Jonson to have become so disaffected with Allott and Beale (Arber (1875-94) , 4.217), especially as Staple was not transferred from John Waterson to Allott in the Stationers’ Register until 7 September 1631. Even so, Jonson’s disaffection will have stemmed from the very first pages set in type by Beale, once seen by him.

See, for example, Horsman’s note in his Revels Plays edition , 3.2.128. Waith (1963) argues at length for an emendation that Spencer had in fact already made. See above for Spencer’s uniquely correct glossing of Whit’s ‘be an’t be’.