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The Magnetic Lady: Textual Essay

Helen Ostovich

The publication history of The Magnetic Lady is part of the long complicated story of difficulties besetting F2 . Jonson alludes to the problems briefly in a 1631 letter to the Earl of Newcastle, in which he blames ‘the lewd printer’ and ‘absolute knave’ John Beale for ‘subject enough for a tragicomedy, for with his delays and vexation, I am almost become blind, and if heaven be so just in the metamorphosis to turn him into that creature he most assimilates, a dog with a bell [playing on the pronunciation of Beale] to lead me between Whitehall and my lodging, I may bid the world good night’ (Letter 15). Jonson could have had no idea then of the multiplied ‘tragicomedy’ that would plague the printing of F2(2) and (3) from 1637 to 1667, with disputes over ownership of the copy despite his best efforts to forestall such events.

Presumably, when Jonson saw that his arrangements with his publisher Robert Allot had gone awry over the printing of F2(2) in 1631, he retained fair copy of all his unpublished works, may have begun negotiating with another printer, and appointed Sir Kenelm Digby as his literary executor. After Jonson’s death in August 1637, Digby made arrangements for the publication of Jonson’s manuscripts, F2(3), including The Magnetic Lady, with Thomas Walkley, who paid £40 in 1637 for the edition, planned for 1640. The choice of publisher was probably based on Jonson’s earlier working arrangements, presumably satisfactory, with Walkley, the publisher of Love’s Triumph through Callipolis and Chloridia (1631), the last works issued in Jonson’s lifetime.

Digby’s decision to accept Walkley as publisher gives considerable pause for thought, because in July 1637, Allot’s former apprentice, Andrew Crooke, and his printer, John Legatt, finally entered their copies of F2(2) into the Stationers’ Register, after repeated warnings from the Company for neglecting this duty. Crooke, who gained control of the stock after Allot’s death in 1635 by managing the shop for his widow, and who had been battling in Chancery with Mary Allot and her new husband Philip Chetwin over rights since then, plotted subsequently to gain control of Walkley’s copy as well. The aptly named Crooke had performed similar acts of what amounted to piracy in the printing of The Practice of Piety (Williams, 1977, 90-1 ), an immensely profitable book which contemporaries revered as a second bible (see The Magnetic Lady, 4.4.39n.). Although Crooke and Legatt had legal control over Allot’s copyrights (see Arber, Transcript, 4.387 ), they acquired it under questionable circumstances, which may be inferred by observing how they attempted to gain control of Walkley’s rights.

Luckily for current scholarship, Walkley had an excellent lawyer, John Vernon, whose Chancery bill gives a lucid narrative of events (see Marcham, 1931 , and Eugene Giddens’ account of the dispute in the Textual Database). A word of caution, however: the persuasive powers of a good lawyer may obscure or misrepresent the issues, skewing evidence to secure the best possible advantage for the client. Walkley’s story, good as it is, may not reflect his character accurately; for example, E. A. J. Honigmann (1996, 22-9, 152-8 ) finds him dishonest in his business practice during the 1620s. The document nevertheless establishes the provenance of The Magnetic Lady and the rest of Jonson’s late works in F2(3) by explaining that Digby, as literary executor of Jonson’s manuscripts, had the right ‘to dispose thereof at his will and pleasure’, and that Jonson had left ‘true and perfect copies for his better and more effectual doing thereof’.

Walkley apparently won his case, since he did print and issue F2(3) in 1641, but he had to make further complaints, finally to the House of Lords in 1648, before he acquired the right to license – or relicense – the book he had already purchased and printed. This registration was finally entered on 17 September 1658, with the surprising addition of Devil, the disputed, unregistered play from 1631 F2(2):

Thomas Walkley:   Entered for his copy under the hand of Master Pulleyn,
warden, a book called Ben Jonson’s Works, the third volume
containing these pieces: viz., fifteen masques at court and
elsewhere; Horace his Art of Poetry Englished; English
Grammar; Timber, or Discoveries; Underwoods, consisting of
divers poems; The Magnetic Lady; A Tale of a Tub; The Sad
Shepherd, or a Tale of Robin Hood; The Devil is an Ass.
Salvo jure cuiusunque. vi d.

               (Plomer, 1913-16, 2.196)

On 20 November 1658, Walkley sold his rights to Humphrey Moseley, no doubt happy to put the whole thing behind him.

Regarding The Magnetic Lady’s printing history, Percy and Evelyn Simpson suggest that the printers Walkley employed for The Magnetic Lady and the other works in F2(3) may have been Bernard Alsop and his partner from about 1625, Thomas Fawcett (or Forsett), but nothing on the title-page gives definitive evidence (H&S 9.104 ). D. F. McKenzie (1972 ) suggests instead that the printer was more likely John Dawson the younger, on the basis of one factotum depicting Salome receiving the head of John the Baptist, which appears on the first page of Christmas His Masque, and two upper case French Canon ‘H’s. None of this detail applies specifically to The Magnetic Lady, but since it was certainly printed in sequence with A Tale of a Tub and The Sad Shepherd (the plays are numbered as pages 1-155 consecutively), and since the last gives evidence of Dawson as printer, the paucity of evidence (the lack of commendatory verses, the omission of any printer’s or publisher’s names, mention of shop, device, or other signifier on the title-page or at beginnings or ends of acts) may be immaterial. Despite the negative comments H&S offer on the printing of the text, rising briefly to faint praise (‘The utmost that could be said for Walkley’s printer is that, after all, he was a better workman than John Beale’ (9.107 )), The Magnetic Lady is not unduly error-ridden, there are signs of regular corrections, and the appearance of the page is acceptable. The paper quality is rather thin in most copies, with print from one side bleeding through into the print on the other. Some volumes, apparently prepared as gifts, use heavier paper, as for example the Newnham College, Cambridge copy, which has been preserved in perfect condition, an appearance achieved in the twentieth century when it was rebound, its pages smoothed and gilt-edged, thus seeming virtually unread.

The play collates 2o: sigs A-H4; A1v, A2v, A4 blank; pp. 1-64; p. 36 misnumbered or poorly inked to appear as 35 in some copies; and p. 50 misnumbered 52 in some copies. The Magnetic Lady is the first play in some copies of F2, paginated 1-64, with A Tale of a Tub and The Sad Shepherd following immediately, beginning with I1 and paginated 65-155; but sometimes the other sections are put together in different order, beginning with masques (as in the text McKenzie examined), although the pagination remains the same. The binders were not always sure whether the volume should begin with the masques, or with some other group of quires, in the absence of preliminary pages that might have offered a table of contents. When bound together with F2(2), often the volume begins with the 1631 Meighen title page, listing only three plays, to the confusion of librarians and unwary scholars.

As Peter Happé has successfully argued in his own edition of Magnetic Lady (2000, 41-53 ), the likelihood is that the text was set from a Jonson autograph, since spelling, abbreviation or elision (‘hem, i’th’, ha’), punctuation, and design of the scenes reflect Jonson’s characteristic style. Jonson’s impulse to replicate classical style also appears in some spellings (sillabes, phant’sie), including diagraphs (Comœdy, œconomick, Præsto) and hyphenated compound words (states-man). The layout of the pages is regular and simple: ruled lines (sometimes wavy) above and below the running heads, and a single line separating the acts. On A3, ‘THE INDUCTION, OR, CHORUS’ is set over four lines in varyingly large uppercase letters, with a single line across the page before the stage directions. The scene headings usually list all characters in the scene, if necessary stating ‘To them’ as an indication of the relation between just-entered characters and characters who remain on stage from the previous scene. In scenes with more complicated coming and going, notably in 5.10, arrivals are named in the margins beside their entering cues, but generally exits are given only at the ends of scenes. So, for example, Lady Loadstone is on stage at the beginning of 5.10, since she did not exit at the end of 5.9, but her name appears in the margin at line 14, indicating an entrance; her exit, unmarked, probably occurs at line 2. The chorus at the end of each act is marked off with an extra space and ‘Chorus’ in italics in a slightly larger fount; the same is true of act and scene headings. The final ‘Chorus’ after Act 5, and the additional explanation, ‘Changed into an Epilogue: / To the King’ are set in a mix of larger fount, bold capital letters, small capitals, lowercase roman, and italics, with a line before and after the verses, set in italics, the whole centred on one page (H4v).

The text is usually consistent with speech prefixes, but the first entrance of Silkworm announces this character as ‘Sir Diaphanous’(1.6, B4v) with the speech prefix ‘Dia.’; he enters less formally as ‘Diaphanous’ in 2.4 (C4) with no change in speech prefix. Subsequently, he enters as ‘Silkworme’ in 3.3 (E1), with the speech prefix ‘Silk.’ for the whole scene. After that, the text reverts to ‘Diaphanous’ (3.5, E3) and the speech prefix ‘Dia.’ until 4.8 (G1v), when ‘Silkworme’ enters, and again in the marginal entrance in 5.10 (H3), where the speech prefix remains ‘Silk.’ to the end of the play. None of these changes appears on the four heavily corrected formes cited below. Aside from the confusion between Pol. and Pal. at the start of 1.4 (B3), no other such error of reference occurs. It is quite possible, given these random occurrences, that the name-variations were Jonson’s own inconsistencies in the manuscript, and not compositorial errors.

Overall, the format of the play is plain, lacking the ornate distinctions of F1 , but not without a certain appropriateness for Jonson, the master of the plain style. Although errors were corrected, 36 pages (of which 3 are blank) of the 64 were deemed by the printer not to need correcting (see list of uncorrected errors below). Nevertheless, the number of errors is not unusual, and only two of them cause problems in comprehension: ‘then th’Ages’ (G1) and ‘Rogue’ (G4). See 4.7.45n. and 5.4.1n.

Most of the variants are concentrated on eight pages, as the correction evidence indicates: 3/6 (A2:A3v); 19/22 (C2:C3v), corrected twice, since they exist in three states; 42/47 (F1v:F4); and 59/62 (H2:H3v). The quires seem to have been set by two compositors, one neater and more concerned about pleasing well-spaced appearance than the other, who was perhaps an apprentice. Using two formes, they probably printed sequentially from A through H fairly fluidly, at least in comparison to A Tale of a Tub and The Sad Shepherd. The headline evidence also suggests smooth printing, perhaps with the use of two presses concurrently (see Giddens, 2003 ).

As the following charts reveal, the text of The Magnetic Lady shows modest correction mostly in two states, with a few exceptions. The forme C2:3 (outer) shows extensive correction over three states. Some apparent errors may be anomalies caused by inking problems; for example, the semicolon at the end of ‘industry’ in D1v 16, is present in some copies but not in others. The likely explanation is that the semicolon was always present from state 1 onwards, but that it failed to print consistently, as some of the copies that seem to lack it do have what look like traces of it. The semicolon is faint or barely visible in copies 11 and 14, and invisible in copy 23. Martin Butler reports the same problem in the two copies in the Brotherton Library, Leeds (one faint, one invisible). A similar explanation holds for the sometimes faint apostrophe on the title page ‘Reconcil’d’. A related printing anomaly appears in words which seem to have a space missing; C2, 2, ‘noAct’ in states 2 and 3 may not be a spacing error, since some copies show a partial space, and it may be that the spacing was originally correct but went wrong in the process of correction between states 1 and 2. A2, 16, ‘ALawyer’, and E3v, 16, ‘noreason’, however, seem to be uncorrected errors, since no copies appear with a space. In another anomaly, E2v should be numbered 36 but appears to be 35; this is also probably an inking problem, and not a genuine variant. It appears as though the ‘6’ in ‘36’ became dislodged in the course of printing.

Copies Consulted
1. British Library 79.L.14
2. British Library C.39.K.9*
3. British Library 1482.d.15 Greg’s copy
4. Christ’s College, Cambridge Rouse 8.10-11
5. Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge L.34.3
6. King’s College Archives, Cambridge (Keynes’ collection) C.5.14
7. King’s College (Cambridge) Archives (Keynes’ collection) c.10.6
8. Newnham College, Cambridge Young 2056
9. Trinity College, Cambridge: Grylls 32.140
10. Trinity College, Cambridge Grylls 32.180
11. Trinity College, Cambridge VI.12.11
12. Cambridge University Library Brett-Smith.a.7
13. Cambridge University Library Keynes D.6.23
14. Cambridge University Library Syn4.61.20
15. Cambridge University Library Syn.4.64.14
16. Cambridge University Library Syn.4.64.15
17. Oxford University, Bodleian Douce 1-303 UMI mfm PR U548 reel 175
18. Boston Public Library G 3811.8 (bound as one volume)
19. Boston Public Library G 3811.8a (bound as half-volume, beginning with The Magnetic Lady, and contains two mispaginations)
20. David Gants’s copy
21. University of Pennsylvania Folio STC 14754 (uncatalogued) large
22. University of Pennsylvania PR 2600 C40 V.2 Forrest small page signed Beatrice Fleming on Persons page, no Title Page
23. University of Pennsylvania Furness folio STC 14754 small page
24. McMaster University D386
25. University of Toronto Fisher STC 01124 copy 1 RB223623
26. University of Toronto UNC uncatalogued, STC 01124 copy 2 (possibly a put-together text) RB223624

Press Variants by Forme

A1:4 (outer)
A1 1
11 [omit] Claud. de Magnet.
13 Printed M. CD. XL. Printed M. CD. XL
A2:3 (outer)
A2 3
7 Pleaſance. Pleaſance,
17 Intereſt. Intereſt,
17 -band -baud
18 Bias Bias,
A3v 6
28 ſecurities, ſecurities:
38 Magnum! Magnum.
B1:4 (inner)
B1v 10
36 terme: termes:
45 ym my
B2:3 (outer)
B2 11
20 health, health
23 What? call What call
B3v 14
45 Armenians . . . Armenians Armenians. . . Arminians
C1:4 (outer)
C1 17
37 Siſter! Siſter,
C4v 24
17 family? family!
37 veines veines,
cw [omit] But
C2:3 (outer) STATE 1 STATE 2 STATE 3
C2 19
1 no Act noAct ~
4 Comedy, Comedy ~
4 reſerv’d, reſerv’d ~
14 land, land ~
14 Pannims Paynims ~
15 Monsters: Monsters; ~
16 Daughter: ~ Daughter
17 lame, lame ~
19 miracles: miracles, miracles.
20 [t]hen ~ then
22 then, your People; then; your People, ~
22 Tudeske Tudesko ~
30 well. well: ~
36-7 de-/grees! de-/grees: ~
C3v 22
10 Eſpecially’in Eſpecially in ~
12 darker: what darker? What ~
13 Engliſh — ~ Engliſh —.
14 it. it. — it—.
14 heaven her vent ~
16 with. [very faint period] with; ~
18 hers, hers ~
32 weekes! weekes: ~
44 (To To ~
46 too to ~
47 Practiſe! Practiſe: ~
47 man? man, ~
C1:4 (inner)
28 large. large!
D1:4 (outer)
D1 25
cw [cut off?] ACT.
D1:4 (inner)
D1v 26
2sd Rnt. Rut.
16 induſtry induſtry;
24 more, ~
26 in open ſale ſale in open
D4 31
6 [added to end of previous line] Dam. By whom, Boy?
15 Iem. Item.
30 name: name:)
D2:3 (outer)
D3v 30
45 ten, ten
D2:3 (inner)
D2v 28
8 Legacie? Legacie,
E2v: E3 (inner)
E2v 36 [inking problem?]
rt 35 36
E1: E4v (outer)
E4v 40
16 other other,
16 free, free.
F1:4 (inner)
F1v 42
6 Captaine! Captaine:
8 hence,! hence;
F4 47
20 travell? travell
21 ſake. ſake?
30 you, you.
30 Practiſe. Practiſe,
36 reſtgiſtred regiſtred
41 trke take
G1:4 (outer)
G1 49
8 another. another?
cw Griəv’d (inverted e) Griev’d
G4v 56
38 Counſels. Counſels?
G1:4 (inner)
G1v 50
rt 52 50
G2:3 (outer)
G2 51
29 Daugh Daughter;
H1:4 (outer)
H1 57
32m [omit] Enter Item
43 is, ~
H4v 64
5 appeale, appeale
H2:3 (outer)
H2 59
45 -tub. -tub,
H3v 62
5 charity charity—
36 change, ~
42 unnarurall unnaturall
44 havə have
47 pay, ~

Uncorrected errors:

A2:3 (outer)
A2 3
16 ALawyer [no spacing]
B2v:3 (inner)
B3 13
5 Bal. [instead of Pal. speech-heading]
14 Pal. speech-heading [instead of Pol.]
cw The [should be They]
C2:3 (inner)
C3 21
29 Eeene
E2:3 (inner)
E2v 36
rt [may be 35 blurred]
14 graones
E2:3 (outer)
E3v 38
16 hasreason [no space]
F1:4 (inner)
F1v 42
6 o’ [should be oh!]
G1:4 (outer)
G1 49
43 th’Ages [no one knows what it means]

Distribution of Variants
A1:4 (outer)
STATE 1  4, 7, 19, 26
STATE 2  the rest
A2:3 (outer)
STATE 1  8
STATE 2  the rest
B1:4 (outer)
STATE 1  7
STATE 2  the rest
B2:3 (outer)
STATE 1    2, 3, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20
STATE 2    1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26
C1:4 (outer)
STATE 1    1, 7, 9, 20, 23
STATE 2    the rest
C1:4 (inner)
STATE 1    4, 5, 24, 26
STATE 2    the rest
C2:3 (outer)
STATE 1    22, 25
STATE 2    2, 4, 5, 12, 13, 15, 19, 24
STATE 3    1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23, 26
D1:4 (inner)
STATE 1    3, 5, 11, 14, 18, 21, 23, 25
STATE 2    the rest
D2:3 (outer)
STATE 1    2, 3, 11, 13
STATE 2    the rest
D2:3 (inner) STATE 1    2, 3, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 21, 24
STATE 2    the rest
E1:4 (outer) STATE 1    5, 12, 13, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25
STATE 2    the rest
E2:3 (inner) STATE 1    2, 3, 12, 13, 14, 17, 26
STATE 2    the rest
F1:4 (inner)
STATE 1    2, 13
STATE 2    the rest
G1:4 (outer)
STATE 1    1, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23
STATE 2    2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14, 18, 22, 24, 25, 26
G1:4 (inner)
STATE 1    2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 18, 21, 23
STATE 2    the rest
G2:3 (outer)
STATE 1    2; 7, 9, 12, 13, 15, 19
STATE 2    the rest
H1:4 (outer) STATE 1    1, 3, 8, 11, 18, 23
STATE 2    the rest
H2:3 (outer)
STATE 1    10, 23, 25
STATE 2    the rest