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The Magnetic Lady: Textual Essay

Helen Ostovich

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

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