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The Works of Ben Jonson (1756): Textual Essay

Tom Lockwood

General title-page

THE | WORKS | OF | BEN. JONSON. | IN SEVEN VOLUMES. | Collated with | All the former EDITIONS, and Corrected; | With NOTES Critical and Explanatory. | By PETER WHALLEY, | Late Fellow of St. John’s College in Oxford. | -- Neque me ut miretur turba laboro, | Contentus paucis lectoribus. HOR. | Rudem esse omino in nostris poetis, aut inertissime segnitiæ est, | aut fastidii delicatissimi. CIC. de Fin. L. I. | [double rule 87mm] | LONDON: | Printed for D. MIDWINTER; W. INNYS and J. RICHARDSON; | J. KNAPTON; T. WOTTON; C. HITCH and L. HAWES; | J. WALTHOE; D. BROWNE; J. and R. TONSON; C. BATHURST; | J. HODGES; J. WARD; M [sic] and T. LONGMAN; W. JOHNSTON; | and P. DAVEY and B. LAW. | MDCCLVI.

Collation by volume

Volume 1

80: A8 a-d8 A-2D8

[$1-4 signed (-I4)]

252 leaves, paged i-viii, i-lxiv, 1-432.

CONTENTS A3r: The List of Subscribers; a1r: The Preface; c1r: The Life of Benjamin Jonson; A2r: Dedicatory Poems; A8r: EMI; I4R: EMO; T3r: Cynthia.

Volume 2

80: π2 A-Y8 (+Y6) Z-2K8 2L4 2M1

[$1-4 signed]

271 leaves, paged i-iv, 1-538, misnumbering 374 as ‘344’ and 474 as ‘774’.

CONTENTS π1v: Errata; A1r: Poet.; H7r: Sej.; R4r: Volp.; 2C6r: Epicene.

NOTES Note that direction line at foot of 2M1v (‘END of VOL. II’) is offset on π1r in some copies, suggesting that gathering π2 once formed 2M2.3; 2M4 was presumably blank.

Volume 3

80: π2 A-U8 (+U2) X-2C8

[$1-4 signed]

210 leaves, paged i-iv, 1-416, misnumbering 291 as ‘29 1’ and 297 as ‘279’.

CONTENTS π1v: Errata; A1r: Alch.; H6r: Cat.; S1r: Bart. Fair.

Volume 4

80: π2 A-2H8 G4

[$1-4 signed]

238 leaves, paged i-iv, 1-472, misnumbering 207 as ‘072’, 356 as ‘365’, 357 as ‘375’, 404 as ‘434’ and 432 as ‘324’.

CONTENTS π1v: Errata; A1r: Devil; H7r: Staple; Q5r: New Inn; Z7r: Mag. Lady.

Volume 5

80: π2 A-2E8

[$1-4 signed]

226 leaves, paged i-iv, 1-448, misnumbering 320 as ‘300’.

CONTENTS π2v: Errata; A1r: Tub; F8r: Sad Shep.; K5r: Mort.; L1r: King’s Ent.; N1v: Panegyre; N4v: Althorp; O3r: Highgate; O8r: Two Kings; P1v: Theobalds; P4v: Blackness; Q3v: Beauty; R3v: Hym.; T6r: Haddington; U6v: Queens; Z1r: Barriers; Z8v: Oberon; 2B2r: Love Freed; 2C1r: Love Rest.; 2C6r: Challenge; 2D2r: Irish; 2D5v: Merc. Vind.; 2E2v: Gold. Age.

Volume 6

80: π2 A-K8 (+K8) L-O8 (+O7) P-2E8

[$1-4 signed]

226 leaves, paged i-iv, 1-448.

CONTENTS π1v: Errata; A1r: Christmas; A6V: Lovers MM; B2r: Vision; B7r: Pleasure Rec.; C5r: Wales; D4r: News NW; E3r: Gypsies; H4r: Augurs; I5r: Time Vind.; K5v: Neptune; L5r: Pan’s Ann.; M2r: Owls; M5r: Fort. Isles; N6r: Love’s Tr.; O2r: Chloridia; O8r: Epigr.; U1r: Forest; X8r: Und.

Volume 7

80: π2 A-Z8 2A6

[$1-4 signed (–L4)]

192 leaves, paged i-iv, 1-380, misnumbering 73 as ‘74’ and 269 as ‘266’.

CONTENTS π1v: Errata; A1r: Und. (cont.); C8v: Welbeck; D7v: Bolsover; E3r: Timber; L2r: Horace 2; N7r: Grammar; T2r: Leg. Conv.; T5r: Case.

NOTES Gathering π2 may represent sigs 2A7, 8.

Discussion

Looking back at the publication of Nicholas Rowe’s 1709 edition of Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson commented of the earlier editor’s labours that ‘Rowe seems to have thought very little on correction or explanation, but that our author’s works might appear like those of his fraternity, with the appendages of a life and recommendatory preface’ (Johnson, 1765, 1.xlvii ; Sherbo, 1968, 1.93 ). Peter Whalley’s 1756 edition of Jonson’s Works was the first to offer Jonson (and his readers) these and other ‘appendages’. As well as the first biography and critical account of Jonson to accompany his Works, and explanatory and interpretative notes to those texts, Whalley’s edition adds The Case is Altered to the gathered canon of Jonson’s plays, poems, masques, entertainments, and prose. In addition, it reproduces Du Guernier’s eleven engraved plates from the Works of 1716-17 . What is more, Whalley’s edition of the Works is the first to institute the generic classification which all editors have since followed, until the present edition: rather than print Jonson’s texts in the sequential order of the 1616 and 1640/1 folios, where (for instance) plays, masques, and poems published at different times in different volumes are kept apart, Whalley gathers texts together by kind, so that a reader moves through the full range of Jonson’s dramatic texts, through his masques to his poetry. Advertized in The Monthly Review (August 1756) and by excerpts from its biography of Jonson in the Literary Magazine, 1 (July-August 1756), Whalley’s edition had its roots in the work of annotation that had begun at least four years earlier when The Gentleman’s Magazine printed a selection of his notes to Every Man In (GM 22 (January 1752), 3-4). The same magazine in 1787 recorded that he had been paid £210 for his editorial work (GM 57 (1787), 76). On publication in 1756, sets of Whalley’s edition cost ‘1l. 15s. bound.’ (The Critical Review, 1 (1756), 462-72; Monthly Review, 15 (1756), 198). Whalley’s text was to serve as the basis for most reprinted texts of Jonson up to and including John Stockdale’s single-volume edition of the dramatic Works in 1811.

A syndicate of fifteen publishing businesses was named in the imprint to Whalley’s edition, but as important in seeing it into print were the actions of the 116 personal and individual subscribers listed in the edition’s first volume (sigs A3-A8v). Five of the publishers named in the imprint to the Booksellers’ Edition of 1716-17 also figure in the imprint to the 1756 Works. This continuity demonstrates amply the practices of what William St Clair calls the ‘high monopoly’ period of the English book trades, in which transactions between individual members of the Stationers’ Company in de facto perpetual rights to copy took place apparently without reference to the implications of the 1710 Copyright Act (St Clair (2004) , 84-102, 122-39). These transactions, and the rights they in effect perpetuated, did not go entirely unchallenged across the century. The retention of rights to copy in Jonson’s texts by members of the Stationers’ Company had been threatened by Robert Walker’s never-realized intention to publish ‘All the English PLAYS … in Turn’, a project announced as part of his struggle over the rights to publish his 1734-5 edition of Shakespeare (Walker, 1734-5, 2.n.p ; Dawson, 1961 ; Harris, 1989 .

The subscription list for Whalley’s edition locates the 1756 Works within a different aspect of the mid-eighteenth century publishing economy. By the middle decades of the eighteenth century, subscription publication had moved from its associations primarily with books produced by living single authors to ‘works of elaborate learning in expensive format’ (Lockwood, 2001, p.129 ). Whalley’s edition followed the lead of a two-volume, duodecimo selected edition of eight of Jonson’s plays published in Dublin by Risk, Ewing, and Smith, which in 1729 had earlier proved the possibility of publishing Jonson by subscription (Ben. Johnson’s Plays, 1729). The 46 individual subscribers to the 1729 edition showed a strong association with Trinity College, Dublin; the many more subscribers to Whalley’s edition, although they included the library and individual fellows of his old Oxford college, St. John’s, are not as readily associated, although the network of friends through whom he worked to generate subscribers provides a fascinating social history of Jonsonians at this period (see below).

Whalley was the first editor to speculate in print about the documents and processes that lay behind the early printed texts and manuscripts that his edition reproduced. The folio of 1616 Whalley believed to have been printed under Jonson’s ‘own inspection’ – ‘so that we have’, he continued, ‘an authentic copy for our pattern’. The works printed posthumously in 1640/41 he thought ‘undoubtedly’ derived from Jonson’s ‘original manuscripts’ which, not having benefited from ‘the author’s revisal’, occasioned ‘many more, as well as more material[,] blunders’ in the volume’ (Works, 1756, 1.ii). As was established practice for editors of the period, Whalley took as copy-text the Booksellers’ Edition of 1716-17, thereby establishing his publishers’ continued rights to Jonson’s text (on this practice, see De Grazia, 1991 ). On occasion, Whalley thereby followed the literal errors of the 1716-17 Works, even embellishing them with commentary notes of his own (a selection of such errors is surveyed by H&S, 9.139-40 ). He was also able to make use of notes supplied to him by Seward and Simpson, earlier editors of Beaumont and Fletcher, as well as a set of the 1716-17 Works annotated by the Shakespearean editor Lewis Theobald. Whalley’s corrections are, in the main, of obvious errors. His editorial treatment of Jonson’s text sits comfortably in the mainstream of mid-eighteenth century theory and practice.

Whalley’s belief in the authority of the folio texts largely prevented him from doing any more than noting the existence of earlier editions in smaller formats or using them in any more than local ways. In the difficult text of Gypsies, for instance, he noted the reading ‘All mystery’ from Benson’s 1640 duodecimo edition of the Poems against the folio reading ‘And this is almestry’, which he printed (6.76). Later in the same text Whalley glossed the folio reading ‘they’ll do it non upstant’ with the note ‘i.e. notwithstanding’, commenting ‘And so reads edit. 1640. 12o’ (6.97). On occasions such as this, when Whalley (in his own phrase) ‘called in the assistance of the edit. in 12o’ (6.99) to complement the folio text, we see the sporadic development of a comparative textual understanding of Jonson’s texts: Whalley recognises the variance within the printed witnesses to the masque, but does not speculate as their provenance or consequence. Whalley’s chief achievement, however, was adding The Case is Altered, printed in quarto in 1609, but not collected by Jonson, to the collected Works. With the help of David Garrick’s copy (now in the British Library), Whalley printed Case at the close of the edition’s seventh volume. Whalley’s letter to Garrick of 12 June 1755 thanks him for the loan of his ‘old Quarto Plays’ and explains why, as he put it, ‘I was so sollicitous [sic] for collating these 4tos’. Garrick provided Whalley with the unrevised text of EMI (Q). Of the text contained in his quarto of The Case is Altered Whalley wrote that ‘The Printer, whoever he was, being possessed of Mr. Bayes’s art of transprosing, has shewn his skill in almost every page, & given many of the Verse-speeches, as incorrect prose’. The letter also gives some indication of the process by which Whalley gathered subscribers besides Garrick for his edition: ‘If I remember right, I left five receipts in your possession: if any Opportunity shd. occur of disposing of them before November, about wch. time Mr. Draper tells me the Work will be ready for publishing, yr. Friendship I am persuaded will not be forgetful’ (National Art Library, Forster Collection F.48.F.30, item 52).

Whalley’s ‘Life’ and annotation were diffidently praised by the edition’s earliest reviewers. The Critical Review, on inspection, ‘found it to be indeed extremely correct, but by no means so explanatory as it ought to have been’. As ‘Jonson was very conversant in low life’, the reviewer continued, his editor might have done more counteract the tendency by which such words and phrases ‘render him in a great measure unintelligible to a modern reader’. After quoting a large selection of Whalley’s notes the review closed with a list of those ‘ænigmas’ of which ‘we should be obliged to Mr. Whalley for a solution of, in his next edition’. The list of 38 items ran from ‘tankard-bearer’ to ‘strummel’, via ‘petrionel’, ‘scroyl’, ‘poul’ and ‘stramazoun’ (1 (1756), 462-72). The Monthly Review, shorter and sweeter, noted only that ‘‘To say, that we look upon this as the best edition of Ben Johnson’s Works, will be saying enough, for an article of this kind’ (15 (1756), 198).

Whalley’s later intentions for second edition of the Works were never fully realized. A specimen of his revised text and amplified commentary to Every Man In was published posthumously in parts by F.G. Waldron and in 1792 was collected as an exhibit in Waldron’s Literary Museum; Whalley’s text of The Sad Shepherd had formed the basis of Waldron’s 1783 edition and continuation of Jonson’s incomplete drama. Waldron also took possession of books from Whalley’s library, alongside his papers for the projected edition. Some of these passed to Jonson’s next editor, William Gifford (Lockwood, 2002 ; Lockwood, 2005 ). It also was the base text of the single-volume, stereotyped edition of Jonson’s Dramatic Works published by John Stockdale in 1811, an edition whose new ‘Life’ of Jonson was probably contributed by Alexander Chalmers (Lockwood, 2005, 86 n.99 ).

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