On Defending John Payne Collier
The case against Collier as a forger of
documents is history.
A 454 page examination of it by Dewy Ganzel,
peer reviewed and published by the Oxford University press in 1982, Fortune
& Mean’s Eyes The Career of John Payne Collier, proves it is bad
history, failed history, ridiculous history.
But that it continues to vent it’s venom
from the mouths of sanctimonious Stratfordians is quite certain. These anointed
ones think they can banner about a 454 page argument in a shrug of their
collective shoulders. "Well...what’s Dewy Ganzel know about it?"
A million times more than they, that’s for
Ganzel knows about the emptiness of the
Brae/Madden attack on Collier.
Unlike his detractors Ganzel has been over
Madden’s sealed notes, which contain highly incriminating evidence against
Madden and show he was responsible for fabricating evidence against Collier.
They also show he broke the law over an older case where he purchased stolen
manuscripts from a scholar by the name of Hillier who had filched them from the
Ellesmere papers. (187)
Ganzel knows all about the politics then
raging within the British Library and London Shakespeare circles. And they
cannot be reduced to a collective shrug of shoulders. They were realities of the
time. Huge ones.
As Ganzel writes, had Collier died in 1850,
when he was my age (61) his reputation would have been secure. And what a
reputation. Collier was then "acclaimed as the foremost literary scholar of
his generation, the author of more than forty books, the first historian of
English drama, and a preeminent editor of Shakespeare." (1)
This prodigious work was his nighttime
passion, because during this period he was working full-time in more mundane
occupations, as a reporter for the Chronicle and stenographer or reporter for
Parliament. (1-40) Collier was also a family man, with invalid daughters dying
of tuberculosis. During the remaining 33 years of his life he nearly doubled
this number of works, critics or no. The list of Collier works Ganzel cites runs
to four printed indexed pages.
Collier’s fall was wrapped up in a book
called the Perkins copy of the Second Folio.
This unique volume is now at the Huntington,
where I have seen it on several occasions.
It contains over 20,000 revisions and
emendations in a period hand, many of which restore authorial sense to otherwise
inscrutable passages of gibberish.
One of Collier’s triumphs was his
realization that the quartos were not all the same and that generally speaking
the first editions were superior to the later editions and thus by reverting to
the ORIGINAL readings sense could, in most cases, be restored to the FF’s
readings, at least in the fifteen or sixteen cases where a quarto had appeared
prior to 1623.
The rub here is this made fools of many of
Colliers friends and peers, who were then making their living offering their
constructive opinions on what the erroneous readings should have been.
Because not all the quartos had been
discovered during Colliers lifetime, modern scholars now have one that Collier
did not have.
It is the unique first edition of Titus
Andronicus, which surfaced well after Collier died. Unlike the other
editions, which read "As for that heynous Tyger Tamora..." the first
edition reads "As for that ravenous Tyger Tamora..."
It is not a line that required emendation
since either line works. But "ravenous" is in many ways superior to
"heynous." or "heinous" as we spell it today.
If we check the Perkins we’ll see that the
Old Annotator had very carefully changed the reading to "ravenous" by
crossing out "hey" in "heynous"and, in the margin, adding
So the proof is positive that the Old Editor
or Annotator knew what he or she was doing. And that it could not have been
Now this is a bit of a jump.
So I want to make it perfectly clear the case
for Collier’s innocence isn’t limited to this one reading.
Here’s how it shakes out.
The case against Collier, which proves to have
been fabricated by Sir Frederic Madden of the British Library, depended on some
pencil marks claimed to have underlain a few of the inked annotations.
Ganzel, who was the first scholar to have
access of Madden’s sealed papers, has proven these pencil marks were
Madden’s. Not Colliers.
More over the presence of pencil marks proves
nothing, since Jacobeans had pencils and wrote over them with ink, just as we
Indeed pencil marks are still being added to
these priceless early works by foolish scholars today when they read in the
archives. I’ve seen this defacement myself in the papers of Sir Edward Dering
and in Dyce’s hand on the face of the Timon, ms.
So they too prove nothing. Collier could have
penciled in a few annotations himself...not intending to pass them off as
originals. After all it was his book! He could do with it as he pleased.
Ok, this aside, the case against Collier fails
because it can be proven that the 20,000 or so emendations, revisions and
annotations in the Perkins folio were there when Collier purchased the volume.
This proof turned up well into the fight.
It came in the form of a letter to the Editor
of the Daily Post by a Mr Mill Warner, late of Stratford-on-Avon. Warner was
able to testify that the volume had been his and that he had sold it to Thomas
Rodd, c. 1846, who sold it to Collier. More over Mill clearly remember the
annotations. He wrote "it contained notes which much interested him [Rodd]."
One of Madden’s minions Ingleby, was
dispatched to interview Mill and his report to Madden was found in Madden’s
sealed papers by Ganzel. It states in part: (315)
7. On the fly leave or title-page was the name
of *** Perkins.
8. It contained many MS notes written at the
top, bottom and side of the page.
9. It was on account of the notes that Rodd
10.The fo. belonged to Warner’s wife before
her marriage with him: and Mrs. W. says her former
husband had it from Clopton. He is sure about
the name Perkins because there was a family of that name at Stratford—and he
speculated on the probability of the of. Having belonged to that family.
Got that? The inked annotations in the Perkins
Folio cannot have been made by Collier.
They appear to have been made in or near
Stratford on Avon by a family of that name. They are thus very much like the new
annotation about Shakespeare which appears to have been made by Richard Hunt and
pegs him as an Actor, not an Author.
In this case one might easily imagine that
Perkins had access to Shakespeare’s papers and/or original editions of the
plays, which have never been found. That this access was c. 1635.
But the point is that Collier did not make the
annotations in ink. The annotations were in that volume and had been in it for
GENERATIONS when Collier purchased it from Rodd.
So the case against Collier fails.
That’s the long and short of it. Or as much
of it as I can wrap into three pages. (:} )
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