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 sure.

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 "raue".

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 Collier.

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 do.

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 bought it...

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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