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  • Title: Additional Footnotes to An Humorous Day's Mirth
  • Author: Eleanor Lowe
  • ISBN: 978-1-55058-513-1

    Copyright Digital Renaissance Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Eleanor Lowe
    Not Peer Reviewed

    Additional Footnotes to An Humorous Day's Mirth

    Two Textual Issues Originating in the Printing House

    Chapman's Handwriting

    In the textual notes accompanying his edition of Chapman’s Comedies, Parrott records an interesting emendation in An Humorous Day’s Mirth.[34] At TLN 850-851, where the quarto reads ‘he cares he cares he cares’ Parrott identifies corruption of the passage, presumably pointing to the compositor’s erroneous reading of the copy. The words are found within a metrical line of verse, mistakenly printed as prose (although this is not remarkable since the majority of the play is printed as such). Suggested emendations must be monosyllabic to fit the verse line and ‘have a meaning opposed to honest drifts‘ (Parrott’s emphasis; p. 697). As a substitute Parrott suggests ‘snares snares snares’ as ‘no improper contents, at least in a satiric speech, of lawyer’s bills’. Charles Edelman, the play’s most recent editor, is also convinced by this suggestion and augments the argument by quoting Cicero’s De Officiis: ‘Cicero deplores sharp legal practices, especially fraudulent dealing in real estate, when a ‘For Sale’ sign in front of a house is tamquam plagam, “just like a snare”’.[35]

    65‘Snares’ meets the requirements of the verse line and satisfies the sense of the passage as the possible contents of a lawyer’s bills. The heart of the issue concerns what Chapman might have written in order that the compositor mistook it for ‘he cares’, which does not appear to fit the sense of the passage. Although examples of both Chapman’s English and italic hands are extant, it is not known which hand he used for the writing of plays. If Chapman was writing in secretary hand (of which there is only one dubiously authentic example), could ‘snares’ be mistaken for ‘he cares’ as Parrott proposes?

    Studies of Chapman’s handwriting have been consulted and they provide a complex crop of palaeographic discussions regarding his work. Several assumed examples of Chapman’s hand are in existence and there are abundant disputations as to their authenticity. Two examples of Chapman’s handwriting are found in Henslowe’s Diary and are provided by Greg in English Literary Autographs 1550-1650, reproduced in Plate XII (a) and (b).[36] Close work on these examples suggested that Chapman’s ‘h’ and long ‘s’ were very different, the ‘h’ a typical secretary hand with loops ascending and descending, while the long ‘s’ was usually signified by a distinctively straight downstroke; confusion between the two was not probable.

    L. A. Cummings’s comprehensive monograph concerning Chapman’s autograph, entitled Geo: Chapman his Crowne and Conclusion, seeks to clarify which examples of Chapman’s supposed hand are genuine and from them establish a chirography.[37] A full discussion of Cummings’s analysis is not appropriate here, but it is sufficient to say that the two examples from the Diary are concluded to be inauthentic for two reasons. In order to establish a reliable set of examples from which to draw analysis, Cummings decided to exclude all specimens that could have been in contact with the notorious forger John Payne Collier, advice issued by Greg, Samuel A. Tannenbaum and G. F. Warner. The latter summarises the case thus: ‘The taint of suspicion necessarily rests upon all his work. None of his statements or quotations can be trusted without verifying, and no volume or document that has passed through his hands ... can be too carefully scrutinised’.[38] Since it is known that the Diary was at one point in Collier’s possession for many months, Cummings treated any evidence found within it with caution.

    Furthermore, Cummings identifies the first of Greg’s examples of George Chapman’s hand as actually that of Robert Shaa. Cummings provides Plates of Shaa’s writing (see Plates Va and b, VI) with which to compare the example and argues that only the signature is in Chapman’s hand. The second of Greg’s examples is a clipping from Henslowe’s Diary, apparently unknown to Collier. However, Cummings identifies the piece as ‘an unknown hand, dubiously Chapman’s’ (196). He further adds that ‘If this is Chapman’s it is the only known specimen of his writing in an English hand’. Some of the ‘untainted’ examples of Chapman’s hand are written in cancellaresca corsiva, a humanistic cursive used by the Papal chancery of Pope Eugenius IV, while the others are a hybrid of rapid, facile and set hands, described by Anthony G. Petti in his introduction.[39]

    After careful study of the specimens of Chapman’s hand untainted by Collier, Cummings concludes that a certain number are authentic and to be trusted. These include the British Library fragment of the Diary dated 1599 (Cummings, Plate IV; Greg, Plate XII (a), example 2), signature on the Diary receipt dated 24 October 1598 (Cummings, Plate III; Greg, Plate XII (a) example 1), signature on the Diary receipt dated 22 January 1598 (Cummings, Plate II), signature on a Public Record Office legal document discovered by Mark Eccles (Cummings, Plate Ia), signature pasted into a copy of The Blind Beggar of Alexandria (Cummings, Plate Ib), several examples of Chapman’s holograph in Ficino’s translation of Iamblichus De Mysteriis etc., (Lyon, 1577), and some of the allegedly authentic inscriptions by Chapman to various recipients of his books.

    70A fuller study of this issue by an expert palaeographer would require careful consideration of h and s in the above items. One also has to consider that a misreading of one word by a compositor is easier to accept than the misreading of words repeated three times. It is possible that some external effect might have disfigured the words at this point. Cummings suggests that writing posture, paper surface, condition of the pen and handmade ink might all contribute to create illegible specimens, left ‘to the reader to unscramble the results of his difficulties’ (67).

    An alternative to Parrott’s suggestion is described below. In his study of Renaissance handwriting, Samuel A. Tannenbaum notes that p ‘compares very favorably with h, r, and s’.[40] Cummings notes that formation of Chapman’s s, t and p requires ‘special comment’ (81). If h and p might easily be mistaken for one another, peccares, meaning ‘he might sin’, might be the word misread by the compositor for ‘he cares’.

    Reference to sin is subject matter not uncommon in lawyer’s bills, and could feasibly be offered in opposition to ‘virtue or honest drifts’ (TLN 850); however, the form of pecco necessary to make this an accurate alternative to ‘he cares’ does not really fit the sense of the line, and neither does peccares fit the metre. Arguably, peccares contains one ‘c’ more than is required for ‘he cares’. However, the compositor was undoubtedly unfamiliar with Latin, as the opening Latin lines of Dowsecer’s speech testify in the quarto. If the compositor had the copy read to him as he composed lines of text, the errors might either have been introduced by the reader, misreading the copy, or the compositor, mishearing the reader.

    Alternatively, perhaps the corruption of Dowsecer’s speech can be explained not by Chapman’s handwriting but by some accidental disfiguring of the copy, for example by some stain or liquid obscuring the ink and words.

    Catalian Versus the Countess

    Because of the similarity between character names, speech prefixes in the quarto are often misleading or equivocal. An example occurs at TLN 1695 where the control text has an abbreviated speech prefix, ‘Ca.’. Catalian is the only character whose name is abbreviated to ‘Ca.’, which occurs twenty-three times, while the abbreviation ‘Cat.’ is employed in thirty-two instances.

    75Before spontaneously lengthening this abbreviation to ‘Catalian’, it is necessary to take note of the stage direction preceding the scene: ‘Enter the Queen, and all that were in before.’ If this refers to all those who were onstage with the Queen during her previous appearance in Scene 12, the direction must include Lemot, Labervele, Foyes and the Countess, not Catalian; he appears in Scenes 11 and 13, thus sandwiching Scene 12, to which the stage direction concerned refers. Catalian exits Scene 13 without giving a clue as to his direction, and has no lines in Scene 14 until TLN 1839; to allocate him TLN 1695-1696 ignores this dramatic fact.

    Another confusing factor is the abbreviation of the speech prefix. There are several instances in the copy text of speech prefixes that are wrongly abbreviated, or, due to the similar nature of some of the characters’ names, could be lengthened to signify a number of characters. For example, ‘La.’ could refer to Labervele, Labesha or Lavel, while ‘C.’ could signify Catalian, Colinet, Countess, Count Labervele or Count Moren. On these occasions, abbreviated prefixes can only be lengthened after careful study of the scene and lines designated to that character. Another prime example is the muddle of ‘Mor.’ and ‘Mar.’ at the beginning of Scene 5.

    Previous editors have dealt with this particular example in various ways. Shepherd did not notice the problem caused by this abbreviation and let it remain as ‘Ca.’ to signify ‘Catalian’. Parrott alters ‘Ca.’ to ‘Countess’, which is feasible since the Countess is abbreviated to ‘Cou.’, ‘C.’ and most commonly, ‘Co.’ in speech prefixes. A more obvious single letter error occurs at TLN 1826 where ‘Elo.’ has been set instead of ‘Flo.’ for ‘Florila’.

    Holaday retains Catalian as the speaker, signified by ‘Cat.’ and there is good reason for doing so. Although Catalian first speaks in Scene 14 at TLN 1839, just after the entrance of Queen Fortune and companions, there is no entrance marked for him. So, if one agrees with Parrott that ‘Ca.’ is a mis-spelling of ‘Co.’ for the Countess, where does Catalian enter? If it is decided that ‘Ca.’ is indeed Catalian, he needs to be added to the list of people who enter under the umbrella stage direction, ‘and all that were in before’, even though he doesn’t speak in the previous scene. One final possibility involves the equal likelihood that if ‘Ca.’ could be an error for ‘Co.’, it could also erroneously represent Labervele, signified by ‘La.’.

    A similar confusion involving speech prefixes for Catalian and the Countess occurs in Scene 5 at TLN 478-479. The prefix has been abbreviated to ‘Cat.’, yet Lemot’s next line addresses the speaker as ‘madam’. The only other female character onstage with the Countess is Martia, thus pointing to the possibility of altering the prefix ‘Cat.’ to ‘Countess’. The Countess is also abbreviated to ‘Count.’ (6), ‘Coun.’ (8), ‘Cou.’ (2), ‘Con.’ (7), ‘Co.’ (22) and ‘C.’ (2) in speech prefixes (numbers in brackets indicate the occurrences of each example counted in the quarto).

    80Reasons for such mistakes include the high possibility of compositor error, or confusion prompted by Chapman’s handwriting. Another feasible suggestion is that the compositor read the manuscript correctly, but reached for the wrong compartment in his case of type: ‘o’ and ‘a’ are in adjacent compartments, one above the other. This also raises the issue of foul case, which would, to a certain extent, absolve the compositor.

    There are other examples of similar speech prefix confusion. Beth Goldring discusses the case of ‘Cor.’ in the first scene of King Lear.[41] This prefix could signify Cornwall or Cordelia, and Goldring discusses the options on bibliographical and dramatic levels. The physical staging is also discussed in terms of how the decision might reflect the characters’ past behaviour and at that moment in the play. Such editorial decisions need to be in with the ‘usual’ presentation of other characters, the whole play and the dramatist’s common practice. Goldring draws upon McKerrow’s warning against ‘those simple and obvious things that we tend most easily to overlook because for generations everybody else has been doing the same’.[42]

    In the case of An Humorous Day’s Mirth, there is no pattern to break: previous editors have all made different decisions. One reason for ascribing the disputed lines to Catalian is to avoid having to insert an entry for him later in the scene. His entrance is unmarked, and although he speaks just after the entry of the performers in the lottery, it does not seem appropriate for him to enter with them, since theirs is a stage entrance for the show which is about to take place. So if the disputed lines are not ascribed to Catalian, a separate entry point must be sought for him. Since he leaves Scene 13 warning Moren, ‘Your wife comes ranging with a troop of dames, like Bacchus’ drunken frows’ (TLN 1667-1668), it seems unlikely for Catalian to enter with the Countess and others in Scene 14.

    Attributing TLN 1695-1696 to the Countess is a decision backed by several forms of support. The palaeographical evidence supports the argument for misreading by the compositor (although he may also have reached for the wrong compartment or been subject to foul case). So the possibility of error is substantial. Secondly, it makes dramatic sense for the Countess to have these lines. She has been onstage in the Queen’s previous scene and thus definitely can be included in the direction ‘all that were in before’. Her response to Lemot complements the Queen and adds comedy to a moment dominated by the verbally confident women. The lines are not out of place for the gutsy Countess either. In Scene 5, the Countess makes to attack Martia (TLN 604-605) for talking with her husband, and at the end of Scene 9, she speaks of using a razor-sharp knife and burning hot iron with which to brand Martia. Thus, on Brereton’s advice this edition alters ‘Cat.’ to ‘Countess’.

    With the case for the Countess concluded, Catalian seeks an entry point in Scene 14. Rather than creating an entirely new entrance point in the action, it is less invasive to find a suitable existing group of entrants to which Catalian can be added. As has been established, there is no reason for Catalian to be included in the first stage directions of Scene 14, ‘and all that were in before’. This does not refer to Catalian, and is what initially casts doubt on the speech prefix at TLN 1695.

    85The next two stage directions in Scene 14 are supported by Lemot’s lines from TLN 1624 onwards where he describes how the King took Martia, and that another lord (Dowsecer) fell in love with her and with a friend ‘Broke desperately upon the person of the King’ (TLN 1627-1628). Lemot confirms the identity of the characters involved at the end of Scene 12 where he names the mystery protagonists of the described dramatic sequence. Quite fittingly then, Dowsecer enters Scene 14 with his friend, Lavel, at TLN 1703, while the King and Martia enter next at TLN 1712. There is no dramatic reason why Catalian should enter with either of these pairs.

    The next entrants are Jaques and Verone. The former last appeared in Scene 13 in his role as intermediary organiser of the lottery, coming from Verone to speak to Moren to ask Lemot to speak to the King about Verone’s lottery. The chronology of orders is purposefully long, designed to delay Moren in comic fashion while he is desperate to run away from his wife. Jaques has not necessarily seen Catalian in this scene, his entrance occurring in the same textual lacuna as Catalian’s exit. Jaques’ mind is principally on the task in hand, that is, the organisation of the lottery. It would seem that in Scene 14 Jaques and Verone come to Lemot purely on this matter and no other. There is therefore no specific dramatic or textual reason why Catalian should enter here (although conversely there is no pressing reason why he should not).

    Clearly, Florila enters alone. There is no reason why she might enter with Catalian, especially as she comes to reassure Labervele that she has been in her private garden. Entering with one of Lemot’s friends might ruin her puritan entrance. This leaves the option for Catalian to enter with Lemot and Labesha. Previously, at the end of Scene 11, he, Verone and Berger had tempted Labesha with cream. In the final lines of Scene 11, Verone instructs Catalian to inform Labesha that his mistress, Martia, has drowned herself for his love. Catalian rightly predicts that this will turn Labesha to suicide, at which point the scene ends. It is feasible that Catalian finds Labesha and gives him the ‘news’, gets back in time to warn Moren of the Countess’s approach, then returns to Labesha with Lemot to find a halter round his neck. It is therefore suggested that Catalian’s entrance in Scene 14 could fittingly be made with Lemot and Labesha at TLN 1808. Although Catalian does not speak until TLN 1839, this is not such a long time to be silent, especially when compared with the option posited by the erroneous speech prefix of an entrance at the beginning of the scene and speaking only two lines until TLN 1839.