(2) The Text of 2 The Honest Whore

2 The Honest Whore has been subjected to much less bibliographical and textual scrutiny than 1 The Honest Whore, no doubt because the status of its text poses a less demanding problem to editors. The main facts are clear enough. The text (printed long after its original composition) survives in only one version, a quarto printed in 1630 by Elizabeth Allde for Nathaniel Butter. The complete title is ‘THE/SECOND/PART OF THE/HONEST WHORE,/WITH THE HUMORS/of the Patient Man, the Impatient/Wife: the Honest Whore, perswaded by /strong Arguments to turne Curtizan/againe; her braue refuting those/Arguments./And lastly, the Comical Passages of an Italian/Bridewell, where the Scaene ends./Written by THOMAS DEKKER./LONDON, Printed by Elizabeth All-de, for Nathaniel Butter./ An. Dom. 1630’.

85Conceivably 2 The Honest Whore was not as striking a commercial success in the theatre as 1 The Honest Whore. There is an entry for 2 The Honest Whore in the Stationers’ Register on 29 April 1608 to Thomas Man the younger (the publisher of 1 The Honest Whore), but no evidence of further action towards publication until Butter’s entry on 29 June 1630. The publication of 2 The Honest Whore at that time coincides with what appears to have been a general wave of activity in the printing of plays. Q5 of 1 The Honest Whore (1635) was the first reprint of that play after about 20 years. In extant copies, this edition is often bound with the 1630 quarto of 2 The Honest Whore. As Bowers speculates, the stationers who owned the copyrights of 1 and 2 The Honest Whore may, quite logically, have decided to embark on a joint sale.

It seems that the 1630 quarto of 2 The Honest Whore is based on a manuscript (or a transcript) of a somewhat similar nature as that prepared for 1 The Honest Whore, though possibly a little less advanced as a script for use in the theatre. It appears to be of a less ‘even’ quality, though it is of quite a good standard. Bowers is correct to draw attention to the presence of features of spelling and punctuation which are no doubt authorial, as are several descriptive directions and variant forms of names and so on which one certainly would not expect to find in a substantially edited text like a promptbook. Compositorial habits, and the use of the same two skeleton-formes throughout, are consistent with the hypothesis that only one compositor and press were involved. The text appears to be in reasonably good shape, although a modern editor aiming to produce an acceptable equivalent of his text certainly needs to re-lineate as verse an enormous amount of material which was printed as prose in Q2, and to try and correct several other errors. Stage directions for a modernised version of 2 The Honest Whore also demand careful editorial labour, though the editor does not need to add as much material as in the case of 1 The Honest Whore. The reason is not that Dekker supplied directions more copiously for 2 The Honest Whore, but that 1 The Honest Whore in a number of places implies complicated stage action for which no directions were provided at all.