3 Letters to Katherine Duncan-Jones

with a letter from Katherine Duncan-Jones to Eric Sams


previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams


 22 November 1996


Dear Professor Duncan-Jones,


   I've just been re-reading your fascinating fild/mynuits article; and I rather hope that you might find something of interest in my Shakespeare's Edward III (Yale's title, not mine, but I'm not complaining).

   That play has 'fild' twice, and 'midnight' once, but no 'mynuit'. It also misprints 'thy' is 'their', like the Sonnets, the recent Cambridge edition of which (pp. 281-2) first admits and then rejects the possibility that the play and the poems were alike set up from authorial copy. But those two sources seen to me to share many spelling habits, whether predictable, unusual or variant. For example, both texts have


a farre, again/againe, angel/angell, an other/another, Antique, Aprill, a sleeps, authoritie, back/backe, banckes, beautious, beautie/beauty, begin/beginne, blood/blood, bloody/bloudie, bodies ('s)/body, breefe, brest, conning, conquerd, crie/cry, daies (day's, days)/dayes (days), deedes/deeds, deep/deeps, die/dye, dispelre, doest/dolt,


while the Sonnets' bold/bouldnes, cheered/cheere, cheefe/chiefe, concur, dispight, dull/dulnesee conform withE3's boldnes/bould, cheers/cheers, cheefest/chiefe, collours, despight, dul/dull.

   No doubt I've missed some prime specimens, even in this small A-D sample; but already the pattern looks fairly confirmatory, even without the added evidence of the Shakespearean spellings proposed in Ernst Honigmann's recent Othello book. Of these, the Sonnets have


accumilate, approoued, conning, controule, coppíed, decided, eyde, gronesf grossly, Lyons, merrit, merrits, Histris, Phisition, pitty, prophane, sence, sences, shew, shewes, shewing, subbornd, tearme, tearmes, tiranous, vnfoulding, vertue, vertuous


as well as exemplifying several general categories described by Professor Honigmann.

   The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to Edward III which (like Hand D) also exhibits profusion of spelling variants.

   On this last point, I rather wondered about the need for invoking 'Compositors A and B' in order to account for such variants, especially in the light of your own view that the real-life Sonnet compositors can be observed being neither interventionist nor inept but just following their copy - rather as one might expect.

   Anyhow, I hope that such matters are of some interest to you in the context of your own Sonnets edition.


Yours sincerely


Eric Sams




2 December 1996


Dear Professor Duncan-Jones,


   I thought you might like to see the enclosed print-out. No doubt I've missed some examples and misconstrued others; and some of the correspondences are (singly if not cumulatively) negligible. But the basic pattern still seems plain enough, even in the narrow overlap between the Sonnets and Edward III.

   Each of those texts separately exhibits its own vest variability – like the signatures and Hand D – and also conforms with the inference of a hand so very Protean that it could sometimes (e.g. in one 'thy' out of twenty or so, in both sources) mislead professional readers. So perhaps that hand still has its own fingerprints.

   As a bonus, one can dispense with all those 'copyists' and 'compositors' whose sole function (like 'traitor-actors') was to work and behave badly in bizarre ways, in the interest of unevidenced theories.

   Anyhow, it seems that the tide of consensus is turning in favour of a Shakespearean Edward III, printed from authorial copy (or so I infer from some recent reviews). But of course I don't wish to seem importunate; I just felt you might be interested, that's all.


Best regards


Yours sincerely


Dr. Eric Sams




A letter from Katherine Duncan-Jones


Tuesday, December 3, 1996


Dear Mr Sams,


Thank you very much for your letter and your striking analysis of  spelling forms shared by Edward III andShakespeare's Sonnets. I have another short piece on the latter, "What are Shakespeare's Sonnets Called", coming out in Essays in Criticism early next year, in which I argue that Shakespeare's Sonnets – rather than Shakespeare, Sonnets – is indeed the correct title, and that this form of title carries some further implications. But perhaps more to your purpose, I have now completed my New Arden edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets, from which both these little articles were spin-offs, and you may be interested to hear that in it I argue strongly that the 1609 text was based either on authorial manuscript or on an authorially-controlled scribal copy. My own personal inclination is to believe that the copy was an authorial manuscript. The edition should appear in September next year, all being well.


Needless to say, I find your Shakespeare's Edward III enormously interesting.





6 December 1996


Dear Professor Duncan-Jones,


I'm much obliged for your letter of 3 December. Of course you'll have excellent reasons for invoking a scribe, or Jackson's compositors. Personally, though, I find your own preferred explanation of authorial copy quite compelling enough per se to account for all the appearances. I'm certainly much looking forward to the article and the edition you mention. Meanwhile I'm preparing a conspectus of Sonnet vocabulary and variants; you'd be very welcome to a copy, if you wish. I'll also follow up the interesting inferences that seem to flow from authorial vocabulary and orthography in the Sonnets (not to mention Edward III). Thus that author could hardly have been a well-instructed scholar of any kind, let alone a skilled Latinist. Then the same signs should appear in other texts apparently set up from holograph, such as F Henry V. And so they do, in profusion. But they're proportionately even more copious in that so-called 'Bad Quarto', among others. So perhaps those aren't so Bad after all.


Best regards,


Yours sincerely


Dr. Eric Sams