A Textual Companion

Letter to the Editor 

Times Literary Supplement, 11-17 Nov. 1988; © the estate of eric sams

Sir, — May I dispute Lois Potter's claim (September 23-29) that the Oxford William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion offers "radical rethinking" which is strengthened by"tables and graphs"? In fact, its canon and chronology are explicitly based on the sixty­year-old fantasy of "memorial reconstruction" by "actors who, like Bottom, attempted to play the parts of all the characters" and thus magically created the earliest published texts of 2-3 Henry VI, RomeoRichard IIIHenry VMerry WivesHamlet and Pericles. The supporting tables are just as shaky; thus each of eleven Ironside figures given on page 88 is one hundred times too large. These and other errors are to be exposed in two forthcoming articles: Thomas Merriam's on statistics, in Notes and Queries, and mine on "memorial reconstruction", in Encounter.

Eric Sams
32 Arundel Avenue
Sanderstead, Surrey