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Papers of Sir Walter Greg (W. W. Greg)
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Letter from Joseph Q. Adams to W. W. Greg

Office of the Director, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington.—Praises The Editorial Problem in Shakespeare and discusses the progress of the Folger Library.



The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington
Office of the Director

December 29, 1942.

Dear Doctor Greg:

The copy of your “The Editorial Problem in Shakespeare,” came just in time to be a most delightful Christmas gift, and its reading made the holiday season for me very pleasant indeed. I admire, more than I can tell you, the cautious, judicial attitude you everywhere maintain, and the nicety of expression by which you achieve clarity in presenting the most difficult material. The volume will be an absolutely indispensable reference work for all editors of Shakespeare, and a guide in all future research into the origin and nature of the copy lying behind the printed texts of plays. And what a problem that is! I confess that some of the theories tentatively devised to explain the preparation of printer’s copy seem to me too complicated for a procedure that must have been simple and natural. But your clear presentation of the facts and summary of theories will inspire Shakespeare scholars to further efforts. I myself feel an “itch” to get at several of the problems, even though I realize that, except by chance, I would probably have no success. Please accept my deepest gratitude, which I know is shared by all students of Shakespeare, for your inspiring work.

The Folger Library continues to grow by leaps and bounds. To that cause I am devoting all my time and energy, for I believe that Shakespeare is the strongest and most lasting link to unite England and America, and that the preservation of that union, political and cultural, is the most important need of the world. I like to think that for centuries to come, young Americans will be flocking to the Folger to study the literature which is both the common product, and the heritage, of our two peoples. And if I can accomplish something towards promoting that end, I am content to sacrifice in part my productivity in research.

The progress of the war is a matter of keen satisfaction, and we are now hoping that by the fall we can again have our books back in the stacks and vaults, and our Reading Room crowded with workers.

With thanks for the thoughtful gift of your latest book, and best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year, I am,

Ever yours,
Joseph Q. Adams

Dr. W. W. Greg,
Standlands, River, Petworth, Sussex, England.


Typed, except the signature.

Letter from A. H. Bullen to W. W. Greg

The Shakespeare Head Press, Stratford.—Discusses Greg’s edition of The Merry Wives of Windsor.



The Shakespeare Head Press, Stratford-on-Avon
19. V. 1910.

My dear Greg,

It was very good of you to send me your edition of the 1602 Merry Wives, and I am sure that I shall profit by the study of your Introduction & Notes.

As I read the Introduction I was horrified to find on p. XVI “The second is the late H. C. Hart.” So poor Hart is dead. This is news to me, and very sad news. I see the “Athenæum” every week but usually fling it into the waste-paper basket after carelessly glancing at it; so I miss notices of the death of friends. Hart used to talk about a Ben Jonson “Glossary,” on which he had been engaged intermittently; and I wonder in what shape he left it. His death is a loss.

Your account of the reporting of “John Bull’s Other Island” is very much to the point; and your suggestion that the actor who played the Host of the Garter may have helped the reporter of “Merry Wives” seems quite reasonable.

It may be uncritical, but however often I were to print Shakespeare I should always incorporate passages from the 1602 4to. in the Folio text. I can’t see the objection of tacking “I will retort the sum in equipage” on to “Why, then the world’s mine oyster, / Which I with sword will open,” if one puts a full stop and a dash after “open.” The renewed request gives more point to Falstaff’s renewed refusal “Not a penny.”

“Cride-game” is a terrible teazer. Hart’s reference to bears seems to me far too peregrinate. What the deuce have bears to do with feasting at a farm house? “Cried I aim?” at any rate gives sense and “Cride-game” is meaningless[.]

I shall go closely through your edition, and I thank you for so kindly remembering me.

Yours sincerely
A. H. Bullen

Letter from Alice Walker to Sir Walter Greg

Leddon Cottage, Welcombe, Bideford, Devon.—Praises Greg’s Shakespeare First Folio and refers to current bibliographical work on Shakespeare.



Leddon Cottage, | Welcombe, | Bideford, | Devon.
16 May 1955

Dear Sir Walter,

The arrival of your book on Saturday was the greatest surprise and pleasure to me. It was very kind of you to remember me. I knew from Fredson Bowers that you had a book on the stocks, though I had not grasped that it was on so heroic a scale. I am greatly enjoying your balanced account of how matters stand.

As you say, the march of events is now beyond the ability of print to keep up with, but I judge that it will be a long time before anyone can give a coherent account of the printing of the Folio, as I don’t think the pattern is self-contained. Neither Schroeder’s conclusions nor Hinman’s forthcoming article (of which he sent me a copy) make sense in relation to compositors’ stints and the pattern must include, I think, some book or books being printed concurrently.

I hope all is well with you. We have had a gruelling winter as we were snow-bound or ice-bound for weeks, but at any rate no germs survive the rigours of this coast. We are looking forward very much to having Miss Willcock in Bude permanently after the summer, when she retires, and I hope she won’t be too much absorbed by her house and garden (especially the latter) to have no time for Shakespeare. I get on with my old spelling texts, but there seems no hurry called for until Hinman has finished his work.

It seems a pity in some ways that the project for a new facsimile was abandoned, but I suppose what is really wanted is a composite volume or volumes based on Hinman’s collation. But if the facsimile projected provided an incentive, this is to everyone’s good and I look forward to the companionship and help of your book in my own more trifling endeavours.

With my warmest congratulations,

Yours, most gratefully,
Alice Walker.


Typed, except the signature and a comma.

Letter from J. H. Walter to Sir Walter Greg

27 Oakleigh Park North, Whetstone, N.20.—Praises Greg’s Shakespeare First Folio and refers to Cairncross’s work on Henry V.



27 Oakleigh Park North,
14 Feb., 1956.

Dear Greg,

I have just read your The Shakespeare First Folio with very great pleasure. In the last few years there seems to have been so much imperfectly founded speculation that it is most welcome to have a balanced appraisal and a clear analysis of the present position. I do congratulate you on its achievement. Indeed, it has stimulated in me the desire to do further work on dramatic texts—for me a kind of luxurious recreation whereby I can shuffle off the immoral evil of form-filling and return-making.

Cairncross, using the methods of Alice Walker, has suggested that the copy for F Henry V was based on Q1 and Q3 corrected by reference to a playhouse MS (unspecified) and eked out my MS sheets in places where the corrections or additions were extensive. The arguments are highly ingenious, but, I think, strained; inevitably they raise further difficulties.

With all good wishes

Yours sincerely,
J. H. Walter

Letter from William Wells to W. W. Greg

Town Mill House, West End, Bruton, Bath, Somerset.—Offers evidence for Kyd’s authorship of King Leir and a version of Hamlet.



Town Mill House, West End,
Bruton, Bath, Somerset.
Mar. 11, ’40.

Dear Sir,

There is not even a moderate likelihood that the Times Lit Sup. would care to insert any letter I chose to send them, though it is a bare possibility that they might forward to you such a missive. I therefore take the liberty, I hope forgiven, upon me to communicate directly with you {1} on the subject broached in the issue of Mar. 9 {2}.

In J. M. Robertson’s Introduction to the Study of the Sh. Canon—a book you must know, since your name appears in it to some purpose—the first of your Leir parallels is noted on p. 387. The inference Robertson drew from it is that Kyd was in part responsible for both Leir & Hamlet, a deduction with which I entirely agree. I carry this conviction farther than Robertson. I believe that the Hamlet First Quarto is almost entirely Kyd’s work. For the play echoes not only the Spanish Tragedy, but others—e.g. Leir, 1 Jeronimo, and Selimus—in which Kyd can be seen to have taken a hand. Simple evidence, in fact, exists for the theory, founded on Nashe’s ‘innuendo’, that Kyd wrote a pre-Shakespearian Hamlet, some of which is embodied in the present play. Did you know, by the way, that “sea-gown”, once-used in Hamlet, is also in Leir?

I have made a close study of Kyd for the past ten years, & the outcome of this is the knowledge that Kyd is a far greater poet & much more prolific than he is generally held to be. I can produce, not one, but hundreds of his lines of which “Shakespeare” afterwards availed himself. You will find some of them at the end of the accompanying reprint from Notes & Queries {3}, in which I have tried to throw light upon Leir’s authorship. I originally intended to include the Hamlet parallel in the list, but rejected it because it did not come up to my standard of consonance. But I think you will agree that it does tend to support the theory of Kyd’s authorship of both Hamlet & Leir.

I see no reason to believe that Shakespeare’s Lear postdates the publication of the old Leir. I am much more inclined to the view that the latter was brought out (although, of course, written some years earlier) on the morrow of the production of Shakespeare’s master-piece, & that its issue was a crude attempt to foist on the public a spurious offspring for a true one. King Leir is surely the play with that name that was entered on S.R. on May 14th, 1594, & of this there may have been earlier editions than the one that has come down to us. That Shakespeare read the old Leir in manuscript is highly probable: it is tolerably certain, if we can assume that the play found its way from the Queen’s to the Chamberlain’s by purchase.

May I end by apologising for the recital of these trifles? for such they must appear to one with so vast and profound knowledge of Shakespearian studies.

Faithfully yours
W. Wells


{1} Followed by a superfluous full stop, the succeeding words of the sentence having evidently been added as an afterthought.

{2} In a letter by Greg printed in this issue (p. 124) he pointed out that two passages in the old chronicle play King Leir appear to be echoed in Hamlet, and solicited the views of others on the matter.

{3} ‘The Authorship of King Leir’, Notes & Queries, 6 Dec. 1939, pp. 434–8. See also the same writer’s ‘Thomas Kyd and the Chronicle-History’, ibid., 30 Mar. 1940, pp. 218-24, and 6 Apr. 1940, pp. 238-43, and ‘Alphonsus, Emperor of Germany’, ibid., 28 Sept. 1940, pp. 218-23, and 5 Oct. 1940, pp. 236-40.

Letter from J. Dover Wilson to W. W. Greg

University of Edinburgh.—Thanks him for a copy of The Editorial Problem in Shakespeare.



University of Edinburgh

My dear Greg,

Very many thanks for The Editorial Problem just received. I have read several of the chapters & passed it on to Duthie for the time to read you on Lear as he’s working on that just now. When I get it back I propose (now!) to write you a long letter about it. All I will say at the moment is that it seems at the top of your form, that I shall no doubt, as usual with your books, suck thereout no small advantage & that I only wish what you call ‘The’ problem was the only problem an editor had to face—it has seemed to one editor the least of his problems lately.

I read your friendly reference to myself at the beginning with very great pleasure: to be linked in this way with Aldis Wright is indeed an honour.

I hope that all continues to go well with your family in this disastrous world. My boy is now a Lance Cp.l† in the S.A.M.C. {1} but so far has not got farther than Port Elizabeth.

Yours ever
J. Dover Wilson


{1} South African Medical Corps.

† Sic.

Letter from Sir Edmund Chambers to W. W. Greg

The Hythe Croft, Eynsham, Oxon.—Draws attention to a reference to a portrait of Edward Alleyn’s father or father-in-law.



The Hythe Croft, Eynsham, Oxon.
11. Feb. 1930

Dear Greg,

The life of Alleyn (by Oldys) in Biographia Britannica (1744-66) i. 115 mentions a picture at Dulwich, long thought to be his father, but stated to Oldys to be his father-in-law by one Thomas Waterhouse. The picture gave the age as 59.

Did you ever look into this? If father-in-law is right, I should think that it was more likely Henslowe than Woodward.

Yrs ever
E. K. Chambers.

Letter from W. Aldis Wright to W. W. Greg

Trinity College, Cambridge.—Thanks him, on the College’s behalf, for his Catalogue of the Capell Collection.



Trinity College, Cambridge
22 January 1904

My dear Greg

I have the great pleasure of conveying to you by desire of the Council the thanks of the College for the admirable Catalogue of the Capell Collection which you have completed with such care. For the first time it will be possible for outsiders to know what it really contains.

Believe me to be

Yours very sincerely
W. Aldis Wright
V. M. {1}

Walter W. Greg Esq.


{1} Vice Master.

Letter from Muriel St Clare Byrne to Sir Walter Greg

28 St John’s Wood Terrace, N.W.8.—Comments on Greg’s edition of Jonson’s Masque of Gipsies.



28 St John’s Wood Terrace, N.W.8
16 Feb. 1952

Dearest Walter,

Thank you very much indeed for sending me your latest indiscretion {1}! I have chortled inwardly with delight at your planting it on the B.A.—a nice bit of quiet fun. The critical apparatus lends it such an overwhelming air of respectability, however, that I doubt if reviewers will even see the fun, much less dare to comment on it. There is an enormous disinfectant power in the study of variants, the printing of parallel texts, & a volume with everything handsome about it. I am only halfway through the Introduction, so far, as I have had a very busy week & at one & two a. m. my brain—or rather its remnants—is not up to this close reasoning; but I hope to have a few more wits to tackle the rest next week. I am once again overwhelmed by the amount of steady work you get through—it seems only the other day that you got out the Faustus. I wonder what you now have on hand for the next?

Yes, my bone man seems pleased with me, & now gives me a 3 weeks gap between treatments; but of course from his point of view this weather is the worst possible. I was particularly lucky to have a thoroughly mild autumn when he originally dealt with the vertebrae & sciatica two years ago: it enabled him to get me right in half the time.

Do you come up at all for B.A. or Bibl. Soc. meetings these days? And if so, what about coming to lunch or meeting me for lunch in town sometime? Do let me know if there is a possibility. Much love & again very many thanks



{1} Greg’s reconstruction of Jonson’s Masque of Gipsies, published by the OUP for the British Academy.

Postcard from ‘Bimbi’ (to W. W. Greg)

(Kristiania, Norway?)—‘All good wishes for Xmas. I hope you haven't seen this one before.’

(Illustrated with a photograph of a skier at Kristiania (renamed Oslo in 1925). The writer is identified as ‘B. Dowson’ in the original typed list, but the grounds of the identification are unknown.)

Parts of a letter (to W. W. Greg)


[…] evidence how Butter came by the text, but (as with other piracies) the play was topical & popular, & therefore worth stealing. But put case that Butter managed to ‘borrow’ a […]

Also, after re-reading your essay in the new collection of Modern Sh. Criticism {1}, I would like to query Theobald’s famous ‘babbled’. My impression of misprints from copy is that on the whole a printer is more likely to make errors in the body of a word than in the first letter or two: that is, he is more likely to have misread table for talke than for babbled (even if the form is bable). Moreo-ver not only does Q1 of Henry V give ‘talk of floures’, but talk is aesthetically a better word in the context than babbled, because Mistress Quickly’s sentence reaches its rhythmical climax in ‘green fields’—it is not

‘and a babled——of green fields’

but (with growing incredulous sympathy)

and a talke of GREEN FIELDS!

‘Well’, sighed Essex, ‘it may be so’

‘Gos’, sighed Essex, ‘it may be so’.
—there being no possible resemblance between even my ‘Well’ & ‘Gos’.

PROOF READER (brightly) ‘Query—Gosh!’

The most illuminating experience I ever had was when a printer made 22 mistakes—mostly wrong words—in a 2000 word introduction. Of these not more than 10 could be allowed as mis-reading of the copy. The man was simply thinking of something else. In the reading of any M.S.—from a private letter to a learned paper—[…]


{1} The reference is probably to Greg’s ‘Principles of Emendation’, as reprinted in Aspects of Shakespeare in 1933.

Notes by W. W. Greg on the printing of the First Quarto of King Lear, c. 1940, written on part of a draft of The Editorial Problem in Shakespeare, c. 1939

(The draft passage corresponds to parts of pp. xviii-xix of the published text.)


Transcript of the notes

The variation in the headlines, as determined by Professor Bowers {1}, raise† a difficulty in the way of my solution of the problem by showing that it would involve delay at several points, and it is quite possible that we may have to look for an alternative. At the same time I do not think that the new facts are irreconcilable. My theory was designed to allow the printing of each sheet with a minimum of delay: Professor Bowers raises the question of delay between sheets[.] But suppose that the sheets of Lear were being printed alternately with those of some other book, or, which is perhaps more likely, as stop-gaps between those of a work which was held to demand greater care and deliberation in composition and correction. In that case the difficulty of delay between sheets wou[l]d disappear, and we should have an explanation of the pooling of the headlines. Of course, if printing were strictly alternate we should be at a loss to explain the setting of a third skeleton forme: but there is no need to assume that it was; sheets B and C may have been printed together to fill an unusually long interval in the other work.


{1} The reference is presumably to the article mentioned on p. 49 of Greg's Variants in the First Quarto of ‘King Lear’.

† Sic.

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