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Papers of R. B. McKerrow McKerrow, Amy (1876–1945), wife of R. B. McKerrow
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Letter from Sir William Osler to R. B. McKerrow

13 Norham Gardens, Oxford.—Will find out if there is someone in London who administers ‘twilight sleep’.

(With envelope.)



13 Norham Gardens, Oxford.

Dear McKerrow

I do not know in London of a man who does the ‘Twilight Sleep’—but I will find out. Much difference of opinion about it—some strongly in favour—others against. Will let you know very soon.

With best wishes to your wife

Yours &c
Wm Osler

[Direction on envelope:] R B McKerrow Esq | 4 Phoenix Lodge Mansions | Brook Green | Hammersmith


The envelope was postmarked at Oxford at 6.30 p.m. on 9 January 1916.

{1} A combination of analgesia and amnesia induced by an injection of a mixture of morphine and scopolamine, most commonly used to relieve the pain of childbirth. The contents of this letter suggest that Amy McKerrow was pregnant at the time, in which case she presumably suffered a miscarriage on this occasion.

PPS. to a letter from Alice Walker to R. B. McKerrow

(Place of writing not indicated.)—Asks whether there is any difference between the Cambridge editions, and relates an amusing story of a lecturer in America.



PPS (to my letter)

I found the enclosed card waiting for me when I went over to Englefield Green this afternoon. I am not sure that I feel as keen as I did about separate volumes!

A propos of this, is there any difference between the Cambridge editions? So far I have been using the 1902 or thereabouts (sorry to be so vague) but I have parted with the copy I had and now have the London Library 1892 edition. It reached me today appropriately addressed as enclosed. My handwriting must be illegible and it is very kind of you to say you can read it!

This last coincidence reminded my hostess of a story she heard yesterday of a man who was lecturing in America on the Testament of Beauty. He was vastly flattered to find an unexpectedly large audience of very well-dressed women which, unfortunately, after the first few minutes gradually seeped away. He found he had been lecturing in the Elizabeth Arden Hall [If you don’t know who Elizabeth Arden is, Mrs McKerrow will—or see the Sphere, Byestander etc.]



Typed, except the initials at the end, a square bracket, and an underlining. The square brackets are in the original.

Letter from Alice Walker to R. B. McKerrow

2 Bankfield Lane, Southport.—Responds to his suggestions about her edition of Lodge. Offers to help with his work on Shakespeare, and reiterates her view of the importance of phonology in textual criticism.



2 Bankfield Lane, Southport.
5 March 1936.

Dear Dr. McKerrow,

Thank you very much for your letter. I will stay my hand in the matter of my application to the Publications Committee until at least the notes to Lodge are finished. In the meantime, I have asked Miss Willcock to find out, if she can, what is likely to be the most effective method of appeal. I will call and see you next time I am in London about the texts, as you suggest. I shall be down again probably towards the end of this month and certainly early in April. When my plans are more definite I will write again and you can then let me know when you can best spare the time to see me.

I am much interested in what you tell me about your Shakespeare. I didn’t know exactly what you were doing, though I gathered that you had some Shakespeare text (or texts) on hand. I should like to help you very much, if I can be of use. My time is my own except in domestic crises (which fortunately don’t occur very often) and I can give you whatever time you want. Thank you very much for asking me. I will be as ruthlessly accurate as I can and I am sure I shan’t find it dull. I have, I fear, a sadly materialistic mind that much prefers textual problems and notes to literary psycho-analysis.

If I had known exactly what you were doing I would have been more tactful in what I said about Shakespeare’s editors. I didn’t intend it as a caveat! What rouse me are Professor Dover Wilson’s thoroughly mischievous ways and the conviction that quite simple phonological explanations can be found for a good many variants over which editors boggle. I am sorry you think so badly of philologists. Phonology is one of the studies in which I have a full confidence, though I think the method of both Wyld and Jespersen makes their work unnecessarily difficult and I found when teaching that even the best students wanted a lot of help with them. I don’t think the phonological part of an Elizabethan language textbook should offer any serious difficulties. The greatest obstacle, I think, is likely to be the lack of anything very detailed on historical syntax, though Kellner has broken a lot of ground. Anyway, if you think it will be a useful work and don’t know of anyone else doing it, I shall proceed. It can be done along with other things and if it proves beyond my capacity I can always abandon it.

I won’t argue any more about Malichus! As long as you don’t insist that ‘malhecho’ is what was intended, I am satisfied! My great desire is to root out that alien and to have substituted something or someone that will satisfy the biped or quadruped requirements of miche suggested by the N.E.D.

My mother, thank you, is much better. I am sorry I have involved you in such a lot of letter writing when you are so busy. I hope Mrs McKerrow is well again and that you take to housekeeping more kindly than I do!

Yours sincerely,
Alice Walker.


Typed, except the signature.