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Wyld, Henry Cecil Kennedy (1870–1945), philologist and lexicographer
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Letter from R. W. Chambers to R. B. McKerrow

University of London.—Wyld has intimated that he would like to be added (to the advisory panel).



University of London, University College,
Gower Street, London, W.C.1

Feb 1 1924

Dear McKerrow

H. C. Wyld writes in a letter to a friend of mine

“I dont know what it is he asks me to join, but I am sure that if he approves of it it will not commit me to a recognition of the Soviet Government, nor to membership of the Sanhedrin, nor any other movement likely to strike a blow at Church or State”

So with perfect confidence you may add him to the list. That completes my bag of Wyld & Gordon: Chadwick cries off as too busy.

Yours sincerely
R W Chambers

Letter from Alice Walker to R. B. McKerrow

2 Bankfield Lane, Southport.—Discusses her proposed application for a grant for her edition of Lodge, and asks for his views on the treatment of the text. Responds to his arguments about Malchus, observing that too little notice is taken of Elizabethan pronunciation in the textual criticism of Shakespeare.



2 Bankfield Lane, Southport.
2 March 1936.

Dear Dr. McKerrow,

Thank you very much for your letter of the 23rd and for your advice about the Reply to Gosson. {1} I am sorry I havn’t been able to write before now. My mother has been ill and I have had a busy week managing the house. When I write to the Publications Committee {2} I will do my best to put a case that will get round the maximum grant difficulty and will let you see what I have done before I send it in. I am rather worried by the business as I gather from the regulations that grants are made for completed work and although a fair amount of the annotation of the text is now, I think, adequate there are a lot of gaps still to be filled in. I am wondering, therefore, if my case would not be strengthened if the whole work was complete when I applied, especially as the sum I want is probably bigger than usual. I don’t want to spoil my chances by making a premature request and feel that perhaps the Committee will be readier to produce £400 for a work that is ready for press than to promise so large a sum for an as yet unfinished work at some vague future date. What do you think? I was hoping to be able to do a little stocktaking of the Lodge situation last week but I havn’t had the time to go through all my notes yet. As a guess, I should say that six or nine months should see the whole ground reasonably well covered. In the meantime I will do what I can to find out how rigidly the maximum grant is enforced (there is nothing about it in the general regulations, but I remember your telling me about it before). I don’t know Professor Sisson {3} sufficiently well to tackle him myself, but I can ask Miss Willcock to act as intermediary and to make a few unofficial enquiries. It should be possible to arrange the texts in such a way as to make each volume a unit (e.g. by putting the verse and plays with the Introduction in Vol. 1; the novels in Vol. 2, the prose pamphlets in Vol. 3 and notes, bibliography and Index in Vol. 4). {4} The only work that cuts across this arrangement is the Alarum, {5} which includes a prose tract, a novel and a verse piece, and I think it might be an advantage to have at any rate one work which can be used to even up the volumes to approximately the same length. I don’t think anything would be lost by abandoning a chronological arrangement; classification of Lodge’s works is, in fact, I think, better.

Will you let me know some time what your views are about the text? Has Miss Byrne done with Munday what you did with Nashe? {6} If so, I had better do the same. The only errors I should like to rectify are turned letters, but I am prepared to do exactly what you think best. It would, however, be a help to know what you would like doing as I want to finish the octavo and roman letter texts {7} this summer; it would be a waste of money getting photostats of these. If it is any saving of expense in setting up the text I can let you have a corrected copy of the black letter quartos as well. {8} I have corrected the Hunterian Club edition {9} of some of these and I imagine it is quicker for a compositor to work from these than from black letter photostats.

I am sorry to confess that your arguments about Malichus leave me quite unconvinced. I hope you won’t think I am being merely stubborn! It seems to me that the difficulty of assuming that an Elizabethan audience would recognise a pronunciation [maliko] (which is what the Quarto readings ‘Malico’ suggest) as intended for Sp. malhecho (malet∫o) and would, further, know what malhecho meant is even greater than assuming that it would know who Malico/Malichus was. I feel very strongly that there is something linguistically wrong with ‘miching mallecho’ (if you substitute for the Sp. derivative the Latin word and read ‘miching malefactum’, I think it is at once apparent) and feel absolutely certain that what ‘miching’ requires is an agent or proper noun (either ‘Malichus’ or such like). I lean towards the proper noun solution of the difficulty largely because the F., like the Qs, prints the word with a capital (though this, I know, isn’t conclusive) and to Malichus in particular because the reference would have some point.

I would like to convince you about this!

À propos of Shakespeare, why is it that no stock is ever taken of Elizabethan pronunciation in textual work? I can never see why it should not be legitimate to substitute ‘sewer’ for ‘sure’ (T. & C. v. i. 83) in a modernised text, {10} as these were homonyms in the sixteenth century, and why forms such as ‘deal’ for ‘devil’, ‘or’ for ‘are’, should necessarily be explained as due to misreading when they might equally well be due to a compositor’s having carried the sound of a word in his head and having set up the wrong one of a pair of homonyms. I have never found that a phonetic transcription of a crux conclusively solved it, but I think that in doubtful cases (such as the ‘sewer’ problem) it often brings the scale down fairly decisively on one side, that it often explains how errors such as ‘mistresse’ for ‘misteries’ (Lear I, i, 109) {11} arose and that it provides a very essential check on fanciful reconstructions of the stages through which an error was arrived at (such as Mr. Dover Wilson’s wanton assumption that changes affecting short vowels also affected long ones in his explanation of the Hamlet invite/invest problem). {12} Do you think any publisher would consider a book on Shakespearean grammar and punctuation? Abbott’s is so woefully out of date and I am convinced that something on the Elizabethan language, spoken and written, is needed. I was filled with horror when a well known authority on Shakespeare wrote to Miss Willcock a few months ago asking her to send him as soon as possible a list of works where he could find something about Elizabethan pronunciation as he had made a rash statement to the press and was in a panic lest he should be required to justify it. [I think, perhaps, I ought not to have told you this, but as it is one of the greatest shocks I have ever had it is perhaps worth recording. I hope you won’t guess who it was and that you will forget about it! It does, however, serve to show that something better than Abbott {13} and less for the expert than Jespersen and Wyld is needed].

I was going to send this to your office as it is mainly business, but in view of this last indiscretion I think I had better not. I am quite seriously considering this last project and should be very grateful for a word of warning if you know of anything similar being done.

Yours sincerely,
Alice Walker.

I am sorry this look† so smudged; & I expect it will be worse by the time you get it. If you havn’t fallen a victim to the machine, don’t. There is nothing more infuriating or more humiliating than putting in & using a new ribbon.


Typed, except the postscript, a few corrections, and the ‘∫’ in ‘malet∫o’. The square brackets are original.

{1} A pamphlet by Thomas Lodge (STC (2nd ed.) 16663), written in response to Stephen Gosson’s Schoole of Abuse. Only two examples survive, neither with title or imprint, though the identity of the author is apparent from later pamphlets by Gosson and Lodge. When it was edited for the Shakespeare Society in 1853—the first modern edition—the work was given the title ‘A Reply to Stephen Gosson’s Schoole of Abuse, in defence of Poetry, Musick, and Stage Plays’, and this title, with variations, has generally been adopted.

{2} Probably the Publication Fund Committee of the University of London. Professor Sisson, mentioned a few lines later, was a member of this Committee in 1935–6 (University of London Calendar; ex inf. Richard Temple, Archivist, Senate House Library).

{3} C. J. Sisson, Professor of Modern English Literature at University College, London. Walker had reviewed Thomas Lodge and other Elizabethans, edited by Sisson, in 1933 (RES, ix. 472–4).

{4} Lodge’s translations of Josephus and Seneca and his French ‘Summary’ of Du Bartas were probably excluded from Walker’s plan.

{5} An Alarum against Usurers (STC (2nd ed.) 16653).

{6} Muriel St Clare Byrne wrote four articles on Munday between 1918 and 1923 (The Library, 3rd ser., ix. 106–15; 4th ser., i. 225–56; 4th ser., iv. 9–24; and MLR, xv. 364–73). At the time of this letter she appears to have been engaged in editing all or some of his works, but this work was never published. Cf. MCKW A4/128.

{7} An Alarum against Usurers (sm. 8vo), Phillis, The Wounds of Civill War, A Fig for Momus, Prosopopeia (8vo), and A Treatise of the Plague, all in Roman type except the first. The translations are also Roman letter, but, as noted above, these were probably excluded from Walker’s plan.

{8} All the extant works of Lodge not mentioned in the previous note are black-letter quartos, with the exception of The Poore Mans Talentt, which is in manuscript, and possibly some miscellaneous pieces.

{9} The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Lodge (4 vols., printed for the Hunterian Club, 1883); still the only collected edition of Lodge’s works.

{10} ‘sure’ is the reading of Q and F. The emendation ‘sewer’ was first made by Rowe. It is odd that Walker should defend its legitimacy, since it appears to have been universally accepted.

{11} The reference is to the Cambridge edition (line 112 in the Globe edition).

{12} i.e. the discrepancy between F1 and Q2 readings at I. iii. 83. See The Manuscript of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, p. 137.

{13} E. A. Abbott, A Shakespearian Grammar (1870).

† Sic.

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.