Item 3 - Letter from Alice Walker to R. B. McKerrow

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Letter from Alice Walker to R. B. McKerrow


  • 5 Mar. 1936 (Creation)

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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.

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