Editors and Actors: Hanmer

Thomas Hanmer, painted during his life.

After going through Theobald’s hundreds of footnotes, Hanmer’s relatively unannotated text came – I must admit – as a bit of a relief. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot to study here, but rather than this edition has to be studied in a slightly different way. That said, I did, as usual, start with the preface, where Hanmer really nails his colours to the mast: he is very pro Shakespeare, but very very antitheatrical. He hopes this edition will be the paper equivalent of the recently erected Shakespeare monument in Westminster Abbey, and he hopes that all those players who “foisted in” the “low stuff” after Shakespeare’s death will burn in hell. I’m paraphrasing here slightly, but Hanmer is not just following in Pope’s footsteps (including the reprinting of his preface and some of his notes about players’ errors), but even taking Pope’s methods further, relegating, for example, even more scenes than the poet to the bottom of the page.

Looking through the plays themselves, and excluding the various relegated passages (the French lesson in Henry V, the bawdy bits in Measure for Measure, large chunks of The Comedy of Errors and more), Hanmer’s other notes are mainly glosses, occasionally varied with a rare note on a textual variant. This makes most of his emendation very hard to spot, and, from what I’ve seen so far, I suspect he is using a version of Pope’s Shakespeare as his copytext.

The most striking thing about Hanmer’s edition, however, is not his recycling of Pope or stingy quantities of footnotes, but rather the inclusion of illustrations, making this the first illustrated edition since Rowe at the start of the century, some 33 years previous. As I’ve already discussed, Rowe’s annotations appear distinctly theatrical, and I would really love to say that the illustrations to Hanmer’s edition bring in all the ambiguity and invention of live performance that Hanmer’s edition works so hard to exclude and denigrate. Unfortunately, there isn’t quite enough evidence to make this claim.

The illustrations were produced by Francis Hayman and Hubert-François Bourguignon (known as ‘Gravelot’): both were part of the Saint Martin’s Lane Academy, and were in Garrick’s circle. Hayman started off as a scene painter, and did other theatrical illustrations too, including some of scenes from Shakespeare with the help of Garrick’s directions. In some respects, Hanmer could not have had a more theatrical illustrator than Hayman, yet most of the plates do not strike the viewer as particularly based on theatre practice at first glance. I only spotted four things that bring the stage to mind:

    1. Hayman’s roots as a scene painter occasionally show in the illustrations’ use of perspective, where one gets the impression that the characters are moving on a 2D plane in front of a painted backdrop.


    1. Some figures are depicted in postures clearly based on those outlined in acting manuals of the time. That said, those acting manuals often drew on instructions for painters, so such resemblance may be as accidental as intentional.


  1. Although Shakespeare’s Roman plays and History plays have characters dressed in appropriate costume (Hayman was also a history painter), other illustrations keep eighteenth-century dress, even for plays like Macbeth, which reflects contemporary theatrical practice (see above, from Macbeth).
  2. A few illustrations suggest the shape of the eighteenth-century stage: there are hints of a stage curtain incorporated more or less gracefully into the image, while some plates appear to have characters entering or exiting by the wings (see the first image, from Love’s Labour’s Lost).

And that’s it. Overall, an edition from an Oxford scholar that follows in Pope’s footsteps, and pays little attention to the theatre and its actors, except, perhaps, in the illustrations, which remain poised between the creations of the reader’s imagination and the reality of stage production.

Editors and Actors: Theobald

I’ve returned to Shakespeare’s editors, continuing the groundwork to chapter one begun at the end of summer. Having gone through Rowe and Pope, it was now the turn of Theobald. The UL had the first volume of his 1733 edition, but the rest I had to squint at on the HathiTrust website. It’s taken me three days of such squinting, but I have found some interesting things with regard to how this editor thinks about the stage. I’ll share a few of them here.

The first item I have is an extraordinary assertion that appears sixteen pages into Theobald’s preface. It goes like this:

The ease and sweetness of [Shakespeare’s] temper might not a little contribute to his facility in writing; as his employment as a player, gave him an advantage and habit of fancying himself the very character he meant to delineate. He used the helps of his function in forming himself to create and express that sublime, which other actors can only copy, and throw out, in action and graceful attitude. But nullum sine seia placuit ingenium, say Seneca, The genius that gives us the greatest pleasure sometimes stands in need of our indulgence.

Now the idea that being an actor helped Shakespeare write his plays might seem rather obvious, but what Theobald is doing here marks a striking departure from Pope, and indeed much other writing about Shakespeare, where many of Shakespeare’s faults were attributed to his association with the common stage and his need to earn money from it. Rather than emphasise the restriction the theatrical life placed upon Shakespeare’s poetic genius, Theobald instead proposes that work as an actor helped it bloom. This is the only time such a claim is made by Theobald, but little hints appear elsewhere to indicate that Theobald occasionally thought of Shakespeare the theatrical practitioner with less distaste than Pope. When discussing the Henry VI plays, he hypothesises that they were only finished (and not composed) by Shakespeare in his role of (the mysteriously named) “director of the stage”. In an earlier volume, this time in a footnote to Henry IV Part One, Theobald goes as far as to wish for more errors in texts where actors’ names were copied instead of characters’, if this were the case, “we might have known what particular parts were performed by Shakespeare himself, and the other eminent actors in the company with him.”

Accompanying this interest in the role of the theatre in Shakespeare’s imagination is Theobald’s own striking ability to imagine what would be happening on stage. This results in glosses and justifications for emendations of a very different kind from the more common, comparative or palaeographic procedures. Pope’s harmonisation of some verse in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is criticised for ruining the humour of a speech that depends on the actor mis-stopping his lines, Posthumous’ costume changes are clear on the stage but obscure in the printed text, while one only has to imagine the scene in Hamlet to work out what Polonius does when he says “there” to Laertes in the line: “ The Wind sits in the shoulder of your sail, / And you are stay’d for[] there[.] My blessing…”

There – where? In the shoulder of his sail? For to that must this local adverb relate, as tis situated. Besides, it is a dragging idle expletive, and seems of no use but to support the measure of the verse. But when we come to point this passage right, and to the poet’s intention in it, we shall find it neither unnecessary, nor improper, in its place. In the speech immediately preceding this, Laertes taxes himself for staying so long; but seeing his father approach, he is willing to stay for a second blessing, and kneels down to that end: Polonius accordingly lays his hand on his head, and gives him the second blessing. The manner, in which a comic actor, behaved upon this occasion, was sure to raise a laugh of pleasure in the audience: and the oldest quarto’s, in the pointing, are a confirmation that thus the poet intended it, and thus the stage expressed it.

I could give other examples, but I’ll stop here and pick out too Theobald’s implicit understanding of actor-author relations in the way he describes the stage as the expression of the poet’s intention in the last sentence of this note.

Polonius, Laertes and Ophelia in a modern production of Hamlet, found on flickr.

As well as a well-developed theatrical imaginary, Theobald’s edition stands out in one other way with regard to actors. If Pope had castigated the ‘player editor’ as the source of so many of the errors in Shakespeare’s text, Theobald goes one step further and criticises both player-editors and ‘poet-editors’. The latter is, in many respects, a clear dig at Pope, continuing the war that began with Theobald’s Shakespeare Restored and continues into Pope’s The Dunciad, but it also incorporates Rowe, since he was also a playwright-poet. Theobald’s point is that neither player nor poet make adequate editors, only such a person as he.

‘Poet-editors’ are criticised for adding euphony to the detriment of sense, missing obvious emendations dictated by the meter, wishing to create something of their own and so defacing Shakespeare, not doing the graft of collation, and so on. The list for ‘player editors’ is just as long, and would probably be longer if one also included all those errors Theobald lists as arising from the mechanics of transmitting a script from stage to page. The ‘player editors’, in short, prefer sound over sense, misspell or replace any complicated words they don’t recognise, reorganise and stretch verse for a big effect, and, perhaps worse of all, create negative feedback loops by incorporating one set of errors into future influential productions.

This is only meant to be a summary, so I won’t go into more details here. While Theobald may appear quite sympathetic to the role of the stage in the transmission of Shakespeare, it is still – I think – only a relative measure. The real emphasis on what is new with Theobald in this area should lie on two things: first, his detailed imagination of theatrical process, which allows both praise and a more discerning attribution of blame; and, second, his hostility to all previous editors, both poet and player. One observation from my tallying comes in handy here, and will also serve me as conclusion: did you know that out of the 1 350 notes to his edition, Theobald criticises Pope in almost 300 of them?

Download my spreadsheet here if you wish to generate more such tidbits.

The Chaplet

Shorn of its music and most likely spectacular stage business and sets, Boyce’s “musical entertainment” took me five minutes to read. The Chaplet represents the vicissitudes of two couples: Damon and Laura, Palaemon and Pastora. “Scene: a Grove”, and everything is very pastoral indeed. The play opens with Damon abandoning his love Laura to go carousing and wandering while Laura is left to pine. In the next scene, Palaemon leaves Pastora in search of variety too. Pastora then meets Damon, resists his entreaties for a quick fling and resolves herself to go out looking for a husband. In the second act, Pastora and Laura compete for Damon’s hand in marriage, with the shepherd in the end proving loyal to his Laura. Pastora proclaims that “I’ll quit the dull plains for the city / Where beauty is follow’d by merit”, and then Damon and Laura, to end on a more positive note, finish the entertainment with lines of such a kind as “Ne’er yield to the swain, till he make you a wife / For he who loves truly, will take you for life.”

Poussin’s Et In Arcadia Ego, 1637-38.
I don’t have too much to say about this play. So much of it is stylised and conventional. ‘Laura’ is probably called so after Petrarch’s beloved, while the other monikers are similarly derivative: Pastora / Pastoral, for example, while Damon has a famous mowing ancestor created by Andrew Marvell. One other thought springs to mind, and that is that there is an inherent misogyny in the work: while Pastora is able to wander like Damon and Palaemon, she is still very much the victim, since all agency is largely in the hands of the men. Such a state is never questioned, despite a fair amount of satire in the play. We’ve already had one example in Pastora’s thoughts about merit’s place in the city, but another occurs in Damon’s drinking song. I’ll conclude with it and the way it generalises its soon to be proved erroneous ideas about love out to all society, largely with reason:

Push about the brisk bowl, ’twill enliven the heart;
While thus we sit on the grass,
The lover who talks of this suff’rings and smart,
Deserves to be recon’d an ass.
The wretch who sits watching his ill-gotten pelf,
And wishes to to the mass;
Whate’er the curmudgeon may think of himself,
Deserves to be reckon’d an ass.
The beau who so smart with his wel-powder’d hair,
An angel beholds in his glass,
And thinks with grimace to subdue all the fair,
May justly be reckon’d an ass.

On Love

Now this is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, since everything I read to do with acting seems to have something to do with it. Sticotti, about whom I just spoke at the Early Modern French seminar, argues, for instance, that both actors and authors need to have felt (or be feeling) love in order to create the roles of lovers (i.e. perform or write them respectively). Similarly, John Hill and Sainte-Albine both write that only people in love or “of an amorous disposition” should act the parts of lovers. With respect to the relationship between authors and love, Shakespeare himself has Theseus proclaim that “The lunatic, the lover and the poet / Are of imagination all compact” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and, in As You Like It, Touchstone inform Audrey that “the truest poetry is the most feigning; and lovers are given to poetry, and what they swear in poetry may be said as lovers they do feign.”

So, love unites the poet and the player, since both can work wonders under its influence. Of course, such consensus is far from universal, and the clearest break from it is to be found in Diderot’s Paradoxe, where he has Premier hypothesise that the best love-scenes are performed by people without feelings for each other, since it allows them to render the feelings of their characters better, their own not getting in the way. This fits with what Diderot describes as the ideal state for an actor to be in when conceiving his part (forgive my rough translation: ‘stroke’ renders ‘trait‘):

It is not in the rush of the first attempt that characteristic strokes present themselves, it is rather in those cold and tranquil moments, in moments completely unexpected. We don’t know where such strokes come from: they look like inspiration. It is when, suspended between nature and their draft of it, that these genii [i.e. great actors], look from one to the other; inspiration’s beauties, the fortuitous strokes that they put in to their works and whose sudden appearance surprise them themselves, have an effect and a success quite differently guaranteed than those made up in the heat of the moment. It is up to cold-bloodedness to temper the frenzy of enthusiasm.

In such a model, being in love and performing love would be a state of enthusiasm which no coolness of mind could contain. The player should not act in the rush of his own love, remembered or felt in the moment. If we leap forward to the present day, it is rare for any TV, cinema or theatre audience to believe that the actors they see performing lovers to muse on whether they are drawing on the personal experience of love or not. Occasionally, of course, the story of two actors falling in love as they performed together appears, but I’m tempted to point out here that the very fact that this is a newsworthy story at all depends on its rarity and narratological neatness – and that love between celebrities is newsworthy regardless of its context (we don’t hear much about actors hating each other after performing each others’ enemies).

If acting and love can be, and has been, thought of in such a way, my question in this post is why we don’t think of writing poetry like this? Why does it seem strange to propose that a writer might write of love without personal experience? After all, even Wordsworth, who, with regard to poets, famously wrote something very similar to Diderot’s thoughts about actors’ need for tranquility, actually edges away from the idea of composition without at least some version of corresponding emotion. The passage I’m thinking of is in the ‘Preface’ to the Lyrical Ballads.

I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind.

Why can we not write poetry without emotion, a love poem without the feeling of love?

This is, or at least feels like, a horrible, terrible question. I’m curious as to why. Lurking here – in Diderot and in Wordsworth – is the deeper question of where inspiration comes from, and the relationship between inspiration and experience. We might, for example, divide the content of all works of art (this is deliberately fuzzy definition) into those things that we do not need direct experience to write about (i.e. nineteenth-century gold-digging in New Zealand, the topic of my current bedside novel) and those that we do (i.e. love). How, then, do we define the line that this distinction draws? It would be tempting to say that writers require direct experience of the emotions they depict and not of the material existence. Unfortunately, there are no end of counter-examples for this: Shakespeare probably never experienced jealousy on the scale of Othello nor Macbeth’s guilt. I could go on, and perhaps propose (as others have done) that while Shakespeare never felt Macbeth’s guilt or Othello’s jealousy, he did feel guilt and jealousy on a smaller scale and was able to translate this into something of appropriate dimensions for his characters.

So is it just love? Not necessarily: I would say that it is very hard to write of grief without experience of it. One could respond here, though, that grief depends on love for its force so all I’m doing here is finding another way of approaching the same question.

There is no conclusion to this reflection, nor can there be. I’m really only trying to show here – by taking some of my own research as a jumping-off point – that certain kinds of content seem to be felt to require more emotional investment than others. Love, perhaps, most of all. One might say that this is because finding love has become a synonym for finding happiness in our culture. I might resume my entire post by talking then about the film Notting Hill. It is rare audience member indeed who believes that Hugh Grant himself is personally experiencing love as he acts. Rather, what is important is that we want to since that is what is right for his character. How could the bookseller not love Julia Roberts?

Reprinting lost books…

NOTE: This a reposting of something I wrote a while back, but as the website it is hosted on will soon be closing, I wished (aptly enough) to preserve it here. I’m afraid that the pictures will only last until the host website goes down, since I haven’t been able to extract them easily.

Of late, I’ve had to study many books that have been out of print for a hundred years of more. Some I can find in the reserves of libraries close to me, others have been digitised. However, in neither case is it really possible, I feel, to get to grips with the volume: scribble on it, mark its pages, leave it on your bookshelf until you have a revelation…all this is only possible with a printed edition of your own. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, the personal, bespoke republication of an out-of-copyright book is now very easy, This guide will show you how.

For this example, I intend to republish Volume One of Charles Collé’s memoirs on the reign of Louis XV. Any book no longer bound by the copyright laws of your country can be used for this process. To check the copyright status of a book, I recommend asking a librarian or using the Public Domain Calculators.


I – Preliminaries
II – Obtaining a PDF
III – Preparing the PDF
IV – Publishing on lulu.com
V – Examples

I – Preliminaries

1 – Go to lulu.com and click on the ‘My Lulu’ tab to create an account.

2 – Click ‘Start a New Project’ on the left, under the ‘My Projects’ headline, then select ‘Hardcover Book’ from the options that appear.

3 – On the next screen, fill in the form using the title and author of your chosen work, then select how visible you wish the final product to be.

4 – Select your preferred Paper Type, Size, Binding and Colour. I recommend ‘Black and White Printing’ for both cost and visibility reasons. Click ‘Save and Continue’.

5 – We now need to obtain an electronic version of the chosen text. Before leaving lulu.com, note down the page-size of your chosen book type. This will be essential later.

II – Obtaining a PDF

1a – Check to see if the text you wish to publish is online, either after being scanned (which allows a facsimile to be reproduced) or after being treated with an OCR program. I can recommend the following sites for this:

1b – Download it either as a PDF or as a format you can convert to PDF here: http://www.convertfiles.com/.

2a – If your chosen text is not online, find a library that has it:

  • Some libraries will be able to produce PDFs for you for a charge
  • Others will only photocopy the work for you

2b – If you have a photocopy of the work, you can convert it to PDF as follows:

  • Either use another photocopier that photocopies to PDF
  • Or, much more laboriously, scan each page, setting the output format to PDF

III – Preparing the PDF

In order for the PDF to be used as the proofs for a book, the page size must be altered to match the format required by lulu.com at step I.4. In my case, this is 15.24cm x 22.86cm.

1 – Download the free program Primo PDF and install it.

2 – Download Acrobat Reader, if you do not have it already.

3 – Open the PDF of your chosen work in Acrobat Reader, and select File > Print…

4 – Change the Printer to PrimoPDF, then click Properties.

5 – In the ‘Document Properties’ window, go to the Paper/Quality tab and change Color to ‘Black & White’, then click ‘Advanced…’

6 – In the ‘Advanced Options’ window, select ‘PostScript Custom Page Size’, a new window will appear.

7 – In the ‘PostScript Custom Page Size Definition’ window, change the width and the height values to those you noted down from lulu.com earlier (I.5), then close the window by clicking OK.

(7b – Optional: Back in the ‘Advanced Options’ window, change the ‘Print Quality’ to 96dpi. This prevents the finished PDF from becoming too large.)

8 – Click ‘OK to close ‘Advanced Options’ and click OK to close ‘Document Properties’.

(8b – Optional: If you wish to remove certain pages from the PDF, like the scan of the book cover, use the ‘Pages to Print’ option to create a selection once you’re back in the ‘Print’ window. Note that Adobe Reader’s page-numbering can be confusing: use the preview function and the page numbers inside brackets as a way of guiding you.)

9 – Click Print. This may take some time, and may ask too much of your computer. If the latter is the case, try closing all other programs, and, if the problem persists, consider altering the print quality of the PDF as outlined in step 7b.

10 – When Adobe Reader finishes, Primo PDF appears. Click on the Custom icon.

11 – In the ‘Custom PDF Setting’ window, select ‘Average’ in the Downsampling drop-down menu, and then make sure all images above 70PPI are downsampled to 50PPI (the higher this last number is, the larger the final file).

12 – Click on the ‘Grayscale’ icon and repeat step 11 here. Click OK to close the window.

13 – Click ‘Create PDF’ and choose a suitable filename and location. The conversion process may, again, take some time: ignore Windows’ declarations that Primo PDF is not responding.

14 – Make sure to check how readable your new PDF is: if the text is too blurred, you may have to increase the resolution by reversing steps III.7b and III.11.

15 – Once you have a legible, properly-sized PDF, you’re now ready to republish…

IV Publishing on lulu.com

There are numerous print-on-demand services available online, and this guide has been using lulu.com simply because the service is extremely simple and familiar to me. It also has frequent sales, during which time printing costs can drop by 15% or more.

1 – Return to lulu.com, log in and navigate to the ‘Upload’ screen of your project.

2 – Click on choose file and navigate to your prepared PDF. Then click upload. Once again, this may take a moment. If your file is too big, consider following lulu’s instructions about using FTP.

3 – The rest of the lulu process is fairly self-explanatory, so I’ll finish with a few tips:

  • Make sure you use high-resolution images for your covers. If you need to edit the dimensions of an existing image, consider the freely-available GIMP editor.
  • When publishing the work give as many keywords as possible; if you can, use a CC BY 3.0 Creative Commons licence too.

And that’s everything! If you follow this guide and publish something, do let me know about it. Either by commenting or by telling me on twitter.


Here are a few of my efforts:

The Complete Works of Jean-François Ducis (1827)

Antoine de la Place, Théâtre Anglois (1749)

The Suspicious Husband

I’d been looking forward to reading Dr Benjamin Hoadly’s comedy, and I wasn’t disappointed. The plot goes something like this: Bellamy loves Jacintha, the daughter of Mr and Mrs Strictland; Mr Strictland is the jealous husband and does all he can to stop Jacintha marrrying Bellamy; meanwhile, Frankly loves Clarinda, whom he saw at Bath and soon discovers to be in London, staying – the audience but not Frankly soon realises – with Jacintha and the Strictlands. The play opens, however, with Ranger, a resident of the Temple and a character Garrick made his own. Ranger is a rake and a hero, and his various antics cause confusion and yet bring ultimate resolution.

David Garrick (as Ranger) and Mrs Pritchard (as Clarinda) in The Suspicious Husband: in this scene, Ranger is tricked into trying to woo a masked Clarinda, who then reveals all, much to her cousin’s (!) embarassment.
The crux of the plot occurs around midnight at the Strictlands’ house. Jacintha executes a plan to escape dressed as a boy and run away with Bellamy; a lovestruck Frankly, not Bellamy, however is waiting for her and mistakes her for Clarinda, under whose windows he thought he was waiting. Just as this confusion is unfolding, Clarinda herself turns up and believes Frankly is cheating on her with Jacintha. Bellamy then arrives but all the chaos has given Mr Strictland (a now very suspicious husband indeed) time to lock the gates and foil the young lovers’ plans. This would be enough for most farces, but the presence of Ranger takes things to the next level: whilst everyone else is running round the garden, Ranger, out (improbably) on a nigh-time prowl, spots the ladder Jacintha has used to escape. He climbs it and finds his way into Mrs Strictland’s bedroom, attempts to woo her, fails, and is then interrupted by Mr Strictland’s return. Ranger hides in a hurry and leaves his hat behind. This makes Mr Strictland very suspicious indeed, and the husband starts interrogating his wife. During this time, however, Ranger has found Jacintha and breaking off his molestation when he realises that she is the beloved of his friend Bellamy, helps her escape.

The next day, Jacintha’s safety is reported to Bellamy, who forgives Frankly. Ranger then finds Clarinda and persuades her to admit her enduring love for Frankly. A great gathering at the home of Jack Meggot, everyone’s mutual acquaintance, is organised, and here all the other wrinkles of the story are worked out: Ranger admits that is was he who was in Mrs Strictland’s bedroom and pacifies her husband by testifying to the lady’s propriety. Bellamy marries Jacintha, and a song concludes the play. Ranger sums things up as follows in the final moments of the last scene.

RANGER […] I cannot sufficiently admire at the whimsicalness of my good fortune, in being so instrumental to this general happiness. Bellamy, Frankly, I wish you joy with all my heart, though I had rather you should be married than I for all that. Never did matrimony appear to me with a smile upon her face till this instant.

At the start of the 1791 edition I’m using, there’s a very critical note, informing the reader (surprisingly) that “there is not one stroke of wit in the whole play; and it is a matter of concern to see comedies by prescription keeping possession of our stage, triumphing over better modern productions”. Now, this may well be a joke, but it makes one good point. This is a comedy of a different age: it has more action (lots of climbing in and out of windows, chasing of chairs and carriages) than Goldsmith or Sheridan; and it has Ranger, whose rowdiness is closer to the Restoration than the Reform end of the eighteenth century.

RANGER (climbing the ladder into the Strictlands’ house) There can be no harm in seeing how the land lies – I’ll up. All is hush – Ha! A light, and a woman! By all that’s lucky, neither old nor crooked!

The idea that there’s no wit in this play, I do not accept. It’s true that there’s less repartee, but I think Hoadly had a fine ear for comic timing and structure. The proof of this is the dénouement scene where everyone comes clean: this could easily have been quite dull, were it not made to interrupt an intimate tête à tête between Frankly and Clarinda, just at theat point where they were each to announce fully their love for one another. As Clarinda, seeing the crowd of lovers, wives, (and a suspicious husband) approach, puts it:

This is downright malice.