In ‘An Unacknowledged Work of Robert Greene’ Arthur Freeman argues for including An Oration or Funeral Sermon, an English translation of a sermon delivered at the funeral of Pope Gregory XIII in 1585, in the Greenean canon. Freeman makes in the course of his argument two related claims that are supposed to illustrate what he calls the ‘faulty lines of scholarly communication’. First, he asserts that the ‘pamphlet … has never been included among lists of Greene’s works’; secondly, he avers that the work ‘passed unobserved by the dozens of writers on Greene from [William] Herbert’s time to our own’—that is, from circa 1786 to 1965.1 These claims demand reconsideration and correction because each is factually inaccurate. Furthermore, correcting them complicates Freeman’s argument as a whole. Taking the claims in reverse order, we find that An Oration had been attributed to Greene on several occasions prior and subsequent to Herbert’s republication of Joseph Ames’s Typographical Antiquities. To my knowledge, the earliest of these attributions appeared in William Oldys’s Catalogue of Pamphlets, which he compiled in conjunction with the Harleian Miscellany. Oldys tentatively identified the pamphlet’s translator as ‘Robert Greene … one of the greatest Pamphleteers, and Refiners of our Language in his Time’. Not only did Oldys give a fuller, more accurate transcription of the work’s title page than either Ames or Herbert were to give, but he also correctly identified the pamphlet’s bibliographical format (octavo), something that neither Ames nor Herbert were to do.2 The catalogue, Oldys’s remarks included, appeared again in Thomas Park’s nineteenth-century reprint of the miscellany.3 A similar observation about the accuracy of title-page transcription and bibliographical format can be made regarding the pamphlet’s entry in one of W. Carew Hazlitt’s many bibliographies. Yet, Hazlitt appears to have been more tentative than Oldys regarding its authorship, stating merely that the pamphlet included ‘a preface signed Robert Greene’.4 In addition to these brief bibliographical notices, several critical studies referenced An Oration. Wolfgang Bernhardi, in an early monograph on Greene, described the pamphlet as ‘so selten’ (very rare).5 The translation was also considered to be Greene’s in what had been throughout most of the twentieth century the two standard accounts of his life. J. Churton Collins mentioned it in a note where he discussed the downturn in Greene’s literary output during the years 1585–86; René Pruvost briefly described the text and noted at length bibliographical details concerning both this pamphlet and the French source upon which it was based.6 Finally, just a few years before the publication of Freeman’s note, Fernando Ferrara opined that the translation was composed ‘in tutta fretta’ (in haste) and that it lacked artistic merit.7 While any one of these references to the pamphlet might be inadvertently overlooked, each one by itself belies the veracity of Freeman’s second claim, that no-one mentioned the text for nearly two hundred years. He neglects, moreover, an altogether larger, more substantial set of data. The first of Freeman’s claims can be refuted prima facie merely by acknowledging those writers who attributed An Oration to Greene and who did so while listing it among works deemed to be his. The chronologically arranged list below—a list that may not be exhaustive—identifies a dozen or so of ‘the dozens of writers on Greene’ Freeman appears to castigate for their alleged neglect of the pamphlet. Each of these writers, in compiling his list of Greene’s works, included the translation. 1748 Tanner 1800 Brydges 1808 Haslewood 1815 Bliss; Haslewood 1824 Watt 1825 Collier 1831 Dyce 1834 Lowndes 1859 Bohn 1861 Cooper and Cooper; Dyce 1938 Pruvost 1959 Parr and Shapiro8 The translation, obviously, had long been included in printed lists of Greene’s works—from the middle of the eighteenth to the middle of the twentieth century. Its inclusion in any one of these lists belies the assertion that such a thing ‘never’ happened. On the contrary, it happened most of the time. Indeed, the majority of writers who demonstrated an awareness of An Oration, even if only titularly, invariably attributed it to Greene. By contrast, only a handful of sources omit it. Crucially, these are the very sources upon which Freeman relied.9 The pamphlet’s inclusion not only in numerous lists of Greene’s works but also in a handful of important, critical analyses of his literary career renders his argument superfluous: An Oration was and had long been a widely acknowledged work of Robert Greene. Having corrected Freeman’s statements anent An Oration’s alleged neglect, we are faced with a final complication. Why did a few writers—viz., Hazlitt (initially), Grosart, and Bullen—in the last third of the nineteenth century change tack and choose to omit the translation from Greene’s canon? Due to their collective silence on the issue, we may never know their rationale(s). Grosart, for example, never explains why he excluded the work from his edition.10 Moreover, I am unaware of any discussion in either the eighteenth or the nineteenth centuries that questioned the translation’s attribution, let alone anyone who articulated a rationale for its exclusion. While it is possible, on the one hand, that limited access to a ‘very rare’ pamphlet militated against its inclusion in an edition of Greene’s works, it is difficult to comprehend how this contingency would have determined whether or not it was listed alongside other works deemed to be his. After all, few of the writers presented in the list above appear to have seen the pamphlet. Dyce, for example, admits to not having seen it both in his original list of 1831 and in the revised one of 1861. It is also possible, on the other hand, that Grosart and the others had scruples about attributing the translation to Greene. If so, then there may be a bit of incongruity in Freeman’s argument: arguing for the pamphlet’s inclusion in Greene’s canon, he may have followed ‘lines of scholarly communication’ whose authors might have wished to exclude it. This is not the place for speculation on whether or not An Oration is Greene’s. Yet, suffice to say, more recent writers on Greene have questioned his authorship of the translation. Parr and Shapiro—the only modern scholars to attempt an updated edition of Greene’s collected works—noted its ‘doubtful’ attribution.11 Similarly, the editors of the sole collection of scholarly essays devoted entirely to Greene accord the work an apocryphal status.12 So, a more thorough analysis of the evidence—beyond the cursory one Freeman proffers—seems in order, and an attribution study of An Oration and its relation to Greene remains a desideratum. Footnotes 1 Arthur Freeman, ‘An Unacknowledged Work of Robert Greene’, N&Q, ccx (1965), 378. For a bibliographic description of the pamphlet and a brief mention of its source, Oraison et Sermon Funebere, see A. F. Allison, Robert Greene: A Bibliographical Catalogue (Folkestone, 1975), 52–3. Two critical bibliographies include entries for Freeman’s article: Tetsumaro Hayashi, Robert Greene Criticism: A Comprehensive Bibliography (Metuchen, 1971), 90; and James Seay Dean, Robert Greene: A Reference Guide (Boston, 1984), 196. For a favourable citation of his article, see Charles W. Crupi, Robert Greene (Boston, 1986), 78, 161. 2 William Oldys, A Copious and Exact Catalogue of Pamphlets in the Harleian Library ([London, 1746]), 120. The unattributed ‘Funeral Sermon at the Buriall of Pope Gregory XIII’ listed in a slightly earlier Harleian catalogue is probably the same work; see William Oldys and Samuel Johnson, Catalogus Bibliothecae Harleianae (London, 1743), I, 142. 3 See the second supplemental volume of The Harleian Miscellany, ed. Thomas Park (London, 1813), X, 433. 4 W. Carew Hazlitt, Supplements to the Third and Final Series of Bibliographical Collections and Notes (London, 1889), 44. 5 Wolfgang Bernhardi, Robert Greene’s Leben und Schriften (Leipzig, 1874), 22; translation mine. 6 See J. Churton Collins (ed.), The Plays and Poems of Robert Greene (Oxford, 1905), I, 20; and René Pruvost, Robert Greene et Ses Romans (Paris, 1938), 44, 231–2. 7 Fernando Ferrara, L’Opera Narrativa di Robert Greene (Venice, 1957), 129, 131; translation mine. This work was subsequently reprinted (Naples, 1960). 8 Thomas Tanner, Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica (London, 1748), 340; Edward Phillips, Theatrum Poetarum Anglicanorum [ed. Egerton Brydges] (Canterbury, 1800), 196; Joseph Haslewood, ‘List of the Works of Robert Greene’, in Samuel Egerton Brydges, Censura Literaria (London, 1808), VIII, 386; Anthony à Wood, Fasti Oxonienses, ed. Philip Bliss (London, 1815), I, col. 247; Joseph Haslewood, ‘List of the Works of Robert Greene’, in Sir Egerton Brydges, Censura Literaria (London, 1815), II, 295; Robert Watt, Bibliotheca Britannica (Edinburgh, 1824), No. 437s; John Payne Collier (ed.), A Select Collection of Old Plays (London, 1825), VIII, 171; Alexander Dyce (ed.), Dramatic Works of Robert Greene (London, 1831), I, ciii; William Thomas Lowndes, Bibliographer’s Manual of English Literature (London, 1834), I, 823, 827; Henry G. Bohn (ed. and rev.), Bibliographer’s Manual of English Literature (London, 1859), IV, 935, 940; Charles Henry Cooper and Thompson Cooper, Athenae Cantabrigienses (Cambridge, 1861), II, 130; Alexander Dyce (ed.), Dramatic and Poetical Works of Robert Greene and George Peele (London, 1861), 77; Pruvost, Robert Greene et Ses Romans, 601; Johnstone Parr and I. A. Shapiro, Instructions to Editors of The Works of Robert Greene ([Birmingham], 1959), iii. 9 Freeman, ‘An Unacknowledged Work of Robert Greene’, 378. To the four sources Freeman cites as having omitted An Oration we can add W. Carew Hazlitt, Hand-book to the Popular, Poetical, and Dramatic Literature of Great Britain (London, 1867), 237–43. 10 An Oration is not listed among Greene’s works in the edition’s prospectus; see Alexander B. Grosart, Prospectus of the Huth Library ([London, 1881]), 10–14. 11 Parr and Shapiro, Instructions to Editors of The Works of Robert Greene, iii. Their list is reprinted, with minor alterations, in Dean, Robert Greene: A Reference Guide, xxii–iii. 12 See Kirk Melnikoff and Edward Gieskes (eds), Writing Robert Greene: Essays on England’s First Notorious Professional Writer (Aldershot, 2008), 225. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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