IT is a persistent difficulty for editors and scholars of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, that there are no extant holograph versions of his poems. For the vast majority of Surrey’s verse, editors have been forced to rely on the text of the Tudor anthology Tottel’s Miscellany—notorious for its systematic adulteration of its source texts—and on two mid-sixteenth-century manuscript miscellanies compiled by John Harington of Stepney and the Harington family of Kelston, both of which are known to have altered their sources in ways similar to Tottel’s.1 Thus nearly the entire Surrey canon has been editorially adduced as a composite of more or less unreliable sources, themselves editorial productions, making it all but impossible to know what Surrey himself actually wrote. Despite the general opacity of his canon, however, there are three Surrey lyrics transcribed separately in manuscripts known to pre-date both Tottel’s and the Harington miscellanies, and over the past half-century scholars have made arguments for the authority of textual variants contained in two of these poems.2 The third poem, found in Surrey’s earliest-extant manuscript source, BL MS Egerton 2711 (E)––a notebook originally belonging to Thomas Wyatt3––has generated no such argument, as either directly or indirectly it has been reproduced in each of the four major editions of Surrey’s poems since the turn of the nineteenth century, when G. F. Nott, drawing from the Harington miscellanies and E, in addition to several other unpublished and previously unattributed manuscript sources, became the first scholar to consider Surrey’s manuscripts against Tottel’s, in effect constructing the canon that remains largely unaltered to this day.4 Despite its longstanding, firmly established place in the Surrey canon, however, E’s version of the poem contains an unusually provocative variant, which through willful misreading, silent omission, or simple lack of attention has gone unacknowledged in any edition of Surrey’s verse. The poem in question is a sonnet written in commendation of Thomas Wyatt’s metrical paraphrases of the Penitential Psalms, copied into a blank page of E immediately preceding Wyatt’s handwritten composition of the Psalms themselves. The sonnet begins by remembering Alexander, The great Macedon that out of Perse chasyd Darius, of whose huge power all Asy rang, In the riche arke if Homers rymes he placyd, Who fayned gestes of hethen prynces sang; The second stanza realizes the point of the invocation, asking, What holly grave, what wourthy sepulture To Wyates Psalmes shulde Christians then purchase? Wher he dothe paynte the lyvely faythe and pure, The stedfast hoope, the swete returne to grace Of just Davyd by parfite penytence; and turns, over the next three lines, to the story with which the Penitential Psalms are traditionally associated—David’s seduction of Bathsheba, and subsequent arrangement for the murder of her husband Uriah: Where rewlers may se in a myrrour clere The bitter frewte of false concupiscense, How Jewry bought Uryas deathe full dere.5 For over four and a half centuries, since it was first printed in Tottel’s, ‘Jewry’ has been the agent of Uriah’s death in every print version of this sonnet. The word also appears in the Harington miscellany BL Add. MS 36529, the only other extant sixteenth-century manuscript version of the poem. It is not, however, supported by E. In the Egerton text (Figure 1), the initial letter of the word in question is drawn with a thin but visible clockwise-curving head, whereas the capital I in the text, typical of a sixteenth-century italic hand, is formed with a near-opposite pen stroke, the letter’s head drawn with a leftward-moving horizontal line and counterclockwise finishing curve, twice visible in the word ‘In’, at lines three and thirteen. It is similarly evident that the letter is not a miniscule i, capitalized by Surrey’s editors, as the normal italic miniscule in the word ‘just’, in line nine, shows clearly. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide © British Library Board, BL MS Egerton 2711, f. 85v. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide © British Library Board, BL MS Egerton 2711, f. 85v. The letter is clearly not an italic I; and neither is it similar to, nor its editorial confusion explained by, differing forms of the I in any of the contemporaneous handwriting styles of the sixteenth century. With its leftward-drawn head, The Egerton I is typical of all classes of sixteenth-century handwriting in England, to include the most common style, the secretary hand, in which the vast majority of Surrey’s verse is transcribed.6 As the everyday working hand of the period, the secretary hand admits a high degree of idiosyncratic variation in its lettering, but in even the most extreme instances, in which a writer’s formation of the I can be found in a form most closely resembling that of the Egerton letter, it is still easily differentiated from it. An example of the secretary hand from BL Add MS 36529 (Figure 2) shows the capital I in the word ‘Joily’ drawn, like the Egerton letter, with a clockwise-curving head, though as is necessary for the letter to be legible as an I, the line transverses the stem to terminate with normal counterclockwise movement on the left side of the letter. In a more extreme example, from a Surrey lyric found in a mid–late sixteenth-century manuscript (Figure 3), in which the head of the I is twice formed almost entirely on the right side of the stem, it is still drawn in a counterclockwise direction, forming, basically, a mirror image with the head of the letter in E. These examples will suffice to make the general point. Put simply, it is not only clear that the letter in the Egerton MS is not an I, but it is nearly inconceivable that anyone at all familiar with sixteenth-century handwriting might ever have confused it with one. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide © British Library Board, BL Add MS 36529, f. 55, line 21. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide © British Library Board, BL Add MS 36529, f. 55, line 21. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide © British Library Board, BL Harley MS 78, f. 30v, line 13. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide © British Library Board, BL Harley MS 78, f. 30v, line 13. Evidence that at least one reader of E did not read the letter as an I can be found in a copy of the manuscript made by the British Museum at the request of G. F. Nott, c. 1810 (Figure 4). In the museum’s transcript of the poem, the scribe has taken the head of the letter to be the bowl of a k, producing the nonce word ‘kewry’. Again, however, a simple comparison to the Egerton text—against arke and awake in lines three and fourteen—shows that the letter is obviously not a k, as the bowl of the k is not only quite distinct from its curving ascender, typical of both italic and secretary hands, but so too is its oblique leg, rising from the base line to form a ligature with a following e. Figure 4. View largeDownload slide © British Library Board, BL Add. MS 28636, f. 71v. Figure 4. View largeDownload slide © British Library Board, BL Add. MS 28636, f. 71v. Despite the trouble, or lack of trouble, that this letter has given to readers of E, it is only within a literary-historical context that it presents a challenge for Surrey scholarship. From a paleographical standpoint, it is hardly problematic, as it seems strangely apparent that the letter is a miniscule f, and the word is not ‘Jewry’, or ‘kewry’, but ‘fewry’—a variant spelling of ‘fury’. If any paleographical justification may be offered for the failure of Surrey’s editors to print a miniscule f, it can only be that the letter is also dissimilar from other instances of the f in the poem. Generally, the Egerton f is formed with a long, tapering descender, and the head of the letter with a separate pen stroke, whereas the head in ‘fewry’ seems to have been formed by retracing the descender upward from its base, producing a slightly thicker line at the bottom of the stem. But while the f created by such a pen movement is locally atypical, it is not inconsistent with the hand of the text as a whole. In keeping with previous scholarship, I have referred to this hand as italic.7 But it may be more accurately described as a hybrid, or intermediate hand, as it casually blends both italic and secretary lettering styles. The text consistently prefers certain letters in their characteristic secretary forms (e.g. initial and medial ‘tall’ s), frequently alternates between forms typical of either style (e.g. h and c, the terminal e of lines nine and ten), and, in the case of the terminal italic s of ‘Darius’, in line two, at least once substitutes a single instance of a form from its non-preferred lettering style. The f of ‘fewry’ belongs to this latter category as well, though its specific form requires an additional comment. In the secretary hand, the miniscule f is also commonly drawn with a long descender, and its head with a second pen stroke, making for a close resemblance between the typical italic and secretary forms. But as Giles Dawson and Laetitia Kennedy-Skipton make a point of noting in their widely referenced manual on Elizabethan handwriting, ‘some [secretary hand] writers, instead of actually lifting the pen to add the head, reversed the pen direction at the bottom of the shaft stroke’, retracing the stem to form the head of the letter.8 As might be expected from a more informal style, and an example of which Dawson and Kennedy-Skipton provide, some writers, in a single text, can be found to form the letter ‘in both ways’.9 It is finally difficult, then, to provide any reasonable paleographic explanation for the failure of an experienced reader of sixteenth-century manuscripts to recognize the letter as an f, or the word as ‘fury’, which, in its broad sense of ‘fierce passion, disorder or tumult of mind approaching madness’, would be a far more explicable agent for the dearly purchased death of Uriah, and more appropriate centre point for the concentrically radiating sins with which the Penitential Psalms are associated, than Judaism at large.10 There is perhaps a case to be made that ‘Jewry’, as demonym for the Jewish people, and metonym for Judea, may be read as a synecdochal title for David himself, paralleling ‘Macedon’ for Alexander, in line one of the sonnet. This would be a very unusual title for David, but the point here is not to question or defend the poetic logic of ‘Jewry’ but only to point out that the Egerton text, despite all claims to the contrary, has never been accurately represented. Footnotes 1 For the most detailed textual description and comparison of the Harington miscellanies (BL Add. MS 36529 and the Arundel Harington MS, held by the Duke of Norfolk at Arundel Castle), as well as their relationship to Tottel’s, see Ruth Hughey, The Arundel Harington Manuscript of Tudor Poetry (Columbus, OH, 1960), I, 40–4. Hughey’s transcription of the Arundel MS is considered standard, but to date the only published transcription of Surrey’s poems from BL Add. MS 36529 is the heavily edited, idiosyncratic version by Frederick Morgan Padelford, ‘The Manuscript Poems of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey’, Anglia, xxix (1906), 273–338. On the editorial practices of Tottel’s, see Hyder Edward Rollins, Tottel’s Miscellany (1557–1587) (Cambridge, 1929), II, 85–101; and Joost Daalder, ‘Wyatt and Tottel: A Textual Comparison’, Southern Review, v (1972), 3–12. 2 See Raymond Southall, ‘Mary Fitzroy and “O Happy Dames” in the Devonshire Manuscript’, The Review of English Studies, xlv (1994), 316–17; and Kenneth Muir, ‘Surrey Poems in the Blage Manuscript’, N&Q, vii (1960), 368–70. Muir attributes three poems in the Blage MS to Surrey, though two of these poems are now generally attributed to John Harington of Stepney. For the evidence supporting this attribution, see Ruth Hughey, John Harington of Stepney: Tudor Gentleman (Columbus, OH, 1971), 256–7. 3 For the most thorough history and description of E, see Richard Harrier, The Canon of Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Poetry (Cambridge, 1975), 1–15. See also Raymond Southall, The Courtly Maker: An Essay on the Poetry of Wyatt and His Contemporaries (New York, 1964), 160–70; and Hughey, The Arundel Harington Manuscript, I, 44–58. 4 The most recent critical edition of Surrey’s poems, William McGaw (ed.), A Critical Edition of the Complete Poems of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (Lewiston, NY, 2012), claims to take the Egerton poem as its source text (41), as does Emrys Jones (ed.), Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey: Poems (Oxford, 1964), (xxviii). Frederick Morgan Padelford (ed.), The Poems of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (Seattle, 1928) prints its text from the Harington miscellany BL Add. MS 36529, though Padelford claims in his textual notes that the Egerton text is ‘without variants’ (200). G. F. Nott (ed.), The works of Henry Howard, earl of Surrey and of Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder (London, 1815), I, is the only one of the four to make no explicit claim of having reproduced the Egerton text, although, in his own critical notes, Nott lists and comments on each lexical disagreement between the Egerton version and the version found in Tottel’s, failing only to mention the lexical variant with which this essay is concerned (334–7). 5 McGaw (ed.), A Critical Edition of the Complete Poems of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, 41. 6 On sixteenth-century handwriting, and the secretary hand in particular, see Giles E. Dawson and Laetitia Kennedy-Skipton, Elizabethan Handwriting, 1500–1650: A Manual (New York, 1966). The formation of the I in the Egerton is also typical of the more specialized sixteenth-century court and legal hands, as shown in their Plates 47–50, as well as the secretary hand’s ‘immediate forebear’, the so-called bastard hand, shown in Plate 1B. 7 Harrier, The Canon of Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Poetry, 8. 8 Dawson and Kennedy-Skipton, Elizabethan Handwriting, 15. 9 Ibid. 10 Oxford English Dictionary, ‘fury, n.’ © 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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