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Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 1558–1640$

H. R. Woudhuysen

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198129660

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198129660.001.0001

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(p.416) Appendix 3 Greville's Letter to Walsingham

(p.416) Appendix 3 Greville's Letter to Walsingham

Source:
Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 1558–1640
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

The original of this letter in the Public Record Office (SP 12/195, fos. 51r–52v) has been reproduced in Victor Skretkowicz, ‘Building Sidney's Reputation: Texts and Editions of the Arcadia’, 114–15. There are transcripts by Ringler, 530, and by W. W. Greg, A Companion to Arber (Oxford, 1967), 145; a modernized version is printed in Ronald A. Rebholz, The Life of Fulke Greville (Oxford, 1971), 76. Both Ringler's and Greg's transcriptions contain some minor but significant errors. In the version printed below curly brackets represent missing letters, square brackets enclose deletions with points representing individual letters which cannot be read, interlineations are marked thus ‘^notable^’ and the end of fo. 51r is marked with a vertical bar.

Sr this day one ponsonby a bookebynder in poles church yard, came to me, and told me that ther was one in hand to print, sr philip sydneys old arcadia asking me yf it were donn, with yor honors cons{} or any other of his frends, I told him to m{y} knowledge no, then he aduysed me to giue wa{rn}inge of it, ether to the archebishope or doctor Cosen, who haue as he says a copy of it to pervse to that end / Sr I am lothe to renew his memory vnto you, but yeat in this I must presume, for I haue sent my lady yor daughter at her request, a correction of that old one donn 4 or 5 years since which he left in trus{t} with me wherof ther is no more copies, & fitter to be printed then that first which is so common, notwithstanding euen that to be amended by a direction sett down vndre his own hand how & why, so as in many respects espetially ye care of printing [t] it i{s} to be don with more deliberation, besyds he hathe most excellently translated among diu{ers} other ^notable^ workes monsieur du plessis book agains{t} atheisme, which is since donn by an other, [&] so as bothe in respect of the love betwen plessis & hi{m} besyds other affinities in ther courses but espetially sr philips vncomparable Iudgement, I think fit ther be made a stey of that mercenary book to | that sr philip might haue all thos religous honor {s} which ar worthely dew to his lyfe & deathe, many other works as bartas his semeyne, ^40 of^ the spalm{s} translated in to myter ech which requyre the care of his frends, not to amend for I think it fales with in the reache of no man liuing, but only to see to the paper & other common errors of mercenary printing / Gayn ther wilbe no doubt to be disposed by you, let it helpe the poorest of his seruants, I desyre only care to be had of his honor who I fear hathe Caried the honor of thes latter ages with him sr perdon me I make this the busines of my loss & desyre God to shew that he is yor God from my lodg not well this day in hast

Yor honors

  • sr I had wayted […] on
  • you my selfe for aunswer
  • because I am lelos of tyme
  • (p.417) in it, but in trothe I am
  • nothing well Good sr think of it
  •                             ffoulk Greuill
  • [Addressed] To the Right honorable sr frainces walsingham
  • [Endorsed] November 1586 ffrom mr ffoulke Grevyll

(For ‘ech’ compare the ‘c’ in ‘doctor’, ‘reache’, and the second ‘mercenary’.)

This might be modernized (largely following Rebholz), as follows:

Sir

This day one Ponsonby, a bookbinder in Paul's Churchyard, came to me and told me that there was one in hand to print Sir Philip Sidney's old Arcadia, asking me if it were done with your honour's consent or any other of his friends’. I told him, to my knowledge, no. Then he advised me to give warning of it either to the Archbishop or Doctor Cosin, who have, as he says, a copy of it to peruse to that end. Sir, I am loath to renew his memory unto you, but yet in this I must presume, for I have sent my Lady your daughter at her request a correction of that old one done four or five years since, which he left in trust with me, whereof there is no more copies, and [it is] fitter to be printed than that first which is so common; notwithstanding even that [is] to be amended by a direction set down under his own hand how and why; so as in many respects, especially the care of printing, it is to be done with more deliberation. Besides he hath most excellently translated, among divers other notable works, Monsieur du Plessis’ book against atheism, which is since done by another; so as both in respect of the love between Plessis and him, besides other affinities in their courses, but especially Sir Philip's uncomparable judgement, I think fit there be made a stay of that mercenary book too, | that Sir Philip might have all those religious honours which are worthily due to his life and death. Many other works, as Bartas his Semaine, forty of the Psalms translated into metre, each which require the care of his friends: not to amend, for I think it falls within the reach of no man living, but only to see to the paper and other common errors of mercenary printing. Gain there will be, no doubt, to be disposed by you: let it help the poorest of his servants. I desire only care to be had of his honour who I fear hath carried the honour of these latter ages with him. Sir, pardon me, I make this the business of my loss and desire God to show that he is your God. From my lodge, not well, this day in haste.

Your honours

Fulke Greville

Sir, I had waited on you myself for answer because I am jealous of time in it, but in truth I am nothing well. Good sir, think of it.

This letter, sent some time in November 1586, is perhaps the most valuable document in the history of the transmission of Sidney's texts: unfortunately it is not easy to read or to interpret. Furthermore, making it clear that he is writing ‘in hast’ and ‘Ielous of tyme’, Greville's normally opaque style seems even more obscure than usual, abounding in repetitions:

common…amended…respects…espetially…besyds…translated…other (p.418) notable workes…respect…besyds…espetially…mercenary…many other works…translated…amend…common…mercenary…

Yet the interpretation of this letter is important, not just because it gives a clue to the publishing possibilities open to Sidney's friends within weeks of his death, but because it shows something of their attitude to making money from printed publications.

Greg's summary is a useful aid to parts of the letter.1 Greville reported ‘Ponsonby had warned him that it was proposed to print Sir Philip Sidney's old Arcadia, and advised him that if this was being done without authority to communicate with Archbishop Whitgift or Doctor (Richard) Cosin who have a copy in hand for licence.’ Greville, as paraphrased by Greg, went on to say ‘that he has that day sent Walsingham's daughter (Lady Sidney) the only corrected copy of the work, done four or five years since, and left in trust with him, which is fitter to be printed than the first draft, of which many copies are in circulation’. At this point Greg's summary peters out and the letter itself needs close attention. Its central part is the most difficult to follow; the version below presents a slightly modified version of the original:

for I haue sent my lady yor daughter at her request, a correction of that old one donn 4 or 5 years since which he left in trus{t} with me wherof ther is no more copies, & fitter to be printed then that first which is so common, notwithstanding euen that to be amended by a direction sett down vndre his own hand how & why, so as in many respects espetially ye care of printing it i{s} to be don with more deliberation, besyds he hathe most excellently translated among diu {ers} other notable workes monsieur du plessis book agains {t} atheisme, which is since donn by an other, so as bothe in respect of the love betwen plessis & hi {m} besyds other affinities in ther courses but espetially sr philips vncomparable Iudgement, I think fit ther be made a stey of that mercenary book to that sr philip might haue all thos religous honor {s} which ar worthely dew to his lyfe & deathe, many other works as bartas his semeyne, 40 of the spalm {s} translated in to myter ech which requyre the care of his frends, not to amend for I think it fales with in the reache of no man liuing, but only to see to the paper & other common errors of mercenary printing.

The corrected copy, ‘wherof ther is no more copies’, must be the New Arcadia, which Greville has now sent to Sidney's widow. Greville also has Sidney's direction which is to be used to amend what would seem to be the first version, the Old Arcadia.2 The business of printing the Arcadia is to be done with more careful thought. Besides, there are Sidney's translations to consider: one of them, Du Plessis Mornay against atheism, has since been done by another. There are parallels between the lives of Sidney and Du Plessis Mornay; ‘I think fit ther be made a stey of that mercenary book.’

What that mercenary book was depends to an extent on the interpretation of the letter's next word, ‘to’, the last on its first page. Modernized, the second page begins ‘that Sir Philip might have all those religious honours which are worthily due to his life and death’. It goes on to mention some of his other translations; each of which cannot be ‘improved’ by his friends, but they must ‘see to the paper’ and to the other (p.419) common errors of mercenary printing. In his transcription, Ringler followed the ‘to’ at the end of the first page with ‘[i.e. so]’, with the result that his version would read ‘…that mercenary book, so that Sir Philip…’. Skretkowicz, separated the two parts of the letter, making one end at the foot of the first page, after the ‘to’, and the other begin at the top of the second.3 By implication he read the ‘to’ after ‘mercenary book’ as ‘too’. Rebholz marked the transition from one page to the next with angled brackets, wrongly implying that something had been omitted in his transcription.

An interpretation of this difficult passage becomes a little clearer in Skretkowicz's edition of the New Arcadia, where he omitted the ‘to that’ passage and printed as the relevant part: ‘with more deliberation,—besyds…many other works…which requyre the care of his f rends’.4 This suggests a clausal structure along the following modernized lines. (The position of the first ‘besides’ in the passage has been modified: there is a comma before it but both Ringler and Skretkowicz printed an additional dash between it and the comma (‘deliberation,—besides’); Greg, however, ignored it and the status of the mark on the paper is uncertain):

so as in many respects, especially the care of printing, it is to be done with more deliberation.

Besides he hath most excellently translated, among divers other notable works, Monsieur du Plessis’ book against atheism, which is since done by another; so as both in respect of the love between Plessis and him, besides other affinities in their courses, but especially Sir Philip's uncomparable judgement, I think fit there be made a stay of that mercenary book too, | that Sir Philip might have all those religious honours which are worthily due to his life and death.

Many other works, as Bartas his Semaine, forty of the Psalms translated into metre, each which require the care of his friends: not to amend, for I think it falls within the reach of no man living, but only to see to the paper and other common errors of mercenary printing.

The middle section acts as a large parenthesis, and Greville moves from the need for more thought to be given to the printing of the Arcadia on to the amount of attention a possible collection of Sidney's religious works would need. Ringler's ‘so’ does not replace the letter's ‘to’, but supplements its ‘that’: both the Old Arcadia and Gold-ing's version are to be stopped.

This slightly modifies Skretkowicz's presentation of the letter in ‘Texts and Editions of the Arcadia’. It is possible to rearrange the material so that there is a stronger break between the first and second pages of the letter, as follows:

so as in many respects, especially the care of printing, it is to be done with more deliberation.

Besides he hath most excellently translated, among divers other notable works, Monsieur du Plessis’ book against atheism, which is since done by another; so as both in respect of the love between Plessis and him, besides other affinities in their (p.420) courses, but especially Sir Philip's uncomparable judgement, I think fit there be made a stay of that mercenary book too.

That Sir Philip might have all those religious honours which are worthily due to his life and death, many other works, as Bartas his Semaine, forty of the Psalms translated into metre, each which require the care of his friends: not to amend, for I think it falls within the reach of no man living, but only to see to the paper and other common errors of mercenary printing.

The third part of this arrangement could make some sense on its own (‘In order that Sidney might have the religious honours due to him, there are many other works, each of which requires the care of his friends…’), but it is even more strained than the arrangement above. The position of the ‘to’ at the foot of the first page might suggest that it ends one train of thought and that another begins on the next. But there is no mark of punctuation visible after it, and the initial letter of ‘that’ on the next page is clearly lower case. On account of all this, the first version above seems to make the best sense.

It appears, therefore, that Walsingham was being asked to stay the printing both of the Old Arcadia and of Golding's version of Du Plessis Mornay. Greville was arguing for more thought to be given to the proposed printing of the Arcadia and to a collection of Sidney's religious writings. These future publications, Greville continued, will make some profit, which should be distributed among the poorest of Sidney's servants; but Greville stressed that his interest in this business was to make sure that Sidney (in Greg's words) ‘may have all those honours which his life and death merited’.

If Greville was asking Walsingham to stay the Du Plessis Mornay translation, that mercenary book ‘too’, it implies he had already asked him to stay the printing of the Old Arcadia. Although he had not explicitly done this in the first part of the letter, where he was only passing on Ponsonby's advice to warn the licensers, ‘the implication’ according to Greg is clearly ‘that they should be asked to refuse their authority for the publication’.5 It is interesting to know that, by no right other than that of Du Plessis Mornay's and Sidney's friendship, Walsingham might feel he could stay Golding's publication of his version. Yet Walsingham either did not exercise it, or exercised it too late to have any effect on the publication of Golding's work, which is a common enough book.

Some interesting pressure is put on the repeated word ‘mercenary’. The unauthorized publications were mercenary in the OED’s sense (Ib) of having ‘the love of lucre’ for their motive. This was also the motive behind the publishing of the authorized collection of Sidney's other religious writings, which needed the care of his friends ‘to see to the paper and other common errors of mercenary printing’. Here too the printing was mercenary. In both cases, authorized and unauthorized, the printers were motivated purely by profit. What exactly ‘seeing to the paper’ means and how, as the ‘other’ implies, it is a common error of printing, is obscure: perhaps Greville was worried that the printer would try to get away with cheap paper. Alternatively, it is just possible that the paper was separate from the other common errors of printing, and here alluded to Sidney's manuscripts.

(p.421) The question of profit was returned to in one of the letter's concluding sentences. There would be ‘gain’ for the poorest of his servants—but gain from what? It cannot be from the unauthorized edition of the Old Arcadia. When Greville referred to ‘mercenary printing’, it appears to be either to the projected collection of Sidney's religious writings, which might make a profit (Golding expected something for his version of Du Plessis Mornay), or to the edition of the New Arcadia, or to both. (p.422)

Notes:

(1) W. W. Greg, A Companion to Arber (Oxford, 1967), 42–3.

(2) Cp. OA, p. lx n. 4.

(3) Victor Skretkowicz, ‘Building Sidney's Reputation: Texts and Editions of the Arcadia’, in J. A. van Dorsten, Dominic Baker-Smith, and Arthur F. Kinney (eds.), Sir Philip Sidney, 1586 and the Creation of a Legend, Publications of the Sir Thomas Browne Institute, NS 9 (1986), 113.

(4) NA, p. lviii; the ellipses are Skretkowicz's.

(5) Greg, Companion to Arber, 144; cp. his Some Aspects and Problems of London Publishing between 1550 and 1650 (Oxford, 1956), 76.