Saturday, July 9, 2011

An Early Owner Rewrites Waller

Last week's post highlighted early seventeenth-century bindings from the Center's collection, a post I plan to continue with a discussion of English bindings in the Restoration and early eighteenth century. But in order to conduct a bit of extra research into our later seventeenth-century English bindings, I am saving that post for next week. 

Today's post, on the other hand, focuses on the manuscript emendation of printed poetry in a late seventeenth-century verse anthology. Besides documenting a specific historical reader of Edmund Waller's poetry, the material signs of this book's "use" reveal an amusing and perceptive close reading of a politically charged epithalamium. 

title page

detail of title page

The temple of death: a poem...Horace of the art of poetry...The duel of the stags, by the Honourable Sir Robert Howard: together with several other excellent poems by the Earls of Rochester and Orrery, Sir Charles Sedley, Sir George Etheridge, the Honourable Mr. Montague, Mr. Granvill, Mr. Dryden, Mr. Chetwood, and Mr. Tate. [second edition]
London: Printed by Tho[mas] Warren for Francis Saunders, [1695]
[16], 268, [2], 269-273, [3] p.: 19 cm. (8vo); Wing T663

Renaissance Center copy is in contemporary calf (front cover wanting; title leaf detached and mutilated, removing lower outer corner and some text; lacks N3-4 and the blank leaves A1, E8, F1, S8); in phase box; p. 206 has catchword "ON"; early signature of Sarah Kingsman (several times on title page, and elsewhere in the volume); signature of Mary Anne Tillwood (1837) on verso of title leaf; signature of Gwynne Blakemore Evans (1931) on title page and his bookplate on verso of title leaf [JL]

Within this printed verse miscellany is gathered a range of authors and literary forms. It showcases the lyric poetry of the day's most popular writers (Waller, Etherege, Dryden, etc.) and a number of less well known aristocratic poets. The book also presents commendatory verse, works of poetic theory (Horace, Waller), and a translation from the French (Philippe Habert's "Le temple de la mort," trans. by John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham). 

An early owner named "Sarah Kingsman" has inscribed her name several times on the book's title page and elsewhere in the volume (as in its final page, shown below). The title page also bears the inscription of "Sally Idle," whereas a later owner's inscription (Mary Anne Tillwood-1837) appears on its verso. Kingsman's inscription within the capital "O" from "POEMS" is a particularly interesting specimen.

the notice at the bottom of the leaf advertises "all sorts of Gilt and Plain paper"
In the final poem of the volume (Edmund Waller's “On the Marriage of the Lady Mary with the Prince of Orange") one of these former owners (probably Tillwood, perhaps Idle or Kingsman) used her pen to strike out and insert a word in the author's text. 

Placed directly after Waller introduces the "triple knot" figure as representative of the pair's virtue, royal blood, and love, the original lines read

The Church shall be the happy place,
Where Streams which from the same Source run,
(Tho' divers Lands awhile they grace)
United there again make one.

Our early reader's version—rewritten in an amusingly satirical style—reads

The Bed shall be the happy place,
Where Streams which from the same Source run,
(Tho' divers Lands awhile they grace)
United there again make one.

Besides revealing her clever, slightly irreverent sense of humor, the change clearly reflects the reader's skepticism towards the Church as a space conducive to marital bliss.While I have not determined whether this emendation is the reader's own invention or a copy of similarly satirical changes to the poem found elsewhere, it may play off of greater topical vogues in contemporaneous satire. Mary II died in 1694 and William would rule until his death in 1702 (the pair came to power in the Glorious Revolution of 1689). It may well be that the manuscript alteration to Waller's poem reflects some satirical aspect of their reign or marriage (or both). But it is just as likely the reader is responding to the poem on a more localized level, exposing what she sees as sham rhetoric in a highly politicized (and idealized) discussion of marriage. By transforming the site of marriage from a sacred to a sexualized space with the stroke of a pen, this early annotator reveals how specific strategies of reading and writing  become manifest in the material elements of books, elements which (as this case illustrates) have a direct bearing on literary interpretation.

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