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John Payne Collier

John Payne Collier: Scholarship and Forgery in the Nineteenth Century, Volumes 1 & 2

Arthur Freeman
Janet Ing Freeman
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 1532
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  • Book Info
    John Payne Collier
    Book Description:

    John Payne Collier (1789-1883), one of the most controversial figures in the history of literary scholarship, pursued a double career. A prolific and highly influential writer on the drama, poetry, and popular prose of Shakespeare's age, Collier was at the same time the promulgator of a great body of forgeries and false evidence, seriously affecting the text and biography of Shakespeare and many others. This monumental two-volume work for the first time addresses the whole of Collier's activity, systematically sorting out his genuine achievements from his impostures.Arthur and Janet Freeman reassess the scholar-forger's long life, milieu, and relations with a large circle of associates and rivals while presenting a chronological bibliography of his extensive publications, all fully annotated with regard to their creditability. The authors also survey the broader history of literary forgery in Great Britain and consider why so talented a man not only yielded to its temptations but also persisted in it throughout his life.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13330-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    (pp. xxi-xxvii)
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  8. I. The Life of John Payne Collier

    • PART ONE 1789–1820
      (pp. 3-100)

      ‘Nonsensical as it may seem’, John Payne Collier reflected at the brash age of twenty-two, ‘it gives me some pleasure to think that the period at which I was born was marked by some extraordinary occurrence’—echoing, if unwittingly, the boast of Owen Glendower, with no Hotspur to prick his conceit.¹ His nativity, in the ‘great dawn’ of 1789, fell just six months before the storming of the Bastille, but other datemarks would now seem more relevant: one year after Byron, three before Shelley, and seven before Keats. Longevity personified, Collier died in September 1883, surviving the Romantic trinity by...

    • PART TWO 1821–31
      (pp. 101-148)

      ‘I began reading J. P. C.’s allegorical poem’, wrote Henry Crabb Robinson in his diary for 15 November 1820, ‘but it did not much please me and I soon desisted.’ He had been sampling, with a beady eye, Collier’s only sustained literary enterprise of an imaginative nature—a mini-epic in four cantos which saw print in 1822 and 1825 asThe Poet’s Pilgrimage, an Allegorical Poem.In later life Collier came to regard it as his principal achievement in any form, and his best claim to remembrance, the work ‘by which,if at allI shall live’. ‘I thought, and...

    • PART THREE The 1830s (I)
      (pp. 149-227)

      Just when John Payne Collier began to envision his research into the ‘old’ English drama and theatre as matter for a new book is unclear, but certainly his reading and much of his writing had pointed toward such a work for over a decade. From the retrospective essays in theBritish Lady’s Magazine,theCritical Review,and theEdinburgh Magazine,to the ninth and tenth conversations on theatrical performance and theatre historians inThe Poetical Decameron,and the commentary, play by play, in hisDodsley,Collier had published more about the early stage and its dramatists than anyone since Reed...

    • PART FOUR The 1830s (II)
      (pp. 228-315)

      Literature—essays and reviews and some periodical verse, as well as book-length critical and editorial projects—by now constituted for John both a calling and a necessary resource, supplementary to the chores of newspaper journalism, the more welcome Devonshire ‘librarianship’, and whatever small fees he could command from his fledgling practice of law. In December 1831 he submitted toFraser’s Magazine a‘Christmas Interlude’ in verse, ‘written upon the plan of our old English shews’. This was allegedly ‘prepared for representation, and is to be performed, at the house of a nobleman in Dorsetshire [sic] on Jany. 6th next’; but...

    • PART FIVE The Societies and Shakespeare (I)
      (pp. 316-376)

      The years 1838–40 saw the foundation of three literary ‘societies’, or book publishing clubs, which over the next decade altered the face of antiquarian editing and reprinting in England.¹ Unlike their principal bibliophile forebear, the Roxburghe Club, whose expensive ‘gift’ volumes were all but inaccessible to the general public, the Camden Society, Percy Society, and Shakespeare Society consciously committed themselves to widespread distribution of old texts at low unit cost. Several of their founders, Collier certainly among them, had become exasperated by the numerical limitations, scholarly eccentricities, and high prices of such private press reprints as those by Sir...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • PART SIX The Societies and Shakespeare (II)
      (pp. 377-445)

      In January 1841, just prior to the appearance of his first Shakespeare Society volume, John Payne Collier entered into an agreement with Whittaker and Company, publishers in Ave Maria Lane, for a new edition of the works of Shakespeare himself. Robinson learned of this at the Proctors’ on 27 January 1841, and recorded it in his diary alongside grim news from theChronicle,that John ‘is reduced to a clerical office, from eight to five guineas a week, and is forced to go into the gallery again’. Against such ‘a loss and an humiliation’ at the workplace might be set...

    • PART SEVEN Shakespeariana
      (pp. 446-562)

      After 1844 Collier would always be known, at home and abroad, as ‘the editor of Shakespeare’—a dignity not yet accorded to Dyce, Halliwell, and other confrères, and which in the public eye distinguished the mainstream scholar from his backwater fellows, the literary maestro from the mere virtuoso. But if some enhanced recognition in the press accompanied this new honorific, there was little by way of new remuneration or popular credit, and no diminishment at all in the editorial drudgery John’s book-club commitments required of him. Concentrating now upon the Shakespeare Society, John readied his laboriousHenslowe’s Diary(1845), and...

    • PART EIGHT The Perkins Folio (I)
      (pp. 563-639)

      Geys House, John Payne Collier’s first home in the country since 1802, still stands, a substantial eighteenth-century brick farmhouse with arched windows and a porch framed by plain Tuscan columns. It is set among fields cultivated in the mid-fifteenth century by one John Gey or Gay, a quarter-mile from the village green of Holyport and close to Bray, Maidenhead, and the Thames; by the Marlow omnibus from Holyport toWindsor, and thence by the Great Western Railway, the trip to Waterloo Station took no more than ninety minutes in 1850,¹ so that John’s rustication was hardly profound. Indeed the Proctors, who...

    • PART NINE Away from Perkins
      (pp. 640-717)

      The ‘family bereavements’ of which John spoke in 1859 indeed seriously influenced his activities of 1851–53. His second daughter, Jane Emma, had contracted tuberculosis at some time before October 1850, and by January 1851 her condition was alarming.¹ John took her to Brighton for the sea air, with the rest of his household, who remained there for at least four months, John cancelling an intended visit to Germany.² Mary Louisa was now also, if temporarily, an invalid, suffering perhaps from some form of the cancer that killed her seven years later; and while Jane Emma outlived expectations by nearly...

    • PART TEN The Perkins Folio (II)
      (pp. 718-824)

      The death of the sixth Duke of Devonshire in January 1858 deprived Collier not only of a patron and friend, but also of an implicit, if unwitting, ally in the great deceit of his literary life. Had the duke lived, we must speculate, the prolonged investigations of the Perkins Folio in 1859–60—and the consequent re-awakening of other suspicions—would not have occurred, or, if pursued without access to the key volume itself, would have led to a far less persuasive exposure. For despite his liberality with Collier, Devonshire was notably cautious about exhibiting his treasures to applicant scholars,...