Adventures in Criticism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 306 pages of information about Adventures in Criticism.


[A] The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer.  Edited, from numerous manuscripts, by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat, Litt.  D., LL.D., M.A.  In six volumes.  Oxford:  At the Clarendon Press. 1894.

[B] Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  Edited, with Notes and Introduction, by Alfred W. Pollard.  London:  Macmillan & Co.


January 5, 1805.  “The Passionate Pilgrim.”

The Passionate Pilgrim (1599). Reprinted with a Note about the Book, by Arthur L. Humphreys.  London:  Privately Printed by Arthur L. Humphreys, of 187, Piccadilly.  MDCCCXCIV.

I was about to congratulate Mr. Humphreys on his printing when, upon turning to the end of this dainty little volume, I discovered the well-known colophon of the Chiswick Press—­“Charles Whittingham & Co., Took’s Court, Chancery Lane, London.”  So I congratulate Messrs. Charles Whittingham & Co. instead, and suggest that the imprint should have run “Privately Printed for Arthur L. Humphreys.”

This famous (or, if you like it, infamous) little anthology of thirty leaves has been singularly unfortunate in its title-pages.  It was first published in 1599 as The Passionate Pilgrims.  By W. Shakespeare.  At London.  Printed for W. Jaggard, and are to be sold by W. Leake, at the Greyhound in Paules Churchyard. This, of course, was disingenuous.  Some of the numbers were by Shakespeare:  but the authorship of some remains doubtful to this day, and others the enterprising Jaggard had boldly conveyed from Marlowe, Richard Barnefield, and Bartholomew Griffin.  In short, to adapt a famous line upon a famous lexicon, “the best part was Shakespeare, the rest was not.”  For this, Jaggard has been execrated from time to time with sufficient heartiness.  Mr. Swinburne, in his latest volume of Essays, calls him an “infamous pirate, liar, and thief.”  Mr. Humphreys remarks, less vivaciously, that “He was not careful and prudent, or he would not have attached the name of Shakespeare to a volume which was only partly by the bard—­that was his crime.  Had Jaggard foreseen the tantrums and contradictions he caused some commentators—­Mr. Payne Collier, for instance—­he would doubtless have substituted ’By William Shakespeare and others’ for ‘By William Shakespeare.’  Thus he might have saved his reputation, and this hornets’ nest which now and then rouses itself afresh around his aged ghost of three centuries ago.”

That a ghost can suffer no inconvenience from hornets I take to be indisputable:  but as a defence of Jaggard the above hardly seems convincing.  One might as plausibly justify a forger on the ground that, had he foreseen the indignation of the prosecuting counsel, he would doubtless have saved his reputation by forbearing to forge.  But before constructing a better defence, let us hear the whole tale of the alleged misdeeds.  Of the second edition of The

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