The Difference Between Scholarly Inquiry and Ye Olde Wilde Goose Chase

Posted By on January 4, 2014

Ye Olde Wilde Goose, in Search of the Oxfrauds.

Over at Oxfraud Central on Facebook I am being taxed for having interrupted my series on “My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is” with some other posts and not having yet completed the remaining two (I think) blog entries on this important poem.

Believe it or not, one of the chief critics of my delay is none other than the indomitable Tom Reedy, who we last saw opining that he gave Edward Dyer “50-50” odds at being the author, despite Professor May’s confidence that the already available evidence favors Oxford by a significant margin, a position May first articulated in 1975 and has not changed since, despite the dishonest attempt of Mike Leadbetter to enlist his support by claiming that he “no longer” thought Oxford was the author.

You would think that after a track record like that, in which they were caught lying about the opinion of one of  “their own” scholars,  the Oxfrauds would just want this poem to go away and would not not keep bringing it up in public, but no, apparently hell hath no fury like an Oxfraud delayed.

The truth is that scholarly inquiry rarely proceeds in a straight line. Yes, it may seem contrary if you are in the business, like the Oxfrauds, of hunting Wilde Gooses.

When chasing Ye Olde Wilde Goose, I have learned from hard experience,  you’d better not let her out of your sight.

She hath an uncanny habit of ducking for cover when you aren’t looking, so hunting her down requires an indomitable focus.  You must not ever let her out of your sight, and must not at all cost entertain second doubts about the world historical importance of your mission to keep scholarship safe from unprecedented ideas.  When your local Wilde Goose sidekick gets out of goosestep, you must  kick him in the keister, lest the entire mission be lost by his delay and failure to keep time.

But with scholarship, alas, it is not so. The scholar is always stumbling over new questions; his inquiry is forever tangled up in encountering Greek conundrums of one sort or another, such as what can make Tom Reedy tick, anyway?

Just why does Mr. Reedy disagree with Stephen May about the odds of “My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is”?

Well, aside from Mr. Reedy’s expertise at evaluating the aesthetic merits of early modern English poetry, a skill he honed while working as a Public Relations specialist for The Denton County Sheriff’s Office, he has preferred an intriguing theory that might very well shore up Dyer’s chances of being the author. In fact, if I were able to award a prize in the Ye Olde Wilde Goose Chase Olympics, Reedy’s theory might well deserve at least an honorable mention.

Here is how Reedy put his theory in the Spectator debate:

“The MS that attributes it to Dyer has it signed ‘E. DIER.’  Since it also contains other poems by Dyer as well as by Oxford, I wonder if the copyist actually wrote E. DVER or mistranscribed it.”

“The manuscript” to which Reedy alludes is Rawlinson 85, containing a number of variants that, in Stephen May’s view, place the copy in question in a derivative location on any hypothetical provenance tree.

Now — note Reedy’s “logic.”

He wonders if “the copyist” may have “miss-transcribed it.”  What does this mean? I once thought I knew but now I’m in another Greek befuddlement. There are at least two sources of this befuddlement.

First, which copyist does Reedy mean? The Rawlinson copyist or the copyist of the Inner Temple Petyt manuscript, which ascribes the poem to de Vere?

Of equal importance, Reedy also wonders that “if the copyist” — again without any clarity of which copyist is meant —  actually wrote “E. DVER.”

So, we now have the proposition that because of the odd spelling of the name “Dier” in one manuscript, the copyist of another manuscript “miss-transcribed” the name to read “DVER” or some such nonsense. What are the assumptions of this line of reasoning?

1) It assumes that the Petyt manuscript, where we find the de Vere attribution,  is descended, directly or indirectly, from the Rawlinson;
2) It assumes, or rather requires, that the Petyt attribution should read something like “DVER.”

These assumptions, however, are both false.

In the first case, Professor May already established in 1975 (has Mr. Reedy even read May’s article?) that Petyt manuscript variants show a more original and correct version of the Rawlinson. Therefore it is impossible even on general grounds (unless Reedy & colleagues can show that May’s conclusion on this point is erroneous) to construct such a descent.

Confirming this is the fact that the Petyt does not attribute the poem to “DVER” or any such person but ends with the words

“Finis qd Earll of Oxenforde”

Now, if this analysis is based on an incorrect assessment of Mr. Reedy’s true and authentic meaning in the strangely ambiguous and inconclusive blog comment quoted above, then let me extend my sincerest hope that he will forthwith step up to the plate and clarify his meaning with a comment here. In any case I invite him to do so.

But if past performance is any indication, he is off somewhere on facebook, hallooing and beating the bush for Ye Olde Wilde Goose of Stratford, along with the rest of the Oxfrauds.

About the author

Roger Stritmatter is a native liberal humorist who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Contrary to rumor, he does not live on North Avenue. He does, however, work on North Avenue. A pacifist by inclination, one of his heroes is John Brown. But he thinks that Fredrick Douglass, another of his heroes, made the right decision. Stritmatter's primary areas of interest include the nature of paradigm shifts, the history of ideas, and renaissance literature, the latter a field in which he has published extensively

Comments

11 Responses to “The Difference Between Scholarly Inquiry and Ye Olde Wilde Goose Chase”

  1. Tom Reedy says:

    This is an easy one, because almost everything you wrote is incorrect.

    > Just why does Mr. Reedy disagree with Stephen May about the odds of “My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is”?

    I’m pretty sure I made it clear in my replies to installments 1 and 3 in which I showed the weaknesses of May’s method.

    > Here is how Reedy put his theory in the Spectator debate:

    > “The MS that attributes it to Dyer has it signed ‘E. DIER.’ Since it also contains other poems by Dyer as well as by Oxford, I wonder if the copyist actually wrote E. DVER or mistranscribed it.”

    You left out some parts:

    “The MS that attributes it to Dyer has it signed “E. DIER”. Since it also contains other poems by Dyer as well as by Oxford, I wonder if the copyist actually wrote E. DVER or mistranscribed it. It would be worth taking a close look at under an infrared light.”

    You can it here: http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-week/diary/9069181/diary-636/#comment-1143706372

    > “The manuscript” to which Reedy alludes is the Rawlinson 85, containing a number of variants that, in Stephen May’s view, place the copy in question in a derivative location on any hypothetical provenance tree.

    I believe I’ve already exploded that theory. To repeat my point: the Rawlinson MS that attributes the poem to E Dier includes all 8 stanzas, with 7 errors in its 48 lines, an error rate of less than one a stanza. The Harvard Library MS that attributes it to L. Ver contains only 5 of the 8 stanzas, with 10 errors in 34 lines, an error rate of two per stanza. So if anything the Harvard MS is further down the line on any hypothetical provenance tree.

    > He wonders if “the copyist” may have “mistranscribed it.” What does this mean?

    A copyist is the person who copied a text. Mistranscribed means he made an error whilst transcribing the text. I hope that clears that up.

    > Reedy also wonders that “if the copyist actually wrote “E. DVER.”

    Yes, I even wrote “It would be worth taking a close look at under an infrared light.”

    > Which copyist does Reedy mean?

    You answered your question above: “‘The manuscript’ to which Reedy alludes is the Rawlinson 85,” so the person who transcribed that particular poem.

    > The Rawlinson copyist or the copyist of the Inner Temple Petyt manuscript, which ascribes the poem to de Vere?

    You are confused. The Inner Temple Petyt MS doesn’t attribute the poem to de Vere; the Harvard Library MS does.

    > The fact that it requires a PhD in parsing the logic of self-involved and inconclusive sentences does not inspire confidence that Reedy knows what he is talking about,

    And your obvious confusion as to which document attributes the poem to de Vere does inspire confidence, I suppose.

    > but let us assume for the sake of argument that he means the latter.

    why would you assume that? Go back a reread what I wrote:

    “The MS that attributes it to Dyer has it signed ‘E. DIER.’ Since it also contains other poems by Dyer as well as by Oxford, I wonder if the copyist actually wrote E. DVER or mistranscribed it.”

    Obviously I am referring to the MS that ascribes it to Dyer.

    > So, we now have the proposition that because of the odd spelling of the name “Dier” in one manuscript, the copyist of another manuscript “mistranscribed” the name to read “DVER” or some such nonsense. What are the assumptions of this line of reasoning?

    You should pay more attention when you read. I try to read something at least three times to be sure I understand it before I comment on it. You might want to try that out.

    > 1) It assumes that the Petyt manuscript, where we find the de Vere attribution, is descended, directly or indirectly, from the Rawlinson;

    Uh, no, I say nothing at all about the Petyt MS, or the Harvard MS either.

    > 2) It assumes, or rather requires, that the Petyt attribution should read something like “DVER.”

    I really don’t know where you get this, except by a truly epic misreading. There is no “Petyt attribution”.

    > In the first case, Professor May already established in 1975 (has Mr. Reedy even read May’s article?)

    I have, several times, but from what you’ve written here and in your other installments it appears you haven’t.

    > that Petyt manuscript variants show a more original and correct version of the Rawlinson. Therefore it is impossible even on general grounds (unless Reedy & colleagues can show that May’s conclusion on this point is erroneous) to construct such a descent.

    May never made any such conclusion. If he did, quote it.

    > Confirming this is the fact that the Petyt does not attribute the poem to “DVER” or any such person but ends with the words “Finis qd Earll of Oxenforde”

    The only poem May attributes to the Earl of Oxenforde in the 1975 article is “Who taught thee first to sigh alas my heart”. It’s on the first page of the article, you really should read it.

    > Now, if this analysis is based on an incorrect assessment of Mr. Reedy’s true and authentic meaning in the strangely ambiguous and inconclusive blog comment quoted above, then let me extend my sincerest hope that he will forthwith step up to the plate and clarify his meaning with a comment here. In any case I invite him to do so.

    Let me try to make it simpler for you.

    I threw out a speculation (in case you don’t know how to tell, the words “I wonder” are a clue) that the Rawlinson MS actually attributed it to Oxford instead of Dyer on the grounds that the copyist may hav made an error copying the MS’s original attribution, “E Dver”, or that it actually reads “E Dver” but everyone has misread it (which is why I said that infrared photography would be useful). I haven’t seen the MS, have you? I have no idea what it looks like, but I know that an English secretary “v” or “u” can be mistaken for an “i” if the handwriting is unclear or otherwise impaired.

    My speculation was that there might be two manuscripts that attribute the poem to Oxford, the one taken to attributing it to Dyer being an error in transcription or a misreading. I was trying to work out a scenario that explained why the poem is attributed to two different people. I could care less which one actually wrote it. Despite what you think I don’t have a dog in that fight; the poem is not Shakespearean anyway.

    And I don’t consider a speculation on a newspaper discussion board to be “scholarship”. It was a speculation that asked a question that is interesting. Most times these types of speculations are wrong, but they stimulate interest and a new way of looking at things, and sometimes they’re even proved right.

    > But if past performance is any indication, he is off somewhere on facebook, hallooing and beating the bush with the rest of the Oxfrauds for Ye Olde Wilde Goose of Stratford.

    OTOH, this performance of yours is typical: you misread something, then you excoriate the putative offender, and then you’re corrected. If past performance is any indication, you’ll ignore this response and pretend it never happened, or try to spin it as “that’s what I meant all along” without addressing the issue of your deficient reading.

  2. sicinius says:

    Well there’s no need to risk damaging our brains by scratching our heads since The Spectator thread is still there, so arguing about what was said and what was meant can be resolved by direct reference.

    I know you’re very fond of l’esprit d’escalier, Roger, and like to add comments weeks after the argument has finished, so you might like to know that, being Disqus, the thread is still open for comments.

    Are not these four articles simply further instances of Diderot’s observation? That people only think of things they would like to have said in the drawing room, when they are on the staircase and out of the door? Which is why you are making them here and not in the public columns of the Spectator?

    I’m not qualified, as Tom is, to describe your current performance as typical but turning a row about whether you are able to discern Shakespearean quality in the Dyer poem into a row about its attribution, or how we are to understand May’s equivocal effort at attribution, is a transparently feeble dodge.

    – You claim there is Shakespearean quality in ‘My Mind to me a Kingdom is’.

    – You claim you can discern it.

    – You claim anyone ‘widely or closely read in the canon’ can discern it.

    – But you can’t identify a single example of it.

    – No matter how many times anyone asks.

    Your Queen is pinned. You now have to find something that isn’t there or admit a shortcoming in discernment.

    And then, irony of ironies, you openly celebrate the fact that your website has spiked in popularity.

    Everyone’s waiting to see if you can come up with an answer.

    Enjoy the increased traffic.

    Yours in anticipation,
    Mike

    • Roger Stritmatter says:

      Mike,

      Welcome to Shake-Speare’s Bible. I’m not surprised that you showed up at this time to change the subject after the way Chris Carolan has showed up your failure to accurately assess the significance of the new materials from the Lambarde volume. That discussion, in case you you missed it, is here: http://shake-speares-bible.com/2014/01/15/shakespeare%E2%80%99s-small-latin-and-less-anglo-saxon-a-bilingual-annotation-in-the-folger%E2%80%99s-online-copy-of-archaionomia/. What is your plan on this point?

      I think you probably owe myself and Chris Carolan, not to mention the Folger library, a public apology for making a false accusation that these materials were forged. In the event of Chris’s discovery that 5 pence is the accurate value of a shilling in 11th century Wessex (per OED), not to mention that the annotation is a near paraphrase of AElfric’s Grammar, do you have any material reason for continuing to believe that this a forgery? If not, may I suggest that an apology is a more suitable course of action than trying to change the subject?

      Best Regards,

      Doc Stritmatter

    • Roger Stritmatter says:

      No Comment. Note the date of this posting.

  3. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Tom, why do you say things like “all eight stanzas.” I can’t even bring myself to read past this statement since it is so manifestly wrong. The poem in question has in some versions up to 11, and in one case (I believe) twelve stanzas.

    Can you please get this part right before lecturing us on the distribution of errors?

  4. Tom Reedy says:

    Roger, if you don’t have a copy of Mays’ 1975 paper I’ll send you one. I’ve suggested several times that you actually read Mays.

    I know you’ve read my entire response, so you can stop being coy and making excuses. You have totally misread Mays’ article (if you ever really did), and now you are using a bogus excuse to keep from having to admit it. If you don’t understand my reference to eight stanzas, read Mays. It’s right there in black-and-white.

  5. sicinius says:

    You call me a liar and I owe YOU an apology??

    You continue to dance away from the question in hand and, hilariously, you accuse me of changing the subject when I have asked you a dozen times to support your claim – the claim at the root of the entire argument – which is that My Mind… contains Shakespearean qualities that anyone sufficiently well-read can discern.

    You can either discern them or you can’t.

    Is my figurative language troubling you? When I say your Queen is pinned what I mean is you can’t make a move without losing a valuable piece. You have been caught either talking nonsense or you are disqualified by your own definition of what is meant by ‘widely and closely read’.

    There ARE no other options (unless you can convince us that Shakespeare wrote or had a hand in My mind…).

    You’ve tried to distract me with all sorts of abuse and insult (I have kept the examples).

    You must surely realise that demanding an apology for an imaginary insult on an almost meaninglessly trivial matter isn’t going to distract me when you have placed your whole understanding of Shakespearean quality into the balance and are unable support your credentials for identifying it.

    You’ve dodged the question at least a dozen times now.

    Where are the Shakespearean qualities in My Mind… that you claim to have identified??

    Can’t you see it’s a crucial issue?

    If you can’t recognise Shakespearean quality in Elizabethan writing, if your only answer is to bury yourself in imaginary insults and worrying about how many pence there were in the Saxon shilling, we really can declare the argument over and all go home.

    Yours in continuing anticipation,
    Mike

    http://oxfraud.com/sites/default/files/roger-runs-away_0.jpg

  6. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Tom, I have read the May article, more than once in fact, although my copy of it has been lost somewhere in my office for the past few weeks. I don’t understand why either you or May would ignore the fact that the poem exists in many variants, including some that have as many as 11 or 12 stanzas, but I’ll take a look at what he has to say on this point once I get another copy of the article.

  7. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Mike, I’ll repeat my question: are you, or are you not, going to retract (and/or apologize for) your bizarre and incorrect statement that the the Lambarde annotations are forgeries? This is a simple question and is not addressed by your spewing in this post. It is not a “trivial matter” that you completely misunderstood the historical context of the annotations and tried to make out that somehow they were as you put it a “modern forgery.” You were the one who raised the topic of how many pence were in a Saxon shilling, remember? And you were wrong about it.The fact that you can’t admit that you were wrong speaks volumes to your character.

    I’ll get back to your concerns about “My Mind to Me a Kingdom” is when I’ve assembled the resources that I need for a complete response. I’m sorry that you have difficulty waiting, but that’s not my problem. Maybe you need a hobby for which you are better prepared? Or one that does not require you to exhibit the kind of linguistic misbehavior evident in your post here in order to get what you want?

  8. Tom Reedy says:

    > I don’t understand why either you or May would ignore the fact that the poem exists in many variants,

    Neither May nor I ignore the fact that the poem exists in many variants. the last 3 or 4 stanzas are thought to have been added by another hand; the first 8 stanzas are the ones present in the majority of early manuscripts and are considered to be written by the original author.

    And I don’t understand why you ignore my very cogent points about which MS is more reliable. Surely the MS with * stanzas and a lower rate of error is the one closer to the author’s original, no matter how many stanzas the full version has. This is where May is showing his bias. He has to invent a roundabout method of disallowing the Dier MS in order to say that the evidence “slightly” favors the L. Ver MS. At the time May was a wanna-be Oxfordian–he admits this–and I daresay he allowed that to affect his scholarly judgment (which he won’t admit–no one–Strat or Oxie–likes to admit they were wrong, especially when there’s no way to prove it one way or another). But the facts on the ground are these:

    The MS attributing the poem to Dier is closer to the author’s original than the MS attributing it to L. Ver.

    Those are the facts which cannot be gainsaid by any means. Do you agree with that or do you not?

  9. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Mr. Reedy,

    I notice this intriguing statement in your post above: “At the time May was a wanna-be Oxfordian–he admits this–and I daresay he allowed that to affect his scholarly judgment.”

    Where did May admit this?

    I’ve met Stephen May at least twice, have read many of his articles, and have never read anything, or heard him say anything, that would support your balderdash.

    Maybe you are confusing him with Ward Elliott’s father, who was an Oxfordian, and quite a distinguished one at that. Or maybe you are alluding to May’s 1980 statement that

    Scholars tend to belittle as well the significance of the Oxfordian movement, yet its leaders are sincerely interested in Renaissance English culture. Their arguments for De Vere are entertained as at least plausible by persons, and the general interest in the ‘Oxfordian’ movement is undoubtedly more widespread now than ever before. (10).

    Is that what you were thinking of as your “evidence”?

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