Future of Editing – James Loxley on Ben Jonson

Notes on James Loxley’s talk about Ben Jonson at the Future of Editing seminar series.

Jonson’s own account of the walk between London and Edinburgh lost. Journey gave us the information with William Drummond (1618/19).

Came across the ms whilst ferreting around an online catalogue. Collaborated with colleagues to flesh it out (inc geographer). Discovered in 2009 and in need of attention.

Advantages: not been tampered with. Between 1620 and 1628. Dated from mention to a person. Scribal copy of the MS. Extends to 7000 words a well as strange addenda: 3 extra bits of observations, series of notes about York and Bottle and Conesco and the Pseu Dogges Language.

Also features early modern shorthand. Paper on which account written is from France and bound by pot paper. Shorthand verses of the Book of Job on the paper. Author not been pinned down yet. Early history not known; potential links known.

Although account written by travelling companion, seems possible that the account comes from Jonson.

Document is not high cultural value, therefore editing changes and challenges. Becomes an account of the figures encountered; hence queries on the motivation of writing. Subscribing money in hope of getting a copy of the text. Evidence of the noble and gentry patrons and their subscriptions. People mentioned required tracking down.

Part of the challenge is to find the various characters.

Trying to get a handle on the spatial challenges, not just the annotations. Route map is the obvious challenge. Knight’s Hall became Kneesall (mishearing or transcription error). Use of time markers in text to work out places and also length of text. Made a spreadsheet for the data. Gives an overview but not 100% confident. Allows for smoothing of issues. Sometimes lack of information is due to absence but data can’t be seen until in spreadsheet or blog (http://www.blogs.hss.ed.ac.uk/ben-jonsons-walk/). Adding temporal dimension provided challenges.

Is adding calculations to text doing violence to it? Trying to work out the heights and physical appearances of the characters.

Thinking of the bio-mechanics of the text. Both modern and old spellings given in “Canesco, or the sleu dogs Language “: language is attempt to make sense of dog commands. Spelling is based on hearing – can it be modernised? Language gives a concrete approach to landscape.

One of the striking things is that way the foot journey was understood and read. Rutland calls it pilgrimage. Jonson talks about the work that went into it. Shows the impact of the walk on the body: damage to feet. Gives a sense of the work involved in the journey. Jonson does not need to put this expenditure into the journey. Why? Joining the capitals of James’s capitals and the reality of the Jacobean polity. Can meet the courtiers going up and down the roads. Pacing the sinews of the Jacobean union, though it might not be a full union.

Furthest journey appears to be 18 miles in a day. Night walk at one point.


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