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Theobald additions to 'Books with Manuscript in the British Library.'.

R. C. Alston's Books with MS.: A Short Title Catalogue of Books with Manuscript Notes in the British Library . . . (1994) notes (p. 522) that the Library's shelfmark C.45.b.11 (a volume from Alexander Pope's edition of Shakespeare), has 'copious MS. notes and additions' by Lewis Theobald; Alston identifies Theobald simply as an owner of this volume. In fact, this volume provides a portion of the text of Theobald's 1733 edition of Shakespeare's play.

According to Peter Seary's Lewis Theobald and the Editing of Shakespeare (1990), other volumes of this set of Shakespeare's plays (though I do not know if that means all other volumes), are in the library of Winchester College. I do not know how the volume came to the British Library, nor how the set was broken up, but it was possibly once in the possession of Tonson's last editor George Stevens, whose books were sold in 1800, the year he died.

It might also be noted that the British Library's copy (shelfmark 841.d.32(7)) of Theobold's play, Double Falshood (probably adapted from manuscripts of the now-lost play The History of Cardenio assumed to be the work of Shakespeare and John Fletcher), was owned by Hannah Cox Birch, during her brief married life as wife of Dr Thomas Birch. (Double Falshood was first performed in December 1727 and published early in 1728; Hannah Cox and Thomas Birch married in summer 1728, and she died in the summer of 1729.)

It was apparently Hannah Birch who wrote her name on the play's title page, though the few manuscript notes to the text were more likely written by her husband. Without considering such matters as the contemporary group known as the Ladies Shakespeare Club, the pride of this young wife's owning and inscribing her name in - Theobald's play, is a favourable reflection of its contemporary reception and reputation.

HELENE SOLHEIM London

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Author:Solheim, Helene
Publication:Notes and Queries
Date:Dec 1, 1998
Words:315
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