If it is not generally known that the foundations of twentieth-century criticism of Shakespeare’s imagery were laid over one hundred and fifty years ago, the explanation lies in the limited availability of the single original edition of Walter Whiter’s Specimen of a Commentary on Shakspeare published in 1794. In an age in which the study of Shakespeare’s characters was of prime interest and importance, Whiter – a classical scholar who took holy orders and ended his life as a country parson – developed a form of textual criticism closely linked to a study of the workings of the human mind: and his book offers a psychological survey of the creative imagination, following the principles laid down in Locke’s Essay on Human Understanding and illustrated by examples from Shakespeare’s plays. In his realization that Shakespeare provides the finest examples of the poetic imagination Whiter is of his time: but in his particular study of the associative powers of such a mind engaged in the process of creation, he is far in advance of his time and has no immediate disciples in the later nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, however, there was an increasing acknowledgement of Whiter’s work and a more frequent appeal for the reissue of his book. Originally published in 1967, the present edition was started in response to that appeal more than ten years before Mr Alan Over’s tragic death in 1964 and incorporates the revisions and additions made by Whiter for his own projected second edition.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations. Editor’s Preface. Abbreviations. Introduction: Whiter and His Background; Contemporary Criticism of Whiter’s Work; The Specimen and Later Shakespeare Criticism; The Present Edition and the Whiter MSS. A Specimen of a Commentary on Shakspeare 1. Notes on As You Like It 2. An Attempt to Explain and Illustrate Various Passages of Shakespeare on a New Principle of Criticism, Derived from Mr Locke’s Doctrine of the Association of Ideas, 1794. Appendices: (a) Short Essays on Miscellaneous Topics (b) Other Examples of Whiter’s Notes on Shakespeare’s Association of Ideas. Selected Bibliography. Index.
Alan Over & Mary Bell (Eds)