The Massacre at Paris
The Collier Leaf
1. The Leaf
The so-called 'Collier Leaf', or 'Folger Leaf', is a single manuscript piece of paper on which someone has written out over both sides of the sheet, the first part of Scene XIX of The Massacre at Paris in what appears to be an Elizabethan secretary hand. The fragment covers the part of the scene in which the unnamed soldier (hired by Guise) is hiding, waiting for Mugeroun to pass by, whereupon he shoots him with his musket. At this the Guise appears, pays the hired killer, before declaring that this act was revenge against the King as well as the cuckold.
One of many potentially exciting aspects of the leaf is that it transcribes a much fuller version of the play text. The soldier's lewd speech is around one third longer in terms of word count when compared to [O], the dying Mugeroun is granted a line, and Guise's subsequent speech is 16 rather than 4 lines long.1 This fuller transcript of one small part of the play appears to confirm the firm suspicions that [O] is a corrupt and much abbreviated reported version of the original drama written by Marlowe. We are further intrigued by the possibility that this transcript may be part of the author's 'foul papers', perhaps even written in Marlowe's own hand. But all of this must be tempered by a significant qualification: "if genuine". The authenticity of the leaf is far from certain.
Joseph Adams, Director of Research at the Folger Shakespeare Library between 1932 and 1946, wrote a forceful defence of the authenticity of the leaf, which he described as "a fragment (7⅛ inches in height by 7⅞ inches in breadth) of a folio leaf (original about 12½ by 8 inches) of foolscap, such as Elizabethan dramatists were accustomed to use in writing their plays. Since the watermark - the well-known pitcher device - appears near the top, it is obvious that what we have is the lower portion of the leaf; the upper portion, of approximately 5¾ inches, is missing."2
"We may assume that the writer tore off the upper [portion], and used [the remaining] part of the leaf in order to secure a generous portion of blank paper. He made a neat folding at the left so as to indicate a margin for catch names [i.e. the name of the character making the speech], and, beginning with the word 'Enter', filled the page with writing; then, turning the leaf, added on the verso nine lines, ending with the word 'Exeunt'. The scene being complete, he left the rest of the page blank."3
The leaf was first brought to the world's notice by John Payne Collier (1789-1883), the controversial nineteenth century Shakespearean critic, antiquarian, and forger. His introduction (as editor) to The Jew of Malta for Dodsley's Old Plays in 1825, includes mention of his discovery of the leaf: "A curious MS. fragment of one quarto leaf of this tragedy [i.e. The Massacre] came into the hands of Mr. Rodd of Newport-street not long since, which, as it very materially differs from the printed edition, is here inserted literatim: it perhaps formed part of a copy belonging to the theatre at the time it was first acted, and it would be still more valuable should any accident hereafter shew that it is in the original handwriting of Marlowe".4 Unfortunately, Collier's transcription was far from "literatim", and proved to contain a large number of small errors in relation to the actual manuscript, Adams hypothesising that it was "perhaps hurriedly made in the dealer's shop".5
Six years later in his own publication, The History of English Dramatic Poetry, Collier indicated that the leaf was now in his possession,6 and he again transcribed it. Some of his earlier errors were corrected, but not all of them.7 By 1879, the leaf was in the possession of another Shakespearean scholar and antiquarian, J.O.Halliwell-Phillips (1820-1889), who fortunately had the good sense to have "it carefully inlaid to prevent further damage, and handsomely bound".8 He proudly referred to it two years before his death as "the only vestige of the tragedy in the state in which it left the hands of the author".9 Subsequently, the leaf was acquired by Marsden J. Perry, who was assembling an impressive Shakespearian library in Providence, Rhode Island, and from thence to one Henry Clay Folger. The document remains to this day preserved in the archives of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C.
- Note 1: See a full comparative transcript of the Collier Leaf text and the equivalent scene in [O], along with an image of the leaf itself. Back to Text
- Note 2: [Adams] p.448. Back to Text
- Note 3: [Adams] p.449. Back to Text
- Note 4: [Dodsley-Collier] pp.244-245. Back to Text
- Note 5: [Adams] p.447. Back to Text
- Note 6: [Collier-History] p.133. Back to Text
- Note 7: [Nosworthy] lists all the variations appearing in both of Collier's transcriptions compared to the manuscript leaf text in his Appendix 1 - pp.169-170. Back to Text
- Note 8: [Adams] p.448. Back to Text
- Note 9: J.O. Halliwell-Phillips, A Calendar of the Shakespearean Rarities, Drawings and Engravings Formerly Preserved at Hollingbury Copse, Near Brighton (1887). Back to Text