Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works

Michael Neill writes:

In addition to textual introductions and collations, the Companion includes more than three hundred pages of scholarly background essays, and a lengthy but indispensable section on ‘Canon and Chronology’. The essays are on topics as various as authorship, readership, the law, music, censorship, visual texts, printing and the book trade. There is some unevenness here: Taylor’s opening essay, ‘The Order of Persons’ (written with Celia Daileader and Alexandra Bennett), is a richly detailed but meandering exploration of Middleton’s ‘lists’; and Richard Burt’s piece on censorship comprehensively muddles a topic that is more straightforwardly addressed in several of the critical introductions, including Taylor’s account of A Game at Chess. Given the significant impact of censorship on Middleton’s career, it is hard to understand why Burt was allowed to get away with the high-theoretical sophistry of an argument that purports to show that, by virtue of its ‘self-deconstructive non-identity . . . repressive censorship cannot always be distinguished from . . . non-censorship’. Most of these essays are excellent, however; and some, such as MacDonald Jackson’s study of authorship or John Jowett’s investigation of Middleton’s early readers, are definitive.

(LRB 4 December 2008)