Walter W. Greg

Walter W. Greg books and biography


Walter Wilson Greg

Sir Walter Wilson Greg (9 July 1875–4 March 1959) was one of the leading bibliographers and Shakespeare scholars of the 20th century.

Greg was born at Wimbledon Common in 1875. His father, William Rathbone Greg, was an essayist; his mother was the daughter of James Wilson. As a child, Greg was expected to one day assume editorship of The Economist, which his grandfather had founded in 1843; Greg was educated at Harrow and at Trinity College of Cambridge University. At Cambridge he met Ronald McKerrow, whose friendship helped shape Greg's decision to pursue a career in literature. While still in school he compiled a list of Renaissance plays printed before 1700, and he joined the Bibliographical Society the same year.

After school, Greg settled into a life of steady productivity, while living on the proceeds of his shares of The Economist. Working in close association with A. H. Bullen, he produced Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama (1906), the first edited version of the account books of Philip Henslowe (1906-8) and the papers of Edward Alleyn. The latter two works provided him with a knowledge of Renaissance theatrical conditions perhaps rivalled only by E. K. Chambers, and this knowledge he applied to the publications of the Malone Society, which he served as general editor between 1906 and 1939, and thereafter as president. He served as Librarian of Trinity College, 1907-13, resigning after his marriage to his cousin Elizabeth Gaskell. As an independent scholar, Greg produced editions of The Merry Wives of Windsor (1910), Robert Greene's Orlando Furioso and George Peele's The Battle of Alcazar (published together, 1923), and Sir Thomas More (1911). He returned to specific editing with work on Doctor Faustus (1950). Greg also wrote on the material conditions of Renaissance theater and publishing; his work in this regard includes Dramatic Documents from the Elizabethan Playhouses (1931) and English Literary Autographs, 1550-1650 (1932). The Variants in the First Quarto of King Lear (1940) offered a careful examination of this printing. He also wrote hundreds of reviews, including a notably caustic rejection of J. Churton Collins's 1906 edition of Robert Greene.

At the beginning of World War II, Greg moved to Sussex, where he spent the war working on his edition of Faustus. In addition, he began to prepare his great works of the 1950s: The Editorial Problem in Shakespeare (1951), The Shakespeare First Folio: Its Bibliographical and Textual History (1955), Some Aspects and Problems of London Publishing, 1550-1650 (1954), and the essay "The rationale of copy-text" (1950), which had a significant influence on textual criticism. He was Reader in Bibliography at Oxford University, 1954-5. Greg was knighted in 1950.

Greg was strongly associated with Alfred W. Pollard in developing a modern understanding of the transmission of Shakespeare's texts. His greatest achievement is A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration, published in 4 volumes between 1939 and 1959.

[edit Reference

  • Wilson, F. P. Sir Walter Wilson Greg, 1875-1959. London, British Academy, 1960.

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