Friday, 20 April 2012

How not to write a footnote in a scholarly edition of a text

Morris's News from Nowhere, chapter III:
She laughed again, and said: “Well, lads, old and young, I must get to my work now. We shall be rather busy here presently; and I want to clear it off soon, for I began to read a pretty old book yesterday, and I want to get on with it this morning: so good-bye for the present.” She waved a hand to us, and stepped lightly down the hall, taking (as Scott says) at least part of the sun from our table as she went.
The allusion needs glossing. This is how Clive Wilmer does it, in his Penguin Classics edition, News from Nowhere and Other Writings [p.410]:
Morris was a passionate devotee of Sir Walter Scott's novels. His set of them can still be found on his bookshelves at Kelmscott manner.
... which tells us nothing very much. This is what it should say:
The reference is to Walter Scott's 1828 novel The Fair Maid of Perth: "Catharine took the opportunity of escape which was thus given her, and glided from the room. To Henry it seemed as if the sun had disappeared from the heaven at midday, and left the world in sudden obscurity." [ch. 5]

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