September 18, 2013

Something Rotton

While going through my mother's collection of brass rubbings, I came across this very pretty memorial for Elisabeth Rotton, who died in 1638 aged 20, located in the parish church of Meriden, the town next door to Hampton-In-Arden, where we lived while in England.  

Elizabeth Rotton

The figure is quite large and detailed, especially for a person not of the clergy or nobility.  The inscription also indicates that Elisabeth must have been highly regarded in her town, for it includes an anagram apparently composed by herself:

The Text at her Funerall - Math. 9 24: The maide is not dead but sleepeth

Anagram {  Elisabeth Rotton // I to A blest Throne }

Friends weepe noe more, when this NIGHTS SLEEPE is gone I shall arise and goe TO A BLEST THRONE.

The anagram has a quite specific notation: it is marked "Anagram" and has the two versions, one above the other, surrounded by curly brackets.

While researching this brass, I found another mention of Elisabeth Rotton, this time a marginal inscription in an original second quarto edition of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, printed in 1599 by Thomas Creede. As you can see here, someone has written in to the side of the text at Act III, Scene V another anagram, with the same notation and curly brackets: Anagr. { Elisabeth Rotton // Her lot is to be neat }}. The text of the play nearby does not seem to have anything to do with neatness; it may be that it refers to various typesetting errors that have been corrected, such as is seen on the same page, where a line mis-marked for "Ro(meo)" has the name inked out and "Iul" (for Julia) is written in.

The quarto is currently owned by The Elizabethan Club at Yale. According to "A Census of Shakespeare Quartos", the earliest known owner was George Stevens, in 1800. 

There's no way of knowing but I'd suggest that the marginalia in the quarto was written by the real Elisabeth Rotton. It's easy to imagine that the girl was known for her intelligence and reading (and for her ability to create anagrams), and was lent or had the Shakespeare quarto in her hands when she added another of her anagrams.

Posted by netrc at September 18, 2013 09:10 AM