Fryer as Editor

MS Autograph Letters Collection, National Library of Ireland.

Printed text: Fryer, Works of Barry, i. 168-69

Two versions of Barry's letter to Sir William Hamilton of 29 November 1768 are here compared in order to assess the editorial practices of Fryer. The MS text of the letter is given first, and then Fryer's edited version of the same letter. A short analysis follows the two versions.

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Version 1

Rome Nov. 29.th 1768

Sir

Not to make the liberty I take in writing to you too intollerable by keeping you in Suspense with apologies & excuses for it, I shall just beg to accquaint you that Lord Fitzwilliams & M.r Crofts in a conversation they had on their return home with M.r Burk (a freind of mine) said many civil good natur'd things of my picture of Adam & Eve - & my other little Studies all of which they quoted you for. The Satisfaction my freind had in hearing that any thing of mine was honor'd with your favourable notice (whose character as a man of Taste I find he is no stranger to) is a thing that very much affects my concerns as I am supported during my Stay abroad by that gentleman & another of the same name.

Indeed, were it not for this Single account my freinds in England had of me 'tis more than probable they must have imagined that I had done nothing & Slept away my time here, as care has been industriously taken that I should be kept out of the way of accquiring here either freinds character or any thing that may be useful or agreeable in the carrying of a man thro' life. Except yourself, who I heard had set out with the resolution of seeing all the artists in Rome, & Lord Fitzwilliams & M.r Crofts who came with your name in their mouths I have never been shewn to any other of the many travellers & people of distinction who have been about amongst the artists here: however a man whose mind is occupied with Studying the Antique & the people of the Sixteenth Century, may bring himself to that pass as to be content for a time to give up the profits of his profession, although the profits in this as well as in most other professions are inseparably linked to & followed by reputation & character which we all have a hankering after.

Sir you will I hope forgive the liberty I have taken in writing to you, as I don't beleive 'twill be in my power to have the honour of waiting upon you at Naples & gratitude would not Suffer me to think of leaving Italy (which I shall do in about half a year) without returning you my most Sincere thanks for the obligation you have conferred upon me.

I am Sir
with the greatest respect
your most Obedient Humble servt

James Barry

Version 2

MR. BARRY TO MR. (AFTERWARDS SIR) WM. HAMILTON.
Rome, without date.

SIR,
NOT to make the liberty I take in writing to you too intolerable by keeping you in suspense with apologies and excuses for it, I shall just beg leave to acquaint you, that Lord Fitzwilliam and Mr. Crofts, in a conversation they had on their return home, with Mr. Burke a friend of mine, said many civil good natured things of my picture of Adam and Eve, and my other little studies, all of which they quoted you for. The satisfaction my friend had in hearing that any thing of mine, was honoured with your favourable notice, (whose character as a man of taste, I find he is no stranger to) is a thing that very much affects my concerns, as I am supported during my stay abroad by that gentleman and another of the same name. Indeed, were it not for this single account, which my friends in England had of me, it is more than probable they must have imagined that I had done nothing, and slept away my time; as care has been industriously taken, that I should be kept out of the way of acquiring here either friends, character, or any thing that may be useful or agreeable in the carrying of a man through life.

Except yourself, who I heard had set out with the resolution of seeing all the artists in Rome, and Lord Fitzwilliam and Mr. Crofts, who came in your name, I have never been shewn to any other, of all the many travellers and people of distinction who have visited the artists here: however, a man whose mind is occupied in studying the antique, and the people of the cinque cento, may bring himself to that pass, as to be in some measure content to give up the profits of his profession, if it was not that the profits of this, as well as most other professions, are inseparably linked to and followed by reputation and character, which we all have a hankering after. You will, sir, I hope forgive the liberty I have taken in writing to you, as I do not believe it will be in my power to have the honour of waiting upon you at Naples, and gratitude would not suffer me to think of leaving Italy, (which I shall do in about half a year) without returning you my most sincere thanks for the obligation you have conferred upon me.

I am, sir, with the greatest respect,
Your most obedient humble servant,

J.B.

Fryer as Editor

The raw fact that Fryer made a total of sixty-four editorial changes in a letter of less than fifty lines, indicates the care and assiduity with which he went about his task. Most of the changes are minor - spelling is corrected,capitals altered, brackets omitted, contractions like 'don't' expanded to 'do not', words added, phrasing altered. Minor as these seem, the accumulation of them points to an editor who means not just to tidy up, but to improve. That tendency is confirmed in the changes in punctuation: Fryer adds some 27 commas, usually in order to clarify the sense of the sentence. Barry writes, 'Lord Fitzwilliams & M.r Crofts in a conversation they had on their return home with M.rBurk (a freind of mine) said many civil good natur'd things of my picture' ; Fryer edits this by changing what he considers lax expression not ready for the public reader: 'Lord Fitzwilliam and Mr. Crofts, in a conversation they had on their return home, with Mr. Burke a friend of mine, said many civil good natured things of my picture'. The changed punctuation and corrected spelling transform Barry's hurried vigorous manner into something more controlled and acceptable to Fryer's public.

Fryer's improving instinct, in keeping with much early nineteenth-century editorial practice, is evident in several other details. He sometimes clarifies the sense by adding words or changing the phrasing: for example, Barry, mildly complaining that he has not been introduced to many influential travellers to Rome, writes, 'a man whose mind is occupied with Studying the Antique & the people of the Sixteenth Century, may bring himself to that pass as to be content for a time to give up the profits of his profession'. Fryer raises the tone by substituting the more cultured, better educated 'cinque cento' for the urbane 'Sixteenth Century'; he then adds the phrase 'in some measure', suggesting discernment, thoughtfulness: 'a man whose mind is occupied in studying the antique, and the people of the cinque cento, may bring himself to that pass, as to be in some measure content to give up the profits of his profession'. Conversely Fryer removes a phrase which may sound common or vulgar: Fitzwilliam and Crofts came to Rome, Barry tells Hamilton, 'with your name in their mouths'; the phrase is simply left out in Fryer's edition.

Two other details in Fryer's editing of this letter are more difficult to account for. The date of the letter is clearly stated at the head of Barry's manuscript after the word 'Rome' , yet Fryer's edition has 'Rome, without date'. A second point is Fryer's rearrangement of the paragraph endings. Barry organises his letter into three paragraphs: the first relates how Fitzwilliam and Crofts told Burke that Hamilton had praised Barry's Adam and Eve; in the second paragraph Barry tells of his isolation from other artists and travellers; and in the third, he thanks Hamilton for noticing his work. Fryer lays out the letter in but two paragraphs - the first deals with Barry and his friends, the second dwells on Barry's isolation and by contrast Hamilton's kindness in noticing his work. Fryer's rearrangement may give the letter greater coherence and focus, but it is not Barry's focus. Barry's final paragraph of thanks was the point of the letter. His earlier letters to the Burkes showed he was nervous about writing, undecided as to whether to write or pay a visit to Hamilton; the issue was how to respond to Hamilton's praise. Barry addresses the point directly and separately in that final paragraph. Fryer's version restrains the tone of Barry's final and key paragraph by running it on from remarks about Barry's thoughts on the profits of his profession. Fryer's point may have been to dull any sense of subservience or fawning gratitude on Barry's part.

A major aim of Fryer as an editor was to give Barry the best face he could; in doing so he adjusted the material without radically changing it. He removed the rough and sometimes careless details of the letters. Barry's sentences move forwards in long threads of phrasing, with many conjunctions, all of which reflect an energy of thought, an emotional urgency. His argumentative nature comes through in the complexities and haste of his expression and what sometimes appears unpremeditated phrasing. Fryer's editorial task is to bring some kind of control and order to bear. His care with punctuation for example and his occasional rephrasing suggest a calmer, more reflective temperament at work. The two men were friends, but that does not mean they were of the same character; there is even a suggestion that Fryer, the English middle-class English doctor, was a restraining, calming companion to the impetuous, fiery, argumentative, boisterous Irishman Barry. Perhaps Barry appreciated Fryer for qualities he knew he himself lacked, while Fryer admired Barry's energy and achievement as a warm humane, if volatile personality who, if a little out of control, needed and enjoyed his companionship. But Fryer's editorial work reflects more than that. It signifies an admiration he thought would be well served by a careful editing of Barry's papers - his correspondence, his writings, his lectures - in such a way as to give a more calm and elegant appearance to Barry's writings.

The result was the two volume edition of Barry's works published in 1809. Much of that material is unique, since the majority of original manuscripts have been lost. For much of Barry's output we have only what Fryer gives us. What this example of Fryer's editing demonstrates is that his editorial practices polished up Barry; material was filtered so as to read more clearly: phrasing was changed, paragraphing altered and, on occasion, words and passages left out. There is no way of knowing the extent of that editorial transformation. Without Fryer, very little of Barry's writing would have survived; with Fryer we have Barry as Fryer wanted him to be remembered.

Thanks to Fryer, this edition is able to provide much of Barry's correspondence. But in addition, it provides a body of letters from manuscript sources that Fryer either did not see or chose to leave out. Those, together with the extant manuscript letters that Fryer did work from, help the reader to get behind the image filtered by Fryer. While we catch a glimpse of a less polished letter-writer, a more spirited, even disorderly correspondent, we realise that what Fryer gives us is not entirely reliable.