He’s Probably Right, You Know

Had to share this email I just got from regular contributor Carl Atkins (with his permission): I have been noodling around with some research on Twelfth Night and came across this remark by H. H. Furness (in the preface to his New Variorum edition from 1901), which I just loved. I thought you might get a kick out of it: "If the use of the adverb ‘probably,’ in connection with all statements regarding Shakespeare, were legally forbidden on pain of death without the benefit of clergy, I think the world would be the happier, certainly the wiser." I like that little bit about "without the benefit of clergy." From the days when a fate worse than death was dying without the benefit of clergy! He then throws in this kicker at the end, which made me laugh out loud:  Note that the passage of this law would have reduced Stephen Greenblatt’s "Will in the World" to about 2 pages. :)  Thanks Carl!

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One thought on “He’s Probably Right, You Know

  1. Haha! This is so true. I don’t know–in certain situations, the “probably” seems to be a given, so I sometimes just leave it off. But then, of course, I worry that I come off like I think I know everything, so the “probably” comes back out…*sigh* It’s a neverending cycle.

    Of course, you could extrapolate that to a lot of historical study. I’m pretty sure if “probably” were disallowed, my thesis would have been about….a page. Ha. 🙂

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