Life and artistry in the ‘publication’ of Demetrios Kydones’ letter collection

Life and artistry in the ‘publication’ of Demetrios Kydones’ letter collection

Peter Hatlie

ALTHOUGH BYZANTINE LETTERS have long presented serious problems of analysis and interpretation, researchers today have a considerable-and growing-array of methodological tools with which to meet those challenges.1 One fundamental but still elusive issue in the study of any collection of letters is, however, the author’s intentions, i.e., what letterwriters wished to convey by and through their missives, and how to locate a distinct point of view within so-called ‘private’ literary letters, by far the most common type of extant Byzantine epistolography, combining both literary and ‘real’ elements. Disclosing unequivocally the original intentions of any medieval Greek writer, Byzantine epistolographers not excepted, may be too much to hope for.2 Yet a closer analysis of certain texts, with special attention to the criteria for and processes of medieval letter-writing, can throw light on some intimately related issues, including the general outlines of an author’s personality,3 his or her capacity and outlets for original expression,4 and the various means by which some authors sought to color the tone and mood of their letters.5 With answers to these questions within reach, there is hope that scholars will be able to narrow the possibilities of intention in these writers by better understanding the manipulation of their craft and their processes of decision-making.

Among the many challenges to analysis, certainly the most basic is simple meaning. Not infrequently the language and sensibilities of Byzantine authors confound the modern reader. Some passages are all but impossible to decipher, in part owing to the consciously artificial language and high style employed by so many authors, and partly in view of the Byzantine love of riddles and word plays. In other words, numerous Byzantine authors purposely cultivated obscurity ( aap0ia) to some degree, a practice that occasionally baffled even their own correspondents and regularly tries the patience of modern readers looking for coded messages between the lines.6

Perhaps more critical, however, is the problem of how to weigh the influence of epistolographic theory and tradition on Byzantine authors. If letter writers were well educated-as those of existing collections normally were-they had a font of information about the art of letter writing from which to draw. Style, approach, presentation, and subject-matter would have been introduced in school, and then again encountered in works on epistolographic theory and collections of model letters.7 Although the influence of any or all of these was no doubt profound, providing at the very least a general framework of the craft, the results were still somewhat unpredictable. Not surprisingly, letter-writers still took initiatives based on their own developed literary tastes and individual reading of theory as well as various demands of the moment. Some theorists recommended brevity (o-vcolia). But was it not necessary that a letter between true friends be long (asked one Byzantine correspondent of another), lest the recipient of a short one feel neglected?8This was a fair question both in human terms and in view of other theorists’ emphatic descriptions of the letter as a vehicle for friendship, a means of showing kindness and affection (ptk,,ocppovnat;)functions that too much brevity might compromise. Similarly, a letter-writer’s use of stilted language and occasional obscurity (ara.cpia) grew, ostensibly, from a desire to impress and delight one’s peers, even though this too ignored some theorists’ calls for clarity aavveia).9These and other examples’ point to a certain degree of originality in the Byzantine letter, worked out within and between the general lines of epistolographic theories and models. What they do not yet provide is a clear and consistent basis for understanding how to “be able to read between the lines what Byzantine letter-writers so ardently sought to convey and what was almost always grasped by their readers.”lt In other words, where does the model letter or learned topos end and originality begin? (Mullett [supra n.4] 39f).

A broader discussion of the letter writers’ literary dispositions, exercise of choice, and ultimately originality and intention would naturally require consideration of a host of additional factors, including the literary ambitions of writers, their concern for their audience, the immediate situation at the time of writing, the oral dimension of a given letter, and perhaps even the powers of memory.12 Yet it may also be instructive to consider-in addition to the immediate Briefssituation and the rituals of letter-exchanges-the published manuscript. This issue has received very little attention from either modern scholars interested in the criteria for and processes of letter writing or those focussing on other factors (Littlewood [supra n.6] 203f). Yet it merits consideration as a category for the analysis of Byzantine letters, for all these writers were aware, to some degree, of the publishability of their work. They both wrote and presumed that their letters would be made public in some form. At times this common understanding merely reflected contemporary awareness of the state of the letter transport system, in which an author’s letters might easily reach another’s hands and become ‘published’ involuntarily, while in other cases it derived from the expectation that the recipient would pass the letter on to friends, soliciting their comments and criticisms, and generally use the piece as the basis for a spontaneous ‘theater’.13

Most letter writers went even further. Looking to a wider public, they took formal steps toward publication. Authors normally made copies of their letters and established letterbooks with a view to eventual publication. Some merely held their letters in safe keeping, knowing their value and perhaps touching up individual pieces from time to time, but generally counting on a later editor to appear. Others took matters into their own hands, arranging for publication of their collections during their own lifetimes. No doubt the energy, scope, and, ultimately, success of these initiatives varied from one case to another, depending upon individual personalities and circumstances. At all events, however, Byzantine letter writers typically welcomed and quite often facilitated outright the publication of their letter collections with the aim of reaching a wider public, perhaps even posterity.l4 Thus the collections that survive are in all likelihood at least once removed from the dossier of original letters, after individual authors or their associates at some point and to some degree retouched and reshaped the original work.

Modern readers would do well to weigh the implications of these editorial initiatives. Understanding to what extent the form, size, or content has been altered-not only of individual letters, but also of entire letter collections-may prove important for some kinds of historical and literary analysis. Regrettably, however, the actual mechanics of such ventures are only partly understood. Although authors are known to have made or supervised copies, collections, and even published editions of their work, the editorial trail between the original dossier and ‘published’ work has been erased in the vast number of cases. Some version or versions of a later copy generally survives instead, and indeed in most instances these copies stand one or more manuscript traditions removed from the first ‘published’ copy or copies envisioned by the author. Consequently an understanding of what decisions Byzantine letter-writers made about their published work relative to its prototype-and why- is normally difficult to ascertain. 15


To illustrate the problem, it will be useful to look briefly at the letter collection of the ninth-century abbot and saint, Theodore of Stoudios. During his lifetime Theodore occasionally produced multiple copies of a letter, mainly for circulation among friends and supporters, and he most probably kept a single copy of most letters in a dossier of some sort. No evidence suggests, however, that he took formal steps toward the publication of his work. Writing about forty years after the abbot’s death, his hagiographer Michael reports that the letters were by then compiled in a collection comprising five books, but he gives no information about the total number of letters or the principle of organization by book.l6 One of the abbot’s associates, probably his close friend and successor Naukratios, was responsible for putting that collection together about the middle of the ninth century. But the contents of his work and what editorial standards guided him are not precisely known. One of the earliest manuscripts of the collection-indeed, perhaps the very one made by Naukratios-included over 1,100 letters, although, now lost, it cannot be said whether it should be roughly identified with the original dossier of Theodore’s letters.17 Presently about 550 letters remain. But what became of the other 550 ‘published’ letters-not to mention Theodore’s dossier-and why indeed the present 550 letters survive, remains a mystery. Questions of chance destruction and loss aside, one may have grounds to implicate the earliest editors and perhaps even Theodore himself. Was the letter collection groomed at some point, with a view toward projecting a particular image of the abbot?” Or toward serving another ulterior purpose, such as establishing an identity for the Stoudios monastery? Or perhaps toward facilitating storage and use of the collection? Presuming that any of these or a related motive came into play, such a reworking would perhaps have entailed not only preserving some letters and omitting others, but also touching up portions of individual pieces. Yet in any event, the original dossier was superseded, and consequently modern readers of the collection should beware of making overly sweeping claims about Theodore or his times based on his letters. Equal caution is in order for any number of other Byzantine letter collections whose line of descent, notably from the author to the first editors, can be reconstructed only in part.19 In some cases almost nothing in this regard is known.20 III

Measured against this state of affairs, the letter collection of the fourteenth-century scholar and diplomat Demetrios Kydones constitutes an extraordinary exception to the norm, for it is possible to follow a fairly consistent trail from the published versions to the author’s original dossier. Kydones was intimately involved throughout the earliest publication efforts. Less is known directly about his preparation of the first 131 of his 450 letters, except that he personally made or supervised copying the letters accumulated by ca 1373 during a brief retirement in the monastery of St George in Constantinople.21 More remarkable is the other collection of 319 letters, most of which Kydones published in 1391-92 as a sequel to his earlier work. The autographed dossier is preserved in the fourteenth-century Vat. gr. 101 (=A) with interlinear and marginal corrections and notes in Kydones’ own hand. Moreover, the exact copy of A, commissioned and supervised by Kydones and copied by his associate Manual Kalekas, also survives as Urbin. gr. 133 (= U). A unique case in Byzantine epistolography, therefore, permits us to isolate and examine what choices a letter-writer took when preparing a dossier for publication and ultimately how a published work compared to its prototype.22

A proper study of the language and style of Kydones’ letters still awaits scholars. Apart from some brief comments, relatively little is known about his general literary disposition, range of concerns, and decisions as a letter-writer, notably the extent of the influence of epistolographic theory, as opposed to other factors.23 These problems will merit attention in what follows, at least to the extent that Kydones’ preparation of his dossier for publication sheds light upon them. Scholars have not looked seriously at the nature of his changes to the letter-collection during this process of ‘publication’ for insights into these problems. Loenertz’ fleeting remarks (Recueils 11, 13, 80) suggest merely that Kydones sought to make his dossier more presentable to the public, to improve his style, and excise potentially embarrasssing parts. Kianka (6) has rightly followed Loenertz’s guidance, adding only that Kydones’ stylistic changes to A altered the content of the dossier very little. Both observations are useful and correct to a degree, though neither scholar fully explores the materials at hand. Looking at these changes more closely, it will be useful to ask both why such amendments to style and language were necessary and whether and how they alter the meaning and impact of certain letters. Ultimately, too, it will be instructive to ponder what they can say about Kydones as a letter-writer.

At issue are seven letters (all in Corr. II) that can, to some degree, be deemed ‘unpublishable’ at the time when Kydones commissioned the publication of his dossier and penned various editorial instructions in the margins of some letters, indicating that a letter should be either eliminated (ea0/&aoov) or relocated to another place (apT) in the definitive copy U. Four of the seven letters (197, 258, 401*, 427) were eliminated completely, although only two (197, 427) bore a marginal note in A to this effect. Three other letters (235*, 328t, 368*) were considerably reworked and given new recensions in U, two (235*, 368*) despite having been earmarked for deletion and the other (328*) in accordance with Kydones’ instructions. The slight discrepancies between marginal notes in A, giving one instruction, and the resulting alterations made in U itself may point to unfinished work, a change of heart, or perhaps advice from Kalekas. At any rate the final changes would have been made entirely under his own supervision.24


Four of the seven letters defy absolute explanation for Kydones’ editorial intervention: 197, to his recently deceased young friend Rhadenos, and 427, to Theodore Palaiologus, the despot of the Morea, both of which were completely omitted from U;25 258 (Corr. pp.162f), to Manuel II Palaiologos, replaced by another letter to Manuel, no. 276 (pp.194f);26 and 328:, to an anonymous friend, the contents of which were considerably reworked into a new recension. As none of the four concerns matters of any particular historical importance or throws direct light on the personal character of either Kydones or his correspondent-issues seen in other re-edited letters (see below)-it is reasonable to suppose that Kydones had other criteria in mind. These criteria might be characterized, in the first instance, as aesthetic. Although no explicit standard or consistent editorial system is detectable, all the changes seem to reflect a concern for elegance and grace, something akin perhaps to the epistolographic theorists’ concern for :gtpt;.28

All four letters share a common accessory function. Letter 328* accompanies a gift of Kydones’ translation of Ricoldo da Monte Croce’s Refutation of the Koran (Corr. 260.19-24). Already an elegant piece, 328* is refined even further in its new recension. Kydones builds on two similes found in 328*, the first comparing his own situation as a philosopher with that of a Byzantine merchant who, lacking sufficient domestic goods to supply his customers, must buy them abroad; the second identifying the work of translators like himself with waterchannels, which bring water from an excellent spring (without being themselves the source). The language of the new piece is considerably reworked, and Kydones attaches greater attention to benefitting his fellow citizens and friends with the gift of this book. The result is a longer and intellectually more challenging letter, expressly more conscious of its intended audience.29 The other three letters with a distinctly different accessory function are notably unrefined in their style and overtly direct in tone. Letter 197 to Rhadenos is an afterthought, sent when Kydones discovered that the messenger of an earlier letter (Corr. 71.4f) had not yet departed. It is brief and to the point, mainly complaining about a dispute among some mutual acquaintances that now involves Rhadenos and himself (71f.13-20, passim). Letter 427 is similarly short and prosaic. Dispatching it together wth some earlier letters, addressed to Theodore Palaiologos but never actually sent, Kydones confines himself mainly to a discussion of the unreliability of his messengers (Corr. 381f.4-21). Finally, letter 258 was probably sent together with another to Manuel II Palaiologos, both in response to one of Manuel’s extant letters.30 The reason for the later omission of 258, according to Loenertz (Recueils Il), is that it was “un projet de lettre abandonne par l’auteur et remplace”-a reasonable hypothesis in view of the letter’s rather abrupt conclusion. It is equally possible, however, that 276 was retained more specifically for its elegance and craft, for although both letters take the same ideas as their point of departure, 276 develops them more fully and in vivid detail, primarily through an infusion of classical and mythological allusions.31

Thus three of the four letters (197, 258, 427) were clearly expendable as either rough drafts or post scripta. Two (197, 427) subsequently disappear from the new collection U, in all likelihood because of their relatively direct language and banal content; the more rhetorical third letter (258) is replaced by a still more refined piece (276) with a similar point to make. It is noteworthy that a number of historical details vanish along with the three letters-small revelations, to be sure, such as the circumstances and names of people involved in Kydones’ and Rhadenos’ dispute (Corr. no. 197, p.71.8f), and the general ambiance surrounding Theodore Palaiologos in the Peloponnese in the late 1380s or early 1390s (no. 427, p.382.21-26). These represent clear cases of deconcretization (Entsachlichung), a phenomenon specific to private literary letters and other highly rhetorical texts, in which historical details can quite randomly be lost (or intentionally not included) because authors and editors consider them only incidental to their larger aim of creating a polished, moving work.32 The fourth reworked letter (328*) constitutes an already deconcretized piece. Kydones included no historical details whatsoever-not even the slightest allusion to the identification of the addressee. From the beginning his emphasis instead was to compose a smart literary accompaniment to his gift. And when 328* fell slightly short of his publication standards, he reworked it into a new and more elegant recension, no. 328. V

Letter 401 (Corr. 357f) provides another example of deconcretization, though probably for reasons other than those suggested above. Kydones used it as a replacement for 401* (Corr. 357f), years later completely reworking this letter to such an extent that its affinity to 401 is hardly recognizable.33 Letter 401*, dated 1389 and composed for Manuel II Palaiologos, responded to a letter from the emperor, now constrained to live on Lemnos.34 Kydones’ response provides rather concrete information, such as the name of the island and an allusion to the emperor’s frequent and obviously enjoyable hunting ventures. Letter 401, by contrast, avoids both these topics. Loenertz maintained (“Exil” 124, 138) that the name of Lemnos was deliberately suppressed. As the island is only rarely mentioned in Kydones’ other letters from the period, in his view there must have been good reasons to avoid it. Perhaps this editorial decision was in deference to Manuel, who for years afterward appears to have shunned all recollection of his days in Lemnos.35

It is telling that style and language do not seem to have been a deciding factor in his decision to rework 401*, as both it and 401 constitute equally highly polished pieces. In his own letter Manuel had evidently mentioned his hunting adventures, and he also confessed his regret at not having written more letters to his friend, quipping that Kydones’ “talents”-measured by the letters he sent-far outweighed his own epistolographic “obols.” Letter 401 (p.357.7-17) continues this second theme, playing cleverly with notions of the emperor’s robbery and debt over and against Kydones’ growing poverty. In letter 401* Kydones briefly acknowledges the debt problem, but elects rather to stress the first theme to the same effect, describing how Manuel prefers hunting partridges to chasing down hares (i.e., writing) like himself (p.357f.12-24). Curiously 401* then takes a slightly more serious (and again concretized) turn when it characterizes Manuel’s hunting feats as a kind of training for future battles and touches on the political concerns preoccupying the emperor. Yet this brief digression takes nothing away from the artistry of the letter. By no means, as Loenertz claimed (“`Exil” 124), is letter 401* a rough draft (“brouillon’) in the conventional sense. To describe it as a highly polished piece incorporating a number of concrete details is more accurate. The polish remained in the new recension; only details about Manuel’s exact place of residence, activities, and state of mind were stripped away. Thus Kydones’ touching up of 4016 tended to move away from mere literary deconcretization to what can only be called deconcretization for the sake of historical revision.

Letter 368, a slightly reworked recension of letter 368*, offers an example of revisonism by other means.36 Sent in the autumn of 1387, again to Manuel, the original letter 368* had arrived at an awkward moment in this future emperor’s career. Having abandoned his controversial rule over Thessaloniki to the besieging Turks some months before, Manuel fled first to Lesbos and then Tenedos, finally travelling to Bursa in the summer of 1387 to humble himself before the Ottoman Sultan Murad. Soon afterwards Murad effected a rapprochement between the emperor and his father John V, his two vassals in fact, which sent Manuel back to Constaninople for the first time in five years. Despite their long-standing feud, the elder statesman John received his son, though not without taking precautions. Kydones, for one, was evidently discouraged if not prohibited from seeing his long-absent friend, so he resorted to writing to Manuel letters 368t and others (cf. Corr. nos. 363-81). Kydones’ last letter in this series was written in the late autumn of 1387 on the eve of Manuel’s exile to Lemnos. The relations between father and son had remained cool throughout, perhaps even growing worse. At any rate Lemnos was the political price Manuel had to pay for the earlier falling out with his father. How high that price was remained unclear until sometime after the spring of 1390, the date when Manuel returned to Constantinople, for it was only then that a lasting reconciliation with John V took place, not incidently ensuring the son’s succession to the imperial throne.37

Letter 368* sheds considerable light on the ambiguous circumstances Manuel confronted after his arrival in Constantinople in the autumn of 1387.38 Kydones relates, on the one hand, that John is happy to have his son and heir back at his side, but he reports on the other that he is unable to see his friend and that spies are standing by to report any irregularities. The only thing to do, Kydones claims, is to pray to God for deliverance from these hateful PeoPle.


Character issues were also the focus of attention in letter 235*, one of the longest in Kydones’ collection, dating to the years 1382-83 and addressed to Isidore Glavas, then metropolitan of Thessaloniki.48 From the start this letter proceeds in a fairly irreverent tone. Kydones unveils some damaging remarks that the archbishop has allegedly made against him and discusses aloud and at length how he might best respond to them. Candor, sarcasm, and the unexpected are all tightly woven together in the piece. Yet ultimately Kydones was dissatisfied with it enough to make revisions. An initial revision, now lost, appeared in A. Another was made for U, which became the definitive recension of letter 235*.49

Glavas is a relatively well-known historical figure. Born in 1342, probably at Thessaloniki, he became a monk in 1375 and metropolitan in 1380, a post he still held in 1382 when Manuel II arrived in Thessaloniki and set up rule. He reportedly did not agree with some of Manuel’s strategies for dealing with the Turkish threats, criticizing the emperor’s requisition of church wealth, but neither was he explicitly opposed to him or insensitive to the dangers at hand. Indeed his sermon in October 1383 supported the emperor’s defense of the city. But within months of this sermon, and for reasons unknown, Glavas abandoned his see. He returned sometime before 1393 to a city long since in Turkish hands. His death came in 1396, shortly before Kydones’ own.50

Letter 235* is much less concerned with either Glavas’ fate or that of his city than with a highly personal matter. The metropolitan, after ostensibly praising Kydones in the past, now criticizes, even ridicules him in public. Kydones’ theological positions are clearly at the heart of the matter, although the exact issues under dispute are not revealed. Kydones has heard this news from his friends in the city, who apparently advised him to shun the metropolitan. The emperor Manuel, newly arrived at Thessaloniki and locked into a less than agreeable relationship with Glavas, may indeed have been among these informers. In any event, Glavas’ friendship with Kydones evidently further complicated receipt of this news. Considering their respective ages and common origins in Thessaloniki, it is not impossible that they were school friends, just as Glavas was with Theodore Potamios, another probable native of Thessaloniki.Sl The relationship between Kydones and Glavas had evidently continued to develop through the years. Letter 235* suggests that Kydones mentored Glavas at some point and that the letter in turn apparently supported Kydones in both his earlier theological struggles and his career.52 These rumors from Thessaloniki put their hitherto secure friendship to the test.53

Kydones’ revision of letter 235* some years later left much of the text intact. As a rule, the revised letter either preserved 235* exactly or touched up particular passages. In most cases these editorial changes simply added text without measurably affecting the content of the piece. A fairly typical example is Kydones contention that he is guided strictly by reason, not selfinterest, in the theological positions to which he subscribes: Certainly these additions strengthen the original content, but it is perhaps difficult to detect anything more than an amplification of the same ideas. These were essentially cosmetic changes. A small number of other additions to 235*, however, tell a new story. In effect, Kydones expands and sharpens his basic account of the personalities depicted in the letter, namely Glavas’ and his own. The earlier 235* creates an image of two fairly Kydones’ central message is that Glavas’ vanity and personal ambition have spoiled his powers of reasoning, a character judgment to which he returns toward the end of letter 235 (cf. Corr. 137.99ff, 133f.129-33).

As a corollary to this essentially new picture of Glavas comes a touched-up depiction of Kydones. In the revised letter Kydones makes a point of showing that, while strictly rational in his thinking, he resists taking this habit to excess. In other words, he is not argumentative for its own sake and is not alone in thinking the way he does:

As if to underscore his cooperative character further, in the closing of letter 235 Kydones inserts a passage saying that he has always respected and obeyed church authorities in the past, and he is willing to do so again provided people like Glavas comport themselves reasonably and responsibly (cf 137.97f,133.124-29). This is an image of Kydones as the epitome of reason and modesty in 235, in marked contrast to the swaggering Glavas of the same letter.

One final amendment to letter 235* also betrayed Kydones’ willingness to reshape the past. Between the composition of 235* and 235 he most surely had the opportunity to gain more personal experience of Glavas, as the metropolitan seems to have passed the period from 1384 to 1389 in Constantinople. Kydones’ writings never comment on Glavas or this incident again. But at the very least he must have observed with interest the serious difficulties and public disgrace the metropolitan encountered in the capital during these years (Dennis, Reign 9194). Unless letter 235 constitutes a purely literary exercise, it probably reflects Kydones’ considered views about Glavas and to some extent himself, nearly ten years after the fact. In part, it did what theorists of letters intended a letter to do, describe character (see supra n.45), although under the circumstances that entailed telescoping people and events in a way not unlike biography. A similar tendency is manifest in a notable omission in Kydones’ text of 1391: the exclusion of Glavas from his circle of friends. The earlier letter dwells on the issue of the two men’s friendship, but letter 235 omits it almost entirely: The divergence of the two letters on the subject of friendship is particularly evident in the very close of this peroration:

Ultimately the difference between the two passages teaches an important lesson. Kydones’ invocation of friendship in letter 235* was a commonplace both for the epistolographic genre and, as we have seen, for his own letters to friends.66 So its deliberate removal can only point to one meaning: he and Glavas had ceased to be friends in the ensuing years, and Kydones sought in letter 235 to suppress the idea that they ever were. The image of Glavas the slightly meddlesome old friend thus receded before that of Glavas as a wily and unpleasant opponent.


By the time Demetrios Kydones died in 1397, his reputation as an imperial servant and intellectual was well established. Some years before, in 1391-92, he took steps to perpetuate his name by committing his letters to publication. This was the second time that he had gathered together his letters and resolved to give them a definitive recension. The first group, published about 1373, spanned his early life and career, whereas these letters covered his mature years from about 1373 to 1391-92. His attention to these projects was by no means strange for a person of his education and public stature. A great many prominent Byzantine figures before his day contemplated similar things, be they church leaders, educators, or politicians. Preparing one’s letters with a view to reaching a wider audience, even posterity, enjoyed a long and continuing tradition.

Kydones’ letter collection differs from those of other Byzantine authors in that it was preserved in both the dossier and published form, Vat. gr. 101 (A) and Urbin. gr. 133 (U) respectively. Comparing them today, it must be said that they do not appear radically different from one another. On this point modern scholars have generally agreed that Kydones mainly envisioned making his collection more artful and elegant, more flattering to his literary reputation without fixing great concern one way or the other on its contents. In support of this hypothesis it should be observed that Kydones included practically every letter from the dossier in his publication. One reason may have been that his dossier already represented a selectively cleansed version of his total number of collected letters, or perhaps he had merely been in the habit of avoiding certain kinds of controversial material in the texts.67 For whatever reasons, however, he found it unnecessary to suppress large sections at the momemt of publication.

Yet Kydones did make substantive changes within the dossier in anticipation of publication. The exact intentions behind these changes were not explicitly stated, although a critical reading of relevant letters in the dossier against those in the published version suggests some explanations. Kydones was concerned with style (letters 197, 258/276, 427, 328*/328), although not merely or always style for its own sake. His adding or reworking a text could very well go beyond cosmetic and aesthetic change. In certain instances, in fact, he amended a letter in his dossier apparently after reconsidering the historical circumstances under which it was written, changes that gave the piece a new mood and connotation as well as throwing the characters involved into a new light (letter 368*/368). Another pattern is his explicit concern for content. In some letters this appears in an immediate way, such as his willingness to suppress isolated details apparently for the purpose of protecting either himself or his addressee (letter 401*/401). More subtle tendencies are found in other letters, however, such as his inclination to touch up the character portraits of particular people and events connected to his own life. Amendments of this sort could indeed be of consequence. Not only did Kydones modify the characterization of himself and his world in some instances, but also that of his correspondents (letter 235*/235).

Considering the amendments of Kydones’ dossier, his general attitudes an patterns of thinking seem relatively consistent with the recommendations of the epistolographic theorists. He was surely well-informed in this respect, selecting and emphasizing certain schools of thought over others. Notable were his concern for elegance in the letter and his sensitivity to the characterization of individuals, himself and others. No doubt he was already somewhat concerned with these matters when he first wrote his letters and registered them in his dossier. But years later, when preparing a new publication, he necessarily confronted the fruits of his earlier work again, in light of some new personal and historical circumstances as well as perhaps a more developed sense of literary and epistolographic tastes. Kydones’ more substantive revisions still tended to stay within the general boundaries allotted by epistolographic theory and tradition. Considerations of style governed the revision of some letters. And even when he could not resist rewarding a friend or censuring an enemy in hindsight, he did so mainly through the subtle modification of character portraits, letter forms, and citations. At a glance, such behavior may seem timid, suggesting the triumph of a rarefied education and Kydones’ strong sense of social conformity over plain talk. Yet it was also something that his intended audience would surely have understood and appreciated.6


Copyright Duke University Spring 1996

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