Warren Chernaik

In a theoretical and deconstructionist treatment of Ephelia's authorship in Philological Quarterly (Spring, 1995), Chernaik adds formidable heft to the old view of Ephelia's fictional authorship. Strategically downplaying Ephelia's Stuart broadsides, Chernaik focuses almost exclusively (and unwisely) on Ephelia's collection of 1679. His analysis centers on the several "confusing" rhetorical "voices" he hears in Ephelia's poems; and his essay concludes inconclusively.

Revealing a fundamental ambivalence, Chernaik closes unsatisfactorily, if not facetiously: "It is possible that several authors, male and female, contributed to a collaborative enterprise; it is possible that the volume is the work of a single female author or a single male author. 'Ephelia' does not exist, except as embodied in the poems" (167). As The Scriblerian editors wrote in a recent brief notice on this essay, "Well, someone must have written these poems."

I am grateful to Professor Chernaik for his even-handed treatment of my earlier work (1992) on the 'Ephelia' subject, which he found to be "impressive," "heroic," even "brave." While he and I are not in agreement, we do share a commonality of interests in this complex case. Unlike other commentators on my work (Germaine Greer, Michael Caines, et al.), Chernaik has represented my research in a fair, unbiased fashion.

In a sporting, collegial spirit, I might add that Chernaik's case for a corporate authorship of 'Ephelia' would be stronger if it could supply an explanation for the 'Ephelia' pseudonym itself (as my Villiers case can do). For example, drawing upon the 'Smectymnuus' model in pseudonym selection (1641), Chernaik's case might demonstrate that the letters of the name 'Ephelia' refer to the surnames of the many "confusing voices" which comprise the (multivocal) 'Ephelia' persona. But whose names might these be? Who are the members of this clever corporation? He has yet to puzzle this out. (For information on 'Smectymnuus' as a pseudonymous acronym, see http://www.polybiblio.com/finch/89411.html.)