Manuscript Verse Collectors and the Politics of Anti-Courtly Love Poetry
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This book reappraises the work of early-seventeenth-century collectors of English Renaissance poetry in manuscript. The verse miscellanies, or poetry anthologies, of these collectors have long attracted the attention of literary editors looking for texts by individual, major authors, and they have more recently interested historians for their poems on affairs of state, called verse libels. By contrast, this book investigates the relationships that the compilers of miscellanies established between such presumably literary and political texts. It focuses on two of the most popular, and least printable, literary genres that they collected: libels, and anti-courtly love poetry, a literary mode that the collectors of John Donne's poems played a major role in establishing. They made Donne the most popular poet in manuscripts of the period, and they demonstrated a special affinity for his most erotic or obscene poems, such as 'To his Mistress going to bed' and 'The Anagram'.
Donne collectors also exhibited the similarities between these Ovidian love elegies and the sexually explicit or counter-Petrarchan verse of other authors, thereby organizing a literary genre opposed to the conventions of courtly love lyrics. Furthermore, collectors politicized this genre by relating examples of it to libels. In so doing, manuscript verse collectors demonstrated a type of literary and political activity distinct from that of authors, stationers, and readers. Based on a thorough investigation of manuscript verse miscellanies, the book appeals to scholars and students of early modern English literature and history, Donne studies, manuscript studies, and the history of the book.
Spain. By adding to their miscellanies libels on the marriage negotiations, otherwise known as the Spanish match, collectors of anti-courtly love poetry continued to assimilate the genre to a manuscript culture that disrespected prominent Catholic women. Yet Spanish match libels also began a new chapter in the history of early Stuart libels by introducing issues of male sexuality, through the Wgure of George Villiers, Wrst duke of Buckingham. Like Somerset, Buckingham served as James’ royal
collector placed next a poem that continues this series of increasingly submissive women. In it, a chaste nun falls in love with a falconer and wishes that she would become a falcon so that she could remain with him. The gods smile and decree that it shall be so. And the falconer agrees to perform the transformation. Yet his methods, and the narrator’s description, develop sexual overtones, and a series of double entendres eventually makes clear that the metamorphosis under way is that of a maid
collectors who most directly opposed Donne’s anti-courtly love poetry to the Elizabethan court did not show or encourage any disrespect for Elizabeth. The next section returns to some of these collectors in order to show how, with the addition of libels that deify Elizabeth, they insisted on according unprecedented honor to the legendary protestant monarch. Furthermore, collectors subtly redirected the irreverence of anti-courtly love poetry toward the Spanish Infanta and the early Stuart court.
shott A.o/1627//Oh wound vs not with this sad tale forbeare’), 53v 54r (‘AN/Elegie vpon ye death/of S.r Charles Rich/ Slaine at ye/Isle of/Ree.//How faine would we forget this fatall war’). 10 Bodleian MS Rawl. poet. 160, fol. 53r (‘VPON FELTON/That kild ye Duke of/ Bucks & was hang’d/in Chaines.//Here vninter’d suspends (though not to save’). 140 Manuscript Verse Collectors chains at Portsmouth, on Charles I’s orders, after the lieutenant’s execution. It proposes that, despite the king’s
major-generals, Cromwell issued an order against ‘Unlicensed and Scandalous Books and Pamphlets.’16 Moreover, Cromwell’s council recognized the scandalous nature, and likely the politics, of at least one of Phillips and Brook’s miscellanies. Phillips had pronounced his support for the republic and even for Cromwell in recent publications, one of them published by Brook. Having begun his education and writing career under his uncle’s direction, Phillips printed a Latin apology for Milton’s 1651