Textual Gatherings: Print, Community and Verse Miscellanies in Early Modern England

Michelle O'Callaghan


     1. The verse miscellany or anthology is a distinct physical and conceptual format of the book.1 It has a long history. One of the earliest, probably the first English printed verse miscellany, The Court of Venus, dates from the mid to late 1530s, and now survives only in a fragmentary state.2 However, it is Richard Tottel's Songs and Sonnets, written by the right honorable Lord Henry Howard late Earl of Surrey, and other (1557) that is credited with establishing the verse miscellany in English literary culture. Although its popularity has fluctuated, the poetry anthology continues to be compiled and published and, as such, offers a vantage point on the historical processes involved in the marketing and institutionalising of literature. Early verse miscellanies are an index to the emergence of a commercial market for vernacular literary texts. Many were popular books, but popular in the distinctly early modern sense of the term, in that they travelled between different readerships, appealing to the elite as well as those lower down the social scale.3 The type of verse the early miscellanies collected was similarly diverse, ranging from coterie lyrics circulating in manuscript to popular ballads already in print.

     2. The miscellany is an example of the way the space of the book functions as a meeting-place for various readerships. The socioliterary world of the 'gentle' classes was invoked by the bookseller Henry Disle in his dedicatory epistle to The Paradise of Dainty Devises (1576) addressed to Sir Henry Compton, and accompanied by Compton's coat-of-arms on the facing page. Disle took care to advertise that the printed book originated from a manuscript book of verse 'penned by divers learned Gentlemen, and collected togeather' by its now deceased gentleman-compiler, Richard Edwards, and was originally intended for his 'private use'.4 The 1585 edition, now published by Edward White, removed Compton's arms and the dedication, and replaced it with the list of authors originally on the title-page. With no 'gentleman' reader specified, the miscellany was now openly addressed to a more 'general', albeit literate reader. The gathering of texts in the miscellany foregrounds the complex status of the printed book. While editors may have defined their readers prescriptively, the verse miscellany itself offered numerous points of entry for different readerships.5

     3. We need to hold in tension the verse miscellany's relative openness to a variety of readers and editors' use of the format of the book to fashion ideal readerships. The 'gathering' of verses within the covers of the book, framed by dedications, epistles, and other paratextual material, did enable editors to interpolate readerships 'designed specifically for the poems that were printed in it'.6 In this essay, I will be concentrating on a sub-genre of the anthology, the elegiac anthology, as an example of the way that collections, with their distinct set of editorial practices, created communities of the book. The death of Sir Philip Sidney gave decisive shape to the elegiac anthology in the late sixteenth century. The poet-editors of The Phoenix Nest (1593) and A Poetical Rhapsody (1602), for example, used the verse miscellany to fashion mourning communities that enshrined Sidney's poetic legacy. Loose collections of verse were thereby transformed into communities of the book gathered around the dead poet. Earlier poetry miscellanies often acknowledged that verses had been gathered without the consent of authors. The Phoenix Nest and A Poetical Rhapsody, by contrast, presented their collections as more collaborative enterprises, and as collaborations that were purposeful. The editor-compilers of these later verse miscellanies utilised the resources of print to conceptualise communities of the book.7 'Print-based communities', Harold Love has argued, 'were characterized by an openness and flexibility that contrasted with the coherence and inward-turned autonomy of the scribal reading circle'.8 Yet, openness is a relative term. What part did these elegiac anthologies have or represent themselves as having within a wider public realm?

     4. Behind this question lies the larger and vexed question of the status of the early modern public sphere. Since Jürgen Habermas's The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere was translated into English in the 1980s, it has been adopted, adapted and challenged by critical theorists and historians on both sides of the Atlantic. Responding to early criticisms of the homogeneity ascribed to the public sphere, Habermas acknowledged the 'pluralization of the public sphere in the very process of its emergence' and 'the coexistence of competing public spheres'.9 However he was less persuaded by arguments that challenged the chronology of its 'beginnings' in the eighteenth century and instead wanted to 'push back' the concept of the public sphere 'into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries'.10 Credible arguments have been made for a nascent yet burgeoning mass market for cheap print and popular entertainment in this period -- an 'Elizabethan Grub Street', a battleground in which different interest groups competed for the right to speak to and for a wider public.11 Yet, for Habermas, once the 'the very notion of the public sphere' is extended into this earlier period, it is changed 'to such a degree that it becomes something else'.12

     5. This is precisely the argument made by Peter Lake and Steven Pincus in one of the most recent studies of the early modern public sphere, and they have defined this 'something else' as the 'post-Reformation public sphere'. In the sixteenth century, they argue, religion and politics came together at critical historical moments to create a series of publics. These post-Reformation publics differ structurally and ideologically from the post-revolutionary (and recognisably Habermasian) public sphere. One of the key differences, they argue, is that the post-Reformation public sphere is occasional and episodic, characterised by the 'opportunistic opening and shutting-down of debate on a limited set of issues', while the post-revolutionary public sphere is constant and sustained.13 Such a pattern of uneven development attempts to avoid 'Whiggish' and Marxist progressive teleologies, which have come under such sustained attack from revisionist historians.14 Yet, this episodic, event-based model of the public sphere is not without its own set of conceptual difficulties. Since it is driven by religio-political histories, moments of political crisis and religious controversy are privileged to the extent that questions of commerce and culture, particularly the role of the book trade and literary marketplace, although acknowledged, cannot be adequately addressed. Presses are seemingly mobilised, and then fall quiet. Yet, there are clear continuities, for example, between the Marprelate Controversy, the so-called 'pamphlet wars' between Gabriel Harvey and Thomas Nashe, both in the early 1590s, and the poets' wars or the 'War of the Theatres' at the turn of the century, in part because writers and stationers self-consciously borrowed and reworked publishing strategies from earlier printing events.15 Moreover, the various and often overlapping publics that emerged during this period were not only formed around political and religious issues but were also concerned with pressing cultural questions as is evident in the late Elizabethan 'Poetomachia', as Thomas Dekker termed it, or the 'poets' wars'.16

     6. The publics of the late sixteenth century are distinguished by novel political and cultural uses of a range of media, from manuscript libels to printed pamphlets. In tension with the concept of an episodic public sphere is 'the general habituation to print' that characterises the sixteenth century.17 It should certainly be acknowledged that print was not the only mechanism of early modern publics -- scribal and performance cultures also played a formative role -- nor can print be viewed in isolation from these other media. Even so, the emergence of a print culture across this period was vitally important. Readers, writers, and stationers developed complex understandings of the uses of the printed book. This process of habituation and acculturation meant that the 'historical shaping of print', in the words of Adrian Johns, was responsive to particular historical circumstances, but its 'making and communication of knowledge' was an ongoing process with its own dynamic.18 The use of print, manuscript and modes of performance may have been concentrated in particular directions at specific historical moments. Yet, one effect of these 'episodes' was generally to educate readers, writers and those involved in the print trade and other media in the strategic use of publication practices, which, in turn, produced a body of experience that shaped future practice.

     7. The making of anthologies contributed to this education in the uses and possibilities of print. '[A]t the same time that authors and editors are learning to make collections,' as Richard Newton observes, 'they are also learning how to use the press'.19 The late Elizabethan elegiac anthologies provide an opportunity to examine the complex interplay of political forces, commercial interests and cultural agendas in the formation of communities of the book. A Poetical Rhapsody (1602), for example, responds to a moment of political crisis, to the aftermath of the execution of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. Along with The Phoenix Nest, it provided a model for subsequent politicised elegiac anthologies, and demonstrates how habituation to print involved the education of editors, writers, readers and stationers in the political uses of communities of the book. Yet, while contemporary politics inflected these uses of the book, they can only offer a partial account of historical processes of dissemination and acculturation. The Phoenix Nest and A Poetical Rhapsody were also influential because they demonstrated how the collection could be used to consolidate literary movements and to fashion literary tastes. In the case of A Poetical Rhapsody, its commercial success was largely due to the way that it packaged lyric poetry for readerships beyond its immediate milieu. Political interests and cultural and commercial agendas do coincide, especially in 1602. However, they are not always identical, and instead follow their own distinct trajectories. Identifying the points of departure as well as intersection can provide us with a more nuanced understanding of the historical shaping of communities of the book.

Print communities: Phoenix Nest (1593) and A Poetical Rhapsody (1602)

     8. The 1590s, it has been argued, marked a decisive shift in the format of the printed verse miscellany away from the earlier miscellanies, with their more open models of readership, to collections that were specifically addressed to elite, courtly readerships and tastes.20 The pre-1590s miscellanies are characterised by the high degree of editorial involvement of stationers or those with close links with the printing trade. Tellingly, the publication of Songs and Sonnets, now known by the name of its printer-editor, Richard Tottel, coincided with the incorporation of the Stationers' Company in 1557. The Phoenix Nest and A Poetical Rhapsody are distinctive in that they are the first miscellanies whose verse was collected under the direction of a gentleman and not a stationer. The close identification of the elite with production of verse miscellanies from the 1590s, as both Elizabeth Pomeroy and Kirk Melinkoff have argued, was encouraged by the cultural prestige printed verse had accrued with the 'commercial success of the posthumous publication of Sir Philip Sidney's poetry'.21 We could, however, give this account a slightly different slant to argue that the 'commercial success' of the Sidney publications provides an example of elite participation in the processes of making printed books. Certainly the interests of Mary Sidney, the Countess of Pembroke, Fulke Greville and the stationer William Ponsonby coincided in the 1590s when they worked closely together on a publishing venture to put out 'authorised' editions of Sidney's works in competition with 'rival' publishers.22 That said, perhaps not surprisingly, neither the Countess nor Fulke Greville publicly advertised their editorial labours.23 Such ambivalence is epitomised by Sidney's famous description of the Arcadia as an 'idle worke of mine', and yet, as he continues, it has been made worthy by the part his 'noble' sister played in its composition. While the Countess and Fulke Greville genteely obfuscated their literary labours, their editorial activity did provide a precedent for elite involvement in the material processes of making books.

     9. The sub-title to The Phoenix Nest -- Built up with the most rare and refined works of Noble men, worthy Knights, gallant Gentlemen, Master of Arts, and brave Scholars -- in many ways, follows previous miscellanies in its promise of access to the cultural milieu of the gentle classes. The volume utilises the gentlemanly codes of anonymity: the majority of the poems are unsigned, and all that is known with any certainty of the editor 'R.S.' is that he was 'of the Inner Temple'. Verses have subsequently been attributed to Sir Edward Dyer, Sir Walter Ralegh, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and Nicholas Breton. All were popular scribal poets, whose poetry appears frequently in manuscript verse miscellanies. The poems of Breton, along with those of other contributors, Thomas Lodge and George Peele, can also be found in printed verse miscellanies, albeit many published after The Phoenix Nest. It is possible to see this miscellany as simply collecting verse at the elite end of the literary marketplace, in other words, poetry that was popular in scribal channels or from authors, such as Breton, Peele and Lodge, who styled themselves in print as university poets. Yet, The Phoenix Nest differs from earlier collections through its use of the format of the verse miscellany to make particular claims about the textual gathering it collects. Hyder Rollins argued for the coterie origins of the volume, surmising that 'R. S. included poems only from those authors whom he knew personally' on the basis of the 'superiority' of the texts collected and the considerable editorial care taken with their publication.24 Certainly, all of the identified poets had close connections with either Sidney, the Pembroke family, Essex or Spenser, and so could be said to form a network. There are difficulties, however, in reading the volume as a straightforward reproduction of the coterie verse exchanges of a discrete group of poets. Literary 'gatherings', such as those represented by The Phoenix Nest, are elaborate fictions, a product of the sophisticated uses of the book and its machinery. The paratextual material, the organisation of the verses, the poets represented in the collection, and the repetition of particular motifs and themes, all work together to give the anthology a unity that is defined communally.

     10. The Phoenix Nest quite consciously takes part in the apotheosis of Sidney, and puts the verse miscellany to novel use by turning it to the purposes of memorialisation.25 Poets have gathered together not only eulogise Sidney, but to defend the reputation of his uncle, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, against 'wicked Libellors'.26 The paratext to The Phoenix Nest is aggressively epideictic. The place of the conventional dedication and editorial epistle is taken by a series of defences which proclaim the factional allegiances of those gathered around these bodies of the noble dead. The declaratory tone of the preliminary matter gives political weight to the subsequent elegies. The Renaissance elegy is, after all, a public performance. When it is adopted as the generic frame for an anthology and for constructing communities of the book, then it provides a language and form for the display of loyalties and solidarities. The decision to frame the collection with a defence of Leicester and an arraignment of the libellers is particularly partisan, and means that the following textual gathering assumes the collective role of custodians of the political and cultural legacy of the Dudley-Sidney line. 'The dead mans Right. Written upon the death of the Right Honorable the Earle of Leicester', probably written by Nicholas Breton, calls on the reader to honour Leicester's memory and therefore 'detest the envious, that thus blaspheme vertues, whom (for mine owne part) as I measure their rage, so will I judge of their affection to the state: for undoubtedly none but the discontented with the time, or such as he hath justlie punished for their lewdnesse, will thus calumniouslie interpret his [Leicester's] proceedings'.27 'The dead mans Right' is analogous to a defensive epideictic oration spoken over the grave; appropriately, it closes with an epitaph, a monument to the god-like Leicester, that is typographically distinct from the preceding text. This use of the anthology to declare and defend allegiances provided a precedent for the later royalist use of the printed verse miscellany and elegiac anthologies. The community of the book provides a physical and conceptual space for representing an embattled community, united by factional sympathies.28

     11 The memorialising strategies of this print community participated in a wider cultural and aesthetic public project. Since the mid-sixteenth century, the verse miscellany had been one of the main vehicles for disseminating vernacular literature. In the 1590s, this function took a new direction: publishers and poet-editors used the verse miscellany to canonise a line of English poets, beginning with Sidney. Death transformed Sidney from a contemporary into a poetic antecedent, whose 'living' corpus could thus provide the foundations for the construction of lines of descent.29 The Phoenix Nest opens with a set of three elegies for Sidney: Matthew Roydon's 'An Elegie, or friends passion, for his Astrophill', Sir Walter Raleigh's 'An Epitaph upon the right Honorable Sir Philip Sidney knight', and a third elegy, which has been attributed to Sir Edward Dyer.30 The elegiac anthology, with its assembly of poets gathered around the body of the dead poet, offered an ideal format for not simply creating literary lineages, but contemplating the complex interrelationship between writing and memory involved in such a project. Roydon's elegy closes with the conventional elegiac tears threatening his own acts of memorialisation: 'heere my pen is forst to shrinke, / My teares discollors so mine inke'. The cultural project the elegy sets itself risks being overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. Dyer's monody begins where Roydon ends:

Silence augmenteth griefe, writing encreaseth rage,
Stald are my thoughts, which lov'd, & lost, the wonder of our age,
Yet quickened now with fire, though dead with frost ere now,
Enrag'de I write, I know not what: dead, quick, I know not how.31

The grief which surcharges the poet's mind is often figured within elegies through the trope of inexpressibility. Here, the amplification of emotion, rather than moving the speaker, stalls his 'thoughts' in contraries. It is the very potency of Sidney's memory and the nearness of his death which may disable the efforts of those who follow to continue his literary legacy.

      12. The Phoenix Nest was the first of the verse miscellanies to use the material and conceptual space provided by this print genre to give representation to a literary community 'gathered' to honour the memory of Sidney. This complex use of collaborative elegiac anthology set a challenge for subsequent writers. Spenser responded with his collection of elegies for Sidney, Astrophel, which was published two years later in 1595 by Ponsonby, the 'authorised' publisher of Sidney's works. In fact, Spenser incorporated the pastoral elegies by Roydon, Raleigh, and Dyer from The Phoenix Nest, which are complemented by an elegy from Lodowick Bryskett and 'The Doleful Lay of Clorinda', ascribed to the Countess of Pembroke. Such intertextuality establishes a companionship between the two volumes in which they become part of a wider literary movement focused on Sidney. With Astrophel, as Dennis Kay has argued, Spenser assumed the role of poet-editor, the organising intelligence behind the anthology, who collects and compiles the elegies of his fellow mourners.32 This editorial activity is textualised in his opening monody which establishes the literary credentials of the poet-as-editor through the communal impulses of pastoral elegy: 'Hearken ye gentle shepheards to my song, / And place my dolefull plaint your plaints emong'.33

     13. In contrast to other verse miscellanies, which often advertised that verses had been published 'in the Authours absence', the poets represented in this collection are willing participants in the memorialising project.34 Like R.S. of The Phoenix Nest, Spenser realises the potential of the collection for fashioning purposeful communities of the book. Yet, even more so than this earlier anthology, Astrophel and its companion text, Colin Clouts Come Home Again, work to create cohesive and sustained fictions of community. This is, in part, achieved through the presiding role of Spenser and, relatedly, the distinctively Spenserian intertextuality of Astrophel and Colin Clout.35 Spenser's own Shepheardes Calender is the founding source-text, and its community is re-assembled in 'the shepheards nation' which has been awaiting Spenser's return in Colin Clout. Spenser's book of eclogues had refined a model of collaboration based on a complex interplay between the literary community, largely figured through pastoral fictions, and a virtual community of friends and patrons said to exist just outside its pages. Hence 'E.K' says of the shepherd Hobbinol that under this 'fained country name . . . seemeth to be hidden the person of . . . his very speciall and most familiar friend'.36

     14. The 'shepheards nation' of Colin Clouts is multivalent: as well as referring to New English in Ireland, 'nation' has a distinct textual dimension. What unites this 'shepheards nation' is a sense of common literary descent, which in turn has been promoted through various publishing ventures, from Sidney's works to Sidneian anthologies like The Phoenix Nest. Spenser, the virtuoso poet-editor, has put the collection to radical, novel use and has assembled his own national 'literary movement'. The literary gathering in Astrophel is complemented by the catalogue of contemporary English poets in Colin Clouts. Their identities remain somewhat opaque, since all are given fictional names -- 'Alcyon', 'Corydon', 'Aetion', 'Palin', 'Alcon' -- however, it is likely that Sir Arthur Gorges, Dyer, Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Peele, and Lodge are among the assembled company. Through the fiction of the 'shepheards nation', as Bart van Es points out, Spenser is able to unify a very 'diverse body of England's versifiers' in pursuit of a national and distinctively 'Spenserian project of which Sidney / Astrophel is made the patron'. This community of the book is an imagined community in which readers and 'fellow' poets are encouraged to identify collectively with a common cultural heritage.37

     15. Spenser's use of the communal forms of the book projects a public that is formed around a national literary movement. Like other Sidneian anthologies, it fashions textual arenas for discursive interaction and imagines spaces where the like-minded meet and engage in dialogue on pressing cultural questions. However, these pastoral worlds are highly problematic analogues of a public forum, particularly if publicness is understood in Habermasian terms. The representation of openness is equivocal, and deliberately so. The way that notions of publicity are figured in these communities of the book does not readily equate with the rhetoric of accessibility said to characterise the public sphere. Many of the textual and interpretive strategies employed, such as the forms of anonymity, are borrowed from manuscript culture and are designed to figure the proximity of this print community to scribal communities. Such proximity has a dual purpose -- it both gives material embodiment to the print community, by advertising its basis in actual literary gatherings said to exist outside the text, and adds cultural value and prestige to the printed book via this association with an elite coterie culture.38 These communities of the book therefore could be usefully described as print coteries in that the type of print public they project is characterised by its claims to social and cultural exclusivity.

     16. This distinctive mode of publicity also has implications for our understanding of the status of these print communities in relation to the public political sphere. All these volumes make use of pastoral metaphor which, as Annabel Patterson tells us, provides a very sophisticated medium for writing 'under cover', and for invoking and reflecting on the political conditions that make such strategies of indirection necessary. The pastoral anthology, with its gathering of shepherd-poets, provides a conceptual space that is semi-private: the like-minded can converse freely, but under the veil of allegory, and thus, in George Puttenham's words, 'insinuate and glance at greater matters, and such as perchance had not been safe to have been disclosed in any other sort'.39 Pastorals are forms of closet-writings made public. Roydon's elegy for Sidney in The Phoenix Nest is a pastoral dream vision that incorporates elements of the beast fable; both were recognised vehicles for political allegory. Its landscape is peopled by 'the burly Beare, / The Lion king, the Elephant, / The maiden Unicorne' and, of course, 'the Phoenix', presumably a figure for Sidney (sig. B1r-v). Such 'secrecy', as Richard Rambuss says of Spenser's The Shepheardes Calender, is premised on 'intellectual and social exclusiveness (and exclusion)': 'The social enfoldedness of this kind of coterie secrecy introduces the Calender as a book intended only for "friends"'.40 Yet, this coterie 'secrecy' is mediated by the textual practices of the printed book. The print coterie has a contradictory and paradoxical status; both inward and outward-looking, these are closet-writings made public that speak openly under the cover of allegory. Organised around key, charismatic figures -- Sidney, the Earls of Leicester and Essex -- such communities of the book are a function of the personal, aristocratic politics of court factions. However, once in print, coterie politics are opened to and generate wider discoursing. Their characteristic textual strategies can stimulate interpretation and debate, rather than close it down, precisely because allegories require active deciphering and the acquisition of 'secret' knowledge. In this way, at strategic moments, print coteries can participate in public political debates.

     17. This is what happens at the end of Elizabeth reign. The trial and execution of the Earl of Essex stimulated public discussion to the extent that historians have argued this was one of the key historical moments when a 'post-Reformation public sphere' came into being. The crown organised a 'multi-media campaign', in Paul Hammer's words, 'to discredit [Essex's] popular public image': there were widely attended public 'show trials', public sermons condemning the Earl's treason, 'stage-managed executions' of a number of the conspirators, and the strategic use of the press to publish sermons urging loyalty as well as Francis Bacon's official testimony against Essex, his former master.41 Following the execution of Essex and a number of his co-conspirators, sympathy with the Earl and anger at those believed to be responsible for his fall, particularly those who conducted the trial, moved underground. Yet, it was not so muted that it could not be heard in the so-called 'War of the Theatres'. Jonson was questioned over his Poetaster, performed in 1602, because his characterisation of the lawyer Lupus was said to be a libellous impersonation of Henry Brooke, Lord Cobham, one of the magistrates instrumental in Essex's trial.42 This was the context in which A Poetical Rhapsody appeared. Published almost a decade after The Phoenix Nest, like this earlier miscellany, it was edited by a gentleman, Francis Davison, with strong court connections. Francis was the eldest son of William Davison, Elizabeth's secretary of state, who was disgraced in 1587. Davison was responsible for the warrant for the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and became Elizabeth's scapegoat as she distanced herself from this act. He was fined and imprisoned in the Tower for over a year. Essex was his most loyal defender and worked hard to restore Davison to favour; his son, Francis, was part of a group of young men in the 1590s that Essex hoped to advance to key offices when opportunity arose.43 But by 1602, Essex was dead, and Francis was without secure employment. The printed verse miscellany offered Davison a complex medium -- it was a commercial venture that enabled him to consolidate the Sidney-Spenserian literary movement and to create a purposeful, politicised print coterie.

     18. Like Spenser's pastoral anthologies and The Phoenix Nest, the prefatory material to A Poetical Rhapsody makes clear its allegiance to Sidney and his cultural and political heirs. The dedication is to Sidney's nephew, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. Davison's epistle to the reader is a Sidneian defence of poetry, which invests the printed verse miscellany with the cultural authority accorded to 'the ever-praise worthy Sidney'.44 Like Sidney, Davison represents himself and his brother, Walter, in the aristocratic guise of soldier-poets. The volume is divided loosely by genre: 'Pastorals and Eglogues', 'Sonnets, Odes, Elegies and Madrigalls', and 'Sonets, Odes, Elegies and other Poesies'. The opening pastoral section is a homage to Sidney. The first poem is a conscious act of recovery and revival. The first of the 'Two Pastoralls, made by Sir Philip Sidney, never yet published' is given the subtitle 'Upon his meeting with his two worthy Friends and fellow-Poets, Sir Edward Dier, and Maister Fulke Grevill'. Its lyric celebration of male friendship ends with an assertion of its unbreakable bonds, which withstand all forms of separation:

Now joyned be our hands,
Let them be ne'r a sunder,
But linkt in binding bands
By metamorphoz'd wonder.
So should our sever'd bodies three
 As one for ever joyned bee.
(sig. B2r)

Since Spenser's The Shepheardes Calender, pastoral was the genre of fellowship and provided writers with a language of elite male-bonding and for the impassioned expression of loyalties. When subsequent poets wanted to establish lines of literary allegiance, particularly to Sidney and Spenser, they turned to pastoral.45

     19. Davison advertises the proximity of his volume to the Elizabethan court, particularly in the opening section of 'Pastorals and Eglogues'. Dialogues and songs are included whose head-notes proclaim that they were performed in the presence of the Queen. Within this courtly milieu, the volume's allegiances are with the Sidney-Essex-Herbert families. The pastoral dialogue written by the Countess of Pembroke to honour the Queen when she arrived at Wilton impresses on the reader the loyalty of the Sidney family, as well as their status as powerful magnates, more than worthy of royal honour. Yet, all is not harmonious, and dissonance disturbs the courtly pastoral world from the outset.46 Sidney's pastoral in praise of friendship is complemented by his 'Disprayse of a Courtly Life', which amplifies the homosocial values of humanist friendship to fashion an alternative arena of action to that attributed to the 'servile court':

Only for my two loves sake, Sir Ed.D. and M.F.G.
In whose love I pleasure take,
Only two do me delight
With their ever-pleasing sight. (sig. B3r)

The initials in the margin figure the reunion of Sidney, Dyer, and Greville from the preceding pastoral. This complex, dialogic use of the space of the page and the format of the collection gives material form to the pastoral friendships troped in the verses. The next set of pastorals by Walter and Francis Davison are performances said to have been delivered 'in the presence of Urania'-Elizabeth, 'Mistris to them both' (sig. B6v), in which praise, once again, is tempered by complaint. These are self-consciously Spenserian pastorals which express their grievances against the Queen under the cover of pastoral metaphor. The complaint here is against Elizabeth's mistreatment of their father, William, personated in Francis Davison's 'Eclogue' in Eubulus, the wise and faithful counsellor. By the early seventeenth century, William Davison had become a type of 'Tacitean hero', a by-word for 'the honest man destroyed by the deviousness of the court'.47

     20. While Sidney's memory looms large, the dead body the community gathers around is that of Essex, his political heir, who had successfully fashioned a 'public' self through the Sidney myth.48 Given the circumstances, not surprisingly Essex remains unnamed, but traces of his ghostly presence can be found in the volume. Among the 'Elegies and Madrigalls' is Sonnet IX addressed 'To a worthy Lord (now dead) upon presenting him for a New-yeers-gift, with Cæsars Commentaries and Cornelius Tacitus'. The headnote, while oblique, is not unforthcoming. In 1602 there were very few recently dead worthy lords at the forefront of public memory, who fought in 'forrein States', were likely recipients of Caesar's Commentaries and Tacitus's histories, and who could not be named. The sonnet presents the very image of the Earl that the government found so troubling:

If as your Sword with envy imitates
Great Cæsars Sword in all his deedes victorious,
So your learn'd Pen would striue to be glorious,
And write your Acts perform'd in forrein States. (sig. E9r)

The unnamed Lord is an exemplar of the precept 'studied for action' -- his 'Pen' is both 'learn'd' and virile, and a sign of his capability for translating words into deeds.49 Essex had set himself rigorous reading programme in the 1590s, which included texts such as Caesar's Commentaries as part of his study of military history. Henry Savile may have dedicated his translation of Tacitus's Agricola to Elizabeth, but his primary reader was Essex, his patron and close friend. Such books enabled Essex and his circle to fashion a militaristic aristocratic style of politics that proved attractive to his followers at court and to a wider public.50

     21. One of the vehicles for 'underground' expressions of sympathy for Essex was song. There is a particular kinship between The Phoenix Nest and A Poetical Rhapsody and the songbooks of John Dowland, not least because Dowland drew heavily on the authors collected in these anthologies, particularly the lyrics of Fulke Greville, which results in uniformity both in content and tone across these collections.51 Songbooks and ballads had long enjoyed a close proximity with verse miscellanies, particularly since many of the lyrics included in anthologies were intended to be sung.52 Song played a prominent part in fashioning Essex's career and his reputation, both in life and death. Printed broadside ballads advertised Essex's various military campaigns and continued to appear after his death.53 Printed songbooks and their performance within private households similarly provided a vehicle for the expression of partisan sympathies. Dowland's The Third and Last Booke of Songs or Airs, published the year after A Poetical Rhapsody in 1603, included a musical arrangement of Essex's song, 'Can she excuse my wrongs with virtue's cloak', under the title 'The Earl of Essex, his galliard', and another of his poems, 'It was a Time when silly bees could speak', was also set to music. Essex had employed Dowland to set a number of his lyrics to music, often sonnets intended to be sung to Elizabeth. After his execution, Essex's earlier lyric complaints against the Queen's ill-treatment took on new, elegiac resonance, as is evident in the reprinting of the music for 'The Earle of Essex Galiard' the following year in Dowland's Lachrimae, or Seven Tears figured in Seven Passionate Pavans.54 Such close correspondence is a reminder of the performative nature of the lyrics collected in miscellanies. Sung in company and set to music, these lyric songs were a vehicle for expressing the allegiances and loyalties of the performer and their audience, and so constituted a politicised mode of sociability. Print made possible the wider dissemination and transmission of these lyrics, but their performance added another dimension. Songs contributed to the charisma of Essex; those sung following his execution are marked by a pathos that, in turn, added emotional resonance to the collective investment in his memory.

     22. A Poetical Rhapsody went into four editions, the last published in 1621. Its early popularity was, in part, due to the marketability of Essex. Such an alignment of commercial and political interests characterises many early modern publics.55 In the case of these late Elizabethan anthologies, it is a highly complex interrelationship. While the commercial success of A Poetical Rhapsody added considerably to its political uses, its continuing popularity had less to do with its politics than with its commodification of an elite literary culture. A Poetical Rhapsody was a successful commercial venture largely because Davison was able to capitalise on his court connections with the Sidney, Essex, and Herbert circles, as well as his contacts with the Inns of Court, to collect verse circulating in manuscript that was accessible only to a select few. The stationer, Roger Jackson, took over the copyright to A Poetical Rhapsody in 1603, although it was likely that Davison supervised the addition of new poems to the 1608 edition -- the 1611 and 1621 editions were published posthumously. Interestingly, Jackson also published Robert Pricket's eulogy to Essex, Honor's Fame in Triumph Riding (1604), which ran into trouble with the authorities. It would be misleading, however, to see Jackson as a politically-motivated stationer. The bulk of his stock was sermons and godly works, the staple of many bookshops.56 Rivalling these books were manuals for the gentry and middling-classes: Gervase Markham's popular manuals on husbandry; books on gentlemanly sports, including angling and falconry; and guides to letter-writing, such as Thomas Gainsford's The Secretaries Studie (1616). A Poetical Rhapsody took its place in Jackson's stock alongside these other titles.

     23. Davison's miscellany maintained its appeal to different reading publics in the early seventeenth century because it was part of the wider dissemination of 'gentle' occupations and forms of recreation to the middling classes. Such uses of print, as David Shields says of later literary collections, enabled 'a middling readership the opportunity to participate imaginatively in a discursive analogue of genteel company'.57 A Poetical Rhapsody provides an example of the ways in which such communities of the book could sustain a range of publics, each with different, although sometimes intersecting sets of interests. In the final section of this essay, I will concentrate on one such point of intersection when politics and aesthetics come together once again as the 'discursive analogue of genteel company' develops a taste for the literature of court corruption. It is worth remembering that while The Phoenix Nest and A Poetical Rhapsody took the court as their subject, it was not always a flattering mirror. Court culture in the verses collected in these anthologies may have signified notions of cultural and aesthetic value, but it was also associated with the literary forms of political and sexual intrigue and betrayal.

Printing Publics: 'Closet-whisperings' and games of 'News'

     24. Many of the printed collections of verse compiled in the early seventeenth century provide evidence for a growing public taste for the literature of court corruption and scandal, shaped in part by these earlier communities of the book. Commerce and politics can be seen to intersect once more in the 1614 publication of the second edition of England's Helicon. This self-consciously pastoral anthology was first edited in 1600 by Nicholas Ling for John Bodenham, a wealthy Grocer. Like The Phoenix Nest and A Poetical Rhapsody, it was part of the Sidneian publishing project. Yet, while it includes a substantial number of Sidney's poems, and his influence is evident throughout the poems collected,58 unlike these other anthologies, the prefatory material to England's Helicon does not announce the collection's allegiance to the Sidney circle, probably because the editor could not make such a claim. As a result, the volume lacks the political edge this association confers in these other anthologies. Instead, the dedicatory sonnet celebrates Bodenham's patronage of a series of miscellanies of which 'Now comes thy Helicon, to make compleate / And furnish up thy last impos'd designe'.59

     25. When the second edition was published in 1614, the new editor, the stationer Richard More, replaced all the preliminary matter of the first with a new title-page, a new dedicatory sonnet and a table of contents. The motto taken from Tibullus's elegies that graced the title-page of the 1600 edition, 'Casta placent superis, pura cum veste venite, / Et manibus puris sumite fontis aquam' ('Chaste things please heaven: with rainment pure attend: / Make clean your hands with water from the spring'),60 which affiliated this book of English pastorals with the purity of a classical tradition, was replaced with a new motto that had more affinities with a vernacular tradition of pastoral satire: 'The Court of Kings heare no such straines / As daily lull the Rusticke Swaines'. Pastoral satire was currently enjoying a revival. William Browne prefaced his The Shepheard's Pipe, published in the same year as this second edition, with a dedicatory sonnet that equated pastoral satire with the frank speaking of the parrhesiastes: 'Free are my lines, though drest in lowly state, / And scorne to flatter but the men I hate'.61 Books of pastorals published in these years frequently figure a crisis in epideictic poetry that has necessitated this cultural turn to satire. More's new dedicatory sonnet calls on Lady Elizabeth Cary to 'shield' his book 'from Enuies pawe and times abuse'.62 The trope of envy is a convention often used in poetic defences. Yet, along with the Jacobean Spenserian poets, More does not so much invoke the carping Momus as Spenser's Blatant Beast, a figure for the dangerous 'times'.

     26. By re-packaging England's Helicon in this way, More arguably is responding to the formation of a politicised printing public triggered by the death of Prince Henry in late 1612. An unprecedented number of elegies were printed, and appeared in bookshops alongside funeral sermons. This public did not close down after the initial period of public mourning ended. Presses were kept busy by the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Frederick, Elector Palatine, and another court marriage, that of the royal favourite, Robert Carr, newly created Earl of Somerset, and Frances Howard, which rapidly became an ongoing media event. This was Howard's second marriage; her first to Essex's son, Robert, the third Earl, had ended in divorce. Howard and Carr were subjected to a sustained libelling campaign throughout this period. George Chapman made a public defence of the couple with his epithalamium, Andromeda Liberata, or the Nuptials of Perseus and Andromeda, but it backfired, and he turned once again to the press, publishing A Free and Offenceless Justification of a Lately Published and most Maliciously Misinterpreted Poem: Entitled Andromeda Liberata. The defence is a dialogue in which Theodines and Pheme, who figures public opinion, the 'Peoples god-voice', debate different models of a public forum. Theodines champions a hierarchical public commanded by the voice of the King and his nobility, while in Pheme, a 'Chymaera tost from streete to streete', Chapman figures a plebeian public that is open and dangerously mobile.63

     27. 1614 was a year troubled by rumour, scandal and political talk. Books, such as those by Chapman, began to reflect on the relationship between public opinion, the press, and a scribal and oral culture. This market for 'newes and nifles', as Chapman sneered, influenced the way More framed his edition of England's Helicon.64 The anthology itself was part of a distinctive cluster of books of collaborative pastorals which included Browne's The Shepheard's Pipe, published together with eclogues by Christopher Brooke, George Wither and John Davies of Hereford, and Wither's sequel, The Shepherds Hunting (1615). More had a working relationship with Browne and Brooke: he had recently published their Two Elegies, Consecrated to . . . Henry Prince of Wales (1613) and they were the only new poets added to his edition of England's Helicon.65 This self-styled 'Spenserian' literary movement looked back to Spenser's Astrophel and Colin Clouts and the Sidneian anthologies not simply for their pastoralism, but also for their print communities.

     28. As I have argued elsewhere, in these collaborative volumes we can see the formation of a print community that overtly claims a public voice and, in this way, is distinct from the earlier print coteries.66 These Spenserian shepherds continue to speak under the veil of pastoral metaphor, but it has worn very thin indeed. Issues of what can be said in public, and the forms it must take, dominate their pastoral conversations. By discoursing on the times through the forms of allegory, conventionally used to make public 'Closet-whisperings' -- a term used by Wither -- pastoral is turned into a highly flexible medium for producing fictionalised narratives of contemporary events. Wither was incarcerated in the Marshalsea in 1614 for slandering the Earl of Northampton in his satire, Abuses Stript, and Whipt, and these eclogues, in part, campaign for his release. Wither has 'Cuddy' Brooke tell the reader that his cause is being published abroad and 'at all meetings where our Shepheards be, / Now the maine Newes that's extant is of thee'.67 Such 'Newes', of course, is very different from news supplied by the corantos that were constitutive of the publics that emerged in the 1640s. Nonetheless, the texts of this self-styled print community exemplify the collective use of print by writers who are conscious of print's public uses for staging cultural debates and producing politicised fictions.

     29. Stationers, as well as writers, were active in the formation of printing publics in these years. Laurence Lisle, the publisher of Chapman's Andromeda Liberata and A Free and Offenceless Justification, the same year also put out Sir Thomas Overbury, His Wife, now a Widow, a book that was involved in the defamation campaign against the Somersets.68 This distinct clustering of texts that spoke critically of the times strongly suggests that Lisle was capitalising on a burgeoning market and public appetite for news and scandal. Many of the texts Lisle published in Overbury's Wife were circulating in manuscript. It is a question whether this volume is the emanation of a distinct scribal community that was made public by Lisle, or a construct, a court circle produced through the editorial actions of Lisle. Both explanations carry weight. The Overbury anthologies are print communities manufactured by Lisle. However, they also drew heavily on texts circulating in scribal communities, both at court and the Inns of Court.69 The first edition consists of 'A Wife', followed by 'Characters, or Wittie Descriptions of the properties of sundrie Persons' and a section entitled 'Newes From Anywhence: or, Olde Truth, under a supposall of Novelties. Occasioned by divers Essayes, and private passages of wit between sundry Gentlemen upon that subject', with each 'entry' signed in court fashion with a set of initials. This last section is thought to have its origins in a game of 'news' played at court.70

     30. The publication history of the Overbury anthologies illustrates how the printed 'gathering' could be used to respond very effectively to changing events. Just two weeks before the Somerset marriage, Lisle entered Sir Thomas Overbury, His Wife, Now a Widow in the Stationers' Register -- Overbury had died in the Tower in September 1613 -- presumably to capitalise on the scandal attending this court marriage. The Wife does not overtly address contemporary events; instead the coded-nature of its games with the 'news' fed a developing aesthetic and political taste for the literary forms of court scandal. 'On the "paper stage", which emerged in the late sixteenth century', as Paul Hammer argues, 'what mattered was not historical accuracy but the uses to which historical ideas and characters could be convincingly redeployed and sold'.71 Part of the popularity of Overbury's 'A Wife', 'A good Woman' and 'A very, very Woman' resulted from contemporary reading practices. Understood as vehicles in Overbury's campaign against the Carr-Howard marriage, their general misogyny was easily read as a specific assault on Frances Howard. The title given to a sonnet at the front of the book, 'To the cleane contrary Wife', seems innocuous until placed alongside a libel on Howard entitled 'A proper new ballad' set to the tune 'the cleane contrary way', ('There was an old lad rode on an old pad'). The tune was well-known, yet its echo in the title of the sonnet is surely more than a coincidence.72 There is a correspondence between the anti-courtly Overbury sonnet and this popular libel: whereas the libel is viciously obscene -- 'Hee layd the ould Punke uppon an ould trunke / O there was a good ould dooinge' -- the sonnet is misogynistically didactic, a warning against 'the shame / Of fowle incontinence' and a lady whose 'base blood / Is carelesse only of an Honourd Name' (STC 18903.5, sig. A7r).73 Another elegy, published in the 1616 edition, after venting its spleen at 'The Adult'rer up like Haman, and so Sainted: / And Femals modesty (as Femals) painted', similarly references 'A cleane contrary way' (STC 18909, sig. ¶6v).

     31. Sir Thomas Overbury, His Wife, Now a Widow was incredibly popular, an immediate bestseller that went into five impressions in its first year of publication. Lisle employed three printers -- Thomas Creede, Edward Griffin, and George Eld. Presumably at least two presses were at work simultaneously, given the number of impressions appearing in such a short space of time. The first impression was entitled A Wife, now a Widow, and was printed by Creede (STC 18903.5). It lacked a prefatory epistle, but Lisle had compiled a series of encomiastic verses in praise of Overbury's 'Wife'. The next edition was printed by Griffin, and given the title A Wife, now the widow of Sir Thomas Overbury. Being a most exquisite and singular poem of the choice of a wife. Whereunto are added many witty characters, and conceited news, written by himself and other learned gentlemen his friends (STC 18904). It now had a printer's epistle, dated 16 May, 1614, many of the commendatory verses were new, others from the earlier edition had been dropped, and the remaining re-organised into a section 'Briefe Panegyrickes to the Authors praise' (sigs. A3v-4v). This format was retained for all subsequent impressions that year, although the fourth was advertised as 'enlarged with more characters, than any former editions' (nine 'Characters' were added), presumably to attract old as well as new customers, and was printed by Eld, rather than Griffin -- Creede printed the fifth impression. The 1615 edition, also printed by Creede, was given a new title, New and Choice Characters, of several authors together with that exquisite and unmatched poem, The wife written by Sir Thomas Overbury; with all the former characters and conceited news, all in one volume. There was a new epistle to the reader, which noted proudly that the book was 'past the sixt Impression', as well as minor changes to the commendatory verses, and one more item of 'Newes' and of 'Edicts', attributed to Lady Anne Southwell.

     32. The next, major revision to the framing of the volume took place in 1616. Rumours of poisoning had circulated since Overbury's death, and eventually led to the examination of those purportedly involved in his murder. The Somersets were arrested in October 1615, and the trials began in November. In all there were nine widely attended public murder trials. An array of texts came off the presses or circulated within oral and scribal channels.74 In 1616, Lisle put out the seventh impression now with a title that directly addressed the times, Sir Thomas Overbury his Wife with new elegies upon his (now known) untimely death: whereunto are annexed, new news and characters written by himself and other learned gentlemen (STC 18909). Although the contents remained the same, the front matter was very different: there was a revised epistle from Lisle, and, most importantly, a set of 'Elegies of severall Authors, on the untimely death of Sir Thomas Overburie poysoned in the Tower'. Lisle incorporated a handful of the commendatory verses that had appeared in earlier impressions; however, the vast majority of the elegies were new and address the recent trials.

     33. The opening elegy in the collection, 'Upon the untimely death of Sir Thomas Overburie', invites the reader to discover the 'Monsters, which among us dwell', especially, 'the ranke stewes of adulterous Brests / Where every base unhallowed Project rests', and summons to account Richard Weston, Overbury's Keeper in the Tower, who was hanged for his murder in late 1615: 'Weston thy Hand that Couvre-feu Bell did sway, / Which did his life to endles sleepe convay' (sig. ¶4r-v). Another elegy by 'W.S' complains that God must sleep 'Whence so, great crimes commit the Greater sort, / And boldest acts of shame blaze in the Court', and closes by contrasting Overbury's book, his 'chaste, fit, noble Wife, and the abuse / Of Strumpets friendly shadowing in the same' (sigs. ¶6v-7r). 'W.B', William Browne, in his elegy rejoices that the publicity attending Overbury's murder trials will reveal corruption even at the highest levels:

The poyson, that works upwards now, shall strive
To be thy faire Fames true Preservative.
And witch-craft that can maske the upper Shine
With no one cloud shall blinde a raye of thine. (sig. ¶8r)

This allusion to the charges of witchcraft made against Howard in the trials zealously likens these public trials and their 'discoveries' to the 'rays' of Protestant revelation. Many of the elegies, like those of 'W.S' and Browne, used the form of the public elegy as an analogous space to the public trials that had occupied London in the final months of 1615. Two further impressions of Sir Thomas Overbury his Wife appeared in 1616: the eighth added two new elegies and a commemorative engraving of Overbury; the ninth impression included a further set of five elegies and epitaphs on Overbury, and two more elegies, one on Lord William Howard, Baron of Effingham, and the other on Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland. It seems that this printing event had gained its own momentum, and further elegies were either commissioned or proffered by writers eager to join the assembled company in print.


     34. The Overbury collections, particularly in 1616, like The Phoenix Nest and A Poetical Rhapsody, are organised around the body of a 'dead knight'.75 All make use of the elegy to give voice to the print community. The formal elegy, as we have seen, was a genre that enabled writers to express allegiances and complain of injustices. Elegiac anthologies are inherently social, and work 'to unite communities disrupted by death'. These are occasional verses which figure a situation in which the pressures of the times have forced good men, who would otherwise remain silent, to speak.76 The authenticity of grief enables writers to make a privileged claim to the truth. The elegy employs the forms of persuasive rhetoric; yet, although it provides a type of truth-telling, it does not necessarily offer a mode of reasoned debate. Early modern rhetoricians had a highly sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the forms of persuasive rhetoric that extended well beyond the notion of communicative rationality. As we have seen, a number of the Overbury elegists, such as 'W.S.' and Browne, sought to put the Earl and Countess of Somerset on public trial in their elegies. In doing so, they aimed at the type of rhetorical effect described by Thomas Wilson in his Art of Rhetoric: when the orator in the law court 'shall come to the repeating of a heinous act and the manner thereof, he may set the judges on fire and heat them earnestly against the wicked offender'. Just as this mode of persuasive speech was intended to move the 'affections' through 'a stirring or forcing of the mind',77 so too the elegy was intended to move the reader's passions. These are the terms in which Browne describes the public elegy:

Had not thy wrong, like to a wound ill cur'd
Broke forth in death; I had not been assur'd
Of griefe enough to finish what I write.
These lines, as those which do in cold blood fight
Had come but faintly on; for, ever, he
That shrines a name within an Elegie
(Unlesse some neerer cause do him inspire)
Kindles his bright flame at the Funerall fire.
Since passion (after, lessening her extent)
Is then more strong, and so more eloquent. (sig. ¶7v)

Passion should be directed to avoid the writer's block that Roydon and Dyer had feared in their elegies for Sidney. Even so, the elegy is an impassioned form: it is intended to convey and to elicit intense pathos, and it is designed to persuade by moving the reader's affection, in the first instance, rather than by exercising their reason. Elegiac anthologies frequently advertise a 'fellowshippe of sorowe' in which sympathy is the basis for these 'natural' forms of fellow-feeling.78 This is an impassioned and passionate literary language which lends itself to the representation of partisan, personal politics riven by factional rivalries. The Overbury elegies respond to and incite public emotions occasioned by the trials and subsequent executions. Like the earlier elegiac anthologies, the literary modes employed in these texts do not easily fit the model of communicative rationality that governs the Habermasian public sphere. Instead, these communities of the book shaped public opinion by other, often emotive means and through these strategies contributed to the wider processes of opinion formation. It is a reminder that the diversity of early modern publics meant that different publics were formed through different discursive modes, and that the forms of communicative rationality were not the only modes available. These communities of the book also appealed to the passions, to notions of literary taste and to social and aesthetic pleasures. In this same vein, their dissemination of public knowledge was typically allusive and often secretive and not in keeping with principles of accessibility. This type of public exclusivity illustrates how the discourse of publicity could also be deployed as a strategy of social and cultural distinction.79

     35. The Overbury collections are not typical examples of the verse miscellany. For one thing, they lack the cultural concern of the earlier miscellanies with establishing literary lineages and fashioning communities around literary movements. And yet, like these earlier collections, Overbury's Wife is concerned with shaping literary tastes. In this aspect, it does form an important bridge between the Elizabethan and later seventeenth-century miscellanies due to the way that it introduces a highly significant innovation in the form of the anthology -- instead of lyrics, new forms of court wit were collected for the reader. Lisle's various epistles consistently define the appeal of the collection specifically in terms of wit. The epistle to the 1616 editions, for example, advertises that the witty coterie culture the Wife embodies has been captured for the reader through 'our easie conservations of wit by printing' (STC 18911, sig. 3v). The last edition of Overbury's Wife appeared in 1664. In many ways, its position in the marketplace had been taken over by 'drolleries', miscellaneous collections of witty verses that began appearing in the 1650s, and were typified by the verse anthology, Musarum deliciae: or, The Muses recreation: Containing several select pieces of sportive wit (1655).80

     36. Verse anthologies tell a story of the acculturation to print and the increasing awareness of the diverse and specialised uses of the printed book in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Overbury's Wife, like the earlier late Elizabethan verse anthologies, aimed to provide analogues of the socioliterary worlds of the 'gentle' classes for wider consumption. Yet, this world was undergoing distinct changes in the seventeenth century that were played out in the form of the verse miscellany -- The Phoenix Nest (1593) is a very different type of collection to The Muses Recreation (1655), even though both interpolate a 'gentleman' reader. Attention to the historical moments when these collections were fashioned can tell us much about changing literary tastes, and the complex and uneven interplay of cultural, political and commercial forces that shaped the publics formed around shared reading practices.



Go to this issue's index.




1 I will be using the words 'miscellany' and 'anthology' interchangeably to describe a multi-author collection -- the line between single-authored and multi-authored collections is not clear-cut since books of verse by multiple authors were sometimes published under a single-author's name, such as Brittons Bowre of Delights (1591), attributed to Nicholas Breton.

2 See Elizabeth Pomeroy's historical overview in her 'The Elizabethan Miscellanies: Their Developments and Conventions', English Studies, 36 (1973), 1-145.

3 According to Peter Burke the early modern period witnesses the withdrawal of the elite from popular culture, although it was a slow and very uneven process even within England; see Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe, 3rd ed. (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009). The continuing exchanges between elite and popular cultures and the fluidity of these categories in the early modern period is significant and merits further study; see the recent volume of essays, Literature and Popular Culture in Early Modern England, eds. Andrew Hadfield and Matthew Dimmock (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009).

4 Henry Disle, 'To the Right Honorable Syr Henry Compton Knight, Lorde Compton, of Compton', The Paradyse of Daynty Devises (London, 1576), sig. Aiir. All i/j and u/v have been modernised in quotations and titles.

5 Ann Bowyer, the daughter of a Coventry artisan, for example, copied passages from miscellanies into her commonplace book in the early seventeenth century; see Victoria Burke, 'Ann Bowyer's Commonplace Book (Bodleian Library Ashmole MS 51): Reading and Writing Among the "Middling Sort"', EMLS, 6.3. (2001): 1.7-9, 13-28.

6 Richard Newton, 'Making Books from Leaves: Poets Become Editors', in Print and Culture in the Renaissance: Essays on the Advent of Printing in Europe, eds. Gerald P. Tyson and Sylvia S. Wagonheim (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1986), 247.

7 I am extending the genre to include Sir Thomas Overbury, His Wife on the basis that the elegies prefacing the 1616 edition are similarly gathered round a dead knight.

8 Harold Love, Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 184.

9 Jürgen Habermas, 'Further Reflections on the Public Sphere', transl. Thomas Burger, in Habermas and the Public Sphere, ed. Craig Calhoun (1992; Cambridge, MA and London: M.I.T. Press, 1996), 426. For responses to the Habermasian public sphere see, in particular, Nancy Fraser's essay, 'Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy', 109-42.

10 Habermas, 'Concluding Remarks', in Habermas and the Public Sphere, 465.

11 Alexandra Halasz, for example, has argued that the early modern pamphlet, the exemplary genre of print-capitalism, created the possibility of general access to a public sphere, and was the format in which arguments for inclusion and exclusion from this print public were made, see The Marketplace of Print: Pamphlets and the Public Sphere in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), esp. 41-5. See also: Douglas Bruster, 'The Structural Transformation of Print in Late Elizabethan England', in Print, Manuscript and Performance, eds. Arthur F. Marotti and Michael D. Bristol (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2000); and Peter Lake and Michael Questier, The Antichrist's Lewd Hat: Protestants, Papists and Players in Post-Reformation England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002).

12 Habermas, 'Concluding Remarks', 465.

13 Peter Lake and Steven Pincus, 'Rethinking the Public Sphere in Early Modern England', in The Politics of the Public Sphere in Early Modern England, eds. Peter Lake and Steven Pincus (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), 19

14 Classic 'revisionist' studies include Conrad Russell's Unrevolutionary England, 1603-1642 (London: Hambledon Press, 1990) and Mark Kishlansky's Parliamentary Selection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

15 See Peter Lake's study of the early modern public sphere, co-authored with Questier, The Antichrist's Lewd Hat.

16 Thomas Dekker, 'To the World', Satiriomastix, in The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. Fredson Bowers, 4 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953-61), I: 309.

17 This term is Bruster's; see 'The Structural Transformation of Print', 74.

18 Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), 3, 20, 60

19 Newton, 'Making Books from Leaves', 263.

20 Pomeroy, 'The Elizabethan Miscellanies', 17-30; Kirk Melnikoff, 'Jones's Pen and Marlowe's Socks: Richard Jones, Print Culture, and the beginnings of English Dramatic Literature', Studies in Philology, 102 (2005), 199-203; Eric Nebeker, 'Broadside Ballads, Miscellanies, and the Lyric in Print', ELH, 76 (2009), 1003-4, 1009.

21 Melnikoff, 'Jones's Pen and Marlowe's Socks', 199; Pomeroy, 'The Elizabethan Miscellanies', 17, 20.

22 Gavin Alexander points out that the 'efforts of the stationer William Ponsonby' were instrumental in encouraging Pembroke 'to see her work into print', Writing after Sidney: The Literary Response to Sir Philip Sidney (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 84.

23 Fulke Greville supervised Ponsonby's 1590 edition of The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia, however, the accompanying note on the text only mentions the editorial work of an unidentified 'overseer of the print', sig. A4v; in the case of the second 1593 edition, edited by the Countess and Hugh Sanford, Sanford's letter 'To the Reader' foregrounds his editorial work, The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia (London, 1593), sig. ¶4v. On these different editions, see Joel Davis, 'Multiple Arcadias and the Literary Quarrel between Fulke Greville and the Countess of Pembroke', Studies in Philology, 101 (2004), 409-14.

24 The Phoenix Nest, ed. H.E. Rollins (1931; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969), xxxi-ii.

25 Alexander, Writing After Sidney, 66-9.

26 The Phoenix Nest (London, 1593), sig. A3r. Appropriately, Sidney's only work printed during his lifetime was a defence of Leicester against the 1584 printed libel now popularly known as Leicester's Commonwealth.

27 The Phoenix Nest, sig. A4v.

28 Andrea Brady, English Funerary Elegy in the Seventeenth Century (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 141.

29 Raphael Falco, Conceived Presences: Literary Genealogy in Renaissance England (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994)

30 Alexander, Writing After Sidney, 67.

31 The Phoenix Nest, sigs. B4v, C1v.

32 Dennis Kay, Melodious Tears: The English Funeral Elegy from Spenser to Milton (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 65-6.

33 Edmund Spenser, Astrophel, in The Shorter Poems, ed. Richard McCabe (London: Penguin, 1999), 373.

34 See Richard Jones's epistle to the reader before Brittons bowre of delights (1591).

35 Spenser, Colin Clouts Come Home Againe, in Shorter Poems, 345

36 Spenser, The Shepheardes Calender', in Shorter Poems, 38.

37 Bart Van Es, 'Spenserian Pastoral', in Early Modern English Poetry: A Critical Companion, eds. Patrick Cheney, Andrew Hadfield, Garrett A. Sullivan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 86-7.

38 We need to be wary of distinguishing between scribal and print communities in terms of any simple dichotomy between 'private' and 'public' modes of publication; see Margaret Ezell's Social Authorship and the Advent of Print (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 38-40.

39 Annabel Patterson, Pastoral and Ideology: Virgil to Valéry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 133-4; George Puttenham, The Art of English Poesie, ed. Frank Whigham and Wayne A. Rebhorn (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007),128.

40 Richard Rambuss, Spenser's Secret Career (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 50.

41 Paul Hammer, 'The Smiling Crocodile: the Earl of Essex and Late Elizabethan "Popularity"', Politics of the Public Sphere, 107

42 See Tom Cain's '"Satyres, That Girdle and Fart at the Time": Poetaster and the Essex Rebellion', in Refashioning Ben Jonson: Gender, Politics and the Jonsonian Canon, ed. Julie Sanders, with Kate Chedgzoy and Susan Wiseman (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998), 48-70.

43 Paul Hammer, The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex, 1585-97 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 60, 101-2, 183.

44 A Poetical Rapsody (London, 1602), sig. A4r

45 Alexander focuses these pastoral tropes on Sidney, but Spenser is similarly a founding presence, Writing After Sidney, 69-71.

46 Richard C. McCoy, 'Lord of Liberty: Francis Davison and the Cult of Elizabeth', in The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade, ed. John Guy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 224.

47 Simon Adams, 'William Davison', ODNB.

48 Hammer, 'The Smiling Crocodile', 98-101.

49 On this model of readership, see Antony Grafton and Lisa Jardine, '"Studied for Action": How Gabriel Harvey Read His Livy', Past & Present, 129 (1990), 30-78.

50 Hammer, Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics, 302-3, 307-14.

51 Lillian M. Ruff and D. Arnold Wilson, 'The Madrigal, the Lute Song, and Elizabethan Politics', Past & Present, 44 (1969), 42-50.

52 On the interlocking history of the broadside ballad and verse miscellanies, see Nebeker 'Broadside Ballads, Miscellanies, and the Lyric in Print'.

53 Hammer, 'The Smiling Crocodile', 101-2. For these ballads, see the English Broadside Ballad Archive, <http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/>.

54 Gustav Ungerer, 'The French Lutenist Charles Tessier and the Essex Circle', Renaissance Quarterly, 28 (1975), 192-3; Ruff and Wilson, 'The Madrigal, the Lute Song, and Elizabethan Politics', 25.

55 Hammer makes this point in relation to the formation of the late Elizabethan public sphere in 'The Smiling Crocodile', 108-11.

56 A sprinkling of literary works are among Jackson's output: William Herbert's A Prophesie of Cadwaller (1604), dedicated to the earl of Pembroke's brother, Philip; the 1616 edition of Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece; and Dunstan Gale's Pyramus and Thisbe, printed together with Robert Greene's romance, The history of Arbasto, King of Denmark (1617).

57 David Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 12.

58 Alexander, Writing after Sidney, 32.

59 Englands Helicon (London, 1600), sig. A3r.

60 England's Helicon 1600, 1614, ed. H. E. Rollins, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935), II, 80.

61 William Browne, The Shepheards Pipe (London, 1614), sig. A4r.

62 Englands Helicon, or, the Muses Harmony (London, 1614), sig. A1r. Cary had recently published her The Tragedy of Mariam, modelled on the Senecan closet tragedies produced within the Countess of Pembroke's circle. Her writing master, John Davies of Hereford, contributed an eclogue to Browne's The Shepheards Pipe.

63 George Chapman, A Free and Offenceless Justification of a Lately Published and most Maliciously Misinterpreted Poem: Entitled Andromeda Liberata (London, 1614), sig. **2v. Michelle O'Callaghan, '"Now thou may'st speak freely": Entering the Public Sphere in 1614', in The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament: Literary and Historical Perspectives, eds. Stephen Clucas and Rosalind Davies (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), 65-7.

64 On 1614 as a climatic year, see The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament; Chapman, Free and Offenceless Justification, sig. **2v

65 Jane Tylus, 'Jacobean Poetry and Lyric Disappointment', Soliciting Interpretation: Literary Theory and Seventeenth-Century Poetry, eds. Elizabeth Harvey and Katharine Eisaman Maus (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1990), 182-3.

66 See, The 'Shepheards Nation', 26-62, and '"Now thou may'st speak freely"', 63-79.

67 George Wither, The Shepherds Hunting: Being, Certain Eglogs Written During the Time of the Authors Imprisonment in the Marshalsey (London, 1615), sigs. B5v, C2r.

68 Lisle also published Brooke's The Ghost of Richard the Third in 1614.

69 John Considine has argued that the 'gathering' represented in this book is the product of Lisle's editing; see 'The Invention of the Literary Circle of Sir Thomas Overbury', in Literary Circles and Cultural Communities in Renaissance England, eds. Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000), 59-74. However, his dismissal of the playing of games of news at Queen Anne's court is contradicted by the evidence provided by Louise Schleiner in her Tudor and Stuart Woman Writers (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994), 107-63.

70 Melanie Faith dates these court games to 1601 to late 1604, however, it is likely they continued until at least 1609; see 'Correcting the Date of the "Conceited Newes"', Notes and Queries, n.s. 53(2006), 505-8.

71 Hammer, 'The Smiling Crocodile', 108.

72 On the libellous ballads, and Overbury ballads in general, see Alastair Bellany, The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England: News Culture and the Overbury Affair, 1603-1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 103-5, 126-9.

73 Early Stuart Libels: An Edition of Poetry from Manuscript Sources, eds. Alastair Bellany and Andrew McRae, <http://www.earlystuartlibels.net>. On the interplay between anti-courtly love poetry and the Somerset libels, see Joshua Eckhardt, '"Love-song weeds, and Satyrique thornes": Anti-Courtly Love Poetry and Somerset Libels', Huntington Library Quarterly, 69 (2006), 47-66.

74 See Alastair Bellany's The Politics of Court Scandal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

75 Considine also draws attention to this connection, but to make a different point, 'Literary Circle of Sir Thomas Overbury', 73.

76 The phrase is Thomas Wilson's from Art of Rhetoric, see Brady, English Funerary Elegy, 11, 30; John Dolan, Poetic Occasion from Milton to Wordsworth (Basingstoke and London: Macmillan, 2000), 2-6.

77 Thomas Wilson, The Art of Rhetoric (1560), ed. Peter Medine (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), 146, 160.

78 Quoted in Brady, English Funerary Elegy, 19; see also Dolan, Poetic Occasion, 4.

79 Fraser, 'Rethinking the Public Sphere', 113-5.

80 On these later miscellanies, see Adam Smyth, 'Profit and Delight': Printed Miscellanies in England, 1640-82 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004).



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