Skip to navigation – Site map

HomeNuméros56Modalités de la transmissionFrom Miscellany to Cultural Memor...

Modalités de la transmission

From Miscellany to Cultural Memory: The Long-Term Transmission of Poems from Sixteenth-Century Poetry Anthologies

Stefanie Lethbridge
p. 170-186

Abstracts

Richard Tottel’s poetry collection Songes and Sonettes (1557) is frequently described as one of the most influential Elizabethan poetry collections, inspiring a number of further poetry anthologies in the second half of the sixteenth century. While scholars have explored the origins, contemporary impact and media contexts of Elizabethan poetry collections, long-term paths of transmission are rarely traced. This paper follows the transmission of poems from four well-known Elizabethan miscellanies in national survey anthologies between the eighteenth and the twenty-first century: Songes and Sonettes (1557), The Paradise of Dainty Devices (1576), The Phoenix Nest (1593) and Englands Helicon (1600). Used as teaching tools, as reference works or for private reading, survey anthologies can be said to have the broadest distribution of all poetry publications. While sixteenth-century anthologies maintain their presence in cultural memory through their representation in later survey anthologies, more interesting than the sheer numbers of transmitted poems, is the way sixteenth-century miscellanies explicitly co-opt the private to the national. This conflation of the personal and the national continues as a defining element of national poetry anthologies until today.

Top of page

Full text

1Scholars tend to reach for superlatives when they talk about Richard Tottel’s poetry collection Songes and Sonettes, first published in 1557. It has been described as “the most important poetic collection published in the mid-sixteenth century” (Hamrick, 2002: 329) and as “the most popular printed anthology of secular Tudor verse” (May, 2009: 418). Its twentieth-century editor Hyder E. Rollins claims that it “is hardly possible to overestimate [its] influence” (Rollins, 1965: II, 107). Wendy Wall characterizes it “the handbook for Elizabethan poets” (Wall, 1993: 24) and Megan Heffernan sees in it “a foundation for the future development of verse in early modern England.” Tottel’s collection sparked a plethora of further experiments in miscellany-making in the second half of the sixteenth century and Elizabethan miscellanies generally have been described not only as “popular” and “abundant” but also as “influential […] on wider poetic practice” (Pomeroy, 1973: vii). However, scholars tend to be a little less sanguine when assessing the long-term cultural impact of these collections. Harold A. Mason, for instance, asserts that Songes and Sonettes had no long-term influence on the development of poetry: “The poets who owe anything to the verse of Tottel’s anthology constitute the backwater of the Elizabethan-Jacobean stream” (Mason, 1959: 256). Rollins concedes that much of the interest in Tottel is historical and that the miscellany’s reputation “has gone on increasing because it has had few readers” (Rollins, 1965: II, 124). Steven May claims that as early as the 1590s Tottel “had made its contribution to English letters” and was outdated (May, 2009: 432) and Stephen Hamrick remarks that “by the Restoration… the text had all but been forgotten” (Hamrick, 2013: 198).

2While extensive scholarly work has been done on the origins, contemporary impact and media context of Elizabethan poetry collections (such as Warner, 2013; Hamrick, 2013, Zarnowiecki, 2014, O’Callaghan, 2020; Heffernan 2021), the long-term paths of transmission are rarely traced. This paper offers a reassessment of the lasting cultural presence of four well-known Elizabethan anthologies: Songes and Sonettes (1557), The Paradyse of Daynty Deuices (1576), The Phoenix Nest (1593) and Englands Helicon (1600). What use did later anthologists of English poetry make of these sixteenth-century collections? And, more precisely, to what extent are the contents of sixteenth-century poetry anthologies transmitted and incorporated into national cultural memory in Jan Assmann’s sense as the institutionalized, publicly enacted and group relevant part of collective memory (Assmann 2008: 109-118)? To assess this, I traced the presence of poems from these sixteenth-century anthologies in 81 survey anthologies of English poetry from the late seventeenth to the early twenty-first century.

  • 1  Randall Anderson pursues a similar comparison in his unpublished dissertation, (Anderson, 1997). A (...)

3Following previous work on the genre, I define ‘poetry anthology’ as a collection of poems by at least three different authors (Benedict, 1996: 3; Ferry, 2001: 31; Korte, 2000: 2-3). For the purpose of this paper I also follow Barbara Benedict in treating anthologies and miscellanies as “not fundamentally different” (Benedict, 1996: 3). I focus on anthologies that present themselves as surveys of national poetry, rather than of any particular subcategories of poetry (like cat poems) or specific time periods (like Elizabethan poetry), for the reason that such anthologies catering for a specialized market are less likely to be thought “typical” of an entire cultural group. Used as teaching tools in schools or university, as reference works or for private reading when individual editions are not affordable or available, survey anthologies can be said to have the broadest distribution of all poetry publications and poems from survey anthologies are most likely to enter cultural memory. Sixteenth-century anthologies certainly make their presence felt in later survey anthologies, though perhaps not overwhelmingly so.1 More interesting, however, than the sheer numbers of poems represented, is the continued influence of Elizabethan anthologies on the type of relation that the English (or even the British) cultivate to their national poetic heritage. Sixteenth-century poetry anthologies explicitly co-opt the lyrical, and that is to say the private, to the national. This conflation of the personal and the national continues as a defining element of national poetry anthologies still today. In this sense, the Elizabethan anthologies contributed fundamentally to the formation of national cultural memory.

Renaissance Cultural Presence

4There can be little doubt that Songes and Sonettes was a sales success at the time. It had two editions in the first year of its appearance, and at least 9 further printings until the end of the sixteenth century (Marquis, 2013: 13). Poetry anthologies generally were so popular under Elizabeth, that, according to Elizabeth Pomeroy, “one was being printed or reprinted in almost every year of the reign” (Pomeroy, 1973: 1). With Francis Davison’s last edition of Poetical Rhapsody in 1621, the fashion seems to have died down. Seventeenth-century miscellanies tended to offer lyrics mainly among other things, such as jokes, riddles, or advice in matters of speech, letter writing and manners (Smyth, 2004).

  • 2  Pomeroy qualifies the claim: “As Douglas Peterson points out, it is a mistake to describe the rhet (...)
  • 3For the influence of Tottel’s Miscellany on Philip Sidney, see Warkentin, 1984: 17-33, on Edmund S (...)
  • 4Rollins lists the entries #3, #16 (three times, also as parody), #18, #180, #181, #199 (twice), #2 (...)
  • 5  Elizabeth Heale also describes Tottel as the originator of misogyny in the production and publicat (...)
  • 6The Paradyse of Daynty Deuices saw ten known editions in the Elizabethan age (Pomeroy, 1973: 53). (...)
  • 7Anderson traces 25 poems (15.72 per cent) from England’s Helicon and 16.25 per cent from Phoenix i (...)

5Songes and Sonettes was not only sold but also read, judging from the influence it seems to have exerted on poets and writers. It has been described as the foundation of the English sonnet craze, which had its height in the 1580s and 90s (Heninger Jr., 1986: 66). It has also been credited with an influential part in the development of English metrics from medieval accentual meter to the more modern syllabic meter and the use of verbal figures that came to be prominent in later poetry (May, 2009: 425).2 Poets like Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser drew inspiration from its pages, and educators like Roger Ascham and George Puttenham relied on it for examples.3 Shakespeare jokes about the miscellany when Slender in The Merry Wives of Windsor wishes “I had rather than forty shillings I had my Book of Songs and Sonnets here” (I, 1, 179-80). In Hamlet the gravedigger sings a song from Songes (#212 in Rollins’ edition) and a number of broadsheet ballad makers seem to have relied on it: Rollins lists twelve texts from the miscellany that were registered as ballads until 1569.4 Songes and Sonettes also became the model for further sixteenth-century poetry anthologies,5 such as The Paradyse of Daynty Deuices (1576), The Phoenix Nest (1593) or Englands Helicon (1600), in their turn considerable sales successes with several editions each to their name (Heninger, 1986: 66, 68).6 Beyond print, the entries of these collections also circulated widely in manuscript, both before and after they found their way into print,7 and Michelle O’Callaghan traces the transmission of these poems into contemporary practices of recreation like singing, dancing and domestic gatherings (O’Callaghan, 2020: passim).

  • 8  Mary Crane discusses Tottel’s Miscellany as a handbook for social emulation and imagines a greengr (...)
  • 9For a detailed development of this argument see Lethbridge, 2014: 99-104.

6From the available evidence we can conclude that the cultural presence of these miscellanies at their time of production was considerable and across different social levels.8 What is more, this cultural presence was explicitly linked to the endeavour to forge a national tradition. In his frequently cited “Printer to the Reader” Tottel claims that the English lyric can vie with the works of “diuers Latines, Italians, and other” and he expresses the hope that his collection will be serviceable “to the honor of the Englishe tong, and for profit of the studious of Englishe eloquence” (Rollins, 1965: I, 2).9 Other Renaissance collections, like Brittons Bowre of Delight (1591, 1597) and Englands Helicon announce the connection to the national in their very titles. In this context, Renaissance anthologies assumed a cultural importance that encompassed much more than the development of poetry; these poetry collections were invested with social and cultural capital that was linked to national standing as well as practical use value that brought “the cultural domain of the bookshop and printing house into conversation with other sites for textual production and transmission—the court, universities, Inns of Court, and households in all their variety” (O’Callaghan, 2020: 11).

Long-Term Cultural Presence

  • 10  Lyric poetry continued largely in songbooks (Pomeroy, 1973: 119). For seventeenth-century miscella (...)
  • 11  Edmund Curll republished the “Preface to the reader” and the poems by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (...)

7The cultural presence of Renaissance anthologies is less obvious when one adopts a longer-term perspective. With the beginning of the seventeenth century, the popularity of the Elizabethan poetry anthologies seems to have died down fairly abruptly. The miscellanies that follow in the next century are mixtures of satire, translations, political verse and general instruction, and thus quite different in nature from the Elizabethan lyric collections.10 Songes and Sonettes was republished in the early eighteenth century in incomplete editions,11 and all miscellanies under discussion here were republished in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, by then for a largely specialist audience with a scholarly interest in Renaissance poetry. My aim is to decide to what extent the texts from sixteenth-century poetry anthologies continue their presence in later survey anthologies of English or British poetry designed for a general public.

  • 12  Fowler in fact offers six subcategories of the canon: potential (all available literature), offici (...)

8The immediate result of a simple counting exercise is that in the long run, there is a marked, though not an overwhelming presence of poems from Elizabethan miscellanies in the (easily accessible) national poetic canon. In particular, Songes and Sonettes and Helicon prove to have a notable longevity. Before I proceed to detail the results I need to add a caveat: the presence of any one text in widely used survey anthologies is no proof of this text’s cultural presence. Not all texts in anthologies are read and I present no empirical evidence that the poems from Elizabethan anthologies were indeed among those that were read. Alistair Fowler has made a useful distinction between “official” and “accessible” canon (Fowler, 1982: 214-215).12 While teaching and survey anthologies are frequently taken, in their entirety, to represent an officially sanctioned and institutionalized canon (Herrnstein Smith, 1984: 10), only parts of anthologies are usually read or taught. Anthologies have, however, at all times represented an economical access to poetry for those who are either short of funds or short of time: “paperback publication and anthologizing still limit the accessible canon for some social groups” (Fowler, 1982: 215). Making certain poetic texts thus accessible in collections that in their titles proclaim to be a representation of national heritage activates these poems for cultural memory, even if they are not activated for every individual reader. A second caveat needs to be added: numbers give a reassuring sense of empirical accuracy that is potentially misleading. The 81 poetry anthologies under consideration here only represent a fraction of the available material, though some care has been taken to include all well-known collections. The following figures can thus only be taken to indicate tendencies, not absolutes. I define at least three occurrences in later anthologies as a “significant” repetition. This number is a largely arbitrary choice—Anderson, for instance, considers five repetitions as noteworthy—which aims, however, to take into account that in the much larger number of available anthologies a poem that occurs in three collections is likely to occur in other collections not included in the count. Less than three repetitions are more likely to be idiosyncratic choices of an editor. At best, this system is imprecise, but it goes some way to overcoming the limits of counting.

  • 13  This counts “The Shepheard’s Dumpe,” which appears twice in Englands Helicon, as one poem.

9Of the 310 poems in the first two editions of Songes and Sonettes, I have found 67 reprinted in later survey anthologies between the eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries (see Table 1). 24 of these are reprinted at least three more times.13 That is to say 7.7 per cent of the poems from Songes and Sonettes continue to have what I called a significant presence in later survey anthologies. They are reprinted in 31 later anthologies (not counting other Tudor anthologies like The Paradyse of Daynty Deuices and Englands Helicon which both include poems from Songes). Poems from Tottel are thus represented in anthologies from the first half of the eighteenth century (starting with Elizabeth Cooper, The Muses Library, 1737, 14 poems) up until the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in anthologies such as Christopher Ricks’ Oxford Book of English Verse (1999, nine poems) or more popular (or populist) collections like Poems on the Underground (ed. Gerard Benson et al., 2003, one poem) or England’s Favourite Poems (ed. George Courtauld, 2007, one poem). In other words, since the eighteenth century, more than one in three survey anthologies I looked at includes one or more poems from Songes and Sonettes.

10Englands Helicon shows similar rates of long-term transmission. Of the 159 entries in Helicon, 65 appear in later survey anthologies. 19 of these occur at least three times. In terms of actual number of poems slightly fewer survive from Helicon (19) than from Songes (24), but in terms of percentage Helicon has the higher long-term success rate of nearly 12 per cent significant repetition. Poems from Helicon survive in 37 later anthologies between Cooper’s Muses Library (1737, nine poems) and the Nation’s Favourite Poems (1996, one poem).

  • 14Anderson also identifies “‘Amantium Irae’ as ‘the most anthologized poem of the miscellany’” (Ande (...)

11Though The Paradyse of Daynty Deuices achieved ten reprintings in the Elizabethan age, its longevity proved rather less than that of Songes or Helicon. Of the 99 entries in the original collection I found only nine poems with later occurrences and only two that occur at least three more times. The anonymous poem beginning “The sturdy Rock, for all its strength” had four later entries, though none after the nineteenth century, and Richard Edwards’ elegy “Amantium Irae” comes to nine later entries of which four are in twentieth-century anthologies.14 This amounts to a long-term survival rate of two per cent—if we include the “Sturdy Rock”—and only one per cent overall if we count into the twentieth century.

  • 15  Thomas Lodge’s “The Shepheard’s Dumpe” (“Like desart woods, with darksome shades obscured”) is fir (...)

12The count for The Phoenix Nest is even lower. While seven of its 79 entries were obviously popular enough at the time to be taken into Englands Helicon, (one of them actually appears twice there)15 only two of its poems have a noteworthy rate of transmission into later survey anthologies. Raleigh’s “Sweet Violets, Love’s paradise” makes two further appearances after Englands Helicon in nineteenth-century anthologies and the anonymous “Shepheard’s Praise of His Sacred Diana” occurs in Helicon as well as in Archbishop Trench’s Household Book of English Poetry (1879) and in Paul Keegan’s New Penguin Book of English Verse (2001). Neither of these two later occurrences justifies an argument for any extensive cultural presence. Indeed, we might suspect that the survival rate that was achieved is not owing to The Phoenix Nest itself but to the reprinting of these poems in the long-term much more popular Helicon. This conclusion is also suggested by the fact that the alterations made in Helicon in order to “pastoralize” some of the Phoenix poems are repeated in later anthologies: “What cunning can expresse” turns into “What Sheepheard can expresse” (assigned to the Earl of Oxford in Helicon) and “A Description of Loue” has a career as “The Sheepheards description of Loue”.

Table 1: Frequency of reappearance in later anthologies

Songes

Phoenix

Paradyse

Helicon

Number of poems in anthology

310

79

99

159

reprinted in later (post-16th c) survey anthologies

67
(
21.6%)

11
(
13.9%)

9
(
9.1%)

65
(
40.8%)

reprinted at least three times

24
(
7.7%)

1
(
1.3%)

2
(
2%)

19
(
11.9%)

number of later survey anthologies including poems from this anthology

31

11

15

37

  • 16  Anderson’s results roughly coincide with these findings for Englands Helicon, The Phoenix Nest and (...)
  • 17For a detailed account of The Golden Treasury’s relation to other anthologies see Lethbridge 2014: (...)

This simple counting exercise suggests that while all four of these anthologies leave traces in later survey anthologies, two of them (Songes and Sonettes and Englands Helicon) have a noteworthy long-term survival rate into post-sixteenth-century anthologies of 21 (Songes) or even 41 (Helicon) per cent, and a rate of at least three repetitions of around ten per cent (7.7% for Songes and 11.9% for Helicon).16 I described this survival rate earlier as a moderately high one. This assessment merits a brief explanation. It has become a commonplace in criticism to associate anthologies with canon formation and in this context it is sometimes assumed that a poem’s inclusion in an influential anthology is more or less identical with the canonization of this particular poem (Korte, 2000: 10). In actual fact, and taking a long-term perspective, the majority of anthologized poems do not enter any kind of canon. In the 85 anthologies which I examined, over two thirds (70 per cent) of the poems occur only once; roughly sixteen per cent of poems occur at least three times; about two and a half per cent occur ten or more times (Lethbridge 2014: 33). In this sense, the re-occurrence of about twenty poems each from Songes and Helicon, which amounts to roughly ten per cent of the poems contained in those two anthologies, is in fact a performance that is not dramatically below average. Very influential anthologies, like F.T. Palgrave’s Golden Treasury (1861), it must be said, achieve a considerably higher rate of overlap with other anthologies: Over 50 per cent of the Golden Treasury poems occur in at least three other anthologies, either before or afterwards.17

  • 18StClair’s claim has been questioned by O’Callaghan (2020: 160) who sees no evidence for proceeding (...)

13Compared to Palgrave, of course, Elizabethan miscellanies have a notably worse starting position, for two reasons: first, as it is in the nature of survey anthologies to cover all periods of poetry, any one period, in this case the Elizabethan period, will receive an increasingly smaller proportion of the whole as time goes on. Since the Golden Treasury covers the Elizabethan through to the Romantic period, its chances of overlap with earlier or later anthologies is obviously much higher. The second reason for the disadvantageous starting point of the Elizabethan miscellanies is likely to lie in the development of copyright legislation. Around 1600 came what William StClair has termed the “clamp-down” on anthologies, abridgements and quotations (StClair, 2004: 482).18 With the growing commercial importance of the literary print market, there seems to have come a shift in the awareness and defense of copyright which discouraged the gathering of flowers “from other people’s private gardens” as StClair puts it (StClair, 2004: 69). The circumstances of the civil war and a retreat of elite circles into forms of manuscript transmission might also have contributed to the decline in printed collections. Whatever the reason, the type of publication that offered collections of poetry and song during the seventeenth century offered relatively few Elizabethan poets (see Smyth, 2004: 6-7).

14In consequence of this hiatus in transmission, by the early eighteenth century Renaissance poetry had come to sound alien and crude, because it was unfamiliar. William Oldys explains in the preface to Cooper’s Muses Library of 1741 that this is owing to the “rude and barbarous” nature of the English language (viii). Given this supposed crudeness of Elizabethan English, eighteenth-century poetry anthologies that included Renaissance verse tended to address an audience with specialized antiquarian interests in this barbarous past, rather than a general audience that focused on aesthetic pleasures according to eighteenth-century taste. Cooper’s anthology is the only eighteenth-century anthology that includes a noteworthy number of poems from Elizabethan miscellanies (see Table 2). On the whole, eighteenth-century anthologies showed little interest in Elizabethan poetry.

  • 19  Ellis also included three poems from The Phoenix Nest and six from The Paradyse of Daynty Deuices. (...)
  • 20Hazlitt had published a first version of his anthology in 1824, but was forced to withdraw it for (...)

15Nor did the change in copyright law in 1774 which released large quantities of literature into the public domain cause an immediate change in the transmission process of sixteenth-century lyrics. It was only in the early nineteenth century, when a number of Romantic poets turned editors of national survey anthologies, that the poems from Renaissance anthologies were able to stage a notable reappearance. The romantic anthology that seems to have had the most marked influence on the nineteenth-century rediscovery of Elizabethan anthologies was George Ellis’ Specimens of Early English Poets (1790 and 1811) which contained 37 poems from Songes and 22 from Helicon.19 With the enthusiasm of the Romantics for the vernacular and pre-Enlightenment past, national survey anthologies began to represent Renaissance verse, starting notably with William Hazlitt’s 1825 anthology Select British Poets20 and S.C. Hall’s three-volume Book of Gems in the 1830s, both of which included large sections of Renaissance lyrics, mostly Shakespeare sonnets, but there are also seven poems from Songes and Sonettes and six from Englands Helicon in The Book of Gems. After that, poems from Songes and Helicon maintained a fairly stable presence in major nineteenth-century anthologies such as T.H. Ward’s English Poets (1880) or Arthur Quiller-Couch’s Oxford Book of English Verse (1900). While Palgrave’s Golden Treasury included six poems from Helicon, it did not include anything from Songes. In contrast, both Songes and Helicon put in a notable appearance in Beeton’s Great Book of Poetry, an anthology that was published in monthly shilling numbers in 1869-70 and in sixpenny installments in 1881, thus making this particular Renaissance heritage available also to those with leaner budgets. In the twentieth century it is largely establishment anthologies like the Oxford Books of English Verse by Helen Gardner and Christopher Ricks, the Everyman New Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics by Ernest Rhys or the Norton Anthology of Poetry that maintain the cultural presence of these Renaissance texts.

Table 2: Number of poems from Renaissance anthologies in individual modern anthologies (sample)

Tottel

Phoenix

Paradyse

Helicon

E. Cooper, The Muses Library (1741)

14

--

--

9

G. Ellis, Specimens of Early English Poets (1790 and 1811)

37

3

6

22

S.C. Hall, The Book of Gems (1836-38)

7

3

1

6

F.T. Palgrave, The Golden Treasury (1861)

6

T.H. Ward, The English Poets (1880)

7

1

12

Beeton’s Great Book of Poetry (1881)

9

2

1

12

A. Quiller-Couch, The Oxford Book of English Verse (1900)

8

1

11

E. Rhys, New Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics (1914)

5

1

2

12

H. Gardner, The New Oxford Book of English Verse (1972)

5

Ch. Ricks, The Oxford Book of English Verse (1999)

9

1

2

P. Keegan, The New Penguin Book of English Verse (2001)

7

3

5

M. Ferguson et al., The Norton Anthology of Poetry (2005)

9

7

  • 21  Shakespeare’s The Passionate Pilgrim, 1599, had printed the poem without title and without stanzas (...)
  • 22  Isaac Walton’s Compleat Angler (1653) is the first to give Raleigh as author (Rollins, 1935: II, 1 (...)

The all-time favourite from these Elizabethan anthologies is Christopher Marlowe’s “Passionate Shepherd to his Love,” one of the most successful anthology poems ever, with no less than 30 occurrences in later anthologies from this sample, including such popular twentieth- and twenty-first-century collections as The Nation’s Favourite Poems (1996) or Poems on the Underground (2003). The Helicon version of the poem was the first complete printing (Rollins, 1935: vol. 2, 186-187).21 In terms of number of reprints, Marlowe’s is followed after a significant gap by Raleigh’s answer poem “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” (19 later occurrences). Both poems appeared in Helicon, though Raleigh is not given as author there.22 The most popular reprints from Songes are Surrey’s “The soote season” (16) and “Prisoned in Windsor” (13) and Wyatt’s “My lute awake perform the last” (19) and “They flee from me” (12). The four poems are represented in later anthologies throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries and are still to be found in the latest edition of the Norton Anthology of English Literature (10th ed., 2018). All these poems celebrate love relationships and can be linked to an author’s name. The more openly didactic and frequently anonymous poems in Songes do not have a long life in terms of cultural presence, a thematic preference which also explains the meagre survival rate of poems from Paradyse, which focus largely on didactic topics and proverbial wisdom.

16It is Shakespeare, Sidney and Spenser who dominate the Elizabethan sections of nineteenth- as well as twentieth-century anthologies and these poets do not dominate the four Tudor verse miscellanies examined here to a similar degree, though Sidney served as a focus of interest and dedicatee for Paradyse and Phoenix Nest. Nonetheless, it is safe to conclude from the evidence presented so far that after a hiatus in the seventeenth century, poems from Songes and Sonettes and Englands Helicon are more or less continuously represented in national survey anthologies and thus can be said to have inscribed themselves successfully into national cultural memory. In this sense, at least two of the Elizabethan miscellanies cannot justifiably be described as “outdated” once they had helped to create the “new poets” of the Elizabethan era.

Merging the Private and the National

  • 23  Anthologies like F.T. Palgrave’s Golden Treasury or A. Quiller-Couch’s Oxford Book of English Vers (...)

17More significant, however, than the long-term cultural survival of individual poems in my view is the combination of private and public spheres and their explicit connection to or even conflation with a national experience that Tottel was among the first to offer. In fact, pushing the significance of this conflation of the discourses of private elite, public benefit and national fervour one step further, I should like to claim that Tottel’s achievement is precisely to validate the private experience of the reader of lyric verse as nationally relevant. He posits the private as a personal instantiation of the national and in this sense invites buyers and readers, as Sara Lodge has put it for a nineteenth-century context, “to construct their ‘private memories’ upon the foundational “public memories” (literal or figurative)” which the collection purveys (Lodge, 2004: 28). Palgrave’s Golden Treasury, probably the most influential poetry anthology of the nineteenth century, has repeatedly been credited with establishing the lyric as the essence of the English poetic heritage (Clausen, 1981: 67; Lewis, 1962: 23-24). Palgrave’s particular achievement was that he managed to invest lyrical poetry with sufficient public consecration to make it a representative expression of, and for, the imagined community of the English, or even the British nation.23 I would contend, however, that Palgrave merely completes an already present process of combining private and public poetic experience into national significance, a process that was in fact initiated by Tottel’s collection.

18Arthur Marotti and Wendy Wall, among others, have identified Songes and Sonettes as one of the most significant publishing events of the sixteenth century for the establishment of lyric poetry as publishable format. Two of the factors that, according to Marotti, inhibited the publication of lyrical poetry in mid-sixteenth-century England were its association with privacy and its association with the ephemeral (Marotti, 1995: 209-210). As private and ephemeral literary product, the lyric had a secure place in an elite manuscript culture, but was considered ill-suited for publication, partly because print made the socio-cultural routines of an elite widely available, thus exposing the private to an inappropriate public gaze. In order to justify his publication—and to clear himself from the accusation of indulging in this kind of voyeurism for the mere sake of profit—Tottel uses two main strategies in his address to the reader to invest his collection with cultural status: first, he reverses the common alignment of social elite with private manuscript circulation, describing those people who keep poetic texts to themselves as “vngentle horders vp of […] treasure”. Instead, he addresses the reader of the printed text as “gentle reder,” investing the general consumer with “gentility” rather than an elite that keeps its “treasure” private (Rollins, 1965: vol. 1, 2, my emphasis). Wendy Wall observes (and this is the second strategy) that “[t]his restructuring of the typical codingcommon print and noble handwritingis done within a nationalist project that set out to redeem English verse by validating the means by which the vernacular could be publicized” (Wall, 1993: 26-27). In this Tottel joined other Englishmen of high social standing who, according to Richard Helgerson, recruited poetry in the service of the nation in order to improve poetry’s socio-cultural status (Helgerson, 1992). Tapping into the values of Renaissance humanism, Tottel advocates “a model of healthful and morally improving reading” (O’Callaghan, 2020: 25) that is profitable for the individual, for the cultural group and, incidentally, also for the printer. The effect of the strategy was to invest the lyrical experience, whether in silent reading or public performance, with a national significance.

19Later anthologies repeat Tottel’s connection between the lyrical and the national. Thus Palgrave presents his collection of lyrical poetry as evidence that the British nation is the one “which, after the Greeks in their glory, may fairly claim that during six centuries it has proved itself the most richly gifted of all nations for Poetry” (Palgrave, 1861: 239). In fact, the conflation of the lyrical with the national becomes a fairly regular topos in the prefatory rhetoric of survey anthologies. In this sense Rollins’ claim that “it is hardly possible to overestimate” the influence of Songes and Sonettes needs to be extended from the influence on the development of lyrical poetry to its influence on the conflation between the lyrical, which remains essentially a private experience, and the national, that is, public experience.

20Used as teaching anthologies and repository for cultural memory, national poetry anthologies not only contribute to the canonization of specific texts, they also canonize emotional responses. Inscribed unto a narrative of national development in national anthologies, such emotional responses came to be connected to group-specific experiences, they help group members to give shape to and articulate private experiences within a shared setting of widely known poetic texts. While Songes and Sonettes and Englands Helicon provide poetic texts that maintain a presence in national survey anthologies into the twenty-first century, their most significant contribution is the forging of a connection between private and public experiences. Tudor anthologies, imitating Tottel’s ploy, “introduced powerful modes of discourse readily usable by a broad range of readers and writers” (Hamrick, 2013: 199); they continue in cultural memory not only through the survival of individual poems which were first published in their pages, but in the realignment of the private as public.

Top of page

Bibliography

ANDERSON, R. (1997): “Making Miscellanies/Making Taste: Tudor Verse and the Idea of the Anthology,” Dissertations Yale University.

ASSMANN, J. (2008): “Communicative and Cultural Memory,” in ERLL,  A. & NÜNNING, A. (eds.), Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook, Berlin, de Gruyter, p. 109-118.

BENEDICT, M. (1996): Making the Modern Reader: Cultural Mediation in Early Modern Literary Anthologies, Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press.

CHILD, H. “The New English Poetry,” in WARD A.W. & WALLER, A.R. (eds.), The Cambridge History of English Literature, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 166-191.

CLAUSEN, C. (1981): The Place of Poetry: Two Centuries of an Art in Crisis, Lexington KY, University Press of Kentucky.

COOPER, E. (ed.) (1741): The Muses Library; or, a Series of English Poetry. 2nd ed. London: James Hodges.

CRANE, M. (1993): Framing Authority: Sayings, Self, and Society in Sixteenth-century England, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.

FERRY, A. (2001): Tradition and the Individual Poem: An Inquiry into Anthologies, Stanford CA, Stanford University Press.

FOWLER, A. (1982): Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes, Oxford, Clarendon.

FUSSELL, P. (1975): The Great War and Modern Memory, New York NY, Oxford University Press.

HAMRICK, S. (2002): “Tottel’s Miscellany and the English Reformation,” Criticism 44, p. 329-361.

Hamrick, S. (2013): “‘Their Gods in Versers’: The Popular Reception of Songes and Sonettes 1557-1674,” in Hamrick, S. (ed.), Tottel’s Songes and Sonettes in Context, Farnham, Ashgate, p. 163-199.

Hamrick, S. (2013): “Introduction: Songes and Sonettes Reconsidered,” in Hamrick, S. (ed.), Tottel’s Songes and Sonettes in Context, Farnham, Ashgate, p. 1-11.

Hamrick, S. (ed.) (2013): Tottel’s Songes and Sonettes in Context, Farnham, Ashgate.

HAZLITT, W. (1825): Select British Poets, Or, New Elegant Extracts from Chaucer to the Present Time, London, Hall.

HEALE, E. (2003): “Misogyny and the Complete Gentleman in Early Elizabethan Miscellanies,” Yearbook of English Studies 33, p. 233-247.

Heffernan, M. (2021): Making the Miscellany: Poetry, Print, and the History of the Book in Early Modern England, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press.

HELGERSON, R. (1992): Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England, Chicago, Chicago University Press.

HENINGER Jr, S.K. (1986): “Sequences, Systems, Models: Sidney and the Secularisation of Sonnets,” in FREISTAT, N. (ed.), Poems in Their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina, p. 66-94.

HERRNSTEIN SMITH, B. (1984): “Contingencies of Value,” in VON HALLBERG, R. (ed.), Canons, Chicago, Chicago University Press, p. 5-39.

KORTE, B. (2000): “Flowers for the Picking: Anthologies of Poetry in (British) Literary and Cultural Studies,” in KORTE, B., SCHNEIDER, R. & LETHBRIDGE, S. (eds.), Anthologies of British Poetry: Critical Perspectives from Literary and Cultural Studies, Amsterdam, Rodopi, p. 1-32.

Lethbridge, S. (2014): Lyrik in Gebrauch: Gedichtanthologien in der englischen Druckkultur 1557-2007, Heidelberg, Universitätsverlag Winter.

LEWIS, N. (1962): “Palgrave and his ‘Golden Treasury’,” Listener 67, p. 23-26.

LODGE, S. (2004): “Romantic Reliquaries: Memory and Irony in the Literary Annuals,” Romanticism 10, p. 23-40.

MAROTTI, A.F. (1995): Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric, Ithaca NY, Cornell University Press.

Marquis, P. A. (2013): “Printing History and Editorial Design in the Elizabethan Version of Tottel’s Songes and Sonettes,” in Hamrick, S. (ed.), Tottel’s Songes and Sonettes in Context, Farnham, Ashgate, p. 13-36.

MASON, H. (1959): Humanism and Poetry in the Early Tudor Period: An Essay, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul.

MAY, S. (2009): “Popularizing Courtly Poetry: Tottel’s Miscellany and Its Progeny,” in PINCOMBE, M. & SHRANK, C. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature, 1485-1603, Oxford, Oxford University Press, p. 418-433.

O’Callaghan, M. (2020): Crafting Poetry Anthologies in Renaissance England: Early Modern Cultures of Recreation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

PALGRAVE, F.T. (ed.) (1861): The Golden Treasury of the Best Songs and Lyrical Poems in the English Language, London, Macmillan.

PETERSON, D.L. (1967): The English Lyric from Wyatt to Donne: A History of the Plain and Eloquent Styles, Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press.

POMEROY, E.W. (1973): The Elizabethan Miscellanies: Their Development and Conventions, Berkeley CA, University of California Press.

ROLLINS, H.E. (ed.) (1931-1932): A Poetical Rhapsody, 1602-1621, 2 vols, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press.

ROLLINS, H.E. (ed.) (1935): Englands Helicon, 1600, 1614, 2 vols, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press.

ROLLINS, H.E. (ed.) (1965): Tottel’s Miscellany, 1557-1587, 2 vols, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press.

ROSE, J. (2001): The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, New Haven CT, Yale University Press.

SMYTH, A. (2004): Profit and Delight: Printed Miscellanies in England, 1640-1682, Detroit, Wayne State University Press.

ST CLAIR, W. (2004): The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

WALL, W. (1993): The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance, Ithaca, Cornell University Press.

WARKENTIN, G. (1984): “The Meeting of the Muses: Sidney and the Mid-Tudor Poets,” in WALLER, G.F. & MOORE, M.D. (eds.), Sir Philip Sidney and the Interpretation of Renaissance Culture: The Poet in His Time and Ours, London, Croom Helm, p. 17-33.

Warner, J. C. (2013): The Making and Marketing of Tottel’s Miscellany, 1557: Songs and Sonnets in the Summer of the Martyrs’ Fires, Farnham, Ashgate.

WHIGHAM, F. & REBHORN, W.A. (2007): “Introduction,” in WHIGHAM,  F. (ed.), The Art of English Poesy (1589) by George Puttenham, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, p. 1-72.

Zarnowiecki, M. (2014): Fair Copies: Reproducing the English Lyric from Tottel to Shakespeare. Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

Top of page

Appendix

Appendix: Frequently reprinted poems from Songes and Sonettes and Englands Helicon

Songes and Sonettes (1st and 2nd ed.)

Author

Title

Incipit

No. of later occurrences

Wyatt, T.

The louer complayneth the vnkindnes of his loue

My lute awake performe the last

19

Howard, H. (Earl of Surrey)

Description of Spring, wherin eche thing renewes, saue onelie the louer

The soote season, that bud and blome furth bringes

16

Howard, H. (Earl of Surrey)

Prisoned in windsor, he recounteth his pleasure there passed

So cruell prison how coulde betide, alas

13

Wyatt, T.

The louer sheweth how he is forsaken of such as he somtime enioyed

They flee from me, that somtime did me seke

12

Howard, H. (Earl of Surrey)

A praise of his loue: wherin he reproueth them that compare their ladies with his

Geue place ye louers, here before

9

Howard, H. (Earl of Surrey)

A complaint by night of the louer not beloued

Alas so all thinges nowe doe holde their peace

8

Howard, H. (Earl of Surrey)

The meanes to attain happy life

Martiall, the thinges that do attain

8

Wyatt, T.

Of the Courtiers life written to Iohn Poins

Myne owne Iohn Poyns: sins ye delite to know

7

Howard, H. (Earl of Surrey)

Vow to loue faithfully howsoeuer he be rewarded

Set me wheras the sunne doth parche the grene

5

Howard, H. (Earl of Surrey)

Complaint of the absence of her louer being vpon the sea

O happy dames, that may embrace

5

Wyatt, T.

A description of such a one as he would loue

A face that should content me wonderous well

5

Wyatt, T.

Of his returne from Spaine

Tagus farewel that westward with thy stremes

5

uncertain author [in Helicon assigned to Surrey]

Harpelus complaynt of Phillidaes loue bestowed on Corin, who loued her not and denied him, that loued her

Phylida was a fayer mayde

5

Howard, H. (Earl of Surrey)

Description and praise of his loue Geraldine

From Tuskane came my Ladies worthy race

4

Wyatt, T.

To a ladie to answere directly with yea or nay

Madame, withouten many words

4

Howard, H. (Earl of Surrey)

How no age is content with his own estate, & how the age of children is the happiest, if they had skill to vnderstand it

Layd in my quiet bed, in study as I were

4

Howard, H. (Earl of Surrey)

Descripcion of the restlesse state of a louer, with sute to his ladie, to rue on his diyng hart

The sonne hath twise brought furth his tender grene

3

Howard, H. (Earl of Surrey)

The louer comforteth himself with the worthinesse of his loue

When ragyng loue with extreme payne

3

Wyatt, T.

The louer for shamefastnesse hideth his desire within his faithfull hart

The longe loue, that in my thought I harber

3

Wyatt, T.

A renouncing of loue

Farewell, Loue, and all thy lawes for euer

3

Wyatt, T.

The louer determineth to serue faithfully

Synce loue wyll nedes, that I shall loue

3

Wyatt, T.

Of the meane and sure estate

Stond who so list vpon the slipper whele

3

uncertain author

A praise of his Ladye

Geue place you Ladies and be gon

3

uncertain author

That all thing sometime finde ease of their paine, saue onely the louer

I see there is no sort

3

 

Englands Helicon

Author

Title

First line

No. of later occurrences

Marlowe, C.

The passionate Sheepheard to his loue

Come liue with mee, and be my loue

30

Ignoto [Raleigh]

The Nimphs reply to the Sheepheard

If all the world and loue were young

19

Breton, N.

Phillida and Coridon

In the merry moneth of May

14

Anonymous

Another of the same Sheepheards

As it fell vpon a day

11

Greene, R.

Dorons description of his faire Sheepheardesse Samela

Like to Diana in her Sommer weede

10

Sidney, P.

Another of Astrophell

The Nightingale so soone as Aprill bringeth

8

Constable, H.

Damelus Song to his Diaphenia

Diaphenia like the Daffadown-dillie

8

Ignoto

The Sheepheards description of Loue

Sheepheard, what’s Loue, I pray thee tell?

7

Breton, N.

A Sweete Pastorall

Good Muse rock me a sleepe

7

Shakespeare, W.

The passionate Sheepheards Song

On a day, (alack the day,)

7

Sidney, P.

Astrophels Love is dead

Ring out your belles, let mourning shewes be spread

5

Shepherd Tonie [A. Munday]

To Colin Cloute

Beautie sate bathing by a Spring

5

Howard, H. (Earl of Surrey)

Harpalus complaynt on Phillidaes loue bestowed on Corin, who loued her not, and denyed him that loued her

Phillida was a faire mayde

5

Breton, N.

A Pastorall of Phillis and Coridon

On a hill there growes a flower

4

Drayton, M.

The Sheepheards Daffadill

Gorbo, as thou cam’st this way

4

Dyer, E.

To Phillis the faire Sheepheardesse

My Phillis hath the morning Sunne

4

Byrd, W.

Philon the Sheepheard, his Song

While that the Sunne with his beames hot

4

Dowland, J.

To his Loue

Come away, come sweet Loue

3

Ignoto

Another of the same nature, made since

Come liue with mee, and be my deere

3

Top of page

Notes

1  Randall Anderson pursues a similar comparison in his unpublished dissertation, (Anderson, 1997). Anderson considers only specialist anthologies of Elizabethan or Renaissance poetry, however, which leads to a very different focus.

2  Pomeroy qualifies the claim: “As Douglas Peterson points out, it is a mistake to describe the rhetorical patterns of the volume as new or as an original gift to future poets. The early Tudor poets did not reinvent verbal techniques wholesale, but their abundant, often obvious, use of figures, plus the large audience attracted by the miscellany, gave them considerable influence” (Pomeroy, 1973: 48, referring to Peterson, 1967: 51).

3For the influence of Tottel’s Miscellany on Philip Sidney, see Warkentin, 1984: 17-33, on Edmund Spenser, see Child, 1964: 168. George Puttenham used Tottel’s Miscellany as source for his The Art of English Poesy (Whigham & Rebhorn, 2007: 41 and O’Callaghan 2020: 64). For Ascham as reader of Tottel, see May, 2009: 242. Rollins traces Tottel’s influence on Thomas Sackville, Barnabe Googe, George Turbervile, Thomas Howell, George Gascoigne, Thomas Churchyard and others (Rollins, 1965: II, 110-119).

4Rollins lists the entries #3, #16 (three times, also as parody), #18, #180, #181, #199 (twice), #211, #212 (twice), #251, #265 and as a possibility #172 and #286 (Rollins, 1965: II, 109).

5  Elizabeth Heale also describes Tottel as the originator of misogyny in the production and publication of verse (Heale, 2003: 233-247). Michelle O’Callaghan queries this assessment (O’Callaghan, 2020: 104-105).

6The Paradyse of Daynty Deuices saw ten known editions in the Elizabethan age (Pomeroy, 1973: 53). The Phoenix Nest appeared only once, Englands Helicon had three editions (1600, 1614, 1621), The Poetical Rhapsody had four (1602, 1608, 1611, 1621; Rollins, 1931/32: II, 4–24).

7Anderson traces 25 poems (15.72 per cent) from England’s Helicon and 16.25 per cent from Phoenix in contemporary manuscripts, s. Anderson, p. 213. Peter Beal identifies an overlap between Tottel and contemporary manuscripts of 76 poems by Wyatt and 26 by Surrey, s. Index of English Literary Manuscripts, ed. by Peter Beal (London: Mansell, 1980), vol. 1, pt. 2.

8  Mary Crane discusses Tottel’s Miscellany as a handbook for social emulation and imagines a greengrocer to be reading it (Crane, 1993: 170).

9For a detailed development of this argument see Lethbridge, 2014: 99-104.

10  Lyric poetry continued largely in songbooks (Pomeroy, 1973: 119). For seventeenth-century miscellanies, see Smyth 2004.

11  Edmund Curll republished the “Preface to the reader” and the poems by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey in 1717. In the same year, George Sewell edited a complete edition of Tottel’s Miscellany for W. Meares and John Brown, according to Rollins “the most corrupt text issued since 1557” (Rollins, 1965: vol. 2, 41). Henry Curll reissued his father’s 1717 edition in 1728 with a recommendation by Pope and extended it by the Wyatt poems (ibid. 42-43). Neither of these editions makes an explicit connection to the original title Songes and Sonettes in their own titles.

12  Fowler in fact offers six subcategories of the canon: potential (all available literature), official (institutionally validated), personal (based on personal preferences), accessible (easily available), selective (actually chosen for teaching in institutional contexts) and critical canon (current focus of critical attention).

13  This counts “The Shepheard’s Dumpe,” which appears twice in Englands Helicon, as one poem.

14Anderson also identifies “‘Amantium Irae’ as ‘the most anthologized poem of the miscellany’” (Anderson, 1997: 144).

15  Thomas Lodge’s “The Shepheard’s Dumpe” (“Like desart woods, with darksome shades obscured”) is first presented as a poem by S.E.D. [Sir Edward Dyer] and later as “Thirsis the Shepheard, to His Pipe” as an anonymous poem with a slightly different setting. In both cases the final line varies from the Phoenix entry.

16  Anderson’s results roughly coincide with these findings for Englands Helicon, The Phoenix Nest and The Paradyse of Daynty Deuices. He does not actually present any figures for Songes and Sonettes. While Anderson’s figures for individual representations are noticeably higher, which is to be expected in specialist Elizabethan poetry collections, in terms of proportion he comes to similar results. Thus, all nine poems from Anderson’s “hit-list” for Helicon are also represented in survey anthologies, though not in the same distribution, f.ex. Sidney’s “Onely ioy, now here you are,” according to Anderson “the second most ‘popular’ anthology piece from the Helicon” (p. 217) is only represented twice. While Anderson finds that “Beautie sat bathing by a Spring” “has not been printed in any anthology since 1952” (in his corpus), it does appear in Gardner’s New Oxford Book (1972) and Herbert’s Evergreen Verse (1981), and Vere’s “What Sheepheard’s can expresse” is reprinted in Hall’s Book of Gems (1836) against Anderson’s claim that it is unavailable in anthologies since the eighteenth century (p. 230). While three of the many contributions by Bartholomew Yong survive in Anderson’s count, none of them appear in survey anthologies. Anderson also agrees with the poor survival rate of The Phoenix Nest: “We can certainly see The Phoenix Nest has not […] enjoyed great favor among the most recent gardeners of Elizabethan verse” (Anderson, 1997: 181).

17For a detailed account of The Golden Treasury’s relation to other anthologies see Lethbridge 2014: 327-29.

18StClair’s claim has been questioned by O’Callaghan (2020: 160) who sees no evidence for proceedings against copyright infringements. O’Callaghan does not offer an alternative explanation for the significant drop in the production of elite national poetry collections.

19  Ellis also included three poems from The Phoenix Nest and six from The Paradyse of Daynty Deuices. Bishop Percy’s famous Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, often credited with the start of the revival of ancient English verse, by comparison, only has five poems from Helicon and one from Songes (which is also in Helicon).

20Hazlitt had published a first version of his anthology in 1824, but was forced to withdraw it for copyright reasons.

21  Shakespeare’s The Passionate Pilgrim, 1599, had printed the poem without title and without stanzas 4 and 6. A Ballad version dating ca. 1620 is reprinted in The Roxburghe Ballads (1874). The poem also occurs frequently in manuscript miscellanies, though not as frequently as others (Anderson, 1997: 219).

22  Isaac Walton’s Compleat Angler (1653) is the first to give Raleigh as author (Rollins, 1935: II, 190).

23  Anthologies like F.T. Palgrave’s Golden Treasury or A. Quiller-Couch’s Oxford Book of English Verse famously accompanied the British into the far corners of the Empire and soldiers to the trenches in the First World War (see Fussell, 1975: 159-160; Rose, 2001: 43), which demonstrates this merge between private reading and a sense of national community. For further detail of this development in the nineteenth century, see Lethbridge, 2014: 310-39.

Top of page

References

Bibliographical reference

Stefanie Lethbridge, “From Miscellany to Cultural Memory: The Long-Term Transmission of Poems from Sixteenth-Century Poetry Anthologies”Recherches anglaises et nord-américaines, 56 | 2022, 170-186.

Electronic reference

Stefanie Lethbridge, “From Miscellany to Cultural Memory: The Long-Term Transmission of Poems from Sixteenth-Century Poetry Anthologies”Recherches anglaises et nord-américaines [Online], 56 | 2022, Online since 01 February 2024, connection on 13 April 2024. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/ranam/646; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/ranam.646

Top of page

About the author

Stefanie Lethbridge

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

Top of page

Copyright

CC-BY-NC-SA-4.0

The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

Top of page
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search