Popularizing Courtly Poetry

Steven W. May

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199205882
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Popularizing Courtly Poetry

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Richard Tottel clearly had no idea in the June of 1557 what a best-seller he would find on his hands when there issued from his press Songs and Sonnets, better known by its publisher's name as Tottel's Miscellany. Tottel's Miscellany is the most popular printed anthology of secular Tudor verse. For a number of reasons, however, the appearance of this kind of book from Tottel's press at this time was an improbability. It is not improbable that a London printer could obtain copies of so much ‘coterie’ verse of courtly origin — these works were in far more plentiful supply than is ordinarily supposed. The mystery is why Tottel risked such expense to publish these poems, and why the book sold so well. We would, of course, like to know Tottel's immediate source manuscripts for Songs and Sonnets. There is also the long-standing question of who, if anyone, edited these poems for the press, since comparison of these printed texts with those in contemporary manuscripts shows that Tottel's versions were substantially revised before publication. Finally, the Miscellany's influence on later poetry and poets deserves recognition, but recognition tempered by an understanding of the multiple influences that shaped middle and late Elizabethan verse.

Keywords: Richard Tottel; Songs and Sonnets; poetry; poets; Elizabethan verse

Article.  8254 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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