‘Lost Works’, Suppositious Pieces, and Continuations

Joseph L. Black and Lisa Celovsky

in The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199227365
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

‘Lost Works’, Suppositious Pieces, and Continuations

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This article focuses on Spenser's lost works. Spenser was a highly self-conscious poet determined to shape his literary career in the public eye. Taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by print publication, Spenser, his friends, and his publisher employ paratextual apparatus (such as prefaces and glosses) in his poetry and the prose genre of the ‘familiar’ letter to situate his achievements so far and announce his ambitions for the future. In the process, they mention many writings that never made their way into print and appear not to have survived. These ‘lost’ works have been the subject of much speculation over the years. Did they exist in the first place? If so, why were they not published, and what happened to them? Like those of his classical predecessors, Spenser's lost works, attributed writings, and literary afterlives are interpretable. Some help us trace the evolution of his surviving writings, his creative aspirations, or even his personal connections. Others illuminate the career path that Spenser and his contemporaries imagined as appropriate for the new poet they were presenting to the reading public, or show the ways Spenser was read and appropriated by the following generation of writers. Most evidence for Spenser's lost works appears in three sources, all printed in his lifetime: The Shepheardes Calender (1579), the Spenser-Harvey Letters (1580), and the preface by publisher William Ponsonby to Spenser's Complaints (1591).

Keywords: poets; poetry; lost works; The Shepheardes Calender; Letters; Complaints

Article.  7939 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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