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Handbooks: Handmaidens of History or Operating Manuals? Dutton, Richard (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre; McDowell, Nicholas; Smith, Nigel (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Milton; Pincombe, Mike; Shrank, Cathy (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature, 1485–1603

Handbooks: Handmaidens of History or Operating Manuals?
Richard Dutton (ed.):
The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, 716pp
Nicholas McDowell and Nigel Smith (eds.):
The Oxford Handbook of Milton
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, 715pp.
Mike Pincombe and Cathy Shrank (eds.):
The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature, 1485-1603
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, 832pp.
Reviewed by: Willy Maley
(University of Glasgow, Scotland)
The new Oxford Handbooks clearly mark a significant contribution to scholarship,
but given their scale and scope do they set the agenda or merely survey the terrain?
The general introduction to the series maps out its overall aims: “Oxford Handbooks
offer authoritative and up-to-date surveys of original research in a particular subject
area. Specially commissioned essays from leading figures in the discipline give
critical examinations of the progress and direction of debates. Oxford Handbooks
provide scholars and graduate students with compelling new perspectives upon a wide
range of subjects in the humanities and social sciences”. The introduction to the
Literature Handbooks reads: “Oxford Handbooks are the new essential desktop
reference for everyone working in Literature. These reference books for scholars and
graduate students contain completely new essays written by the foremost scholars in
literature. Everything you need to know on a range of key topics is now available in
one comprehensive, superbly produced, volume”.
It seems to be the habit of handbook reviewers to ask what a handbook is and
complain of its heftiness. This matter of how to handle a handbook as a literary form
puzzles critics across disciplines. In a review essay entitled ‘What is a “Handbook of
Sociolinguistics”?’, Allen Grimshaw notes that: “According to the OED an
encyclopedia is ‘an elaborate and exhaustive repertory of information on all the
branches of some particular art or department of knowledge; esp. one arranged in
alphabetical order’ and a handbook ‘a compendious book or treatise for guidance in
any art, occupation, or study’ or, according to The New Shorter OED, ‘a book
containing concise information on a particular subject’”.
C. J. Smyth, reviewing a
Handbook of Number Theory, asks: “What is a handbook? The dictionary describes it
as ‘a small guidebook, or book of instructions.’ This handbook is, at 622 pages, not
small, nor is it a book of instructions. Perhaps it should not be called a handbook at
all! The only other ‘Handbook’ on my shelf is the Handbook of Mathematics by
Bronshtein and Semendyayev (English edition: Verlag Harri Deutsch, 1985), which
cost me a bargain £10 in 1989. It is not small either! At 972 pages it gives a masterly
compact summary of much useful mathematics – no number theory though”.
Closer to the subject of the present review, writing of The Oxford Handbook
of Philosophy of Emotion, Remy Debes asks ‘A General Question’:
What is a “handbook”? The proliferation of handbooks in philosophy (which
seems to have entered a particularly frenzied “guidebook” era) is good reason
to ask of each offering, whether it really merits all the paper it is printed on.
Certainly, what one takes to be the proper purpose and scope of a handbook
matters when evaluating the specific contributions to it. How much literature
review should one expect from a given topical chapter? How much
philosophical depth? Is it for experts or novices? To what extent ought an
author make normative claims about historical methodologies and
conclusions? To what extent ought an author make substantive, novel
suggestions? How does a “handbook” differ from a “guide” or “companion” or
“encyclopedia” or “dictionary”? None of this must be answered precisely, but
some vague criteria seem in order.
Who and what is a handbook for? That is the question with which reviewers struggle
when reviewing a single volume. My task is yet more challenging.
The three volumes under review here all cover, in different and distinctive
ways, a particular period of English literature, namely the Renaissance or early
modern period, in one instance narrowed to the Tudor period, in another focused on a
single author. This triptych can stand as exemplars of the variety of modes that a
handbook can assume: multi-faceted exploration of a major canonical figure; detailed
examination of the development of a specific literary and cultural form; and
painstaking excavation and investigation of the writing of a particular dynasty (which
its editors refer to as “the long sixteenth century”).
According to the OED, the first English use of the word ‘handbook’ in the
period covered by these three examples of the genre occurs in the 2nd edition of the
first volume of John Foxe’s Actes & Monumentes (1570). Recalling King Alfred’s use
of the Old English term ‘handboc’ nearly 700 years earlier, Foxe said: ‘A booke of his
own making & in hys own tonnge, which in the englishe speech he caled a
handbooke, in Greeke called it Enchiridion, in latin a manuell’. The most recent
authoritative translation of Thomas More’s Utopia is subtitled A Truly Golden
Handbook, No Less Beneficial than Entertaining, and the same can be said of these
Renaissance handbooks.
The Oxford Handbook of Milton, which “seeks to incorporate developments in
what can broadly be termed historical criticism over the last twenty years and to place
both the poetry and the prose in a more continuous, unfolding biographical and
historical context” (p. v), is not the first handbook devoted to the poet, but unlike
James Hanford’s pioneering solo project, A Milton Handbook (1927), the Oxford
enterprise is the work of many hands, and builds on the work of many more hands. It
is especially rich on the prose works, and owes a debt to earlier collections like
Achievements of the Left Hand: Essays on the Prose of John Milton (1974), edited by
Michael Lieb and John T. Shawcross. Nick McDowell and Nigel Smith acknowledge
their investment in Milton’s left-handed achievements, conceding that “this volume is
unusual in the amount of space it gives to discussions of the prose while still aiming
to offer wide-ranging, diverse interpretations of the poetry, open to the full range of
Milton’s aesthetic accomplishment in verse” (p. v). The thirty-eight essays on Milton
are divided into eight sections: “Lives”; “Shorter Poems”; “Civil War Prose, 1641-
1645”; “Regicide, Republican, and Restoration Prose, 1649-1673”; “Writings on
Education, History, Theology”; “Paradise Lost”; “1671 Poems: Paradise Regained
and Samson Agonistes”; and “Aspects of Influence”. The only way to get a handle on
such a wealth of scholarship is to sample an essay from each section, and this rule of
thumb applies to all three handbooks under discussion.
Biographies of Milton are ten a penny, and even when weighing several
pounds are based on small change, however erudite and perceptive. Edward Jones, in
“‘Ere half my days’: Milton’s Life, 1608-1640”, condenses and clarifies what we
know, from “the void of evidence” (p. 5) that is Milton’s youth, to the tantalising
treasure trove of the Commonplace Book. John Leonard is one of our most sensitive
readers of Milton’s verse, and in “The Troubled, Quiet Endings of Milton’s English
Sonnets”, Leonard homes in on that note of calm complexity in Milton’s endings that
causes concern. Line 13 of Sonnet XVII presents particular problems that Leonard
teases out with admirably elaborate patience. In “‘A law in this matter to himself’:
Contextualizing Milton’s Divorce Tracts”, Sharon Achinstein argues that those “four
prose pamphlets published between August 1643 and March 1645, represent a
significant and underappreciated development in Milton’s theorizing of liberty” (p.
174), notes that Milton’s views on marriage were rehearsed in his Commonplace
Book, before his own marriage break-up (p. 179), and shows how Milton’s attitudes
to marriage, monarchy and free speech were intimately interwoven, so that these
pioneering polemical interventions contain all the ingredients for Milton’s later
radical politics: “The freedom to debate, to touch upon sensitive and central matters
of sovereignty and contract, and the freedom to dissolve a hateful marriage here form
an interlocking chain in the early years of the revolutionary struggle” (p. 185).
In “Milton’s Regicide Tracts and the Uses of Shakespeare”, Nick McDowell
offers a fascinating account of Milton’s engagement with royalist appropriations of
Shakespeare by Charles I and his supporters, finding early evidence of a republican
reading of the playwright in Milton’s regicidal writings. Milton can appear at times a
reluctant philistine when reacting to court culture, so McDowell’s exemplary reading
of Milton’s Shakespeare as an anti-royalist, with Macbeth in particular emerging as a
play that was key to Milton’s ideas about sovereignty and just rule in The Tenure of
Kings and Magistrates is very valuable. Shakespeare scholars, including Jonathan
Goldberg, David Norbrook and Alan Sinfield, have developed this line on the play,
but McDowell adds fine detail by looking at its impact on Milton’s regicidal prose,
where, McDowell observes, “Presbyterians are like Shakespeare’s Scottish witches in
their demonic equivocation over the regicide” (p. 261). McDowell also looks at the
influence of The Tempest and Richard III on Eikonoklastes, concluding on the latter:
“The heavenly wisdom given dramatic form in Shakespeare’s book can help us see
the demonic deformity of the tyrant behind the beautiful but false image of the martyr
king” (p. 271).
William Poole’s essay, “The Genres of Milton’s Commonplace Book” is a
model of critical engagement. Poole introduces the Commonplace Book as “for
serious Miltonists an indispensable if slightly forbidding document. It is a manuscript,
compiled over three decades (1630s-1660s), and scribed by several different hands in
five different languages” (p. 367). One of the hands is Milton’s, and Poole shows that
the Commonplace Book is a Milton Handbook in its own right. According to Poole:
“What distinguished a commonplace book from the prior methods of note-taking was
the idea of an order governing the practice of excerpting which did not itself rely on
the organization of the book in hand” (p. 370). Poole urges us “to respect the CPB as
an object in its own right, structured not just by Milton’s own polemic concerns, but
by his educational background and the priorities it continued to exert” (p. 380). Like
so many chapters in The Oxford Handbook of Milton, Poole’s ends by pulling the
focus back to suggest that this particular part of the corpus touches on all the rest:
“The CPB, therefore, witnesses not only to the evolution of Milton’s interests, but to
the large-scale, static presuppositions about intellectual organization that he had
inherited from his education” (p. 381).
Stephen B. Dobranski, in “Editing Milton: The Case Against Modernization”,
begins with Eve’s misspeaking to Adam after tasting the forbidden fruit in Paradise
Lost ix.857: “Thee I have misst”. Dobranski shows the serpentine subtleties of
“misst” and makes a convincing case against modernization, teasing out a Milton who
comes close to Spenser in his punning propensity: “Only by looking anew at the old
forms of Milton’s publications can we fully understand the meaning of his poems and
make, perhaps for the first time, our own interpretative discoveries” (p. 495). I would
go further on the strength of Dobranski’s argument and say that the polemical prose
warrants the same attention, as Milton is a writer all of whose work has to be read
with the care one would take with the fiction of James Joyce.
Laura Lunger Knoppers, in “‘England’s Case’: Contexts of the 1671 Poems’
focuses on “two unique indexes in a contemporary or near contemporary hand”,
which have headings such as “Flaws” and “Riches”, then she fastens on one for
Samson Agonistes that has a heading, “England’s Case”, pointing to Samson’s
denunciation of Israel, showing that contemporary readers were aware of the poem’s
vexed contexts (p. 572). Again, as links surface between the chapters, Poole’s
comments on Milton’s organization of the CPB under broad headings like “Divorce”
and “Tyrant” cross-refers with Knoppers’ account of those early indexes to his work,
showing the interplay between carefully worked out precedents and current
predicaments (p. 368).
Finally, Anne-Julia Zwierlein, in “Milton Epic and Bucolic: Empire and
Readings of Paradise Lost, 1667-1837”, shows that Milton, whether viewed now as
the poet against empire of David Armitage and David Quint, or the more ambivalent
colonial opponent and advocate identified by Paul Stevens, was appropriated by
earlier generations of writers and commentators as, if not a servant of empire, then at
least an author of whom the empire could be proud, irrespective of Milton’s
excoriating view of Satan’s imperial monarchy in Paradise Lost. Colonialism and
imperialism are different genres of course, invoking by turns the local and global,
plantation and conquest, Georgics and Aeneid, but by pursuing both pastoral and epic
imagery Zwierlein suggests a connection between the two: “Thus as we survey
Milton’s ‘afterlife’ during the Long Eighteenth Century, it becomes apparent that
when Milton critics talked about language and aesthetics, or writers talked about
enclosures and gardening in the Miltonic style, they were also talking about the wider
political context of their own imperial nation. In eighteenth-century Miltonizing texts
and Milton criticism, both versions of Milton’s classical precursor, bucolic and
imperial Virgil, were indissolubly combined” (p. 686).
The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre has no real precedent, and is a
volume that marks both a significant period in the history of the theatre – the
Renaissance – and in theatre history – the recent developments in archival work that
has unearthed knowledge concerning plays, performances, practices and processes.
The volume is divided in five sections – “Theatre Companies”, “London Playhouses”,
“Other Playing Spaces”, “Social Practices”, “Evidence of Theatrical Practices” – with
thirty-five chapters and thirty-six contributors. The introduction, not by the editor, but
by William Ingram, entitled “Early Modern Theatre History: Where We Are Now,
How We Got Here, Where We Go Next”, speaks of “literature and history once more
converging”, and of a dissolving of “the clear distinction between dramatic history, a
subset of literary history, and theater history, still a kind of handmaid or orphan” (p.
4). This volume is a handbook dedicated to that handmaid, and one that shows her to
occupy a far more central place than has been accorded her in literary history.
Ingram’s concluding comment on “a heightened interest in methodological issues”, a
sign of “an interesting juncture in the development of” theatre history, is the perfect
preface to the succeeding chapters (p. 15).
The first section has five chapters on adult playing companies and two on boy
companies, so it makes sense to focus here on the one chapter that embraces both,
Martin Butler’s “Adult and Boy Playing Companies 1625-1641”, which looks at “the
seventeen years of Caroline theatrical activity” as “a time of comparative prosperity
and stability”, with “five companies”, the King’s Men, the Queen’s Men, the Children
of the Revels, the King and Queen’s Young Company, and the new Queen’s
Company at the Salisbury Court. They performed at six venues, three hall playhouses
and three amphitheatres: Blackfriars, the Cockpit (Phoenix), the Fortune, the Globe,
the Red Bull, and the Salisbury Court (p. 104-5). This mix of venues ensured that “the
spectrum was divided equally between the so-called elite and popular traditions” (p.
106). Butler points to underlying conflicts behind the apparent stability in the period,
including tensions between owners and actors, competition between companies,
disputes between companies and managers, and complaints from local residents, but
concludes that the crisis in the stage “reflected not the drama’s internal economic
decline but Charles’s failure to maintain a valid social consensus” (p. 119).
In “Why the Globe is Famous” Andrew Gurr takes the reader through a
brilliant archaeological, architectural, financial and historical account of
“Shakespeare’s workplace for the ten years when he wrote his greatest plays” (p.
186). The playing sharers in the Globe Company were known as “housekeepers”
because they were “renting the playhouse to the company”, effectively acting as
handmaids to the new drama. Gurr shows how the Globe grew out of a complex
cultural matrix: “The obvious models for such auditoriums were the circular arenas in
which animals were baited, and probably also some travellers’ inns with square yards
built to accommodate coaches, with galleries around them and a stage built in the yard
for use by travelling players” (p. 191). The “social range” of the audience “ran from
earls to beggars” (p. 195). Beautifully illustrated by the drawings of Wenceslaus
Hollar and John Norden, Gurr’s chapter offers not only an eloquent narrative of the
emergence and significance of this playhouse, but captures the atmosphere of the
Globe in an elegant conclusion: “Crammed closely together, and as visible to one
another as to the players, audiences behaved not as individuals but as a crowd. The
collective emotion of crowds in public events are felt and heard inescapably. Inside
the Globe the feelings of players and their audiences were an interactive process. The
key difference of playing then from now derives from the distinctive shape of the
Globe, a place where visible crowds could openly register their feelings about the
stories they witnessed” (p. 208).
Suzanne Westfall’s chapter, “‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’:
Household Entertainments”, opens with an epigraph from Mel Brooks’ The Producers
that ends with “Everything is show biz” and goes on to wittily address the problem of
“patronage studies, particularly when those patrons are not royal households but
rather members of the nobility and landed gentry whose seats are in the provinces far
from London” (p. 263). It’s a long way from the Globe to the globetrotting of players
in the provinces: “The REED volumes and the attendant patrons database list 149
documented private venues, of which ninety-three are private residences of various
sorts: castles, halls, manors, houses, and parks. Each of these locations was either
visited by a traveling group or owned by a patron whose entertainers show up in other
records” (p. 264). Westfall sifts through the surviving evidence for this kind of
theatre, and makes a claim for its larger relevance: “All theater is, of course,
ephemeral. […] But household theater was never intended to be performed more than
once, and so presents us with a different sort of ephemerality, an intentional
transience. Certainly the more elaborate occasions were too expensive, too complex,
and too specific to be repeated, which made it that much more extraordinary. In
contrast to the urban public theater, which staged popular plays with regularity, with
thrift, and with profit in mind, the provincial patrons of early modern England
counted their profit not in pounds and shillings, but in status and power” (p. 279).
That emphasis on status and on a broader sense of economy makes Westfall’s
contribution the perfect complement to Kathleen McCluskie’s chapter. In “Materiality
and the Marketplace: The Lady Elizabeth’s Men and the Challenge of Theatre
History”, McLuskie offers a useful corrective to the tendency to treat separately
“theatrical commerce and the theatre repertory”, declaring that “Theatre history has,
for the most part, been used to establish the framework within which to place literary
analysis of the play’s manifest content and to provide the route into the plays’
contemporary significance” (pp. 430-1). The consequences of this division between
market and meaning are serious, and McLuskie is critical of “historicist readings
[that] obscure the essential relationships between playing companies, playwrights and
their plays”, and for two reasons: “By insisting that the circuit of commercial activity
centred on the theatre they disguise the significance of print in ensuring the longevity
of a particular repertory […] and by continuing to use Shakespeare and the
Chamberlain’s/King’s Men as the default model they obscure the very particular
combination of resources, personnel, and luck that produced the most commercially
successful and, fortuitously, the most artistically successful company that dominated
the theatrical scene from the 1590s to the closing of the theatres” (p. 431). McLuskie
focuses on “outliers” left out of the narrative: “As the work of the Records of Early
English Drama (REED) investigators has identified, a significant proportion of
theatrical activity in early modern England took place outside London and much of it
involved plays whose titles are unknown” (p. 431). She then takes the Lady
Elizabeth’s Men as her case study precisely because this company presents particular
problems, “as an example of how the evidence from some of their plays and playing,
both well known and lost, illustrate the complex relationships of patronage and
commerce, service and entertainment, that characterized the activity of playing
companies other than the King’s Men in the early years of the seventeenth century”
(p. 432). McLuskie’s chapter is an excellent example of how a handbook, by drawing
together diverse strands of a discipline, can help extend our understanding of the
interconnections within and between fields of study, and the “multiple publics” that
can be obscured by too singular a focus on a supposed centre, as her summing up
suggests: “The London playwrights might have tried to cultivate sophisticated
metropolitan taste in the short term but once the Lady Elizabeth’s Men secured the
repertory, they took their chances and performed them where they might. In doing so,
they might have spread the taste for sophisticated forms of narrative drama and
contributed to the decline of the more communal festive forms fantasized in the
endings of both Bartholomew Fair and Shakespeare in Love” (p. 440).
In “Actors’ Parts”, Tiffany Stern homes in on a neglected aspect of theatre
history, “the consequences both for actors and for playwrights of writing plays in and
for parts” (p. 496). In Stern’s expert hands the playscript itself becomes a handbook,
composed of different parts, sometimes learned in isolation from the rest. Moreover,
the playscript, written with parts in mind, can like the handbook be a work of many
hands. The very idea of “parts” is a vexed one: “Even when parts are not
miscataloged, they hide under one of several names given to these fragmented scripts
at different points in history: ‘cue-script’ (their twentieth-century name), ‘side’ (their
twentieth- and nineteenth-century name), ‘length’ (their eighteenth-century name),
‘part’ (their usual early modern name), ‘parcel’, ‘scroll’, or ‘roll’ (alternative early
modern names)” (p. 497). Stern comments on the way early modern players were
learning their parts by heart, or “conning” them, in splendid isolation, so that “actors
could well be entirely competent in their parts and yet ignorant of the rest of the text”
(p. 506). This is fascinating in relation to the work of contemporary British director
Mike Leigh, who often keeps actors in the dark as to the make-up of the whole work,
in order to get a real-time reaction to plot developments, and who even works with
paperless “scripts”. Stern takes the reader through matters of memory, readings and
read-throughs, studying the part, rehearsal and performance, complete with cues and
prompts. Her concluding comments point to a different way of thinking about players
and performances but also about the practice of playwriting: “Writers who were
conscious of the way their plays would be disseminated – particularly writers who
were also actors (like Shakespeare, for instance) – probably had the part in mind as a
fundamental unit of construction for their plays” (p. 512). This also raises questions
for Handbooks and indeed all books (because all books are handbooks), where the
chapter – or essay – may be the “fundamental unit of construction”. Stern’s
contribution to this particular handbook is the standout chapter. She has played her
part well.
The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature, 1485-1603 hardly needs the dates
in the title. It encompasses a period rather than an author, form, genre, or
methodology, and in that sense it offers at first glance more familiar fare than the
companion volumes under review here. The focus is on mid-Tudor writing, a great
gap in early modern/Renaissance studies. The origins of this handbook, as disclosed
in the editors’ acknowledgements, lie in a research colloquium held at the University
of Aberdeen in 2005, entitled “The origins of early modern literature: recovering mid-
Tudor writing for a modern readership”. Scotland, of course, unlike England, Wales
and Ireland, was never Tudor, but was Stuart ahead of the pack. It is interesting that
the colloquium that gave rise to this collection was convened north of the Border, as
the handbook itself does not otherwise open the term “Tudor” up to the kind of broad
archipelagic perspective provided by John Kerrigan for the succeeding century in
Archipelagic English: Literature, History, and Politics 1603-1707 (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2008). But this is to get ahead of ourselves before we have the book
in hand.
The editors of The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature declare: “This
volume offers a controversial version of what matters in the literature of the long
sixteenth century” (p. vii). The collection has neither introduction nor preface, unlike
the other volumes, but rather a prologue by the editors headed “The Travails of Tudor
Literature”. Pincombe and Shrank’s crafty opening gambit is to cite a recent remark
by historian C. S. L. Davies suggesting scholars “abandon the term ‘Tudor’ because it
‘had little purchase in its own era’” (p. 1). They then use this as leverage against
Davies to argue on the contrary that “Tudor” has to be embraced and opened up
beyond the so-called Golden Age of late Elizabethan writing, to include that earlier
period dismissed by C. S. Lewis in 1954 as “the Drab Age”. Pincombe and Shrank
could have worked harder to broaden their framework, as Robert Tittler and Norman
Jones do in The Blackwell Companion to Tudor Britain (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004),
but instead they pass up an opportunity to show how complexly “British” and colonial
the Tudor state was, alluding blandly to the “English” thus: “The early modern
English were, to a larger extent than now, nominally defined by their sovereign” (p.
2). It is hard to grasp this sentence, unless one accepts that its confusion arises from
the fact that “Tudor” has shrunk to “English”. The early modern English in the Tudor
state shared their sovereign with the early modern Welsh and Irish; indeed the
Welshness of the Tudors is underplayed here. The work of Welsh historians including
Glanmor Williams and Peter Roberts might have furnished fresh angles on familiar
English literary authors and themes.
Henry VIII declared himself king of Ireland in 1541, so the focus on the
English is paradoxically a narrowing of the frame even as the editors argue for an
expansion. The long sixteenth century is only thinkable if it is looked at as a century
of the three kingdoms, an archipelagic century, as much as the succeeding century.
Irish and Welsh historians have for many years now been extending and enriching
Geoffrey Elton’s work on Tudor England by looking at the neglected parts of the
Tudor state, its so-called “borderlands”, yet works like Tudor Ireland: Crown,
Community and the Conflict of Cultures, 1470-1603 (London: Longman, 1985), by
Steven G. Ellis, are as absent from this handbook’s bibliography as Ireland is from its
chapters. When Pincombe and Shrank say that through the imposition of royal author
in law, religion, and publishing, “the English were reminded of their status as
subjects, albeit a subjecthood that was also inflected by a sense of their status as
‘free’”, they appear to forget that other subjects, perhaps colonial subjects, also
sheltered under the heading of the Tudor state (p. 2). One does not have to cite Marx’s
dictum that a nation that enslaves another can never itself be free in order to question
the claim that members of the dominant nation in an imperial monarchy that
embraced two other nations were hardly “free”, and nor were their neighbours. By all
means take us away from the concentration on Elizabeth but not at the expense of
reducing “Tudor” to “English”.
Thus the editors’ claim that “the intentions of this volume are unabashedly
polemical” tempts the polemical response “and unabashedly anglocentric”. Less
polemically, the focus on “the ‘middle period’: the years 1530-80, which are so often
overlooked in university syllabuses and literary criticism”, is the volume’s strength
and can be seen in the balance of the book. The four parts bear witness to that mid-
Tudor focus. “1485-1529” has five chapters, “1530-1559” twenty chapters, “1560-
1579” thirteen chapters, and “1580-1603” six chapters. The thinning out at the latter
end is a deliberate effort to shift the focus away from the familiar terrain of
Shakespeare, Sidney and Spenser, but the rationale for so few contributions in the first
forty-five years of the Tudor period is less apparent.
Jane Griffiths, in “Having the Last Word: Manuscript, Print, and the Envoy in
the Poetry of John Skelton” brings a major poet out of the closet, and one whose work
tells us much about the transition from manuscript to print culture. His envoys to his
poems, both those that accompanied the originals and those written in response to
readers’ reactions, convey the complexities of publishing history in the period,
exemplified in a text like Speke Parrot (1525), “remarkable for its heterogeneity”,
which marked its journey into print in 1545 with various revisions that demand the
sort of subtle and sophisticated approach Griffiths is able to bring to the table:
“Parrot’s polyglot babble is followed by three Latin verses that […] claim that he is
inspired – but rather than ending with this assertion of authority, Speak Parrot
continues (in all modern editions) with a flirtatious dialogue between Parrot and the
lady Galathea, four separately dated envoys, a further series of Latin verses, the
parrot’s complaint at being misunderstood, a second dialogue with Galathea, and
Parrot’s final, outspoken attack on the abuses of the time” (p. 72). This poem is a
handbook of sorts, “a Babel in which the reader has to negotiate among multiple
voices that potentially add up to more than the sum of their parts, but only if he is
willing to participate in the construction of meaning, filling in the very obvious gaps”
(p. 72). Skelton thus emerges as an author whose importance extends to what he can
tell us about the period and its practices of writing and revision: “Skelton’s ‘recorde’
includes multiple texts of the same work, so that printing those assertions undermines
the ‘difference’ of print even while exploring it […] But while this might be seen
simply as a perpetuation of a ‘script culture’ relationship between writer and readers,
Skelton is not unaware of the new medium or reluctant to adjust to it. Rather, print
becomes a way of making more visible the revisions, opening up the gaps for
interpretations rather than closing them” (p. 85). The single-author emphasis in this
contribution is salutary, and shows the kind of concentrated case study approach that
a handbook can encourage to excellent effect.
Janel Meuller’s chapter exemplifies what can be gained from shifting the
focus back from the 1580s and 1590s. “Katherine Parr and Her Circle” is a brilliant
account of Queen Katherine, “the first Englishwoman to publish her works in print”,
which shows her to be not just an author and translator, but an enabler of others.
Parr’s Prayers and Meditations (1545) might tempt scholars of Stuart literature to
make comparisons with Charles I’s Eikon Basilike a century later. Meuller’s essay
opens up new routes and also establishes Parr as a significant player in literary
developments, willing to take on an active public role in ushering into print – or into
English – “artfully composed works with a markedly biblical tenor, written by
eminent contemporaries, that mingle Christ-centred piety with moral urgency”,
characterised by her decision “to sponsor a considerably more ambitious translation
project: English versions of the Latin paraphrases of the Gospels and Acts of the
Apostles in Erasmus’ Paraphrases in Novum Testamentum, first published by
Frobenius at Basel in 1524” (p. 226). In Meuller’s intimate portrait, Parr emerges as a
major mentor as well as an important author and translator.
I was drawn to Laurie Shannon’s chapter by its intriguing title: “Minerva’s
Men: Horizontal Nationhood and the Literary Production of Googe, Turbervile and
Gascoigne”. Two of these writers served in Ireland, and all were involved in foreign
military endeavours, so I sought some sense of the horizons of this horizontal
nationhood. Since so many Tudor writers served in Ireland, expanding the Tudor
notion of nationhood and neighbourhood, it would have been good to have seen some
emphasis not just on the class but the colonial connections between these writers. The
phrase “Minerva’s men” is borrowed from Jasper Heywood in his invocation to
Seneca in his translation of that author: “Heywood directs Seneca’s ghost to the
buzzing mid-century hive of the Inns of Court and their affiliated Chancery Inns as
the collective factory of contemporary textual and intellectual activity” (p. 438).
When I stopped scanning the horizon for Tudor Ireland I found Shannon’s
intervention beautifully judged, and her emphasis on the way in which emerging
writers were linked to new networks of national debate and engagement pointed and
persuasive: “In the expansive cultural moment of Elizabeth’s early reign, trajectories
of textual address among ‘Minerva’s men’ traced a horizontal mode of English
nationhood, a new web of (relatively) lateral relations among individuals who were
not otherwise related by blood, land, or more formal patronage arrangements. Very
frequently, classical friendship discourses provide this community of not always
‘equal’ but nevertheless ‘proximate’ gentlemen with terms by which to describe and
extend itself” (p. 438). Shannon shows the latticework of literary ties that allowed a
generation of writers to map out and muse on the nation – I would say the state – they
found themselves in: “Early Elizabethan writers modelled a horizontal social form for
a new English constitutional imaginary. These writers were a crew not only – or even
predominantly – of ‘courtly makers’, but also a company of ‘studious friends’” (pp.
453-4). And I would add colonial servants in “the expansive cultural moment of
Elizabeth’s early reign”, a period that witnessed the aggressive (re)colonization of
In “The Intimacy of Friendship and the Pleasure of Print: Literary Culture
from The Schoolmaster to Euphues’, Fred Schurink illustrates the extent to which
Ascham’s 1570 “handbook” – Schurink’s expression – and John Lyly’s Ascham-
inspired 1578 text, as “two of the most popular and influential works of Elizabethan
England”, offer a hands-on engagement with the idea of a literary culture moving
from pen to print. Schurink takes issue with those critics who have argued for Lyly’s
work – and its sequel Euphues and his England (1580) – as critiquing rather than a
complimenting – or complementing – Ascham’s handbook. Schurink makes a
convincing case for these closely connected works as shaping the literary culture of
the more familiar decades that followed: “Manuals of advice and educational
treatises, many of them indebted to Ascham’s work, continued to be published long
after the Tudor period; and Lyly’s Euphues stands in a tradition of native prose fiction
going back at least to the mid-sixteenth century” (p. 685). Ascham and Lyly were thus
“instrumental in shaping and defining many of the developments in literature that
characterized the middle years of the reign of Elizabeth” (p. 686). Schurink thus
fulfils one of Pincombe and Shrank’s key aims, by revealing just how far Elizabethan
literary culture was underpinned by mid-Tudor innovations.
Helen Cooper’s epilogue, “Edmund Spenser and the Passing of Tudor
Literature”, takes as its starting-point “The famous stanza from the proem to book 2
of The Faerie Queene” which proclaims the poem “to be a ‘mirrhour’, not only for
Elizabeth but for her ‘realmes’, England (including Wales in this period) and Ireland
[…] He creates it, in other words, not just as England’s national epic, but as an
anatomy of the nation for his own times and in the light of how that present has come
into being”, making the “hour’ in “mirrhour” both reflective and timely (p. 749).
Cooper narrows the focus from the three Tudor “realmes” when she goes on to say
that “The writing of England also had larger implications for the nature of the poem’s
language and style” without considering the ways in which Spenser’s Irish
experiences and contact with a different form of spoken English there may have
influenced his language and style (p. 750). Spenser’s writing of England occurred in
Ireland, a fact that makes it more Tudor, not less. Another irony is that Alexander
Barclay’s Life of St George (1515) is mentioned as a key text without reference to
Barclay’s Scottish connections (p. 752). It is accurate to speak of Barclay’s eclogues
as “English” as Cooper does (p. 763) – they were after all written in English and in
England – but he’s one of several writers in this volume of Irish, Welsh or Scottish
provenance who complicate the conflation of “Tudor” and “England” – Scotland was
outside the Tudor state but the borderlands from which Barclay hailed were proof of
that state’s blurred boundaries. It is also true to say that Spenser “drew on all the
English traditions available to him”, provided one accepts the possibility that one
English tradition on which he may have drawn was the English colonial tradition in
Ireland (p. 765). Having begun with his “mirrhour”, Cooper ends with another of
Spenser’s loaded terms: “‘Moniment’ is a key word in Spenser’s poetry. It means a
memorial of the past existing in the present: the ruins of Rome, the tomb of Mausolus,
the works of Chaucer” (p. 765).
Handbooks too can serve as monuments, showing us, in the words of William
Ingram, where we are now, how we got here, where we go next. These three volumes,
works of manual labour as well as works of many minds, are monuments and mirrors.
Raising up and reflecting on a wide range of texts and contexts in a period of almost
unprecedented social and political transformation, they will enrich and inspire
discussions of early modern culture for some time to come.
Allen Grimshaw, ‘What is a “Handbook of Sociolinguistics”?’, Journal of Sociolinguistics 2, 3
(1998), pp. 432445; 435.
C. J. Smyth, ‘Review of D. S. Mitrinović, J. Sándor and B. Crstici’s Handbook of Number Theory
(Mathematics and its Applications Vol. 351, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 1995)’,
Proceedings of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society (Series 2) 40 (1997), pp. 209-210; 209.
Remy Debes, ‘Emotion, Value, and the Ambiguous Honor of a Handbook’, Journal of Moral
Philosophy, 8, 2 (2011), pp. 273-285; 274.
Thomas More, Utopia, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, edited by George M.
Logan and Robert M. Adams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 1. This is fitting
since More is the first English author to have used the word “manual”, usually applied to labour of the
hand, to refer to a book. Thomas More, The answere to the fyrst parte of the poysened booke … named
the souper of the lorde (1534) iv. viii. 207: “The commen verse of the compute manuell”.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Scholars take note: the philosophy of emotion is staking its claim. Peter Goldie's new Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Emotion (OHPE) is undoubtedly the most significant collection of original philosophical essays on emotion to date. It spans a broad range of topics from the nature of mind and reason to personal identity and beauty. It also boasts an incredible set of prestigious authors. But more than that – it bears testimony to its own legitimacy.
Florian Coulmas (ed.). The Handbook of Sociolinguistics (Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics, 4). Oxford: Blackwell. 1997. x + 532 pp.Cloth (0–631–19339–1) £70.00.
Edmund Spenser and the Passing of Tudor Literature", takes as its starting-point "The famous stanza from the proem to book 2 of The Faerie Queene" which proclaims the poem "to be a 'mirrhour', not only for Elizabeth but for her 'realmes
  • Helen Cooper's Epilogue
Helen Cooper's epilogue, "Edmund Spenser and the Passing of Tudor Literature", takes as its starting-point "The famous stanza from the proem to book 2 of The Faerie Queene" which proclaims the poem "to be a 'mirrhour', not only for Elizabeth but for her 'realmes', England (including Wales in this period) and Ireland
Another irony is that Alexander Barclay's Life of St George (1515) is mentioned as a key text without reference to
  • Ireland
Ireland, a fact that makes it more Tudor, not less. Another irony is that Alexander Barclay's Life of St George (1515) is mentioned as a key text without reference to
It is accurate to speak of Barclay's eclogues as "English" as Cooper does (p. 763) -they were after all written in English and in England -but he's one of several writers in this volume of Irish, Welsh or Scottish provenance who complicate the conflation of
  • Barclay
Barclay's Scottish connections (p. 752). It is accurate to speak of Barclay's eclogues as "English" as Cooper does (p. 763) -they were after all written in English and in England -but he's one of several writers in this volume of Irish, Welsh or Scottish provenance who complicate the conflation of "Tudor" and "England" -Scotland was
Having begun with his "mirrhour
  • Ireland
Ireland (p. 765). Having begun with his "mirrhour", Cooper ends with another of
  • C J Smyth
  • D S Review
  • J Mitrinović
  • B Sándor
  • Crstici
C. J. Smyth, 'Review of D. S. Mitrinović, J. Sándor and B. Crstici's Handbook of Number Theory (Mathematics and its Applications Vol. 351, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 1995)', Proceedings of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society (Series 2) 40 (1997), pp. 209-210; 209.