From Manuscript to Print: Early Miscellanies

What is a Miscellany?

Ever wish you could find all of your favorite works by author or genre in one place? Well, the modern anthology is rooted in this idea and stems from the early verse miscellany. As stated in Callaghan’s article, “Textual Gatherings: Print, Community and Verse Miscellanies in Early Modern England”, the verse miscellany is defined as a “distinct physical and conceptual format of the book” (Callaghan, 1). With a long-running history, the miscellany has been dated back to possibly one of the earliest English documented verse miscellany books, The Court of Venus, which “dates from mid to late 1530’s” (Callaghan, 1). Despite the probability that The Court Venus is the earliest English documented verse miscellany, English literary culture credits Richard Tottel's Songs and Sonnets, dated 1557,as establishing the verse miscellany tradition. As the early verse miscellany becomes more frequently used and compiled, morphing, eventually, into the modern day poetry anthology, the history of this verse miscellany—its politics, historical processes, and institutionalizing of literature—becomes essential to how we define both the miscellany and the anthology. So let’s begin with the “historical processes involved in the marketing and institutionalising of literature” (Callaghan, 1).

The early verse miscellany marks the “emergence of a commercial market for vernacular literary texts” (Callaghan, 1). For instance, many of the early verse miscellanies were popular books, in that they were passed from reader to reader, not only throughout the upper echelons of society but also amongst readers lower on the social ladder. Thus, the “miscellany is an example of the way the space of the book functions as a meeting-place for various readership,” (Callaghan, 2) in not only social class but also content, as the early verse miscellanies that were circulated largely ranged in their types of reading materials. Moreover, this gathering of a large spectrum of reading material used in the early verse miscellany “foregrounds the complex status of the printed book [;] [in turn,] while editors may have defined their readers prescriptively, the verse miscellany itself offered numerous points of entry for different readership” (Callaghan, 2).

The politics of the verse miscellany can be understood by first observing the emergence of print culture. For example, “readers, writers, and stationers developed complex understandings of the uses of the printed book [;] [so] this process of habituation and acculturation meant that the 'historical shaping of print', in the words of Adrian Johns, was responsive to particular historical circumstances, [. . .] [and] the use of print, manuscript and modes of performance may have been concentrated in particular directions at specific historical moments” (Callaghan, 6). Hence, this shows a dependent relationship between the miscellany, print culture, and historical circumstances of the time—where how information is circulated, print, and what is currently happening in society, its history, morphed together to provide a collection of works geared towards a specific agenda, in this case educating its reader base. One can then begin to see how politics affect what was placed into the miscellany, if the goal for a specific miscellany is to educate the reader base, writers, and anyone else involved in this “strategic use of publication practices [;] [ . . .] [it,] in turn, produced a body of experience that shaped future practices (Callaghan 6).

The late Elizabethan elegiac anthologies, for example, “provide[d] an opportunity to examine the complex interplay of political forces, commercial interests and cultural agendas in the formation of communities of the book,” (Callaghan, 7) specifically in A Poetical Rhapsody. A Poetical Rhapsody “responds to a moment of political crisis, to the aftermath of the execution of Robert Devereux” (Callaghan, 7). However, it is also important to note that “while contemporary politics inflected these uses of the book, they can only offer a partial account of historical processes of dissemination and acculturation” (Callaghan, 7).

Other types of the elegiac miscellany focused on dead poets and “offered an ideal format for not simply creating literary lineages, but contemplating the complex interrelationship between writing and memory involved in such a project” (Callaghan 3). In 1590, it became popular to canonize a group of English poets, which began with Sidney. However, in his death, he transitioned from contemporary to a poetic antecedent (Callaghan 11) and this, in part, helped in reimaging of the elegiac anthology. With the assembly of “poets gathered around the body of dead poets” the elegiac anthology, offered an ideal format, which depicted the dependent relationship between writing and memory necessary for compiling this type of miscellany (Callaghan 11). Some of the earlier poetry miscellanies also made sure to note that the works within the miscellany were compiled without consent from the authors, and so this will become important when observing some of the miscellanies within the exhibit and the issues with manuscript attributions, specifically within Cupid’s Cabinet Un’lockt. Thus, with the history and the politics of the miscellany under our belts, for this aspect of the exhibit, we will now turn to the type of miscellany that is focused specifically on dead poets.


Cupids Cabinet Unlock’t

This is taken from a miscellany.

It is the title page of Cupids Cabinet Unlock't 

       Cupids Cabinet Unlock’t is composed of a number of poems in different styles. It has a total of 38 pages, with thirty-four poems appearing in this copy; pages 5 and 6 of the book are missing. It is likely that they have been omitted. Overall, each poem has not only different lengths but also most of the poems have different rhyme schemes. The outer appearance of the book proves interesting as the title page displays the title and subtitle, which lists the types of poetry to be expected within the volume. Yet, the title suggests that each poem pertains to love, despite the fact that not every poem appears to. One poem in particular, “The Souldiers Song”, has nothing to do with love, but rather with intoxication, fighting, and the state. Furthermore, the title page, like the lack of connection between poems in this volume, is disjointed and unreliable. For example, each poem appears to be placed within the book with no connection, in subject or format, to the other poems. Although there seems to be no connection in plot between each of the poems, to the credit of the composure, poems that had multiple parts were compiled with one another.          

       Similarly, just as unreliable as the subtitle is, in giving an accurate description of what type of poetry to anticipate in the book, so is the use of Shakespeare as the implied writer of each poem. Cupids Cabinet Unlock’t has William Shakespeare listed as the assumed author of every poem within the volume. In addition to any uncertainty as to whether the editor, printer or compiler are reliable, on the title page of this “undated duodecimo volume, [. . .] [nothing] indicate[s] when or by whom it was printed” (Taylor & Wells 135). This anonymity places little pressure on to the printer or composure to properly compile Shakespeare’s works effectively.

       Continuing with an analysis of the outer elements of the book, focusing specifically on the word cabinet, one can see how the title acts as a pun. It references The Kings Cabinet Opened, in which “the political pamphlet [uses,] ‘cabinet’ [as] a pun, referring both to the chest of papers captured by the Parliamentarians, and to the inner working of the King’s cabinet” (Taylor & Wells 136). Thus, the “allusion implies that a treasure-chest of Shakespeare’s poems has been found, comparable in importance to the chest of Charles I’s papers” (Taylor & Wells 136). This connection and the pun are interesting because they tie the book to its era and environment, but the pun lacks effectiveness, as Cupids Cabinet Unlock’t has “no such pun[s] [that] operate[s]” (Taylor & Wells 136) within the volume.

       Also, placing Shakespeare’s name on the title page in spite of the concerns over authorship, questions the reliability of the printer; it allows the printer to sell assumed copies of Shakespeare’s works due to the author’s celebrity. The title page also has a secondary note, which attempts to prescribe the type of reader for this miscellany. It states that the book is intended “partly for the delight, but chiefly for the use of all” (Cupids Cabinet Unlock’t) those who desire to speak eloquently. Thus, in addition to prostituting Shakespeare’s name, the subtitle helps to feed this misuse, as the book assumes Shakespeare’s reputation for being a master of words will encourage readers who want to speak as elegantly to purchase the book. Therefore, although the question of authorship for this specific book may be true, it highlights a much larger problem of the era, a need to “check . . . manuscript attributions” (Taylor & Wells 136). 

Below I have transcribed three poems from Cupids Cabinet Unlock’t, "A Letter", "A Song", "Souldiers Song. 

Cupids Cabinet Unlock’t

This poem is titled "The Souldiers Song". It is found on page 3 of the miscellany Cupids Cabinet Unlock't. 

Below is the transcribed version of the original poem: 

The Souldiers Song. 

Come let the state stay, and drink away,
There is no business above it,
It warms the cold brain,
Makes us speak in high strain,
Hee’s a fool that does not approve it.
The Macedon youth
Left behinde this truth,
That nothing is done, with much thinking:
He drunk, and he fought
Till he had what he sought;
The world was his own by good drinking.

Pg. 3


Cupids Cabinet Unlock’t

This poem is titled "A Song". It is found on page 4 of the miscellany Cupids Cabinet Unlock't. 

       A footnote is added on page 4 referencing the eighth poem titled “A Song”; the footnote states, in reference to Clarissa, a character in the poem, that it was an assigned “name given by the Author to his Mistresse” (4). It was interesting to note that the footnoted mark, despite a lingering feeling that some poems in the volume were not written by Shakespeare, stated that the author bestowed the name Clarissa on his mistress. 

Below is the transcribed version of the original poem:

A Song.  

O’re the smooth enamel’d green,
Where no print a step hath been,
Follow me as I sing,
And touch the warbled string,
Under the shady roof
Of branching Elm, starre-proof,
Follow me
Ile bring you where *Clarissa sits
Clad in splendor as befits
Her Diety
Such a Rural Queen
All Arcadia hath not seen.                         *Aseigned name given by the Author to his Mistresse.

Pg. 4


Cupids Cabinet Unlock’t

This poem is titled "A Letter". It is found on page 11 of the miscellany Cupids Cabinet Unlock't. 

Also, at least two poems both titled “A letter”, beginning on pages 11 and 17, are signed by K.D. and R.H respectively; this may suggest an attempt by the printer to attribute both poems to each of the respective authors (Taylor & Wells 136).

Below is the transcribed version of the original poem: 

A Letter.

Dearest Lady,
Since ‘tis my fate to be thy slave,
Render such pity thou would’st crave,
If ‘twere thy fortune so to be
To him, that Courts his destiny,
My moans sufficient were to melt
A flinty heart, who Love ne’re felt,
Yet all those tears to prove in vain,
To quench my scorching Love-sick pain,
‘Twas those Magnetick eyes that drew
My heart from me at the first view,
If then to Love, thou were’t the wombe
That gave it life, be not the Tombe.
If thou bee’st pleas’d exile delay
Dangers attend a tedious way,
Few are the words, that may combine
Our hearts, ‘tis onely say, th’art mine,
But if another hath possest
Those joys, that should have made me blest,
Be speedy in thy doom, and I
By death am freed from misery.

                        Yours, and not his own

                                                K. D.

Pg. 11


The front cover of the E of R miscellany

The front cover of the miscellany by John Wilmont, the Earl of Rochester.

As the name suggests, this miscellany consists of poems by John Wilmont, Earl of Rochester. Earl of Rochester is known as “the best English Satirist,” and is known to write about “senses” rather than “society”, thereby mocking the rules society has placed upon man. In his lifetime, Rochester published very few poems under his name, and due to the ambiguous authorship in his time, many of his poems are now lost. However, this miscellany contains about sixty of his original poems including one of his most important works called, Satyr or Satyr against Mankind (1675).

The collection starts off with an Epistolary Essay from M.G. to O.B. Upon their Mutual Poems. In this essay, the speaker says that he does not write to be “admired” but rather for his own “pleasure”. Also, the people who “censure” him for his frankness are wrong. This sentiment is very much in keeping with Rochester’s style and hence, sets the tone for the upcoming poems such as A Ramble in St. James’s Park, Imperfect Joy, To Love, The Argument. These poemsdiscuss the nature of love in carnal terms rather than in romantic terms thereby focusing on the base emotions rather than the romantic love, which was the norm of this time period.

However, in the midst of such provocative poems, the collection also features poems with a somber tone. In Defense of Satyr, the speaker talks about the contribution of a poet to society, and immortality of art. Another such poem is Seneca’s Troas, in which speaker discusses life after death. He says that heaven and hell are simply creations of society and nothing else. It is worth noting, however, that despite the somber tone of these poems, the theme remains the same: society’s rigid constraints on men.


First page of the poem "Satyr"

"Satyr" by E of R (John Wilmont)

Were I (who to my cost already am 
One of those strange prodigious Crea-tures, Man)
A Spirit free, to choose for my own share,
What Café of Flesh, and Bloud I pleas’d to wear,
I’d be a Dog, a Monkey, or a Bear,
Or any thing, but that vain Animal.
Who is so proud of being rational.
The Senses are too gross, and he’ll contrive
A sixth to contradict the other five;
And before certain instinct will prefer
Reason, which fifty times for one does err.
Reason, an Ignis fatuus in the Mind,
Which leaving light of Nature, sense behind;
Pathless and dang’rous wandring ways it takes,
Through error’s, Fenny Bogs, and Thorny Brakes;
While the misguided follower climbs with pain,
Mountains of Whimseys, heap’d in his won Brain.
Stumbling from thought to thought, falls head-long down,
Into doubts boundless Sea, where like to drown,
Books bear him up awhile, and make him try,
To Swim with Bladders of Philosophy;
In hopes still to oretake th’ escaping light,
The Vapour dances in his dazzling sight,
Till spent, it leaves him to eternal Night.
Then old Age, and experience hand in hand
Lead him to death, and make him understand
After a search so painful, and so long,
That all his Life he has been in the wrong,
Hudled in dirt, the reas’ning Engine lyes,
Who was so proud, so witty, and so wise.
Pride drew him in, as Cheats their Bubbles catch,
And made him venture to be made a Wretch.
His wisdom did his happiness destroy,
Aiming to know what Worlds he should enjoy
And wit was his vain frivolous pretence
Of pleasing others at his own expence.
For Wits are treated just like common Whore,
First they’re enjoy’d, and then kickt out of Dores;
The pleasure past, a threatening doubt remains,
That frights th’ enjoyer with succeeding pains:
Women, and Men of Wit are dang’rous Tools,
And ever fatal to admiring Fools.

Second page of "Satyr"

"Satyr" by E of R (John Wilmont)

Pleasure allures, and when the Fopps escape,
Tis not that they’re belov’d, but fortunate,
And therefore what they fear, at least they hate;
But now methinks some formal Band, and Beard,
Takes me to task, come on Sir, I’m prepar’d.
Then by your favour, any thing that’s writ
Against this ___, jingling knack call’d Wit
Likes me abundantly, but you take care,
Upon this point, not to be too severe.
Perhaps my Muse, never suffer for this part
For I profess, I can be very smart
On wit, which I abhor with all my heart:
I long to lash it in some sharp Essay,
But your grand indiscretion bids me slay,
And turns my Tide of Luk another way,
What rage ferments in your degen’rate mind
To make you rail at Reason and Mankind;
Blest glorious Man! To whom alone kind Heaven
And everlasting Soul had freely given;
Whom his great Maker had such care to make,
That from himself he did the Image take;
And this fair frame in shining Reason dreft,
To dignify his Nature above Beast:
Reason by which aspiring influence,
We take a flight beyond material sense.
Dive into mysteries, then soaring pierce
The flaming limits of the universe.
Search Heaven, and Hell, find out what’s acted there,
And five the world true grounds of hope, and fear.

Hold mighty Man, I cry, all this we know
From the Pathetique pen of length;
From P__s Pilgrim, Sibb’s soliloquies,
And ‘tis this very reason I despise.
This supernatural gift that makes a Myte
Think he’s the Image of the infinite:
Comparing his short life, void of all rest,
To the Eternal and the ever blest.
This busie, puzzling feirrer up of doubt,
That frames deep mysteries, the finds’em out;
Filling with Frantick Crowds of thinking Fools,
Those Reverend Bedlams colleges, and schools
Born on whole wings, each heavy set on pierce
The limits of the boundless Universe.
So charming Oyntments make an old Wach flye,
And hear a crippled Carcase through the Skie.
‘Tis this exalted Pow’r, whose bus’ness lies
In Nonsese, and impossibilities.
This made a Whimsical Philosopher
Before the spacious World his, Tub prefer,
And We have modern cloister’d coxacombs, who
Retire to think, ‘cause they have naught to do.
But thoughts are given for Actions government;
Where action ceases, thoughts impertinent;
Our sphere of action is Lifes happiness,
And he who thinks beyond, thinking like an Ass.
Thus whilst against false reas’ning I inveigh,
I won right Reason which I would obey;
That Reason, that distinguishes by sense,
And gives us Rules of good, and ill from thence:
That bounds desires with a reforming will,
To keep ‘em more in vigour, not to kill.
Your Reason hinders, mine helps to enjoy,
Renewing Appetites, yours would destroy.

Third page of "Satyr"

"Satyr" by E of R (John Wilmont)

My Reason is my Friend, yours is a Cheat,

Hunger Calls out, my Reason bids me eat;

Perversely, yours your appetite does mock:

This asks for food, that answers what’s a Clock;

This plain distinction, Sir your doubt secures,

'Tis not true reason I despise, but yours.

 Thus I think reason righted, but for Man,

I'le ne'er recant, defend him if you can.

For all his Pride and his Philosophy,

'Tis evident, Beasts are, in their own degree,

As wise at least, and better far than he.

Those Creatures are the wisest who attain,

By surest means, the ends at which they aim.

If therefore Jowler finds and, Kills the Hares,

Better than M--- supplies Committee Chairs;

Though one's a States Man, th' other but a Hound,

Jowler in justice would be wiser found.

You see, how far Man’s wisdom here extends;

Look next if human Nature makes amends:

Whose Principles most gen’rous are, and just, [

And to whose Morals you would sooner trust.

Be judge yourself, I'll bring it to the test,

Which is the basest Creature Man or Beast?

Birds feed on Birds, Beasts on each other prey,

But Savage Man alone does Man betray:

Pressed by necessity, they Kill for Food,

Man undoes Man to do himself no good.

With Teeth, and Claws by nature arm’d, they hunt,

Nature's allowance to supply their want.

But Man, with Smiles, Embraces, Friendship, Praise,

Unhumanly his Fellow's life betrays;

With voluntary pains works his distress,

Not through necessity, but wantonness.

   For hunger or for love they fight, or tear,

Whilst wretched Man is still in arms for fear.

For fear he armes, and is of Armes afraid,

By fear, to fear successively betray’d;

Base fear, the source whence his best passions came,

His boasted Honour, and his dear-bought Fame;

The lust of Pow’r, to which he's such a slave,

And for the which alone he dares be brave;

To which his various Projects are designed,

Which makes him gen’rous, affable, and kind.

For which he takes such pains to be thought wise,

And screws his actions in a forc’d disguise:

Leading a tedious life in Misery

Under laborious, mean Hypocrisy.

Look to the bottom of his vast design,

Wherein Man's wisdom, Powe’r, and Glory joyn:

The good he acts, the ill he does endure,

'Tis all from fear, to make himself secure.

Merely for safety, after Fame we thirst,

For all men would be cowards if they durst.

And honesty's against all common sense:

Men must be knaves, 'tis in their own defence.

Mankind's dishonest; if you think it fair

Among known Cheats, to play upon the square,

You'll be undone ------

Nor can weak truth your reputation save,

The Knaves will all agree to call you Knave.

Wrong’d shall he live, insulted o'er, oppressed,

Who dares be less a villain than the rest.

Fourth page of "Satyr"

"Satyr" by E of R (John Wilmont)

Thus, Sir, you see what human Nature craves,

Most men are Cowards, all men shou’d be Knaves:

The difference lyes (as far as I can see)

Not in the thing itself, but the degree,

And all the subject matter of debate

Is only who's a Knave of the first Rate.

All this with indignation have I hurled

At the pretending part of the proud world,

Who, swollen with selfish vanity, devise

False freedoms, holy Cheats, and formal lyes,

Over their fellow slaves to tyrannize.

   But if in Court, so just a man there be

(In Court, a just man, yet unknown to me)

Who does his needful flattery direct,

Not to oppress and ruin, but protect;

Since flattery, which way so ever laid,

Is still a Tax on that unhappy trade.

If so upright a States mMan you can find,

Whose passions bend to his unbyas’d Mind,

Who does his Arts and Policies apply

To raise his country, not his family,

Nor whilst his pride owned avarice withstands, 

Receives close bribes through friends' corrupted hands

Is there a church man who on God relies;

Whose life, his faith and doctrine justifies;

Not one blown up with vain Prelatic Pride,

Who for reproof of sins does man deride;

Whose envious heart with fawcy Eloquence,

Dares chide at kings, and rail at Men of sense.

Who from his pulpit vents more --- lyes,

More bitter raliing, scandals calumnies,

Than at a Gossping, are thrown about,

When the good Wives get drunk, and then fall out.

None of that sensual tribe whose talents lie

In avarice, Pride, Sloth, and Gluttony.

Who hunt good livings, but abhor good lives;

Whose lust exalted to that height arrives

They act adultery with their own wives,

And ere a score of years completed be,

Can from the lofty pulpit proudly see

Half a large parish their own progeny;

Nor doting bishop, who would be adored

For domineering at the council board,

A greater fop in business at fourscore,

Fonder of serious toys, affected more,

Than the gay, glittering fool at twenty proves

With all his noise, his tawdry clothes, and loves;

   But a meek, humble man, of honest sense,

Who preaching peace, does practice continence;

Whose pious life's a proof he does believe

Mysterious truths, which no man can conceive.

If upon earth there dwell such God-like men,

I'll here recant my paradox to them,

Adore those shrines of virtue, homage pay,

And, with the rabble world, their laws obey.

If such there be, yet grant me this at least:

Man differs more from man, than man from beast.

From Manuscript to Print: Early Miscellanies