By Elizabeth Heale
The arrival of rather reasonable versions within the mid-16th century produced an explosion of verse, a lot of which represented the 1st individual speaker as a model of the writer. This booklet examines ways that writers, usually looking development of their careers, harnessed verse for self-promotional reasons. Texts studied contain a manuscript autobiography via Thomas Whythorne, published verse through a lady, Isabella Whitney, trip and warfare narratives, in addition to canonical texts by means of Spenser, Sidney, and Shakespeare.
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Additional info for Autobiography and Authorship in Renaissance Verse (Early Modern Literature in History)
Tymetes’ first letter from abroad is in his own blood, bringing his bodily presence as a proof of his sincerity to his lady. His second, written in ink and charging Pyndara to avoid the shame of Cressida by remaining faithful to him, produces, rather than assuages, distrust. Each lover doubts the other’s writing; ‘For some doe weepe that feele no wo’, Pyndara tells her lover: The more you seeme to me in wofull wise to playne, The sooner I perswade my selfe that you do nought but fayne. (p. 92) Turbervile uses a woman’s voice to throw doubt on the stability of male promises and male writing.
Eager to please potential employers by displaying themselves as sober, well-formed gentlemen, the mid-century poets were also keen to demonstrate their courtly credentials as men able to turn a neat sonnet or balet, and to figure themselves as experienced participators in elegant pastimes. In the climate of moral censure in the early decades of Elizabeth’s reign, reconciling the two self-representations required considerable care and ingenuity. Allusions to censure and criticism in prefaces and poems Miscellanies and the well-formed gentleman 23 suggest that the advantages of appearing as a courtly writer in print may have been at least partly qualified by the risk of moral disapproval on the part of the public, and even worse, on the part of potential patrons.
Among the verses in the Devonshire Manuscript that seem to participate in such a game of slander and retaliation are stanzas copied into some folios at the end of the manuscript (fols. 89v–91v). 68 Some, from Troilus and Criseyde, are spoken, significantly, by Criseyde, that universally vilified example of inconstant femininity in male poetry of the early to mid sixteenth century. 70 In the text from which the stanza is copied, the penultimate line read: ‘The cursydnesse yet and the disceyte of women’.
Autobiography and Authorship in Renaissance Verse (Early Modern Literature in History) by Elizabeth Heale