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The Earl of Essex's Last Poem: Texts, Transmission, and Authorship

The Earl of Essex's Last Poem: Texts, Transmission, and Authorship <p>Abstract:</p><p>In late February 1601, while prisoner in the Tower and awaiting execution for treason, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, composed a penitential poem modeled on Robert Southwell&apos;s immensely popular "St. Peter&apos;s Complaint." My critical edition of the earl&apos;s poem (<i>Studies in Philology</i>, 1980) was based on eleven texts. Since then another halfdozen versions of the poem have come to light. They reveal how Essex&apos;s last brush with the Muses became one of the most popular and widely distributed poems of the early Stuart era. Meanwhile, in 2016, Hugh Gazzard&apos;s article in <i>Studies in English Literature</i> revived Nicholas Breton&apos;s claim to the poem. Breton has been credited with it since 1867 on wholly stylistic grounds, for there is no contemporary attribution to Breton or anyone else, only five manuscript attributions to Essex. Gazzard offers the most extensive analysis to date of parallel passages in Breton&apos;s verse and Essex&apos;s poem; he argues that they reveal Breton&apos;s responsibility for the work. I contest this analysis by showing that these passages are for the most part neither parallel nor unique and that the methodology itself can be used to show that other poets are just as likely, indeed far more likely, to have written it. The important takeaway here is that the "parallel passages" methodology as a test for authorship must be used, if at all, with extreme caution. In this case it in no way challenges Essex&apos;s authorship of this, his last poem.</p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Studies in Philology University of North Carolina Press

The Earl of Essex&apos;s Last Poem: Texts, Transmission, and Authorship

Studies in Philology , Volume 118 (4) – Oct 5, 2021

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © Studies in Philology, Incorporated
ISSN
1543-0383

Abstract

<p>Abstract:</p><p>In late February 1601, while prisoner in the Tower and awaiting execution for treason, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, composed a penitential poem modeled on Robert Southwell&apos;s immensely popular "St. Peter&apos;s Complaint." My critical edition of the earl&apos;s poem (<i>Studies in Philology</i>, 1980) was based on eleven texts. Since then another halfdozen versions of the poem have come to light. They reveal how Essex&apos;s last brush with the Muses became one of the most popular and widely distributed poems of the early Stuart era. Meanwhile, in 2016, Hugh Gazzard&apos;s article in <i>Studies in English Literature</i> revived Nicholas Breton&apos;s claim to the poem. Breton has been credited with it since 1867 on wholly stylistic grounds, for there is no contemporary attribution to Breton or anyone else, only five manuscript attributions to Essex. Gazzard offers the most extensive analysis to date of parallel passages in Breton&apos;s verse and Essex&apos;s poem; he argues that they reveal Breton&apos;s responsibility for the work. I contest this analysis by showing that these passages are for the most part neither parallel nor unique and that the methodology itself can be used to show that other poets are just as likely, indeed far more likely, to have written it. The important takeaway here is that the "parallel passages" methodology as a test for authorship must be used, if at all, with extreme caution. In this case it in no way challenges Essex&apos;s authorship of this, his last poem.</p>

Journal

Studies in PhilologyUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Oct 5, 2021

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