Current Issue Article Abstracts

Volume 83, Number 2  Summer 2020


The Last Early Modern Epyllion: William Sampson’s Love’s Metamorphosis, Or: Apollo and Daphne 
Emanuel Stelzer

William Sampson’s Ovidian epyllion Love’s Metamorphosis, Or: Apollo and Daphne, written after 1645, has remained in manuscript only (Harley MS 6947, no. 41, fols. 318–36, British Library) and has received virtually no scholarly attention. It is a willful archaism modeled on Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis. The poem was dedicated to Margaret Cavendish, perhaps on the occasion of her return from her exile on the Continent in 1651. This essay considers why Sampson chose this genre, what his relationship with the Cavendishes was, how he expected the poem to be received in the context of the Civil War and Interregnum, and what the dedication to Cavendish tells us about female readership.


Did Shakespeare Use a Manuscript of Samuel Daniel’s Civil Wars to Write Richard II ? 
David S. Weiss

Evidence indicates that Shakespeare may have used a scribal version of Samuel Daniel’s The Civil Wars, rather than the first printed edition, while writing Richard II. There are two extant manuscripts of portions of Daniel’s epic poem. A never-printed stanza in one manuscript employs imagery similar to Shakespeare’s to describe the same invented episode. To investigate possible influence, this essay assesses the dates of the manuscripts, analyzes variants from the printed edition, evaluates the shared imagery, and considers how Shakespeare’s possible use of a manuscript impacts the dating of Richard II. It also identifies social connections between the authors that explain how the playwright could have obtained access to an early version of the poet’s work. 

“Be as a Planetary Plague”: Pestilence and Cure in Timon of Athens
Jodie Austin 

In William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton’s problem play, Timon of Athens, the fate of the city hangs in the balance as the eponymous character threatens it with literal and figurative diseases from outside its walls. Strikingly, the plague itself is evoked thirteen times throughout the play, rendering the drama itself exceptional in boldly referring to the disease that ravaged London in 1603, the approximate year in which the play was first performed. Jodie Austin examines the theme of plague in Timon of Athens to argue that Shakespeare and Middleton produced a radical representation of the plague as a force for good—more specifically, as a force designed to scourge the ailing body politic of disorder. Ultimately, her aim is to promote discursive alignment between early modern literary studies and disciplines related to the history of medicine through a close examination of a relatively rare dramatic treatment of plague from the seventeenth century. 

The Context for the Text: The Masque Entertainments of the Egerton-Hastings Family 
Vanessa Wilkie

Vanessa Wilkie argues that the Egerton-Hastings family had a long-established practice of literary patronage that involved commissioning and hosting masque entertainments in their homes to signal major legal victories and familial career advancements. John Marston’s Entertainment at Ashby marked the 1607 Act of Parliament that ended a major inheritance lawsuit, John Milton’s 1631 Arcades celebrated the family’s victory in the Castlehaven trials, and Milton’s Comus served as the entertainment at the Earl of Bridgewater’s installation as president of the Marches of Wales. This essay introduces Marston’s 1607 masque as part of what should be considered a trio of masques, not just a duo of Miltonic masques, and thus more accurately frames all three occasions and texts. The essay also narrows the possible date range of the performance of Milton’s Arcades. This reading expands our understanding of the genre and function of elite household entertainments and masques.


Writing Time: Charting the History of Clock Time in Seventeenth-Century Diaries 
Daniel Patterson

In this essay, Daniel Patterson explores the representation of time in early modern diaries. In particular, he examines the presence and significance of clock time in a previously unknown seventeenth-century diary—that of an unassuming schoolmaster and customs official named George Lloyd (1642–1718). This source is examined alongside well-known diaries by Ralph Josselin, Samuel Pepys, and Constantijn Huygens. Taking the view that all diaries are innately temporal texts, the essay demonstrates that different temporal regimes can be discerned in each of these examples, from the mysterious, providential conception of time presented by Josselin to the quasi-realist narrative mimesis of Pepys. Lloyd, ultimately, was the first diarist to incorporate the new reality of accurate, widely available mechanical time as a fundamental feature of quotidian existence and self-narrative. 


“The Cursed Jew Priest That Ordered the Woman and Her Child to Be Burnt”: Rumors of Jewish Infanticide in Early Modern London 
Emily Vine

In this essay, Emily Vine traces the emergence, re-emergence, and impact of a distinct anti-Semitic narrative of Jewish infanticide and sacrifice by fire that appeared in print in London several times between 1674 and 1732. She identifies and links the versions of this specific narrative and directly connects the re-emergence of the narrative to outbreaks of anti-Semitic violence against the London Jewish community. This essay considers the published accounts themselves alongside evidence of their reception, situating this narrative within the context of the Jewish readmission to England (after 1656) and a wider proliferation of anti-Semitic literature. It analyzes the origins of this rumor, suggests ways in which the accusation was fueled by the misinterpretation of Jewish rituals, and demonstrates the direct effect that it had on Judeo-Christian relations in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century London. It argues that the repeated resonance of this particular narrative, unlike other anti-Semitic literature, lay in the geographical immediacy of the events described, events purported to take place within the streets and alleyways of London, in domestic spaces that ostensibly coexisted with the homes of Christian readers.


Alexander Pope and a Carracci Venus at the Court of James II and Mary of Modena 
Timothy Erwin

When Alexander Pope published the 1714 Rape of the Lock, he included a frontispiece that recalls a seated Venus associated with the Carracci Accademia degli incamminati during the seventeenth century. The same iconography informs the author’s description of Belinda at her dressing table and appears in the headpiece for the poem in Pope’s Works (1717). Dating to antiquity, the Venus-adorned theme represents the Carracci academy’s aim to reconcile diverse artistic practice to a theory of formal design. Carracci-school images of the goddess often feature a braid of hair, symbolizing the creation of the beautiful. Via an engraving by Etienne Baudet, Francesco Albani’s Venus at Her Toilet, or The Air (1621–33), served Pope as a prime source of poetic imagery. Timothy Erwin argues that the iconography reaches Pope mediated by figures with ties to James II and Mary of Modena—above all, Anne Finch. Sharing a symbolic order with the braid of Venus, Belinda’s lost lock comes to represent the cultural disappearance of an ideal composite beauty celebrated by the Stuart court of James and Mary. 


New Life Records for John Skelton as Rector of Diss, Norfolk (1514 and 1516) 
Sebastian Sobecki

This note introduces three new life records for the poet John Skelton. These documents shed light on his life between 1512 and 1516, and they show that Skelton remained in Diss in Norfolk into 1514, and left Norfolk at or shortly before the beginning of 1516. All three documents are plea entries from the Court of Common Pleas. In the first record, Skelton submits a plea of debt against the goldsmith John Page of Bury St. Edmunds in Hilary Term of 1514, and in the second two, the poet appears as a defendant in two suits of debt dating from Hilary Term 1516, filed by the executors of Sir William Danvers. Sebastian Sobecki reproduces, transcribes, and translates all three documents in this note.