Introduction
in The daring muse of the early Stuart funeral elegy
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Funeral elegies of the early Stuart period are often marked by moments of ‘distraction’ prompted by sorrow, and they venture into the realm of detraction as the poet turns against all that which lies beyond the dead figure who is at the heart of the elegy. While the funeral elegy in general was a copious and digressive form, exceptional deaths pressed elegists to stretch the usual rhetoric of grief and commemoration. The significance of these elements emerges through a wide reading of the period’s funeral elegies, in both manuscript and print, and by poets ranging from the canonical to the anonymous. The book also stands apart from earlier studies in its greater focus upon the subjects of funeral elegies (rather than the poets), and how the particular circumstances of death and the immediate contexts (political, religious, and social) affected the poetic response. Individual deaths are understood in relation to each other and other prominent events of the time. While the book covers the period 1603 to 1640, the 1620s stand out as a tumultuous decade in which the genre most fully engaged in matters of political controversy and satire. Many genres engage in such contentious matters, but the funeral elegy is exceptional because of the exactness with which it can be dated: nearly all were written within a few weeks of the death.

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