This chapter builds on the ‘lives and legacies’ strand of John Derricke
scholarship by examining the Scottish contexts and reception of The Image of
Irelande, specifically through Sir Walter Scott’s inclusion of Derricke as
part of his editing of Lord Somers’s tracts (1809–15) and the historical
contexts for both Scott’s work and the 1883 edition (with Scott’s notes) by
Edinburgh University librarian John Small. The richness of Derricke’s
Scottish afterlife has yet to be fully explored, from the copy owned by
William Drummond through the Advocate’s Library copy consulted by Scott, to
Small’s landmark edition. How far did Scott’s and Small’s interventions
influence Scottish opinion on Ireland? They certainly serve to remind
readers that Derricke’s perspective is archipelagic rather than merely
English. Given the extent to which Scott and Small shaped the modern
reception of The Image of Irelande, it could be argued that it has come down
to us as a distinctly Scottish image. The purpose of this chapter is to
track some of the ways in which The Image of Irelande offers, through Ulster
and Edinburgh, an image of Scotland.
Early Modern English perspectives on the conquest of Ireland reflected broad
humanist ideals about just conquest and colonialism that were emerging
within debates between continental humanists and traditional Spanish
scholastics concerning the Spanish conquest of the New World. For example,
the focus on Irish behaviour in works by John Derricke and Edmund Spenser,
in particular their characterisation of the Irish as nomadic brigands, were
influenced to some extent by early sixteenth-century humanist accounts of
the Amerindians. This chapter considers Derricke’s Image of Irelande (1581)
within the context of religious and humanist debates on the conquest and
settlement of the New World and the contemporary representation of New World
inhabitants. Ultimately, it shows that the terms of the debates concerning
the reform of ‘unnatural’ New World polities were reproduced, albeit in
modified form, within the Irish context, allowing writers such as Derricke
and Spenser to condemn native Irish barbarism from the perspective of
natural law while also identifying a clear path to reform.
While material discussions of John Derricke’s Image of Irelande (1581) often
focus on the woodcarvings and print history, this study focuses on the
textual content and presentation, particularly the glosses, dedication, and
multiple letters to the reader, in order to locate Derricke’s text in
sixteenth-century poetic discussions of representation, interpretation, and
reception. In the dedication to Sir Phillip Sidney, Derricke reveals his
anxiety over these issues – an anxiety further illustrated in the abundance
of glosses that clutter the text. The content of the glosses appear to offer
a key to the text, yet fail to explicate the text or help a reader decipher
the poem, often raising more questions than they answer. By examining the
interplay between the glosses and their corresponding lines, this chapter
argues that as the text progresses, the glosses become a free-standing work
of sorts and a place where Derricke’s poetic concerns and anxieties can be
Elegies on Arbella Stuart, Sir Thomas Overbury, and Sir Walter Ralegh
The deaths of three prominent political prisoners in the 1610s (Lady Arbella Stuart, Sir Thomas Overbury, and Sir Walter Ralegh) prompted an outpouring of funeral elegies. In these poems, the conventions of the genre confront the exceptional circumstances of death. The normal elegiac process is disrupted and poets struggle to lament publicly the deaths of perceived threats to the state. This chapter considers how elegists embraced the opportunity to reflect upon the political situation that led to imprisonment or execution. While often acknowledging the dead as guilty of ambition or indiscretion, but rarely of the treason which was the actual grounds for imprisonment or death, these poems obliquely point to the culpability of others, most often the King or his councillors and favourites. These elegies also reflect the self-consciousness of a tradition of Tower imprisonment and the poetry emerging from it that reaches back to the execution of the Earl of Essex in 1601. Overall, the funeral elegies produced in response to these deaths of the mid- to late 1610s achieved a richness of self-reflection and public probing of the political situation generally unseen in previous poems.
Based upon a wide reading of funeral elegies of the period 1603 to 1640, this book approaches the genre in a new way, first, by focusing on the dead individual and his or her immediate context, and secondly, by exploring how elegists move far beyond lament, commemoration, and consolation. With a daring unruliness, of both form and matter, these poems use the death as an opportunity for ethical reflection, political comment, and even satire. Under the power of grief, the poems digress into sharp criticism of individuals, the broader culture, centres of power and other institutions, and even the world itself. Each chapter focuses on the funeral elegies prompted by the death of one person or a group of similarly situated figures. The book explores a wide variety of elegies and offers roughly equal attention to print-based poems and those solely manuscript-circulated at the time. In the process, it explores the developing norms of the genre and its relationship to other commemorative forms, including the epitaph, funeral sermon, and funeral monument. It considers how the circumstances of a death challenge poets to adapt the rhetorical resources of the genre to unusual situations: the death of political prisoners or of a much-resented royal favourite, or death by suicide. In particular, the book focuses on the contentious funeral elegies that emerged during the intense political controversies of the 1620s. The study proceeds largely by using the terminology and understanding of genres/norms that were part of these texts themselves or their immediate reception.
William Douglas’ funeral elegy on the Second Earl of Lothian
This chapter explores the suicide of Robert Kerr, Second Earl of Lothian, and the elegiac response to it by William Douglas of Tofts. His long, extraordinary poem is the only English elegy from the period in which a death by suicide is commemorated without correction or judgement. In fact, the poem goes further by offering a defence of suicide based largely upon classical arguments and examples. The poem and its context are rendered all the more complex by the mysteries surrounding Lothian's death: there were rumours that murder, not suicide, was the cause of death, and a few years later two Scottish women were convicted of witchcraft in relationship to it. Furthermore, some suggested that William Douglas was not only the close friend of Lothian but also his wife’s lover. That the poem comes down to us in a single manuscript copy that was in fact edited and added to by Sir James Turner decades later adds further complications to an already sensational situation.
This short chapter departs from the earlier ones by considering scattered instances of a specific recurring trope: that the ‘distraction’ of elegiac grief might extend to matters of religious conviction. In particular, it explores how Protestant poets present themselves as slipping into heterodoxy (spiritual rebellion, doubt, or despair) during the distraction of grief. These elegists evoke a slide into distinctly Catholic patterns of thought and language regarding the dead – ones that were rejected by orthodox Protestantism.
This chapter considers a selection of the many early Stuart funeral elegies on scholars and churchmen. While such might seem to enjoy quiet lives unripe for contentious elegies, a significant number nevertheless provoked daringly intense poetic reflections. Printed university-based collections were especially common, but some poets maligned these for their generic praise and predictable laments of the loss as experienced by the community of church or college. They sought more ambitious and at times contentious elegies. In some cases these deaths prompted lament over the state of the church (a pattern best known in the St Peter section of Milton’s ‘Lycidas’); in others, like those on Sir Henry Savile, the theology or scholarship of the deceased made them notorious or divisive in both life and death; and in some cases the deceased’s memory became contested, as with the 1620 death of John King, Bishop of London, whose elegists were compelled to defend his Protestant orthodoxy against Roman Catholic claims of a deathbed conversion.
The first half of this chapter surveys the period’s funeral elegies on women, the circumstances of composition and circulation, the influential norms established by John Donne, the outrageous elegies on women by Francis Beaumont, the use of funeral elegies on women for satiric detraction, and the general patterns of elegiac commemoration of female virtue. The second half turns to the elegies on two particular elite women of the 1630s: Venetia Digby and Elizabeth, Countess of Huntingdon. As sexual virtue was central to many elegies on women, some cases, like that of Venetia Digby, required a defensive posture to challenge persistent rumours about the deceased. Lady Huntingdon, renowned as a patron, was commemorated by a number of elegists, of whom the most significant were Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland, and Thomas Pestell. Explicitly acknowledging the influence of Donne and Beaumont, Pestell is notable for the way in which his patronage-seeking poems go beyond the celebration of female virtue to the satirizing of a range of vices and follies. They are also marked by a strong sense of elegiac inheritance descending from John Donne and Francis Beaumont.