Hadfield concludes: ‘We are presented with a fundamental dilemma:
either take what appears in the literary works as evidence of the poet's life
or abandon any quest for that life and declare that it is unwritable’
(12). Like many who have patiently awaited an archival discovery, the veritable
smoking gun that will make all clear about a sixteenth-century figure, I have
grappled with the challenge
Spenser’s Busirane and Donne’s ‘A Valediction of my name, in the window’
(London: J.M. Dent &Sons, 1985), 70. Subsequent references are to this edition.
2 Donne’s signature is preserved in the ‘marriage letters’, the correspondence between the poet and his father-in-law, George More, in the Folger Shakespeare Library digital archive. The ‘ragged bony’ autograph evokes the skeletal image that Donne conjures in his poem: http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/detail/FOLGERCM1~6~6~32007~102238:John-Donne-s-marriage-letters-inth?sort=call_number%2Cmpsortorder1%2Ccd_title%2Cimprint&qvq=q:donne’s%2Bmarriage%2Bletters
, the assumption seems to have been made that everything that
could be known about Spenser's early life had been reported, but, now that we
are computerizing our archives, there is every likelihood that new records will be
discovered. There is no reason to salvage either an aristocratic or a
middle-class Spenser. Some puzzles, such as Spenser's precise lineage, are best
left unresolved until we are sure that we have sufficient evidence to draw
Mark H. Curtis, Oxford and Cambridge in Transition,
1558–1642 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), 180–1.
Cambridge University manuscripts associated with
Langherne (Langhorne) seemed to offer no information on Spenser, but
Edmonton archives might prove more useful
, especially in the heyday of deconstruction. 12 Donne studies have, of necessity, focused on manuscripts, archival research, and textual criticism, and the ongoing project of the Donne Variorum highlights the enormity and complexity of the task. 13 The Oxford Handbook devotes its entire first section to research tools and resources in Donne studies, approximately 11 per cent of the total page count excluding the frontmatter and index. Spenser studies, by contrast, have focused on publication history, which takes up 5.7 per cent of the page count in its respective
Veneris , trans. F.W. Cornish, J. Postgate, J.W. Mackail, rev. G.P. Goold (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1913), Poem LXI, lines 8, 165–6, 224–8.
10 Thomas M. Greene, ‘Spenser and the Epithalamic Convention’, Comparative Literature , 9.3 (1957 Summer), 215–28.
11 George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie ( London, 1569), 41. Electronic text available at http://web.archive.org/web/20081012044941/ http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/PutPoes.html . All references to Puttenham are to this
’, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Archive (Winter 2016 edn), ed. Edward N. Zalta , https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/humor/ (accessed May 2019).
14 ‘Reduction’ is more capacious than ‘superiority’ because, although still reflective of the power of normative social hierarchies to generate humour, it incorporates all bathetic and downward-tending comic gestures without presupposing a particular response (as such ‘reduction’ may also be integral to both incongruity and relief). ‘Ambiguity’ captures verbal and visual tensions
For a description of the archival evidence relative to
the Cambridge delegation, see Zillah Dovey, An Elizabethan Progress: The
Queen's Journey into East Anglia, 1578 (Stroud: Alan Sutton, and
Madison, Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson Press, 1996), 34. Dovey corrects the
date for Harvey's presentation given in Stern, Gabriel Harvey ,
desire; Problemata , trans. E. S. Forster (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927), IV.877 b.15, retrieved from Internet Archive , https://archive.org/stream/worksofaristotle07arisuoft/worksofaristotle07arisuoft_djvu.txt (accessed May 2019).
101 See pp. 96–7, 118–20, 131–3 below.
102 On this tradition, see Kay, ‘Courts, Clerks, and Courtly Love’, pp. 81–2.
103 As L. A. Murillo points out, if Cervantes was sending up a somewhat absurd literary form, he was also inspired by the time-honoured proximity of romance and humour; ‘ Don Quixote as Renaissance Epic
Cambridge University, 29 June 1587, The National Archives, Kew,
Privy Council Registers PC2/14/381.
Park Honan imagines that Marlowe
‘sailed through the Paris embassy ... there are signs that
he delivered and picked up letters there ... [H]e depicts Paris
with easy confidence’ in The Massacre at Paris