Early Stuart Libels

Early Stuart Libels is a great online edition of early seventeenth-century political poetry from manuscript sources. Many of the poems have never been published before; others have only been available in obscure collections.

It’s been published by what is probably the best freely available early modern studies e-journal (published in an electronic edition only) out there, Early Modern Literary Studies. The chief editors are a historian and literary scholar, Alastair Bellany and Andrew McRae (the whole thing represents a collaborative effort between History and English).

It’s a high-quality scholarly edition which will be useful for both researchers and teachers; the editors’ commentaries are excellent and the poems are fully annotated, and there’s a very extensive bibliography. Those who aren’t comfortable with working online could simply download the PDF version and print it out in full: in a sense, Print on Demand virtually for free. But if you use it online, it’s searchable by name and source and browsable by a range of subject headings. This is the future of the scholarly edition we’re looking at, folks.

The editors note that “we have been concerned to show that a technically and academically proficient single-volume publication might be achieved in our chosen medium within a comparatively short timescale”.

This edition seeks in many ways to be a pathbreaking endeavour, most noticeably as a single-volume electronic text of early modern verse, and of verse largely inaccessible outside of manuscript archives… Indeed, while late-twentieth-century criticism moved away from privileging canonical works, the bulk of recent electronic publications of early modern literature have focused upon the old canon and upon drama. There is nothing intinsically wrong with disseminating the works of well-known dramatists and other literary figures to the hypertext community. In fact there are great benefits to be gained by widening their accessibility. However, the electronic medium also provides a superb opportunity to offer scholarly editions of works otherwise largely inaccessible or unknown to both the academic community and the layperson alike.

Hear, hear.

I have a mild complaint, which I’ll probably write to them about, that it’s not immediately obvious on landing at the front page that you can browse poems without using the search box (apart from the very large PDF version, I mean). You can do two things, as far as I can see, neither of which are very strongly signposted:

a) go to ‘Full site map’ in the sidebar and click on whichever section takes your fancy, which will give you a list of the poems in that section;

b) click on the ‘Quick Contents’ link in the sidebar to get to the (very good) commentaries, which have a ‘Find in this section’ box at the bottom of the page with a drop-down menu listing the poems in the section (or simply click on the arrows at the top of the pages to navigate page by page), along with links to the other sections. (I’ve just noticed that there is also a tiny ‘view menus’ link at the top of the commentary pages, which takes you straight down to the drop-down menus.)

The editors have taken an admirable approach to maximising accessibility for special needs readers, and once you’ve worked it out (my point being that these things should not have to be worked out: they should be completely obvious to even totally inexperienced web users), the site is in fact extremely easy to navigate. I think they just slipped up a bit on the signposting at the very start.

And it is a wonderful resource.


OK, couldn’t resist this one. Because I am a big kid and it’s a fart joke. (They’re not all rude, really, but poetry buffs shouldn’t expect much Great Art.)

The Censure of the Parliament Fart (This page explains).

Never was bestowed such art
Upon the tuning of a Fart.

Downe came grave auntient Sir John Crooke
And redd his message in his booke.
Fearie well, Quoth Sir William Morris, Soe:
But Henry Ludlowes Tayle cry’d Noe.
Up starts one fuller of devotion
Then Eloquence; and said a very ill motion
Not soe neither quoth Sir Henry Jenkin
The Motion was good; but for the stincking
Well quoth Sir Henry Poole it was a bold tricke
To Fart in the nose of the bodie pollitique
Indeed I must confesse quoth Sir Edward Grevill
The matter of it selfe was somewhat uncivill
Thanke God quoth Sir Edward Hungerford
That this Fart proved not a Turdd
Quoth Sir Jerome the lesse there was noe such abuse
Ever offer’d in Poland, or Spruce
Quoth Sir Jerome in folio, I sweare by the Masse
This Fart was enough to have brooke all my Glasse
Indeed quoth Sir John Trevor it gave a fowle knocke
As it lanched forth from his stincking Docke.
I (quoth another) it once soe chanced
That a great Man farted as hee danced.
Well then, quoth Sir William Lower
This fart is noe Ordinance fitt for the Tower.
Quoth Sir Richard Houghton noe Justice of Quorum
But would take it in snuffe to have a fart lett before him.
If it would beare an action quoth Sir Thomas Holcrofte
I would make of this fart a bolt, or a shafte.
Quoth Sir Walter Cope ’twas a fart rarely lett
I would ’tweere sweet enough for my Cabinett.
Such a Fart was never seene
Quoth the Learned Councell of the Queene.
Noe (quoth Mr Pecke I have a President in store
That his Father farted the Session before
Nay then quoth Noy ’twas lawfully done
For this fart was entail’d from father to sonne
Quoth Mr Recorder a word for the cittie
To cutt of the aldermens right weere great pittie.
Well quoth Kitt Brookes wee give you a reason
Though he has right by discent he had not livery & seizin
Ha ha quoth Mr Evans I smell a fee
I’ts a private motion heere’s something for mee
Well saith Mr Moore letts this motion repeale
Whats good for the private is oft ill for comonweale
A good yeare on this fart, quoth gentle Sir Harry
He has caus’d such an Earthquake that my colepitts miscarry
’Tis hard to recall a fart when its out
Quoth     with a loude shoote

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2 Responses to Early Stuart Libels

  1. Pingback: WILLisms.com

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