The English verse of Robert Southwell : a critical study of Southwell's English lyrics within their recusant context
The dissertation offers a reading of Southwell's English lyrics. In the broad sense it aims to add to the knowledge of late Renaissance ethical and religious verse in England; as such it would be of particular interest to students of Spenser, Herbert and Donne. In a wider sense it aims to synthesise historical work on dissenting Elizabethan Catholicism (Recusancy) with readings of individual poems. Its approach is historicist throughout. It does not aim to add substantially to the biographical and bibliographical information on the poet already extensively available; the task of the present writer has been to draw links between previously disparate bodies of work concerning Southwell. In opting for a study of the English works, the present writer has not attempted to add to our knowledge of Southwell's Roman years, nor to examine Southwell's rather insignificant Latin poems. Reference has been made, however, to Southwell's English prose works, and also to Southwell's letters. It should be added that a knowledge of Latin (but only a little of Italian) has been presumed throughout. The dissertation begins within an introduction dealing with the chief critical problems concerning Southwell, a discussion of earlier criticism and the critical approach of the present work, and a discussion of the cultural ethos of Elizabethan Catholicism. Further chapters treat related groups of poems in conjectured chronological sequence; the first chapter maps out Southwell's arrival in England, and the connections he may have made with the musician William Byrd and the sonnetteer Thomas Watson. The critical core of the work is in the second chapter where Southwell's debt to the two major Elizabethan anthologies of verse (Tottels Miscellany; The Paradise of Dainty Devices) is examined in detail. Subsequent chapters deal with Southwell's relationship to his patrons, and the work ends with an examination of Southwell's longest poem, Saint Peter's Complaint.