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The Rowley Controversy

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Abstract

Notwithstanding the appearance in 1778 of the rashly printed edition of modern works, the Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, attention largely turned to the Rowley papers for the next half-decade, between 1777 and 1783, as the so-called ‘Rowley controversy’ dominated large sectors of the periodical press. In addition to weekly, even daily, notes in the journals and newspapers, many lengthy books and pamphlets ostensibly arguing for or against the authenticity of the relics — by Rowleians and anti-Rowleians respectively — appeared quickly, and a greatly expanded edition of the works came with reams of superfluous scholia in late 1781. Sub-controversies about the value and methods of literary history and criticism took shape, and gentlemen renewed old disagreements. For many participants, as George Steevens informed Thomas Warton, the notional controversy proved to be a convenient vehicle for puffing other research often only tangentially related to the newly recovered works or even to neglected early English literature at large.1

Keywords

Literary History Classical Scholarship Fifteenth Century Periodical Press English Poetry 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Steevens to Warton, 27 April 1782, in Thomas Warton, The Correspondence of Thomas Warton, ed. David Fairer (Athens, GA, and London: The University of Georgia Press, 1995), p. 448.Google Scholar
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  32. 167.
    With Ritson and Hearne in mind, Joseph Waiton observed that a ‘great deal of wit has been wasted on antiquarians’: An Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, 4th edn, 2 vols (London: J. Dodsley, 1782), vol. 2, p. 203.Google Scholar
  33. 168.
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    GM 52 (1782), pp. 532–3. ‘Castigator’ defended Ritson against politeness: GM 52 (1782), pp. 571–2. This contributor has been identified as Ritson himself by Bertrand H. Bronson, Joseph Ritson: Scholar-at-Arms, 2 vols (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1938), vol. 1, p. 340.Google Scholar
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  36. 196.
    Edward Burnaby Greene, Strictures upon a Pamphlet intitled, Cursory Observations on the Poems attributed to Rowley (London: J. Stockdale, 1782), p. 3.Google Scholar
  37. 198.
    [Rayner Hickford and John Fell], Observations on the Poems attributed to Rowley (London: C. Bathhurst, 1782).Google Scholar
  38. 219.
    Thomas James Mathias, Essay on the Evidence, External and Internal, relating to the Poems attributed to Thomas Rowley (London: T. Becket, 1783), p. 3.Google Scholar
  39. 223.
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    William Julius Mickle, The Prophecy of Queen Emma (London: J. Bew, 1782).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Daniel Cook 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DundeeUK

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