The Rowley Controversy



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


Literary History Classical Scholarship Fifteenth Century Periodical Press English Poetry 
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Copyright information

© Daniel Cook 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DundeeUK

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