John Skelton: The Critical Heritage by Anthony Edwards

By Anthony Edwards

The serious historical past gathers jointly a wide physique of serious resources on significant figures in literature. every one quantity offers modern responses to a writer's paintings, allowing pupil and researcher to learn the cloth themselves.

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Entrenched habits of response died hard. But any justification for such casually dismissive criticism was undercut by the appearance in 1843 of Alexander Dyce’s two-volume edition of ‘The Poetical Works of John Skelton’. This edition was a remarkable achievement which has still not been superseded. It includes complete texts of all works which there seemed grounds for attributing to Skelton, with editorial apparatus and extensive annotation —the latter providing the first serious effort to lift the veil covering the many obscurities of Skelton’s verse.

It includes complete texts of all works which there seemed grounds for attributing to Skelton, with editorial apparatus and extensive annotation —the latter providing the first serious effort to lift the veil covering the many obscurities of Skelton’s verse. The work was prefaced by authoritative surveys of Skelton’s life, reputation and early influence. Dyce’s ‘Skelton’ is a tour de force of nineteenth-century scholarship, the foundation upon which all modern study of Skelton rests. ’ (55) Contemporary reviewers were not slow to perceive the value of Dyce’s pioneering work.

Once again, ‘Elynor Rumming’ becomes a critical touchstone. But here an unusual degree of critical independence is apparent in the evaluation of the work, a willingness to articulate criteria for admiration amid the general atmosphere of distaste and neglect. Other approving voices, of equally independent spirit, were to follow. The reprinting of the poems in 1736 appears to have brought Skelton to the notice of Mrs Elizabeth Cooper. ’. Her acclaim is subsequently somewhat qualified by her feeling that he was ‘much debas’d by the Rust of the Age He liv’d in’, particularly in his verse forms— thus harking back to a preoccupation of much pre-Restora-Restoration criticism.

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