The Stratford-upon-Avon Studies are a new series concerned with literary and theatrical subjects of major interest. The individual studies are neither regular histories nor collections of critical essays written from one particular point of view; rather they are books for any reader seeking a full and informed participation in the literature and drama of which they treat. Because they are the result of the collaboration of groups of writers with varied skills and interests, each book offers not one guide but several, and reflects many kinds of appreciation. This volume on Elizabethan poetry is the second of the series.
Elizabethan Poetry is a vast theme: as William Webbe wrote in 1586:
Among the innumerable sorts of English books and infinite fardles of printed pamphlets, wherewith this country is pestered, all shops stuffed, and every study furnished, the greatest part I think, in any one kind, are such as are either mere poetical, or which tend in some respect (as either in matter or form) to poetry.
In this new account of the 'poetical' kind, we have placed the emphasis on the shorter poems; by this means a wide variety of voices may be appraised, and the many ways in which Elizabethans thought, wrote, read, sang, and used poetry. At the centre of the book is a detailed study of a 'courtier, soldier, scholar' and of his poetry; and this indicates the important bias of the whole. Franklin Dickey describes the anthologies in which many Elizabethan poems were first printed; Muriel Bradbrook discusses one poet's 'career' and Donald Davie another's practical and personal use of his art. Our readers will be invited not only to admire and appraise, but also to consider uses and modes of poetry which in the twentieth century are almost forgotten: perhaps this is no more so than in 'the manner of poesie by which they uttered their bitter taunts, and privy nips or witty scoffs'.
The assessment of the individual achievements of Elizabethan poets is conducted in whichever way was considered most suitable. As in other volumes of Stratford-upon-Avon Studies, we have not sought a consistent style of presentation: three chapters are by poets who write . . .