The Sonnets of William Alabaster

The Sonnets of William Alabaster

The Sonnets of William Alabaster

The Sonnets of William Alabaster

Excerpt

Hard on the heels of his discovery of Traherne, Mr. Bertram Dobell announced that he had found a manuscript containing forty-three sonnets by William Alabaster, the Elizabethan divine and neo-Latin poet. He printed six of these sonnets, together with an account of the author, in the Athenaeum, 26 December, 1903, Soon afterwards he identified as Alabaster's sixty-four sonnets in a manuscript at St. John's College, Cambridge.

Almost immediately, Alabaster, as a sometime Catholic recusant, attracted the attention of Fr. J. H. Pollen who wrote a biographical account of the poet in the Month, April 1904, and printed another three sonnets. Simultaneously, Miss L. I. Guiney began collecting material for both an edition of Alabaster's English poems and a full length biography, and although she lived to complete neither, part of the results of her research appeared in the posthumous Recusant Poets (1938), six sonnets and an admirably concise biographical notice. From her text, two sonnets of Alabaster's have been reprinted by W. H. Auden and N. H. Pearson in the second volume of their Poets of the English Language (1952) while another, from Dobell's text, was reprinted by W. Robertson in The Golden Book of English Sonnets in 1913.

Alabaster was not unknown before Dobell's discovery. Contemporary references to his Latin verse are frequent, and his mystical theology, familiar to the learned in his own day, seems to have been sufficiently known in the eighteenth century for an allusion in the Spectator (13 November 1711). As an English poet, however, he cannot have been widely known. The manuscripts now extant suggest a small circle of readers from the very year in which his sonnets were written; but printed allusions to the English poems are very rare. There was a brief flicker of interest in Alabaster during the early nineteenth-century renaissance of Elizabethan studies. The 1821 (Third . . .

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