Early Modern Exchanges


Specimens of Poetesses

03 May 2016, 5:00 pm–7:00 pm

Portrait of Mary Sidney Herbert by Nicholas Hilliard

Paul Salzman (La Trobe), Editing early modern women: Alexander Dyce's Specimens of British Poetesses (1825)

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Early Modern Exchanges


Foster Court 307


In 1825 Alexander Dyce published a remarkable anthology of poetry by women writers from Juliana Berners to L. E. Landon. The forty or so writers in the collection who wrote prior to the mid eighteenth century form an impressively varied collection. In this paper I examine the sources Dyce used and the reasoning behind the anthology as a whole. Dyce’s volume not only exemplifies the remarkably catholic taste of a nineteenth century editor, but it also serves as a paradigm for how the transmission of texts by early modern women continued into the nineteenth century, and intersected with something of a golden age for the editing of Renaissance literature in general. The anthology can as well be seen as an intervention in the way that contemporary women’s poetry was being read during Romanticism and its aftermath. I will consider how significant this selection of women’s poetry was for Dyce’s other editorial activities, and how his volume related to other nineteenth-century editorial projects.


Paul Salzman FAHA is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at La Trobe University, Australia. He has published widely in the area of early modern literature, especially on prose fiction, early modern women’s writing, and literary and cultural history. Recent publications include Literature and Politics in the 1620s: ‘Whisper’d Counsells’ (Palgrave, 2014); Mary Wroth and Shakespeare (Routledge, 2015), co-edited with Marion Wynne-Davies; an on-line edition of Mary Wroth’s poetry; and a forthcoming on-line edition of Wroth’s play Love’s Victory.