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John Donne and the Conway Papers: a biographical and bibliographical study of poetry and patronage in the Seventeenth Century

Smith, D.M.S.; (2011) John Donne and the Conway Papers: a biographical and bibliographical study of poetry and patronage in the Seventeenth Century. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis investigates a seventeenth-century manuscript archive, the Conway Papers, in order to explain the relationship between the archive’s owners and John Donne, the foremost manuscript poet of the century. An evaluation of Donne’s legacy as a writer and thinker requires an understanding of both his medium of publication and the collectors and agents who acquired and circulated his work. The Conway Papers were owned by Edward, first Viscount Conway, Secretary of State to James I and Charles I, and Conway’s son. Both men were also significant collectors of printed books. The archive as it survives, mainly in the British Library and National Archives, includes around 300 literary manuscripts ranging from court entertainments to bawdy ballads. This thesis fully evaluates the collection as a whole for the first time, including its complex history. I ask three principal questions: what the Conway Papers are and how they were amassed; how the archive came to contain poetry and drama by Donne, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton and others; and what the significance of this fact is, both in terms of seventeenth-century theories about politics, patronage and society, and modern critical and historical interpretations. These questions cast new light on the early transmission of Donne’s verse, especially his Satires and verse epistles. The Conway Papers emphasise the importance of Donne’s closest friends – such as Sir Henry Goodere, George Gerrard and Rowland Woodward – in the dissemination of his poetry. The manuscripts help define Donne’s earliest readership and establish why his writing was considered valuable cultural capital. Examining the transmission of these manuscripts from the poet to his readers, I present new arguments about Donne’s role in a gift economy, and demonstrate how his writings were exchanged as symbols of intellectual amity between patrons and clients.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:John Donne and the Conway Papers: a biographical and bibliographical study of poetry and patronage in the Seventeenth Century
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Language and Literature

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