Unperfect Histories: The Mirror for Magistrates, 1559-1610 (Oxford English Monographs) (Hardcover)
The Mirror for Magistrates, the collection of de casibus complaint poems in the voices of medieval rulers and rebels compiled by William Baldwin in the 1550s, was central to the development of imaginative literature in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Additions by John Higgins, Thomas Blenerhasset, and Richard Niccols between 1574 and 1610 extended the Mirror's scope, shifted its focus, and prolonged its popularity; in particular, the texts' later manifestations profoundly influenced the work of Spenser and Shakespeare. Unperfect Histories is the first monograph to consider the text's early modern transmission history as a whole. In chapters on Baldwin, Higgins, Blenerhasset, and Niccols's complaint collections, it demonstrates that the Mirror is an invaluable witness to how verse history was conceptualized, written, and read across the period, and explores the ways in which it was repeatedly reinterpreted and redeployed in response to changing contemporary concerns. The Mirror corpus encompasses topical allegory, nationalist polemic, and historiographical skepticism, as well as the macabre humour and metatextual play which have come to be known as hallmarks of Baldwin's mid-Tudor writings. What has not been recognised is the complex interaction of these themes and techniques right across the Mirror's history. Higgins, Blenerhasset, and Niccols's contributions are analysed for the first time here, both within their own literary and historiographical contexts, and in dialogue with Baldwin's early editions. This new reading offers a lively account of the texts' depth and variety, and provides insight into the extent of the Mirror's influence and ubiquity in early modern literary culture.
Harriet Archer is Lecturer at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Harriet Archer is Lecturer at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She received her doctorate in early modern English literature from the University of Oxford, and held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Newcastle University. She is the co-editor, with Andrew Hadfield, of A Mirror for Magistrates in Context: Literature, History, and Politics in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2016), and with Paul Frazer of a critical edition of Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville's Gorboduc for the Manchester Revels Plays Series.