Harold Love. English Clandestine Satire, 1660-1702. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. x+431pp. ISBN 0 19 925561 X.

Tom Lockwood
University of Birmingham

Lockwood, Tom. "Review of Harold Love, English Clandestine Satire, 1660-1702." Early Modern Literary Studies 12.3 (January, 2007) 14.1-4 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/12-3/revlove.htm>.

  1. Since his Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England was first published in 1993, Harold Love has shown no signs of slowing down. This remarkable spell of intellectual and publishing productivity, as he notes, modestly but impressively, in the Acknowledgements to English Clandestine Satire, 1660-1702, includes 'a general study of scribal publishing' (Scribal Publication, subsequently re-issued as The Culture and Commerce of Texts in 1998), 'the edition of a major author who worked in the medium' (Love's now-standard The Works of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, of 1999), and the current study, an 'extended survey of the literary genre in which that author made his most important contribution' (vi). This Oxford-centred account of his own industry omits a no-less valuable book he published with Cambridge in 2002, Attributing Authorship: An Introduction; and such has been his work-rate that now, two years after the publication of English Clandestine Satire, Oxford are advertising the imminent arrival of Love's two-volume edition of Plays, Poems, and Miscellaneous Writings Associated with George Villiers, Second Duke of Buckingham, edited jointly with Robert D. Hume. That (with emphasis added) the Select Bibliography to English Clandestine Satire contains a further eight of his article- or chapter-length studies related to the larger project only confirms what was already apparent: that Love's work over this series of studies amounts to a major and unignorable rethinking of a means of publication as well as a major reinterpretation of the material published in it. Few can have done so much as Love, not only to open out a whole field of study to others, but to expand into it with such hospitable expertise.

  2. The huge strength of English Clandestine Satire is that it wears its learning so lightly as to make this book essential both for the scholar or student new to the field and for those already more familiar with it.. The book's second chapter, 'The Court Lampoon', offers a perfect instance of the unfussy way in which Love presents his work to the reader. 'Only historians these days are likely to have a clear idea of what court really was and how it worked; and even they may be hazy about the details of a court like that of Charles II, in which carefully reinstalled ancient structures were buckling under the weight of innovative modern content.' A footnote to this sentence momentarily led me to fear that the heavy-lifting here was to be done by someone else - literally, indeed, in the form of a long trudge back from the library shelves with the relevant reading in hand. But no: Love's method is more amenable than this. 'It will therefore be necessary to describe some institutional fundamentals,' he continues (30). Of course, the account that follows does much more than present simply fundamentals, however expertly these are sketched; rather, what is offered is a graceful, nuanced, sympathetic account of what can often seem one of the least graceful, most obvious, and least sympathetic societies with which early modernists engage (Love endorses Timothy Raylor's eloquent indictment of the 'obscenity', 'vulgarity' and 'vandalism' of Restoration literary society on page 20).

  3. Love's unfussiness, his generous refusal to scandalise or stigmatise, extends to the sexual politics of the poems he discusses, sex in these poems most often being a metaphor for power. Few before him had read Rochester's furiously obscene 'By all Love's soft, yet mighty Pow'rs' as an exercise in gentle encouragement to Nell Gwyn, newly arrived at court (pp.40-1); few after can ignore the possibilities for inclusion extended by his reading, however counter-intuitive it might initially seem. 'The poem does not convey dislike of the woman addressed and expresses neither repugnance nor unseemly arousal at the manifestations of her bodily functions; rather, it constitutes a good-humoured recommendation how intercourse, like other relationships of court civility, could be made more decorous for both of them' (p.41). While 'decorous' might only under pressure describe much of the material quoted by Love, his comments here are a fair reflection of his critical method, which feels the force of opposing pressures within and between different textual locations and their textual cultures, but never become party to, or partisan in, those disputes. The court, the town and the state, the three main locations in which Love sees a culture of clandestine manuscript satire operating, are each carefully and rewardingly presented by chapters 2 to 4 of this study, as are the other topics covered in its other chapters: a compact genealogy of the 'Origins and Models' of the genre (chapter 1); expert discussions of 'Lampoon Authorship' (chapter 5), and the genre's modes of 'Transmission and Reception' (chapter 8, including fascinating pages on the relationship of the written text to musical performance); and two chapters that discuss the discursive relationships of 'The Lampoon as Gossip' (chapter 5) and offer provisionally 'A Poetics of the Lampoon' (chapter 6).

  4. This poetics, taken together with the book's 112-page appendix, a 'First-Line Index to Selected Anthologies of Clandestine Satire' that accompanies Adam Matthew Publications' recent microfilm collection of much material originally gathered by Love, suggest that the field described so wonderfully by Love has much still to reveal. Chief among the discoveries yet to be made may well, as Love hopes it will, be a better understanding of the literariness of the lampoon. As he recognises, 'Literary qualities, which might have been respected if they had been exercised in texts defending the powerless against the strong, become devalued when it is a question of members of the leisured classes bickering with each other or blatant vilification of the defenceless' (88). The strength of English Clandestine Satire is that it allows us to recognise and understand all that is least appealing about the late-seventeenth century lampoon, and still find reasons for which to be interested by it.
Works Cited
  • Love, Harold. Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993; repr. as The Culture and Commerce of Texts: Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1998.
  • -----------------, ed. The Works of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.
  • -----------------. Attributing Authorship: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • -----------------, and Robert D. Hume, eds. Plays, Poems, and Miscellaneous Writings Associated with George Villiers, Second Duke of Buckingham, 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006.
  • ------------------, consultant ed., English Clandestine Satire, 1660-1704: Popular Culture, Entertainment and Information in the Early Modern Period. 24 microfilm reels. Adam Matthews Publications, [n.d.].


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© 2007-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).