Adam Smyth. "Profit and Delight": Printed
Miscellanies in England, 1640-1682. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2004. 246pp.
ISBN 0 8143 3014 2.
University of Birmingham
Gillian Wright. "Review of Adam Smyth,"Profit
and Delight": Printed Miscellanies in England, 1640-1682." Early
Modern Literary Studies 13.1 (May, 2007) 10.1-4<URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/13-1/revsmyth.htm>.
- Adam Smyth's book on print miscellanies of the mid-to-late seventeenth
century fills a scholarly gap which had been apparent since the publication,
a decade earlier, of such landmark studies as Mary Hobbs' Early Seventeenth-Century
Verse Miscellany Manuscripts (1992), Harold Love's Scribal Publication
in Seventeenth-Century England (1993) and Arthur Marotti's Manuscript,
Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric (1995). If the main thrust
of Hobbes', Love's and Marotti's arguments was to insist on the literary
and sociological importance of manuscript composition and circulation
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, their work also, sometimes
incidentally, brought to light the world of the seventeenth-century printed
miscellany, which previously -- like its manuscript counterpart -- had
been subject to scholarly neglect and even derision. This neglect has
now been admirably rectified by Adam Smyth's Profit and Delight,
which provides an entertaining and eminently knowledgeable guide to printed
miscellanies of the period 1640-1682.
- Profit and Delight falls into four chapters. After an opening
survey, mapping out the scope and self-construction of the forty-one miscellanies
included in Smyth's study, there follow sections on 'Readers and Readings',
'Printed Miscellanies and the Transmission of Texts' and 'Politics, Themes
and Preoccupations'. In line with previous scholarship on manuscript miscellanies,
Smyth insists on the relative unimportance of the author principle within
printed collections, which, as he points out, frequently fail to attribute
the authorship of poems and often evince a distinctly reckless attitude
towards textual fidelity. Instead, Smyth prefers to privilege compilers
and, especially, readers in the production, circulation and consumption
of poetic texts. In generous and compelling detail, Profit and Delight
attends to both the production and the reception of miscellany texts,
as well as to the fluid and shifting boundaries between manuscript and
print during the period under consideration. Printed compilations of the
1640s and 50s are read in relation to the manuscript miscellanies of the
1620s and 30s, whose elite status, Smyth argues, was invoked by the more
commercial print miscellanies in order to construct and entice their own
aspirant but less well-connected readerships. At the 'reading' end of
the process Smyth cites and analyses evidence from books and manuscripts
now held in an impressive array of British and American repositories,
teasing out the reception practices of these miscellanies' historical,
as opposed to their projected, readerships. Pleasantly, for instance,
he is able to show that while printed miscellanies typically construct
their readers as smart, sexy young men about town, there is in fact substantial
evidence that many of the earliest owners and readers of miscellany volumes
- Many of the broad arguments of Profit and Delight will be unsurprising
to anyone who has followed the scholarship on seventeenth-century miscellanies
and manuscript transmission over the past decade and a half. That miscellany
compilers were no respecters of textual originals, that they were interested
in sex and drink, that they tended to favour the royalist side in the
Civil War: all this will be familiar ground to the well-informed reader.
Smyth's contribution to scholarly knowledge lies principally in the wealth
of detailed examples which he brings to bear to illustrate his arguments.
But these detailed examples also enable him to complicate and interrogate
received narratives in several important respects. Smyth's extensive knowledge
of manuscript and printed miscellanies enables him, for instance, to challenge
the commonly-held assumption that textual transmission between the two
media occurred in only one direction: showing that manuscript compilers
were as ready to draw on printed sources as print compilers on manuscripts.
His comparison of compilation practices in both media also equips him
to question the conventional binary distinction between the 'fixity' of
print and the fluidity of manuscript; neither, the evidence suggests,
can be taken for granted.
- Like many genres traditionally frowned on by literary scholars, print
miscellanies are heavily implicated in the politics of their day. It is
one of the many strengths of Profit and Delight that it analyses
the link between royalism -- both pre- and post-Civil War -- and the forms
and preoccupations of miscellany contents with acute attention to detail,
providing a complex, carefully historicised account which resists the
temptation to homogenise its subject matter. It is mildly disappointing,
however, that comparatively little attention is paid to the politics of
post-Civil War printed miscellanies. Smyth's brief acknowledgement that
after 1660 miscellanies 'were no longer a means to voice direct opposition
to government' (140) hints at further questions which this study, perhaps
understandably, does little to address. Far from exhausting its subject,
this witty and innovative monograph, like the miscellanies themselves,
provides a tantalising glimpse of textual riches, and leaves its readers
curious for more.
- Hobbs, Mary. Early Seventeenth-Century Verse Miscellany Manuscripts.
Aldershot: Scholar, 1992.
- Love, Harold. Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993.
- Marotti, Arthur. Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance
Lyric. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1995.