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Cursory Observations on the Poems Attributed to Thomas Rowley (1782)   By: (1741-1812)

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First Page:

The Augustan Reprint Society

EDMOND MALONE

CURSORY OBSERVATIONS

on the POEMS

Attributed To THOMAS ROWLEY

(1782)

Introduction by JAMES M. KUIST

Publication Number 123 William Andrews Clark Memorial Library University of California, Los Angeles 1966

GENERAL EDITORS

George Robert Guffey, University of California, Los Angeles Earl Miner, University of California, Los Angeles Maximillian E. Novak, University of California, Los Angeles Robert Vosper, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library

ADVISORY EDITORS

Richard C. Boys, University of Michigan James L. Clifford, Columbia University Ralph Cohen, University of California, Los Angeles Vinton A. Dearing, University of California, Los Angeles Arthur Friedman, University of Chicago Louis A. Landa, Princeton University Samuel H. Monk, University of Minnesota Everett T. Moore, University of California, Los Angeles Lawrence Clark Powell, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library James Sutherland, University College, London H. T. Swedenberg, Jr., University of California, Los Angeles

CORRESPONDING SECRETARY

Edna C. Davis, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library

INTRODUCTION

Edmond Malone's Cursory Observations was the most timely publication in the Rowley controversy. His work appeared just as the debate over the authenticity of the poems attributed to a fifteenth century priest was, after twelve years, entering its most crucial phase.[1] These curious poems had come to the attention of the reading public in 1769, when Thomas Chatterton sent several fragments to the Town and Country Magazine . The suicide of the young poet in 1770 made his story of discovering ancient manuscripts all the more intriguing. When Thomas Tyrwhitt published the first collected edition in March of 1777,[2] speculation about whether the poems were the work of Rowley or Chatterton began in earnest. Malone arrived in London two months later to take up permanent residence, and very likely he soon became in private "a professed anti Rowleian."[3] But during the late 1770's, although anonymous writers filled the periodicals with pronouncements on both sides of the question, there was no urgent need to demonstrate that the poems were spurious. The essay which Tyrwhitt appended to the third edition of Rowley poems in 1778[4] and Thomas Warton's chapter in his History of English Poetry [5] seemed to show with sufficient authority that the poems could not have been written in the fifteenth century. The Rowleians, however, were diligently preparing their arguments,[6] and late in 1781 they at last came forward with massive scholarly support for the Rowley story.

On the first of December, Jacob Bryant published his voluminous Observations upon the Poems of Thomas Rowley: in which the authenticity of those poems is ascertained .[7] Some ten days later, Jeremiah Milles, Dean of Exeter and President of the Society of Antiquaries, brought out his own "edition" of the poems, with a commentary providing extensive historical proof of what Bryant "ascertained."[8] The remarks of Warton and Tyrwhitt suddenly seemed hasty and superficial. Warton had clearly outlined his reasons for skepticism, but he offered to show "the greatest deference to decisions of much higher authority."[9] Tyrwhitt had also hesitated to be dogmatic. He saw fit to suggest that, since Chatterton had always been equivocal, the authenticity of the poems could be judged only on internal grounds. Merely to show what might be gleaned from the poems themselves, he examined " part of the internal evidence," the language, and specifically "a  part only of this part , viz. ... words , considered with respect to their significations and inflexions ... Continue reading book >>




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