Jonson and the Cavalier Poets

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By looking back to classical lyric for their inspiration, Jonson and his followers engage with the question of lyric's public role, central to the genre in its Greek origins and symbolized by performance on the lyre; a question linked, in the seventeenth century, to the choice of manuscript or print, with their different audiences. Influenced by Horace's conflicting desires to sing for the nation and to withdraw into an exclusive coterie, explored through ambivalent images of performance and written dissemination, Jonson's negotiation of scribal and print publication reflects his insecurity over his lowly origins, courting the monumentality of the printed classic while despising mass audiences. In the changed climate of the Civil War, the Cavalier poets redeploy Jonson's strategies for political and polemical purposes, rearticulating the exclusivity of manuscript circulation with the social inclusivity of print in a way which allows them to reclaim the public role of the classical lyricists.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to Renaissance Poetry
EditorsCatherine Bates
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781118585184
ISBN (Print)9781118585191
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2018


  • Cavalier poets
  • English Civil War
  • Horace
  • imitation
  • Ben Jonson
  • literary clubs
  • lyric
  • manuscript networks
  • print publication
  • social hierarchy


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