An Online Index of Poetry in Printed Miscellanies, 1640-1682
Adam Smyth
University of Reading

Smyth, Adam. "An Online Index of Poetry in Printed Miscellanies, 1640-1682." Early Modern Literary Studies 8.1 (May, 2002): [#].1-9 <URL:

  1. Recent work by scholars to expand the early modern literary canon has led to valuable considerations of previously overlooked or cloistered texts, including manuscript miscellanies, commonplace books, diaries and autobiographical writings, and what might be termed printed ephemera. This new work is in many ways part of a larger attempt to augment author-centric research with reader-centric considerations–-an effort to understand early modern texts as a read, and not simply a written culture. As a small contribution to this shift, I am completing research on printed miscellanies in seventeenth-century England: texts which have been overlooked largely because they are defiantly non-author-centric in their compilation and self-presentation. Part of this project has involved the construction of an Index of Poetry in Printed Miscellanies, 1640-1682.

    Printed miscellanies: a brief introduction.

  2. Printed miscellanies were small, usually octavo or duodecimo publications of between 100 and 300 pages, bursting with on average about 120 short poems in English by three or more (and generally many more) authors. The collections represent a bundling together of writing from diverse sources-–commonplace books; printed verse collections; play texts; dramatic or musical performances; song books; ballads; educational tracts; other printed miscellanies. The material was often altered to suit the envisioned purposes of readers; was generally set in an educative, Royalist frame; and was offered as an emblem and exemplar of elite, usually courtly, life. Miscellanies generally declare little interest in authorship: poems are titled with loose or non-committal descriptions; they commonly offer variant readings to authorial or ‘established’ texts; and they are almost always anonymous. On those very rare occasions when ascriptions are offered, they are usually incorrect.

  3. In many (but not all) miscellanies, verses jostle with a range of other materials: model letters, dictionaries of difficult words, notes of mythology, brief histories, riddles and jokes. And all printed miscellanies–-even those which include only verse–-exude a sense of gathered diversity. The most common subject of miscellany musings is love-–particularly the torturous sufferings of the snubbed male wooer. But poems praising or criticising women (particularly extreme beauty or ugliness); lauding friendship; celebrating drink and drunkenness; pleading for sex; reflecting on death; and considering the potentials and limits of poetry and print are also common. Overt political or religious commentary is rare, although ‘non-political’ topics such as drink, love, and friendship might acquire a clear political charge. The general tone of printed miscellanies is somewhere between the dutifully educative, and the playfully reckless; a studied eloquence mixes with ribald, jesting fun; anxious etiquettes mingle with the scatological. And the effect is dizzying. If these books have any unified voice, it is pitched somewhere between the bawdy, the misogynous, the Royalist, the voyeuristic, the disenfranchised, and the educative. Printed miscellanies are verse collections; models for etiquette; prompt-books for wits; exemplars of elite life; defiant shrieks of misrule-delight. [1]

    The texts

  4. 41 printed miscellanies appeared between 1640 and 1682, as indicated below
    (first-editions listed).



    The Academy of Complements


    Wits Recreations



    The Card of Courtship



    The Harmony of the Muses



    Wits Interpreter


    The Marrow of Complements


    Musarum Deliciæ



    Wit and Drollery


    Parnassus Biceps


    Sportive Wit


    Choyce Drollery



    The Mysteries of Love and Eloquence


    Wit Restor'd



    J. Cleaveland Revived



    Poems by Pembroke and Ruddier


    Le Prince d'Amour



    Merry Drollery… The First Part

    The Second Part of Merry Drollery


    An Antidote Against Melancholy



    Folly in Print



    The New Academy of Complements



    A Jovial Garland



    Oxford Drollery


    Westminster Drollery



    Westminster Drollery the Second Part


    Covent Garden Drollery


    A Collection of Poems


    New Court-Songs


    Windsor Drollery



    Methinks the Poor Town has been troubled too long


    Holborn Drollery


    London Drollery



    Wit at a Venture


    A New Collection



    A Perfect Collection of the Several Songs now in Mode

    Mock Songs and Joking Poems



    A New Collection



    The Wits Academy


    The Last and Best Edition of New Songs



    Grammatical Drollery


    Wit and Mirth

    The Index of Poetry in Printed Miscellanies, 1640-1682

  5. The Index of Poetry in Printed Miscellanies, 1640-1682 has been posted on the Internet, at http://www.adamsmyth.clara.net/. These web pages catalogue the 4,639 poems in the 41 printed miscellanies, and arrange the information across seven fields: first line, last line, text, date, title and page numbers, number of lines, and (where known) author. The Index may be consulted in two ways: as browseable tables, organised alphabetically by first line, last line, or author; or as a keyword searchable index, across all fields.

  6. The Index enables numerous research possibilities, some of which are outlined below.

    1. The Index reveals an alternative literary canon of the poets most widely read in printed miscellanies. Among the most represented poets are William Strode, Ben Jonson, Thomas Carew, Alexander Brome, Robert Ayton, Richard Corbett, John Suckling, Henry King, William Hicks, Henry Parrot, Thomas Bastard and William Munsey.
    2. Scholars engaged in studies or editions of these early modern poets might well find otherwise obscured versions of their author’s poems in the Index.
    3. Roughly one third of the poems in the Index appear in more than one printed miscellany, and the Index supplies a sense of which miscellany poems were most popular. Among the most frequently reprinted were Aurelian Townshend's celebration of drinking beginning "Bacchus, Iacchus, fill our braines" or "Let Souldiers fight for pay and praise"; William Strode's "Keep on your mask and hide your eye" and his "I saw fair Chloris walk alone"; Alexander Brome's "Why should we laugh and be jolly"; Robert Davenant's "From the fair Lavinian shore"; Robert Ayton's "No man Love’s fiery Passions"; and Henry Wotton's "You meaner beauties".
    4. Very often, these different manifestations of poems appear with considerable textual variants: titles, layouts, tunes, lines, stanza order, words, and ascriptions are all often subject to sometimes radical change. Thus for scholars interested in poems as malleable, evolving units, the Index will help to begin textual histories. Those interested in the history of print culture; in the dissemination of often ‘elite’ poetry to popular readers; and in kinds of popular reading experiences, might also find the Index of use.
    5. A keyword search across first line, last line and title might also help scholars interested in tracking down little-known verse treatments of particular themes. Searching under 'writing', or 'reading', or 'print', for instance, reveals any number of potentially significant poems.

    On all these fronts, the Index might usefully complement searches of Steven W. May’s forthcoming magisterial Bibliography and First-Line Index of English Verse, 1559-1603 (Mansell, 2002); Margaret Crum’s First-Line Index of English Poetry 1500-1800 in Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969); C.L. Day and E.B. Murrie’s English Song-Books, 1651-1702. A bibliography, with a first-line index of songs (London: Bibliographical Society, 1940); and Chadwyck-Healey's The English Poetry Full-Text Database CD-ROM (1995).

  7. The Index of Poetry in Printed Miscellanies, 1640-1682 is an ongoing project, and is regularly updated. While I have tried to identify as many poems as I can, many have remained true to their seventeenth-century nature and are still devoid of ascription. I would thus welcome any additional ascriptions readers are able to supply, and any other points of correction or revision. Please contact me at the e-mail address above.

  8. I would also be grateful if readers who use the Index could cite the web address in any published outcomes.

  9. I hope the Index proves of value to readers.


1. For a fuller discussion of printed miscellanies, see my "Printed miscellanies in England, 1640-1682: 'store-houses of wit'", Criticism 42.2 (Spring 2000), 151-84. A book-length study will appear soon (Wayne State University Press).

Works Cited

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at L.M.Hopkins@shu.ac.uk.

© 2002-, Lisa Hopkins (Editor, EMLS).