The Origins of English Nonsense

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9780002558273: The Origins of English Nonsense

Nonsense verse in England is generally thought to have its origins in Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. This work shows the extent of its flourishing a full 250 years earlier, with the work of such now nearly forgotten nonsense poets as Sir John Hoskyns and John Taylor. It presents an anthology of their work, much of it published here for the first time since the 17th century. The introduction discusses the origins and development of the genre in England and the history of medieval and Renaissance nonsense poetry in Europe.

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Review:

‘What a versatile scholar Noel Malcolm is!… He has produced a work of equal erudition and great originality on a hitherto totally neglected, but curious and interesting subject: the
“nonsense poetry”
of the early 17th century… and it is only through Mr Malcolm’s brilliant scholarship that we can appreciate this missing chapter of our literary history.’
Hugh Trevor Roper, Sunday Telegraph

‘A readable, scholarly book… Malcolm restores to nonsense verse its rightful historical role as a medium for satire and parody and reckless play. He has helped rescue nonsense from whimsy.’
Ian Sansom, Guardian

‘A brilliant, argumentative book… Malcolm is a fine critic, and this exemplary study displays an exquisite literary sensibility operating at the height of its powers.’
Robert McCrum, Observer

‘A masterly piece of research… I do hope this publication will be applauded. People get chairs for less.’
Peter Levi, Literary Review

‘An elegant, enjoyable book which is a real contribution to literary history.’
Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times

‘A delight.’
Mark Archer, Spectator

From the Back Cover:

'One might assume,' writes Noel Malcolm in the preface to his book, 'that the period of English literature which lies between the major works of Shakespeare and Milton was a peculiarly well-ploughed field, where little remained to be explored. Yet the purpose of this volume is to make known a genre which enjoyed real popularity in precisely that period, and which has never been discussed in any detail.'

Nonsense verse in England is generally thought to have its origins in Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. Noel Malcolm's remarkable book lays before us the extent of its flourishing a full two hundred and fifty years earlier, with the work of such now nearly forgotten nonsense poets as Sir John Hoskyns and John Taylor. It presents an anthology of their work, much of it published here for the first time since the seventeenth century, and in a long introduction discusses the origins and development of the genre in England and the history of medieval and Renaissance nonsense poetry in Europe. It is a brilliant piece of scholarly recovery, and an important addition to the study of English literature in the seventeenth century.

Noel Malcolm is one of Britain's most original scholar-journalists. He is the editor of Hobbes's correspondence and author of the best-selling 'Bosnia: A Short History'.

"This is a remarkable work by a very remarkably scholar: a work of impressive erudition and intellectual acumen. Noel Malcolm's range is extraordinary: his work, however disparate, never falls below the highest scholarly level. I do not know when he wrote – or had time to write – this book, which is very different from his previous publications, but it is of the same uniformly high standard of scholarship and is clearly the result of very profound study… It is a unique work which will be recognised as a valuable contribution to the history of English literature."
HUGH TREVOR-ROPER

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