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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works
Thomas Middleton, Gary Taylor
Progress: 80/1183 pages
The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry
Robert Chandler
The Uncertain Land and Other Poems
Patrick O'Brian
Progress: 8/160 pages
The Poems and Plays of John Masefield
John Masefield
Progress: 78/534 pages
Poems Selected
Emily Dickinson, Ted Hughes
Progress: 4/50 pages
Selected Poems
U A Fanthorpe
Progress: 18/160 pages
The Penguin Book of Scottish Verse
Mick Imlah, Robert Crawford
Hainish Novels & Stories, Vol. 2
Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 133/789 pages
The Art Book
Editors of Phaidon Press
Progress: 416/515 pages
The Essential Shakespeare
Ted Hughes
Progress: 82/259 pages

Reading progress update: I've read 149 out of 2016 pages.

Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works -  MacDonald P. Jackson (Editor),  John Jowett (Editor),  John Lavagnino,  V. Wayne, Gary Taylor, Thomas Middleton

News from Gravesend: Sent to Nobody
Thomas Dekker, Thomas Middleton


Published as a "pamphlet," a form of publication that the study of Shakespeare's work will not even reveal the existence of, this is a poem about the plague, prompted by the outbreak of 1603, which was a particularly severe one for the period. It is prefaced by an "Epistle Dedicatory" of unprecedented length, taking up nearly half the pamphlet. The dedicatee is "Nobody" a symbolic personage who is specifically not any real person. The reason for this is explained in the Epistle as a plea for a change from writers currying favour from rich patrons in order to earn a living to some other method. This and the subsequent attack on the wealthy members of the legal professions for abandoning London to its fate in favour of Winchester during plague outbreaks is all rather political and I'm surprised that it passed the censors. There's nothing directly attacking the King or the institutions of the Monarchy so perhaps they were not too bothered.


I'm not much familiar with the lyric poetry of the period. I've read Shakespeare's contributions and nothing else to speak of. Being neither a narrative poem, nor the sort of personal topics addressed in the sonnets, but instead a discursive examination of a topical subject with moral, political and philosophical implications, this was again unique in my experience. It's also good, with some exceptionally vivid imagery (buboes like purple grapes sticks in my mind) although the science of disease is entirely discredited, now, as is the notion put forward by the authors that it is really a God-sent punishment of the immoral.


A very interesting read from the perspective of learning about the Jacobean literary world and on its own terms as a literary work.