This site and the catalogue is the work of John Burton at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.
This site is an online catalogue of sonnet sequences published in the United Kingdom in the early modern period, 1560-1640. It aims to provide scholars with information about each sonnet sequence, including its author, theme, year published, and bibliographic information. Full text of each sequence is provided by phase I of the EEBO-TCP project.
Usually characterised as the poetry of love’s complaint in the Petrarchan style, it’s my hope to demonstrate that sonnet sequences were also written about religious love, death, metaphysics, and social connections. In fact, about forty per cent of sequences treat topics other than courtly love.
I made sonnet sequences the subject of my PhD research at the University of Wales, and I developed this catalogue in order to classify and understand a nebulous and popular literary format. I also investigated two sub-genres of sonnet: the dream sonnet, and the Trinity sonnet.
My forthcoming book project Desire and Devotion in Early Modern England: Generic Tensions and Sectarian Poetics in the Sonnet Sequence explores sequences that combine Petrarchan desire and religious devotion into a lyric synthesis; John Davies of Hereford’s Wittes Pilgrimage and Fulke Greville’s ‘Caelica’.
Sidney Lee’s Elizabethan Sonnets (1904) is the first attempt at an anthology of the sonnet sequence form. In his introduction he describes the work of the English sonneteers as largely without merit, and omitted Shakespeare’s sonnets from the collection. His collection includes fifteen love sequences. While Lee remained sceptical of the merits of the general output of English sonneteers, Holger M. Klein’s two-volume English and Scottish sonnet sequences of the Renaissance attempts to bring together those sequences Lee excluded. Although remaining unwilling to publish Shakespeare’s sonnet sequence with those of his contemporaries, Klein’s collection brings together a further eight love sequences, bringing the total number of those sequences collected and published in the last one hundred years to twenty-three. However, the number of thematically linked groups of sonnets far exceeds even this number. The present research has identified 59 distinct sonnet sequences published in England between 1560 and 1633.
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