New website! and a progress update...

Posted by Jenny Batt on Monday, September 20, 2010 with No comments
The official DMI website is now up and running! Go to where you can find out more about:

  • Miscellanies and eighteenth century print culture, and how the Digital Miscellanies Index will change how scholars think about poetry in the eighteenth century.
  • Walter Harding, the ragtime-pianist who bequeathed thousands of miscellanies to the Bodleian Library, Oxford - an amazing collection which the DMI team are lucky enough to be working with on a daily basis.
  • Eighteenth century music - a lot of eighteenth century poems were set to music; rather than reading certain texts, it is likely that many people would have heard them performed. We’ve got various music clips posted on the website, expertly performed by Giles Lewin and Vivien Ellis.

How much work have we done so far?

Since the official start of the project in March, we’ve done more than 1, 200 hours of data entry, looked at more than 240 volumes, and processed over 12000 poems.

The most recent poem added to the database is ‘To Mrs. S----‘, a panegyrical tribute to the charms of ‘Beauteous Celia’ in which the anonymous poet reassures Celia that any malice she might feel from base and ‘Envious Wretches’ simply magnifies her own innocence. The poem ends with his offer ‘to dedicate my Days / To Celia’s service’. The poem appears in a volume called New Miscellaneous Poems, with Five Love Letters from a Nun to a Cavalier, Done into Verse (1731).

And what is it we’ve been looking at?

John has been entering data from political miscellanies published between 1710 and 1720. These publications are dominated by the Poems on Affairs of State series, of which he has entered 4 distinct volumes (including one pirated collection of all four into one volume), which amounts to 21 bibliographic items when re-issues, new editions, and piracies are taken into account. One striking thing about Poems on Affairs of State is the relative frequency, given the title, of poems that aren't at all political, and which aren't written by political or court figures - often love lyrics intrude amongst the topical satires: perhaps this is intended as a break from State-affairs for the weary reader?

Chris has worked through 18 translations of Ovid’s Epistles dating from 1701 to 1795, and along the way he found plenty of curiosities including manuscript marginal notes suggesting that these epistles were open to political readings. And who is the elusive ‘Mr Wright’ that contributes to this miscellany? From Ovid’s Epistles, Chris moved on to translations of Ovid’s De Arte Amandi, which he found to be printed alongside James Smith’s extremely pornographic version of the Hero and Leander myth, and he is currently cataloguing anonymous translations of Catullus’ poems from 1707, which intersperse a prose narrative of ‘The Adventures of Catullus’.

Claudine has been busy entering details of miscellanies collected under the names of canonical poets, including Abraham Cowley and the Earls of Rochester and Roscommon. The latter two poets appear to have proved especially popular in the early 18th century, with one miscellany directly linking their work. The twenty-one editions of the two-volume The Miscellaneous Works of the Right Honourable the late Earls of Rochester and Roscommon printed during the century span the years from 1707 to 1800. The first volume contains Rochester’s poetry, the second Roscommon’s verse alongside poetry by a number of other hands including the Earl of Dorset, and the Dukes of Buckingham and Devonshire. The Works, therefore, seems to collect together the verse of a number of Restoration court poets in an attempt to create a group legacy that, despite their personal differences and varying political loyalties, could be forged through their shared aristocratic status.

Jenny has been recently working on A Collection of Poems (1701, 1702, 1716), trying to work out whether the poet Charles Tooke is related to the bookseller Benjamin Tooke, and whether either is (or both are) related to Admiral Sir George Rooke, or the bookseller John Crooke. And (completely tangentially) how many of the Rookes, Crookes and Tookes are related to Edward Gibbon.

What's next?

Over the coming months, the Digital Miscellanies Indexing team will be talking about the project at various seminars and conferences in Oxford and around the country. More details soon!