From antiquity to the Renaissance the pursuit of patronage was central to the literary career, yet relationships between poets and patrons were commonly conflicted, if not antagonistic, necessitating compromise even as they proffered stability and status. Was it just a matter of speaking lies to power? The present study looks beyond the rhetoric of dedication to examine how traditional modes of literary patronage responded to the challenge of print, as the economies of gift-exchange were forced to compete with those of the marketplace. It demonstrates how awareness of such divergent milieux prompted innovative modes of authorial self-representation, inspired or frustrated the desire for laureation, and promoted the remarkable self-reflexivity of Early Modern verse. By setting English Literature from Caxton to Jonson in the context of the most influential Classical and Italian exemplars it affords a wide comparative context for the reassessment of patronage both as a social practice and a literary theme.
Richard A. McCabe is Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford University and Fellow of Merton College. He was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2007, and held a Major Leverhuleme Fellowship from 2011 to 2014. He is author of Joseph Hall: A Study in Satire and Meditation; The Pillars of Eternity: Time and Providence in 'The Faerie Queene'; Incest, Drama, and Nature's Law 1550-1700; and Spenser's Monstrous Regiment: Elizabethan Ireland and the Poetics of Difference. He is the editor of the Penguin edition of Spenser's Shorter Poems and The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser.
PART ONE: THEORY AND PRACTICE ; PART TWO: ITALIAN LITERARY PATRONAGE ; PART THREE: ENGLISH LITERARY PATRONAGE, 1500-1625