Letter-writing theory in the literary scene: Angel Day, The English Secretary, and authorship in early modern England

Gilbert, Kerry (2015). Letter-writing theory in the literary scene: Angel Day, The English Secretary, and authorship in early modern England. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis focuses on epistolary theory in early modern England. There are a few studies of Elizabethan and Jacobean letter-writing manuals to date, though scholars typically use chronological analyses of instructional texts printed between 1568-1640. However, the methodology of this dissertation departs considerably from earlier studies. Rather than study many texts chronologically, I focus on one: Angel Day’s The English Secretary. Day’s manual, printed nine times in fifty years, was the most popular of its time. I use these editions– many of them heavily revised – to trace developments of epistolary theory.

This approach necessitates a two-part methodology: bibliographical analysis and textual criticism. Before examining The English Secretary as a letter-writing text, I take up the manual, and its nine editions, using principles of bibliography to locate the revisions that Day made to his manual. Once I locate his revisions, I use textual analysis to determine their signification.

In so doing, I reappraise the critical consensus about Day’s manual. It reveals that Day, typically cast as a proto-epistolary novelist or pre-Richardson Richardson, did not write as a literary author. Rather, he wrote in turns as a government servant and professional – the approved roles of a writer in Elizabethan literary culture. This newly informs the purpose of Day’s manual, as well as epistolary theory: letter-writing instruction at this time did not preview the emergence of the epistolary novel but maintained a civic, professional, and social function in early modern England.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, The Shakespeare Institute
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z004 Books. Writing. Paleography
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/6282


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