Vine A (2019) Review of Harriet Archer, Unperfect Histories: The Mirror for Magistrates, 1559-1610. Review of: Harriet Archer, Unperfect Histories: The Mirror for Magistrates, 1559-1610 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), xii + 203 pp. ISBN 978–0–19–880617–2. The Spenser Review, 49 (2), Art. No.: 17. http://www.english.cam.ac.uk/spenseronline/review/item/49.2.17
First paragraph: Until recently, the Mirror for Magistrates was one of those texts that early modern scholars frequently cited, but rather less often read. Highly influential and clearly popular in its own day, serving as a model and source for writers from Shakespeare and Spenser to Daniel and Drayton, the Mirror was one of those embarrassing scholarly secrets. Everyone knew that they should have read it—and certainly everyone knew that the early moderns read it, often with great enthusiasm—but few actually bothered. The dismissive attitudes of earlier generations of critics appeared to die hard: following E. M. W. Tillyard’s castigation of its ‘execrable verse’ and C. S. Lewis’s caustic observation that ‘[n]o one lays down the Mirror without a sense of relief’, critical attitudes were invariably dismissive or outright hostile. The Mirror, it seemed, was one of that legion of once popular and significant texts fated to be misrepresented and misunderstood by later readers and subsequent eras.
Output Type: Book Review
The Spenser Review: Volume 49, Issue 2