In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Short Cuts: Harry Goes Rogue

Jonathan Parry


Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Slip-Shod Sibyls: Recognition, Rejection and the Woman Poet 
by Germaine Greer.
Viking, 517 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 670 84914 6
Show More
Show More

This is an interesting, infuriating, brilliant, maddening book. In short, it is a work by Germaine Greer, who prefers (or so one sometimes thinks) anything to stagnation. The title is taken from Pope, whose Virgilian Sibyl in the Dunciad is the modern female British poet as satire liked to see her. Possessed by the muse or Apollo though they claim to be, women as poets are untidy, slovenly, careless of housekeeping. They are, like Virgil’s harpies, truly dirty beings. (Try saying ‘slip-shod sibyl’ and you will find that tongue-twisting tempts other words to come through.) The shit-soiled sibyl, the woman poet, is a hackney, a prostitute. If she receives you in her boudoir, you find she is a strumpet, affected, grimly bedizened perhaps, but poverty-stricken. She is always in a state of undress, of unattractive undress, slapping loose about the house in her slippers, her rhyme and metre shuffling loosely along.

It is hardly surprising that this should be the Augustan Age’s picture of the woman poet. What’s surprising is to find that this is a picture congenial to Germaine Greer. Her argument in this book is in large part an argument against the rehabilitation of women poets of the past that has been carried out in the last quarter of a century. It can also be seen as a pessimistic companion-piece to A Room of One’s Own, a riposte to Woolf somewhat influenced by the work of Our Lady of Straw, Camille Paglia. Our discoveries of female poets of the past, Greer claims, are not real discoveries. The women writers who have been picked up will soon be put down again. Seldom do they have any lasting power, or any true or great poetic quality. They are all – especially those who have written in English – more or less failures. Failure is writ large in the case of the archetypal ‘woman poet’, Sappho – a distorted and fragmentary figure who serves mainly to mother paradigms of self-indulgent emotionalism in female poets’ verse, and of self-destructive emotion in a poet’s life.

In The Obstacle Race Greer was, by and large, sympathetic to the efforts of female painters. In Slip-Shod Sibyls she can see no art in her artists. She largely – very largely, with a large-heartedness – withholds sympathy. True, she acknowledges special obstacles and obstructions, but these have tended to make the poetry worse; women poets had to be petted and flattered in order to exist as writers at all; and because they were not treated as equals they expected not to be subjected to rigorous criticism. And they wrote from need, from hunger, to support themselves or others, or from mere desire to show off – although these matters, too, have been false-fronted by publicity old and new.

Greer is at her most brilliant and shrewd when she questions our constructions of Lives of the Women Poets. She is at her best in discussing the 17th century. Women’s writing in the 17th century has of late evoked a great deal of commentary, but as Greer shows, a lot of this commentary is based on pleasing and unsupported fictions about the poet and her life. Katherine Phillips, for example (the ‘Matchless Orinda’), was said to be of too high a rank to allow her poems to be published, and was so vexed when she discovered they had been that she had them recalled. Greer tellingly examines the possibility that Phillips herself supplied the printer with copy, and was forced into lying when others took action on her behalf without consulting her, perhaps for political reasons rather than out of regard for her modesty. Greer also claims that Phillips’s high birth was a fiction: she was an ingenious social climber.

The salient case of a faked biography is that of Aphra Behn. Greer energetically deconstructs Behn’s own disguises and fabrications as well as what she sees as the soothing fictions created by modern biographers, misled by Virginia Woolf’s statement that Aphra Behn was the first woman to make her living by her pen. For Greer, Behn is an ambiguous female, who must have been lower class if she grovelled so flatteringly to the low-born Nell Gwynn. It has been suggested elsewhere that Aphra Behn had some connections with Kentish gentry, but Greer will have none of it: ‘It is more likely that Mrs Behn’s was a milieu without social status: possibly an émigré community, perhaps Jewish or even Creole. Certainly she had an internationalist culture which was quite un-English.’ The suggestion that Behn came from the Caribbean colonies is interesting, though we have no foundation for it other than her writing about Surinam. But an early life led in ‘low’ circumstances in the West Indian colonies would not necessarily have led her into ‘an internationalist culture’ of any great sophistication.

That Behn had no solid social or economic existence seems to be borne out by the evidence, or rather the lack of it:

Scholars have found no property owned by her, no taxes paid by her, no will. A woman of no substance could only inhabit the fashionable world if she found someone to pay her day-to-day expenses for food, clothes and lodging, in which case she would leave no trace in the records. A woman who succeeded in supporting herself would appear somewhere in the record as a tenant, a taxpayer, a debtor or a creditor.

From this, Greer draws the conclusion that Behn was literally a whore, a kept woman. Only when her charms began to fade did she start writing in a desperate attempt to make money. She was probably ill with VD by that time; or so various scurrilous verses assert, claiming that she was plagued by ‘Poetry, poverty, pox’ – charges which Greer seems happy to go along with.

The VD of her slip-shod sibyls is important to Greer. What a set of poxy doxies women writers are! Let us not glamorise or cleanse them, or avert our eyes from their lesions. Greer suggests that Anne Wharton, Rochester’s niece and an admired poet, suffered from inherited ‘primary syphilis’, showing the first symptoms in her childhood. The fact that she settled her whole estate on her husband is brought in as evidence that she might have been making reparation ‘for the wrong done to him’. Wharton did not die by her own hand, but she died ‘in dreadful agony’. A similar agony was probably suffered by Behn: far from being merry, she was a poor, ill, syphilitic Aphra Behn. Having brought us to that point, Greer further daubs arsenic on this festering lily by suggesting that Behn committed suicide. This is not an idle point in Greer’s narrative. She has to help Behn to fit in with one of the major motifs of the book – the talent for suicide displayed by women poets, from the (imaginary) story of Sappho’s suicidal leap of despair, to the all-too-well recorded and non-fictional deaths of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.

The middle ground between 17th and 20th-century examples of disappointment and morbidity is largely filled in by a long, long chapter on L.E.L. – Letitia Elizabeth Landon. The length of this chapter urges it to become a mini-biography in itself, and its abnormal extension in relation to other chapters distorts the shape of the book. Landon evidently fascinates Greer, however loathsome she claims to find the verses of this ‘poetess’. Greer has recourse to the device recently grown fashionable whereby the word ‘poetess’ is reserved for female verse-writers of whom the commentator does not approve. Male poets are ‘good poets’ or ‘bad poets’, but we have no special pejorative terms save the antiquated ‘poetaster’ – which implies a dabbler in literature and is in any case not generally used or understood. I suggest we invent a new term to go with the pejorative ‘poetess’. What about a poetum, a poetino or a poetoot? Leonard Michaels has written a short story about a dogged academic who wrote a book called The Enduring Southey. Southey, in his capacity not to endure, is a male poetess, a poetoot.

Precociously forced into the commercial writing world, L.E.L. was all the rage with her poems of exotic yearning, love and hopeless passion. The image of the woman as passionate improvisatrice is derived from Madame de Staël’s Corinne – an influence not considered by Greer nor allowed in mitigation. Thought of as the female equivalent of Byron, Landon exhibited, in Greer’s opinion, some of the worst sins into which women’s poetry was likely to fall:

The verse may have been garbled ... the texture of the whole blurred and uneven, but there is still a glimmer of something more than prolixity and conventionality, the track of an intense, unhealthy inner life, the spurious mysticism of love. L.E.L. served this false creed faithfully all her life long, and was in the end sacrificed to it.

Despite writing about love and yearning, L.E.L. quite possibly did not have an affair. Indeed, she tried to protect herself and her reputation by living as a boarder in a girl’s school, but that did not prevent allegations, scandal and probably blackmail. If L.E.L. did not have an affair with her blackmailing editor Maginn, Greer thinks the less of her. Like Lady Bracknell, Greer is all for action and no shilly-shallying. Women should have sexual love affairs, but should not brood about love, for that is time-wasting and unhealthy. A single woman should go into a convent rather than drag on a celibate life spiced with a little flirtation or, as with Rossetti, enhanced by perverse piety. There should be no halfway houses, and no confusions.

Landon, who was all halfway houses and confusions, grew old and faded, and found it harder to publish. She made Mr Maclean stick by his promise to marry her, and moved with him to the Cape Coast Colony in Africa. Soon she was a defunct poetess. Letitia Maclean was found dead on the floor, in her hand an empty bottle labelled ‘Acid Hydrocyanicum’. The local inquest brought in a verdict of suicide. This is odd in an era when family members usually tried – and not in vain – to avert such a verdict and get the death labelled accidental. There were some feeble suggestions, never taken seriously, that Maclean’s African mistress might have poisoned her rival. But when a wife is found dead on the floor clutching a clearly labelled bottle of prussic acid might we not suspect the husband? What would Sherlock Holmes have made of the case? That George Maclean didn’t discourage the verdict of suicide lends some credence to such suspicion – and if this is speculative it is certainly not more so than much of Greer’s discourse with its multitudinous speculations. L.E.L. has to die by her own hand to fit the paradigm of wretchedness and incompetence associated with female writers.

The ensuing chapters are weaker and more predictable. We already know how roundly Greer will rebuke Plath and Sexton for their self-involvement. It is a slight surprise, but only a slight one, to find Elizabeth Barrett Browning trounced for hysteria, addiction, self-destruction, and generally making a nuisance of herself, including loading her husband with unwanted sonnets. The 20th century merely adds to the heap of sickly, self-regarding and self-destructive female poets. Lacking education, training in the Great Tradition, certainty about voice or subject-matter – and in the absence of any sense, of how the culture of publicity and publication can work – women writers of poetry over three centuries have exhibited themselves delving into their emotions. Poetry with them constantly becomes a morbid exercise.

The oddest thing about Greer’s book is that it does not, even in the Epilogue, know which side of the fence to jump down on. Are women in themselves simply weak and vicious, inclined to write badly no matter what opportunities are given them? Or are the women poets we have looked at inevitable products of their time? Were their activities, however deplorable, a necessary phase in the development of women’s literature? At moments, Greer can espouse the latter view, taking what might be seen as a Marxist line. At one point near the end she even abruptly switches to the old-style feminist perspective: ‘I would argue that poetry as presented by the male literary establishment ... enticed the woman poet to dance upon a wire, to make an exhibition of herself and ultimately to come to grief.’ Here she entertains something of Virginia Woolf’s kind of reading, after all – though Woolf herself has by now been indicted as one of the disgraceful female suicides.

It is all too easy for Greer to sound like the headmistress of a girls’ school, deploring any tendencies to the unhealthy – even though she knows that ‘to state baldly that the writing of poetry is intensely attractive to self-destructive women is to reveal oneself as an insensitive philistine.’ Nonetheless, she braves the risk. In order to counter those who indulge in a false cult of the destructive, Greer makes her statement baldly: ‘Most discussions of the careers of our poet-suicides see their fate as tragic evidence of the oppression of women and, even when the suicides are the subject-matter of the poetry, refuse to countenance the possibility of a suicide culture attracting the wrong women to the writing of verse.’ ‘The wrong women’! Poetry would be great stuff, if only the wrong sort of people did not go in for it. So Victorians and Edwardians lamented that manly chaps, rather than those pale fellows, were not working to produce a healthy literature. Even Tennyson was notoriously morbid.

Sometimes one feels that Greer is simply venting an Australian impatience with Pommy whingeing; the disgust of the New World of the wide open spaces and the free clean life for the old unhealthy houses and narrow alleyways and cramped conventions of a diseased Abroad. Greer reminds me a little of a Henry James character discovering the unnatural qualities and unhealthiness of Europe.

She is not playing fair, however, for in wresting all her arguments (and dashes into possibilities and speculations) into an indictment of the female poets and their lives, she has to render the male practitioners of the art improbably wholesome, and unnaturally capable. Any male author, no matter how flourishing his misogyny, may be startled at her firm delineation of the unproblematic life and career pattern of the male writer. Male authors apparently always understand how the literary system works, how to stick by the publicity machine and make it produce, how to run literary careers. Male poets are, of course, not self-destructive – or if so, it is a mere accident – whereas with female writers, self-destructiveness is of the essence. This kind of boxy thinking can lead to astonishing statements. ‘Among male poets,’ she writes at one point, ‘suicides are not only relatively few, but also peripheral.’ Say what?

When suicide is committed by a male writer, Greer contends that it is treated differently: Chatterton’s friends tried to hush his up. Well, they weren’t very successful, were they? She makes no allusion to what might be called ‘Wertherism’ in Europe in the late 18th century and the Romantic age. Nor does she allow for the failure and self-destructiveness of writers like Thomson, who got seriously stuck in the literary machine, or for the morbidity and frustrations of a Gray. Greer’s sense of the ‘suicidal’ in women leads her to reprehend them severely for their badly lived lives, their atrocious habits, their sedentariness, the stress they were under, their addictions. But if not ‘taking proper care of oneself’, as the common phrase has it, is suicide, then we are all guilty, and Thomson must be counted among the suicides. (It’s a line of reasoning that puts one in mind of The Inferno: who sinned doing what and where do we place them?) If the suicidal has to be extended to include Barrett Browning, it should be extended to include Dickens and Thackeray as well as Shelley and Byron – and a host of other poets and poetoots of the 20th century, as well as several poetesses.

One can applaud Germaine Greer’s determination to resist a certain strain of romanticism, an adulation of suicide, in our own culture and in some forms of feminist criticism. But the point of the book is confusing, its arguments contradictory and its purpose obscure. Is Slip-Shod Sibyls intended to discourage healthy young women from trying to be poets? Is the book meant to deflect female critics from giving any attention to female poets of the past? Or is it supposed to be a blow for freedom, a war-cry to us to bring down the literary establishment? This, too, is hinted at in the Epilogue. We need a ‘community of poets’ so that poets don’t retreat into solipsism, and a new language: ‘its birth may well coincide with the death of print and dismantling of the literary establishment.’ ‘Ye Gods, annihilate but space and time/And make two lovers happy.’ Attempts at communities of poets, even among ‘healthy men’, are not encouraging. Pantisocracy? Does it make the heart beat faster?

Into Greer’s work has seeped something of the strange healthy-mindedness of our very vicious decade, when we deplore the evils of smoking and drinking and go jogging importantly past the hapless (living) bodies of the homeless on our pavements. Perhaps the desire to be ‘healthy’ and free of the ‘morbid’ and ‘perverse’ (terms that sound distressingly like code words in the age of Aids) is a desire as suspect as the desires of the poets (including poetesses and poetoots) for emotion, or introspection, or intensity. It is disconcerting to entertain the possibility that poetry – whether the practitioner is a poxy earl or a poxy doxy, ostler’s son or Boston gentleman – may be something of a morbid and perverse business. At least, the practice feels strange, against the grain of the ‘normal’ – given present social conditions that are not likely to change in a hurry. If we wait for the millennium (and I don’t mean the year 2000) to write only ‘healthy’ poetry, we shall have too long a wait, and we will be glad meanwhile of some brave ridiculous souls who will venture to walk the high wire.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.


Vol. 18 No. 1 · 4 January 1996

When Margaret Anne Doody (LRB, 14 December 1995) complains of Germaine Greer’s latest book that she doesn’t know which side of the ‘fence to jump down on’, well why should she? Eclecticism and idiosyncrasy, not putting things in boxes, are two of the most valuable things that the upheavals of 1968 taught us. Germaine Greer is at least sometimes, if only by accident, on the right side.

Keith Flett
London N17

Vol. 18 No. 2 · 25 January 1996

It was standard practice in the 16th and 17th centuries to abjure responsibility for allowing one’s work to be published. So if Katherine Phillips did supply the printer with copy and pretend to be furious when it was published, as Margaret Anne Doody describes in her review of Germaine Greer’s Slip-Shod Sibyls (LRB, 14 December 1995), she would have been following the precedent of many male writers (but not of her two most illustrious women predecessors, Mary, Countess of Pembroke, and her niece Mary Wroth, who acknowledged their part in the publication of their works, the latter even though hers created a scandal). Nicholas Breton complains in the Preface to the second edition of his Pilgrimage to Paradise (1592) that the edition of the year before ‘was donne altogether without my consent or knowledge’ and that ‘I know not how he’, the printer, ‘came by’ such ‘toies’. Samuel Daniel professed to be outraged that his and Philip Sidney’s secrets were ‘bewraied’ by the greedy printer who published the Astrophel and Stella of 1591. In tact, in the body of the poems he more or less confesses to having engineered the publication, though modern criticism has naively believed his protestations.

Penny McCarthy

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address and a telephone number

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.