abstract :

Growing political concern for public opinion toward the close of the seventeenth century intensified the demands on diplomats to address multiple publics, and it affected the ways in which diplomats produced and circulated poetry. Drawing on elegies for Mary II and related correspondence by two late seventeenth-century diplomats, George Stepney and Matthew Prior, Joanna Craigwood interrogates these increasing pressures. In composing poems commissioned by their Whig superiors for London publication, the two diplomat-writers faced competing demands from their English readerships, who expected highly conventionalized elegy, and from their international political publics, who had a more satirical take on William III's incapacitating grief following his wife's death. Stepney solved the dilemma by adhering to domestic norms but circulating manuscript satire on the Continent, Prior by paratextual reframing that allowed him to bypass the domestic poetic economy of the elegies. Their concerns, vacillations, and eventual solutions expose the extent to which diplomatic poetry was characterized by an almost obsessive concern with the ways in which a specific time, place, and audience placed particular demands and constraints on their words.


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pp. 619-640
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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