John Skelton

The career of an early Tudor poet

John Scattergood

Hardback €49.50
Catalogue Price: €55.00
ISBN: 978-1-84682-337-4
June 2014. 356pp.

‘“Skelton is a difficult poet and scholars engaging seriously with him need all the help they can get,” writes John Scattergood. In this thoroughly magisterial volume, Scattergood, Skelton’s best recent editor, provides much of the help that the next generation of scholars will need … Scattergood has reinforced his position as an essential reference point for work on this challenging and intriguing author. He is a reassuringly knowledgeable and surefooted Sherpa through the complex terrain of Skelton’s long writing career. Scattergood acutely and insightfully referees and distils the critical heritage on Skelton but also maps out the direction of travel for future critics … this book resets the critical debate on Skelton … Each chapter is full of good things: sharp perceptions, illuminating readings, elegantly argumentative contextualization … This book is now the place to start when studying Skelton’, Vincent Gillespie, Renaissance Quarterly (2016).

‘“Magisterial” is not a term to be used carelessly, but it is easily applied in this case, but a duty and a pleasure, for the present book is the culmination of many long, careful labours … Scattergood’s familiarity with the verbal fabric of these writings must be unparalleled; this book is the best thing we are likely ever to have on Skelton’s poetry’, David R. Carlson, SHARP News (2016).

‘Scattergood is one of the most significant figures in Skelton’s recent critical history … He is thus perfectly positioned to provide a new Skelton biography … His analysis is beautifully contextualized, both historically and in terms of literary tradition … He gives a clear picture of the complex influences brought to bear on Skelton as a result of his historical position, his personal circumstances, and his extensive reading; what results is a portrait of the materials of Skelton’s mind … The result is lucid and extremely readable … This biography will be useful to those who are already familiar with Skelton and will also make an excellent starting point for those who are new to him … it is both profitable and pleasant’, Jane Griffiths, Modern Philology (February 2016).

‘John Scattergood, also a poet, has lived with Skelton for a long time. He produced the standard modern edition of his English poems over thirty years ago, and has written extensively elsewhere about his poetry … Scattergood well understands the difficulties involved in writing a Life, and is careful to acknowledge the interpretive constraints they impose …Overall, this work leaves us with a much clearer understanding of Skelton’s poetry both in its own terms and in relation to his life and times’, A.S.G. Edwards, TLS (January 2015).

‘There can be little doubt that John Scattergood’s John Skelton will become the definitive book-long treatment of the Tudor poet … this impressive work meets two essential criteria: comprehensiveness and competence. More importantly, Scattergood’s erudition – second to none when it comes to Skelton – ensures a readable prose that judiciously balances trenchant textual analysis with pinpointed historical detail … With John Skelton, Scattergood has produced a catalog of incisive close readings spanning Skelton’s oeuvre that hardly leaves an aspect of the poet’s creative work and public life unilluminated … This book will be the standard work on Skelton for the foreseeable future … The Skelton in this book emerges as a courtier, scholar, translator, ornithologist, canonist, and satirist, but, above all, Scattergood’s Skelton is a social poet who despises society, awkwardly both ahead of his time and behind the times – the self-styled prophet of a dying culture’, Sebastian Sobecki, Speculum (July 2015).

‘John Scattergood provides thoroughly researched, well-informed readings of all of Skelton’s major verse and from them he argues persuasively that one should view this poet above all as a skilled rhetorician and moralist … Scattergood’s masterful achievement persuasively offers a coherent view of Skelton’s career and poetry. Scattergood succeeds at making sense of a most puzzling Tudor poet’, Daniel Lochman, Sixteenth Century Journal (2016).

‘Scattergood accomplishes a literary-critical tour-de-force. His analysis of the poems is subtle, wide-ranging and rigorous, supplemented by an impressive amount of knowledge of bibliographical detail. Works which are notoriously difficult to decode, such as the anti-Wolsey satire, “Speake, Parrott”, are explicated with lucidity and elegance … Reading through the book becomes a breathless exploration of the diverse worlds of court, city and country … [this book] will undoubtedly become an essential tool for the understanding of this most enigmatic and skilful of England’s poets’, Carol M. Meale, The Ricardian (2015).

‘A comprehensive analysis of the diverse work of a “poet of contradictions” … The breadth of Skelton’s writing – the sheer range of his interests and the diversity of genres in which he wrote – is well served by his literary biographer … Scattergood offers a rigorous analysis of Skelton’s literary experimentation and innovation, and carefully charts the ways in which his writing develops in response to changing political circumstance … Scattergood is unfailingly judicious, understanding and sympathetic in his treatment of his subject, and his excellent analysis highlights Skelton’s importance to both the literary and political history of the period', David Salter, Times Higher Education (October 2014).

‘With this book, Scattergood extends the recent surge of interest in Renaissance poet John Skelton (c.1460–1529) … Scattergood offers a chronological, comprehensive assessment of Skelton’s output, with special attention to his social and political contexts, including absorbing comments on pertinent topics as diverse as making ale and teaching Latin. Those new to Skelton will welcome such breadth, and specialists will value Scattergood’s measured responses to previous evaluations … Scattergood’s interpretive style is clear and uncluttered, and his conclusions are firmly anchored in relevant contemporaneous texts, such as sermons, letters, court documents and manuscripts. Recommended’, Choice (May 2015).

‘Scattergood closely examines the life and work of medieval writer John Skelton. Skelton’s poetry, prose and drama – written in English, Latin and French – spans four decades in the Middle Ages … Scattergood explores this wide range of work – from The Bowge of Courte to A Replycaion Agaynst Certayne Yong Scolers Abjured of Late – and chronicles Skelton’s major life events and relationships with powerful individuals, like King Henry VIII and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey’, Ringgold (January 2015). 

‘The early Tudor poet John Skelton (c.1460–1529) is covered in detail in John Skelton … in manuscript and print Auden said it was difficult to fit Skelton into the evolution of English literature of the 15th century but it is unarguable that he was and remains a major author of the Tudor era and the political is part an parcel of Tudor times’, Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance (2015).