Servants & Tradesmen

I am currently researching poetry written about servants and tradesmen from 1600-1660. In Fall 2019, I spent three months in the Folger Shakespeare Library examining epitaphs and elegies on early modern servants, tradesmen, and craftsmen. While the portrayals of men and women in similar occupations in early modern drama often create stereotypical figures to be described satirically, the poetry I study and contextualize often features actual members of the writers’ (and some compilers’) local communities. Poems on Oxford and Cambridge butlers, carriers, and other servants, for instance, reveal critical biographical details even as they also allow the authors to build themselves up by putting their subjects down; these repeated satirical portrayals of deceased servants and tradesmen may also have influenced the ways in which authors and other readers treated the laborers whose efforts benefited their own studies and “service” in legal or religious fields.

My research has benefited from short-term fellowships at the Folger Shakespeare Library (2019), Beinecke Library (2020), Bodleian Library (2020 delayed to 2022), Houghton Library (2023) and British Library (2024), the latter two sponsored by a wonderful fellowship from the American Trust for the British Library.

My first article related to this project, titled “Knowing Owen: Merry and Satirical Epitaphs on a Butler of Christ Church, Oxford” was published in Renaissance Papers in the November 2020 issue.

An article on painter-stationer John Martin, co-authored with the illustrious Benedicte Miyamoto, appeared in the January 2024 issue of Eighteenth-Century Life and is briefly available here.

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