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This article tracks the reputation of Guillaume de Saluste Du Bartas's Semaines (1578, 1584 et seq.) among readers in sixteenth‐ and seventeenth‐century England and Scotland. The Semaines were initially mentioned in print by London‐based readers of contemporary poetry, but different communities of readers later emerged who read and cited the poems in a variety of ways. James VI and I played an important part in the Semaines’ early reception history, as did the publication of Josuah Sylvester's translation, Devine Weekes. This article builds on Anne Lake Prescott's earlier research by focusing on how individual readers responded to particular Du Bartas texts. This approach makes us more sensitive to how the Semaines were being read and perceived in different ways during this period. The first section looks in detail at how Gabriel Harvey and those around him read the Semaines. The second section gives early examples of writers consulting the Semaines for their factual content, and shows how James encouraged readers to be ‘well‐versed’ in Du Bartas's works. The third focuses on clerical readers of the Semaines. The conclusion suggests that these contemporary responses can inform historically grounded readings of the Semaines as literary works, and promote understanding of their influence on seventeenth‐century British literature.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Merton College, University of Oxford

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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