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Henry Howard the Poet Earl of SurreyA Life$
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W. A. Sessions

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780198186250

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186250.001.0001

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The Origins of Blank Verse

The Origins of Blank Verse

(p.260) 10 The Origins of Blank Verse
Henry Howard the Poet Earl of Surrey

W. A. Sessions

Oxford University Press

What is remarkable about the Earl of Surrey's blank verse is that it has no clear origin except within one personality and one life-story. Whatever conceptions and techniques Surrey developed from specific literary sources, whether Geoffrey Chaucer, the French, the Italians, or Gawain Douglas, finally and mysteriously the blank verse originated out of a single person — Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Before Surrey, in English, as an astute editor of Thomas Wyatt has observed, there had been ‘nothing quite like it’. Blank verse with its flexibility, its ‘readiness’, in T. S. Eliot's term, surprised everyone. It had not evolved with time but was suddenly, ‘immediately’, invented — by a young man, not always mature, at a specific time and place terrible in their dislocations.

Keywords:   Earl of Surrey, blank verse, origin, personality, Geoffrey Chaucer, Gawain Douglas, Henry Howard, T. S. Eliot

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