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Prynne, William


Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405194495.2012.x


William Prynne (1600–69) was the most prolific writer of seventeenth-century England, who disagreed with nearly everyone in the course of his career. He published more than 200 pamphlets, which averages out at one page of published text for every day of his life. Writing was an obsession, ‘as necessary as meat and drink’, claimed one observer, ‘a thing without which he cannot live’ ( Lamont 1996 ). But practice did not make perfect. His style was generally tedious, prolix, and repetitive. His title pages were crammed full of words, his margins replete with references – a trait that led to his nickname, ‘Marginal Prynne’. The epithet is ironic: Prynne was both marginal and central. His works were dismissed by his opponents. In an unpublished version of his sonnet’ On the new forcers of conscience under the Long Parliament’ (c.1646), John Milton, for instance, called on Parliament to crop ‘marginal Prynne's ears’ for his attacks on Milton's ideas on divorce. Among recent scholarship there have been only three book-length works: a biography ( Kirby 1931 ); a much better treatment by Prynne's foremost historian, William Lamont (1963) ; and the recent publication of a PhD dissertation ( Baukol 2008 ). For all this relative neglect, Prynne should not be dismissed. Many of his books reflect exhaustive research and advance important arguments, and the sheer volume of works suggests they ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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