Much More fun than Norton’s Anthology or even The Oxford companion, Winstanley, gives us snips of biography , literate criticism and examples of long  ‘lost’ poems. This book is the first , I know of, attempting to create a literary time line of english poets, further it is the beginning of a project take on by Johnson’s “Live’s of the Poets”. In His Wonderful book , Poetry and the making of the English literary past,1660-1781, Richard Perry,(OUP ; about $150) gives a very good exposition on Winstanley’s role in creating an English Canon. Winstanley is an amateur literary historian, He also wrote a book of verse( see below) and edited many Almanacks. The portrait below shows him holding more than an armful of books, I wish i could have those books now!

I can’t seem to upload images yet to this one, so i’ll add them later.
English: Title page of William Winstanley's Li...
Title page of William Winstanley’s Lives of the most Famous English Poets  1687
William Winstanley
William Winstanley
302G  Winstanley, William.    1628?-1690? 
The Lives Of the most Famous English Poets, Or The Honour of Parnassus; In a Brief Essay Of The Works and Writings of above Two Hundred of them, from the Time of K. William the Conqueror, To the Reign of His Present Majesty King James II.     
  London: Printed by H. Clark, for Samuel Manship at the Sign of the Black Bull in Cornhil, 1687     $2,100    
  Octavo, 6.5 x 4 in.  First edition.  1,A8, a4, B-O8 , P6 .  This copy has the portrait frontispiece which is quite often lacking.  This book is bound in seventeenth century full calf which could use a little restoration.

According to the great Maggs Catalogue from 1923,  Shakespeare & Shakespeariana,  the Winstanley is  of great Shakespearean interest. …
“At pages 130-133 will be found a notice of Shakespeare and his plays. It is remarkable that Winstanley (like Fuller, from whom he has borrowed) was unacquainted with the date of Shakespeare’s death, for he says,  This our famous comedian died an. dom. 16_ _ , and was buried at Stratford-on-Avon.  Comparing Shakespeare with Jonson, he says,  Many were the wit-combats between him and Ben Jonson; which two we may compare to a Spanish great Galleon, and an English Man of War; Mr. Jonson (like the former) was built far higher in Learning, solid, but slow in his performances, Shakespeare, with the English Man of War, lesser in Bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all Tides, track about, and take advantage of all Winds, by the quickness of his Wit and Invention. His History of Henry the Fourth is very much commended by some, as being full of Sublime Wit, and as much condemned by others, for making Sir John Falstaffe the property of Pleasure for Prince Henry to abuse, as one that was a Thrasonicall Puff, and emblem of Mock Valour; though indeed he was a man of Arms every Inch of him, and as valiant as any in Age, being for his Martial Prowess made Knight of the Garter by King Henry the Sixth. “
(Maggs Catalogue,  Shakespeare and Shakespeariana,  London, 1923, item number 614)

The poets described by Winstanley appear below:

 Robert of Gloucester, Richard the Hermit, Joseph of Exeter, Michael Blaunpayn, Matthew Paris, William Ramsey, Alexander Nequam, Alexander Essebie, Robert Baston, Henry Bradshaw, Havillan, Sir John Gower, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Lydgate, John Harding, Robert Fabian, John Skelton, William Lilly, Sir Thomas More, Henry Howard Earl of Surrey, Sir Thomas Wiat, Dr. Christopher Tye, John Leland, Thomas Churchyard, John Higgins, Abraham Fraunce, William Warner, Thomas Tusser, Thomas Stow, Dr. Lodge, Robert Greene, Thomas Nash, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Fulk Grevil, Mr. Edmund Spenser, Sir John Harrington, John Heywood, Thomas Heywood, George Peel, John Lilly, William Wager, Nicholas Berton, Thomas Kid, Thomas Watson, Sir Thomas Overbury, Mr. Michael Drayton, Joshua Sylvester, Mr. Samuel Daniel, George Chapman, Robert Baron, Lodowic Carlisle, John Ford, Anthony Brewer, Henry Glapthorn, John Davis of Hereford, Dr. John Donne, Dr. Richard Corbet, Mr. Benjamin Johnson, Beaumont & Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlow, Barton Holyday, Cyril Turney, Thomas Middleton, William Rowley, Thomas Deckar, John Marston, Dr. Jasper Main, James Shirley, Philip Massinger, John Webster, William Brown, Thomas Randolph, Sir John Beaumont, Dr. Philemon Holland, Thomas Goffe, Thomas Nabbes, Richard Broome, Robert Chamberlain, William Sampson, George Sandys Esq., Sir John Suckling, Mr. William Habington, Mr. Francis Quarles, Mr. Phineas Fletcher, Mr. George Herbert, Mr. Richard Crashaw, Mr. William Cartwright, Sir Aston Cockain, Sir John Davis, Thomas May, Charles Aleyn, George Withers, Robert Herrick, John Taylor-Water Poet, Thomas Rawlins, Mr. Thomas Carew, Col. Richard Lovelace, Alexander Brome, Mr. John Cleveland, Sir John Birkenhead, Dr. Robert Wild, Mr. Abraham Cowley, Mr. Edmond Waller, Sir John Denham, Sir William Davenant, Sir George Wharton, Sir Robert Howard, W. Cavendish, D. of Newcastle, Sir William Killigrew, John Studley, John Tatham, Thomas Jordan, Hugh Cromptom, Edmond Prestwich, Pagan Fisher, Edward Shirburn Esq, John Quarles, John Milton, John Ogilby, Sir Richard Fanshaw, Earl of Orrery, Thomas Hobbes, Earl of Rochester, Mr. Thomas Flatman, Martin Luellin, Edmond Fairfax, Henry King Bishop of Chichester, Thomas Manley, Mr. Lewis Griffin, John Dauncey, Richard Head, John Philips, Mr. John Oldham, Mr. John Dryden, Mr. Elkanah Settle, Sir George Etheridge, Mr. John Wilson, Mr. Thomas Shadwell, Thomas Stanley, Edward Philips, Mr. Thomas Spratt, William Smith, Mr. John Lacey, Mr. William Whicherly, and Sir Roger L Estrange. 

Wing W-3065; Grolier, W-P #1004.
The following is from the introduction to the Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints edition of 1963

This book merits more attention and respect from literary historians than thus far have been accorded it. The case must be stated carefully. The work has obvious faults and limitations, which probably account for its never having been reprinted since its appearance in 1687. Almost forty percent of it is largely or entirely derivative. Its author, William Winstanley (1628?-1698), was undoubtedly a compiler and a hack-writer; his attitudes and methods can hardly be termed “scholarly.” Nevertheless, this pioneer in biographical and bibliographical research was more nearly a scholar than the man he is usually alleged to have plagiarized; he wanted to see the books that Edward Phillips was often content merely to list by title in his Theatrum Poetarum (1675), and altogether, for his own enjoyment and that of his readers, he quoted from the works of more than sixty poets. Moreover, unlike Phillips, he tried to arrange his authors in chronological order, from Robert of Gloucester to Sir Roger L’Estrange.

Though Winstanley’s Lives advertises on its title page accounts “of above Two Hundred” poets, only 147 are actually listed in the catalogue, and only 168 are noted throughout. Of these 168, only 34 had not already been mentioned by Phillips, a dozen years before. Some borrowing was inevitable, and, in fact, Winstanley leaned heavily upon both Phillips and Fuller for information and clues, just as Phillips had leaned heavily upon Bale’s Summarium (1548), Camden’s Remains, Puttenham’s Art of English Poesy, several Elizabethan miscellanies, and Kirkman’s play catalogues. Both men built (as scholars must build) upon the obvious materials available. Both (in the manner of their age) were extremely casual about documentation and acknowledgment. If this leads us to talk unhistorically about “theft,” we must say that Phillips “stole” from a half dozen or so people, whereas Winstanley simply appropriated a lot of these stolen goods. For doing so, he alone has been labelled a plagiarist.

Let us be more specific. Of Winstanley’s accounts of 168 poets, 34 seem to have come out of theTheatrum Poetarum with nothing new added (10 of these 34 merely named). Of the remaining 134 accounts, 34 are of poets not mentioned by Phillips, 29 are utterly independent of Phillips, 40 are largely independent (that is, they borrow some from Phillips but add more than they borrow), and 31 are largely derivative. We would praise a doctoral dissertation that succeeded in giving so much new data. Winstanley was careless, but he was not lazy, and he had a literary conscience of sorts. Often he went to Phillips’ sources and came away with more than Phillips found (most conspicuously in his use of Francis Kirkman’s 1671 play catalogue).

Since the groundwork had so recently been laid, Winstanley’s problem, far more than that of Phillips, was one of selection. In the Theatrum Poetarum 252 modern British poets are named. Of these Winstanley chose to omit the 16 female and 33 Scottish poets. Of the remaining 203, he dropped 68, and for the student of literary reputation these omissions raise some interesting questions. Undoubtedly a few were inadvertent. About a dozen were authors noted but not dated by Phillips, and it is probable that Winstanley was unable to learn more about them. Fifteen others were English poets who apparently did not write in the vernacular. An additional fifteen were poets dated by Phillips but described as inferior or almost forgotten. Still another fifteen were older or early Renaissance poets whose names probably meant nothing to Winstanley. On the other hand, he omits the following late Renaissance or contemporary poets whose period is plainly indicated in the Theatrum Poetarum and who, we might suppose, would be known to anyone attempting literary history in the year 1687: Richard Barnfield, Thomas Campion, Francis Davison, John Hall of Durham, William Herbert, William Leighton, Thomas Sackville, Henry Vaughan the Silurist, and Samuel Woodford.

That most of Winstanley’s omissions were deliberate, and were prompted by some awareness of literary reputation, is suggested not only by his request for help on a revised edition (which never materialized) but also by the fact that he was able to add to the Theatrum Poetarum thirty-four poets, almost all of whom could have been noted by Phillips. Among these were such recent poets as Thomas Tusser, Giles Fletcher the elder, Sir John Beaumont, Jasper Heywood, Philemon Holland, Sir Thomas Overbury, John Taylor the Water Poet, and the Earl of Rochester. The reader of this volume may want to have the additional names before him; they are: Sir John Birkenhead, Henry Bradshaw, William Chamberlayne, Hugh Crompton, John Dauncey, John Davies (d. 1618), Robert Fabyan, John Gower (fl. 1640), Lewys Griffin, “Havillan,” Richard Head, Matthew Heywood, John Higgins, Thomas Jordan, Sir William Killigrew, Sir Roger L’Estrange, Matthew of Paris, John Oldham, Edward Phillips himself, John Quarles, Richard the Hermit, John Studley, John Tatham, Christopher Tye, Sir George Wharton, and William of Ramsey. Mentioned incidentally are John Owen, Laurence Whitaker, and Gawin Douglas.

Among the accounts that are utterly independent of Phillips are those of Churchyard, Chapman, Daniel, Ford, Cower, Lydgate, Lyly, Massinger, Nashe, Quarles, Suckling, Surrey, and Sylvester. Among those that add more than they borrow are the notices of Beaumont and Fletcher, Chaucer, Cleveland, Corbet, Donne, Drayton, Phineas Fletcher, Greene, Greville, Jonson, Lodge, Lovelace, Middleton, More, Randolph, Shakespeare, Sidney, Spenser, Warner, and Withers.

To a modern critic Winstanley may seem devoid of taste, but his acquaintance with English poetry is impressive. Indeed, Winstanley, unlike Phillips, strikes us as a man who really read and enjoyed poetry. Phillips is more the slipshod bibliographer and cataloguer, collecting names and titles; Winstanley is the amateur literary historian, seeking out the verse itself, arranging it in chronological order, and trying, by his dim lights, to pass judgment upon it.


Indiana University
12 March 1962

Winstanley’s Publications:

The Muses cabinet, stored with variety of poems. 1655.
Englands worthies: select lives of the most eminent persons. 1660, 1684.
Poor Robin. An almanack after a new fashion [Winstanley et. al.] 1664.
The loyall martyrology: or brief catalogues and characters of the most eminent persons who suffered for their conscience during the late times. 1665.
The honour of the Merchant Taylors. 1668.
The new help to discourse: or wit, mirth, and jollity intermixt with more serious matters. 1669.
Poor Robin’s intelligence [ed. Winstanley?]. 1676-78.
Poor Robin’s dream, or the visions of Hell [Winstanley et. al.] 1681.
England’s Worthies. 1684.
The lives of the most famous English poets, from the time of William the Conqueror to James II. 1687.
The Essex champion: or the famous history of Sir Billy of Billercay. 1699.
The lives of all the Lords Chancellors, Lords Keepers and Lords Commissioners of the Great Seal. 2 vols, 1708, 1712.