Stephen Duck, Poems on Several Occasions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


What is most familiar about Stephen Duck is his compelling biography. An agricultural day-labourer, Duck was rescued from the obscurity of rhyming in a barn and brought to the attention of Queen Caroline who settled an annuity upon him and granted him the post of librarian in her fanciful Merlin's Cave in Richmond Park. Duck spent his remaining years writing occasional verse for the nobility, eventually taking holy orders, and finally (in what transformed his life into a cautionary tale for future labouring-class poets) drowned himself. Such a rags to riches legend invited eighteenth-century readers' curiosity and their animosity - if Swift's 'Quibbling Epigram' against Duck is any indication. The fact that a thresher attracted the attention of the literary and aristocratic elite of the 1730s has continued to prove noteworthy - or at least footnote-worthy - guaranteeing Duck a marginal place in literary history to this day. By and large, however, Duck's poetry, except for 'The Thresher's Labour', has been dismissed or forgotten. Moreover, because Duck's life story has been the focus of critical interest, what is often emphasized about 'The Thresher's Labour' is its documentary and autobiographical authenticity and not its aesthetic or formal achievement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA Companion to Literature from Milton to Blake
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Ltd
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781405165327
ISBN (Print)063121285X, 9780631212850
StatePublished - Feb 27 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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