Introduction to the Database of British & Irish Labouring-Class Poets and Poetry, 1700-1900


Introduction to the Database of British & Irish Labouring-Class Poets and Poetry, 1700-1900


This database has been developed from the work of a group of scholars who have been working in the field of labouring-class poetry over the past three decades. In additional to our individual research data it holds information extensively compiled by the database editor from bibliographical and other sources. The main section of the database is an alphabetical listing, currently of 1,719 named poets.

Our aim is to compile a concise paragraph on each individual, to include vital dates, a brief biographical and critical summary, key publications and secondary and reference sources. This may then extend via hyperlinks into a fuller set of resources and information leads. The alphabetic listing is preceded by statistical notes and notes on groupings and categories, conventions, sources and abbreviations, and small sample sections of anonymous and pseudonymous poetry.

The database represents all the poets of humble origins we have discovered who lived within the period anywhere in the British Isles (but see the cautions given about our often limited knowledge of Irish and Welsh poets, below), together with a very small number of poets from North America and other countries.

It includes some ‘possibly’ or ‘partially’ self-taught labouring-class figures (for examples, middle class women who had fallen into poverty and in some sense identified themselves with the labouring-class tradition, or individuals about whom little is known, where there are clues that they may be of humble origins), and a few others who are included for comparative purposes (for example, the fact that they were presented, like many of the labouring-class poets, as poetical ‘novelty acts’—boy poets, blind men and women, ‘wandering minstrels’, etc.). Inclusions which are dubious, for these or any other reason, begin with a question mark.

Beyond this caution, we have aimed to be inclusive rather than exclusive, and list many figures who are tentatively identifiable as part of a labouring-class tradition. Our purpose is to discover and recover what we regard as an important and extensive tradition that has been hidden or marginalised, and we have purposely cast our nets wide in order to get a full picture of what exists and what may prove relevant. There are a few pre-1700 and post-1900 figures, included for general and comparative purposes—tagged [OP] for ‘out of period’; otherwise all individuals lived and published in the period 1700-1900. All are published poets (with at least one volume, or periodical publications).

The list currently remains uneven in the amount of detail given, and no doubt still contains typographical and factual errors. The collation process is far from complete, and indeed many of the current entries are merely skeleton entries serving as basic markers for further research. We welcome and will be happy to acknowledge corrections and additions, and we shall continue to post and circulate corrected versions regularly.

To simplify the process of uploading and upgrading the database we have presented it simply ‘Word’ files, this software being the simplest searchable database. However, this has limited our ability to perform category searches: currently our ‘marker’ symbols for searches are limited to [F] [I] [S] [W] and [OP] (explained above and below). As the entries are developed, more complex search terms will be added.
John Goodridge
School of Arts & Humanities
Nottingham Trent University


27 February 2013


(c) copyright the editors and contributors, 2001-2013.

Information from this database may be downloaded and quoted for non-commercial purposes such as teaching and private research, but may not be published in any form without the written permission of the copyright holders.