Authorship and authority

The writings of James VI and I

By Jane Rickard

Authorship and authority


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8779-0
  • Pages: 252
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: June 2012
  • BIC Category: Literature, Literary studies: c 1400 to c 1600, Biography & non-fiction prose, HISTORY / Modern / 17th Century, LITERARY CRITICISM / Renaissance, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800, Literature & literary studies / Prose: non-fiction


James VI of Scotland and I of England participated in the burgeoning literary culture of the Renaissance, not only as a monarch and patron, but as an author in his own right, publishing extensively in a number of different genres over four decades. As the first monograph devoted to James as an author, this book offers a fresh perspective on his reigns in Scotland and England, and also on the inter-relationship of authorship and authority, literature and politics in the Renaissance.

Beginning with the poetry he wrote in Scotland in the 1580s, it moves through a wide range of his writings in other genres, including scriptural exegeses, political, social and theological treatises and printed speeches, concluding with his manuscript poetry of the early 1620s. The book combines extensive primary research into the preparation, material form and circulation of these varied writings, with theoretically informed consideration of the relationship between authors, texts and readers. The discussion thus explores James's responses to, and interventions in, a range of literary, political and religious debates, and reveals the development of his aims and concerns as an author.

Rickard argues that, despite the King's best efforts to the contrary, his writings expose the tensions and contradictions between authorship and authority. This book will be of interest to scholars and students of the reign of James VI and I, the literary and political cultures of late sixteenth-century Scotland and early seventeenth-century England, the development of notions of authorship and the relationship between literature and politics.


Rickard's book is . welcome and long overdue . a book that deserves attention from both literary scholars and historians

This is a timely and valuable contribution to Jacobean literary scholarship which . deserves to be widely read

an illuminating and much welcome study, which will prove indispensable to future students of the literary production of this most mysterious of kings

an authoritative and fascinating book . Everyone at all interested in James VI and I ought to read it

Rickard's intriguing and accessible account certainly provides many new perspectives from which to view James's reign


Jane Rickard is Lecturer in English at the University of Leeds


Introduction: Reading James VI and I
1. Constructing the Writer-King: the early poetry
2. The word of God and the word of the King: the early scriptural exegeses
3. Print, authority, interpretation: the major prose works
4. Monumentalising the royal author: The Workes (1616)
5. The late poetry and the deconstruction of authority

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