Thomas Percy: Literary Anthology and National Invention

  • Danielle Glover

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines three key anthologies by Bishop Thomas Percy as a means of discussing ideas of British identity. It is argued here that the imaginative construction of Britain in the century following the Union of 1707 is anthological in its nature, and therefore that anthology is an appropriate vehicle for national textual imaginings. This argument has been achieved by an examination of Hau Kiou Choaan (1761), Five Pieces of Runic Poetry (1763), and Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765). This study situates these books in their contemporary contexts, such as the Enlightenment, eighteenth-century print culture, and Percy’s epistolary network and establishment sympathies and connections, in order to come to a full understanding of their influences, impact, and uses in developing a poetry of nationhood. Percy’s conception of Britain was of a Gothic nation, and this informed his work aesthetically and politically, but similar works such as James Macpherson's Fragments of Ancient Poetry suggest alternative origins for the British native genius. This thesis argues that Britishness in the eighteenth century was an identity with inherent hybridity and plurality, and that for Percy it was predominantly informed by English establishment morals, culture, and politics, which we might term ‘Cultural Anglicanism’.

This study has been undertaken using primarily archival methods, but there is also a significant theoretical component, as the discipline of book history (under which studies of anthology fall) is opened to postcolonial, gendered, and class readings. By expanding the meaning of anthology to include national hybridities, this thesis has been able to suggest that other hybridities may be found in anthologies, taken as micro-canons, which may be subverted or upheld by anthologists and readers according to their own aims. In this sense, the anthology becomes an ideal textual expression of complex plural identities.
Date of AwardDec 2017
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsDepartment of Education and Learning (DEL) & Department for Employment and Learning
SupervisorFrank Ferguson (Supervisor) & James Ward (Supervisor)


  • Thomas Percy
  • Anthology
  • Book history
  • Bibliography
  • Print culture
  • Ballads
  • Chinese literature
  • Icelandic literature
  • Eighteenth Century translation
  • Eighteenth Century print culture

Cite this