William Camden Criticism - Essay

Rudolf B. Gottfried (essay date 1943)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Gottfried, Rudolf B. “The Early Development of the Section on Ireland in Camden's Britannia.ELH 10, no. 2 (June 1943): 117-30.

[In the following essay, Gottfried detects an anti-Irish bias in the Britannia, but emphasizes Camden's attention to detail, his thoroughness, and his desire to ensure that each new edition would be more scrupulously accurate than the last.]

The almost universal reverence with which William Camden was regarded by his contemporaries needs hardly to be mentioned among students of his period. The praises of Spenser and Ben Jonson are well known; the commendatory verses of his fellow antiquarians, written for the most...

(The entire section is 5167 words.)

Stuart Piggott (lecture date 1951)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Piggott, Stuart. “William Camden and the Britannia.Proceedings of the British Academy 37 (1951): 199-217.

[In the following essay, a transcription of the first Reckitt Archaeological Lecture, Piggott emphasizes Camden's efforts to construct a particularly Roman history for Britain. Piggott also surveys antiquarian history after Camden, including later editions of his Britannia, arguing that by the mid-eighteenth century the field of historiography was in sharp decline.]

The choice of the year 1951 for the inauguration of a series of archaeological lectures is a singularly happy one. The story of antiquarian studies in Britain may fairly be...

(The entire section is 7722 words.)

F. J. Levy (essay date 1964)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Levy, F. J. “The Making of Camden's Britannia.Bibliotheque ‘d Humanisme et Renaissance 26 (1964): 70-97.

[In the following essay, Levy details Camden's antiquarian methods in compiling the Britannia, considering Camden's work as an attempt to reconstruct the history of Roman Britain as well as an effort to bring a Continental European mode of scholarship to bear on British history.]

In 1586, a thirty-five-year-old schoolmaster named William Camden published an historical and geographical description of the British Isles entitled Britannia. The book was to be immensely successful: six editions in Latin, each one larger than the...

(The entire section is 13839 words.)

Jack B. Oruch (essay date 1967)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Oruch, Jack B. “Spenser, Camden, and the Poetic Marriages of Rivers.” Studies in Philology 69, no. 4 (July 1967): 606-24.

[In the following essay, Oruch argues that Camden's De Connubio Tamae et Isis likely influenced Spenser's plans to write Epithalamion Thamesis, a poem about mythological river marriages.]

In 1590 the poet William Vallans published his Tale of Two Swannes partly, he said, to “animate, or encourage those worthy Poets, who haue written Epithalamion Thamesis, to publish the same: I haue seen it in Latine verse (in my iudgment) wel done, but the Author I know not for what reason doth suppresse it: That which is...

(The entire section is 7300 words.)

William Huse Dunham, Jr. (essay date 1969)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Dunham, William Huse, Jr. “William Camden's Commonplace Book.Yale University Library Gazette 43, no. 3 (January 1969): 139-56.

[In the following essay, Dunham describes the discovery of Camden's Commonplace Book, noting that the book offers proof for the existence of Journals of the House of Lords prior to the reign of Henry VIII and documents important trials, including the contest for the barony of Abergavenny.]

The romance of research often lies in finding the unexpected, the unsought-after, and the commonplace book is one of the more provocative avenues of discovery. Such a miscellany of memoranda transcribed in the seventeenth or...

(The entire section is 7808 words.)

W. H. Herendeen (essay date 1981)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Herendeen, W. H. “Like a Circle Bounded in Itself: Jonson, Camden, and the Strategies of Praise.” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 11, no. 2 (fall 1981): 137-67.

[In the following essay, Herendeen examines the relationship between Camden and Renaissance playwright Ben Jonson, noting Jonson's frequent claims of literary and personal indebtedness to his friend and mentor in his literary works.]


William Camden assumed a place of unique importance not only in Jonson's life, but in his writing. His friendship, instruction, and the example he set were highly esteemed by the poet, and Jonson's expressions of gratitude were...

(The entire section is 13846 words.)

Wyman H. Herendeen (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Herendeen, Wyman H. “Geography and the Myth of History: Camden and the Rivers of Concord.” In From Landscape to Literature: The River and the Myth of Geography, pp. 196-211. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1986.

[In the following excerpt, Herendeen discusses the relationship between landscape and moral history in Camden's Britannia. Herendeen explicates Camden's poem De Connubio Tamae et Isis as a part of Camden's historiography, observing the themes of unity and renewal.]

harmonie is on all sides so great among the elements, that it is no marvell if in their proper places … they maintaine and repose themselves with...

(The entire section is 6719 words.)

William Rockett (essay date 1990)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Rockett, William. “Historical Topography and British History in Camden's Britannia.Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 26, no. 1 (winter 1990): 71-80.

[In the following essay, Rockett discusses Camden's method in documenting and narrating Britain's Roman past, acknowledging the author's debt to continental European sources and positing that Camden's efforts established continuity, solidarity, and historical inevitability for the British nation.]

Britain acquired a national history only after its coherence as a territorial entity had been established, and these two components of the national identity—territorial and historical...

(The entire section is 4038 words.)

William Rockett (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Rockett, William. “The Structural Plan of Camden's Britannia.Sixteenth Century Journal 26, no. 4 (winter 1995): 829-41.

[In the following essay, Rockett proposes that the tripartite structure of the Britannia disproves the common assumption that Camden's history was meant to focus on Roman Britain. Rockett instead finds the Britannia to be a history of social organization, detailing the unification of diverse peoples into a common nation.]

Assessments of William Camden's Britannia have been almost entirely uniform in the twentieth century. To this day, Britannia is ordinarily seen, for better or worse, as one of the...

(The entire section is 6781 words.)