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Research Resources

Scroll down to find links to key websites for research into Pulter's poems, together with tips for developing effective research techniques. Quick links for each of these sites are provided on the right. This is not an exhaustive list of resources but should get you started.


Early English Books Online (EEBO)

Research Tip: Use the '(s)' tool to search contemporary texts for alternative examples of a word or image used by Pulter. It helps to limit the search using ' 

Example: A search for 'heliotrope' in 'KEYWORD(s)' with the dates limited to 1640-1660 (when Pulter is most likely to have been composing her poetry) brings up 19 hits in 15 records. These include one example from Edward Phillips' The new world of English words, or, A general dictionary (1658), which gives a contemporary dictionary definition of the term. He refers to the myth of Clytie 'one of the daughters of Oceanus, who discovering that Apollo lay with Leucothoe, the daughter of Orchamus, was slighted by him, and pining her self away was turned into a flower, called a Heliotrope'. This image of a woman who in mythology is in love with the sun god and who is turned into a flower sheds some light on Pulter's 'Emblem 3' in which she describes the heliotrope flower turning on its stalk to follow the passage of the sun across the sky.


English Civil Wars

Research Tip: The majority of Pulter's poems were written either in response to or during the English Civil Wars and Interregnum. This site allows you to search for information about the specific historical events she mentions. If you want to refer to material from this site, send me the link to the relevant page on the website so readers can be directed to the original source.

Example: One of Pulter's poems has the title: 'The complaint of Thames 1647 when the best of Kings was imprisoned by the worst of Rebels at Holmbie'. A search for 'Holmby' (it's always worth trying alternative spellings) brings up a timeline for 1647, which reveals:

Jan 30 The Scots surrender the King to Parliament.
Feb 16 Parliamentary commissioners accompany the King to Holmby (Holdenby) House, Northamptonshire.

We now know that Pulter was responding to an event that took place during the early months of 1647 when the Scots, who had captured Charles I the previous year, handed him over to Parliament. He was then imprisoned in Holmby house in Northamptonshire.


English Emblem Book Project


Medea Killing her BabyResearch Tip: In the lecture I gave about emblems I talked about the way in which the same emblematic images get used over and over again by different writers. Although Pulter's 'Emblemes' don't have actual pictures she draws on the many of the common images found in printed emblem books. One way of finding analogous images is to scroll through the texts on this website. From the main contents page, find a text in which you're interested and select the relevant 'TABLE OF CONTENTS'. This will take you to links for each page of the volume; either select the one you want to look at or go to the first page and scroll through the whole text using the navagation buttons at the top of each page. If you come across a suitable image, remember to send me the link so I can add the picture to the site.

Example: Pulter's 'Emblem 9' refers to the myth of Medea who, betrayed by her husband, killed her own children in front of him. Looking for an alternative emblematic image of Medea I scrolled through Geffrey Whitney's A Choice of Emblemes, and other devises (1586). This brought up an image of Medea killing one of her children, to which Whitney has appended the reminder: 'put no truste, in them that hate theire blood' ie. 'don't trust someone who kills their own kin'. The picture provides a nice accompaniment to Pulter's poem and the moral can be compared with the way in which she interprets Medea's actions.


Literature Online (LION)

Research Tip: This can be used in much the same way as EEBO for finding examples of the ways in which Pulter's contemporaries used used similar words or references in their writing. As with EEBO, it's possible to search for keywords while limiting the search by date. It's also possible to do proximity searches that will help for looking for phrases or longer references.

Example: In emblem 33, Pulter refers to the legendary antipathy between the elephant and the dragon. A proximity search for 'Elephant NEAR dragon' finds six results in poetical texts, one in prose, one in drama, and nine on EEBO (although some of these might be duplicates of the examples found within LION itself). Samuel Nicholson, for example, in Acolastus his After-Wit (1600), writes that:

The Elephant and Dragon, mortall foes,
Bury their hate in mutuall ouerthrowes.

Using examples like this we can explore what Pulter is doing differently with her own text. If submitting information from LION remember to submit the durable URL so I can provide a link to the text.


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB)

Research Tip: Use this to find entries on the historical figures mentioned in Pulter's poems. Sometimes people don't have entries of their own but information on them can be found using the 'Search for words in text' option. One of Pulter's sisters-in-law Margaret Ley, Countess of Marlborough doesn't have her own entry but she is referenced in the entry for Sir Paul Neile (bap. 1613, d. 1682x6). NB. Watch out for people who have the same name. You'll have to use their dates of birth and death to work out which one is the right one. If you're sending me information from the ODNB remember to include the relevant link.

Example: In a poem mourning the execution of Charles I Pulter writes:

And nobel Capell let it bee thy Glory
Though dead to live in this unparrild story
A search for 'Capel' (again, it's useful to try alternative spellings) in the ODNB brings up ten people with this surname, eight of whom can be immediately eliminated because they weren't alive at the right time or would have been too young to have died in battle (as the poem goes onto explain). We're then left with an Arthur Capel and a Richard Capel. A quick look at Richard Capel's entry reveals that during the Civil Wars he sided with Parliament, so its highly unlikely that Pulter would have been celebrating him in a poem mourning the death of the king. So we're left with Arthur Capel, 'first Baron Capel of Hadham (1604–1649), royalist army officer and politician' who was 'beheaded outside Westminster Hall' on the 8th of March 1649, just a few weeks after Charles I.


Oxford English Dictionary

Research Tip: You've probably noticed that Pulter's spelling is pretty idiosyncratic. Try searching for the word as she's spelled it and if it doesn't come up you might find the modern equivalent in the column on the left hand side of the search page. When you've found the word you're looking for you might be given a series of possible meanings. Check through them all to see which one(s) is or are the most appropriate for the way Pulter uses the word. Also check the dated examples to make sure that a particular meaning applies during the time when Pulter was composing her poetry.

Example: In her poem 'The Revolution' Pulter addresses 'thou which Circumvolveth all'. I'm not familiar with the word 'circumvolveth' and it doesn't come up in the OED. But on the left hand side is listed 'circumvolve' which has a series of definitions. The most suitable of these for Pulter's poem is 1.b.:

To turn or move (a thing) round in a circular path. rare.

1610 Histriom. I. 230 The flye..Shall sundry times be circumvolv'd about.

The example of usage provided is dated 1610, which is prior to the time she was writing but also within her lifetime, so it's safe to assume that Pulter would have been familiar with this use of the term. From this we can gather that Pulter is addressing God, the mighty force that keeps all the planets turning in their spheres.


Quick Links

English Civil Wars site 
English Emblem Books



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