John Skelton



Robert S. Kinsman and Theodore Yonge, John Skelton: Canon and Census, Renaissance Society of America, Bibliographies and Indexes No. 4 (Darien, Connecticut, 1967).


The Latin Writings of John Slelton, ed. David Carlson, Studies in Philology, 88/4 (Fall, 1991).


The Poetical Works of John Skelton, ed. Alexander Dyce, 2 vols (London, 1843).


John Skelton, The Complete English Poems, ed. John Scattergood (Harmondsworth, 1983).


Only two manuscripts are known to contain Skelton's handwriting. One is his autograph manuscript of a congratulatory poem on the accession of Henry VIII (*SkJ 6). The other is a medieval manuscript chronicle containing Skelton's annotations (*SkJ 30). In addition, there exist contemporary scribal copies of Skelton's translation of Diodorus Siculus (SkJ 28) and of his Speculum principis (SkJ 29), the latter probably his presentation copy to Henry VIII. Various other poems attributed to Skelton are found in complete or partial transcripts in early miscellanies.

The Canon

The canon of Skelton's writings is by no means certain and is open to amendment. For present purposes, the entries below are based on the assessment by Robert Kinsman and Theodore Yonge in Canon (1967). The distinction made here between works evidently by Skelton and works of doubtful authorship is based on the classification in Canon except for the poem “Wofully araid”, which is here treated as a doubtful item (SkJ 23-7) rather than as a definitely ‘lost’ work, and for the addition of a poem by William Cornish in which it has been argued (though not generally accepted) that Skelton might just possibly have had a hand (SkJ 22.1). For the record, entries are also given, in a catgegory of ‘Apocryphal Poems’, to some ten poems that at various times have been attributed to Skelton, and survive in manuscripts, but which Kinsman and Yonge firmly reject from the canon (SkJ 14-27.5).

Various scholarly discussions and surveys of Skelton's manuscript and printed texts have been published, among them A.S.G. Edwards, ‘Skelton's English Poems in Print and Manuscript’, Trivium, 31 (1999), 87-100, and Jane Griffiths, ‘What's in a Name? The Transmission of “John Skelton”, Laureate in Manuscript and Print’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 67/2 (2004), 215-35.

Early nineteenth-century copies of some poems by or attributed to Skelton can be found in the Bodleian (MS Eng. misc. e 573), made by Richard Heber (1774-1833), and in the British Library (Add. MS 24542), three prayers doubtfully attributed to Skelton (see SkJ 19-20), copied by Joseph Hunter (1783-1861). These manuscript texts are not given entries below. On the other hand entries are given to some copies by Joseph Haslewood (1769-1833) which may conceivably have been transcribed from earlier manuscripts (SkJ 5.5, SkJ 7.5, SkJ 9.5, SkJ 10.5, SkJ 27.5, SkJ 31).


A manuscript household book which throws some light on Skelton's relationship with the Howard family was edited by G. F. Nott in The Works of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and Sir Thomas Wyatt, 2 vols (London, 1815-16), I, Appendix II, pp. iii-vi. Now in the University of California at Berkeley, this manuscript is discussed in Melvin J. Tucker, ‘California MS. AC 523, formerly Phillipps MS. 3841’, N&Q, 209 (October 1964), 374-6.

What would seem to be a lost manuscript of Latin verse and prose by Skelton is a small octavo volume once owned by the Dering family, of Surrenden, Kent, offered at Puttick and Simpson's, 13 July 1865 (Dering sale, third day), lot 838. For other ‘Lost Pieces’ see Canon, pp. 24-33.

Five boxes of editorial papers by Robert S. Kinsman (1919-2006), chiefly relating to Skelton, are in the Massachusetts Interdisciplinary Center for Renaissance Studies, Amherst.

Peter Beal