A New History of English Metre

Martin J. Duffell

Studies In Linguistics 5


3 October 2008  •  304pp

ISBN: 978-1-905981-91-5 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95


In the hundred years since the last major history of English metre was published dramatic changes have occurred in both the way that poets versify in English and the way that scholars analyse verse. ‘Free’ verse is now firmly established alongside regular metre, and linguistics, statistics, and cognitive theory have contributed to the analysis of both. This new study covers the history of English metre up to the twenty-first century and compares a variety of modern theories to explain it. The result is a concise and up-to-date guide to metre for all students and teachers of English poetry.

A second printing of this book has ISBN 978-1-907975-13-4.

Martin Duffell is an Honorary Fellow of Queen Mary, University of London and a Research Fellow in its School of Modern Languages.


  • ‘The strengths of the book are its specificity, comprehensiveness, and clarity, which make it an immensely valuable resource to scholars. Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates through faculty.’ — A. E. McKim, Choice 47.1, September 2009, 49
  • ‘Readers of this closely written study will hence gain many insights, as when the author points out that Yeats, though a ‘modern’, was no more innovative in prosody than the laureate Bridges; or the limited stock of Housman’s verse types; or ways in which Larkin, conservative in verse forms (as in politics), was yet inventive in his use of them; or how Kipling ‘employed a vast array of different metres with consummate skill’. Martin Duffell has, then, produced a serious and weighty book.’ — Andrew Breeze, Modern Language Review 105.2, 2010, 548-48 (full text online)
  • ‘Duffell analyses metre from a linguistic and cognitive-scientific point of view, suggesting that metre proceeds from universal human requirements for both stability and surprise, and combines the techniques of both statistical and generative metrists in his analyses... Undoubtedly a book of great value for students of verse language.’ — unsigned notice, Forum for Modern Language Studies 47.1, January 2011
  • ‘Ayant à enseigner les rudiments de la métrique à des auditoires provenant de multiples filières, je me suis souvent vu confronté au paradoxe de ne pouvoir recommander aucun manuel de référence pour une langue aussi largement pratiquée que l'anglais... Avec l'ouvrage de Martin Duffell, cette frustration n'a plus lieu d'être.’ — Marc Dominicy, Justicatif: Revue Belge de Philologie et d'Histoire 2014, 980-83

Bibliography entry:

Duffell, Martin J., A New History of English Metre, Studies In Linguistics, 5 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2008)

First footnote reference: 35 Martin J. Duffell, A New History of English Metre, Studies In Linguistics, 5 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2008), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Duffell, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Duffell, Martin J.. 2008. A New History of English Metre, Studies In Linguistics, 5 (Cambridge: Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Duffell 2008: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Duffell 2008: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

This Legenda title was first published by Modern Humanities Research Association and Maney Publishing but rights to it are now held by Modern Humanities Research Association and Routledge.

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