Fugitive Verses
Popular Reprinted Poetry from Nineteenth Century Newspapers


About Fugitive Verses

Fugitive Verses presents transcribed, lightly-encoded editions of poems widely reprinted in nineteenth-century US, UK, and Australian newspapers as discovered through the Viral Texts Project at Northeastern University. We borrow our title, “Fugitive Verses,” from a term used by nineteenth-century newspaper editors to describe widely reprinted, often—though by no means always—anonymous poems that circulated outside of authors’ or publishers’ control. For instance, the Burlington Free Press of 27 December 1850 introduced an anonymous poem as a “charming little fugitive somnambulist wandering about the newspaper world, wringing its little hands, and imploring to be taken in,” while the Coconino Sun of 19 November 1898 described the widely reprinted religious poem “There Is No Death” as a “fugitive poem that many authors claim.”

This edition complements an article written by Viral Texts researchers Ryan Cordell and Abby Mullen, “‘Fugitive Verses’: The Circulation of Poems in Nineteenth-Century American Newspapers” for American Periodicals 27.1 (Spring 2017). A pre-print of that article is available on the Viral Texts Project website.

Selection and Criteria

Our criteria for inclusion here simple: each of these poems was reprinted in at least 100 periodicals. This includes several hundred poems, and so we will slowly add new poems to this edition over time. These were computationally identified from newspapers in the following historical newspaper and magazine archives: the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America, Cornell University’s Making of America and the University of Michigan’s Making of America, ProQuest’s American Periodicals Series Online, Gale’s 19th Century U.S. Newspapers, the Australian National Library’s Trove Historical Newspapers and Gale’s 19th Century British Library Newspapers.

We choose one early witness of each poem for transcription, ensuring that it is available through an open access database, which is typically Chronicling America. All identified witnesses for each poem transcribed here can be found in this table. Note that our output data cannot include direct links to or full copies of data drawn from corporate databases.

About the Platform

This edition was built using Ed by Alex Gil.