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Dr Daniel Starza Smith

Smith_DanielLecturer in Early Modern English Literature (1500-1700)

Tel +44 (0)20 7848 1776

Address Department of English
King's College London
VB7.15, Virginia Woolf Building 
22 Kingsway
London WC2B 6LE

Twitter @letterlocking


After several years working as a travel journalist for Time Out, I realised that my true calling lay in the manuscripts room of the British Library, where I became obsessed first with an anonymous Stuart play fragment, then the sprawling, messy Conway Papers archive, which contained poetry by John Donne.

After three degrees at University College London, I lectured at the University of Reading and returned to teach at UCL, before being awarded a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship, which I undertook at Lincoln College, Oxford. This focused on the women patrons of Donne’s writing, such as Lucy Harington Russell, Countess of Bedford.

While in Oxford I worked on the landmark Donne Variorum (, and also became interested in ‘letterlocking’, the study of epistolary security before the invention of the envelope (

I am a member of the ‘Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered’ project (, which explores a late-seventeenth century postmaster’s trunk.
Research interests and PhD supervision
  • John Donne’s life and works, particularly his patrons and friends, and the circulation of his writing in manuscript,
  • The history of manuscripts, printed books, and libraries in early modern England and Europe
  • Editorial theory and practice
  • The literary and material features of early modern letters
  • Women’s writing and patronage activities
Selected publications

John Donne and the Conway Papers: Patronage and Manuscript Circulation in the Early Seventeenth Century (OUP, 2014) – winner of the University English Book Prize 2016

Manuscript Miscellanies in Early Modern England, co-edited with Joshua Eckhardt for Material Readings in Early Modern Culture (Ashgate, 2014)

‘Unvolving the Mysteries of The Melbourne Manuscript’, Huntington Library Quarterly (2016/17)

‘A Reader’s Guide to the Material Features of Early Modern Letters’, Letters of Bess of Hardwick, (Glasgow University, 2013–)

‘Busy young fool, unruly son? New light on John Donne junior’, Review of English Studies, 61 (2011), pp. 538–61 – winner of the John Donne Society Distinguished Publication Award 2011

I contribute to the teaching of early modern literature across all undergraduate years, as well as on Master’s courses, where I also teach graduate research methods. 
Expertise and public engagement
With Jana Dambrogio, I have led more than a dozen letterlocking workshops in archives and libraries, reaching conservation staff, scholars, and the general public; I have also consulted for The National Archives. My reviews of academic books and theatre performances have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Review of English Studies, John Donne Journal, Library and Information History, English Studies, and Shakespeare









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