Professor Marcus Walsh

Professor Marcus Walsh

Department of English Literature
Honorary Senior Research Fellow

Contact details

Now retired, I continue to research and publish in the literature of the long eighteenth-century. I am a General Editor and volume editor of the Oxford UP Oxford Writings of Alexander Pope.


  • BA English Language and Literature, Oxford University, 1969
  • BPhil Eighteenth-Century English Literature, Oxford University, 1971
  • PhD University of Toronto, 1975


After studying at Oxford University, and as a Commonwealth Scholar at the University of Toronto, I was appointed to a Lectureship in the Department of English at the University of Birmingham in 1976. I was promoted to a Senior Lectureship in 1989, a Readership in 1997, and a Personal Chair in 1998. I was Head of Department from 2002 to 2004. In 2004 I was appointed to the Kenneth Allott Chair of English Literature at Liverpool University, and served as Head of Department of English (2007-2010), and Head of the School of the Arts (2013-2014). Now retired, I live in Birmingham, read books, edit Pope, and play chess.


During the course of my career I have published on the history and theory of editing, commentary, and interpretation; on book history; on literary applications of Information Technology, especially in editing; on the development of English as a discipline and profession in the University; on the history of hermeneutics; on the theory and practice of literary interpretation and editing in the eighteenth century; and on poetry and language. I have written studies of a number of eighteenth-century authors (Swift, Addison, Pope, Smart, Sterne, Johnson, Malone, and others). My central research project has been a broad-based investigation of the nature of texts (and paratexts), including issues of editorial theory, textual knowledge and historical hermeneutics. My main research questions have related to the transmission, understanding, explication and presentation of texts.

Above all I am a practising textual editor and annotator. I edited one volume, and co-edited a second volume, of the Oxford English Texts Poetical Works of Christopher Smart (1983, 1987). I published in 2010 an edition of Jonathan Swift’s complex masterpiece, A Tale of a Tub, and associated works, for the Cambridge University Press edition of Swift’s complete works (2010). I am one of the founding General Editors of the new Oxford University Press edition of the Works of Alexander Pope., and am currently editing (with Dr Hazel Wilkinson, University of Birmingham) the volume containing Pope’s Ethic Epistles.

In recent years I have published (or will imminently publish) more than a dozen essays and articles on eighteenth-century literary editing, the theory of editorial commentary, eighteenth-century poetry and poetics, Swift and the book, Samuel Johnson and Shakespeare, Joseph Addison, book history, the practice of the discipline of English literature, and arguments about editing, documentation, and epistemology in the early enlightenment.



  • (ed.) A Tale of a Tub and other Works, volume 1 of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jonathan Swift (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010).
  • (ed.) Longman Critical Reader: Laurence Sterne. (London: Pearson / Longman, 2002).
  • Shakespeare, Milton and Eighteenth-Century Literary Editing: the Beginnings of Interpretative Scholarship. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997.
  • (ed., with I C Small) The Theory and Practice of Text-Editing: Essays in Honour of James T Boulton. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. 
  • (ed., with Karina Williamson) Christopher Smart: Selected Poems. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990. Reissued 1999.
  • (ed.) Christopher Smart: Poetical Works, Volume iii: A Translation of the Psalms of David. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987.
  • (ed., with Karina Williamson.) Christopher Smart: Poetical Works, Volume ii: Religious Poetry, 1763-71. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1983.
  • The Oxford University Press edition of Smart's Poetical Works was awarded the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize by the British Academy in 1997.
  • (ed.) John Gay: Selected Poems. Manchester: Carcanet, 1979. Re-issued 1997.
  • (ed.) Christopher Smart: Selected Poems. Manchester: Carcanet, 1979. Re-issued 1987. 

Chapters in Books

  • ‘Addison’s criticism and critical thinking’, for a collection of Tercentenary essays on Joseph Addison, edited by Paul Davis, for Oxford University Press. Publication 2019. 
  • ‘Swift, the Church, and Religion: the Sermons, the Tale, and the Critics’, for Reading Swift: Papers from the Seventh Münster Symposium. Publication 2019.
  • ‘Against Hypocrisy and Dissent’, for The Oxford Handbook of Eighteenth-Century Satire, ed. Paddy Bullard. Oxford UP. Publication 2018.
  • ‘Allusion’, in Jack Lynch, ed., The Oxford Handbook Of British Poetry, 1660–1800 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016), pp. 649-667.
  • ‘Scholarly documentation in the Enlightenment: validation and interpretation’, in Alexis Tadié and Paddy Bullard, eds., Ancients and Moderns in Europe. Comparative Perspectives. (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation (Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment), 2016), pp. 97-112.
  • ‘Fragments and Disquisitions: Johnson’s Shakespeare in Context’, in Howard Weinbrot, ed., Samuel Johnson: New Contexts for a New Century (San Marino: Huntington Library Press, 2014), pp. 157-172.
  • ‘Understanding and Explaining the Literary Text: a Return to Interpretation’. In: Walczuk A and Witalisz W eds., Old Challenges and New Horizons in English and American Studies (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2014), pp. 11-24.
  • ‘Eighteenth-Century High Lyric: Collins and Smart’, in Marion Thain, ed., The Modern Print Lyric Poem: The Aesthetic and Cultural Formation of a Genre (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013), pp. 112-34.
  • ‘Candid Interpretations: Hermann Real and our Understanding of the Swiftian Text’. In: Juhas K, Müller P, and Hansen M ed(s). ‘The first wit of the age’: Essays on Swift and his Contemporaries in Honour of Hermann J. Real (Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang., 2013), pp. 379-87.
  • (with Greg Lynall) ‘“Edifying by the margent”: Echoing Voices in Swift’s Tale’, in Reading Swift: Papers from the Sixth Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift, ed. H. J. Real (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2013), pp. 159-70.
  • ‘Swift’s Tale of a Tub and the mock book’, in Jonathan Swift and the Eighteenth-Century Book, eds. Paddy Bullard and James McLaverty (Cambridge: CUP, June 2013), pp. 101-18.
  • ‘Editing and Publishing Shakespeare’, in Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century, eds. Fiona Ritchie and Peter Sabor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 21-40.
  • ‘Edmond Malone’, in Dryden, Pope, Johnson, Malone, ed. Claude Rawson, pp. 160-199. Volume 1 of Great Shakespeareans (London: Continuum, 2010). 
  • Oxford Companion to the Book, ed.Michael Suarez, S. J. and Henry Woudhuysen (2 vols, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010). Associate Editor (in charge of entries relating to Bibliographical Scholarship); contributed the introductory essay ‘Theories of text, editorial theory, and textual criticism’ (1. 156-63); wrote 25 entries, including Bentley, Book History, Bourdieu, Capell, Chartier, Derrida, Foucault, Habermas, Housman, Johnson, Malone, Porson, Swift, and Theobald.
  • ‘Scholarly Editing: Patristics, Classical Literature and Shakespeare’, in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Volume 5, 1695-1830, ed. Michael Suarez, S. J. and Michael Turner (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009), pp. 684-698
  • ‘Scriblerian satire, A Political Romance, the “Rabelaisian Fragment”, and the origins of Tristram Shandy’, for The Cambridge Companion to Laurence Sterne, ed. Thomas Keymer (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009), pp. 21-33.
  • ‘George Steevens and the 1778 Variorum: a Hermeneutics and a Social Economy of Annotation’, in Shakespeare and the Eighteenth Century, ed. Peter Sabor and Paul Yachnin (Ashgate, 2008), pp. 71-83.
  • ‘Telling Tales and Gathering fragments: Jonathan Swift’s Tale of a Tub’, Proceedings of the Fifth Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift (Munich: Fink, 2008), pp. 151-163.
  • ‘Swift and Religion’, in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift, ed. Christopher Fox (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003), pp. 161-176.
  • ‘Literary Scholarship and the Life of Editing’, in Books and their Readers in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Isabel Rivers (London and New York: Leicester UP, 2001), pp. 191-215. 
  • ‘“Community of Mind”: Christopher Smart and the Poetics of Allusion’, in Christopher Smart and the Enlightenment, ed. Clement Hawes (New York: St Martin’s, 1999), pp. 29-46.
  • ‘A Very Peculiar Practice: Christopher Smart and the Poetic Language of “Early Romanticism”’, in Early Romantics: Perspectives in British Poetry from Pope to Wordsworth, ed. Thomas Woodman (London: Macmillan, 1998), pp. 151-165.
  • ‘Biblical Scholarship and Literary Criticism’, in The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, Volume 4: The Eighteenth Century, eds. H. Nisbet and C. Rawson (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997), pp. 758-777.
  • ‘Sterne’, a chapter in Volume 305, Neoclassicism to Sensibility, Brean Hammond and Melvyn New eds, Annotated Bibliography for English Studies (Lisse, NL: Swets & Zeilinger, 1997 continuing). A CD-ROM based bibliography.
  • ‘The Fluid Text and the Orientations of Editing’, in Warren Chernaik, Marilyn Deegan, and Caroline Davis, eds, The Politics of the Electronic Text (Oxford: Office for Humanities Communication, 1993), pp. 31-39.
  • ‘Editing Poetry: Theory and Practice’, in M. Coulthard, ed., Talking about Text (Birmingham: English Language Research, 1986), pp. 75-87.


  • ‘Mimesis and Understanding in Samuel Johnson’s Notes to Shakespeare (1765)’. For publication (?2019) in The Age of Johnson.
  • ‘Complete Systems and Tristram Shandy’, The Shandean, 25 (2014), 9-25.
  • ‘Form and Function in the English Eighteenth-Century Literary Edition: the Case of Edward Capell’, Studies in Bibliography, 54 (2001 [published December 2003]), 225-241. 
  •  ‘Go Figure: Metaphors of Textuality’, Variants: the Journal of the European Society for Textual Scholarship, 1 (2002), 1-17.
  • Arguments of Wit and Sense: Eighteenth-Century Literary Editing and the Problem of Textual Knowledge. Birmingham University, 2000. ISBN 0 7044 214 7X. Inaugural Lecture.
  • Swift and Anglican Rationalism and the Grounds of Interpretation’, Swift Studies, 14 (1999), 21-28.
  • ‘Hypotheses, Evidence, Editing, and Explication’, Yearbook of English Studies, 29 (1999), 24-42.
  • ‘Eighteenth-century Editing, “Appropriation”, and Interpretation’, Shakespeare Survey, 51 (1998), 125-139.
  • ‘Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue: Christopher Smart and the Lexis of the Peculiar’, Yearbook of English Studies, 28 (1998), 144-62.
  • Review article on Robert Phiddian, Swift’s Parody (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995) and Alan D. Chalmers, Jonathan Swift and the Burden of the Future (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1995). Review of English Studies, n.s. 49 (1998), 360-62.
  • ‘Profession and Authority: The Interpretation of the Bible in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’, Literature and Theology, 9 (1995), 383-398.
  •  ‘Goodness Nose: Sterne’s Slawkenbergius, the Real Presence, and the Shapeable Text’, British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 17 (1994), 55-63.
  • Context in Eighteenth-Century Usage’, Notes and Queries, n.s. 40 (1993), 308-310.
  • ‘Editing Then’ [review article on Peter Seary, Lewis Theobald and the Editing of Shakespeare; Margreta de Grazia, Shakespeare Verbatim], Essays in Criticism, 42 (1992), 243-51. 
  •  ‘The Uses of Literary Evidence: Christopher Smart’s “Knowledge” of Hebrew’, English Studies, 71 (1990), 353-60.
  • ‘Text, “Text”, and Swift’s A Tale of a Tub’, Modern Language Review, 85 (1990), 290-303. Reprinted in Claude Rawson, ed., Jonathan Swift: a Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1995), pp. 82-98; Jonathan Swift, ed. Nigel Wood (Longman Critical Reader; London: Longman, 1999), pp. 110-29; and The Essential Writings of Jonathan Swift, ed. Claude Rawson and Ian Higgins (New York: W. W. Norton, 2009), pp. 762-76.
  • ‘A Cambridge College Library in the Eighteenth Century: Christopher Smart’s Borrowings at Pembroke’, The Library, 12 (1990), 34-49.
  • ‘Samuel Johnson on Poetic Lice and Fleas’, Notes and Queries, n.s. 36 (1989), 470.
  • ‘Literary Annotation and Biblical Commentary: the Case of Patrick Hume’s Annotations on Paradise Lost’, Milton Quarterly, 22 (1988), 109-114.
  • ‘Smart’s Pillars and the Hutchinsonians’, Notes and Queries, n.s. 33 (1986), 67-70. 
  • ‘Another Edition of the “Proposals” for Christopher Smart’s Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs’, Notes and Queries, n.s. 24 (1977), 264.


  • Alexander Pope
  • Samuel Johnson
  • Jonathan Swift
  • Literary editing
  • Textual interpretation
  • Eighteenth-century English literature

Media experience

‘In our Time’, programme on the Scriblerians, hosted by Melvyn Bragg, 9 June 2005.

Professional adviser, programme on Christopher Smart, for Radio 3, March 2002.

Policy experience

I have extensive experience, at University of Birmingham and at Liverpool University, of curriculum design and development.

I was a Teaching Quality inspector, 1994-1995.