John Downes.

Roscius Anglicanus, or, An historical review of the stage from 1660 to 1706 online

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B ^ iiD 124










From 1660 to 1706,


A Facsimile Reprint of the Rare Original of 1708.













of which


5 „ For the British Museum and Public

S „ For Private Distribution.


All of which are Numbered and Signed.


"pOR his knowledge of the stage before Colley Gibber
began his matchless, if not always trustworthy Apo-
logy, the student of theatrical history is indebted to
comparatively few books. In Pepys's Memoirs appetising
glimpses into the performances of Restoration dramas
are afforded, and more or less curious information con-
cerning play-houses, actors, and authors, in Tudor and
Stuart times is to be gleaned in the plays, tracts, and
prologues of writers from Nash and Heywood, to Dave-
nant, Dryden, and Flecknoe, from the Histrio-mastix of
Prynne, 1633, and from Wright's Historia Histrionica,
1699. The one work, however, from whichji history of
the stage, from the period of the Restoratfon to the
beginning of the eighteenth century can be obtained, is
the Roscius Anglicanus of John Downes, now for the
first time reprinted in its original shape. The first edi-
tion of this work is, as collectors know, so scarce that a
copy of it can rarely be obtained. It was spoken of as
"extremely scarce" by Waldron, who in 1789 — from the
same copy from which the present facsimile is taken —
printed an edition, itself far from common, with the ad-
dition of notes by Thomas Davies, the bookseller, the
author of the Life of Garrick, and of Dramatic Miscel-
lanies, and by himself.

In the sale catalogue of the library of Henderson, the


actor, the coj)y from which both reprints are taken was
announced. The volume, according to Waldron, was
" claimed as the property of the Hon. Mr. {sic) Byng,"
by whom it had been lent to Henderson, and who had
purchased it from the widow of Davies.

John Downes was, as his address to the reader states,
book-keeper and prompter to the theatre in Lincoln's
Inn Fields, from its opening in 1662, until October,
1706. By a quotation from "The Spanish Tragedy, or
Hieronimo is Mad Again," by Thomas Kyd, Waldron
shews that book-keeper means what Ben Johson in the
Introduction to "Cynthia's Revels," calls the book-holder,
the individual who holds or keeps the manuscript or
book of the play.

Of the life of Downes little, except what he himself
tells us, is known. With many defects as a chronicler,
springing in part from the entire absence of any literary
gift, but in a still higher degree from his not unnatural
forgetfulness that future generations might be greatly
concerned, with matters which to him, appeared too
trivial for mention, Downes supplies the most trust-
worthy information we possess concerning the stage
during the period when its licence was greatest, and when
its changes and transmutations were most important.
To mention two things only ; it is during the period
covered by the review of Downes, that the use of scenery
began, and that women first appeared regularly on the
stage as the exponents of feminine characters. That there
were actresses, of a sort, in classical times is known, and
that English ladies of rank took part from an early time,
in dramatic entertainments, revels at Court, and the like
has been shown. No English woman appeared, however,
upon a public stage until 1656, and then, as will be
shown, she was not allowed to speak, but only to sing.


In Brome's " Court-Beggar," acted at the Cock-pit, 1632,
are the words " Women actors now grow in request"
This has been supposed to indicate that female cha-
racters in English plays had then been assigned to women.
It more probably refers to the fact stated by Prynne, that
" not long since " (Michaelmas, 1629), '' they had French-
women Actors in a play personated in Blacke-friers
Play-house, to which there was great resort." * According
to a letter from one Thomas Brande, 8th Nov., 1629,
these Frenchwomen were " hissed, hooted, and pippen
pelted from the stage."

In "The Ball" of Shirley and Chapman, 1639, Jack
Freshwater, a pretended traveller, asserts that in Paris
"the women are the best actors, they play their own
parts, a thing much desired in England by some ladies,
inns o' court gentlemen, and others."t It may safely
then, be assumed that the women whose performances
Downes chronicles, were the first English actresses who
appeared upon the stage to speak the words of a play.
In Davenant's patent it is expressly said, that " Whereas
the women's parts in plays have hitherto been acted by
men in the habits of women, at which some have taken
offence, we do permit and give leave for the time to
come that all womens parts be acted by women. "J
The discussion of the question, abundantly ventilated,
whether the women mentioned by classical writers as
appearing on the stage, were actresses or dancers, is
outside the present subject.

* Histrio-mastix, p. 215.

+ Act v., Sc, i.

% Given in " The State of the Case between the Lord Chamberlain
of his Majesty's Household, and Sir Richard Steele, as Represented
by that Knight," London, 1720.


Concerning the actresses who appeared in the comedies
of the Restoration, Downes supplies particulars which
are always interesting, and sometimes not a little naive.
He chronicles moreover (p. 46), the engagement of foreign
women : Madam Sublini, Margarita Delpine, Maria
Gallia, and others ; and states that Madam Delpine had
by modest computation, got " by the Stage and Gentry,
above T 0,000 guineas," an almost incredible sum for
those days.

So early then as the seventeenth century, foreign artists
had found London a happy hunting ground.

Freshwater, in " The Ball," whom I have previously
quoted, says, in words which even then, 1639, had
special significance, and were likely to " draw down the
house," " You must encourage strangers while you live :
it is the character of our nation, we are famous for de-
jecting our own countrymen."* He is in this case re-
ferring to portrait painters and not to actors, but the
analogy between the two holds good.

A just but a timid critic, Downes seldom warms into
eloquence or poetry except, when dealing with women.
He describes how the famous Mrs. Barry, when she
acted Monimia (in "The Orphan "), Belvidera (in " Ven-
ice Preserved"), and Isabella (in "The Fatal Marriage"),
"forced tears from the eyes of her auilitory, especially those
who have any sense of pity for the distressed ; " while of
the potent and magnetick charm " of Mrs. Braccginlle in
"performing a song" in Crowne's ''Justice Busy," he
states, with unwonted enthusiam, that it " caus'd the stones
of the streets to fly into men's faces," a miracle a little
diftjcult of comprehension, and more satisfactory to hear
of than to experience Of the Ixau sexe in general he is
indeed an admirer, his duties as prompter or book
• Act iii., Sc. iii.


holder being not too onerous to incapacitate him for
noticing the " daily charming presence " of the ladies of
the Court at the performance of Lee's " Theodosius, or
the Force of Love." Mrs, Long, too, in the " Woman
made a Justice," is credited with acting the Justice
" charmingly," and for Mrs. Davies the same epithet is
reserved. Downes is indeed our authority for the asser-
tion that in the part of Celia, a shepherdess (should be
Celania, the Jailor's daughter), in " The Rivals," an
alteration by Sir William Davenant of " The Two Noble
Kinsmen," in giving the well-known song, " My Lodg-
ng is on the cold ground," Mrs. Davies *' perform'd
that so charmingly, that not long after, it raised her
from the cold ground to a bed royal."

The statement is correct. Genest, however, in his
" Account of the English stage " is at the pains to con«
tradict it. "Charles the 2nd," says Genest, "did not
take Mrs. Davis into keeping." This, for a writer
so careful as Genest, is a sad blunder. Never indeed,
was a worse shot. Pepys supplies abundant particulars
concerning the royal favourite, and the jealousies she
caused. First he depicts little Miss Davis, March 7th,
166J, dancing a jigg, which was "infinitely beyond the
other," the other being Nell Gwyn. He then, Jan.
14th, i66|, tells how the King has given her a ring of
;;^7oo, and has " furnished a house in Suffolke-street, most
richly for her." On the 31st May, 1668, he describes how
the Queen would not stay to see the jigg Mrs. Davis had
to dance, " which most people do think was out of dis-
pleasure at her being the King's mistress, that she could
not bear it," and depicts my Lady Castlemaine " mightily
out of request," and "mighty melancholy and discon-
tented." One more picture coloured to the life, the old
gossip presents, in Dec. 21st of the same year. After

X editor's preface.

telling how his wife appeared "as pretty as any of them "
in the theatre, and how the King and the Duke of York
" minded him, and smiled at him," he continues, " But it
vexed me to see Moll Davis in the box over the King's
and my Lady Castlemaine, look down upon the King,
and he up to her; and so did my Lady Castlemaine
once, to see who it was ; but when she saw Moll Davis,
she looked like fire ; which troubled me."

Genest can indeed, never have heard the story pre-
served by Grainger in a note to his Biographical History
of England, of the rivalry between Moll Davies and
Nell Gwynn. " It would be too indelicate to mention
the particular consequences of the jalap, which was
given to Moll Davies at supper by Nell Gwynn, who
knew that she was to lie the same night with the King.
It is sufficient to hint at the violence of its operation,
and the disastrous effects : such effects as the ancients
would have attributed to .\nteros, a malignant deity,
and the avowed enemy of Cupid."*
J According to Pepys, Moll Davies was an illegitimate

daughter of Colonel Howard, my Lord Berkshire, who
"got her for the King." The result of this royal intrigue
wns a daughter, named Mary Tudor, married in
1687 to the son of .^ir Francis Ratcliffe, who became
Earl of Derwentwater. The unfortunate Earl who
perished on Tower Hill was the son of this Mary Tudor,
whose death is thus noticed in the Historical Register for
1726, Vol. n. " 1726, Nov. 5. — Dy'd at Paris, aged 53
years, or thereabouts. The Ladv Mary Tudor, Countess
of Derwentwater, relict of Francis Ratcliffe, second Earl
of Derwentwater, who had issue by her — three sons and
one dnughter — viz. : J.iniep, who succeeded his father in
the Earldom, and was beheaded for high treason, on

• Vol. iv., p. 1S7. rd. 1775

editor's preface. xi

Tower Hill, in 17 16; Francis, and Charles, and the
Lady Mary Tudor. She was twice marry'd after the
death of the Earl, her first husband, viz. : first to Henry

Grahame, Esq, ; and after his decease to Rooke,

Esq., son of Brigadier-General Rooke."

In " Epigrams of all sorts made at Divers Times, on
Severall Occasions," by Richard Flecknoe, London,
1670, p. 43, is an "epigram" to Mrs. Davies on her
excellent dancing. This commences " Dear Mis,"' and
is noteworthy as an exceptionally early instance of
addressing an unmarried woman as Miss, without, it
may be supposed, intending to cast an imputation upon
her morals, such as at that time the use of the word
sometimes involved.

It has been supposed by Waldron, that the elevation
to the "bed royal" justified Downes in bestowing the
title of Madame instead of that of Mrs. ; Downes how-
ever, does not confine the tide to the recipients of royal
homage, since he confers it on Mrs. Bracegirdle, who
had no such qualification.

At page 35, Downes mentioning the losses undergone
by the company previous to 1673, states of Mrs. Daven-
port, Mrs. Davies, and Mrs. Jennings, in the peculiar
phraseology he affects, that they " by force of love, were
erept the stage." There seems every reason to believe
that Mrs. Davenport was the heroine of an adventure
which Davies in his notes to the " Roscius Anglicanus" and
again in his " Dramatic Miscellanies " (iii. 277 — 9), assigns
to Mrs. Marshall. This adventure is told in " Grammont's
Memoirs," by Mrs. Hobart, of the Earl of Oxford and the
"handsome, gi-aceful actress, belonging to the duke's
theatre, who performed to perfection, particularly the part
of Roxana, in a very fashionable new play, insomuch that

xii editor's preface.

she ever after retained that name."* According to this
story, the Earl who was madly in love with the actress,
and was unable by any protestations or promises of
marriage to overcome her resistance, came to her
lodgings attended by a clergyman and a witness, and
went solemnly through the wedding ceremony.

Upon investigation, it proved that " the pretended
priest was one of my lord's trmnpeters, and the witness
his kettle-drummer." t Appeals to Charles I. to avenge
her outraged honour upon the part of the woman, thus
ill-treated by the High and Mighty Prince, Aubrey de
Vera, Knight of the Garter, Colonel of the Royal
Regiment of Life Guards, and possessor then, or sub-
sequently, of many offices of honour, trust and
emoluments, were vain ; no redress was obtained,
and the victim was ultimately compelled to
accept a pension of a thousand crowns, or according to
Curll's History of the Stage, o{^s°°-+ Curll departs in
many particulars from the story narrated by Hamilton,
and rightly calls the heroine of the adventure Roxalana
instead of Roxana. As, however, he is the worst
authority conceivable, his statements are entitled to
no more credit than is the assertion of Walpole,
that the actress in question was a Mrs. Rarker, of
whose existence no trace is preserved. Mrs. Marshall
was the original Roxana of Lee's " Rival Queens,"
produced at the Theatre Royal in 1677, and the
story was consc(iucntly, attributed to her. Malone, and
after him Genest,§ suppose however, the heroine to have
been Mrs. Davenport, who acted Roxalana in " The

* Graminont's Memoirs, Kd. IJohii, p. 230.
+ Ibia., p. 231.
t p. 35.
§ Account of the Stajjc, Vol. i., p. 49.


Siege of Rhodes," of Davenant, at the Lincoln's Inn
Fields Theatre in 1661 ; and a second Roxalana in the
"Mustapha," of Lord Orrery, at the same house in 1663,
The actress is stated in the translation of Grammont's
Memoirs to have belonged to the Duke's company, and
the play is therein described as "a very fashionable
new play." Reference to the original French, however,
shows that the last phrase is an unwarranted addition
of the translator. The words of Hamilton, in the first
edition (Cologne chez Pierre Marteau), 17 13, with the
original spelling and italics are as follows : Le Comte
d'Oxford devint amoureux d'une Comedienne de la
Troiipe du Duc^ belle, gracieuse, & qui jouoit dans la
perfection. Le Rtle de Roxelane, dans une Piece
Nouvelle I'avoit niise en Vogue, le nom lui en ^toit
rest^. — p. 295. In consequence of not having turned to
the original, Genest charges the author of the Memoirs
with having called the actress Roxana, instead of Roxal-
ana. Hamilton, as is seen, does no such thing.
The name he gives is Roxelane, and the error is
wholly due to the translator. That the actress in
question was Mrs. Davenport, as surmised by Malone
and Genest, and not Mrs. Marshall, as stated by Davies
in his notes to Downes, and by Curll in his History of
the Stage ; is conclusively shewn by Pepys, who under
the date of May 20th, 1662, has the words : " My wife
and I by coach to the opera, and there saw the second
part of ' the Siege of Rhodes,' but it is not so well done
as when Roxalana was there, who, it is said, is now
owned by my Lord Oxford."

Evelyn also, in his Diary, has the entry: "9th Jan.,
1661 — 62, I saw acted ' the third part of the Siege of
Rhodes.' In this acted the fair and famous comedian
Roxalana \ from the part she performed — and I think it



was the last — she being taken to be the Earl of Oxford's
Miss (as at this time they began to call lewd women)."

It has been doubted if after her mishap, Mrs. Daven-
port again appeared upon the stage. The name of a
Mrs. Davenport appears in 1663, at Lincoln's Inn Fields,
as Camilla, in Tuke's "Adventures of Five Hours."
On March 2nd, 1667, a Mrs. E. Davenport played
Sabina, and a Mrs, F. Davenport, Flavia, in Dryden's
" Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen," and in the cast
of " The Black Prince " of the Earl of Orrery, given
in the October of the same year, see " Roscius Angli-
canus," p. 14, are the names "Valeria Disguised, F.
Damporf, and a Lady, Betty Dainport" It is unUkely,
however, that any of these characters would have been
assigned to the Mrs. Davenport, whose fame was such in
Roxalana, and whose name Downes, p. 20, places at
the head of the four principal actresses whom Davenant
boarded at his house. How difficult is the task of
arriving at an accurate knowledge of facts concerning
the early stage, may be judged by the foregoing story.

It is needless to say that upon the subject of the lady
carried oft' by Lord Oxford, Downes supplies no informa-
tion. Except in the case of such noblemen as were also
dramatists, the old prompter is judiciously char}' of
dealing with the titled mohocks, who, after the appear-
ance of women on the stage, commenced perpetually to
infest the theatre, and when promises and blandishments
failed, did not hesitate to employ force to carry oft' the

Davcnant's before-mentioned play, The "Siege of
Rhodes," finds conspicuous mention, juge 20, when
Downes states — aproi)Os of the opening by Sir William
Davenant, of the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, in the
spring of 1662, with the I'irst and Second parts of "The

editor's preface. XV

Siege of Rhodes" and "The Wits"— that the new-
scenes and decorations then employed, were the first
that were introduced into England. Unless, which is
possible, this means that the " scenes and decorations "
were the same that had previously been used, this
declaration is inaccurate. Scenery had been employed
in London six years previously, and curiously enough,
in the same play, which as chance arranges, is histori-
cally, the most interesting work in the English language.

The question of accuracy in Downes, depends, to a
certain extent, upon the point whether the representation
of a first draft of the Siege of Rhodes, which Cromwell
permitted, is to be regarded as dramatic or operatic.

In 1656 was published a work entitled "The Siege of
Rhodes. Made a Representation by the Art of Pro-
spective in Scenes, and the Story sung in Recitative
Musick. At the back part of Rutland House, in the
upper end of Aldersgate Street, London. London,
Printed by J. M. for Henry Herringham, and are to be
sold at his shop, at the Sign of the Anchor, on the
Lower Walk, in the New Exchange. 1656." This piece,
which was subsequently enlarged into "The Siege of
Rhodes," as it is now known, appears to have been
examined by few of the stage historians. Langbaine in
his " Account of the English Dramatick Poets," says,
" Siege of Rhodes, in two Parts. These plays were
likewise, in the times of the Civil War, acted in Stilo
Recitativo, and printed in quarto, but afterwards en-
larged by the Author, and acted with applause at the
Duke of York's Theatre in Lincoln's-Inn Fields."* The
"Biographia Dramatica" and Mr. Halliwell's "Dictionary
of Old Plays," mention no difference between the first
edition and that subsequently enlarged and published in
* Account of the Dramatick Poets, page xio.



1659 (?). The earlier edition however, differs widely
from the first of the two parts of " The Siege of
Rhodes." The character of Roxalana does not even
appear in it, and it has but seven characters against
eleven named characters and many supernumeraries in
the later edition. It occupies forty pages, with eight
pages of preliminary matter, and two, of which one is
blank at the end, form what is called " The Story Per-
sonated." It is in Five " entries " and not in acts.
The First part in the Second edition is also in Five
entries, occupying 46 pages without counting preliminary
matter. The second part is divided into acts. Two
copies of the earliest impression of " The Siege of
Rhodes," are in the British Museum Library. This
first sketch was acted some time about the date of its
publication, at Rutland House, which was situated near
Charter-House Square. Concession for the performance
of " Declamation and Musick after the maimer of the
Ancients" had been obtained from Cromwell, by the
Lord Keeper Whitelock, Sergeant Maynard, and other
persons of influence.

A letter from Davenant to Sir Bulstrode Whitelock,
included in the " Memorials," is interesting in many
respects, and has, I believe, been printed in no work
dealing with the stage. The entire passage is as follows:
Sep. 3., 1656. " I received this letter from Sir William

My Lord,

When I consider the nicety of the times, I fear it
may draw a curtain between your lordship and our
opera; therefore, I have presumed to sciul your lord-
ship, hot from the pitss, wh:it we mean to represent,
making your lordship my supreme judge, though I

editor's preface. XVll

despair to have the honour of inviting you to be a
spectator. I do not conceive the perusal of it worthy
any part of your lordship's leisure, unless your ancient
relation to the Muses make you not unfiling to give
a little entertainment to poetry; though in so mean a
dress as this and coming from, my lord,

Your lordship's most obedient servant,

William Davenant."*
This letter serves to show that Whitelock was favour-
able to Davenant's scheme, that the first representation
given by Davenant at Rutland House, was subsequent to
Sep. 3rd, 1656, and that Davenant from the first, by
way of avoiding the use of the word stage-play, called
his first production an opera. Long after he had dis-
missed the music and produced regular tragedies, he
adhered to the word opera, the use of which had
enabled him to steer his bark in " ticklish times."

It has been held that the first performance at Rutland
House was on May 21st, 1656. This is not quite sure.
Previous to the representation of "The Siege of Rhodes,"
something in the nature of a masque was given.
The title of this was "The First Days Entertainment
at Rutland-House, by Declamations and Musick, After
the manner of the Ancients by Sr W. D." It was
printed in small 8vo, by I. M. for Henrj' Herringham,
London, 1657. In the copy in the King's Library,
British Museum of this scarce little volume, the date is
altered in a contemporary hand-writing, to 1656 ; and the
date of November 22nd, which has been supposed to be
that of the actual day of publication, is added. Suffi-
cently timid was this venture. It begins with music;
the author then, in a prologaie, excuses his own attempt.
Subsequently Diogenes, as the representative of Puritanic
* Memorials, p. 650



views, and Aristophanes, speaking for enlightened
Athenians, in turn address the public, and are followed
by a Londoner and a Parisian, who speak as to the
relative advantages of the capitals they inhabit. The
entertainment is liberally interspersed with music, vocal
and instrumental, by Dr. Charles Coleman, Captain
Henry Cook, Mr. Henry Lawes, and Mr. George

In The Siege of Rhodes, by which this tentative per-
formance was followed, a bold step was taken in advance.
A regular play was acted and sung, with tlie accompani-
ment of scenery, which was the first that had been ex-
hibited on the English stage. The following list of cha-
racters is from the prefatory matter to the printed play : —
Solyman by Capt. Henry Cook.
Villerius „ Mr. Gregory ThorndelL
Alphonso „ Mr. Edward Coleman.
Admiral „ Mr. Matthew Lock.
Pirrhus „ Mr. John Harding.
Mustapha „ Mr. Henry Persill.
Linthe „ Mrs. Coleman, wife to Mr. Coleman.
*' The composition of Vocal music was perform'd.
The First Entry by Mr. Henry Lawes.
„ Second „ ,, Capt. Henry Cook.
„ Third „ „ Capt. Henry Cook.
„ Fourth „ „ Mr. Matthew Lock.
„ Fifth „ ,, Mr. Henry Lawes."

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