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Selborne Magazine and Nature Notes, xxiv, No. 277, January, 191 3, pp. 16-20.



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THE PLOT OF THE PLAY,CALLED

' Ef*cgLJ*(psfor.

• Tobel'laydatthcS'.vanth^rf.ofN'oucmber. ie<o2.








m



IRST.therrisind'.ieiby fhe<vandin Action, the ciuiil warrrs of England
from fJnWthc third, to the end of Quccne iMoiu raigne, with the
oucrthrow of V'furpation.

Secondly then the entrance of Englandsloy by the Coronation of oar » ': ■'•; «



SoueraigncLadv EbfjtbeMna Throne attended with peace. Plenty, and ci-
uill Polhcy: A iacrcd Pwlatc Handing at her right hand, betokening the
scre-i-y of ihc Gofpcll : At her left hand Iuftice : And at h;r feet.- WartC,
with a Scarlet Roabc of pcice vpon Ins Armour: A wreath of Bates
about his temples, and a braunch of Palme in his hind.

n three furies, prefenting' DifTstrion.T'aminc, and Bloodfbcd,»bieh are throwne



4 Fourthly is exorefl vndcr the perfon of a Tyrant, the enoy oi S- tj*
canftth his Souldiers dragee in a beaotinill Lady, rhome they man : -
nicnti and kwds-from off her: And io lcauc her bloody, with her haj
ing vron the ground. To her come tcttaine Gentlemen, who



i : >C ; I tunic to the Throne of England, from whence one defcendeth , takctfa rp the Lady, wipeta I
tffftr eyes, BTndeth vp her wounde*, riutth her treaTdRJ and bringcth forth a band oi Sobers, w
Vc'V^ ar-end her forth; This Lady prcfcnteih5;fo«.



her I it cruelty MJl

i tearing her gar-
ber (houldera, ly-
ou! difpoylment,
Lady, wipeth her

ho



Eta*



Iffl



m

WA

m

m



Lady prcfcnteih

5 rif.ly,'hcTvrantmorcenraged,taVethcounre;i,fend_sfor:h letters, pr:
miners, r.iking their utiles, and giuing them bagges of trcafu c. I -
lefuires, who afterward, when the Tyrant lookes for an ar.. i ,-:.: ft ■ rl
a glafle viith halters about their neckes, which makes him mad nth h

6 Si\tly, the Tyrant feeing all frcrer rr.canes to fayle hi n . ; v.
by the hand of W.rre, whereupon is fct forth the battle a: Sea in

7 SCQCnthly, lice compictrcth wi
of7'yrw, tiic landing there of D;
tour of the Lord iJMmatmt.



= pies, and fecrct vnder-

- n and ccrtainc

_:c (hewed ;o him in



Mm

m

m



:Ii the Itilh rebclles, wherein is
» I*hn dc <s4£h.U, and their t:.



8 1 ,ghrly,'a great triumph is made with fighting of rwcl
wards unt ncni the "llironc ot England, to all forces or «



tnd maafion

victors-.



and fjndne re-



m

>N/. t
' • \" *



befil "• t : ^e



g Lattly, the Nine Worthves, with fcucrall Ccrcncrs. pre f en

which aic put backe by eertaine in the habite of Angels, who tet vpon the I idics head

ptcients her Maieil.c, an Empcriall Crowr.e, gatnidxd with the Some, \M>*mi

vith Mulickc both with voyce . nd Ir.lbun.er.ts lice is taken vp into Heat:

pcarcs, a Throne of bleffed Joules, and beneath vnder the S;a;c

workes, diners blade and damned Soaks, ronderiuU) difcribed in '- drfeucraMtonnena



9hm

m

Wi

) ■ * t

Throne, if.,\±
itnichrc- ^i~f,
; And.:







THE PLOT OF ENGLAND'S JOT. [To face p. 68.

(Reduced facsimile of the broad-sheet preserved in the collection of the
Society of Antiquaries).



The Origin of the Theatre Programme 69

the meantime the common people, when they saw themselves
deluded, revenged themselves upon the hangings, curtains, chairs,
stooles, walles, and whatsoever came in their way, very outragiously,
and made great spoile ; there was great store of good companie,
and many noblemen. 1

In this account we have clear evidence that a poster
announcing the performance was also issued. The broad-
side holds out no lure that the play was "to be acted
only by certain gentlemen and gentlewomen of account."
Chamberlain's information could only have been derived
from some other bill. It was substantially correct, for we
find Slug in Ben Jonson's Masque of Augurs (1622), referring
to the distressed ladies who were about to appear as " three
of those gentlewomen that should have acted in that famous
matter of England's Joy in 'six hundred and three." (One
can pardon the blunder in the dating after an interval of
twenty years.)

Whether or not the whole affair was an elaborate swindle
— and, as we shall see, there was a decided "if" in the
matter — contemporary literature abounds with references
to England's Joy as "a gulling toy". 2 Irritated beyond en-
durance by these goadings, Richard Vennar issued in 16 14
an Apology for his life, in which he denied all intent to defraud,
and explained that he was arrested by bailiffs immediately
before the performance. But if the project was really
genuine why did he collect all the money at the door instead
of following the regular practice of interior gathering during
the performance ? Doubts as to his good faith are deepened
when one finds him arrested in 1 606 on suspicion of having
attempted to defraud Sir John Spencer of £500,01 connexion
with a mythical masque he alleged to have in preparation for
production under the patronage of Sir John Watts, the Lord
Mayor. 3 Moreover, he was always desperately pressed for
money, and died at last in a debtor's prison. The case against

1 Camden Society, Vol. lxxix. 1861, Letters of John Chamberlain, p. 163.

2 Cf. Jonson's Love Restored (Henry Morley's Masques and Entertainments by
Ben Jonson, p. 167) ; Collier, op. cit. iii. 406 ; Ordish's Early London Theatres, p. 273.
The prologue to D'Avenant's opera, The Siege of Rhodes, Part II, seems also to make
reference to England's Joy. 3 Diet. Nat. Biog., sub nomine.



70 The Origin of the Theatre Programme

him undoubtedly looks black, but something may be said for
the defence. It would appear that the " book " of England's
Joy really existed, and that William Fennar, the extemporal
rhymster (whose identity has occasionally been confounded
with Vennar's T ), appropriated it while Vennar was in prison,
and palmed the production on the public as his own. We
learn these details from "My Defence against thy Offence, "
some lines written by John Taylor, the water-poet, replying
to an attack of Fennar's, and published in A Cast over IVater
in 1 6 1 5 :

Thou bragst what fame thou got 'st upon the stage.

Indeed, thou set'st the people in a rage

In playing England' 's Joy, that every man

Did judge it worse then that was done at Swan

• ••••••••

Upon S. Georges day last, sir, you gave
To eight Knights of the Garter (like a knave),
Eight manuscripts (or Books) all fairelie writ,
Informing them, they were your -mother wit:
And you compil'd them ; then were you regarded,
And for another's wit was well rewarded.
All this is true, and this I dare maintaine,
The matter came from out a learned braine :
And poor old Vennor that plaine dealing man,
Who acted England's Joy first at the Swan,
Paid eight crowns for the writing of these things,
Besides the covers, and the silken strings.

If we assume for the nonce that Vennar's broadside was
issued in good faith, then it may be taken, from the tenor of
the synopsis as well as from the fact that ladies and gentlemen
were to be the exponents, that the projected device was not
a play but a masque. Here we have a clue to the unexampled
issue of a programme. In the court masques it was customary
to present the King, and probably one or two other notable
people, with a "pasteboard" or scenario of the performance.
Evidence on this point is indirect but none the less satisfac-
tory. It is derived from certain plays presenting introduced

1 Cf. Collier, op. cit. iii. 406, for GifTord ; Ordish's Early London Theatres, p. 272.



The Origin of the theatre Programme 71

masques, in which the custom is punctiliously followed. 1
Hence, were it not that Vennar's innovation proved abortive,
one might be disposed to say that the modern theatre pro-
gramme originated at Court.

In connexion with the early playbill, or poster, a moot
point suggests itself. When did the practice of publishing
the author's name begin ? The evidence is very contradic-
tory. Dryden, whose memory went back to the dawn of
the Restoration, told Mrs. Stewart in a letter that the first
occasion, cc at least in England", on which a dramatist's name
was given on the bill was in March, 1 699, when Congreve's
The Double Dealer was revived at Lincoln's Inn Fields. 2 In
France the practice had begun at least as early as 1629. 3
Judging from Dryden's testimony, and on the basis of the
persistence of theatrical custom, one would be disposed
to conclude that it was unknown in England in Pre-
Restoration times. Some scanty evidence, however, exists
to the contrary. In Histriomastix (a private-theatre play of
circa 1599) a scene 4 occurs in which the characters are shown
reading a prologue which concludes with "Our Prologue
Peaceth." "Peaceth!" exclaims Gulch, "what peaking
Pageanter penned that ? " To which Belch responds, " who
but Master Post-haste ? " Remark Gulch's biting comment :
"It is as dangerous to read his name at a play-door, as a
printed bill on a plague door."

This seems to settle the point, but if it was usual to set
up a bill at the playhouse door, wherein lies the saliency
of the epigram ? —

Magus would needs, forsooth, the other day,

Upon an idle humour, see a play,

When asking him at door, who held the box

What might you call the play ? Quoth he The Fox, etc. 5

1 Cf. Shirley's The Constant Maid, iv. 3 ; Ford's The Lover's Melancholy, iii. 3 5
and Middleton's No Wit Like a Woman 's, introduced Masque of the Elements.

2 Cf. R. W. Lowe, Thomas Betterton, p. 1 3 note.

3 See Arthur Pougin, Le Theatre a V Exposition Universale de 1889, p. 17, for
facsimile affiche, Cf. Rigal, Le Theatre Francais avant la Pe'riode Classique, p. 198.

4 Cf. Simpson's School of Shakspere, ii. p. 62.

5 The Mouse-Trap, "Epigrams by H. P." London, 1606.



72 The Origin of the Theatre Programme

It may be, however, that the one item of evidence does
not nullify the other. The Fox was a Globe and Blackfriars
play, and, assuming the house visited by Magus to be the
Blackfriars, it might be plausibly argued that playbills were
not posted outside the early private theatres. There is,
indeed, some reason to believe, that in accordance with its
establishment as a virtual (not merely technical) "private
house", so as to evade the repressions of the Common
Council, the first Blackfriars issued no bills whatsoever. 1
In that case we may assume that the giving out of the next
play at the close 2 , so long followed on the English theatres,
was called into being by this severe restriction and at this
particular house. At a subsequent period, when the practice
had been generally adopted, it might very well have been
utilized when a new play by a popular author was about to
be produced, to whet the public appetite by revealing the
author's name. Be that as it may, indications exist to show
that occasionally there was deviation from routine. We
have, for example, Henry Moody's lines on Massinger's
A New Way to Pay Old Debts, a Cockpit play of 1633 : —

The thronged audience that was thither brought
Invited by your fame and to be taught.

Again, the prologue to William Habington's tragi-
comedy, The Queen of Ar agon, as spoken at the Blackfriars
early in 1640, seems to imply that the author's name was
then given on the bill : —

First, for the plot, it's no way intricate
By cross deceits in love, nor so high in state,
That we might have given out in our playbill
This day 's The Prince, writ by Nick Machiavil.

The playbill formula of the early Restoration period
seems indicated in the Prologue to The Adventures of Five
Hours, in which, as given at Lincoln's Inn Fields, the speaker
read out from a bill in his hands, "This day, the 15th of
December, shall be acted a new play, never played before,

1 See my discussion of this point in The Elizabethan Playhouse and other Studies
(First Series), pp. 231-2.

8 Vide ibid., p. I 3 note 2.



The Origin of the Theatre Programme 73

called c The Adventures of Five Hours/ " l In our present
state of knowledge the evidence is inconclusive, but if the
author's name was really given on the bill in the time of
Charles I, it is impossible to divine why anonymity should
have been preserved at the Restoration. Such a remarkable
divergence from theatrical custom is against all precedent.
One cannot plead the interregnum, for other theatrical
customs survived it.

Coming now more directly to the question of the origin
of the programme, with cast of characters, one knows of
only one item of evidence which could be twisted to imply
that this may be traced to Jacobean times. Discussing the
alleged sinfulness of boys masquerading in women's attire,
Hey wood writes in his Apologie for Actors:

But to see our youths attired in the habit of women, who knows
not what their intents be ? Who cannot distinguish them by their
names, assuredly knowing they are but to represent such a lady at
such a time appoynted ?

Three years, however, before this was published Dekker
had written in his Guls Homebooke :

By sitting on the stage, you may (with small cost) purchase the
deere acquaintance of the boys : have a good stoole for sixpence ;
at any time know what particular part any of the infants present : get
your match lighted, examine the play-suits lace, and perhaps win
wagers upon laying 'tis copper, &c.

Happily there is no need to labour the point, for if there
be one thing more assured than another about the routine
of the Elizabethan playhouses it is the entire absence of
programmes. The persistence of the title-board convention 2
would, of itself, warrant us in arriving at this conclusion,
even if all other proof were lacking. As a matter of fact the
programme, as differentiated from the placard, had not yet
sprung into existence anywhere. France was very belated

1 This would apparently date the production at 15 December, 1662, although the
impression to be gained from Pepys and Evelyn is that the first performance took place
on 8 January, 1662-3.

2 See the First Series of these Studies, pp. 50-1.



74 The Origin of the Theatre Programme

in adopting it, and, when it came, England pioneered the
way. It sounds audacious to say so, but it is none the less
true that in point of expediency, as well as from an artistic
standpoint, the absence of the programme in early days
was a blessing in disguise. When necessity demanded
it the play could be changed at the eleventh hour. The
exposure of the title-board gave the spectator fair notice of
what he was going to see, and if it liked him not he could
have his money back and take his departure. There were
favourite actors in Shakespeare's time as there have been in
all times, but the Elizabethan playgoer went to see a play,
not a particular actor in a particular part, for no cast was
guaranteed. In the event of illness a secondary actor could
be substituted for Burbage or Alleyn in one of their popular
characters, and that without apology.

However the applause might be distributed in the theatre,
the actors were on a plane of equality, fraternal members of
a commonwealth. The inartistic principle of the star per-
former with the fancy salary came into being in the early
eighteenth century. Dutton Cook 1 gave it as his opinion
that Garrick was the first actor to receive the invidious dis-
tinction of having his name printed in the bills in capital
letters of extra size. He cites a humorous passage from
The Connoisseur of 1754 to the effect that

The writer of the play bills deals out his capitals in so just a
proportion that you may tell the salary of each actor by the size
of the letter in which his name is printed. When the present
manager of Drury Lane first came on the stage, a new set of types,
two inches long, were cast on purpose to do honour to his extra-
ordinary merit.

We come now to Collier's attempt to controvert Malone's
statement that the playbill with cast of characters dated no
farther back than the beginning of the eighteenth century. 2
In support of his contention Collier had nothing better to
offer than the following suppositious bill : —

1 A Book oj the Play, Chap, v (on playbills).

2 Collier, op. cit. iii. p. 384 note ; Malone's Shakespeare (Dublin, 1794), ii. 113.



The Origin of the theatre Programme 75

By his Majesty's Company of Comedians,
At the new Theatre in Drury-lane,
This day being Thursday, April 8th, 1663, w ^ be acted,

A Comedy, called
THE HUMOUROUS LIEUTENANT.

The King Mr Wintershal

Demetrius Mr Hart

Selevers Mr Burt

Leontius Major Mohun

Lieutenant Mr Clun

Celiae Mrs Marshall

The play will begin at three o'clock exactly.
Boxes 4s; Pit 2s. 6d ; Middle Gallery is. 6d; Upper Gallery is.

For practically a quarter of a century no suspicion was
entertained as to the genuineness of this bill 1 , but in 1854
a correspondent signing himself a F. L.," wrote to Notes
and Queries 2 pointing out certain flaws which justified the
belief that the whole was a forgery. These were as follows:

(1) The bill is fully dated. It was not customary to put

the year on the bills until 1767.

(2) 8 April, 1 662, fell on a Wednesday, not a Thursday.

(3) On 8 May, i663,Pepys took his wife to the "Theatre

Royal, being the second day of its being opened. "

(4) In the same entry Pepys also states that by the King's

command Lacy was now acting the part of the
Lieutenant, formerly acted by Clun.
Some consideration of these items may be entered upon
with the sole view of strengthening "F. L.'s" argument.
(1) This is substantially correct, assuming the reference
to be entirely to London bills. But in Dublin bills began
to be dated considerably earlier in the century. It seems
necessary also to point out that there is extant, in the
collection of Mr. J. Eliot Hodgson, a bill of a Fencing-
Match at the Red Bull Theatre bearing date, "Whitson

1 Unwary writers still continue to fall into the trap. See The Keynote for 10 July,
1 886, p. 4, H. Barton Baker's article, "England's National Theatre," where the bill
is given as an item of historical evidence.

2 Notes and Queries, First Series, x. 99.



7 6 The Origin of the Theatre Programme

Munday, 30 May, 1664." 1 This is surmounted by a large
woodcut of the Royal Arms, and is printed on a sheet of
coarse paper measuring 5f inches by 7 J inches. In 1664
the old Red Bull was no longer in use as an ordinary
playhouse, having been superseded by the picture-stage
theatres, but it is difficult to understand why fencing bills
should have been dated and playbills not.

(2) This of itself would not suffice to condemn the bill,
although as evidence it is contributory. In the Reeves
collection in the Royal Irish Academy one finds a genuine
Dublin bill of 1798 presenting a similar blunder.

(3) The argument here has been considerably strength-
ened by Lowe 2 , who points out that Pepys had been at the
King's House on 22 April, obviously the old theatre in Vere
Street, for he makes no comment on the house while he
elaborately describes it (the new theatre) on 8 May.

(4) In case it should be argued that Lacy had been substi-
tuted for Clun after the first performance at the new theatre,
it may be pointed out that The Humorous Lieutenanthzdbeen
previously acted at Vere Street by the King's company on
1 March, 166 1-2, and, possibly, approximate dates. 3

Mr. Percy Fitzgerald has also pointed out that the date
of the bill fell in Lent, a period most inopportune for the
opening of a new theatre. 4 My own contribution to the
ammunition of the insurgents must consist of the ugly fact
that the new Theatre Royal of 1663, although spoken of
for convenience sake by latter-day historians as the first
Drury Lane theatre, was never known as such during the
decade of its existence. And for very good reason: it stood
in Bridges Street and Russell Street. One finds it called
alternatively the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden, from
the parish, and, mostly in legal documents, the Theatre
Royal in Bridges Street. The term "Drury Lane" as applied
to a theatre dates from about 1690. In 1682 we find the

1 Reproduced in Rariora, Vol. iii. p. 53.

2 Thomas Bcttcrton, pp. 100-1.

3 Sir Henry Herbert's list, as cited by Malone, Shakespeare (Dublin, 1794), ii. 223.

4 Gent's Magazine, June, 1900, p. 532, article on "The Playbill : Its Growth and
Evolution."



The Origin of the Theatre Programme 77

second Theatre Royal described in a legal document as "in
or neare Covent Garden commonly called the King's Play-
house." 1

The truth is that the clever forger of the bill over-
reached himself in taking most of his details from Downes'
Roscius Anglicanus. As it happened, Downes obtained his
information about the opening of the new Theatre Royal
at second hand and blundered badly in reproducing it. He
begins by saying, " The Company being thus Compleat, they
opened the New Theatre in Drury Lane, on Thursday in
Easter Week, being the 8th Day of April, 1663 with the
Humorous Lieutenant"; and he then proceeds to detail
the cast, putting Clun's name opposite the part of the
Lieutenant. But as he prints the names of Seleucus and
Celia correctly one can only account for the discrepancy
in the forged bill by surmizing that the variants were
purposely introduced by the forger to disarm suspicion.
Downes blundered sadly in his dating, because 8 April,
1 663, did not fall in Easter week and was not a Thursday.
If we look for a probable Thursday we shall find it on
7 May, the day before Pepys paid his first visit to the new
theatre.

Collier, in reproducing the bill in 1 83 1, stated that it was
extant, and had been, he believed, "sold among the books
of the late Mr Bindley." 2 Also that "it was subsequently
separately reprinted." It is a curious fact that from that
day to this nobody has ever seen the supposed original
or the separate reprints. Collier has been hinted at as the
forger, which seems not unlikely, and that, too, despite the
forgotten circumstance that the bill had been published
eleven years before the appearance of his Annals in a mis-
cellaneous collection of theatrical ana, issued by Simpkin and
Marshall, called The Actor s Budget. It might very well have
been contributed by him, as in 1 8 20 he was already a diligent
scholar and had just published his PoeticalJDecameron. Might
it not have been his first essay in the art of forgery ?

1 Percy Fitzgerald, Nezv History of the English Stage, i. 154.

2 James Bindley (1 737-1 818), for whom see the Diet. Nat. Biog.



7 8 The Origin of the Theatre Programme

While the existence of a playbill, with cast, before the
dawn of the eighteenth century must be strenuously denied,
proof of the provision of an occasional programme more or
less approximating in nature to Vennar's old broadsheet
can readily be educed. In the Malone collection (Bodleian
Library) is an eighteen page pamphletin Frenchand English,
issued by Robert Crofts, of Chancery Lane, in 1661, and
bearing title, "The Description of the Great Machines, of
the Descent of Orpheus into Hell, Presented by the French
Commedians at the Cockpit in Drury-lane." It is difficult to
arrive at any other conclusion than that this was printed to
be sold in or about the theatre. l At a slightly later period we
find handbills occasionally being distributed in the theatre.
So far as this practice was concerned, Dryden seems to
have been the innovator. When The Indian Emperor was
produced at the Theatre Royal circa March, 1665, a bill
had been distributed to the audience, headed, "Connexion
of the Indian Emperor to the Indian Queen," and explaining
that the new piece was the sequel to Sir Robert Howard's
play. Although The Rehearsal was not produced until
December, 1 67 1, it is generally understood that Mr. Bayes'
reference to his having printed "above a hundred sheets
of paper to insinuate the plot into the boxes" is a sly dig
at Dryden's innovation. In this connexion one must bear
in mind that The Rehearsal was on the verge of production
in 1 66$, when the plague caused the closing of the theatres.
It might be argued, of course, that the satire was not very
pat in 1 67 1, but in the meantime the practice had been
occasionally repeated. One curious variant is to be noted.
If we turn to the invaluable Pepys, we shall find that on
19 October, 1667, the audience at the Duke's Theatre
yawned over the reading of a long and tedious letter in
Lord Orrery's brand new tragedy, The Black Prince. Four
days later, when Pepys again saw the play, the letter had
been cut out, but as it seems to have been necessary to an
understanding of the plot, the noble author got out of the


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Online LibraryWilliam John LawrenceThe Elizabethan playhouse and other studies → online text (page 7 of 22)