HERBERT OF CHERBURY (EDWARD, Lord)
Lot 56
HERBERT OF CHERBURY (EDWARD, Lord)
Sold for £84,000 (US$ 143,027) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
HERBERT OF CHERBURY (EDWARD, Lord)
Autograph working manuscript of a hitherto unknown play entitled 'The Amazon', comprising a cast-list, followed by eleven pages of text, the first page headed "The Amazon", the final three pages being devoted to a heavily-revised song in praise of love with which the entertainment evidently concludes, 12 pages in all, comprising the cast-leaf at page 1 (on the recto of the second leaf, taking the outer leaf as unpaginated) and the text at pages 5-15 of the leaflet, with 22 leaves blank, written in a pre-sewn booklet of 28 leaves and 56 pages; the booklet made up of two outer bifoliated sheets laid within each other, i.e. <<, containing three gatherings, the first gathering of ten leaves, formed by a bifolium enclosing two sequential bifolia, each of which encloses a further bifolium, i.e. < containing << and <<; the second gathering of eight leaves, comprising four bifolia each laid within each other, i.e. <<<<; the third gathering of six leaves, comprising three bifolia laid within each other, i.e. <<<; upper wrapper-leaf inscribed with the library or inventory numbers "30" (in red ink), "114" and "(59)", paper from one stock, watermarked with a hunting-horn hanging from a looped suspension, within a crowned shield, over the initials IP separated by a quatrefoil (no comparable examples recorded by Churchill or Heawood), damp-stain visible in the lower half of each sheet but without serious damage to the paper, creasing with slight paper-loss at lower right-hand corner, some dust-staining, but nevertheless an attractive manuscript in overall good condition, folio, [?London, 1617]

Footnotes

  • Property of The Right Hon. the Earl of Powis

    "THIS FEMALE WARRE" – A NEWLY DISCOVERED DRAFT FOR A JACOBEAN PLAY ENTITLED "THE AMAZON" BY LORD HERBERT OF CHERBURY: this is a significant discovery that adds to the extremely slender corpus of working dramatic manuscripts or 'foul papers' dating from the age of Shakespeare. It forms an intriguing hybrid in that, while in some respects following the conventions of the masque and similar courtly entertainments, it has many similarities with plays written for the theatre: indeed, it is striking in that it contains several intriguing echoes of the late romances of Shakespeare. The interest of the manuscript is enhanced by the fact that it is laid out as if prepared for performance at the commercial theatre.

    It also contains a scene that immediately brings to mind the city comedies of Herbert's friend Ben Jonson. And it ends with a heavily worked draft of an impassioned 'metaphysical' celebration of love reminiscent of John Donne, with whom both the author and his brother, the poet George Herbert, had close family ties. The subject matter of the play is no less remarkable, dealing as it does with highly contentious issues such as the merits of an all-female society, the desirability and ease of divorce, the role of women within marriage, the tyranny of husbands, the penalties for adultery, the role of women as combatants in war, and a male's lust for power set against his love for women.

    Sir Edward Herbert, first Baron Herbert of Cherbury (or Chirbury) and first Baron Herbert of Castle Island (1582-1648) was son of Donne's great friend and patroness Magdalen Herbert and elder brother of the poet George Herbert and of Sir Henry, later Master of the Revels. His poems were published after his death by his brother Henry, and a lively autobiography in the eighteenth century; but he appears to have been proudest of his philosophical writings, his De veritate having claims to be considered the first metaphysical treatise and his De religione gentilium the first study of comparative religion (see David A. Pailin in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and John Butler, Lord Herbert of Chirbury: An Intellectual Biography, 1990). He also wrote a pioneering history, based on documentary sources, of Henry VIII. He had, besides, a keen interest in music, his lute book being now at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and was an accomplished linguist, spending much of his earlier years on the continent and in 1619 being appointed Ambassador to France. To these accomplishments, can now be added that of playwright.

    1. The Manuscript

    This is a working manuscript, entirely in the handwriting of Lord Herbert of Cherbury (for some examples of his hand see W.W. Greg, English Literary Autographs 1550-1650, 1932, plate XLIX; Peter Beal, Index of English Literary Manuscripts, vol. i, pt.2, 1980, facsimile XIX, facing p.171; and Verlyn Klinkenborg, Herbert Cahoon and Charles Ryskamp, British Literary Manuscripts, Series I from 800 to 1800, 1981, no.30). The manuscript begins neatly enough, but gets progressively messier and is, in the parlance of the day, 'foul'. Grace Ioppolo has recently defined the term: "'Foul'... seems to have been the contemporary descriptive term for authors' own papers, sheets or copies of the working draft of a play and was probably a term, like 'fair' copy or sheets, that Jonson, Shakespeare, Heywood and Middleton also knew and used... very few foul paper copies of plays survive" (Dramatists and their Manuscripts in the Age of Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton and Heywood: Authorship, authority and the playhouse, 2006, pp.78-79 and 93).

    It differs in one respect from foul papers for the commercial theatre in that it is written in a pre-bound pamphlet of paper, rather than on loose bifolium sheets (a folio sheet folded in half to form a double-sheet of four pages). But this apart, it follows established norms of what is known about the manuscripts prepared for the commercial theatre of the day: "After completing the first entrance direction, the dramatist would write the speech-prefix (or heading) for the first character with dialogue. Speech-prefixes were usually set off in the left margin, with all dialogue, even that without a speech-prefix, set in columns to the right of it, in order to maintain the empty left margin. Sometimes, speech-prefaces were centred on a separate line" (Ioppolo, p.90). Indeed, Herbert seems to have been making something of a conscious effort in this regard; for early on in the manuscript he writes the second speech-prefix "Callerrhoe" at the start of the body of the text and then – as if remembering the correct way of doing such things – heavily smudges it out and writes instead in the left-hand margin an abbreviated "Call." However as the manuscript progresses and he gets carried away with the act of composition, bad habits reassert themselves and he reverts to placing speech-prefixes within the body of the text, quite often in his hurry leaving them out altogether.

    2. Play and Plot

    The cast of the play comprises two Amazon girls, Orethia and Callerrhoe, a Mountebank who originally went by the name of Thaumasea but is immediately rechristened Agirte, a king by the name of Cleobulus, originally styled "foster father", the King's misogynistic 'Counsailor', a Messenger who is sent to the Amazons, and Polidorus and Aristander, who sing the celebration of love at the end. Also listed, but not appearing, are Calliclea, the old (then late) Amazon Queen, and Myops, a Pedant against whose name the author has jotted "Yf that you mee will like, for I thinke myselfe to be lovely".

    The play begins with the entrance of Orethia and Callerrhoe. Their conversation revolves around the relations between the sexes, prompted by the marriage customs of the Amazons, described by Callerrhoe at the end of their conversation: "each year/ Two severall tymes, wee in the Listes appear/ Whre wee do yeeld ourselves. to those who do/ Continue that our Warlike race vnto/ Their owne Confusion" (deleted material omitted in all quotations). Orethia suggests that they divert their time by practising "that guile/ Where wth men charge vs" and so winning the point from them. Callerrhoe agrees, saying that guile is far preferable to war against those "are not only of our proper kinde/ But such as Nature made our lords"; while Orethia deplores "The tiranny, wch husbands gainst our sexe/ do exercise", so vexing their patience that they "shake/ Those fetters of[f]" into which they had entered voluntarily. Callerrhoe then appears to suggest that divorce should be made free for all: "I cannot deny/ but it were to be wishd on evry side/ That neythr part. being forced to abide/ longer wthin our bed, then it did seeme/ Fitt for their ease. they might at least redeeme/ The vowes they made"; proposing that "Yf they did require divorse/ They might enjoy it, wthout mor remorse/ of doinge ill, than gamesters that give ore/ When they are loosers" [Herbert's marriage was often also under strain]. Orethia adds that should either party "offend/ Against their marriage bed, and condescende/ To an adulterous Love", they should "bee putt to death". Callerrhoe concurs, talking of those who "delight/ To do things" for which they "deserve to have/ These bonds. eternall". Whereupon Orethia launches into a densely-argued plea for openness, so that neither part "neede not to vse their witt/ To act these secret mischeifs, they com[m]itt./ In darknes and in corners, wch extends/ even to Posterity". She urges that they should be allowed a means to escape from those bonds: "must they bee slaves/ To their owne errors. When each party craves/ To bee absolvd, or can they be denyed/ The Libertie, to wch, even those slaves are borne./ To have at least. that love free". Having described the Amazonian custom of meeting men several times a year, Orethia invites her companion to the Temple where they will implore help "from that deitie wch doth preside/ And governe over all". At this point – in an echo of everybody's favourite anachronism from Julius Caesar – the clock strikes ("soft the clocke doth chime/ Tis halfe an hour to soone"). Being half-an-hour too early, there is still time then "To see whats done then in the market place".

    This introduces us to the Mountebank, Agirte, aka Thaumasea. He treats the ladies to a song peddling "an Vnguent here/ You cannot buy to deare", which he won "from a Persian in the warre", and which has cured a knight his wounds, given a maiden irresistible appeal and allowed a priest to effect more miracles than his holiness ever could. Asked "What, wil you buy", he is given the brush-off and told by one of the girls: "I may her[e] after send/ for to inquere hrof". Their attention has been caught instead by some verses engraved by "our Sybill" on a pillar: "Yf man do come/ wthin these walls/ By the fates dome/ Your Empire falls". Grateful that they have been warned, they exit, leaving the Mountebank to shrug his shoulders: "They are gone away/ I will go too".

    Cleobulus, the King, and his Counsailor then take the stage. In his opening speech, Cleobulus describes how "not thrice seaven yeares" have expired and yet the promise of the Delphic Oracle has not been fulfilled. The promise is that "these sweet infants" would be restored to him. This loss is also deplored by "the warlike Amazons". He confesses that he was unable to save them "from the Pirates Hands". He then decides to send a messenger to his neighbours the Amazons. He wants to discover to what it is "they owe/ The peace they now enjoy, since when the line/ of their ['old' deleted] late Queene – extinguished wth mine" (implying perhaps that the "sweet infants" were the Queen's also). He then summons a messenger and instructs him to go to the land of the Amazons and discover "how the younge Queen her tyme doth spend/ and what her sister doth". He is instructed to tell the Amazons who and what his mission is. He is to report back "All you can learne of these.: who thinke not fitt/ A stranger in their Cuntrey to admitt".

    After the messenger departs, a stage direction has the King "speake to a Counsailor". He is asked: "What thinke you of our neighbours? do you like/ this female warre? take you delight to strike/ A Beauty wch yf kild, you would restore/ At your lifes price"? The Counsailor is made of sterner stuff, telling the King: "Empire to mee, is more,/ Then love: for my owne part. I would destroy/ Millions of Beauties, when I might injoy/ A kingdom for it, where I might give lawe./ and ioke these pleasures wch respect and awe". He carries on in the same vein, but much of what he says has been so crossed out and reworked that it is not easy to follow. Cleobulus chides him: "You speake like one thats old". Not at all, the Counsailor declares, he is still capable of passion: "I Yet am not so cold/ But I can feele, and though I do not burne/ Know how to warme mee by the fier of love". All he needs is to see a perfect woman. Cleobulus is relieved to hear it, since he "never could digest/ Harsh Humors, nor did thinke myselfe secure/ Mongst those, whom no affection moves". The Counsailor is pleased to have won his approval, but warns him that he should seek to command rather than "seeke in all respects love". He must make "a showe/ Both to your People, Countrey. House and powr", and beware "That weemen these weake creatures. should give lawe/ So neare your doores" lest his other neighbours "thinke scorne/ That weemen thus should beard you". The scene ends with Cleobulus telling him that he will hear the rest of what he has to say in the morning.

    There is at this point a hiatus. We next have Polidorus and Aristander enter, and sing their song of love. At the foot of the penultimate page there is a scrap of dialogue, something to the effect that the speaker is already wounded and (possibly) wishes to "go whence from your eyes". This appears to elicit the response: "how dare you bee so bold as tell me so"; to which the hapless complainant asks "Are you not Diana", likening her to a goddess for her beauty and making an allusion to hunting. Meanwhile the song of Polidorus and Aristander opens, "What cannot Love. whither doth not extend/ His might and fatall power?" celebrating the mystic union brought about by the power of love, likened unto fire: "Whose power belowe most visible in fier/ As fast as it doth burne/ All that it toucheth to it selfe. Doth turne/ Till joynd in one flame. they both aspire/ Vnto their place. where changed into light/ And vanished from our sight/ They both injoy. what they desire".

    3. Genre and Auspices

    It seems on the face of it unlikely that this play was written with the comnmercial theatre in mind; although, given the way in which the manuscript has been laid out, even this possibility cannot be altogether ruled out. It shares some features with court masques of the period. The dialogue is written throughout in rhyming couplets as opposed to blank verse, a feature that seems to be common to all such masques (and masques when found within plays, such as in The Tempest). And, in common with a masque, it ends with what seems to be a set-piece song. But, set against that, is the fact that here plot and character predominate; whereas masques were more static affairs, and often come equipped with anti-masques by way of variety (something our play lacks). Even Milton's Comus which describes itself as a masque, but which properly speaking is a pastoral entertainment, comes closer to the semi-static presentational form of the masque.

    The plot is not fully worked out in the draft as we have it. But there are sufficient clues to hint at a play that has something in common with the romances of Shakespeare's late period. Two of the mainsprings of Herbert's plot are the Amazons and the neighbouring King of Thebes who has lost his "sweet Infants", fallen into "Pirates Hands". It is clear that a restoration of children to their father is in the offing. Another play that features both Amazons and pirates is Massinger and Fletcher's Sea Voyage, a reworking of The Tempest. The fragment of dialogue that gives us a clue as to the denouement is even more suggestive. In this, the speaker tells the woman that her eyes have wounded him and likens her to Diana the huntress for her goddess-like beauty. (It is clear he is speaking to an Amazon). This may reveal a debt to Chaucer's Knight's Tale, which was also drawn on by Shakespeare and Fletcher in The Two Noble Kinsmen for the two nephews of the King of Thebes smitten by an Amazon's beauty. In The Two Noble Kinsmen we have the Queen of the Amazons (Hippolyta) and her sister (Emilia); in ours we also have an Amazonian Queen and her sister. In Shakespeare and Fletcher's play the Amazon Queen marries Theseus, Duke of Athens. Something along the same lines is promised us in Herbert's play. In The Two Noble Kinsmen, Palamon and Arcite are nephews of Creon, King of Thebes; while in our play, we have the King of Thebes hoping for the restoration of his "sweet Infants" who he has not seen for nigh on twenty-one years. In The Winter's Tale, we have the message from the oracle at Delphos, pointing to the restoration of Perdita; while in 'The Amazon' we have Cleobulus describing the Delphic prophecy that his children would be restored: in both Shakespeare and Herbert, the oracle is placed on the island of Delphos rather than Delphi; in which both may have been following Chaucer.

    The play contains at least one possible allusion to contemporary events placing it in the reign of James I. In discussing the Amazons, King Cleobulus enquires after their "present state", wondering "vnto whom they owe/ The peace they now enjoy, since when the line/ of their late Queene – extinguished wth mine/ Wee thoughte a civell... warre/ Would surely vexe them". It is hard not to take this as a compliment to James I, the peacemaker (while Elizabeth was often seen in Amazonian terms, as when she appeared at Tilbury). If the play does date from the reign of James I, this allows one possibility. Records survive of The Mask of Amazons, or The Ladies' Mask, due to be performed at Whitehall on 1 January 1618 but cancelled. In one contemporary account: "The Muscovie ambassadors shalbe feasted at court tomorrow, and on Twelfth Night is the Princes maske. There was a maske of nine Ladies in hand at theyre owne cost, wherof the principall was the Lady Haye as Quene of the Amazons accompanied by her sister Lady Dorothie... they had taken great paines in continuall practising, and were almost perfet and all theyre implements provided, but whatsoever the cause was, neither the Quene nor King did like or allow of yt and so all is dasht" (for full details, see G.E. Bentley, The Jacobean and Caroline Stage, vol. v, 1956, pp.1288-1290; also 'A Calendar of Masques and Entertainments, 1603-1641' in Martin Butler, The Stuart Court and Political Culture, 2008, between pp.359 and 377).

    Although our play is not obviously a masque as such, Herbert was in London when The Mask of Amazons was due to be staged (see The Life of Edward, First Lord Herbert of Cherbury written by himself, edited by J.M. Shuttleworth, 1976, pp.87-88). Our play has a "younge Queen" of the Amazons with a sister. The lost masque was written for Lady Lucy Hay who had married Lord Hay on 6 November; so the celebration of love concluding our play would be appropriate. And the fact that our play features men does not rule it out: for the speaking parts in Jacobean masques were generally taken by professional actors, and even a masque intended to be danced by women alone could include parts for men (see for example Jonson's Masque of Blackness). This possibility is especially intriguing as Lady Lucy Hay, later Lady Carlisle, was one of the most remarkable figures of her age, famed alike for her beauty and political influence. But one problem remains. Our play fragment has too much happening in it; is too close to plays with their origins in the commercial theatre; too close – perhaps – to Shakespearean late romance, to easily qualify. It may even never have been completed. Whatever its purpose, it offers many avenues for scholarly exploration.
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