« PreviousContinue »
No original entry in the Stationers' Register.
(Q1.) The Faithfull Shepheardesse. By Iohn Fletcher. Printed at London for R. Bonian and H. Walley, and are to be sold at the spred Eagle ouer against the great North dore of S. Paules. [n. d., 6. 1609/10.] Copies of this edition vary in a number of readings.
Stationers' Register, 8 Dec. 1628 : 'Master Meighen. Assigned over unto him from Henry Walley, under the hand of Master Islip warden, all the estate right title and interest which he hath in the Copie called The ffaithfull Sheaperdesse. vid.' [Arber's Transcript, IV. 172.]
(Q2.) The Faithfull Shepheardesse. By John Fletcher. The second Edition, newly corrected. London, Printed by T. C. for Richard Meighen, in S. Dunstanes Church-yard in Fleet-streete, 1629.
(Q3.) The Faithfull Shepherdesse. Acted at Somerset House before the King and Queene on Twelfe night last, 1633. And divers times since with great applause at the Private House in Blacke-Friers, by his Majesties Servants. Written by John Fletcher. The third Edition, with Addition. London, Printed by A. M. for Richard Meighen, next to the Middle Temple in Fleetstreet. 1634.
The play then passed along with the rest of Meighen's stock into the hands of Bedell and Collins who had been taken into partnership by his widow Mercy Meighen on his death c. 1640. The widow seems to have died in 1654, and the business was thenceforth carried on by the two surviving partners till Bedell's death, apparently in 1667.
(Q4.) The Faithfull Shepherdesse. [&c.] The Fourth Edition. London, Printed for Ga. Bedell and Tho. Collins, at the Middle Temple Gate in Fleetstreet. 1656.
(Q5.) The Faithfull Shepherdesse. [&c.] The Fifth Edition. London, Printed for G. Bedell and T. Collins, at the Middle Temple-Gate in Fleetstreet, 1665.
(F.) The Faithfull Shepherdess. In the folio of 1679, p. 213.
THE FAITHFUL SHEPHERDESS
AUTHORSHIP AND DATE. - The Faithful Shepherdess is ascribed to John Fletcher alone on the title-pages of all the early editions, nor has the attribution, supported as it is by the dedicatory and commendatory verses, including those from Beaumont, ever been seriously challenged. Jonson in his conversations with Drummond, probably in Jan. 1619, remarked that “Flesher and Beaumont, ten years since, hath written the Faithfull Shipheardesse, a Tragicomedie, well done” (ed. Gifford, ix. 386); but the use of the singular verb shows that the two friends had already been fused into one complex literary personality, and that no weight can be allowed to the apparent assertion that the play in question was a joint work. Mr. Fleay, indeed, after quoting from the Conversations, continues : “There is not a trace of external evidence that Beaumont had a hand in the writing beyond Jonson's statement, and yet, again, the internal evidence of the metre so strongly confirms it that I have no doubt on the matter. Beaumont's dislike to have his name published as a playwright is quite enough to explain its absence in the title and its presence in these verses. In reply to an inquiry, Mr. Fleay has kindly informed me that he now withdraws this view and acquiesces in Fletcher's authorship. I ought to add that for my own part, whether on internal or external evidence, I do not see how the play can be ascribed to any one but Fletcher.
The date is a more difficult question. The play is mentioned together with Philaster by John Davies of Hereford in his Scourge of Folly, Epigram 206 see vol. i. p. 117). This was entered on the Stationers' Register on Oct. 10, 1610. Moreover, Sir William Scipwith, dedicatory verses to whom are prefixed to the first edition, died on May 3 that year. Unfortunately, not only is the earliest quarto undated, but no entry of it has been found in the books of the Stationers' Company. Mr. Fleay points out that the names of the publishers, Bonian and Walley, occur together in the Register from Dec. 22, 1608, to Sept. I, 1609, but ihe partnership certainly lasted till 1610, for they printed a sermon preached at Paul's Cross by T. Myriell on Jan. 14 that year. It is impossible to say more than that the play was in print by the spring of 1610. There is, therefore, no reason to suppose that the original performance took place before the winter of 1609–10. The plague having diminished towards the end of November, there is no difficulty about this date, even granting that the theatres were as often closed on that account as Mr. Fleay believes. It must be remembered, however, that Prof. Thorndike in his study of the Influence of Beaumont and Fletcher on Shakspere (Worcester, Mass., 1901, p. 14), has shown good reasons for holding that Mr. Fleay greatly exaggerates the extent to which dramatic performances were interrupted by the plague in the early years of the seventeenth century. The exact dates of publication and production must, therefore, alike remain vague. Mr. Fleay's suggestion of before July 1608 for the latter seems to me a little early, and is in no way necessitated by the available evidence, but beyond a hypothetical 1609 it is
difficult to go.
Text.—The undated first quarto is necessarily the basis of the text. This is the less to be regretted in that it presents on the whole very sound readings,