Beggars Bush: A Perambulation through the Disciplines of History, Geography, Archaeology, Literature, Philology, Natural History, Botany, Biography & Beggary

William Godwin Diary 1800-1816

William Godwin (1756-1836) was at the centre of the radical intellectual and political life of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Godwin’s wife was Mary Wollstonecraft, their daughter Mary Shelley and his son-in-law Percy Shelley. He was also linked to most important figures in British cultural history feature,  including Samuel Taylor Coleridge (another admirer of the play), Charles James Fox, William Hazlitt, Charles and Mary Lamb, Richard Brinsley Sheridan and William Wordsworth, Godwin’s diary runs from 6 April 1788 and until 26 March 1836 and includes several references to The Beggars Bush play, which Godwin read on several occasions, though there is no record that he saw it at the theatre.

Godwin appears to have acquired a copy of the first folio of Comedies and tragedies, written by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher gentlemen (1647). In 1800 he was reading several plays from it including Beggars Bush. On 27 September 1800 he read Beggars Bush after The Fairie Queen and The Lover’s Progress and before going out to “sup at Lamb’s”. He returned to play five year later, on 28 August 1805 reading Act 1, and the next day 29 August 1805 “fin” after also reading Chapman’s Homer. He read Act 1 again on 21 February 1810 and Act 2 on 22 February 1810, repeating Act 1 again on 5 January 1816. This was probably prompted by the revival of the play at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in December 1815 as The Royal Merchant in a version by Douglas Kinnaird. Performances continued through to February 1816.

Godwin was exceptional, in leaving a detailed diary of what he read, and being an exceptional person, reading at least parts of several works a day. It is notable that he sometimes only read some parts of the play. Unfortunately the diary does not record his opinions, although his returning to the play periodically suggest he must have found something worthwhile in it.



Posted: May 15th, 2011 | Filed under: The Play | Tags: | No Comments »

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