January 07, 2009

Which Charles?!

One frustration I'm having at the moment is with an extremely simple piece of historical information.

The plays Mucedorus, The Merry Devil of Edmonton and Fair Em were bound together in a single volume entitled "Shakespeare Vol. 1", belonging to the library of a monarch. This edition is mentioned by most critics working on the apocrypha at some point, as it's the basis of the attribution of those plays to Shakespeare.

However, presumably through carelessness or through some more fundamental piece of misinformation, I keep finding different accounts as to WHOSE library it was in - Charles I or Charles II? It's obviously a very easy mistake to make, and irritatingly the ownership of the edition is rarely examined in any detail, the monarch is mentioned simply as an identifier.

So, which is it? Charles I or Charles II? Or was it both, remaining in the library of the father until the son took power? It's hard to know who to trust. I've changed it several times in my writing: every time I write down one name, I then find another article which says the reverse and I assume it's my error. I've now established, though, that there are actually several critics saying each thing.

Suggestions and clarifications most welcome!


- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Duncan

    Charles I kept his library at Richmond Palace. After his execution the palace was sold, demolished and the stone reused. Presumably the contents became forfeit to the Commonwealth as well. I’m not sure, but I imagine that Charles II had to start his library from scratch when he returned to England from exile. A biography of either monarch should be able to clear up if there was any transfer of property between them.

    08 Jan 2009, 12:09

  2. Thanks Duncan. I think it’s Charles II I’m looking for. Part of the problem is that, in this period, rational history often has no bearing on attributions! The majority of modern references seem to concur on Charles II, though, so I’m going to go with that until I can be resolved definitively one way or the other…..

    09 Jan 2009, 16:00


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I’m Peter Kirwan, a final year doctoral student in the English Department at Warwick, and this is my PhD blog.


Conferences, reviews, articles, thoughts and links relating to my interests in the Shakespeare apocrypha, early modern drama, authorship and performance.

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