Monday, January 2, 2012

The Usurper

‘…I brought him [Peter Llewellyn] home and dined with us, and after dinner I took my wife out, for I do find that I am not able to conquer myself as to going to plays till I come to some new vowe concerning it, and that I am now come, that is to say, that I will not see above one in a month at any of the publique theatres till the sum of 50s. be spent, and then none before New Year’s Day next, unless that I do become worth 1000l. sooner than then, and then am free to come to some other terms, and so leaving him in Lombard Street I took her to the King’s house, and there met Mr. Nicholson, my old colleague, and saw “The Usurper,” which is no good play, though better than what I saw yesterday. However, we rose unsatisfied, and took coach and home, and I to the office late writing letters, and so to supper and to bed.’

“The Usurper” was one of five plays Edward Howard produced.  Samuel Pepys, who recorded in his diary seeing the play on January 2nd, 1664, liked another Howard play better.  Of Howard’s “The Change of Crowns”, Pepys said it was "the best that I ever saw at that house [Theater royal], being a great play and serious."

Walter Scott includes Mr. Howard, and “The Usurper”, in a note comparing verse and play text, in “The Life of John Dryden”.  ‘…The honourable Edward Howard, Sir Robert’s brother, expresses himself in the preface to the “Usurper”, a play published in 1668, “not insensible to the disadvantage it may receive passing into the world upon naked feet of verse, with other works that have their measures adorned with the trappings of rhime, which, however they have succeeded in wit or design, is still thought music, as the heroic tone now goes; but whether so natural to a play, that should most nearly intimate, in some cases, our familiar converse, the judicious may easily determine.”

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