Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 16. Nr. Juli 2006

9.6. Spreading the Word: Texts and the Text
Herausgeberin | Editor | Éditeur: Mihaela Irimia (University of Bucharest)

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Stages to Pages: The Four Quartos of Shirley’s The Constant Maid

Edward J. Esche (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, England)


When I was invited to speak today, I had quite literally just received a request to edit The Constant Maid for a major new editing project, The Complete Works of James Shirley, to be published by the Oxford University Press. It will be ten volumes long, seven of which will contain at least 37 plays, and it will take ten years to complete. The publication date is 2015. I was one of the first single play editors to be commissioned, and was asked if I would take on The Constant Maid. The following paper offers initial insights and first discoveries.

The range of dates for the original composition of The Constant Maid is currently given from 1630 to 1640 in Harbage’s Annals of English Drama as (1989, 140), but general consensus points to a date of around 1638. Shirley was in Ireland from 23 November 1636-16 April 1640, returning for a short period in the spring of 1637, to enlist actors for a permanent acting troupe in Ireland, Sir John Olgilby’s Men.(1) 1640 is, however, the publication date of the first quarto entitled The Constant Maid; so far we have located 27 extant copies. When I began my work, the play looked to have a subsequent publication history as follows: a second quarto, published in 1657 entitled Two playes The constant made, which appeared to exist in a unique copy in the Williams College Chapin Library, in Williamstown, Massachusetts; a third quarto published 1661 entitled Love Will Find Out the Way, which is a rewritten version of the first quarto, existing in 18 copies; and a fourth quarto published in 1667 entitled The Constant Maid: or, Love will finde out the Way, existing in four copies. The play has been edited once (Gifford 1833, vol. 4, 445-525). The quarto publication dates are very interesting, being, as they are 1640, shortly before the closing of the theatres in 1642; 1657, well into the Commonwealth period; 1661, shortly after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660; and 1667, well into the reign of Charles II and one year after Shirley’s death in 1666. Each of the quartos merits further detailed examination.

The 1640 quarto title-page records ‘THE | CONSTANT | MAID. | | A Comedy. | | Written by James Shirley. | | [ornament] | | LONDON, | Printed by J .Raworth, for R. Whitaker. 1640.’; it does not record the auspices of the first performance. There is, however, general, but by no means unanimous, agreement that the first performance of the play was given in Ireland by Sir John Olgilby’s Men in the first Irish theatre, when Shirley was the resident playwright. Olgilby built his theatre in Dublin on Werburgh Street directly across from the Castle; it opened about Michaelmas, which is September 29th, 1637 (Burner 1988, 123-4). The 1657 quarto is listed in Wing CD-ROM, 1996 as S3490, where the title is given as ‘Two playes The constant maid.’, printed in ‘London For Joshua Kirton 1657.’ The 1661 quarto title-page promises ‘LOVE will finde out the Way. | An Excellent | COMEDY. | | By T. B. | | As it was Acted with great Applause, | by Her Majesties Servants, at | the Phœnix in Drury Lane. | | [lace ornament] | | LONDON: | Printed by Ja: Cottrel, for Samuel Speed, at the Signe of the | Printing-Press in St. Paul’s Church-yard. 1661.’ The 1667 quarto claims to offer ‘THE | Constant Maid: | OR, | Love will finde out the Way. | A | COMEDY. | | By J. Shirley | | As it is now Acted at the new Play- | house called The Nursery, | in Hatton-Garden. | | LONDON: | Printed by Ja: Cotterel, for Samuel Speed, at the signe | of the Rainbow between the two Temple-gates. 1667.’

There is very little written on The Constant Maid. As far as I know, beyond the odd mention in longer pieces on Shirley in general, there are only two articles which address the play directly. A. P. Riemer argues, mainly on stylistic grounds, for a very early dating of the play to 1630. His essay contains a great deal of supposition and absurd logic which renders it almost useless; he posits, among other things, an Ur-text lying behind the 1661 quarto upon which the 1640 text is based (1966, 141-48). A much better piece by T. J. King proves that the title-page information about the performing auspices of the 1661 rewritten version is derived almost entirely from the title-page of another play printed in Cotterell’s shop which was also printed in 1661. In a simple typographical comparison exercise, King conclusively demonstrates that most of the 1661 quarto title-page was taken from the standing type of a form of the title-page of The City Night Cap by Robert Davenport (1965, 267-9). The implication of this is that the title-page statement about where and when the 1661 text was performed may be untrustworthy. A final point to add here is made by Gerald Bentley: ‘The T.B. [Theophilus Bird?] who appears as author on the 1661 title-page is unknown. Presumably his initials were carried to the title-page from the epilogue, to which they are signed’ (1956, vol. 5, 1096).

Such are most of the facts of what was known when I began my work, and I have to stress that I am still in the very early stages of it. Nevertheless, some things have already become clear. We will collate all of the copies of Q1. To date we have worked through eight copies and have found no variants, so the early indications are that Shirley’s printer, J. Raworth, made no changes during the print run. The text itself is very carefully set; I’ve noted only a handful of errors, ranging from a single italic letter within a word (rather than all roman), to slight misspellings, such as ‘Sinbe’ for ‘Since’. The errors are all easily explained compositorial mistakes.

The unique copy of the 1657 quarto, although listed in Wing CD-ROM, 1996 as S3490 is, I think, non-existent; so far, no one can locate it at Williams College, and it is certainly not in their current catalogue. Q3 and Q4 thus become Q2 and Q3. The interesting dates now become 1640 for Q1, 1661 for Q2, and 1667 for Q3. The 1661 Q2 text is indeed different from that of Q1, but it does not predate it, as Riemer argues. One of his many mistakes is that he notes the similarity between a passage in Q2 and Shirley’s The Lady of Pleasure (1635), but missing from Q1, as evidence that a text preceding The Lady of Pleasure lies behind Q3 (1966, 143-8). We now know that Shirley regularly borrowed from his earlier plays, so the borrowing is clearly not proof of an earlier or even similar date of composition; however, it may well strengthen an argument that Shirley was the reviser of the text of the quarto - a possibility that needs further investigation. Q3 does have, as earlier quoted, a different title-page from Q2, and the ‘Actors Names’ are reset, but the entire text of the play exactly duplicates that of Q2 page for page. The exact duplication taken together with the small number of surviving copies, four, and the same printing auspices for both Q2 and Q3 (Ja: Cottrel or Cotterell for Samuel Speed) suggests that either there were copies of the Q2 print run ‘left over’ for a new ‘branded’ publication with the new title-page, or that copies of Q2 were re-packaged in 1667 for republication. I’ve not yet done enough work on Q3 to come to any firm conclusions.

For the rest of this paper, I’d like to focus on the 1640 and 1661 quartos, Q1 and Q2, respectively, and, in particular, I’d like to concentrate on one scene, Act 3, Scene 2 (Q1, E1v-E3v; Q2, D4v-E1v). In the first part of it an old usurer, Giles Hornet, is gulled by a group of characters who pretend to be the royal court of the day. Servants, disguised as several ‘Lords’, present Hornet, the old usurer, to the ‘King’, who is also a disguised character. Hornet is knighted ‘sir Giles’ because the ‘King’ has been informed that Hornet is ‘One of the ablest men in his Dominions’. The scene is, in dramatic terms, essentially the same in both versions: the usurer is gulled by a fake royal court into believing that he has been knighted.

There are, however, many substantive differences between the texts of the two quartos; they range from a large number of single word revisions, to three added passages ranging from one to three lines. My collation has revealed that the revisions were done with a surprising attention to detail; whoever did them was working extremely closely with the first quarto. By far the most interesting substantive difference between Q1 and Q2 is the name of the pretend king in the two quartos.

In Q1 ‘The names of the Persons’ identifies one character as ‘A Gentleman, Cousen to Playfaire’. Playfair is one of the romantic leads in the play, and does not concern us here. The Gentleman does; he is referred to as ‘Couze’ in the text and ‘Cous.’ generally in the speech prefixes throughout the play, except in this scene. In 3.2, he enters disguised ‘for the King’. After a bit of stage banter demonstrating his ability to act like a king, he is complimented as an ‘excellent Warbeck’. The speech prefixes of character’s lines then change to ‘War.’ (an abbreviation for ‘Warbeck’) in the printed text for the remainder of his appearance in this scene. In Q2, however, the ‘Cousen’ character is identified in the ‘Actors Names’ as ‘Lambert, another of Hartwel’s friends, counterfeit King.’ Hartwell is the other romantic lead in the play, and does not concern us here; neither does his relationship to Lambert. What does concern us is that Lambert is immediately described as a ‘counterfeit king’, and that, unlike Cousen, he retains his name throughout the play. In 3.2 he enters in exactly the same place as Cousen entered in Q1, but, unlike Q1, the entry does not note his disguise. It is, however, clear from evidence elsewhere in the play that he must be in disguise. He then engages in exactly the same bit of stage banter as Cousen in Q1 to demonstrate his acting ability and is similarly complimented on his achievement, but now as an ‘excellent Lambert’. It is the first place in the play that his name is actually spoken on stage, so the first time the audience hears it. I now want to focus on one word, a name, and suggest why ‘Warbeck’ of Q1 was changed to ‘Lambert’ in Q2 in his scene. One might describe this as not so much an example of spreading the word, the main title of our seminar, but of changing the word.

It is easy enough to see the similarities between the two names, both Warbeck and Lambert were names of pretenders to the throne of England during the reign of Henry VII. They were Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel, and they were exact historical contemporaries, but Simnel’s political pretence preceded Warbeck’s.

Lambert Simnel (b. 1476/7, d. after 1534) was a claimant to the English throne towards the end of the fifteenth century. ‘Over the winter of 1486-7 a pretender claiming to be Edward, earl of Warwick, son and heir of George, duke of Clarence, the last surviving male of the house of York, was being acknowledged in Dublin.’ This was Lambert Simnel. ‘There is some confusion about whether Simnel affected to be Warwick or Richard, duke of York, the younger of Edward IV’s sons.’ By the end of 1486, Simnel was established in Ireland with strong backing there. ‘Early in 1487 ... Margaret of York, dowager duchess of Burgundy and Clarence’s sister, began to lend support’ to the growing numbers attracted to Simnel. On 24 May he was crowned Edward VI in Holy Trinity. ‘A parliament was held in Dublin in the new king’s name, and coins struck.’ From there he invaded England at Furness on 4 June, 1487. The rebels’ army moved rapidly eastward. The king’s forces met them at Stoke, where a sharp and brutal battle took place. Henry VII won, killed many of Simnel’s supporters, but spared the boy, putting him to service, first in the scullery, then as a falconer (DNB, vol. 50, 648-51).

Perkin Warbeck (c.1474-1499) was also claimant to the English throne late in the fifteenth century. He was in Ireland in county Cork in December 1491, when ‘he was prevailed upon by Yorkists ... to impersonate Richard, duke of York, second son of Edward IV, who had disappeared in 1483 together with his elder brother, Edward V’. He travelled to Harfleur in 1492, where ‘he was welcomed by Margaret of York, dowager duchess of Burgundy, as her miraculously preserved nephew’. He subsequently gained the support first of Maximilian, King of the Romans, and then James IV, King of Scotland. In September 1496, he launched an attack on England, but almost immediately withdrew. In June 1497, after a rebellion in Cornwall which was sparked by Henry VII’s heavy taxation, Warbeck landed at Whitesand Bay from an Ireland where he had found little support. However, in Cornwall, he received substantial support. Henry defeated him and the rebels in September. Warbeck fled, but was captured and brought before Henry at Taunton Castle in early October. He was repeatedly paraded through the streets in London, escaped, was re-captured, again displayed, and finally locked in the Tower of London for life in 1498. He again became entangled in a plot with Edward, earl of Warwick, to place one of them on the throne. He was betrayed, condemned and hanged at Tyburn on 23 November 1499 (DNB, vol. 57, 248-9).

Such was the historical Warbeck, but he also became a kind of fictional stage sign of a pretender to the throne of England through his popularity as a character in John Ford’s play, The Chronicle History of Perkin Warbeck: A Strange Truth. Ford’s play was most probably written in 1633, and published in 1634 (Ure 1969, xxxv). It was performed by Queen Henrietta’s Men at the Phoenix Theatre. Shirley was writing plays for the same company at the same time for the same theatre, so there is no question that when thinking of a pretender king, he would have thought of Ford’s character. And I wonder if there might be a pun on Werburgh, the street on which Olgilby built his theatre.

Simnel and Warbeck are mentioned throughout the period in contemporary writings, and in several texts, usually histories on the reign of Henry VII, often linked together.(2) The following is just one example:

The breaking of the Peace for Perkin Warbeck is highly aggravated by the Bishop, and he demanded to be deliver’d to the King of England; That a Prince should not easily believe with the common people, that Perkin was a fiction, and such an one that if a Poet had projected the figure, it could not have been done more to admiration, than the house of York by the old Duchess of Burgundy, Sister to Edward the fourth, having first raised Lambert Simnel, and at last this Perkin, to personate Kings and seduce the people’. (Drummond 1655, 131).

I originally thought that the change of name from Warbeck in Q1 to Lambert in Q2 could be accounted for by the fact that they appeared to be almost interchangeable in the period as pretenders to the English throne. I do not think so now.

Although King has proved conclusively that the claims for the performance auspices contained on the title-page of Q2 cannot be taken as a true record, nevertheless, we cannot rule out the possibility that the 1661 revision was, in fact, performed. Janet Clare has reminded us that playwriting and performance did not end with the closing of the theatres in 1642 (2002, 1-38), and Shirley, among others, continued writing throughout the Commonwealth period, which, of course, ended in 1660. The 1661 quarto title-page describes ‘LOVE will finde out the Way. | An Excellent | COMEDY. | | By T. B. | | As it was Acted with great Applause, | by Her Majesties Servants, at | the Phœnix in Drury Lane.’ As I said earlier, King has proved that the information contained in this title page is unreliable, but it is not necessarily wrong: Shirley wrote for Henrietta Maria’s Men and his plays were performed at the Phoenix Theatre. Many of the substantive changes in 3.2 clearly point to performance, as they attempt to make clear stage business otherwise unclear in Q1. And publication often followed performance. My current guess is that there was a performance in the near past, and I think that the name change from Warbeck to Lambert gives us at least a partial clue as to why and when the 1661 revision was made.

There was a Lambert very much in the public eye in 1660, and he was John Lambert. Here is a short summary of his life up to 1660.

John Lambert (1619-1684) was a parliamentary soldier and politician. From 1643 to 1650, he was militarily active in the north of the country, where he distinguished himself. He was also increasingly active in the political sphere during this time and may have contributed to the projected settlement of 1647. ‘During the invasion of Scotland in 1650-52 Lambert, now a major-general, was second in command to Cromwell but emerged as the leading fighting commander, even to the extent of being judged to have saved the ailing Cromwell and the English forces from disaster.’ His political career was also stunning. He was appointed lord deputy of Ireland on 23 January 1652, but never took up the post. When Cromwell first dissolved the parliament on 20 April 1653, Lambert was with him. One contemporary simply commented, ‘what Lambert hath aimed at he has affected’. At the installation of Cromwell as protector it was Lambert who had a prominent place in the proceedings.’ ... At the time there was comment that Lambert was to be made a duke and general of the three nations and would be the next protector.’ He was at the height of his power in 1653-1657. He was at the centre of council activity and a member of virtually all the key committees of power. He was at this point in his career estimated to have an income of £6500 per year. ‘In 1657 Lambert led the army’s opposition to kingship, a crucial factor in Cromwell’s decision not to accept the title.’ However, following opposition and refusal to accept an oath of loyalty imposed on all councillors by parliament, Cromwell sent for him to resign his commands on 23 July 1657. He retired from pubic life for awhile, but made a slow return under Richard Cromwell. In 1659 ‘when the junior officers [of the army] forced the recall of the Rump, Lambert was restored to his commands and became colonel of two regiments.’ He was invited back into the general council and took a leading role. He had, however, a continuing ambivalent attitude toward parliaments. Lambert always favoured rule by a small elite; he, of course, would be one of that elite. This position did not endear him to parliament, who cashiered him for supporting his officers’ Derby petition calling for, among other things, Lambert to be made major-general. His response was to appeal to troops around London, to march on parliament and force them to capitulate. He ‘now recovered his position as major-general and became a member of the committee of safety which took over from parliament’s council of state.’ This forced a split in the army. Monck declared for parliament, and marched with his forces towards London. Lambert, who had a larger force, tried to avoid conflict, but his delay was disastrous: his forces deserted him. ‘Offered a general indemnity, along with all his soldiers, Lambert submitted.’ On 5 March 1660 he was placed in the Tower, from which he escaped on 10 April. He ‘attempted to rally forces against the approaching Restoration’, but ultimately failed. He was taken prisoner on 22 April; his career was over at the age of forty-one. Lambert was tried for treason in 1662 and found guilty; he was sentenced to death, but the sentence was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment (DNB, vol. 32, 318-325).

John Lambert was a powerful man who was constantly in the pubic political eye from the late 1640s to 1662. His fall from favour in 1660 was spectacular and no one in London, particularly those who were well-connected, could have failed to have noticed that spectacle. He never actually wanted to become king, but, at the height of his power, he must have resembled one in all but name. The details here are rather slippery, but, at the moment, my argument is that the naming of the pretender king as Lambert in the 1661 quarto must have had a particular resonance directly related to the fall of John Lambert the previous year. The difficulty is in reading the resonance. Perhaps it might not be too much to suggest that the hand that revised Q1 to become Q2 was, if not Shirley himself, then very much like him - possibly a Catholic, probably a royalist, and certainly pointing to the once powerful John Lambert as a ‘pretender’ in the final analysis.

© Edward J. Esche (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, England)


(1) See Burner 1988, 173-137 for the best coverage of the scholarship to date.

(2) Riemer asserts that Simnel was ‘much better known than the legendary Warbeck’ (146), but repeated searches on Early English Books Online turn up roughly the same number of hits for each.


Bentley, Gerald Eades. 1941-1956. The Jacobean and Caroline Stage: Plays and Playwrights , 7 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Burner, Sandra A. 1988. James Shirley: A Study of Literary Coteries and Patronage in Seventeenth-Century England. Lanham, New York and London: University Presses of America.

Clare, Janet. 2002. Drama of the English Republic, 1649-60. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.

Drummond, William. 1655. The History of Scotland ... Wing/D2196, Early English Books Online, Chadwyck-Healy.

Gifford, William. 1833. The Dramatic Works and Poems of James Shirley. 6 vols. London: John Murray.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. Eds. H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Harbage, Alfred. Annals of English Drama 975-1700. Rev. by S. Schoenbaum. 3 rd ed. Rev. by Sylvia Stoler Wagonheim. London and New York: Routledge, 1989.

King, T. J. 1965. ‘Shirley’s Coronation and Love Will Find Out the Way: Erroneous Title-Pages.’ Studies in Bibliography: Papers of the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 18: 265-269.

Riemer, A.P. 1969. ‘Shirley’s Revisions and the Date of The Constant Maid.’ Review of English Studies: A Quarterly Journal of English Literature and the English Language, 17: 141-48.

Ure, Peter, ed. 1969. The Chronicle History of Perkin Warbeck: A Strange Truth. London: Methuen and Co. Ltd.

9.6. Spreading the Word: Texts and the Text

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For quotation purposes:
Edward J. Esche (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, England): Stages to Pages: The Four Quartos of Shirley’s The Constant Maid
. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 16/2005. WWW: ../../../index.htmtrans/16Nr/09_6/esche16.htm

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