Sir Robert Howard, 1626-1698 a Critical Biography

Sir Robert Howard, 1626-1698 a Critical Biography

Sir Robert Howard, 1626-1698 a Critical Biography

Sir Robert Howard, 1626-1698 a Critical Biography

Excerpt

There was, perhaps, no person of greater importance and influence inthe earlier days of the Restoration theatre than the sixth son of the firstEarl of Berkshire, Sir Robert Howard." This opinion, expressed by Montague Summers in 1935, in his Playhouse of Pepys, is demonstrably correct;yet no full critical biography of Howard has ever been published, and literaryhistorians therefore know him only as John Dryden's brother-in-law; asthe man who (so they unfairly put it) "collaborated" with Dryden in thefirst popular Heroic play, The Indian Queen; and as Dryden's opponent inthe famous controversy on the question whether plays ought to be writtenin blank verse or in rhyme (and the implication always seems to be thatthis was to Howard's discredit, although Dryden himself afterwards admitted to having been in the wrong).

To the general rule that scholars have been interested in Howard merelyfor his connection with Dryden, there have been some honorable exceptions, including Montague Summers, Allardyce Nicoll, Alfred Harbage,E. S. de Beer, and Florence R. Scott. Unfortunately, however, only anabstract of Miss Scott's thesis on Howard was published, together with afew notes and brief articles (so that the principal value of her work appearsnow to have been to point to important sources of information); and Summers, Nicoll, Harbage, and de Beer were able to give Howard little morethan passing mention in histories of the theater or other comprehensiveworks.

I hope that my own full study has succeeded not only in revealingHoward's importance as a dramatist and in giving an accurate account ofhis relations with Dryden, but also in drawing attention to his writings innon-dramatic verse and prose, to his considerable influence in Parliamentand Council during the reigns of Charles II and of William and Mary,to his work behind the scenes for the Restoration of Charles II and for theRevolution of 1688, and to his prominence in matters of state finance, bothas Auditor of the Receipt in the Exchequer and as the associate and friendof the great City financiers of his day.

I am sadly aware that a parliamentary or economic historian might havebeen able to make better use of some of my material, and that there may besins of omission in some parts of the book. I make no apology, however,for the absence of any attempt to psychoanalyze Howard; from the factsas I have presented them, each reader is free to make his own inferences.

Quotations are given in the original spelling, except that I have disregarded the long s, have made the modern distinction between i and j,and between u and v, and have expanded the crossed p. A few misprintshave been silently corrected. Titles of works widely known and reprintedin our time--such as The Indian Emperor--have been modernized, in ac-

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