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D'Avenant, William (DNB00)

D'AVENANT, Sir WILLIAM (1606–1668), poet and dramatist, born in Oxford at the latter end of February 1605–6, was baptised at St. Martin's Church in that city 3 March in the same year. He was the second son of John D'Avenant, vintner and proprietor of a hostelry subsequently known as the Crown tavern. John D'Avenant was a man of reputation. At his death in 1621 he was mayor of Oxford. By his will, proved 21 Oct. 1622, which was printed in a very limited edition in 1866 by Mr. J. O. Halliwell (Phillipps), it is provided that the inn is to be kept open as a tavern for the better relief of his children, and that two of his youngest daughters shall keep the bar by turns. With regard to his second son (William), he wills that ‘he shall be put to prentice to some good marchant or other tradesman.’ Besides William, John D'Avenant had three sons—Robert (a fellow of St. John's College, Oxford, preferred to the parsonage of West Kington, Wiltshire), Nicholas (an attorney), and George. He had also three daughters, one of whom, according to Aubrey, was married to Gabriel Bridges, B.D., of Corpus Christi College, and a second to Dr. Sherburne, a canon of Hereford.

By writers of a subsequent generation D'Avenant has been said to have been an offspring of Shakespeare, who on his journeys between London and Stratford was wont to stay at the tavern kept by John D'Avenant. Oldys, on whom the responsibility for the story seems chiefly to rest, says that Pope, on the authority of Betterton, told him that one day young D'Avenant, having said, in answer to the inquiry of ‘an old townsman’ who asked him whither he was hurrying, that he was going to see his godfather, Shakespeare, was met by the retort, ‘Have a care that you don't take God's name in vain.’ Aubrey, in his ‘Letters of Eminent Persons,’ says that Shakespeare ‘was wont to goe into Warwickshire once a year, and did commonly in his journey lye at this house in Oxon, where he was exceedingly respected;’ and Wood, whose language possibly suggested the notion, says that Mrs. D'Avenant ‘was a very beautiful woman of a good wit and conversation, in which she was imitated by none of her children but by this William.’ The father, meanwhile, ‘who was a very grave and discreet citizen (yet an admirer and lover of plays and play-makers, especially Shakespeare, who frequented his house on his journeys between Warwickshire and London), was of a melancholick disposition and was seldom or never seen to laugh, in which he was imitated by none of his children but by Robert, his eldest son, afterwards fellow of St. John's College and a venerable doctor of divinity.’ Aubrey states that ‘Sir William would sometimes when he was pleasant over a glass of wine with his most intimate friends—e.g. Sam Butler (author of “Hudibras”), &c.—say that it seemed to him that he writt with the very spirit that Shakespeare [did], and seemed contented enough to be thought his son.’ In a curious collection of satires upon D'Avenant, one of two closely connected works of so great rarity as to have been unseen of most if not all of his biographers, there are, however, what may be contemporary allusions to the scandal. The book is entitled, ‘The Incomparable Poem Gondibert vindicated from the Wit Combats of Four Esquires, Clinias, Dametas, Sancho, and Jack Pudding,’ 1655, 12mo. On the last page (27) of this is a poem upon the author's writing his name, as on the ‘Title of the Booke’ (‘Gondibert’), D'Avenant. The opening stanza of this runs as follows:—

Your Wits have further, than you rode,
You needed not to have gone abroad.
D'Avenant from Avon, comes,
Rivers are still the Muses Rooms.
Dort, knows our name no more Durt on 't;
An 't be but for that D'Avenant.

An allusion to Avon, in which D'Avenant is advised to wash himself, appears also on page 14. Unless these allusions to Avon refer to Shakespeare, it is difficult, since Avon was not then a classical stream, to see what is meant. The reference in the opening lines is to the derivation, apparently put forth by D'Avenant himself, of his name from Avenant, a name said to exist in Lombardy. This origin is gravely advanced in an elegy on Sir William D'Avenant printed by Mr. Huth from the flyleaf of a copy of Denham's ‘Poems,’ 1668.

D'Avenant's early education was received in Oxford under Edward Sylvester (Aubrey, doubtless in mistake, calls him Charles), described by Wood as ‘a noted Latinist and Grecian, who taught privately in All Saints' Parish or in the Free School joining to Magd. Coll.’ Aubrey says ‘I feare he was drawne from schoole before he was wyse enough’ (Letters of Eminent Persons, ii. 303). In his twelfth year he wrote an ‘Ode in Remembrance of Master Shakespeare,’ not printed until 1638. Subsequently he went, it is supposed ‘in 1620–1 or thereabouts,’ to Lincoln College, under Mr. Daniel Hough. His stay Wood assumes to have been short. When, accordingly, he left to become page to Frances, first duchess of Richmond, he had obtained ‘some smattering in logic,’ and though he ‘wanted much of university learning, yet he made as high and noble flights in the poetical faculty as fancy could advance without it.’ With a further recollection of Shakespeare, Wood says we may justly style him the ‘Sweet swan of Isis.’

From the service of the duchess he passed into that of Fulke Greville, lord Brooke [q. v.] After Brooke's murder in 1628, D'Avenant became a hanger about court, and betook himself to writing plays and poetry, which obtained him the friendship of Endymion Porter, Henry Jermyn, subsequently Earl of St. Albans, and many other persons of influence. In 1629 he issued his first dramatic work, ‘The Tragedy of Albovine, King of the Lombards,’ 4to, 1629, dedicated to the notorious Earl of Somerset, and ushered in by commendatory verses by Edward Hyde, subsequently Earl of Clarendon, William Habington, author of ‘Castara,’ [Sir] Henry Blount, and many others. No record of its having been acted is preserved. It was written in blank verse, and in the scene of the action and the names of the characters anticipated the author's poem ‘Gondibert.’ When inserted in the folio collection of 1673 it was abridged and, with no great loss of music, converted from blank verse into prose. A similar fate attended other pieces of D'Avenant's included in the same collection. The following year saw the production at the private theatre in Blackfriars of ‘The Cruel Brother,’ a tragedy, 4to, 1630, a powerfully written work, one character in which is apparently intended for George Wither, the poet. Malone calls this D'Avenant's first play, and says it was acted at the Blackfriars 1626–7. ‘The Just Italian’ bears the same date, and was acted at the same theatre. From the commendatory verses of Thomas Carew prefixed to the quarto edition it appears to have been badly received. It is a good piece, however. ‘The Temple of Love,’ 4to, 1634, a masque, was acted on Shrove Tuesday, 1634, at Whitehall. Inigo Jones, who was responsible for the scenery, is on the title-page associated with D'Avenant in the authorship. The actors in the masque consisted of the queen and the noblemen and gentlewomen of her court. This was followed, 24 Feb. 1635, according to the title-page, by ‘The Triumphs of the Prince d'Amour,’ 4to, 1635, presented in the hall of the Middle Temple for the entertainment of the two sons of the Elector Palatine. The queen, according to Sir Henry Herbert's manuscript, was present in ‘a citizen's habit.’ In 1635 D'Avenant printed ‘Madagascar and other Poems’ (reprinted 1648). With ‘The Platonick Lovers,’ a tragi-comedy, 4to, 1636, 12mo, 1665, presented at the private house in Blackfriars, D'Avenant ventured once more into the regular drama. In the title-page of this play, as in that of the ‘Temple of Love,’ and in some succeeding works, he describes himself as ‘Servant to her Majestie.’ ‘The Wits’ (4to 1636, 12mo 1665), a comedy, also played, 28 Jan. 1633, at the private house in Blackfriars, ranks as D'Avenant's comic masterpiece, and may compare for humour and merit with any piece of its epoch. It was, with the ‘Platonick Lovers,’ reprinted in 1665 in 12mo, as well as in the folio collection of 1673, was included in two consecutive editions of Dodsley's ‘Old Plays,’ and in Sir Walter Scott's ‘Ancient Drama,’ 1810, was frequently revived after the Restoration, and won the often expressed approval of Pepys, who went to see it many times. ‘The Wits’ was licensed by Sir Henry Herbert 10 Jan. 1633. At the request of Endymion Porter, to whom it is dedicated, King Charles compelled Sir Henry to restore some passages he had struck out. This Herbert did with a bad grace, saying, under the date 9 Jan. 1663, ‘The kinge is pleasd to take “faith,” “death,” “slight” for asseverations and no oaths, to which I doe humbly submit, as my master's judgment; but under favour conceive them to be oaths, and enter them here, to declare my opinion and submission.’ Herbert chronicles that ‘The Wits’ was ‘well likt,’ and says ‘the kinge commended the language, but dislikt the plott and characters.’ ‘Britannia Triumphans,’ a masque in which D'Avenant and Inigo Jones collaborated, 4to, 1637, was acted at Whitehall on the Sunday after twelfth night 1637, ‘by the king's majestie and his lords.’ It is not included in the folio collection, and is, with the two following works, unmentioned by Langbaine in his ‘Account of the English Dramatic Poets,’ though it and the ‘Unfortunate Lovers’ appear in his ‘Momus Triumphans,’ 688, 14to). ‘Salmacida Spolia,’ 4to, 1639, reprinted by Chetwood, Dublin, 1750, not included in the folio collection, was acted on Tuesday, 21 Jan. 1639, by the king and queen and their court. With the ‘Unfortunate Lovers,’ a tragedy, 4to, 1643 and 1649, and ‘Love and Honour,’ 4to, 1649, originally called the ‘Courage of Love,’ and afterwards named by Sir Henry Herbert the ‘Nonpareilles, or the Matchless Maids,’ both acted at the private house in Blackfriars, the list of plays known to have been acted under the patronage of Charles I is finished. These pieces must both have been played long before they were printed. Both were frequently acted after the Restoration. Under the date 8 April 1668 Pepys speaks of seeing the ‘Unfortunate Lovers,’ which he calls ‘an extraordinary play.’ On 21 Oct. 1661, and again on the 23rd, he saw ‘Love and Honour,’ observing on the latter visit ‘and a very good play it is.’ A play entitled the ‘Colonell’ was entered 1 Jan. 1629 by Eph. Dawson on the books of the Stationers' Company, but nothing further concerning it is known. Sixteen months after the death of Ben Jonson (6 Aug. 1637) the office of laureate was, at the request of the queen, given (13 Dec. 1638) to D'Avenant. An illness resulted in the loss of his nose. Upon this misfortune contemporary wits and poets, Suckling, Denham, and Sir John Mennis at their head, made much merriment, and many particulars and stories concerning it, with other records of D'Avenant's idle doings, are to be foun in the pages of Wood, Aubrey, and other early writers. On 27 June 1639 D'Avenant was appointed ‘governor of the King and Queen's Company, acting at the Cockpit in Drury Lane.’ In the same year, 26 March 1639, ‘a patent passed the great seal authorising him to erect a playhouse.’ This scheme for a house, which was to have been ‘behind the Three Kings' Ordinary in Fleet Street,’ was not carried into execution. At a very early period of civil broil D'Avenant came under the suspicion of parliament. He was accused (May 1641), together with Suckling, Goring, Jermyn, Ashburnham, Lord Percy, and others, of being embarked in a design for bringing up the army for the defence of the king. In common with most of those mentioned D'Avenant took flight. He was arrested at Faversham but admitted to bail. In a second effort he again failed, being captured in Canterbury by the mayor of that city. A subsequent attempt was successful, and he reached France in safety. He returned to England with stores sent by the queen for the use of the Earl of Newcastle, by whom he was made lieutenant-general of ordnance, an appointment that aroused some opposition and is sneered at by Warwick in his ‘Memoirs.’ He appears to have behaved with valour in the field, and in September 1643, at the siege of Gloucester, he was knighted by the king (Aubrey says by the Duke of Newcastle by commission). No record of his exploits is preserved. Aubrey writes: ‘I have heard his brother Robert say for that service there was owing to him by King Charles ye First 10,000 lib.’ (Letters, ii. 305). A letter of D'Avenant's to Prince Rupert, dated Haleford, 13 June 1644, quoted by Maidment and Logan, contains some very sensible observations. After the defeat of the king's army D'Avenant once more sought shelter in France, where he was received with much favour by the queen. After embracing the catholic faith, he was sent in the summer of 1646 by the queen to Charles, then at Newcastle-on-Tyne, as the bearer of a letter counselling him ‘that he should part with the church for his peace and security.’ Clarendon recording this fact, and admitting the honesty of D'Avenant, who was well known to him, regards with unconcealed disapproval the choice of a messenger. In a well-known passage of his history he describes the answer of the king, who, after meeting the opinions of Lord Jermyn, Lord Colepepper, and others, heard a slighting reference of D'Avenant's to the church, and then, ‘transported with indignation, gave him a sharper reprehension than was usual for him to give to any other man, and forbad him to presume to come again into his presence. Whereupon the poor man, who had in truth very good affections, was exceedingly dejected and afflicted’ (Clarendon, History, v. 112, ed. 1826). D'Avenant returned to Paris, became the guest of Lord Jermyn, who had apartments in the Louvre, and began writing his long contemplated poem of ‘Gondibert.’ Two books only were written when the queen despatched him on a mission to Virginia, to carry to the colony a number of persons who might be of service to it in the trouble it was experiencing. Before he got clear of the French coast D'Avenant was captured by a parliament ship and carried as a prisoner to Cowes Castle. Previous to leaving France he had written to Hobbes a long discourse upon ‘Gondibert,’ intended as a preface to the poem. This is dated from the Louvre, 2 Jan. 1650. It is answered by Hobbes in terms of strong eulogy. His reply, dated Paris, 10 Jan. 1650, together with the original discourse and some specimen-pages of the poem, was printed at Paris, 1650. In confinement at Cowes D'Avenant wrote half the third book, but stopped with a postscript to the reader, dated Cowes Castle, 22 Oct. 1650, in which occur the words: ‘'Tis high time to strike sail and cast anchor (though I have run but half my course). When at the helme I am threatened with Death, who, though he can visit us but once, seems troublesome; and even in the innocent may beget such a gravity as diverts the musick of verse.’

In a similar spirit of foreboding he is said to have written to Hobbes concerning the progress he had made in ‘Gondibert,’ and asking: ‘Why should I trouble you or myself with these thoughts, when I am pretty certain I shall be hanged next week?’ (Cibber, Lives of the Poets, ii. 73). His life was indeed in extreme peril. Delivered over by parliament to be tried by a court of high commission, he was carried to London. His escape from death has been variously attributed to the influence of John Milton, the Latin secretary to the Commonwealth, and to two aldermen of York he had previously favoured, ‘seating them when prisoners at the upper end of his table à la mode de France, and having donne so a good while to his chardge, told them (privately and friendly) that he was not able to keepe so chargeable guests, and bad them take an opportunity to escape, wch they did’ (Aubrey, Letters, ii. 306). During the two years in which he was kept a prisoner in the Tower he published the first edition of ‘Gondibert’ in three books, respectively of six, eight, and six cantos, 12mo, 1651. From Lord-keeper Whitelocke he received some indulgence, which he acknowledged in a letter soliciting his liberty. That Whitelocke secured D'Avenant his freedom, which he soon obtained, is not known. In subsequent days, however, the keeper was a useful friend to the poet. The appearance of ‘Gondibert’ was followed in 1653 by that of ‘Certain Verses written by severall of the Author's friends to be re-printed [sic] with the Second Edition of Gondibert,’ and in 1655 by that of ‘The Incomparable Poem Gondibert Vindicated,’ &c. The authorship of the earlier poems is attributed to Denham and others, that of the second to D'Avenant. D'Israeli (Quarrels of Authors) first pointed out that the supposed defence is in fact another attack by the court wits, the piquancy of which is heightened by assigning it to the author himself. Aubrey asserts of ‘Gondibert’ that ‘the courtiers with the Prince of Wales would never be at quiet about the piece.’ D'Israeli is right. The satire in the latter poem is such as no man would or could apply to himself. D'Avenant after his release from imprisonment is not heard of for some years. Through his influence with Whitelocke he obtained permission in the later years of the Commonwealth to recommence a species of quasi-dramatic entertainments. The nature of these has been imperfectly understood. Though given at a private house the performances were in a sense public, seeing that money was taken at them. The first was modestly announced as ‘The First Dayes Entertainment at Rutland House, by Declamations and Musick; after the manner of the Ancients, by Sir W. D.,’ London, 1657, small 8vo. In this piece, which consists of four long speeches by Diogenes and Aristophanes and by a Parisian and an Englishman respectively on the question of the propriety of dramatic entertainments, a rhymed prologue and epilogue are spoken, and instrumental and vocal music by Dr. Coleman, Captain Henry Cook, Henry Lawes, and George Hudson, is introduced. With this slight so-styled opera, the date of performance of which has been assumed, from a marked copy in the British Museum, to have been 22 Nov. 1656, theatrical representations may be held to have recommenced in England. A writer in ‘Notes and Queries’ (2nd ser. v. 231) says that five shillings was the price of admission, that four hundred were expected, and but a hundred and fifty came, and adds from a contemporary manuscript that Mrs. Coleman and another woman took part in it. This was followed by ‘The Siege of Rhodes. Made a Representation by the art of Prospective in Scenes and the story sung in recitative Musick,’ 4to, 1656. This piece differs widely from that subsequently published as ‘The Siege of Rhodes in Two parts,’ 4to, 1663. It is in some respects the most epoch-marking play in the language. It was sung ‘stilo recitativo,’ and was practically the first opera produced in England; scenery was in its case for the first time employed in a play, as distinguished from a masque, and it introduced upon the stage the first Englishwoman (Mrs. Coleman) who ever in an English drama appeared upon it. A letter from D'Avenant to Whitelocke, accompanying the manuscript of this piece or the previous entertainment, and speaking of ‘the nicety of the times,’ is dated 3 Sept. 1656, after which date the first theatrical performance under the sway of Cromwell took place. The actors consisted of musicians, among whom were Matthew Lock, composer of the music to ‘Macbeth,’ Henry Pursill (Purcell), Captain Cook, Thorndell, Harding, and the Colemans, husband and wife. Lawes, Lock, and Cook were responsible for the music.

‘The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru,’ 4to, 1658, and ‘The History of Sir Francis Drake,’ 4to, 1659, were produced by D'Avenant at the Cockpit in Drury Lane, which he opened in 1658. These two pieces were subsequently incorporated with ‘The Playhouse to be Let,’ first printed in the folio collection, 1673. The first act of this strange medley is an introduction, the second a translation from ‘Le Cocu Imaginaire’ of Molière, spoken in broken English by performers supposedly French, the third ‘The History of Sir Francis Drake,’ the fourth ‘The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru,’ and the fifth a short burlesque tragedy. Evelyn in his diary mentions seeing, 5 May 1659, ‘a new opera after the Italian way in recitative, music, and sceanes,’ but proclaims it inferior to the Italian, says it is ‘prodigious that in a time of such publiq consternation such a variety should be kept up or permitted,’ and adds that his heart smote him for witnessing it. Cromwell is said to have approved of the performance of ‘The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru,’ which Sir Henry Herbert, in opposition to other authorities, and probably in error, says was in two parts. According to the ‘Publick Intelligence’ from Monday 20 Dec. to Monday 27 Dec. 1658, quoted by Malone, Richard Cromwell ordered a report to be drawn up with regard to the performance of opera at the Cockpit, and to examine by what authority it was ‘exposed to publick view.’ In 1659 D'Avenant was implicated in the rising of Sir George Booth (1622–1684) [q. v.] in Cheshire, and was committed to prison, but was released 16 Aug. 1659. Upon the Restoration license (21 Aug. 1660) was given to D'Avenant and to Thomas Killigrew to ‘erect’ two companies of players. These and other documents are quoted by Malone. Sir William D'Avenant's company, known as the Duke's, from the Duke of York (afterwards James II), its patron, was established about March 1662 in a new theatre near Portugal Row, Lincoln's Inn Fields. Before the erection of this building it acted at the theatre in Salisbury Court. It comprised Betterton [q. v.], Nokes, Kynaston, and other actors assembled in 1659–60 by Rhodes, a bookseller near Charing Cross, who in the days of Charles I is said to have been wardrobe-keeper to the king's company of comedians at Blackfriars, and who when the army of Monck was approaching London had obtained a license to form a dramatic company. On 15 Nov. 1660 Betterton and his associates began to act at Salisbury Court under an agreement which they had formed with D'Avenant. Here, or at the Cockpit, they continued to act until March or April 1662. From his first attempt to establish his company D'Avenant met with constant opposition from Sir Henry Herbert, whose privileges and claims as master of the revels were disregarded both by D'Avenant and Killigrew. In a petition to Charles II, presented by Herbert in August 1660, Herbert protests against the permissions to erect playhouses as an ‘unjust surprize’ and as ‘destructive to the power’ he exercises. Of D'Avenant he speaks as one ‘who obtained leave of Oliver and Richard Cromwell to vent his operas at a time when your petitioner owned not their authority.’ In spite of the opposition the grant passed the privy signet 21 Aug. 1660. Herbert then, in consequence of ‘the unusuall and unreasonable rates’ taken at the ‘playhouse doores of the respective persons of quality that desire to refresh or improve themselves’ by the sight of ‘morrall entertainments,’ despatched a warrant requiring the actors at the Cockpit at their peril to send all the plays they intended to act, that ‘they may be reformed of prophanes and ribaldry.’ Against this the actors petitioned. Herbert then brought an action against the players, and two actions against D'Avenant. The decision upon the case between Herbert and D'Avenant was referred by Charles, 30 June 1662, to the lord chancellor (Clarendon) and the lord chamberlain (Manchester). In the statement of his wrongs Herbert speaks of D'Avenant as ‘a person who exercised the office of master of the revels to Oliver the Tyrant,’ and is ‘credibly informed’ that he, ‘the said D'Avenant, published a poem in vindication and justification of Oliver's actions and government, and an epithalamium in praise of Oliver's daughter, Mrs. Rich.’ Herbert gained some of his cases, but court influence was against him, and the struggle to assert his powers was in the end abandoned. By the final conditions meanwhile under which the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields opened, the total receipts, after the charges for supernumeraries, &c., were deducted, were divided into fifteen shares, of which the actors took five, leaving D'Avenant ten, ‘two towards the house rent, buildings, scaffolding, and making of frames for scenes; one for a provision of habits, properties, and scenes …; and seven to maintain all the women that are to perform or represent women's parts in tragedies, comedies, &c., and in consideration of erecting and establishing his actors to be a company, and his pains and expenses for that purpose for many years.’ D'Avenant's gross receipts from the ten shares Herbert estimates at 200l. a week. The agreement bears date 5 Nov. 1660. The first part of the ‘Siege of Rhodes’ was the first piece acted by D'Avenant's company. It was followed by the second part of the same play, and after an interval by ‘The Wits.’ This piece was mounted with costly scenery, which Downes (Roscius Anglicanus), oblivious of the performances at Rutland House, calls ‘the first that ever was introduced in England.’ Mrs. Saunderson, afterwards Mrs. Betterton, was Iantha in the ‘Siege of Rhodes,’ and Mrs. Davenport Roxalana, a character which did not appear in the first sketch of the play. Mrs. Saunderson and Mrs. Davenport, with Mrs. Davies [q. v.] and Mrs. Long, were the four principal actresses, whom, in pursuance of the previously mentioned agreement, D'Avenant boarded in his own house. From the first D'Avenant's performances obtained a strong hold on the public. His theatre, in consequence of the name he gave his performances under Cromwellian rule, was known as the Opera. Pepys makes frequent reference to it. D'Avenant's ‘Love and Honour,’ printed in 4to, 1649, which was revived in 1661, had a great run, and produced ‘the company much gain and estimation’ (Downes, ib.) ‘It was richly dressed—the king, the Duke of York, and the Earl of Oxford having given their coronation suits to Betterton, Harris, and Price’ (ib.) On 18 Feb. 1662 D'Avenant produced his ‘Law against Lovers’ (folio collection), an alteration of ‘Measure for Measure,’ with the characters of Benedick and Beatrice introduced. Those of his own works with which D'Avenant opened had been rehearsed in the Apothecaries' Hall. The ‘Playhouse to be Let’ was probably among the pieces given at this period, but no record of its performance can be traced. Not until 1664 was ‘The Rivals,’ 4to, 1668, performed. It was licensed for printing, not performance, 19 Sept. 1668. This is an alteration of ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen.’ This play D'Avenant never claimed. It is an indifferent production, introducing several songs and dances. One of these, ‘My Lodging is on the Cold Ground,’ was sung in a manner that obtained for the singer, Mrs. Davies [q. v.], promotion to royal favour. On 7 Nov. 1667, according to Pepys, ‘The Tempest, or the Enchanted Island,’ 4to, 1670, written by Dryden and D'Avenant in conjunction, was played for the first time. The play is not included in the folio collection of D'Avenant. ‘Macbeth, a Tragedy; with all the Alterations, Amendments, Additions, and New Songs,’ &c., 4to, 1673, 1687, and 1710, is assigned expressly to D'Avenant by Downes, who speaks of its being in the nature of an opera and of the singing and dancing in it, ‘The first compos'd by Mr. Lock, the other by Mr. Channell and Mr. Joseph Preist.’ There is no exact evidence when it was performed. Pepys saw a ‘Macbeth’ 5 Nov. 1664, ‘a pretty good play,’ again 28 Dec. 1666, and once more 7 Jan. 1667, when he especially admired the divertissement, which he held ‘a strange perfection in a tragedy.’ Genest ascribes to 1672, when it was given at Dorset Garden, the first performance of this play, and holds, doubtless in error, that the ‘Macbeth’ given at Lincoln's Inn Fields was Shakespeare's. To this notion Pepys's mention of the divertissement seems fatal. The alterations in a wretched version of ‘Julius Cæsar,’ printed 12mo, 1719, are said to be by Dryden and D'Avenant. This reproach may, however, be spared both writers. The ‘Man's the Master,’ a comedy, 4to, 1669, 8vo, 1775, was acted at Lincoln's Inn Fields immediately before the death of D'Avenant and printed after his death. It is an excellent comedy and was revived in 1726 and again, with some alterations supposed to be due to Woodward, in 1775, being the only play of D'Avenant's that was performed at anything approaching to so late a date. In addition to these works there are included in the folio edition, but not otherwise known to be printed, ‘News from Plymouth,’ ‘The Fair Favourite,’ ‘The Distresses’ (believed to be the same as is elsewhere called ‘The Spanish Lovers’), and ‘The Siege.’ ‘These plays are supposed to have been acted in the time of Oliver and Richard, first printed in 4to, and afterwards revised and inserted in the author's works’ (Biographia Britannica). As none of the quartos survive, the latter portion of the statement seems very doubtful. With these may be associated as also appearing for the first time in the folio collection the ‘Law against Lovers’ and the ‘Playhouse to be Let.’ Of these the ‘News from Plymouth’ was licensed by Sir Harry Herbert 1 Aug. 1635, ‘The Fair Favourite’ 17 Nov. 1638, and ‘The Spanish Lovers’ 30 Nov. 1639. D'Avenant had lodgings at the playhouse in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where he died 7 April 1668, and was buried on the 9th in Westminster Abbey, in the grave vacated by May, his former rival for the laureateship. Langbaine and Wood both noted that the laureate wreath, ‘which by the law of heraldry appertained to him,’ was wanting from his coffin, which Sir John Denham says was the handsomest he ever saw. On his grave is written, in imitation of that of Ben Jonson, ‘O rare Sir William D'Avenant.’ Pepys, who wrote, 7 April 1668, ‘I hear Sir William D'Avenant is just now dead,’ saw the corpse carried to Westminster. He says, 9 April 1668: ‘There were many coaches and six horses, and many hacknies, that made it look, methought, as if it were the buriall of a poor poet. He seemed to have many children, by five or six in the first mourning coach, all boys.’ D'Avenant left no will. His sons Charles and William are separately noticed. His widow, Maria or Mary (d. February 1690–1, buried in St. Bride's, Fleet Street, 24 Feb.), in 1668 administered to his effects. His first wife, Anne, described as of Castell Yard, subsequently Castle Street, Holborn, now Furnival Street, was buried 5 March 1654–5, in the churchyard of St. Andrew, Holborn. D'Avenant is described as of the parish of St. Clement Danes. At the time of his death a new theatre for his company had been begun in Dorset Garden. He married twice, having by his first wife a son, whom Aubrey describes as ‘very beautiful and ingenious,’ and by the second, Charles D'Avenant [q. v.] and several other children. D'Avenant was a man of courage, spirit, industry, and resource. To a certain extent he had the vices of his time. His work after his earliest production is manly, and for the age exceptionally decorous and moral. In his best work he rises to the level of Shirley; ordinarily he is on a level with Randolph and Brome. The scheme of ‘Gondibert,’ which was to be as a play ‘proportioning five books to five acts and cantos to scenes,’ was singularly unhappy, and the religious aim which in his long letter to Hobbes he avows did much to expose his book to the gibes of the courtiers. ‘Gondibert’ has obtained the praise of good judges. It is, however, a book to be praised rather than read, and is insufferably dull. D'Avenant's dramas, on the other hand, may be read with fair prospect of amusement. For the numerous satires, chiefly good-natured, upon D'Avenant's poem and his physical misfortune, the reader must consult the writings of Suckling, Mennis, and others. Aubrey preserves a record of a frolic in which D'Avenant took part; and the story of the old woman who blessed his eyesight, and, being asked why by the astonished poet, answered because if he had need for spectacles he had no means of supporting them, with other similar tales, has been frequently told. Dryden after D'Avenant's death speaks highly of him. Richard Flecknoe published, 1668, Sir William D'Avenant's ‘Voyage to the Other World,’ with his ‘Adventures in the Poet's Elysium,’ a comic sketch in one sheet, in which on his arrival at Hades D'Avenant is badly received by various poets, especially Shakespeare, to whom he looked as his greatest friend, but who is offended with him ‘for so spoiling and mangling of his plays.’ With his old antagonist Donne he has a scrimmage, and in the end he is appointed jester to Pluto's court, probably in allusion to his intimacy with Charles II.

[The chief authority for the life of Sir William D'Avenant is the manuscript Life by Aubrey, transcribed by Warton for Malone (this was written at the request of Wood and used by him in the Athenæ Oxonienses); the prefatory memoir by Laing and Maidment to the collected dramas of D'Avenant, 5 vols. Edinburgh, 1872–4, and the introduction to the various plays; the reprint of Downes's Roscius Anglicanus, with a preface by the writer of this article, 1886; Malone's Historical Account of the English Stage; Pepys's Diary; Whitelocke's Memorials; Clarendon's History of the Rebellion; Langbaine's Account of the Dramatick Poets, 1691; Genest's Account of the English Stage, 1832; Austin and Ralph's Lives of the Poets Laureate, 1853; Letters written by eminent persons, and Lives of Eminent Men, by John Aubrey, 2 vols. in 3 parts, London, 1813, 8vo; Memoir and Diary of William Oldys (by Thoms), London, 1862, 12mo; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 183–4, 4th ser. v. 284, ix. 49–50; Gent. Mag. October 1850, p. 367; and other works named or cited above.]

J. K.