Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parfre, Jhan

PARFRE, JHAN (fl. 1512), is usually described as the author of a mystery-play entitled ‘Candlemas Day.’ The play, which was long quoted as ‘Parfre's Candlemas Day,’ was written in English verse in the fifteenth century, and was prepared for the great annual Corpus Christi exhibitions. It deals mainly with Herod and the massacre of the Innocents. From the unique manuscript which is in the Bodleian Library (Digby 133), it was printed for the first time in 1773 in Hawkins's ‘Origin of the English Drama,’ and was reissued by the Abbotsford Club in 1835 in ‘Ancient Mysteries from the Digby MSS.’ At the end of the manuscript appear the words ‘Jhan Parfre ded wryte thys booke Anno D'ni Mill'mo CCCCCXIJ.’ It is clear from these words that Parfre was the copyist of the Digby MS., and that he prefers no claim to be regarded as the author of the mystery, whose identity cannot be determined.

[Hawkins's Origin of the English Drama; Baker's Biogr. Dramatica; Ancient Mysteries (Abbotsford Club), 1835, Pref. pp. 3–30.]

S. L.