Small folio, pp. , 23-82, 298, wanting the preliminary and final blanks, and, as in all known copies, beginning at page 23 because one long poem, A Treatise of Religion, was suppressed; a very good copy in contemporary calf, neatly rebacked, gilt Pegasus device of Heneage Finch, third Earl of Winchilsea (1628-82) on both covers, bookplate of Richard Shuttleworth Streatfield.
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First edition. This is the definitive printing of the poems and plays of an attractive minor Elizabethan – the ‘Servant to Queen Elizabeth, Councillor to King James, Friend to Sir Philip Sidney’ (to quote his epitaph). Like Sidney, Greville never published his poetry in his lifetime; and, apart from a few anthologized poems and a pirated edition of Mustapha, these Workes, though written mainly in the 1570s-1590s, are printed here for the first time.
In all known copies the text begins at p. 23. The Licenser’s entry makes it clear that A Treatise of Religion originally stood first in the manuscript; and Malone plausibly suggested that its anti-prelatical tenor led to censorship by Archbishop Laud. This poem and A Treatise of Monarchy were eventually published in Fulke Greville’s Remains (1670), completing the verse canon.
As issued, the volume begins with three long reflective poems ('Of Humane Learning', 'Upon Fame and Honour', and 'Of Warres'), followed by the verse dramas Alaham and Mustapha, and the irregular ‘sonnet’ sequence 'Caelica' comprising 109 sonnets and other short poems. There are a few selected letters at the end.
‘Oh wearisome Condition of Humanity’, Greville’s most famous poem, forms the final chorus to Mustapha. Like Alaham, Mustapha was ‘no Plaie for the Stage’, but a Senecan examination of power, tyranny, ambition, and deceit. Greville wrote one other tragedy in the same vein, Antonie and Cleopatra, but thought it prudent to destroy the manuscript in about 1601, ‘the Earle of Essex then falling’.
STC 12361; Greg III, 1068-9; Pforzheimer 437; Hayward 68.
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