A Hitherto Unknown Noble Writer of Elizabethan Comedies In Memoriam: James Harris Greenstreet
I will in the first place give verbatim extracts from the Records, as under:—
1599, June 30, London. George Fenner to his partner Baltazar Gybels, Antwerp. "Therle of Darby is busyed only in penning comedies for the commoun players." [State Papers, Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. 271, No. 34.]
1599, June 30, London. George Fenner to Sire Humfredo Galdelli or Guiseppe Tusinga, Venice. "Our Earle of Darby is busye in penning commodyes for the commoun players." [Ibid., No. 35.]
The above two letters, affording this important evidence, are apparently intercepted ones. The passages quoted clearly intimate that of the Catholic nobility, no furtherance in respect of any projected rising is to be counted upon from the Earl of Derby. He is, so to speak, wholly absorbed in the composition of pieces for the stage: in fact, the strength of the wording in one letter is such that we might almost imagine his lordship so bent upon his occupation as to neglect his meals and burn the midnight oil, in the endeavor to complete his Comedies for some special occasion, or by a certain date.
Upon comparing the various authorities for the Earl of Derby's career, we find that he was born in London about the year 1561. In 1572, being eleven years old, he went to St. John's College, Oxford, with his older brother, Lord Strange, and his younger brother Francis. Prior to that early date in his life, he and his brother Francis had done something to merit the animosity of the Queen, as her letter, quoted beneath, shows:—
1571, Dec. 6. Queen Elizabeth to Lord Strange. (Commending him for his close attendance on his sick father.) Knowing his earnest goodwill to her service, is sorry not to have found the like in his brethren, which cannot but be displeasant to his good father. [Historical MSS. Commissioner's Reports, 8vo. No. 1. Marquis of Salisbury's Papers, p. 572.]
Subsequently to 1572, nothing is known of Mr. Stanley's doings for quite ten years, though, being a younger son, it is possible that in the interval he may have been put by his father to some honourable profession, for which he afterwards evinced a distaste. In the year 1582 he went to France, accompanied by a Mr. R. Lloyd , who, the Earl's biographer tells us, was his "preceptor." The voice of the country-side [Ballad, etc.] accounts for the journey in this wise. It says, in effect, that the young man was gifted with unusual genius, and his wish to acquire further knowledge so great, that he implored the Earl, his father, to let him go abroad for the purpose of perfecting himself in the languages of the Continent, and that he might see the world for himself. His biographer asserts that the old Earl accorded Mr. Stanley only three years leave of absence, and that he spent the whole of the time in France, but I doubt the accuracy of the latter statement. Anyhow, upon the termination of his sojourn in France, although "one would have thought," says his biographer "his inclination would have led him to return to his native country, and to the bosom of his friends...his insatiable thirst after knowledge and adventure induced him to determine otherwise, notwithstanding the period allowed by his father was expired."
Mr. Stanley is next represented to have passed into Spain, where he had the misfortune to fight a duel, and worst his opponent, which necessitated rapid flight, in the garb of a mendicant friar, across the Pyrenees back to France. Thence, we are told, he made his way into Italy. After residing there for some time, and in High Germany, he is stated to have visited in succession, Egypt, the coast of Barbary, Morocco, the Holy Land, and Constantinople, where he was imprisoned by the Sultan. After a romantic release from prison, we learn that he went into Russia, and at Moscow met with his father's neighbour and friend the celebrated Dr. Dee, who was in attendance on the Czar as his physician. From Russia, according to the Ballad, he journeyed to Greenland, and thence returned to Europe in an English whaling vessel.
During this prolonged absence his unfortunate brother Ferdinand, Lord Strange, had taken great interest in the rapid improvements in dramatic performances, and had established a body of Players of his own, choosing as one of them William Shakespear, the afterwards successful stage manager.
It is yet uncertain, I think, when Mr. Stanley returned from his travels. The general impression, to my knowledge, has been that he had not returned from them when his brother the fifth Earl died, i. e., 1594. But I strongly suspect he was back in England, as the Ballad avers, prior to his father's death in 1593, and then joined the army of the Netherlands, where he became lost sight of again. For we must bear in mind that he was already a soldier (and a comrade in arms of Lord Southampton) in the spring of the year in which the Fenner letters, under consideration, were written.
Now, there are one or two remarkable circumstances in connection with the Comedy of "Love's Labour's Lost," which the detractors of Shakespear, had they troubled themselves at all concerning the Earl of Derby who in 1599 was writing Comedies, could not well have failed to notice. In 1584, two years after the departure of Mr. Stanley to France, Mr. R. Lloyd, one Richard Lloyd published his "Briefe Discourse of the Most Renowned Actes... of those Puisant Princes called the Nine Worthies." The comedy above-mentioned, the scene of which is laid in France, depicts a schoolmaster, who is taken off under the name of Holofernes, as actively engaged in preparation and performance of a pageant of the Nine Worthies before the Princess. The pageant concludes with songs which Mr. Charles Night says are found in a pageant of the Nine Worthies peculiar to the city of Chester. Shakespear, he continues, must have seen this particular Chester pageant represented, otherwise—I take it Mr. Knight intends us to infer—Shakespear could not have imported these songs into the play (Knight's Shakspere, 2nd edition, i, 317). Mr Stanley's parents resided, on and off, in Chester, and therefore he would have ample opportunities for becoming acquainted with any pageant shown in that City.
I may say, in conclusion, that there are similar matters in connection with other of the Shakespearian Comedies, which also would not have escaped unnoticed had they ever been looked for.
1582. Oct. 6. Angers. R. Lloyd to Secretary Walsingham. I received your letter, dated Oatlands, 12th. Sept., with Mr. Stanley's license, for which we thank you. Since it is your pleasure that I should send you such letters as Mr. Stanley sends to the Earl, his father, I will not disobey you, for it is a great favour done to him. According to your advice, we travelled towards Angers, where we are now, taking Orleans, Blois, Tours, Saumur, and other town upon the Loire. We mean to remain the winter here, and yet I find it a place out of the way, and little frequented. The Papists and those of the religion accord very well, and none are compelled to come to church, and yet the place appointed for preaching is eight miles off. [Ibid. No. 118.]
While the foregoing is passing through the press, I have been enabled to identify the handwriting of the two letters above mentioned, signed only "R. Lloyd," with that of one, dated 20th June, 1610, addressed to King James I. and his Parliament, which accompanies a treatise by the said Lloyd, written in English, but interspersed here and there with Latin, like the conversation of Holofernes in the play. This document is signed "Rych: Lloyd," and is preserved among the Additional MSS. at the British Museum, the reference being No. 19402, pencil folio 21.
It is with feelings of deep regret that we have to record the death of Mr. James Greenstreet who died on the 4th of November last after a short illness. Although never in robust health there was no indication, even to within a few days of his death, that he would be cut off at the early age of forty-five. Mr. Greenstreet was the oldest son of Mr. Joseph Greenstreet an accomplished linguist, and was educated at Berkhampstead High School. He commenced life in an auctioneer's office in the City but soon afterwards entered the office of an Insurance Company, where he made the acquaintance of a brother of the late Mr. Walford Selby, the former editor of this magazine. This friendship was the primary cause of his adopting the profession of a Record Agent, which he did at the suggestion of Mr. Selby, who in addition to giving him much help associated himself with him in several literary projects, notably in the founding of the Pipe Roll society.
James Greenstreet was a constant contributor to this magazine, and sometimes to the Atheneaum and other papers. The late Mr. Halliwell Phillips received from him much assistance in connection with the "Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare, " so that he was quite au fait in all that had been done to collect evidences relating to the "Bard of Avon." Mr Greenstreet believed that Shakespeare was not the author of the most important plays, a belief shared by many, and when he made his important discovery in the State Papers concerning the sixth Earl of Derby, he felt fully convinced that at last the true author's name had come to light. The paper preceding this brief memoir [ i.e., the paper "Testimonies Against the Accepted Authorship of Shakespear's Plays"] is the last ever penned by him and is on this subject. The proof sheets were sent him a few days before his death, but remained uncorrected; and it has been the melancholy office of the editor to see them through the press. This, his last effort, is a speaking example of Mr. Greenstreet's untiring zeal and energy.
By his associates, as by his friends, James Greenstreet was very highly esteemed. He was always ready to give to those who needed assistance in their work, the benefit of his experience and knowledge. Perhaps he was best known as the great authority upon Ancient Rolls of Arms, many of which, deposited in the College of Arms and the British Museum, he edited and printed. On Saturday, the 31st of October, on his return home from the Record Office, he was seized with sudden illness, and on the Wednesday following passed peacefully away. His remains were laid in Lady Well Cemetery on the 9th of November.