The Birth of Merlin, or, The Child Hath Found his Father is a Jacobean play, probably written in whole or part by William Rowley. It was first performed in 1622 at the Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch.[1] It contains a comic depiction of the birth of the fully grown Merlin to a country girl, and also features figures from Arthurian legend, including Uther Pendragon, Vortigern, and Aurelius Ambrosius.

Authorship

The 1662 first edition, a quarto printed by Thomas Johnson for the booksellers Francis Kirkman and Henry Marsh, attributed the play to William Shakespeare and William Rowley. The Birth of Merlin is thus one of two plays published in the seventeenth century as a Shakespearean collaboration, the other being The Two Noble Kinsmen. Most scholars reject the attribution to Shakespeare and believe that the play is Rowley’s, perhaps with a different collaborator. The play has occasionally been revived in the modern era, for example at Theatr Clwyd.

 

The Birth of Merlin shares a significant relationship with Cupid’s Revenge, a play in the Beaumont and Fletcher canon. Large-scale resemblances in plotting—the missing prince, the ruler and his heir who fall in love with the same woman—could be explained through derivation from common sources; but these larger-scale elements are supported by specific lines and passages that occur in both plays. Compare, for example, «Wilde-fire and Brimstone eat thee!» in Merlin, III,vi,108, with «wild-fire and brimstone take thee» in Cupid’s Revenge, V,ii, 49. Other common passages occur in Merlin, II,ii,35–9 and 72–81 and III,vi,83–4, and Cupid’s Revenge, I,v,5–11, IV,i,2–7, and V,ii,44–8.[2]

The early critics who first discovered these commonalities took them as evidence that Beaumont and Fletcher had a hand in the authorship of The Birth of Merlin.[3] This view, however, has not been accepted by the consensus of scholars and critics, since apart from the cited common passages, there is no evidence of Beaumont’s or Fletcher’s authorship in the play. The common passages appear to be best explained as the type of borrowings sometimes found in works of the era (the borrowings from Thomas North‘s translation of Plutarch‘s Parallel Lives in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, for example) that have no bearing on questions of authorship.[4] Though the dates of authorship for both plays are uncertain, it seems likely that Cupid’s Revenge is the earlier work, and that the author or authors of Merlin were influenced by the Beaumont-Fletcher play.

Synopsis

The Birth of Merlin possesses a three-level plot, a structure common in plays of its era.[5] On the first level, the main plot, the characters are royal and their concerns are those of statecraft and national welfare; in the second-level plot, the characters are aristocratic and genteel and their concerns are those of personal values and personal fulfilment; and on the level of the comic subplot, the characters are common and their concerns are largely sensual.

Unusually, the play begins on its second level: the opening scene introduces the nobleman Donobert, his daughters Constantia and Modestia, and their suitors Cador and Edwin, and begins the story of Modestia’s conflict between her desire for a religious vocation versus social pressures to marry. The famous characters of Arthurian romance do not appear until the second scene, which introduces King Aurelius and his royal court. The British are flush with a recent victory over the invading Saxons—though they are troubled by the fact that the king’s brother Uther is missing. Saxon emissaries arrive at court to negotiate a peace; they are led by the Saxon princess Artesia. Aurelius instantly falls in love with Artesia, and in his infatuation grants the Saxons very generous peace terms—despite the objections of his courtiers and the criticism of a holy hermit who interjects his own opposition. (Before the scene ends, Modestia consults the Hermit about her personal spiritual difficulty.)

The first scene in Act II introduces the otherwise-unnamed Clown and his very pregnant sister, Joan Go-to’t. References through the play identify the Clown a typical Rowleian fat clown, the type of role that Rowley repeatedly wrote for himself to play. The Clown’s sister has gotten herself pregnant by yielding to the advances of a mysterious stranger; she and the Clown are now wandering through the forest, searching for the father of the child, or at least a father for the child. They stumble upon Prince Uther, who is wandering through the same forest, distracted and disconsolate after catching sight of a woman with whom he has instantly fallen in love. Overhearing this, the Clown solicits Uther as a potential husband for Joan, much to the prince’s outrage. As he beats them, their cries are heard by courtiers searching for the prince, who interrupt the scene and carry Uther back to court. The Clown and Joan are left to continue their search.

At court, Aurelius’s infatuation has led to a sudden marriage with Artesia. One British noble, Edol, is so outraged that he flees the court to nourish his opposition. The court now blends British and Saxon influences, though not smoothly or happily. The Hermit has a contest of power with a Saxon magician; the Christian Hermit triumphs over pagan magic. Prince Uther enters, and sees that the woman who has caused his distraction is now his brother’s wife and the new British queen. Aurelius recognises the situation, and withdraws in anger and jealousy.

In Act III, the Clown and Joan have reached the court in their search for her child’s father. They confront various courtiers, with comically unsuccessful results. Finally, though, they encounter the actual father: though Joan sees him as a handsome courtier, the Clown can recognise him for a devil, «his feet and head horrid». Joan pursues him, and the Clown loyally follows her. In the second-level plot, Modestia embraces her religious vocation; in a familial confrontation, Modestia’s defence of her choice is so persuasive that her sister Constantia is converted to the spiritual life and rejects her suitor, just as Modestia has done. Donobert is outraged, but urges Cador and Edwin not to give up on his daughters yet.

In a cave in a forest, the Devil summons Lucina and the Fates to attend Joan as she gives birth to Merlin. The Clown catches up, to meet his sister and his new-born nephew, a fully grown Merlin the Magician. Merlin introduces his Clown-uncle to his Devil-father; the Devil predicts a dramatic future for his newborn son. In the British court, the Saxons are plotting treason; Artesia manipulates Uther’s romantic interest and Aurelius’s jealousy to bring about a fissure between the two, though her plans are partially frustrated by the British nobles. The two factions separate and prepare for war.

Meanwhile, Merlin, Joan, and the Clown have made their way to Wales, where King Vortigern, a Saxon ally, is having trouble building a castle. To keep the edifice from continual collapse, the Welsh must sacrifice a «fiend begotten child»; therefore they are pleased and relieved when Merlin appears. Merlin, however, foretells Vortigern’s imminent defeat at the hands of Edol and the British. A series of battle scenes portray Edol’s victory, culminating in a spectacular special-effect scene in which Merlin prophesizes on a blazing comet.

Act V provides a swift wind-up of the various plots. Merlin seals his devil-father within the earth, and leads his mother away to a life of repentance. Donobert accepts his daughters’ religious commitment to the solitary and celibate life. The British defeat the treacherous Saxons, who have assassinated Aurelius. Uther is now the British king, aided by Merlin.

The play is rich with visual effects of varying types, including devils and magic and masque-like spectacles. It was clearly designed to provide broad, colourful, fast-paced entertainment (not to have in «The World»).

References

 

  • N.W. Bawcutt, The Control and Censorship of Caroline Drama, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Act/scene division and lineation can vary among editions; these citations refer to the text of Merlin in The Shakespeare Apocrypha, edited by C. F. Tucker Brooke, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1908, and to the text of Cupid’s Revenge in The Dramatic Works in The Beaumont and Fletcher Canon, Vol. 2, general editor Fredson Bowers, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1970.
  • E. H. C. Oliphant, The Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1927; pp. 402–14.
  • Mark Dominik, William Shakespeare and «The Birth of Merlin,» Beaverton, OR, Alioth Press, 1991; pp. 165–72.

 

  1. Richard Levin, The Multiple Plot in English Renaissance Drama, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1971.

External linksEdit

  • Birth of Merlin: digitised version (of a facsimile) of the 1662 edition of the play.

 


Queen Caroline’s Hermitage at Richmond and the 5 Marble Busts by Giovanni Battista Guelphi (1690 — 1736)

Queen Caroline’s Hermitage at Richmond.

Drawing of Queen Caroline’s Hermitage at Richmond by its designer William Kent.

Soane Museum. London.

see — https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/search#/page/4

An engraving of Richmond Gardens by John Roque c.1738, pub. by John Bowles at the Black Horse Cornhill. When Queen Caroline received Richmond Lodge as a dower house in 1727, she immediately engaged in the creation of one of the earliest English landscape gardens. This map provides us with a detailed layout of the estates of Richmond and Kew (owned by Frederick, Prince of Wales) and elevations of buildings and follies, such as Queen Caroline’s Hermitage and Merlin’s Cave, most of which were lost in the remodelling of the garden by ‘Capability’ Brown shortly after 1771 when he drew up the plans. see map The Royal Gardens of Richmond and Kew part of the Royal Manor of Richmond. Taken under the Direction of Peter Burrell Esqr his Majesty’s Surveyor General, by Thos Richardson 1771.

Size — 58.1 x 91.1 cm (sheet of paper).

Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.

Detail of the Map above showing elevation and plan of Queen Caroline’s Hermitage at Richmond.

Drawing of Queen Carolines Hermitage in Richmond Gardens

by Bernard Lens III (1682 — 1740) c.1735.

Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.

A low resolution image of an as yet unidentified engraving.

It shows a bust of Queen Caroline flanked by two busts (Locke on the left) in an interior decorated with shells with an elevation of the Hermitage at Richmond beneath her bust with putti on the right holding a drawing of a plan and section of the Hermitage.

Crop from Image above.

Interior of Queen Caroline’s Hermitage Engraved by John Vardy

From — Some Designs of Mr Inigo Jones and Mr William Kent, 1745.

for the complete work see — https://archive.org/details/SomedesignsMrIn00Jone

The Hermitage at Stowe designed by William Kent

_______________________________________________________

The Busts by Guelfi in Queen Caroline’s Hermitage — Mezzotints by John Faber Jnr. c 1736.

Above — Engravings of the Marble busts by Giovanni Battista Guelphi

in Queen Caroline’s Hermitage at Richmond engraved by John Faber. C.1736.

Printed for Thomas Bowles in St Paul’s Churchyard and John Bowles at The Black Horse in Cornhill.

_______________________

Marble Bust of William Wollaston (1659 -1724) by Giovanni Battista Guelphi (1690 — 1736).

Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.

Marble Bust of John Locke (1632 — 1704) by Giovanni Battista Guelphi (1690 — 1736).

Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.

Marble Bust of Isaac Newton (1643 — 1727) by Giovanni Battista Guelphi (1690 — 1736).

Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.

Marble bust of Samuel Clarke, DD, (1675 — 1729) by Giovanni Battista Guelphi (1690 — 1736).

Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.

Marble Bust of Robert Boyle (1627 — 1691) by Giovanni Battista Guelphi (1690 — 1736).

Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015.

Guelphi — An Italian sculptor, he spent a long period in England where he enjoyed the protection of Lord Burlington, the ‘architect earl’ for about 14 years.

Guelphi worked in Rome in the workshop of Camillo Rusconi (1658  -1728), lived in Rome with his brother Carlo from 1714 until 1720 (at the Casa della Monache di Milano from 1716). John Bridges (notes for History of Northamptonshire in the Bodleian Library) met Guelphi at Easton Neston on 18 July 1721 and describes him in his notes as from Bergamo, Lombardy.

info — Giometti — The Sculpture Journal  (see below).

George Vertue’s short account of the sculptor in 1734, which suggests an irritation with the Italian’s imperious manners, provides the best insights into the English phase of his career.

‘Signor Guelphi. Statuary. Sometime wrought under Cavalier Rusconi. Statuary of great reputation at Rome, from thence Lord Burlington encouraged. or brought him to England. he was sometime at Ld Pomfrets Eston Northampt imployed. repairing the Antique Statues. Arundel Collect. Afterwards Guelphi was much employed for many years. by Lord Burlington. in his house in London. & made many statues for his villa at Chiswick. being much continually almost employed bty him for several years. also several busts. he much commended him to the Nobility for an excellent sculptor. procured him many works to that of the Monument of Sec Craggs Westmint Abbey. he left England in 1734. after residing near 20 years. went to Bologna. a man of slow speech much opinionated. and as an Italian thought nobody could be equal to himself. in skill in this Country. yet all his works seem to the judicious very often defective. wanting spirit and grace. its thought that Ld Burlington parted him very willingly’. (my italics).

By the 4th August 1732 these busts had been placed inside the hermitage and suitable inscriptions were being sought as the Gentleman’s Magazine had reported —

‘Her Majesty having built a fine grotto at Richmond and adorned it with bustos Mr Locke, Sr Isaac Newton, Mr Woolaston an Dr Clark: it has been recommended to all the fine genii of two universities, and the schools of Eton and Winchester, and all the learned to compose a proper Latin inscription’.

The London Journal 26 August 1732 reports —

‘ The grotto or hermitage which her Majesty hath made at Richmond or, rather the bustoe’s with which she has adorned that little rural temple, sacred to learning and virtue doth not reflect more honour on the memories of the deeds than glory on herself: for Locke, Newton, Clarke and Woolaston, were the glory of their country: they stampt a dignity on human nature: they were all well skilld in those arts which naturally tend to improve and exalt the mind, mend the heart or reform the life.

27th January 1733 The Weekly Miscellany published

‘With inward grace more polite

The vaulted dome attracts the sight

Where as in disputation stand

For worthies from the sculptors hand

….

The chisel has such justice done

They reason and confute in stone’.

In February 1743 the bust of Boyle was set up in the place of honour, on a pedestal designed by William Kent in front of a golden sun, in the exedra in the Hermitage.

Sylvanus Urban pen name of Edward Cave (1691 — 1754) editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine, April 1733, wrote,

‘The 4 busts so often mentioned stand in niches at each quarter in the walls of the vaulted dome… but the bust of Mr Boyle stands higher than these on a pedestal, in the inmost and as it were the most sacred recess of the place; behind his head a large golden sun, darting his wide spreading beams all about and towards the others, to whom his aspect is directed. To the dome is an iron door by which you enter, on each side of it an apartment to which are iron rails; and each of these compartments is capable of receiving more busts’.

Edward Curll in The Rareties of Richmond: being exact description of the Royal Hermitage  and Merlins Cave…… 2nd edition 1736, describes entering the Hermitage —

‘ The entrance to this pile is adorned with a range of iron palisades finely gilt. A person attends to open the gate to all comers Upon entering you behold elevated on high, a very curious busto of the Honourable, and justly celebrated Robert Boyle Esq; incompassed with rays of gold And on each side of him below are Sir Isaac Newton, Mr Locke, Dr Clarke and Mr Woolaston….’

It was believed for a long time that the busts were by Rysbrack but Balderstone finally puts the argument to rest .

George Virtue had quoted in his manuscripts a statement to that effect by William Arnall who had published it in the Free Briton — it is firmly refuted in the Grub Street Journal Thursday 6th September 1733.

‘ an indigested heap of fly blown tautologies… there are several historical mistakes, and one egregious blunder which overturns his whole panegyric, and entirely destroys the reputation of his judgement in the art of statuary. For, in order to do honour to Mr Rysbrack, he has attributed to him

the bustos in her majesty’s grotto; which unfortunately happen to be the work of another, and as some think a much inferior hand’, (my italics).

So that clears that up!

Jonathan Swift Wrote on the Hermitage —

A place there  is, t’was purchased  cheap

Thanks, Ormond, thy undoing

And there  they  build a mind heap

For all they build is Ruin!

Three holes there  are, thro which you see

Three seats  to set your Arse on

And idols four-, of wizards three

And one unchristian parson

in praise of Clarke (observe  the  joke!  )

writes ev’ry bard and gown

And Locke’s the theme of courtly folk

who loved nor court nor crown

________________________________________________

Stone Bust of Isaac Newton by Guelphi at Scone Castle.

This bust of Isaac Newton was bequeathed to William Murray, Lord Mansfield by Alexander Pope and is currently at Scone Castle.

Guelfi had a real problem with necks

________________________________

Bust of Boyle at the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Bust of Robert Boyle now with the Royal Society of Chemistry

Formerly with the Chelminski Gallery, Kings Rd, London

Sold in 2002 or shortly after

This bust has no provenance, although the gallery believed it to have come originally from Chiswick House, the Palladian villa of Richard Boyle, Third Earl of Burlington, I can find no references to it.

______________________________________________________

The four terracotta busts by Guelfi in the Will of William Kent.

Will 17th October 1743 —

I give and bequeath unto my friends hereafter named as follows….unto Lady Catherine Pelham the head of Edward Vi a busto…. My Lord Lovell (Thomas Coke) Inigo Jones and Palladio busts with wooden Terms …. unto Mr Brian Fairfax the two bustos of Shakespeare and Butler ….. to Lady Isabella Finch four heads bustos  Newton Clarke Lock and Woolaston to Mr Thomas Brian — Milton and Dryden Bustos with wooden terms to Mr Alexander Pope, Raphael head busto and the wooden term and the alabaster vase. To Mr Thomas Ripley the busto of Michael Angelos with wooden term.

Codicil, 10 April 1748 ….

I give and bequeath unto the right honourable Earl of Burlington my two Sienna Marble Vases enriched with vine leaves and grapes … also the model of a sitting girl (by Mr Rusconi (Guelfi’s master)… I also bequeath unto the right honourable the lady Isabella Finch my veined alabaster vas with brass ornaments …. gilt with vine leaves & together with my four models of Newton Locke Wollaston and Dr Clark…. unto his grace the Duke of Devonshire my statuary marble boar….unto his grace the Duke of Grafton the model of his late majesty (George I).

This codicil was written four days before his death.

Kent was at that time building the house at 44 Berkeley Square for Lady Isabella Finch.

As far as I know these 4 busts are still missing.

_____________________________

The notes on this page build on the excellent research of Gordon Balderston, published in Vol 17.1 (2008) in the Sculpture Journal p. 83 — ‘Giovanni Battista Guelfi: five busts for Queen Caroline’s Hermitage in Richmond’.

For more on Guelphi and his early life and his restoration of some of the Arundel Marbles collected by Thomas Howard 2nd Earl of Arundel (1585 — 1646), these marbles had been aquired by Ist Lord Fermor from the Duke of Norfolk in 1691Guelphi was employed by Thomas Fermor, Lord Leominster at Easton Neston by July 1721 see —

Giovanni Battista Guelphi: New Discoveries. The Sculpture Journal Vol.3, 1999.

___________

Samuel Clarke by Jean Dassier. 1733.

Medallion of Samuel Clark

Bronze 43 mm

By Jean Dassier.  1733.

Rev: A student ascending a rocky path to the top of a mountain toward Truth pointing toward the radiated name of Jehovah, in Hebrew — QUO VERITAS VOCAT. (Where Truth Calls)

Notes — Dr. Samuel Clarke (1675-1729) was a theologian, mathematician and philosopher. He was educated at Caius college, Cambridge, where the philosophy of Descartes was the reigning system. Clarke, however, mastered the new system of Isaac Newton, whose views he helped spread. He chose to ground his opinions upon the result of his own researches, and, entering deeply into the study of religion and natural philosophy, to proceed in the path in which, he thought, the Truth called him to walk. In a lecture, published as A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, Clarke attempted to prove the existence of God by a method «as near to mathematical as the nature of such a discourse would allow». In another on A Discourse Concerning the Unchangeable Obligation of Natural Religion, he argued that the principles of morality are as certain as the propositions of mathematics and thus can be known by reason unassisted by faith. These and similar views spurred vehement controversy among his fellow theologians. (Eisler)

Images and notes courtesy the excellent website of Ben Weiss.

http://www.historicalartmedals.com/default.htm

_______________________________________

Samuel Clarke (1675-1729)

Charles Jervas (c. 1675-1739)

c.1729 / 30.

Oil on canvas | 128.2 x 103.0 cm

Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Dr Samuel Clarke is known today as a footnote to Alexander Pope’s line ‘Nor in a hermitage set Dr. Clark’ (‘Epistle to Lord Burlington’, l 78), which criticised Queen Caroline for including Clarke in the company of Newton and others in her Hermitage at Richmond. In fact Clarke was a distinguished theologian, scholar, philosopher and natural scientist, who studied with Newton and corresponded with Leibniz. In his theological works he attempted to defend Anglican doctrine in a rationalist manner, making him an influential enlightenment thinker. Queen Anne made Clarke one of her chaplains in Ordinary and in 1709 he was made rector of St James’s Piccadilly. Queen Caroline’s admiration for him is demonstrated by the Hermitage and by this painting, with its eulogistic inscription written by Benjamin Hoadley (1676-1761), which was hung at Kensington Palace. Clarke is shown with a bust of Newton, below which are arranged four books: Bacon’s ‘Essays’, Boyle’s ‘Lectures’, Newton’s ‘Principia’ and ‘Optica’ (presumably Clarke’s Latin translation of his ‘Opticks’).

  1. A bust of Isaac Newton in the right background.

414518-1379065133 Royal Collection429553-1383913607 Royal CollAN01370343_001_lAN01370345_001_l Faber LockeAN01370363_001_lAN01370372_001_lArch Merlin caveBernard Lens Royal CollIndigo JonesPicture 1Queen Carolines HermitageSir_Isaac_Newton__Mezzotint_by_J__Faber,_junior_after_M__Rys_Wellcome_V0004281SomedesignsMrIn00Jone_0077Untitled

The Birth of Merlin, or, The Child Hath Found his Father is a Jacobean play, probably written in whole or part by William Rowley. It was first performed in 1622 at the Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch.[1] It contains a comic depiction of the birth of the fully grown Merlin to a country girl, and also features figures from Arthurian legend, including Uther Pendragon, Vortigern, and Aurelius Ambrosius.

Authorship

The 1662 first edition, a quarto printed by Thomas Johnson for the booksellers Francis Kirkman and Henry Marsh, attributed the play to William Shakespeare and William Rowley. The Birth of Merlin is thus one of two plays published in the seventeenth century as a Shakespearean collaboration, the other being The Two Noble Kinsmen. Most scholars reject the attribution to Shakespeare and believe that the play is Rowley’s, perhaps with a different collaborator. The play has occasionally been revived in the modern era, for example at Theatr Clwyd.

The Birth of Merlin shares a significant relationship with Cupid’s Revenge, a play in the Beaumont and Fletcher canon. Large-scale resemblances in plotting—the missing prince, the ruler and his heir who fall in love with the same woman—could be explained through derivation from common sources; but these larger-scale elements are supported by specific lines and passages that occur in both plays. Compare, for example, «Wilde-fire and Brimstone eat thee!» in Merlin, III,vi,108, with «wild-fire and brimstone take thee» in Cupid’s Revenge, V,ii, 49. Other common passages occur in Merlin, II,ii,35–9 and 72–81 and III,vi,83–4, and Cupid’s Revenge, I,v,5–11, IV,i,2–7, and V,ii,44–8.[2]The early critics who first discovered these commonalities took them as evidence that Beaumont and Fletcher had a hand in the authorship of The Birth of Merlin.[3] This view, however, has not been accepted by the consensus of scholars and critics, since apart from the cited common passages, there is no evidence of Beaumont’s or Fletcher’s authorship in the play. The common passages appear to be best explained as the type of borrowings sometimes found in works of the era (the borrowings from Thomas North‘s translation of Plutarch‘s Parallel Lives in Shakespeare’sAntony and Cleopatra, for example) that have no bearing on questions of authorship.[4] Though the dates of authorship for both plays are uncertain, it seems likely that Cupid’s Revenge is the earlier work, and that the author or authors of Merlin were influenced by the Beaumont-Fletcher play.

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