RARE SIR WILLIAM DAVENANT: Poet Laureate, Playwright, Civil War General, Restoration Theatre Manager by Mary Edmond

RARE SIR WILLIAM DAVENANT: Poet Laureate, Playwright, Civil War General, Restoration Theatre Manager

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An exercise in literary exhumation, as Edmond, a former writer and editor with the BBC, attempts to rescue from obscurity the reputation of Sir William Davenant. Davenant (1606-1668) calls upon, as his claim to fame, the widely-rumored ""fact"" that--depending upon the source--he was either Shakespeare's illegitimate son or his legitimate godson. Edmond demonstrates that Davenant himself was not averse to spreading the impression that the former was the case, but her research seems to supply grounds for settling on the latter premise. (Authors through the times--including Sir Waiter Scott and Bernard Shaw--have hinted that Shakespeare's ""dark lady of the sonnets"" was actually Davenant's mother, who ran an inn frequented by Shakespeare.) Whether blood ran thick or not, the young man managed to succeed Ben Jonson as England's poet laureate, and, when later he was imprisoned for political reasons, was released via the intercession of none other than John Milton. Despite these connections, his historical reputation has always been as somewhat of a court hanger-on, in essence an innovative though dull and prolix writer. Edmond doesn't agree, and attempts, as well as a detailed biography, a critical reassessment of his work. Unfortunately, Edmond can be as prolix as her subject's reputation, and consequently a reading of this biography is somewhat akin to reading 200 pages of Who's Who in one sitting. One is soon lost in a wash of names, dates, and places that cries out for the relief of interpretation. Unlikely to resurrect its subject in any but the most obscurely literary minds.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1987
Publisher: St. Martin's