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Gammer Gurton's Needle by Mr. S. Mr. of Art



The Museum Dramatists

No. 1

The Museum Dramatists


_Edited, with an Introduction, Note-Book, and Word-List._



"Gammer Gurton's Needle _was the first to gather the threads of farce ... interlude, and ... school play into a well-sustained comedy of rustic life_ [_with_] _the rollicking humour of the ... Bedlem; the pithy and saline interchange of feminine amenities; the ... Chaucerian, laughter,--not sensual but animal; the delight in physical incongruity; the mediaeval fondness for the grotesque. If the situations are farcical, they ... hold together; each scene tends towards the climax of the act, and each act towards the denouement. The characters are both typical and individual; and ... the execution is an advance because it smacks less of the academic. Gammer Gurton carries forward the comedy of mirth._"--C. Mills Gayley, Litt.D., LL.D., Professor of the English Language and Literature in the University of California.


The Museum Dramatists.



[_c._ 1562]

Published by GIBBINGS & CO. for the EARLY ENGLISH DRAMA SOCIETY 18. Bury St. (Near British Museum), London, W.C.




In 1782 Isaac Reed attributed _Gammer Gurton's Needle_ to a Dr. John Still, who, in 1563, was raised to the see of Bath and Wells. His reasons for doing this are, on examination, found to be somewhat inconclusive. It seems that he discovered in the accounts of Christ's College an entry referring to a play acted at Christmas, 1567 (not 1566, as he states), and, as this is the latest entry of the kind occurring before 1575--the date of publication--he inferred that it related to the representation of _Gammer Gurton's Needle_, which in Colwell's title-page (see facsimile on page 1) was stated to have taken place "not longe ago." The only Master of Arts of the college then living whose surname began with S, that he was able to find, was John Still, whom he therefore confidently identified with the "Mr. S." who is said to have written _Gammer Gurton's Needle_.

Curiously enough, another Church dignitary has shared with Dr. Still the attributed authorship of, as Dr. Bradley expresses it, "this very unclerical play"--namely, Dr. John Bridges, Dean of Salisbury and Bishop of Oxford. In narrating the personal history of these two churchmen, let us take them in order.

John Still was the only son of William Still, Esq., of Grantham, in Lincolnshire, and was born in or about 1543. In 1559 he matriculated as a pensioner in Christ's College, Cambridge, and his record, according to _The National Dictionary of Biography_, supplemented by W. C. Hazlitt in _Dodsley's Old Plays_, appears to have been as follows:--B.A. in 1561-2; M.A. in 1565; D.D., 1575; Fellow, 1562; presented to the rectory of St. Martin Outwich, London, in 1570; collated by Archbishop Parker to the rectory of Hadleigh, in Suffolk, 1571; and appointed, with Dr. Watts, by the primate to whom he was chaplain, Joint-Dean of Bocking, 1572. From the deanery of Bocking he rose to the canonry at Westminster, the mastership of St. John's College, Cambridge, the vice-chancellorship of the university on two occasions, the mastership of Trinity College, Cambridge, and finally, the bishopric of Bath and Wells, to which last dignity he was named 1592-3. He died at the episcopal palace at Wells, 1607-8, and was buried, on the 4th April following, in the cathedral, where a handsome monument was erected to his memory. He was twice married, and left behind him several children.

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