"ONE OF THE OUTSTANDING DRAMATISTS OF THE RESTORATION": DRYDEN'S PLAY AMPHITRYON, OR THE TWO SOFIAS, 1691 FIRST EDITION—THE HOE COPY
DRYDEN, John. Amphitryon; or, the Two Sofia's. A Comedy As It Is Acted at the Theatre Royal. London: J. Tonson… and M. Tonson, 1691. Slim quarto, early 20th-century full navy morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled endpapers; pp. [viii], 1-, ; [ii], 1-13. $5500.
First edition, second issue (as usual) of this "still amusing" comedy by poet laureate John Dryden, with 13 pages of sheet music composed by Henry Purcell for the play at the rear—the Hoe copy, handsomely bound.
Poet, satirist and critic, John Dryden also stands as "one of the outstanding dramatists of the Restoration." Above all "Dryden was, fundamentally, a dramatist, a writer who loved dialogue and impersonation, and delighted in giving voice to conflicting ideas… Dryden's work exemplifies Eliot's argument that tradition—specifically, the literary heritage—is not static or constrictive; rather it is a dynamic resource" (Hammond, John Dryden, 8-13). "After the flight of James II from England in December 1688, and the accession of William and Mary in the following month, Dryden found himself in difficulty, and even in danger. As a Catholic convert he risked, at worst, prosecution for treason; at best, double taxation and restrictions on his movement. Unable to take the oath of allegiance to the new sovereigns, he lost his offices as poet laureate and historiographer royal… the loss of this support brought severe financial problems for Dryden. His solution was to return to the theatre, for which he had last written in 1682. His first new play was the tragedy Don Sebastian (staged 4 December 1689, printed 1690), a powerful drama… Less controversial was his second play under the new order, the comedy Amphitryon (staged and printed October 1690)" (ODNB).
Amphitryon is "based upon Plautus' and Moliere's homonymous play but, though still amusing, it is now more often recalled because of [composer Henry] Purcell's connection with it" (Pforzheimer). Dryden and Purcell "had a strong mutual regard: Purcell supplied music for revivals of several plays by Dryden… and Dryden drafted a preface for Purcell when his music for The Prophetess was printed in 1691. When Purcell died in 1695 Dryden published an eloquent memorial ode" (ODNB). "After 1690 the public theatre assumed the place previously occupied by Whitehall at the center of Purcell's creative life. Between 1690 and 1695 he contributed music to over 40 theatrical works produced by the United Company, until 1695 the only company licensed to perform plays in London. Often the music consisted of a single song or a suite of incidental instrumental movements, but some plays… involved long and elaborate passages of music as part of the action" (ODNB). Second issue
, as usual; in the very scarce first issue, the title page is dated 1690, "Sofia's" in the third line is spelled "Socia's," and the speaker of the Prologue is given as "Mr." instead of "Mrs. Bracegirdle." "These alterations were evidently made while sheet A was in the press. Comparatively few copies of the earlier issue are known. This edition was probably issued separately but it was intended also for inclusion in the three-volume quarto edition of Dryden's works advertised on leaf [I2]" (Pforzheimer). With 13 pages of sheet music, with separate title page dated 1690, at rear, as issued. Macdonald 90a, ii. Pforzheimer 315. Morocco-gilt bookplate of renowned bibliophile Robert Hoe, a co-founder and the first president of the prestigious Grolier Club. Mr. Hoe was "one of the best-known and most ardent of book collectors, and owner, during his lifetime, of one the most famous private library in this country… in his passing [in 1909] America lost one of her greatest bibliophiles" (Transactions of the Grolier Club
IV:12). Early dealer description laid in.
A few leaves shaved a little close. A fine copy, with distinguished provenance.