Susannah Centlivre


Susanna Centlivre (née Freeman) was a successful and prolific playwright, as well as actress, at a time when there was a flourishing of female dramatists. No manuscripts of these works are known, except for a later copy of an extract (CeS 2), although various late eighteenth-century prompt-books of three of her plays (A Bold Stroke for a Wife, The Busy Body, and The Wonder), are recorded: see Edward A. Langhans, Eighteenth-Century British and Irish Promptbooks: A Descriptive Bibliography (New York, Westport Conn., & London, 1987), pp. 14-16. These are located respectively in the Folger (Prompt B 29.5); Honnold Library, Claremont, California (PR3339 C6 B8 1782); and (for the third play here) in the Folger (MS Ta 40) and Harvard Theatre Collection (TS 1197.54.5).

Of Mrs Centlivre's other numerous miscellaneous writings, in verse and prose, only a single poem in manuscript has come to light (CeS 1). It is very likely a presentation copy prepared by her for delivery to the Duke of Newcastle, husband of Lady Henrietta Holles, the subject of the poem. Whether the neat hand that drew up the manuscript is hers, however, is impossible to verify without any other known examples of her handwriting.

Peter Beal