Charles Gildon


Charles Gildon was a prolific literary hack, who turned his hand to a variety of genres, among them literary criticism, biography, poetry, and drama, including adaptations or imitations of plays by Shakespeare, Dryden, Otway and Aphra Behn, thereby earning himself a place in Pope's Dunciad.

Only a single manuscript of any of his works appears to have surfaced (GiC 1), though relating to one of the most interesting of his writings. In probably early 1702, Gildon wrote a tragedy based on Nathaniel Lee's impressive play Lucius Junius Brutus, which had been successfully performed for three nights at the Dorset Garden Theatre in early December 1680. Because of its antimonarchism, however, given its celebration of the revolt against the tyrannical Roman emperor Tarquin and establishment of the Roman Republic, Lee's play had been banned by the Lord Chamberlain. Gildon claimed that in his adaptation he had ‘taken away all Reflections on Monarchy’, but in fact encountered exactly the same official impediment, and was refused a licence by the Master of the Revels. It is presumably this original version of his adaptation, under the title A Restoration Defeated: The Loves of Titus and Teraminta, which has come to light in manuscript, though subject to extensive cuts which suggest the possibility that this was the fair copy submitted to, and marked by, the Master of the Revels. In fact, in a successful bid to appease the censor, Gildon went on to make radical revisions to the play, including transferring the scene from ancient Rome to Renaissance Florence, and it was then, under a new title The Patriot, or The Italian Conspiracy, allowed to be performed at Drury Lane in late November or early December 1702, and to be published (with a 1703 imprint) before the end of 1702.

A single example of Gildon's own handwriting, in a letter to Lord Halifax, can be recorded (GiC 2). Three other letters by him, to Robert Harley, survivie only in copies by Thomas Birch (GiC 3).

Peter Beal