John Lyly



The Complete Works of John Lyly, ed. R. Warwick Bond, 3 vols (Oxford, 1902; reprinted 1967)


Albert Feuillerat, John Lyly (Cambridge, 1910)


Letters and Documents

There are eight notable autograph manuscripts by Lyly, all of them letters (*LyJ 5-13). Two other letters by him which do not survive in the originals, both petitions to Queen Elizabeth, possibly written in 1598 and 1601, enjoyed, posthumously, the most extensive circulation in manuscript of any Elizabethan-Jacobean dramatist (LyJ 14-59). Forty-six copies of the two letters in post-1620 manuscript miscellanies, anthologies of state correspondence, and letter-manuals, can currently be recorded.

Two other original documents bearing Lyly's signature were discovered by William Urry at Canterbury Cathedral (*LyJ 61, *LyJ 64), among other documents relating, in part, to the public house The Splayed Eagle, and including two title deeds signed in 1581 by the author's mother, Jane Lyly (LyJ 62, LyJ 63). For other documents relating to Lyly, see Eccles, pp. 86-8.

The Verse and Dramatic Works Canon

There are very few extant literary manuscripts relating to Lyly. Bond prints (III, 434-502) a large number of poems which he tentatively attributes to Lyly on stylistic grounds, many of them preserved in manuscript sources. Since a number of his attributions (e.g. poems by Sidney) are plainly erroneous, however, and since they are all in any case purely conjectural, these poems are not included in the entries below.

Bond's attribution to Lyly of various entertainments should also be viewed with scepticism. The Entertainment at Elvetham (Bond, I, 431-52) is the work of various writers: see Harry H. Boyle, ‘Elizabeth's Entertainment at Elvetham: War Policy in Pageantry’, Studies in Philology, 68 (1971), 146-66; John P. Cutts, ‘An Entertainment for Queen Elizabeth, 1591’, Studies in Medieval Culture, 4 (1974), 554-60; and Nicholas Breton, BrN 61-76. For the authorship of the Gardner's and Molecatcher's speeches on the Queen's visit to Theobald's in May 1591 (British Library, Egerton MS 2623, ff. 15-19; edited in Bond I, 417-19), see W.W. Greg, ‘A Collier Mystification’, Review of English Studies, I (1925), 452-4. For the Sonet At the Tilt Yard, Nov. 17, 1590 (Bond, I, 411-12), see George Peele, PlG 10-21. The Lord of Combrlande's Speeche to ye Queene, upon ye 17 day of November, 1600 (Bond, I, 415-16) has also been ascribed to Davies, but remains anonymous.

What Bond entitles Speeches to Queen Elizabeth at Quarrendon: August, 1592 (I, 453-70) and conjecturally assigns to Lyly on stylistic grounds (I, 526-7) is a collection of speeches probably belonging to devices presented by Sir Henry Lee but not necessarily on one occasion, or in August 1592, or at Quarrendon: see Chambers, III, 404-7. These speeches were printed in William Harper, Masques: Performed before Queen Elizabeth (Chiswick, 1820), from manuscript copies in a historical collection made by Henry Ferrers of Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire. For the fate of Ferrers's manuscripts, see Elizabeth K. Berry, ‘Henry Ferrers an early Warwickshire antiquary 1550-1633’, Dugdale Society Occasional Papers, No. 16 (Oxford, 1965). These ‘masques’ were probably among the eight volumes of Ferrers's papers that were destroyed in a fire at Birmingham Reference Library in 1879. The same speeches occur, together with other related speeches not known to Bond, in a collection of entertainments connected with Sir Henry Lee and formerly preserved at Lee's home, Ditchley Hall, Oxfordshire; it is now in the British Library (Add. MS 41499A, ff. 2, 12-16). Two of the speeches appear in a collection in the Inner Temple Library (Petyt MS 538, Vol. 43, ff. 298-300v) ascribed to Dr [Richard] Edes (1555-1604), the Queen's chaplain. One of the speeches in this text is collated in The Phoenix Nest 1593, ed. Hyder Edward Rollins (Cambridge, Mass., 1931), p. 137 et seq. The lost Ferrers collection contained three other short pieces which Bond printed (I, 412-14) from Harper's 1820 volume and attributed to Lyly: A Cartell for a Challeng, Sir Henry Lee's Challenge before the Shampanie, and The Supplication of the Owld Knight. These pieces too occur in the Lee collection (Add. MS 41499A, ff. 1-2), and there is more reason to associate them with Lee than with Lyly: see Chambers, III, 404-5.

In addition to extracts from plays printed as Lyly's in the seventeenth century, the entries below include two further entertainments. One (LyJ 2) is clearly ascribed to him in the manuscript source; the other (LyJ 3) is anonymous but has been attributed to Lyly by Leslie Hotson.

Peter Beal