Cyril Tourneur



The Works of Cyril Tourneur, ed. Allardyce Nicoll (London, [1929]).


Cyril Tourneur is known to have written a few plays and other works, but his reputation is largely based on The Revenger's Tragedy, a play which, however, is now widely accepted as written by Thomas Middleton. There are no known manuscripts of this or any other play by Tourneur except for some brief early extracts from The Atheist's Tragedy (ToC 7); nor is there any known specimen of Tourneur's handwriting.

Eight early copies have been located of the Character of Salisbury (ToC 2-6). This prose piece was attributed by Logan Pearsall Smith to Sir Henry Wotton because of its presence in the Burley MS (ToC 2), but was assigned to Tourneur by Allardyce Nicoll. Tourneur's authorship is supported by ascription in three of the manuscripts, whereas it is nowhere assigned to Wotton, and only part of the Burley MS is transcribed from Wotton's papers. One other item, a poem overlooked by Nicoll, may be tentatively added to the canon on the evidence of the ascription in a manuscript source (ToC 1).

Some music which has been thought to belong to Tourneur's lost play The Nobleman is preserved in the British Library (Add. MSS 10444, ff. 30v, 82, and 38539, f. 19): see Nicoll, pp. 25, 257-8, and Cutts, Musique de la troupe de Shakespeare, pp. 31-3, 138-9. However, it seems unlikely that this music has any connection with such a play but is rather for dances performed by a ‘nobleman’ in a masque: see Four Hundred Songs and Dances from the Stuart Masque, ed. Andrew J. Sabol (Providence, Rhode Island, 1978), No. 106.

A printed exemplum of the 1929 edition of The Works of Cyril Tourneur edited by Allardyce Nicoll (1894-1976), with his extensive revisions in pencil and ink intended for a new edition which was never completed, was offered in Quaritch's sale catalogue English Literary Manuscripts, Inscribed and Annotated Books (2007), item 61.

Peter Beal