Kirkman, Francis (DNB00)

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KIRKMAN, FRANCIS (fl. 1674), bookseller and author, born in 1632, was apparently eldest son of Francis Kirkman (d. 1662), citizen and blacksmith, of London, by his wife Ellen (will of F. Kirkman registered in P.C.C. 67, Laud). By dint of private study he acquired some knowledge of French and Spanish, which he was afterwards able to turn to good account. From boyhood he was a collector of plays and romances. His father left him considerable property, which he appears to have squandered. In 1661 he established himself as a bookseller at the sign of 'John Fletcher's Head,' near St. Clement Danes Church, Strand, but removed before 1671 to Thames Street, in 1672 to St. Paul's Churchyard, and in 1673 to Fenchurch Street. With the bookselling business he combined that of a circulating library, his speciality being plays, poetry, and romances.

As early as 1657, Kirkman issued and edition of 'Marlowe's tragedy of 'Lusts Dominion' (12mo). In 1661 he printed a useful 'Catalogue of all the English Stage-Playes' then printed—690 in all. Ten years later he appended to John Dancer's translation of Corneille's 'Nicomède' (4to, 1671) a revised edition of this 'Catalogue,' brought down to date, and consisting of 806 plays. In an interesting 'Advertisement' he informs his readers that he had not only seen but had read all these plays, and possessed most of them, which he was ready either to sell or lend 'upon reasonable considerations.' He also states that he knew many curious particulars of the lives of the old dramatists from his having 'taken pleasure to converse with those who were acquainted with them.'

He also proposed to publish from time to time plays hitherto unprinted, the manuscripts of which he possessed; but he only issued Webster and Rowley's comedies of 'A Cure for a Cuckold' (1661) and 'The Thracian Wonder' (1661). During the same year he published in black letter Bishop Still's comedy of 'Gammer Gurton's Needle.' Under the title of 'The Wits, or Sport upon Sport,' he issued a collection of drolls and farces (2 pts. 12 mo, London, 1673, pp. 72), which had been performed at fairs and taverns during the puritan ascendency by Robert Cox the comedian, and prefixed to it an introduction full of delightful gossip.

Kirkman is thought to be the author of 'The Presbyterian Lash; or, Noctroff's Maid Whipt, a tragy-comedy,' 4to, London, 1661, from the fact of the dedication to 'Master Zach. Noctroffe' bearing the initials 'K. F.' It is a personal and somewhat indecent satire on Zachary Crofton [q. v.], a presbyterian minister then living, who was accused of whipping his maid-servant (Kennett, Reg. p. 797). In 1666, Kirkman reissued the 'English Rogue,' by Richard Head [q. v.], who wood wrongly describes as his partner. He himself wrote a second part, which appeared in 1671. During the same year third and fourth parts were issued, with intimation of a fifth part. Kirkman asserted that in the third and fourth parts Head and himself had collaborated, and the preface to the fourth part is signed by both. Head, however, disclaimed responsibility for any part except the first.

Kirkman wrote also: 1. 'The Famous and Delectable History of Don Bellianis of Greece, or the Honour of Chivalry,' 3pts, 4to, London, 1673-71-72, which is founded on the Spanish romance by T. Fernandez. In the preface he gives an account of most of the romances which had then been published in English. 2. 'The Unlucky Citizen: Experimentally Described in the various Misfortunes of an Unlucky Londoner... intermixed with Pictures,' 8vo, London, 1673, to which is prefixed his portrait.

From the French he translated: 1. 'The famous and renowned History of Amedis de Gaule... being the sixt part never before published,' 4to, London, 1752. 2. 'The History of Prince Erastus, son to the Emperor Dioclesian, and those famous Philosophers called the Seven Wise Masters of Rome... with... Pictures,' 8vo, London, 1674.

[Kirkman's Prefaces and Advertisements; Baker's Biog. Dram. (1812), i. 154, 418-19, iii. 178; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England (2nd ed.), iv. 58 n.; Evan's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, i. 198.]

G. G.