Smith, Wentworth (DNB00)

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SMITH, WENTWORTH (fl. 1601–1623), dramatist, wrote many plays for the Admiral's company of actors at the Rose Theatre, in partnership with other authors employed by Philip Henslowe [q. v.], the theatrical manager. From the latter's ‘Diary’ it appears that he was associated between 1601 and 1603 in the composition of the following thirteen pieces, none of which seem to have been published, and none are now extant. Their titles are:

  1. ‘The Conquest of the West Indies’ (with Day and Haughton), 1601.
  2. ‘The Rising of Cardinal Wolsey’ (with Chettle, Drayton, and Munday), 1601.
  3. ‘Six Clothiers’ (with Hathway and Haughton), 1601.
  4. ‘Too Good to be True, or the Northern Man’ (with Chettle and Hathway), 1601.
  5. ‘Love parts Friendship’ (with Chettle), 1602.
  6. ‘As merry as may be’ (with Day and Hathway), 1602, written for the court and for the earl of Worcester's men at the Rose.
  7. ‘Albert Galles’ (with Heywood), 1602; possibly the title should be ‘Archigallus.
  8. ‘Marshal Osric’ (completed by Heywood, and doubtfully assumed by Fleay to be identical in its revised form with Heywood's ‘Royal King and Loyal Subject,’ London, 1637, 4to), 1602.
  9. ‘The ii (iii) Brothers,’ 1602.
  10. ‘Lady Jane’ (with Chettle, Dekker, Heywood, and Webster), 1602.
  11. ‘The Black Dog of Newgate’ (with Day, Hathway, and ‘the other poet,’ probably Haughton), 1602–3.
  12. ‘The Unfortunate General, a French History’ (with Day, Hathway, and ‘the other poet’), 1603. 13. ‘An Italian Tragedy,’ 1603.

To Wentworth may be ascribed the extant play, by ‘W. Smith,’ called ‘The Hector of Germanie, or the Palsgrave, Prime Elector. A New Play, an Honourable Hystorie. As it hath beene publikely Acted at the Red Bull and at the Curtaine, by a Companie of Young men of this Citie. Made by W. Smith, with new Additions. London, printed by Thomas Creede for Josias Harrison, and are to be solde in Pater-Noster Row, at the Signe of the Golden Anker,’ 1615, 4to. Written in 1613, it was dedicated to ‘the Right Worshipfull the great Favorer of the Muses, Syr John Swinnerton, Knight, sometimes Lord Mayor of this honourable Cittie of London.’ Baker is mistaken in asserting that this was the last play acted at the Curtain. From the dedication we learn that the author also wrote ‘The Freeman's Honour,’ another piece not known to be extant, which he says was ‘acted by the Servants of the King's Majesty to dignify the worthy company of Merchant Taylors’ (Fleay, Biogr. Chron.; Nichols, Progresses of James I, ii. 732). An endeavour has been made to place both these plays to the credit of another dramatist named William Smith, for whose existence no satisfactory proof is forthcoming. Warburton asserts that one of the pieces destroyed by his cook was ‘St. George for England by William Smith,’ and that the same writer was also the author of ‘Hector of Germanie,’ of ‘The Freeman's Honour,’ and of ‘The Fair Foul One, or the Baiting of the Jealous Knight,’ which was licensed by Herbert in 1623 for performance at the Red Bull Inn. But Warburton seems to have expanded on his own authority the initial ‘W.’ in ‘W. Smith’ on the title-page of ‘St. George’ into William instead of Wentworth. The only writers of the time named William Smith of whom we have contemporary evidence were the sonnetteer and the herald, neither of whom is there the smallest reason for crediting with the authorship of plays [see Smith, William, (fl. 1596); Smith, William, (1550?–1618)]. All the plays assigned in the early seventeenth century to ‘W. Smith’ were in all probability from the pen of Wentworth Smith.

To Wentworth Smith have been unwarrantably ascribed the three plays—‘Locrine,’ ‘The Puritan,’ and ‘Cromwell’—which were published in Shakespeare's lifetime under the initials of ‘W. S.’ These pieces, together with ‘Oldcastle,’ ‘London Prodigal,’ and ‘Yorkshire Tragedy’ (which were fraudulently issued as by ‘W. Shakespeare’), were included as Shakespeare's work in the folio of 1664. There is no clue to the authorship of any of these six plays, and the initials ‘W. S.,’ like Shakespeare's full name, were placed on the title-pages by the publishers merely to give purchasers the false impression that Shakespeare was their author.

[Henslowe's Diary, pp. 185, 204, 206, 207, &c.; Warner's Dulwich MSS. pp. 21, 24, 157; Fleay's Chronicle of the English Drama, i. 160, 300, ii. 249–51; Langbaine's Lives of the English Dramatic Poets, ed. 1712, p. 134; Baker's Biographia Dramatica, i. 676, 677, ii. 11, 250, 287, 238, 333; Halliwell's Dictionary of Old English Plays, passim.]

E. I. C.