Fair Maid of London, The

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Historical Records

The play was licensed for performance by Edmund Tilney on 24 May 1598 (the license, however, is known only through a record by Henry Herbert in 1662) (Bawcutt, ed. R29 and R33).

Dramatic Records of Sir Henry Herbert

Revels Documents, 1660-1673 (Bawcutt 249, item R29):

A declaration under William Earle of Pembrokes Hande of the Antient powers of the Office dated the 20th of Nouemb. 1622.
Seuerall Plays allowed by Mr Tilney In 1598. which is .62. years since. Sir William Longsword allowed to be Acted the. 24. May. 1598 The Faire Mayd of London And Richard Cordelyon. Kinge and noe Kinge to be Acted In 1611 & ye same to be printed,
Allowed by Sir George Bucke
And Hogg Hath Loste His Pearle by Sir George Buck.
Richard Hall


A variation of this note was subsequently reproduced in the "Breviat of Sir Henry and Simon Thelwall v. Thomas Betterton" (Bawcutt 255, item R33):

A Declaration under William Earle of Pembrokes hand of the Ancient Powers of the Office Dated Nouember 20. 1622.
Seuerall Plays allowed by Mr Tilney In 1598. As Sr William Longsword Allowed to bee Acted in 1598. The Fair Maid of London Richard Cor de Lyon. See the Bookes
Allowed by Sir George Buck King and Noe Kinge to bee Acted in 1611. and the same to bee Printed Hogg hath lost his Pearle and hundreds more
Richard Hall

Joseph Quincy Adams includes transcriptions of both, with minor differences, in the "Miscellaneous Papers" section of his edition of Herbert's records (Adams, 105; Adams, 112).


Theatrical Provenance

Wiggins thinks the play’s non-appearance in Henslowe’s records ‘allows the tentative hypothesis’ that it was not an Admiral’s play, and suggests that ‘[s]ince it was a play of local London interest, and since there was no other company performing in London in 1598, it follows that it most probably belonged to the Lord Chamberlain’s Men’. The Admiral’s and the Chamberlain’s were not the only companies in London, however. It is curious, too, that the licensing record allows three plays, the other two of which did belong to the Admiral’s: ‘Sir William Longsword’ and ‘Richard Cordelyon’ (i.e. ‘The Funeral of Richard Coeur de Lion’)

Probable Genre(s)

Romance? (Harbage), Comedy?, History?

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

It is difficult to be precise about which "fair maid" the title might refer to: she must be unmarried and in (or from) London, but these parameters aren't exactly helpful for narrowing down the options.

Wiggins (#1154) contemplates various possibilities, including the "fair Valeria of London" of John Dickenson's Greene in Conceit (1598), but she is an adulterous wife rather than a chaste heroine; the "fair maid" of the ballad, The Princely Wooing of the Fair Maid of London by King Edward (registered in 1600), which implicitly indicates that "the ballad's fair maid may not have represented Jane Shore, wooed by Edward IV", nor any other historical precedent of fair maids associated with Edward I, or Edward III (i.e. Alice Perrers, whose story had previously been dramatised by the Admiral's men).

References to the Play

(Further information welcome.)

Critical Commentary

(Further information welcome.)

For What It's Worth

Works Cited

Bawcutt, N. W., ed. The Control and Censorship of Caroline Drama: The Records of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, 1623-73 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).


Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 21 June 2018.