Ingrediuntur, Dr Sampsonus...
NB: This lost play is untitled, and seemingly unmentioned in existing catalogues. The title here is derived from the opening words of its summary, as quoted by Bruce, and is offered here merely for temporary convenience.
Character List and Fragmentary Scenario
A list of characters and an incomplete plot scenario in Latin survives among the State Papers at the National Archives, Kew (SP, 14/75, fols. 120r–21r).
St. John's College, Oxford, in 1613 (Bruce) or 1620 (Wiggins).
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
In the fourteenth century, scholars from Oxford had indeed attempted to set up a rival university at the town of Stamford in Lincolnshire. This play appears to be a satirical comedy taking inspiration from those events, but more research would help to establish its exact relationship with possible sources.
References to the Play
None known. Information welcome.
Bruce briefly described the plot among "Unpublished humorous and satirical papers of Archbishop Laud" located somewhere in the State Papers. He dates the collection of papers to 1613 (without giving a firm reason) and transcribes some of them. Most of them are to do with the idea of Gotham College, a mock-college of folly which functions partly as a satirical representation of St. John's College, Oxford, of which, in 1613, Laud was president. Bruce transcribes a mock-set of statutes for the college, and goes on:
- There are many other similar random jottings which I must leave, at any event for the present, and among them that which some people may esteem the most curious thing of the whole, — the outline of perhaps an intended Latin play upon the same subject. It is divided into what would have been acts or scenes, and the first of them runs thus: —
- Ingrediuntur, Dr. Sampsonus, Dr. Danielus, Albeeus Equinus, colloquentes de Oxoniia relinquenda et Stanfordiae erigendo collegio suis ingeniis magis digno. Causas hujus secessionis enarrant, praepropere faciendum. Dr. Dan. et Albeeus statuunt statim Stanfordium iter facere, et ibi situm commodissimum designare. Interea Equinus recipit se apud Vilpolum rhetorem insignem acturum ut literas suasorias ad Dominum Lectum det, quae istos ad hoc collegium junctis sumptibus aedificandum efficaciter hortantur. Exeunt."
- (Bruce, 5)
In a rough translation:
- Enter Dr Sampson, Dr Daniel, Albeeus [and] Equinus, speaking of leaving Oxford and erecting a college more fit for their genius at Stamford. They relate the reasons behind this secession, and what needs to be done to take it forward. Dr Daniel and Albeeus decide to set off for Stamford at once, and there to choose the most suitable site they can. Meanwhile Equinus takes himself to Vilpolus, a famous rhetorician, who is to give his persuasive words to Master Lectus, which exhort him effectively to combine resources to build this college. They exit.
Bruce does not transcribe the rest of the Latin plot summary.
Wiggins ("Where to Find Lost Plays," 259) announced in 2014 that the document described by Bruce had been located: "other lost plays have been found in more public collections, including [...] a scenario for an academic satire on the foundation of Gotham College, SP 14/75/120-21, found by me in 2014 in collaboration with Matthew Steggle." In British Drama (#1966) provides a more thorough description of the characters and projected narrative of the incomplete plot scenario. Unlike Bruce, he does not believe that the hand is Laud's nor does he believe that the documents' placement at the end of the state papers for 1613 is an accurate indication of their date of composition. Rather, based on the scenario's allusions to George Ruggle's Ignoramus, the death of Thomas Coryate, and the wearing of caps, Wiggins conjectures a date of 1620.
For What It's Worth
This looks like a satirical comedy. Dr Sampson and Dr Daniel appear as figures of fun elsewhere in the papers described by Bruce. Questions which should be answerable include:
- Is there any indication that it was ever performed, or that it ever even went beyond a plot summary?
- Are the named academics historically identifiable?
Fairly obviously, though, research on the play would start by finding, and transcribing, the full plot summary of which Bruce gives an extract.
Martin Wiggins points out (pers.comm) a problem with Bruce's dating, in that the preceding papers appear to allude to Ruggles's Latin comedy Ignoramus (1615).
--UPDATE, FEBRUARY 2014:--
The manuscript mentioned by Bruce has now been relocated.
--UPDATE, JUNE 2018:--
Wiggins offers a possible alternative title for the play as "Octavus sapiente (?)," noting "it is unclear whether it is meant to be a title for the play or one of the subsidiary titles borne by the Gothan College Principal. It evidently plays on the seven sages of Rome (the eighth sage being presumably no sage at all), but it may refer to the institution rather than any individual member of it," offering corroborating evidence from elsewhere in the documents. However, pace Wiggins, the manuscript itself appears to read "Octavus sapientum," which would make it an allusion to Horace's description of Stertinius as "sapientum octavus" (Satires 2.3.296), or "the eighth of the wise men" (sapientum being a metrical elision of sapientium). The full sentence in the manuscript—which reads: "this title /Ocatuus sapientum/ annexed to the headship"—appears adjacent to the character name "D:r Pannus," appearently the principal of Gotham College, thereby encouraging an understanding of "headship" as "The position or office of head of an educational institution" (OED, 2).
John Bruce, "Unpublished humorous and satirical papers of Archbishop Laud". Notes and Queries 3rd series, 5 (1864): 1-5.
Site created and maintained by Matthew Steggle, Sheffield Hallam University; updated 4 November 2013.