Lovesick Maid, or Honor of Young Ladies

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Richard Brome (1629)

Historical Records

Herbert, Office-Book

Very soon, indeed, after the ill success of Jonson’s piece [The New Inn], the King’s Company brought out at the same theatre a new play called The Love-Sick Maid, or the Honour of Young Ladies, which was licensed by Sir Henry Herbert on the 9th of February, 1628-9, and acted with extraordinary applause. This play, which was written by Jonson’s own servant, Richard Brome, was so popular that the managers of the King’s Company, on the 10th of March, presented the Master of the Revels with the sum of two pounds, "on the good success of The Honour of Ladies": the only instance I have met with of such a compliment being paid him.

(George Chalmers, cited from Bawcutt, 167).

Revels accounts

1629, 6 May,: "Hemings. A Warrt for paymt of Ten pound[es] vnto Iohn Heminges for a Play called ye Loue sick maid Acted before his Maty on Easter Munday."

(Cited from Bentley, 3.78).

King's Men repertory list (1641)

1641, 7 August. "The Louesick maid" appears in a list of plays over which the King's Men claim ownership.

The full list is transcribed here.

Stationers' Register

Stationers' Register, September 9 1653, entered to Moseley, forty-one plays of which the second and third are:

Witt in Madnesse [brace]
The Louesick Maid, or the honour of Young Ladies. by [brace] Rich: Brome.

(Cited from Bentley, 3.78).

Theatrical Provenance

King's Men

Probable Genre(s)

comedy; "love-and-honour concoction" (Bentley).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The love-sick-maid: or, Cordelia's lamentation for the absence of her Gerheard, to a pleasant new tune (London: R[obert]. I[bbitson], 1652). See "For what it's worth".

References to the Play

Ben Jonson

No doubt a mouldy Tale,
Like Pericles, and stale
As the Shrieve's crusts, and nasty as his fish,
Scraps out of every Dish,
Throwne forth and rak't into the common Tub,
May keepe up the Play Club:
Brooms sweepings doe as well
There, as his Masters meale:
For who the relish of these guests will fit,
Needs set them but the Almes-basket of wit.


Let him who daily steales
From thy most precious meales
(Since thy strange plenty finds no losse by it)
Feed himselfe with the fragments of thy wit.

- Both quoted from Q. Horatius Flaccus: His Art of Poetry Englished, 136-9.

Thomas Randolph

And let those things in plush,
Till they be taught to blush,
Like what they will, and more contented bee
With what Broome swept from thee.

Ralph Brideoak

The fine Plush and Velvets of the age
Did oft for sixepence damne thee from the Stage,
And with their Mast and Achorn-stomacks, ran
To th'nastie sweepings of thy Servingman.

- Both quoted from Ben Jonson, Ben Jonson ed. Herford and Simpson, 11.334, 467.

Unknown writer

Since prophane dark is dipt in blacke devine
Of all now live by lynes, the price is thine
No play nor maske of thine was êre so payd
For, as his ballat of the blushing mayd
He since hath turned his riming to text hand
Yett cannot he the coaches so command
But thy conceipts from his the gallants gaine
And Blackfriers braves it above Chancrie Lane
So that if Laurell wreathes divided bee
To all you patriarks of poetrie
(As Josephs victualls) thy learned head would winn
A fivefold portion, honest Benjamin.

- Cited from Riddell, "Jonson and 'The Blushing Maid'", 39-43.

Alexander Brome, dedicatory poem to Richard Brome

I love thee for thy neat and harmlesse wit,
Thy Mirth that does so cleane and closely hit.
Thy luck to please so well: who could go faster?
At first to be the Envy of thy Master.

- Cited from prefatory material of Brome, A Joviall Crew (1652).

Critical Commentary

The story of the success of Richard Brome's The Love-Sick Maid, coinciding with the failure of The New Inn, is recorded by Chalmers and corroborated to an extent by the various tantalizing later references. It is, though, generally considered from the perspective of the ageing Jonson. It is generally agreed that Jonson's poem reflects on The Love-Sick Maid: as do the replies to Jonson's poem by I.C. and Randolph, and Brideoak's later reference to the affair. In 1999, James A. Riddell printed an early manuscript poem addressing Jonson, which he had discovered inside a Jonson folio, and this too, he argues, refers to The Love-Sick Maid, identifying Brome as the unnamed rival of Jonson who features in the poem.

As for the content of the lost play: "The title suggests one of the love-and-honour concoctions which Davenant, Ford, and Massinger were supplying for the Blackfriars audience in the late twenties and early thirties" (Bentley, 3.78). Steggle (16-19) endorses Riddell's conclusions about the "Blushing Maid" poem, pointing out that it implies a clientele for the play rather more sophisticated than that we usually think of in connection with Brome; and supplies what evidence there is about Brome's career at this point, noting Alexander Brome's allusion to the play as seemingly one of Brome's first.

Julie Sanders observes that "Brome was clearly fascinated by both the cultural manifestations of melancholia as a state of mind and behaviour, and its theatrical possibilities and potential." Sanders offers a penetrating analysis of how love-sickness features in Brome's next play, The Northern Lass. The Love-Sick Maid, evidently, also explored such territory, and - as Sanders observes - so did The New Inn the play to which The Love-Sick Maid was a rival. Love-melancholy, treated this time in a more satirical vein, is also a central motif of Brome's later play The Love-Sick Court.

For What It's Worth

For a discussion of the lost Brome play Wit in a Madness, registered alongside The Lovesick Maid, see here.

As noted above, there is an extant ballad entitled The Love-Sick-Maid. No-one, as far as I know, has yet properly explored the possibility that the ballad relates to the play The Lovesick Maid. This broadside ballad consists of two speeches in verse. In the first of them, Cordelia is dying of fever. She complains that her absent lover, who long courted her unsuccessfully, is the only person she wishes to see now. Doctors cannot help, but she could still be revived by one glimpse of him: and when she thinks of the afterlife, she thinks only of him. In her last lines, she complains that she feels another, and perhaps fatal, attack of fever coming on. In the second poem, Gerhard has arrived, but too late: Cordelia is already dead. He sits beside her body, and welcomes the first signs of fever in himself, hoping that it will bring relief from the burning pain of love. He says that he will die, and go to find Cordelia in the afterlife to apologize for his long absence.

The ballad exists in several print forms from 1652 onwards; in "nine verse anthologies and three music manuscripts dating from the second half of the 17th century"; and in a parody set to a "playhouse tune" (Hulse, 18). Some of these appearances put the ballad close to people and works associated with Brome. For instance, Thomas Jordan, who acted in Brome's plays and for whose own works Brome wrote commendatory verse, possessed a copy. One of the musical settings of the lyric occurs in Drexel 4257, a manuscript which also contains musical settings of lyrics which belong to Brome plays. (For both of these, see Hulse). Is it possible that the story of the strangely named Cordelia and Gerhead, whose tragic conclusion is celebrated in the Love-Sick-Maid ballad, belonged originally in some form to Brome's Love-Sick Maid play? Whatever its relationship, if any, to Brome's lost play, the Love-Sick-Maid ballad remains an intriguing set of print and manuscript texts, in need of further exploration.

See the English Broadside Ballads Archive for a transcription of one of the early print versions of the ballad.

Works Cited

Brome, Richard. A Joviall Crew. London: J. Y., 1652.
Hulse, Lynn. "'Musick & Poetry, Mixed': Thomas Jordan's Manuscript Collection", Early Music 24 (1996) 7-24.
Jonson, Ben. Q. Horatius Flaccus: His Art of Poetry Englished by Ben: Jonson. With other Workes of the Author. London: J. Okes, 1640.
Jonson, Ben. Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Herford, P. Simpson and E. Simpson, 11 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925-52.
Riddell, James A. "Jonson and 'The Blushing Maid'", English Language Notes 37 (1999): 39-43.
Sanders, Julie. "The Northern Lass: Introduction", in Richard A. Cave, gen. ed., The Richard Brome Project (2010). Online. [1]
Steggle, Matthew. Richard Brome: Place and Politics on the Caroline Stage. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2004.

Site created and maintained by Matthew Steggle, Sheffield Hallam University. Updated 23 September 2014.