The manuscripts of ‘Love’s Victory’

The manuscripts of Love’s Victory

Professor Alison Findlay

Lady Mary Wroth’s romantic, pastoral play, Love’s Victory (c.1614-1619) exists in two different manuscripts but was never printed. The Penshurst Manuscript, a beautifully bound script, was probably designed by Wroth as a presentation copy to her cousin, William Herbert. It is currently being edited for Revels Plays (Manchester University Press) by Alison Findlay, Philip Sidney and Michael Brennan. It is the only text which traces the story of the star-crossed lovers Musella and Philesses to its tragicomic conclusion. However, the second manuscript copy of the play HM600, held in the Huntington Library in Los Angeles, is, arguably, even more interesting as a material document. The script breaks off abruptly after the protagonists dedicate themselves to a double suicide in Venus’s temple so, in this sense, it can be regarded as an incomplete version. Paul Salzman has published an excellent online edition via the Early Modern Women’s Research Network, which gives an erudite introduction and allows readers to view professionally photographed images of the manuscript, taken by the Huntington Library, alongside transcriptions of the text for the first time. See Early Modern Women’s Research Network – Love’s Victory

Marta Straznicky’s arguments for reading the Huntington Manuscript as a distinctive version with an unsettling ending appeared in her article ‘Lady Mary Wroth’s Patchwork Play: The Huntington Manuscript of Love’s Victory,’ in the Sidney Journal 34:1 (2016) 81-92 and will be expanded in her forthcoming edition of the Huntington manuscript in Household Plays of the Seventeenth Century, forthcoming in 2018.

My physical examination of the HM600 at the Huntington shows that pages have been removed from the beginning of the script – and potentially from the end as well. This and other physical features of the stitching together of the script adds to existing scholarly opinion that the Huntington manuscript is some kind of performance text. We know that the manuscript was owned by Sir Edward Dering, an obsessive theatre goer and collector of playbooks from 1619. His accounts show that he paid for binding of playbooks and for a copies of an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Parts I and II which he conflated for a household performance at his home Surrenden. Further research on the watermarks and stitching of HM600 should cast more light on the intriguing nature of this manuscript and the performance history of Love’s Victory.