David Barry [Lording Barry] (1580-1629)

Commentary

Life
[‘Lo: Barry’ on title-page; var. Lo. Barrey; now taken as abbrev. for ‘Lord’ or ‘Lording’], bapt. 7 April, Putney, London, the younger son of fishmonger of St. Lawrence, reputedly of Irish family prob. associated with Cork; wrote of Ram Alley, or Merry Tricks, a bawdy verse comedy play about the gulling of Widow Taffeta into marriage by William Small-Shanks, constructd with a moral ending to placate ‘the Puritans [who] in public preach / That players such lewd doctrines teach’ (Prologue);
 
performed in London in 1608 and reprinted in 1638; contains no Irish material but thought to be the first play in English by an Irish writer apart from John Bale’s Mystery plays; incurred debts as a theatre owner at Whitefriars; escaped from prison to Ireland; tried and acquitted of piracy as Lodowicke Barry in Cork; pirated in the Mediterranean and sailed to Guiana with Sir Walter Ralegh, 1617; Ram Alley revived at Drury Lane in 1720, with Robert Wilks in the lead role; the play was reprinted reprinted in Dodsley’s A Select Collection of Old English Plays (1744 & Edns.). CAB ODNB PI DIW OCIL

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Criticism
Estrange Ewan, Lording Barry, Poet and Pirate (1938). See also Irish Book Lover, Vol. 7; Andrew Griffin, ‘Ram Alley and Female Spectatorship’, in Early Theatre: A Journal Associated with the Records of Early English Theatre [Vol. 9, No. 2] (Toronto Univ. 2006), pp.91-98 - available online.

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Quotations
Ram Alley (1608), Prologue: ‘Home bred mirth our muse doth sing;/The satyr’s tooth, and waspish sting / … /By this play are not affected’.

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Commentary
Plague bill: Lording Barry’s play Ram Alley (1608) has a character who says: ‘I dwindle as a new player does at a plague bill certified 40.’ - reflecting the fact that the theatres were closed during the Great Plague of 1606.

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References
Charles Read, A Cabinet of Irish Literature (3 vols., 1876-78), selects the Prologue to Ram Alley, remarking that it was anthologised by Charles Lamb in his Specimens of English Dramatic Poets. Further: ‘The play itself was reprinted in 1638, and is contained in Dodsley’s collection of old plays. Barry is ranked among the English dramatic poets by Langbaine [Biog. Dramatica], and in Harris’s [edition of the Works of Sir James] Ware, it is said that “Anthony Wood hath complimented him with the title of Lord Barry”.’ (Cabinet, I, p.21) Note that the ODNB follows Dodsley in citing Anthony Wood as Anthony à Wood, Norman-style.)

Stephen Brown (Guide to Books on Ireland, 1912), and D. J. O’Donoghue (Poets of Ireland, 1912), both speak of him as the first Irish dramatist in English as author of Ram Alley (1611). William Bergquist (Checklist of English and American Plays, 1963) cites the author as David Barrey. Dictionary of National Biography, “Corrections” [appendix vol.], contains amended information as supra.

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Notes
Bandon: In Robert Welch writes of Barry as coming from Bandon [co. Cork]. See Welch, Changing States: Transformations in Modern Irish Writing (London: Routledge 1993), p.13.

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