Henry Burkhead

Life
fl.1645 [var. Buckhead]; author of Cola’s Fury, or Lirenda’s Misery (1645), about the 1641 Rebellion up to the Ormond cessation of 1643, with the principle historical characters of the period under other names; it was published in Kilkenny in 1646; poss. an English writer; “Lirenda” is an anagram for “Ireland”. GBI ODNB OCIL

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Works
Original, A Tragedy of Cola’s Furie, or Lirenda’s Miserie, Written by Henry Burkhead, 1645 (Printed at Kilkenny [by Thomas Burke] 1646), [8] 62pp., 4°. [And are to be sold at the signe of the White Swanne, in Kilkenny, [note ambig. dates].

Reprint, Angelina Lynch, ed., Cola’s Furie, or, Lirenda’s Miserie by Henry Burkhead, intro. by Patricia Coughlan (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2009), 140pp.

Note that Burkhead is not listed or included in the Wells Microcards collection of British and American Drama but is included in Chadwyck-Healey’s Early English Books Online [link].

Bibliographical details
A Tragedy of Cola’s Furie, or Lirenda’s Miserie (Printed [by Thomas Bourke] at Kilkenny, 1645; to be sold at the signe of the white Swanne, MDCXLVI [1646]), 61pp. [BML]. Note difference in printers and booksellers dates.]

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Criticism
La Tourette Stockwell, ‘Lirenda’s Miserie’ [study], in the Dublin Magazine [n.s.], V (July-Sept. 1930); Patricia Coughlan, ‘“Enter Revenge”, Henry Burkhead and Cola’s Furie’, in Theatre Research International, 15, 1 (Spring 1990), pp.1-17.

See G. C. Duggan, The Stage Irishman (1937); Peter Kavanagh, The Irish Theatre from the Earliest Times [...] (Tralee: The Kerryman 1946); William Smith Clark, Early Irish Stage (Oxford 1955); William Bergquist, Checklist of English and American Plays (1963); La Tourette Stockwell, Dublin Theatres and Theatre Customs 1637-1820 (Kingsport, Tennessee: Kingsport Press; New York: Benjamin Blom, 1968) [full title listed in Appendix]; Christopher Morash, A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000 (Cambridge UP 2002), espec. p.11.

 

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Commentary
Peter Kavanagh , The Irish Theatre (1946), Chap. VII, A Tragedy of Cola’s Furie, or Lirenda’s Miserie (Kilkenny, M,DC,XLVI); Cola is a personification of the wickedness of England. Kavanagh finds it difficult to conceive what prompted Burkhead to attempt to write a play unless it be the influence of Shirley’s St. Patrick ...’ but this vacuity of thought is answered by Patricia Coughlan’s reading of the play in the context of the Kilkenny Confederation. The characters are, Theodoric (Owen Ruadh O’Neill); Pitho (Sir William Parsons); Berosus (Sir John Borlase); Guyroa (Lord Maguire); Cola (Sir Charles Coote); Osirus (Ormonde); Meneus (Lord Montgarret or Col. Mohoun); Col. Cranbrick (Crawford). Bibl., The Stage Irishman, Duggan, pp.67-69.

G. C. Duggan, The Stage Irishman (1937), gives account of A Tragedy of Cola’s Furie (1645) by Henry Burkhead, a merchant of Kilkenny; dedicated to Lord Herbert, who ‘had visited Ireland on an errand of mercy.’ It is a transcript of contemporary history in the lull of 1644-45 when Ormonde, to thwart the Parliament men, made a truce with the Confederacy. [pp.67-69.]

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Patricia Coughlan, ‘“Enter Revenge”, Henry Burkhead and Cola’s Furie’, in Theatre Research International, vol. 15, No. 1, Anthony à Wood calls him ‘no Academician, only a Merchant of Bristol’; Coughlan shows that it was not conceived as a closet drama, by virtue of the scale of the stage-effects, which include scenes of torture; cites Peter Kavanagh’s adverse opinion of it in The Irish Theatre, and comments ‘Burkhead’s play is probably no more crude or vulgar than much of the drama of the period in England when [...] the political tensions were approaching revolution and the disruptions of the civil wars were working to fracture and dislocate, often productively, the smoothness of the drama’s literary forms. [...] [a] sharp alternation between high heroic and is characteristic [...] of [the] play.’ In commenting on the scenes of murder [of prisoners to whom quarter had been given], she says, Burkhead is not cavalier with fact, and this accuracy is felt as an imperative and essential part of the project of the play [...] [nevertheless it] does not answer to a realist reading. The villain Cola stands for the notorious Sir Charles Coote, Gov. of Dublin, whom the Lirendians find ‘Machievellian’, and compare him to ‘a demi-divell or Canniball’ crying out ‘kill, kill.’ she concludes that the play, ‘however clumsily, represents with unparalleled vividness the painful interaction of the literary imagination with the facts of Irish history in the 1640s’ form the viewpoint of the Catholics [précis]. Further remarks by Coughlan, in ‘“Cheap and common animals”, the English anatomy of Ireland in the 17th century’, in Thomas Healy and Jonathan Sawday, eds., Literature and the English Civil War (Cork UP 1990).

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Christopher Morash, A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000 (Cambridge UP 2002): ‘As well as the glimpse it affords of the frightening, haunted world of Ireland during the early 1640s, Cola’s Furie shows an emerging politicisation of theatrical spectacle. [Morash cites torture scenes, supra]. Shirley ’s awareness of New English Protestants in his audience in 1639 may well have led him to write those scenes in St. Patrick for Ireland in which theatrical illusion and idolatry merge and are exposed. Writing for an almost exclusively Catholic, royalist audience in Kilkenny, Burkhead has no such concerns. Just before [11] his death, Cola is confronted by “Revenge with a sword in one hand, and a flaming torch in the other followed by three spirits in sheets’, including the spectre of two Irish-speaking farmers he had hung earlier in the play. Cola refuses to credit these supernatural visitations, dismissing them as “a plot of some conjuring Papist / to vex me with these filthy strange affrightments ”, and he is subsequently shot dead by a half-seen, possibly supernatural, figure. [... &c.] ’ (pp.11-12.)

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