Henry Burnell

Life
fl.1641; Anglo-Norman family, estate in Leinster, m. Frances, dg. of James Dillon, Earl of Roscommon; his play Landgartha performed St. Patrick’s Day (17 March) 1639; retired, with others and formed Confederate Assembly of Old English in Kilkenny, 1642-49. ODNB PI OCIL

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Works
Original edn.
  • Landgartha: A tragie-comedy, as it was presented in the new theater in Dublin, with good applause, being an ancient story, vvritten by H.B (Dublin [s.n.] anno 1641), 74pp., 4°  [verse-drama; ded. signed Henry Burnell].
Note: copies of the 1641 edition in Oxford UL and British Library only.
Reprint edn.
  • Margaret Marran, ed., Landgartha: a tragie-comedy, as it was presented in the new Theatre in Dublin, with good applause, being an ancient story / written by H.B. [rep. of Dublin 1641 Edn.] (Dublin: [n.publ.] [1988]), [1],78 lvs., 31cm.

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Criticism
  • 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);
  • Catherine M.Shaw, ‘Landgartha and the Irish Dilemma’, in Éire-Ireland, 13, 1 (Winter 1978), pp.26-39;
  • Christopher Wheatley, Beneath Ierne’s Banners: Irish Protestant Drama of the Restoration and Eighteenth century (Notre Dame UP 1999) [q.pp.];
  • Christopher Morash, A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000 (Cambridge UP 2002). p.9.
  • Deana Rankin, ‘Kinds of Irishness: Henry Burnell and Richard Head’, in A Companion to Irish Literature, ed. Julia M. Wright, 2 vols. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell 2010), Chap. 7.
[See extracts under Commentary, [infra].

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Commentary
Peter Kavanagh
, The Irish Theatre (Tralee: The Kerryman 1946), Chap. V: Burnell’s Landgartha, Danish-Norwegian plot, moralising about the female virtues of Landgartha. Reyner, King of Denmark, invades Norway, and allies with Landgartha against Trolla, the King of Swedland, who dies in single combat with Landgartha; seeing her fight, Reyner falls in love with her; she has ‘vow’d Chastity/Unto the Gods’; Reyner marries her, but once married deserts her and returns to Denmark, where he has a mistress, Vraca; his throne in Denmark is threatened by a competitor; Landgartha arrives to save him, and Reyner repents; Vraca too eventually comes round to the way of virtue and promises to by ‘future good’ to ‘expiate offence’. The Preface enjoins ‘Chastity and other vertues joyn’d to beauty, vertue single and manly fortitude’ and is addressed to ‘all faire, indifferent faire, vertuous, that are not faire and magnanimous Ladies.’

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William Smith Clark, Early Irish Stage (Oxford 1955): Landgartha, a tragi-comedy, performed St. Patrick’s Day (17 March) 1639, ‘with the allowance of the master of the Revels’, set in Sweden, prologue and epilogue delivered by an Amazon dressed in Irish clothing including broagues; accompanied by prologue and epilogue by his cousin John Bermingham; thought to be ‘the first play written by an Irishman with Irish local colour’; the prologue refers to a previous play spitefully received; further prefatory material, incl. Latin dedicatory verses by Io. [John] Bermingham, describes the central character of the play as a model of female virtue and fortitude and an example to ladies of how to protect their ‘fortress’.

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William Bergquist, Checklist of English and American Plays (1963) cites Henry Burnell, World’s Idol, &c. (1659)and notes that Burnell's cousin Bermingham urges a resemblance of the present play to those of Ben Jonson, though Burnell was 'never yet in London'; further asserts that the play is a tragi-comedy, properly ending neither in tragedy or comedy but a mixture of both [also cited in ODNB]. Bergquist quotes the dedication ‘[t]o all faire, indifferent faire, vertuous, that are not faire and magnanimous Ladies’, and remarks that ‘this effeminate tone of the play is often ludicrously in contrast with the chronicle material on which it is based.’ Further reports that Langbaine suggests the plot comes from Krantzius, Saxo Grammaticus or Josephus Magnus, while Chetwood (General History of the Stage [1749]) connects it with Saxo only.

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Christopher Morash, A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000 (Cambridge UP 2002), on Landgartha: ‘[...] If Marfisa (and thus Landgartha) is Old English and Hubba (and therefore Reyner) is New English, the play begins to take an allegorical shape. Landgartha’s betrayal by Reyner corresponds to the Old English sense of betrayal by the New English, after which cohabitation might be possible, but full consummation was out of the question. For Burnell, a prominent Catholic royalist, Landgartha was a last-ditch attempt to define a possible relationship between two cultures that were spiralling towards war.’ (p.9.)

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London Stage, II, 96, cites Henry Burnell fl. 1641; quotes J. T. Gilbert’s Dictionary of National Biography article; mentions that Harbage lists The Toy and The Irish Gentleman as ‘possibly [by] H. Burnell’. Further, for these plays, now lost, Shirley wrote prologues but there is no indication that Burnell was author of either.

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Quotations
Dedicatorie’ to Landgartha (Kilkenny 1641): ‘I have here placed a pattern, yea, more than one (Ladies) for you to imitate. Chastity and other vertues are joined to beauty, vertue single and manly fortitude in the female Sexe do here present themselves ... the faculties of the mind excelle in worth those of the body yet both joined in as in Landgartha is of all most excellent, in regard that the external beauty allures (nay commands) the minde of man (that affects visible objects) to the love of vertue ... combats in the resisting of vice ...’. Further, stage directions read: ‘ ... a humorous gentlewoman dressed in an Irish gown tucked-up to the mid-leg, with a broad basket-hilt sword on, hanging on a great belt, brogues on her feet, her hair dishevelled, and a pair of long neck’d big rowll’d spurs on her heels’. (Quoted in Mícheál Ó hAodha, Theatre in Ireland, Oxford: Blackwell 1974.)

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References
British Library (General Catalogue) ascribes lists The World’s Idol, or Plutus the God of Wealth (1659), a trans. from Aristophanes published as by H.H.B and ascribes it to Burnell [contrary to D. J. O’Donoghue (Poets of Ireland, 1912; infra), who ascribes it to Burdy.

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D. J. O’Donoghue, Poets of Ireland (Dublin: Hodges Figgis 1912), lists Landgartha, a tragi-comedy in verse, Dublin 1641; prob. related to H. H. Burdy [but see British Library Cat., infra] who translated Plutus, comedy by Aristophanes, 1659; Irishman and Recorder for Dublin; represented Dublin in court of Elizabeth II in 1576 and imprisoned in the Fleet; MP for Dublin 1585; his will is dated 1614, requesting burial at Castleknock. [These biog. dates seem very odd. The Elizabethan biog. is more appropriate to the elder author, Burdy or Burnell. Note Gilbert’s unconnected findings below that there other Burnells were to be found in the St. Werburgh parish of Dublin.

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Notes
Kith
& Kin?: Patrick Burnell, a proctor of St. Werburgh’s Church in 1476 is cited in Sir John Gilbert, History of the City of Dublin, 3 vols. [1854-59], intro. by F. E. Dixon (Shannon IUP 1972), I, p.28.

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