London: Printed for J.H. Burn, Maiden-Lane, Covent-Garden; R. Triphook, Old Bond-Street; C. and H. Baldwyn, Newgate-Street; and C. Smith, Strand, 1821. Twelvemo, contemporary full green pebbled morocco, spine lettered in gilt, boards decoratively ruled in gilt and blind, cornerpieces stamped in blind, gilt dentelles, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt, green silk ribbon marker. Frontispiece portrait of Gascoigne. Introduction, biography, and bibliography of Gascoigne at front; glossary and notes at rear. Ink ownership inscription dated 1867 to front fly leaf. Spine uniformly toned and slightly rubbed, light scattered spotting to boards, hint of foxing to frontispiece.
Early nineteenth-century edition of the revels at Kenilworth staged for Elizabeth I, the first separate edition since the 1576 first printing, which is no longer extant. Elizabeth I stayed at Kenilworth, the seat of her childhood friend Lord Dudley, Earl of Leicester, for nineteen days, the longest of any of the visits she granted during her royal processions. In an extravagant effort to impress the queen, and likely in an attempt to win her hand in marriage, Dudley planned an elaborate calendar of entertainments, including hunts, fireworks, and plays. Elizabethan poet and actor George Gascoigne was placed in charge of the performances, which began with a welcome from legendary figures such as the Lady of the Lake and Hercules, “overcome by view of the rare beauty and princely countenance of her Majesty.” Gascoigne’s own lyrical contributions emphasized Dudley’s ancient lineage, connected even to King Arthur, subtly suggesting that Dudley was a worthy match for the queen: “why then they served / King Arthur man of might, / And ever since this castle kept, / for Arthur’s heirs by right.” The events culminated in a play entitled Zabeta (referencing “Elizabeth”), which boldly argued “how necessary were / for worthy Queens to wed.” Learning the thesis of the play, Elizabeth arranged to leave before its performance. Gascoigne’s verses, originally printed one year after the revels, would themselves influence the likes of Philip Sidney and Ben Jonson. The last known copy of the 1576 edition was destroyed in a fire in 1879. This 1821 edition is the first obtainable separate edition of Princely Pleasures, published the same year as Walter Scott’s bestselling novel Kenilworth: A Romance, for which the 1575 revels serve as the setting. A near-fine copy.