The Player's Boy

Bryher, Author, Patrick Gregory, Introduction by Paris Press $15 (208p) ISBN 978-1-930464-09-4
An English novelist and patron of artists such as H.D., Bryher (Winifred Ellerman, 1894-1983) first published this beautifully realized story of a young Elizabethan actor's apprentice in 1953. After the death of Master Awsten, one of the Queen's Players, his student James Sands travels from Southwark, London and passes through a succession of employers. At a house in the country, James meets the summering playwright Francis Beaumont, who in the process of writing his play Philaster. James wins the part of Bellario, the girl page in love with Philaster who disguises herself as a boy to be close to him; in a curious royal menage-a-trois, Philaster sends Bellario to serve his beloved Arethusa, while offstage James falls in love, unrequitedly, with Beaumont's virginal fiancee, Ursula. History intrudes in the form of Sir Walter Ralegh's execution and the ascent of the Puritans, and James, now a clerk, becomes a kind of poignant anachronism, too delicate for the coarsening new age. Theatrical and romantically lyrical, Bryher's novel is a forgotten gem, channeling the servant boy's first person flawlessly.
Reviewed on: 07/31/2006
Release date: 08/01/2006
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