Francis Gentleman & Bell’s Shakespeare: A Short Bibliography

This is a new kind of post. I wrote to the mailing list C18-L a few weeks back asking for details of books and articles about the Irish actor, orator, teacher, and critic Francis Gentleman (1728-1784) and his work as the editor of John Bell’s 1774 edition of Shakespeare. I got a few, very useful replies, but also a lot of comments about how little there was out there.

My own searches confirmed this lack of work on Gentleman, so as a way of encouraging others to look into this fascinating (and ill-appreciated) man of letters, I’m publishing below a short bibliography, covering most of the secondary literature I dug up on him and his involvement with John Bell.

Enjoy, and note that, at time of writing, there are two future articles by Peter Holland about Gentleman due to appear shortly in Shakespeare and Text (ed. Kidnie and Massai) and Shakespeare Jahrbuch respectively.

Biographical Studies

‘Gentleman, Francis’ in Highfill, Philip H., Kalman A. Burnim, and Edward A. Langhans. A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Others Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800. Vol. 6. Carbondale, Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973. pp. 138-150.

Robert Shaughnessy, ‘Gentleman, Francis (1728–1784)’ in Oxford Dictionary of National
Biography
. Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2013.

On Gentleman’s Criticism

Carey, Brycchan. ‘To Force a Tear: Antislavery on the Eighteenth- Century London Stage’ in Affect and Abolition in the Anglo-Atlantic, 1770-1830. Ed. Stephen Ahern. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2013. pp. 109-128.

Holland, Peter. [Two forthcoming articles].

Potter, Lois. ‘ Humor Out of Breath: Francis Gentleman and the Henry IV Plays’ in Shakespeare, Text and Theater: Essays in Honor of Jay L. Halio. Ed. Halio, Jay L., Lois Potter, and Arthur F. Kinney. University of Delaware Press, 1999. pp. 285-297.

[Gentleman is also a frequent source in most articles on eighteenth-century stage business, of which there are far, far too many to reference here]

On Gentleman’s Editing of Shakespeare

Alexander, Catherine M. S. ‘Province of Pirates: The Editing and Publication of Shakespeare’s Poems in the Eighteenth Century’, in Reading Readings: Essays on Shakespeare Editing in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Joanna Gondris. Madison (Wisc.): Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1998. pp. 345-365.

Burnim, Kalman A., and Philip H. Highfill. John Bell, Patron of British Theatrical Portraiture: a Catalog of the Theatrical Portraits in His Editions of Bell’s Shakespeare and Bell’s British Theatre. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998.

Franklin, Colin. Shakespeare Domesticated: The Eigteenth-century Editions. Aldershot: Scolar press, 1991.

McJannet, Linda. ‘“The Scene Changes”? Stage Directions in Eighteenth-Century Acting Editions of Shakespeare’, in Reading Readings: Essays on Shakespeare Editing in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Joanna Gondris. Madison (Wisc.): Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1998. pp. 86-99.

Murphy, Andrew. Shakespeare in Print: A History and Chronology of Shakespeare Publishing. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Perrin, Noel. Dr. Bowdler’s Legacy: a History of Expurgated Books in England and America. London: MacMillan, 1970.

Bonus: Article on ‘Performance Editions’ prior to Bell’s Shakespeare

Paul, Henry N. “Mr. Hughs’ Edition of Hamlet.” Modern Language Notes 49.7 (1934): 438–443.


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