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Cox, Jeffrey N. 'Headnote to Mariana Starke's The Sword of Peace, in Slavery, Abolition and Emanticipation: Writings in the British Romantic Period.' British Women Playwrights around 1800. 15 January 2000. 3 pars. <http://www.etang.umontreal.ca/bwp1800/essays/cox_sword_headnote.html>


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1.

Mariana Starke (1762?-1838) is perhaps best remembered as the author of well researched and finely written travel books. She began her career as a travel writer during a seven year stay in Italy while attending on a relative suffering from tuberculosis. She first wrote her Letters from Italy, between the years 1792 and 1798 containing a view of the Revolutions in that country (2 vols. London, 1800), which combined practical hints about traveling with a narrative of her life in Italy during the Napoleonic conquest; she was not sympathetic with the advance of republican ideas into Italy. The Letters were successful enough to reach an enlarged second edition in 1815 and to be translated into German in 1802. In 1811, having moved to Exmouth, she was still immersed in things Italian and published The Beauties of Carlo Maria Maggi Paraphrased which included some of her own sonnets; she had earlier published The Poor Soldier; an American Tale: founded on a recent fact (1789), a poetic account of the tribulations of a South Carolinian loyalist, Charles Short. Journeying again to Italy, France, and Switzerland in 1817-9, she wrote Travels on the Continent (1820) and then her Information and Directions for Travelers on the Continent, continually reprinted throughout the 1820s (and translated into French in 1826) before it was enlarged and reissued as Travels in Europe for the use of Travelers on the Continent and likewise in the Island of Sicily, to which is added an account of the Remains of Ancient Italy (1832). These books established her as a key British guide to travel on the continent in the days before Murray and Baedeker.

2. Mariana Starke was also a playwright of considerable interest. While her travel writing focuses on Europe, her two most interesting plays turn to India where she spent her early years. Starke was born about 1762 to Richard and Mary Starke; her father served as governor of Fort St. George in Madras before moving the family to Epsom, Surrey. Her experiences in India lie behind the satire of Anglo-Indian life in The Sword of Peace, or a Voyage of Love (1788), reproduced here, and the tragedy in three acts, The Widow of Malabar. This latter play, based on Antoine Lemierre's La Veuve du Malabar (1770), was published in Dublin and London in 1791, rapidly reaching three editions. It apparently was first performed at the famous private theater in Camberwell run by Mary Champion de Crespigny, to whom the play is dedicated. It was then staged at Covent Garden on 5 May 1790 for the benefit of Elizabeth Brunton who played the role of Indamora; it opened again—"With new Scenes and Dresses. And a Procession, representing the Ceremonies attending the Sacrifice of an Indian Woman on a Funeral Pile of her deceased Husband"—on 12 January 1791, again with Miss Brunton in the lead, when it had a decent run of nine performances (Starke received a benefit night at the third performance, 19 January 1791). The Tournament, another tragedy but this time based on a German model (J. A. von Toerring und Kronsfeld's Agnes Bernauer), was published in 1800 but not performed. A lost play, The British Orphan, was also performed at Crespigny's theater in 1790 or 1791.
3.

The Sword of Peace opened at the Haymarket Theater on 9 August 1788. It had a respectable run of six performances during a summer when the only other new main piece, Ways and Means by the proprietor of the Haymarket, George Colman, received nine; the most often performed play at the Haymarket that summer was Colman's hit of 1787, Inkle and Yarico which received 19 performances. Starke's play starred Miss Farren as Eliza Moreton and Mrs. Kemble as Louisa Moreton with Kemble, Palmer, Williamson and Baddeley taking the male leads; the part of Cesar, the black slave, was played by Burton. The prologue, spoken by Palmer, was written by George Colman the elder while the epilogue, spoken by Farren, was the work of Colman the younger. The play was revived the next summer for four performances and was played as late as 23 March 1809 at Bath. The play was published in 1789 by J. Debrett in London; there was also a Dublin edition (which is reproduced here) and a new London edition in 1792 by J. Barker. There is no Larpent version. The Sword of Peace provides not only Starke's satirical view of Anglo-India but also a sense of how attitudes towards the native population of the subcontinent were both different from and confused with attitudes towards the slave population seized in Africa (much as the Inkle and Yarico story is a locus for confusions between native African and North American populations). It offers on the stage a conflation of two central areas of colonial expansion and conflict.

 

Jeffrey N. Cox
University of Colorado, Boulder

Jeffrey N. Cox is Professor of Comparative Literature and Humanities at the University of Colorado at Boulder where he also directs the Center for Humanities and the Arts. His most recent book is Poetry and Politics in the Cockney School: Keats, Shelley, Hunt and their Circle (Cambridge UP). His work on the drama includes In the Shadows of Romance: Romantic Tragic Drama in Germany, England, and France (Ohio UP), an edition of Seven Gothic Dramas 1789-1825 (Ohio UP), and an edition of plays on slavery, volume 5 of Slavery, Abolition, and Emancipation: Writings in the British Romantic Period, general editors Peter Kitson and Debbie Lee (Pickering & Chatto).