George Etherege 1636-1692
Sir George ETHEREGE 1636-1692
Born at Bray, Maidenhead, son of George Etherege, court purveyor and a member of an increasingly successful merchant family. Apprenticed in 1654 to a London attorney; admitted at Clement’s Inn 1659. During the following years he began writing plays and becoming a member of a group of fashionable literary men associated with the court; his first play, The comical revenge, was performed in 1664. Despite various scrapes and controversies, he remained popular at court and received a number of appointments and favours: gentleman of the privy chamber and secretary to the Turkish ambassador 1668, knighted ca.1678, British Resident at Ratisbon (Regensburg, Bavaria) 1685. His diplomatic career in Germany became more diligent after criticism but came to an end when James II fled in 1689; he joined James in Paris and died there not long afterwards.
It has been noted that Etherege’s plays and correspondence reveal a range of reading but nothing is known about his personal collection before his time in Ratisbon, for which a list survives of ca.65 titles owned by him there, drawn up by his secretary Hugo Hughes (now BL Add MS 11513, fo 192r). This has been transcribed and edited by Peter Beal and shows a predominance of classical, literary and historical texts, mostly in French, with about a dozen in English and a couple in Italian. It is not clear whether these were mostly taken to Germany or acquired in situ there. After Etherege’s move to Paris the books were left in the custody of the Scottish Benedictine Monastery at Ratisbon, whose collections eventually became part of the Bischöfliches Zentralbibliothek in Regensburg, and where many of the books survive today. Examples: in the Regensburg library, see Beal’s article.
The books at Regensburg typically carry an inscription recording they were “left by Sir George Etherege with Abbot Placide Fleming 1689”. They have no inscriptions or annotations by Etherege.
- Barnard, John. "Etherege, Sir George (1636–1691/2), playwright and diplomat." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
- Beal, P. ‘Sir George Etherege’s reading in Ratisbon’, The Library 6th ser 10 (1988), 122-44.
- Beal, P. ‘Sir George Etherege’s library at Ratisbon’, The Library 7th ser 3 (2002), 315-6.
- Sir George Etherege, Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450-1700.