Historical Notes attaching to this book.

With Historical Notes

Salomon Pavey - Prince of Players

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He slid his back down the trunk and squatted on his haunches. The sea! How often had he dreamed of that? The furthest he had ever been was Hampstead Heath and that was nothing; just scraggy animals and endless cowpats. But to hear the ocean roar and watch the waves break on the sand like the great Alexander had done; there was good food for dreams. Perhaps he should have been taken for a cabin boy instead; but then he'd felt sick enough in the barge on the Thames, so what price a galley on the ocean? Perhaps not.

That blessed barge. So damnably uncomfortable and wet. The chill still clung to him and sat heavy and depressing on his chest. It was so strange. Sometimes he could work for hours and never notice it. Hunnis could drive them all day and he could stand the pace. But when his fits came on, the chill inside seemed to cramp his lungs and suck back his breath. The wretched tickle in his throat just wouldn't go away; and the giddiness and feeling sick at times. It was tedious. But it wouldn't last for long. A couple of days and he would feel better again. That's the way it was. He hawked and spat another blot of phlegm on to the ground, then gasped.

"Sweet Jesu," he whispered. "It's all bloody!"


London. Elizabeth Tudor is on the throne of a prosperous, yet religiously insecure, England. At the same time, a popular demand for plays, for music and for spectacular entertainments has spread throughout her realm. Nowhere is this more so than at the Royal Court itself. Thus, the world of the Private Theatre is born. Groups, such as the "Pigeons" of St. Paul's Singing School and the Children of The Chapel Royal, have become the favourites of an ageing "Queen Bess". Here, inside the walls of the city, their entertainments can take place in dry, comfortable, candle-lit surroundings. As a result, the children are beginning to ruffle the feathers of the adult companies, the so-called "common players". They, on the other hand, are permitted to operate only outside the city walls, during daylight hours and in all weathers! In fact, it was no less a common player than William Shakespeare himself who wrote of the children, "... there is, sir, an eyrie of children, little eyases, that cry out on the top of question and are most tyrannically clapped for't..."  (Hamlet: II.ii.337ff).

This novel tells the story of many of these children. Notably, it traces the fortunes and the fate of one of them, Salomon Pavey, who becomes an outstanding young actor at The Chapel Royal - ironically, with a flair for playing the characters of old men. Unwittingly, however, he also becomes enmeshed in the politics of the Court and by the intrigues of his choirmasters - with tragic results; a victim, not only of his enemies, but also of his own success.

Salomon was a real person, as were many of the characters in this story. Set during the last years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, the Chapel Children are nearing the end of a remarkable twenty-five years in their history.

But it all starts with an ordinary child who is late for school one fate-filled day; Salomon Pavey...

Inspired by "The Ballad of Salomon Pavey" by Jeremy James Taylor & David Drew-Smythe.

Originally published by Oxford University Press Music Department and currently by Josef Weinberger Ltd. in London.