‘The Pen lookes to be canoniz’d’: John Newdigate III, Author and Scribe


  • Kirsten Inglis University of Calgary
  • Boyda Johnstone Fordham University




We provide evidence for the authorship of a previously anonymous Caroline play, The Humorous Magistrate, currently held at the University of Calgary. Using the paleographic evidence of digital hand comparison charts, which compare exemplary letter-forms from handwritten documents, we contend that both versions of The Humorous Magistrate, along with numerous other plays and texts, were written and authored by John Newdigate III of Arbury Hall (1600-1642), a country gentleman working within a dynamic literary coterie based in the West Midlands. These hand charts map both the continuation and the evolution of his secretary and italic script, demonstrating that Newdigate was acutely attuned to the changing currents of early modern scribal culture. As author of The Humorous Magistrate and various other poems and plays, Newdigate can with reason be added to the group of amateur Caroline dramatists which includes the likes of John Suckling, Mildmay Fane, and William Cavendish.