By Bridget Manningham
Edited by Jean R. Brink
The manuscript for "Rivall Friendship" was first acquired by the Newberry Library in 1937. At the time of the acquisition, the author of this seventeenth-century romance was anonymous. Scholar Jean R. Brink now suggests, based on dating of the manuscript and her analysis of its feminist themes, that the author was a woman. Specifically, Brink attributes the text to Bridget Manningham, who was the older sister of Thomas Manningham, a Jacobean and Caroline bishop, and the granddaughter of John Manningham, a diarist who recorded performances of Shakespeare’s plays.
"Rivall Friendship" is a post–English Civil War romance that examines proto-feminist issues, such as patriarchal dominance in the family and marriage. Manningham is scrupulous about maintaining verisimilitude, and unlike more fantastical romances of the period that feature monsters, giants, and magic, this text aspires to a level of probability in its historical and geographical details. The text of "Rivall Friendship" is accessible to most modern readers, particularly to students and scholars accustomed to working with seventeenth-century texts.
Jean R. Brink is a professor emeritus of English at ASU.