Cover image for Nell Gwyn
Nell Gwyn
Parker, Derek, 1932-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Stroud, Gloucestershire : Sutton, [2000]

Physical Description:
xii, 212 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA447.G9 P37 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Nell Gwyn is one of the famous characters in modern English history, yet not much is really known of this sensuous sensation of Restoration England. This biography documents her rags to riches story, from the daughter of a brothel keeper to the king's mistress.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Lively, pretty and good-humored, the subject of this well-documented popular biography was the adored mistress of Charles II of England. Born to a mother who operated a brothel, Gwyn (1650-1687) pulled herself out of poverty by launching a successful acting career. Gwyn, who had initially worked in the theater for the legendary Mary Meggs (aka "Orange Mall") as an orange salesgirl and perhaps a prostitute, made her stage debut in the mid-1660s, when women were first allowed on the English stage. Parker, a British writer and reviewer, presents an interesting overview of this radical step and its effect on 17th-century English theater. Drawing on Samuel Pepys's Diary, as well as numerous theatrical and social histories, Parker traces his subject's professional roles, which were, for the most part, limited to comedy. As her intimate relationship with Charles II grew, Gwyn no longer needed to work to support herself. Charles, who had a wife and many other mistresses, never gave Gwyn a title, but he did finance a nice home for her and provided for the two sons that he fathered by her. Parker does a commendable job of capturing the court intrigues and rivalries among the mistresses and the queen, who, for the most part, understood that her role was to tolerate the king's indiscretions. She even came to befriend some of his other women, including Gwyn, who was likewise embraced as the most popular of Charles's loves, both by Charles himself and by the public, who reveled in her pleasant nature and unpretentious style. On his deathbed, Charles is said by some to have pleaded that "Nelly might not starve." Gwyn was granted a pension by the new king and died two years later of either apoplexy or syphilis. B&w illus. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

A Brief Chronologyp. iv
Prefacep. vii
1. A Queen in Imaginationp. 1
2. High Desiresp. 12
3. From the Pit to the Stagep. 36
4. Nell's Merry Partsp. 60
5. Love's Theatre, The Bedp. 74
6. From Whore to Whorep. 96
7. Pleasant Days and Easy Nightsp. 111
8. Friends and Acquaintancesp. 130
9. He was My Friendp. 148
10. The Scoundrel Lassp. 166
I Nell Gwyn's Birth-chartp. 173
II Plays in which Nell Gwyn Appeared, 1665-71p. 175
III 'A Panegyric upon Nelly'p. 177
IV Estimated Incomes in 1688p. 180
V 'Pindaric'p. 181
VI 'Last Instructions to a Painter'p. 183
VII Bill for Nell Gwyn's Bedsteadp. 184
Notesp. 185
Bibliographyp. 192
Indexp. 194