John Payne Collier

1789 – 1883

John Payne Collier first came to prominence with his edition of Robert Dodsley's Old Plays in 1825-1827. In 1827-1828, when still a student, he published, at first anonymously, the text of Punch and Judy based on productions by the Italian puppeteer Giovanni Piccini. The accompanying essay on puppetry and the critical apparatus resemble a parody of the scholarly style of his time. Certainly, Collier does not take the material entirely literally and does not hide from having partially reworked it: the authenticity of the text is generally disputed. Collier attributes to Byron a sonnet on Punch that would long be cited in British puppet histories. For George Speaight, this was his first experience of literary mystification and forgery. The publication of History of English Dramatic Poetry to the Time of Shakespeare in 1831 earned him a position as librarian to the Duke of Devonshire. He then published several studies on Shakespearean literature, but their sources turned out to be systematically falsified: scandal broke out in the 1850s and 1860s, and Collier would die disavowed by his peers.