“I haue lost it”: Apologies, Appeals, and Justifications for Misplacing The Wild-Goose Chase and Other Plays
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While John Fletcher’s The Wild-Goose Chase (1621) is not a lost play, seventeenth-century paratexts referencing its temporary misplacement reveal more generally freewheeling attitudes toward theatrical loss and responsibility than scholars have previously assumed. In the 1647 Beaumont and Fletcher Folio, stationer Humphrey Moseley regretted omitting the play after an anonymous nobleman borrowed and lost the manuscript; in 1652, it was found. Moseley printed it with a dedication by actors, who delicately sidestepped their own textual mismanagement and the nobleman’s bungling. Two genres contextualize these characterizations of a lost play: siquisses, similar to lost-item fliers, and “lost-sheep” paratexts, which justified and publicly apologized for losing texts. Constructions of loss elevated Wild-Goose Chase—and by extension Fletcher, the theaters, and the acting profession—in reputation and value.