The Eve of St Venus

Scope and Content

This series consists of a copy of the 1951 version of the play by Burgess, and draft Italian translations by Liana Burgess.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1951 Burgess wrote his first original play, a three-act theological comedy called The Eve of St Venus. The story draws on the legend, first written down in the eleventh century by Florence of Worcester, of a young man who, placing his wedding ring on the finger of the statue of Venus in his father's garden, finds himself married to the goddess.

Burgess had first envisaged his work as an opera libretto but the libretto grew too long for an opera, and Burgess saw that it would work better as a stage play. His first version of the play, written in verse, was completed in 1951 and extends to over 90-pages. Once the script was complete, he tried to get it performed in Oxfordshire (where he was then living) but he found the local drama groups were unwilling to do so.

Burgess produced a revised version of the text (in prose) in 1964 for the Phoenix Theatre in London, but the success of Neville Coghill's Canterbury Tales resulted in the Burgess play, which had been scheduled to go on next, being cancelled. Later that same year, the text was published, rewritten as a novella.

In later years, Liana Burgess worked on an Italian translation of the play.

Also known as "Gods Have Hot Backs".