The Folger Shakespeare Library

17th-century actress Nell Gwynn began her career as an orange seller on the streets of Drury Lane. As one of the most well-known actresses on the Restoration stage, she drew attention from King Charles II. This page introduces a selection of items in the Folger collection related to Nell Gwynn, her life, and her times.


See the Folger Theatre’s production of Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn

From the Collection

Print depicting Nell Gwynn

Nell Gwynn appears in male costume in this 19th- or 20th-century print.

ART File G995 no.2

Satirical letter from the Duchess of Portsmouth to Nell Gwynn

It’s unlikely that the Duchess of Portsmouth, also known as Louise de Keroualle, was the real author of this 1682 letter. de Keroualle was an actress and rival to Nell for Charles II’s affections.


John Dryden’s Works, in four volumes

Poet and dramatist John Dryden was a contemporary of Nell Gwynn. This 1693 edition collects his poetry and plays.

235-761q v.1

Engraving of Charles II

This engraving, printed 1672, depicts Charles II as king. The image shows him as most of the country saw him: “the most High, most Excellent, and most Mighty Monarch Charles the Second.” 


Mezzotint of Katherine, Queen to Charles II 

ART File C363.2 no.1

Catherine of Braganza was consort to King Charles II.

We will continue adding more to this page over time. Stay tuned!