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“Yes, I think, for a dead person, it is a good way enough of making love, for being divested of her terrestrial part, and all that, she is only capable of these little, pretty, amorous designs that are innocent, and yet passionate.'
One of Bayes's precepts may be commended to the attention of any who may think of reviving rhyming tragedy. It also shows the cramped condition of the theatre in Dryden's day:
* Bayes. Gentlemen, I must desire you to remove a little, for I must fill the stage.
Smith. Why fill the stage ?
Bayes. O sir, because your heroic verse never sounds well but when the stage is full.'
Sir George Etheredge is neither an edifying nor an attrac
tive writer of comedy, but his plays Sir George Etheredge (1634-1691).
are of considerable historical impor
tance as prototypes of the comedy of manners afterwards so brilliantly developed by Congreve. They are Love in a Tub (1664), She Would if She Could (1668), and The Man of Mode (1676). The last is celebrated for the character of Sir Fopling Flutter, who is said to have been the image of the author, though it is added on the same authority that his intention had been to depict himself in the character of the heartless rake Dorimant, whom others took for Rochester. All the plays suffer from a deficiency of plot, a deficiency of wit, and a superfluity of naughtiness, but cannot be denied to possess a light airy grace, and to have imbibed something of the manner, though little of the humour, of Molière. By his own account the author was lazy, careless, and a gamester. Little, except that he was knighted for marrying a fortune,' is known of his history until 1685, when, unexpectedly to bimself, he was appointed envoy to Ratisbon, and
details become copious from the accidental preservation of his letter-book, now in the British Museum. The general tone of his correspondence is good-natured and easy; he seems to have made just the kind of ambassador to be expected from an idle man of fashion without diplomatic experience; while he may well have merited his friends' description of him as 'gentle George,' and his repute as easy and generous. The Revolution deprived him of his post; he seems to have refused allegiance to William, and to have died at Paris in 1691.
THE LATER COMEDY OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.
ETHEREDGE's comedies serve to introduce one of the most brilliant schools of English comic writing—faulty, in that so far from correcting the manners of its age, it did not even portray them, but eminent above the English comedy of every other period for wit. So great is the family likeness between its chief representatives, that it will be advisable to consider their lives and their writings together. The connecting link among them all is that all were fine gentlemen whose code was the fashionable morality of the day. Any conclusions as to the state of contemporary manners which may be deduced from their writings must be confined to this small, though con. spicuous section of English society. William Wycherley was the son of a Shropshire gentle
man of good estate. His father, disWilliam Wycherley liking
the management of public schools (1640-1715).
under the Commonwealth, sent the youth to France, where he became a Roman Catholic, but recanted
upon his return. He entered at the Temple, and for some years led the life of a gay young man about town. According to his own statement, all his four comedies were written about this period, but Macaulay has shown clearly that they must have, at all events, undergone very considerable revision, and that it is not probable that any but Love in a Wood were in existence when this was acted in 1672. The Gentleman Dancing Master, The Country Wife, and The Plain Dealer, appeared in 1673, 1675, and 1677 respectively; and the last of these was the termination of the author's brief and brilliant career as a dramatist. It was also the term of his prosperity. A secret marriage with a lady of rank offended the king, by whom Wycherley had been entrusted with the tuition of one of his natural children, and eventually involved him in debt. He was thrown into the Fleet, where he remained several years.
At last James II., chancing to witness a representation of The Plain Dealer, was led to inquire for the author, and, a piece of munificence towards letters most unusual with him, to pay his debts and grant him a pension of two hundred a year, which, as Wycherley straightway reverted to the Roman Catholic faith, was probably withdrawn by William. He had, however, come into possession of the family estate, and existed for the rest of his life respectably as regarded his means of subsistence, though much the reverse as regards the licentious verses which he went on writing, and published at the age of sixty-four. Macaulay and Mr. Gosse, however, attribute to him a tract in defence of the stage against Jeremy Collier, not devoid of merit ; and his later poems enjoyed the advantage of revision by Pope, whose hand, Macaulay thinks, is everywhere discernible. Comedy he never essayed again. He died in 1715, having ten days before his death married a young girl to injure his nephew. This Macaulay con
. siders the worst of his actions ; but we do not know that the nephew did not deserve to be injured. A contemporary poet dubs the uncle, “generous Wycherley.”
William Congreve, a scion of a good William Congreve
Staffordshire family, was born at Bard(1670-1729). sey, near Leeds, in 1670.
His father, an officer in the army, obtained a command in Ireland,
where a branch of the family is still settled, and Congreve received his education at Kilkenny and at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1691 he came to London, and at once found admission to the best literary circles. A novel by him, Incognita, was published anonymously at the beginning of 1692. Later in the year he co-operated in a translation of Juvenal by various hands, and submitted his Old Bachelor to Dryden, who declared that he had never seen such a first play, and lent his aid in adapting it for the stage. It was produced with great success in January, 1693. In November of the same year The Double-Dealer appeared, but, though preferred by the judicious, was less popular with the town. It was published with an elegant preface by the author, and a noble panegyric from Dryden. • Perhaps,' says Mr. Gosse, there is no other example of such full and generous praise of a young colleague by a great old poet.' Dryden's notions of architecture, indeed, seem borrowed from the churches of his time, where we not uncommonly see a spire in one style clapped upon a body in another:.
* Fine Doric pillars found your solid base,
Thus all below is strength and all above is grace.' But the lines in which he adjures Congreve to protect his own memory are an unparalleled blending of pathos and compliment:
• Be kind to my remains, and O, defend,
pursue, But shade those laurels which descend to you.' Shortly after the performance of The Double Dealer, dissensions broke out between the patentees of the Theatre Royal and their corps dramatique, and the majority of the