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latter seceded to Lincoln's Inn Fields. Congreve followed them, and, in consideration of receiving a stipulated share of the profits, agreed to write for them a play annually, should his health permit. In pursuance of this agreement, Love for Love, generally considered the best of his comedies, was brought out in April, 1695. It was a signal success; as was Congreve's solitary tragedy, The Mourning Bride, produced in 1697, which, indeed, is believed to have produced him more than any of his comedies. The last, and, in the opinion of some, the best of these, The Way of the World, appeared in 1700, and its failure disgusted Congreve with the stage. He had always rather affected to condescend to be a dramatist, as Monsieur Jourdain condescended to be a haberdasher; and he was probably hurt at the rough handling he had received from Jeremy Collier, to whose Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the Stage he had unsuccessfully endeavoured to reply. Collier's victory, indeed, proved that the licentiousness of the stage was a mere fashion, rather tolerated than approved by the majority of the playgoing public, and Congreve may have felt that his wings would be clipped by the reformation which public opinion was evidently about to demand. Whatever the cause, he was lost to the stage at thirty, and his occasional poetical productions, the most important of which have been already noticed, were far from qualifying him to sit in the seat of Dryden. He enjoyed, nevertheless, supremacy of another kind. Regarded as an extinct volcano, he gave umbrage to no rivals; his urbane and undemonstrative temper kept him out of literary feuds; all agreed to adore so benign and inoffensive a deity, and the general respect of the lettered world fitly culminated in Pope's dedication of his Homer to him, the most splendid literary tribute the age could bestow. Sinecure Government places made his cir

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cumstances more than easy, but he suffered continually from gout, the effect of free living, and he became blind, or nearly so, in his latter years. His death (1729) was hastened by a carriage accident. He had a splendid funeral in Westminster Abbey, and a monument erected by the Duchess of Marlborough (Marlborough's daughter, not his widow), whom he had capriciously made his principal legatee.

It is, as Mr. Gosse remarks, difficult to form any very distinct notion of Congreve as a man.

We must be content with knowing that he was a fine gentleman before all things, convivial in his habits, witty in conversation, extremely sensitive to criticism, otherwise placid; able to keep on good terms with both Pope and Dennis throughout his life; and that Pope thought him, Garth, and Vanbrugh, 'the three most honest-hearted real good men of the poetical members of the Kit-cat Club.' Sir John Vanbrugh, the next of the quartette of illus

trious comic writers, occupies a remarkSir John Vanbrugh able position in literature. Few other (1664-1726).

distinguished architects have gained renown in elegant letters, and these have not attempted the drama. As, however, Angelo is more celebrated for St. Peter's than for his sonnets, so Vanbrugh is better remembered by Blenheim, which most have beheld, than by his plays, which are never seen on the stage, and yet connoisseurs have found infinitely more to censure in the former. The faults of the plays are those of the author's age and his school; the faults imputed to his buildings, if they exist, which is a question for architects, are personal to the Fleming, who shared his countryman Rubens's taste for the massive and substantial, and whose epitaph was couched in the adjuration:

• Lie heavy on him, earth, for he

Laid many a heavy load on thee.' Though born an English subject, Vanbrugh was of Flemish descent. His first profession was the army. His début as a dramatist was made in 1697 by two sparkling comedies, The Relapse and The Provoked Wife, followed by The False Friend (1702), The Confederacy, and The Mistake (1705), some imitations of the French, and an unfinished play, A Journey to London, completed by Cibber, and produced in 1728 as The Provoked Husband. All these plays seem to have been successful ; certainly none were in any peril of damnation on the ground apprehended by Orrery :

* This play, I'm horribly afraid, can't last;
Allow it pretty, 'tis confounded chaste,

And contradicts too much the present taste.' Latterly he became somewhat careless in the composition of his plays, which may be reasonably attributed to the demands made upon him by the laborious profession of architecture, which he took up, apparently without a regular education, about the end of the seventeenth century, and which he may have been the more inclined to pursue on account of the serious, loss entailed upon him by his dramatic speculations. i Interest or ability made him successful;

he was entrusted with no less a task than the erection of Blenheim; and Castle Howard and other cele

; brated country mansions were built after his designs. He died in 1726. The little known of his personal character is to his credit. George Farquhar was born at Londonderry in 1678, and

is believed to have been the son of an George Farquhar Irish clergyman.

He forsook Trinity (1678-1707).

College for the stage, where he made some figure, but renounced his calling out of compunction for having accidentally wounded a fellow-actor. Coming to London with ten guineas lent to him by the manager, he achieved renown by his comedy of Love and a Bottle (1699). The Constant Couple (1701) was even more successful. Other plays followed, and from allusions in one of the principal, The Recruiting Officer (1706), as well as reminiscences and traditions, he is believed to have held a commission in the army. According to tradition, he was in. duced to sell his commission to pay his debts by the Duke of Ormond's promise to procure him another, and the disappointment of this expectation so deeply mortified him as to occasion his death. His last and best comedy, The Beaux' Stratagem, was written on his deathbed. He is a sympathetic figure among the literary men of the day, gallant and witty, nor incapable of serious feeling. According to his own account he was, like Liston and others who have contributed to the mirth of mankind, by nature a melancholy man. As to the mind, which in most men wears as many changes as their body, so in me 'tis gener. ally drest like my person, in black. Melancholy is its everyday apparel, and it has hitherto found few holidays to make it change its clothes. He adds : 'I am seldom troubled by what the world calls airs and caprices; and I think ’tis an idiot's excuse for a foolish action to say, 'twas my humour. I hate all little malicious tricks of vexing people; and I can't relish the jest that vexes another in earnest. If ever I do a wilful injury, it must be a very great one. I have so natural a propensity to ease, that I cannot cheerfully fix to any study which bears not a pleasure in the application; which makes me in. clinable to poetry above anything else. I have very little estate but what lies under the circumference of my hat; and should I by mischance.come to lose my head, I should not be worth a groat; but I ought to thank Providence




that I can by three hours' study live one-and-twenty with satisfaction to myself, and contribute to the maintenance of more families than some who have thousands a year. I have something in my outward behaviour which gives strangers a worse opinion of me than I deserve; but I am more than recompensed by the opinion of my acquaintance, which is as much above


desert. This, which is only part of a much longer character, addressed to a lady, is remarkable as the most detailed self-estimate of any man of letters of the period we possess, until we come to Steele.

Although there are undoubtedly considerable distinctions between the works of these four dramatists, such a fundamental unity nevertheless prevails among them that they may be advantageously considered together. They may be compared to a jewel with four facets, each casting a separate ray, but with little diversity in their cold brilliant glitter. Wit, gaiety, heartlessness, and profligacy are the common notes of them all, save that Congreve has tragic power, and, as well as Farquhar, real feeling. How far they painted, or intended to paint, the manners of their age, is a difficult question. Lamb thought that the world they depict was merely conventional, a Lampsacene Arcadia. Not even the indulgent Leigh Hunt, much less the austere Macaulay, can concur in this judgment, which is assuredly much too absolute. Yet it is indisputable that the manners they portray were not those of a nation that devoured Pilgrim's Progress, brought up children and domestics by the Whole Duty of Man, and deposed a king who meddled with the Church. Were they even the manners of the gay world? To some extent this is true; but there is evidence enough that even fashionable men thought of something else than seducing their neighbours' wives and daughters; that the slips even of fashionable

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