Life and Work

  • David Thomas
Part of the English Dramatists book series (ENGDRAMA)


Congreve the man is an elusive figure. Throughout his life he seemed content to remain at the edges of fame and fortune. Time and again he showed himself loath to advance his own case with totally committed energy and instead preferred to withdraw to the isolation and sanctuary of his study. He was passionately involved in the political issues of his age but never directly in political action. He was committed to extending the frontiers of comic writing in the theatre and yet preferred to withdraw from the theatre altogether rather than suffer the indignity of public misunderstanding and rejection. He was a passionate lover and yet never managed to find a mistress to whom he could commit himself without having to resort to constant deception and subterfuge. His whole life seemed an urbane and studied attempt to transform life’s inevitable vicissitudes and disappointments, through a series of deliberately planned rational strategies, into a harmonious and pleasing pattern.


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  1. 1.
    See A. Lindsay and H. Erskine-Hall, William Congreve: The Critical Heritage (London and New York: Routledge, 1989) p. 260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 4.
    Both points are illustrated in many of the letters printed in John C. Hodges (ed.), William Congreve: Letters and Documents (London: Macmillan, 1964).Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Quoted from John C. Hodges, William Congreve the Man: A Biography from New Sources (New York: Modem Language Association of America, 1941) p. 40.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    This point was first made by Colley Cibber in his Apology for the Life of Mr Colley Cibber, Written by Himself [London, 1740] ed. B.R.S. Fone (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1968) p. 98.Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    The text of the licence is reproduced in D. Thomas (ed.), Theatre in Europe: a Documentary History. Restoration and Georgian England, 1660–1788 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989) p. 22.Google Scholar
  6. 22.
    See A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and other Stage Personnel in London. 1660–1800, vol. 2, ed. Phillip Highfill Jr, Kaiman A. Burnim and Edward Langhans (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973) p. 276.Google Scholar
  7. 27.
    Blenheim MSS. FI. 35, ff 36–7, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxon. Quoted from Kathleen M. Lynch: A Congreve Gallery (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1951) p. 75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 33.
    Quoted from The Mourning Bride, Poems and Miscellanies by William Congreve, ed. Bonamy Dobrée (London: Oxford University Press, 1928) pp. 401–2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Thomas 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Thomas
    • 1
  1. 1.Castle LaneUK

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