William Congreve

(1670—1729) playwright and poet

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educated at Kilkenny school and Trinity College, Dublin, at both of which he was a fellow student of Swift. He entered the Middle Temple, but soon gave up law for literature, published a novel of intrigue, Incognita (1691), and in 1693 suddenly achieved fame with his comedy The Old Bachelor. Of his other comedies, The Double Dealer was published in 1694 (first performed 1693), Love for Love in 1695, and The Way of the World in 1700. In these Congreve shows himself the master of Restoration comedy, studying the social pressures on love and marriage with wit and subtlety. His one tragedy, The Mourning Bride, was produced in 1697. After 1700 he wrote comparatively little for the stage; he was by then in comfortable circumstances, holding more than one government post, and enjoying general admiration and the friendship of men like Swift, Steele, and Pope. He was visited by Voltaire, and had an affair with the duchess of Marlborough, who bore him a daughter. He was throughout the friend of Mrs Bracegirdle. He was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Subjects: Literature.

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