A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Congreve, William

Congreve, William (1670-1729).—Dramatist, was b. in Yorkshire. In boyhood he was taken to Ireland, and ed. at Kilkenny and at Trinity Coll., Dublin. In 1688 he returned to England and entered the Middle Temple, but does not appear to have practised, and took to writing for the stage. His first comedy, The Old Bachelor, was produced with great applause in 1693, and was followed by The Double Dealer (1693), Love for Love (1695), and The Way of the World (1700), and by a tragedy, The Mourning Bride (1697). His comedies are all remarkable for wit and sparkling dialogue, but their profanity and licentiousness have driven them from the stage. These latter qualities brought them under the lash of Jeremy Collier (q.v.) in his Short View of the English Stage. Congreve rushed into controversy with his critic who, however, proved too strong for him. C. was a favourite at Court, and had various lucrative offices conferred upon him. In his latter years he was blind; otherwise his life was prosperous, and he achieved his chief ambition of being admired as a fine gentleman and gallant.

Life, Gosse (1888). Works, ed. by Henley (1895), also Mermaid Series (1888).