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Book Title: The Gentleman Dancing-Master|
The author of the book: William Wycherley
Edition: Dodo Press
Date of issue: May 2nd 2008
ISBN 13: 9781409908623
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Reader ratings: 3.4
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 32.14 MB
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William Wycherley (1640-1716) was an English dramatist of the Restoration period. He was born at Clive, Shropshire near Shrewsbury. He spent his early years in France, where he was sent, at fifteen, to be educated in the heart of the "precious" circle on the banks of the Charente. While staying there, Wycherley converted to Roman Catholicism. He returned to England shortly before the restoration of King Charles II, and lived at Queen's College, Oxford. Pleasure and the stage were his only interests. His play Love in a Wood was produced early in 1671 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, but was published the next year. It is, however, on his two last comedies -The Country Wife and The Plain Dealer- that Wycherley's fame rests. The Country Wife, produced in 1672 or 1673 and published in 1675, is full of wit, ingenuity, high spirits and conventional humour.
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Read information about the authorWilliam Wycherley was an English dramatist of the Restoration period, best known for the plays The Country Wife and The Plain Dealer.
Wycherley left Oxford University and took up residence at the Inner Temple, but gave little attention to the study of law. Pleasure and the stage were his only interests. His play, Love in a Wood, was produced early in 1671 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. It was published the next year. Though Wycherley boasted of having written the play at the age of nineteen, before going to Oxford, this is probably untrue. Macaulay points to the allusions in the play to gentlemen's periwigs, to guineas, to the vests which Charles ordered to be worn at court, to the Great Fire of London, etc., as showing that the comedy could not have been written the year before the author went to Oxford. However, even if the play had been written in that year, and delayed in its production till 1672, it is exactly this kind of allusion to recent events which any dramatist with an eye to freshness of colour would be certain to weave into his dialogue.
That the writer of a play far more daring than Etheredge's She Would if She Could — and far more brilliant too — should at once become the talk of the court was inevitable; equally inevitable was it that the author of the song at the end of the first act, in praise of harlots and their offspring, should attract the attention of the king's mistress, Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland. Possibly Wycherley intended this famous song as a glorification of Her Grace and her profession, for he seems to have been more delighted than surprised when, as he passed in his coach through Pall Mall, he heard her address him from her coach window as a "rascal" and a "villain", and the son of a woman such as that mentioned in the song. His answer was perfect: "Madam, you have been pleased to bestow a title on me which belongs only to the fortunate." Seeing that she received the compliment in the spirit in which it was meant, he lost no time in calling upon her, and was from that moment the recipient of those "favours" to which he alludes with pride in the dedication of the play to her. Voltaire's story (in his Letters on the English Nation) that Her Grace used to go to Wycherley's chambers in the Temple disguised as a country wench, in a straw hat, with pattens on and a basket in her hand, may be apocryphal, for disguise was superfluous in her case, but it shows how general was the opinion that, under such patronage as this, Wycherley's fortune as poet and dramatist was now made. King Charles, who had determined to bring up his son, the Duke of Richmond, like a prince, sought as his tutor a man as qualified as Wycherley to impart a "princely education", and it seems clear that, if not for Wycherley's marriage, the education of the young man would actually have been entrusted to him as a reward for having written Love in a Wood.
It is, however, his two last comedies — The Country Wife and The Plain Dealer — that sustain Wycherley's reputation. The Country Wife, produced in 1672 or 1673 and published in 1675, is full of wit, ingenuity, high spirits and conventional humour.
It was after the success of The Plain Dealer that the turning point came in Wycherley's career. The great dream of all the men about town in Charles's time, as Wycherley's plays all show, was to marry a widow, young and handsome, a peer's daughter if possible — but in any event rich, and spend her money upon wine and women. While talking to a friend in a bookseller's shop at Tunbridge, Wycherley heard The Plain Dealer asked for by a lady who, in the person of the countess of Drogheda (Letitia Isabella Robartes, eldest daughter of the 1st Earl of Radnor and widow of the 2nd Earl of Drogheda), answered all the requirements. An introduction ensued, then love-making, then marriage — a secret marriage, probably in 1680, for, fearing to lose the king's patronage and the income therefrom, Wycherley still th
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