WILLIAM CONGREVE: Letters and Documents by John C. - Ed. Hodges

WILLIAM CONGREVE: Letters and Documents

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Dryden in the 17th century signaled Congreve as his successor, at least in the comedy of manners; Swinburne in the 19th called The Way of the World that ""unequalled and unapproached masterpiece"". Critical estimate in the 20th generally agrees with both: Will Congreve is top dog of the Restoration stage. However, except in rare repertory resurrections, neither on Broadway nor the West End, is he even a lukewarm property. The selection here of letters and documents- by him, to him, about him- formidably footnoted and cubbyholed, is a praiseworthy assemblage indeed, but it's a little like gilding a corpse. One can't imagine its interest other than to students of the period or the playwright. The language is quite formal, quite fastidious. The correspondence with an Irish buddy is domestic and dull. Congreve's Pindaric Ode discourse and some of his reflections on wit and humor are worth a close reading. Extracted epistles from Addison, Steele, Pope and Swift are interspersed throughout, with the Gloomy Dean's being a good deal jazzier than anything in the whole volume. Other matters: business, licenses, wills, and a bit of mystery concerning the Duchess of Marlborough, the woman of Congreve's life. But to speculate on his persona from any of this stuff is rather chancy. For the scholars.

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World