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George Farquhar, the author of this comedy, was the son of a clergyman in the north of Ireland. He was born in the year 1678, discovered an early taste for literature, and wrote poetic stanzas at ten years
In 1694 he was sent to Trinity College, Dublin, and there made such progress in his studies as to acquire considerable reputation. But he was volatile and poor-the first misfortune led him to expense ; the second, to devise means how to support extravagance.
The theatre has peculiar charms for men of letters. Whether as a subject of admiration or animadversion, it is still a source of high amusement; and here Farquhar fixed his choice of a profession, in the united expectations of pleasure and of profit-he appeared on the stage as an actor, and was disappointed of both.
The author of this licentious comedy is said to have possessed the advantages of person, manners, and elocution, to qualify him for an actor; but that he could never overcome his natural timidity. Courage is a whimsical virtue. It acts upon one man so as to
make him expose his whole body to danger, whilst he dares not venture into the slightest peril one sentiment of his mind. Such is often the soldier's valour. com Another trembles to expose
either to a wound or to the eye of criticism, and yet will dare to publish every thought that ever found entrance into his imagination. Such is often the valour of a poet.
Farquhar, abashed on exhibiting his person upon the stage, sent boldly thither his niost indecorous thoughts, and was rewarded for his audacity.
In the year 1700 he brought out this comedy of “ The Constant Couple; or, A Trip to the Jubilee.” It was then the Jubilee year at Rome, and the author took advantage of that occurrence to render the title of his drama popular; for which cause alone it must be supposed he made any thing in his play refer to that festival, as no one material point is in any shape connected with it.
At the time Farquhar was a performer, a sincere friendship was formed between him and Wilks, the celebrated fine gentleman of the stage--for him, Farquhar wrote the character of Sir Harry Wildair ; and Wilks, by the very admirable manner in which he supported the part, divided with the author those honours which the first appearrnce of the work obtained him.
As a proof that this famed actor's abilities, in the representation of the fine gentlemen of his day, were not over-rated, no actor, since he quitted the stage, has been wholly successful in the performance of this character; and, from Wilks down to the present time,
the part has only been supported with celebrity by
The noted Mrs Woffington was highly extolled in Sir Harry; and Mrs Jordan has been no less admired and attractive.
But it must be considered as a disgrace to the memory of the men of fashion, of the period in which Wildair was brought on the stage, that he has ever since been justly personated, by no other than the female sex. In this particular, at least, the present race of fashionable beaux cannot be said to have degenerated; for, happily, they can be represented by men.
The love story of Standard and Lurewell, in this play, is interesting to the reader, though, in action, an audience scarcely think of either of them; or of any one in the drama, with whom the hero is not po. sitively concerned. Yet these two lovers, it would seem, love with all the usual ardour and constancy of gallants and mistresses in plays and novels-unfortu. nately with the same short memories too! Authors, and some who do not'generally deal in wonders, often make persons, the most tenderly attached to each other, so easily forget the shape, the air, the every feature of the dear beloved, as to pass, after a few years separation, whole days together, without the least conjecture that each is the very object of the other's search! Whilst all this surprising forgetfulness possesses them, as to the figure, face, and mind of him or her whom they still adore, show either of them but a ring, a bracelet, a mole, a scar, and here remembrance instantly occupies its place, and both are immediately inspired with every sensation which first testified their mutual passion. Still the sober critic must arraign the strength of this love with the shortness of its recollection; and charge the renewal of affection for objects that no longer appear the same, to fickleness rather than to constancy.
The biographers of Farquhar, who differ in some articles concerning him, all agree that he was married, in the year 1704, to a lady, who was so violently in love with him, that, despairing to win him by her own attractions, she contrived a vast scheme of imposition, by which she allured him into wedlock, with the full conviction that he had married a woman of immense fortune.
The same biographers all bestow the highest praise upon poor Farquhar for having treated this wife with kindness; humanely forgiving the fault which had deprived him of that liberty he was known peculiarly to prize, and reduced him to the utmost poverty, in order to support her and her children.
This woman, whose pretended love was of such fatal import to its object, not long enjoyed her selfish happiness her husband's health gradually declined, and he died four years after his marriage. It is related that he met death with fortitude and cheerful
He could scarcely do otherwise, when life had become a burden to him. He had, however, some objects of affection to leave behind, as appears by the following letter, which he wrote a few days before his decease, and directed to his friend Wilks :-