George Farquhar Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Many traditions and legends have developed around the sparse facts known about the life of George Farquhar. The earliest documented evidence is contained in the records of Trinity College, which list him as entering in July, 1694, at the age of seventeen, establishing his year of birth as either 1677 or 1678. These records also note Londonderry, Ireland, as his place of birth, and Walker as the name of his previous teacher. Farquhar entered Trinity College, presumably to study for the Church, with a sizarship that entitled him to an allowance of bread and ale in return for serving duties. He won a scholarship less than a year after entering. This four pounds a year was suspended for a time, however, because of his riotous behavior at the Donnybrook Fair. Sometime after February, 1696, he left Trinity without taking a degree.

Not long after, Farquhar became an actor at the Smock Alley Theatre, the only theater in Dublin. His not particularly successful career as an actor ended after he wounded a fellow player in a duel scene, having forgotten to use a blunted foil. It was supposedly on the advice of his friend Robert Wilks, who was later to become one of the most popular actors on the London stage, that Farquhar went to London, probably in 1697, to write plays. Love and a Bottle, his first play, was produced at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in December, 1698. It reportedly ran for nine nights, a successful debut for the young playwright. That same month, a pamphlet entitled The Adventures of Covent Garden appeared anonymously. It has been attributed with some certainty to Farquhar on the basis of hints in the preface, the technique of the writer, and the fact that one of the poems appears in a later text, this time signed by Farquhar.

About a year later, again at Drury Lane, The Constant Couple was performed, which Farquhar later described as drawing some fifty audiences in a five-month period. Robert Wilks, who had...

(The entire section is 803 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

George Farquhar (FAHR-kwur), the son of William Farquhar, a clergyman, entered Trinity College, Dublin, at the age of seventeen, under the patronage of the bishop of Dromore. He was soon thereafter expelled, possibly because of the death of his patron. After leaving the college, he worked for a while as a corrector for the press of a bookseller and then as an actor in Dublin. In a fencing scene in John Dryden’s Indian Emperor, however, Farquhar forgot to change his sword for a foil and almost killed a fellow actor. He never acted again.

He arrived in London about 1697 and began to write comedies. He had met the famous comedian Robert Wilkes in Dublin, and it was perhaps Wilkes’s influence that got Farquhar’s first play, Love and a Bottle, on the boards at Drury Lane in 1699. In 1703 Farquhar married in the expectation of a fortune, only to find that he had been deceived. The remainder of his short life was spent in a constant struggle against poverty. While writing the second act of The Beaux’ Stratagem Farquhar realized that he suffered from a mortal illness. He completed the play and lived through its third night at the Haymarket Theatre before his death in May, 1707.

Farquhar has been called the last notable figure in the Restoration tradition, but he belongs perhaps more properly to the eighteenth century. In 1698 the Puritan call for reform found its most notable voice in the pamphlet A Short View of...

(The entire section is 590 words.)