William Wycherley was born in Clive, a little village in Shropshire, a county in England. Like the sons of many well-to-do families, Wycherley went to France, during the time when the heir to the English throne, Charles II, was a fugitive. Charles's father was beheaded by Parliament and his son did not wish to meet the same fate. While in France, Wycherley learned the ways of upper-class society, in the company of a social butterfly, Duchesse de Montausier. Many of the witticisms that figure in Wycherley's comedies were influenced by French manners.
Back in England, in 1659, Wycherley passed the bar and became a lawyer. For a while, Wycherley dabbled in natural philosophy at Oxford University but did not complete a degree.
It seems Wycherley practiced law for about twelve years, but he must have also been trying his hand at writing plays. Love in a Wood was published and performed in 1672. The same year, partially as a result of the play's success, he came under the favor of the Duchess of Cleveland, a famous beauty and one of King Charles II's mistresses. Through her good offices, Wycherley joined the services of Lord Buckingham, himself a renowned writer of comedies. In 1673, his second play, The Gentleman Dancing Master, was produced and became a roaring success.
By 1675, William Wycherley had firmly established himself as a playwright and had come under the notice of the King himself. His stock was on the rise when The Country Wife, his best-known comedy, was published and performed. In 1676 his fourth play, The Plain Dealer, was produced and became another huge success.
In 1678, however, Wycherley fell seriously ill. Charles II recommended a journey to France because the king thought the warmer climate would do Wycherley good. He gave Wycherley five-hundred pounds for expenses, an enormous sum for that time.
Money plus the good life in France cured whatever...
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