This article was originally
published in European Theories of the Drama. Barrett H.
Clark. Cincinnati: Stewart & Kidd Company, 1918.
GEORGE FARQUHAR was born in Londonderry, Ireland, in 1677 or 1678. Little is known of his early years beyond the fact that he went to school in his native town and entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1694. He remained there about a year. Not long after he made the acquaintance of the actor Robert Wilks, through whom he obtained a position on the Dublin stage, where he acted many parts during 1696. He accidentally wounded an actor and left the stage, having decided to write plays. He went to London that or the following year. Love and a Bottle, his first comedy, was produced at Drury Lane in 1698, and enjoyed a fair degree of popularity. It is interesting to know that soon after his arrival he discovered Nance Oldfield and with Vanbrugh's help, secured her a place with Rich. Farquhar's next play brought him a certain fame. This was The Constant Couple, produced in 1699. The next year found him in Holland, probably for his health. Sir Harry Wildair, his next play, was produced in1701. The Inconstant and The Twin Rivals belong to the year 1702. Later in the same year Farquhar published a little collection of miscellaneous prose and verse, in which he included his Discourse upon Comedy. He was married probably the next year. He spent the following three in recruiting for the army, though he collaborated with Motteux in an adaptation from the French, called The Stage Coach (1704). Two years later The Recruiting Officer was performed at Drury Lane. Though it was successful, Farquhar was harassed with debts and was forced to sell a commission which he held. During an illness in 1707 he wrote The Beaux Stratagem. He died a few weaks after the first performance.
Farquhar's importance as a dramatist consists in his having combined many of the elements of the comedy of his time and evolving them into a form which was later developed by Goldsmith and Sheridan. One of the dire results of Collier's attack on the stage was the conversion of Farquhar. The Twin Rivals (1702) and its Preface constitute Farquhar's reply to Collier; the play, in the author's words, sets out to prove that "an English comedy may answer the strictness of poetical justice." This was precisely the "poetical justice" which Addison attacked in the Spectator, the conventional reward of the virtue and punishment of vice. The Discourse published the same year contains a defense of the drama against Collier and his followers, but in general, it is merely a light essay, anti-classic in its rejection of the Unities.