1699 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas D'Urfey

Charles Gildon, in Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets (1699) 48-52.



This Gentleman (if I am not misinformed) was Born in Devonshire, and design'd for some part of the Law; whatever provok'd him to Poetry I cann't tell; but whatever it was, he has with various Success given us above Twenty Plays, and if the prosperous Success of the Major part will give him the Credit of a Poet, he has a just pretence to it, and may justly Challenge it from all the Vindicators of Dr. Blackmores's Poem from that Topic. For my part, I can only say, that I have laught heartily at his Plays, which is one end of Comedy,  or Farce at least; and if the Criticks will deny him to be a good Writer of Comedy, they must allow him a Master of Farce. His Plays follow in Alphabetical Order.

The Banditti; or, A Ladies Distress, a Comedy, 4to. 1686. Acted at the Theatre Royal. Plot from Don Fenise, 8vo. See also the History of Don Antonio, B. 4. p. 250, Diego's turning Banditti, &c. from Pipperollo in Shirley's Sisters.

Bussy D'Ambois; or, The Husbands Revenge, a Tragedy, 4to. Acted at the Theatre Royal, 1691. newly Revised by Mr. Durfey, and Dedicated to the Right Honourable, Edward, Earl of Carlisle, Viscount Howard of Morpeth, &c. In his Epistle he owns it to be Chapman's, only challenges to himself the Merit of having Purged it of a great deal of Obsolete Phrases, and intolerable Fustian; tho' some are of Opinion, that with those Defects, he has injudiciously par'd away many of its Beauties. The Character of Tamyra, he will have us believe, he has alter'd for the better; tho' he'll hardly perswade, that Pity is due to a Woman, that quits her Honour and Virtue on any Account. You may find the Story in Thuanus Jean de Serres, and Mezeray, in the Reign of Henry III. of France, and the particular Intrigue of Bussy with Tamyra in Rosset, in his Histoires Tragiques de Notre temps, under the Names of Lysis and Silvie, Hist. 17. p. 363.

Commonwealth of Women, a Tragi-Comedy, 4to. 1686. Acted by their Majesty's Servants at the Theatre Royal, and Dedicated to the truly Noble and Illustrious Prince Christopher, Duke of Albemarle. This Play is borrowed from Fletcher's Sea Voyage.

Cinthia and Endimion; or, Loves of the Deities; a new Opera, as it was designed to be Acted at Court before the late Queen, and now Acted at the Theatre Royal by his Majesty's Servants, 1697. 4to. Dedicated to the Right Honourable Henry, Earl of Rumney, Viscount Sidney, &c. Our Author is not contented in the Title Page, to let his Patron know the Honour her late Majesty design'd this Off'ring of his Muse, but repeats it in the Epistle, which had indeed been the more pardonable piece of Vanity; but that's a small fault in a Poet, especially when there are so many greater in the Work it self. For by a sort of Poetick License, unknown to our great Master Horace, he perverts all those known Characters given us by Ovid; he has made the Chaste Favourite of Diana, (Daphne) both a Whore and a Jilt; and so sordid, as to contemn the God of Wit and Light, for a pitiful dull Country Lad: and fair Syrinx must loose her Reputation, in the unknown ignomy of an envious, jilting, mercenary, infamous Woman. Tho' this Play took, yet it merits not a nice Enquiry into its Virtues and Vices; but as I have given a specimen of one, my impartiality obliges me to own, that there are many Lines in it above the Genius which generally appears in his other Works. The Versification is often good, and the Expression often significant and Poetical. The Story of Cynthia and Endimion, as well as the others contained in this Opera, you may find beautifully done in their Original, in the several parts of Ovid's Metamorphoses, and that of Psyche in the 4th, 5th, and 6th Books of Lucius Appuleius de Asino Aureo.

The Comical History of Don Quixot, Acted at the Queens Theatre in Dorset-Garden, by their Majesties Servants, Part I. 1694. 4to. Dedicated to the Dutchess of Ormond. This Play met with an extraordinary Applause; and is taken entirely from that famous, and much Celebrated Antick Romance of the same Name, written by Michael Cervantes, a Spaniard.

Part II. Acted at the same Theatre, in the same Year, and Dedicated by an Epistle in Heroick Verse, to the Right Honourable Charles, Earl of Dorset and Middlesex, &c. This as well as the former, is taken from the foresaid Romance, and met with great Applause, which encouraged our Author to proceed to

Part III. adding to the Title of that only, With the Marriage of Mary the Buxome. This was Acted and Printed 1696. and Dedicated to the Right Honourable Charles Montague, Esq one of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, &c. in which he will not allow that its innate Defects are so obnoxious as are supposed; but owns its want of Success, which never Poet yet attributed to himself: This is as the other two Parts borrowed from the incomparable Cervantes.

The Fond Husband; or, The Plotting Sisters, a Comedy, 4to. 1678. Acted at the Dukes Theatre, and Dedicated to his Grace the Duke of Ormond: This when Presented first was accounted a good Play.

The Fool turn'd Critick, a Comedy, 4to. 1678. Acted at the Theatre Royal by their Majesties Servants. The Characters of Old Wine Love, Tim, and Small Wit, are something like Simo, Asotus, and Balio in Randolph's Jealous Lovers.

A Fool's Preferment; or, The Three Dukes of Dunstable, a Com. 4to. 1688. Acted at the Queens Theatre in Dorset-Garden, by their Majesties Servants, with Songs set by Mr. Henry Purcell, and Dedicated to the Honourable Charles, Lord Morpeth, transcribed from Fletcher's Noble Gentleman, except one Scene from the Novel of the Humours of Bassett.

The Injured Princes; or, The Fatal Wager, a Tragi-Comedy, 4to. 1682. Acted at the Theatre Royal by their Majesties Servants; the Prologue to this Play is the same with the Epilogue of another of his own, call'd, The Fool turn'd Critick; and the Foundation of the whole Play from Shakespear.

The Intrigues of Versailles; or, A Jilt in all Humours, a Comedy; Acted at the Theatre in Lincolns-Inn-Fields. 1697. 4to. This Play had not the Success the Author desired; who in his Epistle to the two Sir Charles Sidley's, is pleased to Condemn the Taste of the Town for not liking it, when they had approv'd others of his Plays of less value, and Merit, it having been approv'd by two such Judges as Mr. Congreve and Mr. Betterton, as he tells us it would be a sort of presumption to dissent from them, tho' with the Town on ones side; for of them, as of Cato, it may be said, "Viatrix causa diis placuit sed victa Catoni;" yet 'tis to me unaccountable, that Ramlure should be introduced speaking broken English, or a sort of Jargon between French and English, when all the Persons in the Play except Guillamour are French, and the Scene laid at Versailes. Nor can I imagine how Mr. Durfey and his two Judges cou'd oversee the young Count Tornese absconding in the very Court of the King, in so thin a Disguise as that of a Woman, when he had committed so unpardonable a Fault as a Duel is there, and have such a Confident of his Disguise as Voudosm, who had a better way of Attacking him than with a pruning Knife: But "Nequid Nimis." As for the Thefts they are numerous enough. Tornezres Disguise, and Count Brisack's falling in Love with his Wifes Gallant in Womans Cloaths, are Borrowed from a Novel call'd, The Double Cuckold. Vandosms Character seems to be a fairer Copy of Olivia in The Plain Dealer, and Mirtilla in Mrs. Behn's Play, call'd, The Amorous Jilt; but Vandosms Language is more Billinsgate than either, wanting the Wit of the first, and the Genteelness of the last.

Love for Money; or, The Boarding-School, a Comedy, Acted at the Theatre Royal, 1691. 4to. and Dedicated to the Right Honourable Charles, Lord Viscount Lansdown, Count of the Sacred Roman Empire, &c. This Play it seems in the first Days Representation met with Enemies, which endeavoured to Damn it, especially the Dancing-Masters, and other Friends to the Boarding-Schools, who supposed themselves, and their Livelihood expos'd; from which the Poet clears himself, and lets us understand, that all this Opposition could not oppress the Merit of the Play; which is, without doubt, a sufficient Proof that there was something in it that pleas'd more than ordinary. I do not find many new Characters; Deputy Nicompoop, Ned Bragg, &c. being the Refuge of ev'ry Cinic Writer, at least of late. The Plot in general I take to be his own.

Madam Fickle; or, The Witty False One, a Comedy, 4to. 1677. Acted at his Royal Highness the Dukes Theatre, and Dedicated to his Grace the Duke of Ormond. Old Love resembles Veterano in Marmion's Antiquary, Zechiel's creeping into the Tavern-Bush, and Tilbury's being drunk under it, &c. from Sir Reverence Lamard and Pimpwell in Islington and Hogsden-Walks. See also a Play call'd The Fawn, writ by Marston.

The Marriage Hater Match'd; a Comedy, Acted at the Theatre-Royal by their Majesties Servants, 1693. 4to. and Dedicated to the Illustrious, and truly Noble Prince James, Duke, Marquess, and Earl of Ormond in England and Ireland, &c. This Play was very well received, and in it Mr. Dogget gave the first Proofs that were taken great notice of, what an admirable Actor he was. Before this Play is prefix'd a Letter to the Author in Defence of it; and with that I do agree, that this is by much the best of his Comedies, tho' I can never allow the rest of that Epistle free from Flattery; and we may conclude that Friendship, or some other Motive blinded his Eyes very much, when he made so large an Encomium of it.

The Richmond Heiress; or, a Woman once in the Right, a Comedy, Acted at the Theatre Royal by their Majesties Servants, 1693. 4to. Dedicated to the Honourable, and my very good Friend Sir Nicholas Garrard, Bar. whom he is pleas'd to inform, that in the piece offer'd him, there appears no defect of Genius, whatever there might be of Judgment; whether the Poet be in the Right or no the Reader must Determine; but 'tis evident, it was not Received with an Applause Answerable to his Expectations; tho' upon a Revival and Alterations he has pleas'd the Town.

The Royallist; a Comedy, 4to. 1682. Acted at the Dukes Theatre. Camillas Trick of Sir Oliver Old-Cut, for Sir Charles King-Love, borrowed from Boccace's Novels, Day 7. Nov. 9. and the Song of Hey boys up go we, stollen from an Eclogue, 4to. in The Shepherd's Oracle.

The Siege of Memphis; or, The Ambitious Queen, a Tragedy, 4to. 1676. Acted at the Theatre Royal, and Dedicated to Henry Chivers, Esq. This Play met not with that Success the Author desired.

Sir Barnaby Whig; or, No Wit like a Womans; a Comedy, 4to. 1681. Acted at the Theatre Royal by their Majesties Servants, and Dedicated to the Right Honourable George, Earl of Berkley. Plot from The Fine Companion, a Play of Marmion's, and part from a Novel call'd The Double Cuckold, 8vo.

Trick for Trick; or, The Debauch'd Hypocrite, a Comedy, 4to. 1678. This is only Monsieur Thomas (a Play of Fletcher's) Reviv'd.

The Virtuous Wife; or, Good Luck at last; a Comedy, 4to. 1680. Several Hints stollen from other Plays (viz.) The Fawn, Marriage A-la-mode, &c.

He has written besides the above-mentioned Plays, some Volumes of Songs and Poems, as Butler's Ghost, Collins's Walk, &c.