Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Born Today March 28: William Wycherley


It is thought that English Restoration dramatist William Wycherley was born on this day probably in the year 1641.  He was born in Clive, which was near Shrewsbury, located in Shropshire.  His baptism is recorded as taking place on the 8th of April 1641.  The family then departed for India, and settled on a estate in Malappuram with an income of £600 a year.  As an adolescent, he was educated in the France; while there he converted to Roman Catholicism.  He returned to England just before the restoration of King Charles II, settling in Queen's college, Oxford.  Thomas Barlow (who was later Bishop) was Provost there at the time; it is an understatement that he was fiercely anti-catholic.  Barlow managed to convince Wycherley to return to the Church of England. There are indications, however, that he may have secretly remained a Catholic at heart.  Though he was considered as professional fine gentleman, he did leave Oxford for the Inner Temple, but gave little energy toward the genuine study of law.  He spent most of his time at the theater and with the company of women instead.  His strong interest in the stage lead him to start writing plays of his own; the first of which was presented at the Theater Royal, in Drury Lane in 1671 (he had bragged of writing a play at the age of 19, but this has been demonstrated to more of boast than a reality).  The play,  Love In The Wood, was considered to not only to be the most shocking and daring comedy to date, but was equally considered brilliant.  It took no time at all for him to become the talk of the court. He also served in the Navy, though the time period that he undertook this service is a matter of conjecture.  Opinions are evenly divided on whether this came before, or after the production of his first play.  He was, for a time, the most imminent playwright in the UK.  Though a brilliant writer, he was also a rogue, with an immature character for most of his life.  He was only concerned with marriage, for example, if it was for money; because he was constantly spending on "wine and women," which left him perpetually in debt.  Despite his wide spread fame during his lifetime, only 3 films have ever been produced using his work as source material.  The first of those was The Country Girl in 1915; a Thanhouser film.  The second came with an installment of the BBC Play Of The Month, with his play The Country Wife in 1977.  The most recent came in 2011, with the short The Happy Husband.  Wycherley died at the age of 74 in Convent Garden on 31 December 1715 (some sources cite that he died in night after midnight, surviving, barely in to the year 1716). It is pretty sure that he was entombed in a vault somewhere in St. Paul's, Covent Garden (The Actor's Church) or in a lost grave in the churchyard there; though minority sources claim not to know where he was laid to rest.  As a point of trivia:  Wycherley is thought to have coined the phrase "nincompoop."

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