4* (out of 5)
I’m awarding this 4* (3.5) because on the strength of the title play alone, which I found to be droller than anything by friend-of-Swift Sheridan, this more than deserves to be brought back into print (brought out in 2004, it was reissued by OUP in ’09, but I could only find it used).
The last three– increasingly short–plays are the rather amusing The Confederacy (4* but as it is a more or less faithful adaptation of a French play by Florent Dancourt, those stars belong to the originator!), the unfinished and unfunny A Journey to London (2*, written late in life, it seems), and the very brief, amusing farce (again cribbed from a French original), and the one-act The Country House in which the householder of a summer residence is perpetually beset by more and still more visitors, who arrive but never leave–or at least until….
3* for the even more cynical, less funny, and certainly less easy-going second play, The Provoked Wife, whose titular character has a husband so relentlessly, boorishly, and violently, well, aristocratic as to drive her to cuckhold him, but which nevertheless also features the seeker Heartfree, who, beneath his cynical façade and in spite of the debauchery and superficiality of all around him, somehow retains some vestige of an idealism which is (Vanbrugh seems to suggest) foreign to these shores (or at least to the latter part of this century), and who sincerely beseeches:
Heartfree: All revolutions run into extremes; the bigot makes the boldest atheist, and the coyest saint the most extravagant strumpet. But prithee advise me in this good and evil, this blessing and cursing, that is set before me.
4* for the quite witty and well-written first play, The Relapse, in which I found this gem for all y’all Bookstagrammers (yaas I just lernt me that word) out there:
Amanda: I love a neat library too, but t’is I think the inside of the book should recommend it most to us.
Foppington: That I must confess I am nat altogether so fand of. Far to mind the inside of a book, is to entertain oneself with the forced product of another man’s brain. Naw I think a man of quality and breeding may be much better diverted with the natural sprauts of his own. (2.1.197-204)