Burnaby, Charles (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 07
Burnaby, Charles

by John Joseph Knight
William Burnaby in the ODNB.
BURNABY, CHARLES (?) (fl. 1700–1703), is the author of four comedies. The dedications to the printed editions of two of his plays are to the Duke of Ormonde and Lord Lorne, with whom he appears to have been on terms of some intimacy, and his prefaces show him to have had a fair education and to have been a man about town. He is first mentioned as the author of three plays, and as a ‘gentleman of the Inner Temple,’ and of ‘a university education,’ by Giles Jacob in the ‘Poetical Register’ (1723). This information, with the addition of a fourth play, is given in the list of dramatic poets affixed to Whincop’s ‘Scanderbeg.’ The name of Charles Burnaby is to be found at neither university and at neither Temple. In the ‘Athenæ Oxonienses’ (ed. Bliss), iv. 482, mention is made of a William Burnaby, son of William Burnaby, who was born in London, became a commoner of Merton College, Oxford, in the beginning of 1691, spent two years there, and went to the Middle Temple. With another writer, unnamed, he is responsible for the first translation of the ‘Satyricon,' &c., of Petronius Arbiter, published in London, 1694, sm. 8vo, the year following the appearance in Rotterdam of the ‘Satyricon’ completed from the fictitious manuscript of Belgrade. As none of the plays attributed to Burnaby bears any name of author, it seems possible that they are the work of William Burnaby rather than of Charles. The plays assigned to Burnaby, all of them comedies, are four: 1. ‘The Reform'd Wife,’ 4to, 1700. 2. ‘The Ladies’ Visiting Day,’ 4to, 1701; reprinted with the addition of a new scene, 4to, 1708.
  • 'The Modish Husband,' 4to, 1702.
  • 'Love Betray'd, or the Agreeable Disappointment,' 4to, 1702.

    From the first named, which was played at Drury Lane in 1700 and was a failure, Colley Gibber borrowed a portion of the 'Ladies' Last Stake.' The 'Ladies' Visiting Day,' given at Lincoln's Lin Fields in 1701, was withdrawn after one representation. It owes something to the 'Country Wife' of Wycherley, and was imitated by Gibber in the 'Double Gallant.' Concerning the 'Modish Husband,' produced at Drury Lane in 1702, Gildon, in his 'Comparison between Two Stages,' speaks contemptuously, expressing his satisfaction that 'the town has damned it' (p. 197). This, however, is a fairly amusing comedy, dealing, like other of the author's plays, with the intrigue of a married woman, but written with some smartness. 'Love Betray'd,' played at Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1703, is to some extent a modernisation of the 'Twelfth Night.' In one of his dedications Burnaby assigns as the cause of the failure of his comedies the charge of indecency which was brought against them. This might well be. The 'Reform'd Wife' is as cynical as anything in Wycherley. Genest says that this comedy was printed with no list of characters. He must have been misled by an imperfect copy. A full cast, including Wilks, Johnson, Haines, Mills, Mrs. Knight, Mrs. Rogers, and Mrs. Verbruggen, and confuting some of Genest's assumptions, is in perfect copies.

    [Downes's Roscius Anglicanus; Egerton's Theatrical Remembrancer; authorities cited.]

    J. K.