A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Vanbrugh, Sir John

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Vanbrugh, Sir John (1664-1726).—Dramatist and architect, b. in London of Flemish descent, was in France from 1683 to 1685, studying architecture, for which he had early shown a taste. The next year he got a commission in the army, and in 1690 he was a prisoner first at Vincennes and then in the Bastille. In 1696 he began his dramatic career with The Relapse, which had great success. Æsop followed in 1697, and The Provoked Wife in the same year. The latter was severely handled by Jeremy Collier (q.v.) in his Short View, etc., which produced a vindication by the author. In addition to these he wrote or collaborated in various other plays. His leading features as a dramatist are the naturalness of his dialogue and his lively humour. Like all his contemporaries he is frequently extremely gross. He obtained great fame as an architect, as well as a dramatist. Among his most famous designs are Castle Howard, Blenheim Palace, and Dalkeith Palace. He was knighted by George I., was controller of the Royal works, and succeeded Wren as architect to Greenwich Hospital. In addition to the plays above mentioned V. wrote The Confederacy and The Country House. He was a handsome and jovial person, and highly popular in society.