Vanbrugh, John (DNB00)
VANBRUGH or VANBURGH, Sir JOHN (1664–1726), dramatist and architect, born in the parish of St. Nicolas Acons, and christened 24 Jan. 1663–4, was the son of Giles Vanbrugh (1631–1689), who married in 1660 Elizabeth, fifth and youngest daughter of Sir Dudley Carleton, nephew and heir of Sir Dudley Carleton, viscount Dorchester [q. v.] His grandfather, Gillis van Brugg of Ghent (who was probably related to Van den Bergh, the pupil of Rubens, born at Ypres in 1615), emigrated from West Flanders, obtained letters of denization from James I, resided as a merchant in the parish of St. Stephen's, Walbrook (Misc. Gen. et Herald. ii. 116), became a churchwarden, and was on 21 June 1646 buried in St. Stephen's Church. The dramatist's father, Giles, migrated from London to Chester in 1667, and set up as a sugar-baker. He was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Chester, on 19 July 1689 (Notes and Queries, 1st ser. viii. 232). His will was proved on 24 July 1689 by the widow, who survived until 13 Aug. 1711, and was buried at Thames Ditton (for an abstract of the will, see ib. 2nd ser. i. 117). Sir John's first cousin, William Vanbrugh, was nominated by Evelyn for the secretaryship of the Greenwich Hospital commission, 31 May 1695, subsequently became secretary and comptroller of the treasury chamber, and died on 20 Nov. 1716. ‘Mr. George Vanbrugh,’ song-writer, who flourished 1710–25, was probably the son of this William (cf. Brit. Mus. Cat. Music).
After education, in all probability at Chester grammar school, John Vanbrugh was sent in 1683 to France, where he received his architectural training. Yet his stay in France was brief, as he was back in London by the close of 1685, and early in the new year he received a commission in Owen Maccarthy's company in the Earl of Huntingdon's regiment (commission dated Whitehall, 30 Jan. 1685–6). The regiment was originally formed by Huntingdon in June 1685, and after his death in 1701 became known as the 13th foot, or East Somerset regiment. Vanbrugh subsequently became a captain in this regiment (Comm. to ‘Jno. Van Brook’ dated 10 March 1702, see Dalton, Army Lists, iii. 409). In the summer of 1690 Vanbrugh was seized at Calais upon information from a lady in Paris to the effect that he was travelling without a passport. His arrest was approved by the authorities, who held out hopes of an early exchange. In May 1691 he was transferred to Vincennes, where his treatment appears to have undergone a change for the worse. About the same time Sir Dudley North made a proposal to the effect that his brother Montagu and Vanbrugh, who were both prisoners in France, should be exchanged against M. Bertelier, a French agent of some importance who was detained in Newgate, but nothing came of this suggestion. In January 1692, with a view of silencing complaints, Louis XIV ordered Vanbrugh to be transferred to the Bastille. He was put in the fourth chamber of the ‘Tour de Liberté,’ and was allowed to take exercise at will and to receive his friends. Many years afterwards he gave the name of Bastille to a house which he built for himself at Greenwich. Voltaire repeats a saying of his that he had not the slightest idea what gained him the distinction of detention in such a fortress (Voltaire, Lettres sur les Anglais, No. xix.). It was not until 22 Nov. 1692 that he was set at liberty, M. de Lagny, fermier général, standing surety for him to a large amount (‘Corresp. of Pontchartrain’ and ‘Journal of Du Junca,’ dep. governor, ap. Ravaisson, Archives de la Bastille, ix. 338–46; cf. Luttrell). Vanbrugh is said to have employed some of his enforced leisure in drafting a comedy, the nucleus as it proved of his famous ‘Provok'd Wife.’
For a time Vanbrugh seems to have resumed his military duties; on 31 Jan. 1695–6 he was, as ‘John Brooke,’ granted a captain's commission in Berkeley's marine regiment of foot, and henceforth until he was knighted was known to the town as ‘Captain Vanbrugh.’
The production of Cibber's ‘Love's Last Shift’ at the Theatre Royal in January 1695–6 inspired Vanbrugh to give a comedy to the stage. He thought that it would be interesting to develop the situation upon which Cibber had rung down the curtain, and the result was the ‘Relapse,’ ‘got, conceived, and born in six weeks' space’ (Prologue). It was not, however, until Boxing-day 1696 that the ‘Relapse’ was given at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane with Cibber as Lord Foppington. This was Vanbrugh's inimitable enlargement of Cibber's original conception of a typical fop, known before his elevation to the peerage as Sir Novelty Fashion. Sir Fopling Flutter in Etherege's ‘Man of Mode’ suggests a faint outline of the part, but Foppington is vastly superior. The performance was an unqualified success, and well within the normal limit of eight days was published the ‘Relapse, or Vertue in Danger, being the sequel of the Fool in Fashion: a Comedy’ (1697, 4to; a second quarto appeared in 1698; again 1708; 1711, 12mo; 1735, 12mo; 1770, 8vo).
The play remained a prime favourite with the public throughout the eighteenth century, and has passed through several transformations. A three-act farce, called ‘The Man of Quality,’ was carved out of it by Lee and given at Covent Garden in 1776; and in the following year Sheridan, reflecting that it was ‘a pity to exclude the productions of our best writers for want of a little wholesome pruning,’ recast it as ‘A Trip to Scarborough.’ The original play was seen at the Olympic in 1846, and at the Strand as late as 1850. A version by Mr. John Hollingshead, also called ‘The Man of Quality,’ was produced at the Gaiety on 7 May 1870 with Miss Nellie Farren as Miss Hoyden, a part in which Mrs. Jordan had excelled; and another, called ‘Miss Tomboy,’ by Mr. Robert Buchanan, at the Vaudeville on 20 March 1890 (cf. Theatre, 1 May 1890).
The ‘Relapse’ was followed at a very short interval by ‘Æsop,’ a free version of the first part of Edmond Boursault's ‘Les Fables d'Ésope,’ a favourite piece in Paris in 1690. Vanbrugh's superiority in wit and humour to his original is shown as decisively as his inferiority in the matter of sentiment. It seems to have been produced at Drury Lane about 15 Jan. 1697, and was published anonymously in quarto in the same month (the second part, forming a translation of ‘Ésope à la Cour,’ the best of Boursault's pieces—produced in 1701, but then prohibited by Louis XIV—does not appear to have been acted in England; it was appended to a second quarto of 1697; again in 8vo 1711, and Dublin 1725).
‘Æsop’ hardly sustained Vanbrugh's reputation, but by May 1697 he had another play ready. This was his well-known comedy, ‘The Provok'd Wife,’ a piece the indecencies of which, according to Dr. Blair, ‘ought to explode it out of all reputable society.’ The same comedy, in the mind of Charles James Fox, entitled Vanbrugh to be called ‘almost as great a genius as ever lived’ (Samuel Rogers, Recollections, 1859, p. 32). Originally, it is said, planned in the Bastille, this pre-eminently strong play was produced by Betterton at Lincoln's Inn Fields about 20 May 1697, the great actor himself playing Sir John Brute, while Lady Brute was sustained by Mrs. Barry, and Belinda by Bracegirdle (it was simultaneously published in quarto as ‘The Provok'd Wife: a Comedy as it is acted at the New Theatre in Little Lincoln's Inn Fields, by the Author of a New Comedy call'd the Relapse;’ again 1709, 1710, 1743, 1770; a French translation, ‘La femme poussée à bout,’ appeared in ‘Mélange curieux des meilleures pièces attribuées à Mr. de Saint-Evremond,’ Amsterdam, 1726, i. 235). Sir John Brute was afterwards one of Garrick's great parts (cf. Zoffany's fine picture of him in this rôle at the Garrick Club).
Two such plays as the ‘Relapse’ and the ‘Provok'd Wife’ supplied Jeremy Collier with unrivalled material for his philippic against the stage, and the ‘Short View,’ upon its appearance in March 1698, contained not only frequent allusions to Vanbrugh, but a detailed analysis of the contents of the ‘Relapse’ (chap. v.). On 8 June appeared Vanbrugh's ‘Short Vindication of the Relapse and the Provok'd Wife from Immorality and Profaneness.’ Though it contains a few strokes of wit, the rejoinder proved even more futile than Congreve's.
An interval followed in Vanbrugh's dramatic activity. His next contribution to the theatre was an alteration (from verse to prose, to suit the taste of the day) of Beaumont and Fletcher's ‘Pilgrim,’ which was produced at Drury Lane to celebrate the advent of ‘a new century’ (25 March 1700). On the third night Dryden took his ‘last benefit,’ contributing a prologue and epilogue which were spoken by Colley Cibber, and testify to the unfailing vigour of the veteran. The association would seem to point to a fraternal amity between Dryden and one of his most brilliant successors. The adaptation witnessed the triumph (in the rôle of Alinda) of Anne Oldfield [q. v.], who owed to Vanbrugh this first chance of recommending herself to the public (see Dryden, ed. Scott, viii. 439–64; Chetwood, Hist. of Stage, 1749, p. 201; Robins, Nance Oldfield, 1899). Next of Vanbrugh's pieces appeared the ‘False Friend,’ produced at Drury Lane at the end of January 1702, and published in February without the author's name (London, 4to; ‘Friendship à la Mode: a Comedy of two acts altered from Sir John Vanbrugh,’ appeared at Dublin, 1766, 8vo). The ‘False Friend’ is a free rendering of Le Sage's ‘Traître puni,’ which is itself a version of Francisco de Rojas Zorrilla's ‘La Traicion busca el castigo.’ The fact that Vanbrugh repairs some of the ‘cuts’ made by Le Sage points to his knowledge of the original (perhaps in the literal translation into French published at the Hague in 1700). In the prologue the author speaks of gradually abating the immorality which had been charged against contemporary plays, but he addresses himself to the task in the most cautious fashion.
Vanbrugh had already laid two of the three best French playwrights of his time under contribution. In his ‘Country House,’ a farce produced at Drury Lane on 16 June 1705 (and probably earlier), he levied a first tax upon a third, Carton Dancourt, the ‘Teniers of French comedy,’ whose ‘Maison de campagne’ had appeared on 27 Jan. 1688 (Vanbrugh's farce was published anonymously, London, 12mo, 1715; reprinted as ‘La Maison Rustique,’ 1740; what is apparently an eighteenth-century adaptation forms Addit. MS. 25959). Again, in the ‘Confederacy,’ the most vivacious of Vanbrugh's pieces, and perhaps of English prose comedies before Sheridan, he closely followed Dancourt's ‘Les Bourgeoises à la mode’ (1692). ‘The Confederacy’ was given on 30 Oct. 1705 at the new theatre built by Vanbrugh in the Haymarket, and printed as ‘by the Author of the Relapse’ on 15 Nov. (‘The Confederacy. As it is acted at the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket,’ reprinted 1735). Richard Estcourt adapted the same piece of Dancourt in ‘The Fair Example’ (first printed in 1706), but he managed to miss the characteristic excellencies of the original, whereas Vanbrugh in his adaptation surpassed them in every direction (note especially the advantage of Brass over Dancourt's ‘Frontin’). That in spite of the strength of the cast, including Dogget, Booth, Barry, Porter, and Bracegirdle, the ‘Confederacy’ should have had a run of barely a week, must be attributed mainly to the notorious acoustic defects of the theatre. The public, too, may have been to some extent shocked by a play which has been described as the lowest in point of morality to which English comedy ever sank.
In the meantime Vanbrugh had collaborated with Congreve and Walsh in the version of Molière's ‘Monsieur de Pourceaugnac’ produced at Lincoln's Inn Fields on 30 March 1704 under the title of ‘Squire Trelooby’ (originally performed in 1670, Molière's play had already been extensively ‘borrowed from’ by Ravenscroft in his ‘Careless Lovers’ of 1673). The translation, printed at the end of April 1704, differed considerably from the acted play, and was disowned by the collaborators. It was modified again by John Ralph prior to its reproduction and republication as ‘The Cornish Squire: a Comedy,’ in 1734 (see Genest, iii. 409; Boase and Courtney, Bibl. Cornub. ii. 820; Gosse, Congreve, p. 148).
Before the close of 1705 Vanbrugh secured the co-operation of Betterton in another adaptation from Molière (the early ‘Dépit Amoureux’ of 1653, which was in its turn derived from ‘L' Interesse’ of Nicolò Secchi). The English version, entitled ‘The Mistake,’ was represented for the first time on 27 Dec. 1705 at the Haymarket, and was played six times consecutively. It was published without the author's name by Tonson in January 1706 (‘The Mistake. A Comedy as it is acted at the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket,’ London, 4to). A greatly abbreviated version, entitled ‘Lovers' Quarrels; or like Master, like Man,’ was produced at Covent Garden on 11 Feb. 1790, and is attributed to the actor Thomas King [q. v.], who took the part of Sancho (printed in London Stage, 1824, vol. iii.; cf. Genest, vi. 600). Vanbrugh's version was printed in 1893 among the ‘Plays from Molière by English Dramatists’ (Sir John Lubbock's Hundred Books, No. 61).
There are signs of hasty workmanship in ‘The Mistake’ (especially in the last two acts), and henceforth, as his architectural work became more and more engrossing, Vanbrugh's dramatic career was stifled. His sole remaining drama, ‘The Journey to London,’ which promised to be second to none of his comedies, was left (at his death in 1726) in a fragmentary condition. Colley Cibber undertook to complete and recast the fragment. The result was a comedy which long remained a great favourite with the playgoing public. It was first produced at Drury Lane on 10 Jan. 1728 (running twenty-eight nights) under Cibber's title, ‘The Provok'd Husband,’ and was published at the end of the month. Simultaneously was published Vanbrugh's original fragment, ‘A Journey to London. Being part of a Comedy written by the late Sir John Vanbrugh, Knight. And printed after his own copy. Which (since his Decease) has been made an Intire Play, By Mr. Cibber, And call'd The Provok'd Husband’ (London, 1728, 8vo). The fragment and the entire play appeared side by side in the editions of 1735 and 1776. A French translation, ‘Le mari poussé à bout,’ was published at London and at Lausanne (1761 and 1783, 8vo). Joseph Hunter in his ‘Chorus Vatum’ (Addit. MS. 24493, f. 194) records a tradition that in his delineation of the Wronghead family Vanbrugh intended to ridicule some of his wife's north-country relatives.
The early stages of Vanbrugh's architectural career are obscure. His first employer of note appears to have been the Earl of Carlisle, for whom he commenced a mansion upon the site of the old castle of Henderskelfe in 1701. The result was Castle Howard, which with its splendid south facade, 323 feet long, remains, in spite of incongruous additions, one of the finest examples of the Corinthian renaissance in England. The main building was not completed until 1714, but in the meantime, as a token of his approbation, Carlisle, who during the minority of the Duke of Norfolk was the acting earl-marshal of England, promised Vanbrugh the lucrative appointment of Clarenceux king-at-arms. As it was necessary by the rules of the college that a king-at-arms should have passed through the grade of herald, Vanbrugh on 21 June 1703 was appointed to the obsolete post of Carlisle herald; he was promoted Clarenceux by patent dated 29 March 1704. As Vanbrugh was not only a stranger, but was known to take a humorously sceptical view of the importance of heraldic functions (which he had publicly ridiculed in his comedy of ‘Æsop’), his appointment was not popular. More particularly Gregory King [q. v.], the senior pursuivant, was the injured man, and he ‘persuaded some other heralds to join with him in a petition against the Lord Marshalls power, but the Council unanimously supported’ Lord Carlisle (Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep., App. ix. 97). Further, in 1710, when there was a rumour that Clarenceux was about to receive a reversionary grant of the office of Garter, King wrote in alarm to Harley to deprecate such an act of injustice (Nichols, Herald and Genealogist, vii. 113; Addit. MS. 9011, ff. 346 seq.; Harl. MS. 7525, f. 40; Noble, Coll. of Arms, p. 204). Once appointed, however, Vanbrugh was a frequent attendant at the college, and in 1706 he carried out with credit Queen Anne's commission to convey the insignia of the order of the Garter to Prince George of Hanover (Instructions in Addit. MS. 6321, f. 59; cf. Beltz, Memorials, 1841, p. cxxiii).
Meanwhile, in June 1702, Vanbrugh had succeeded William Talman [q. v.] in the comptrollership of the board of works at 8s. 8d. a day. In 1703 he built a house at Whitton Hall, near Hounslow (still standing, though much altered), for Sir Godfrey Kneller, who was, like himself, a member of the Kit-Cat Club. In the same year he wrote to his friend and correspondent Jacob Tonson [q. v.] that he had negotiated the purchase of the site for a new theatre, to be called the Queen's in honour of Anne. ‘The ground is the second stable yard going up the Haymarket; I give 2,000l. for it’ (the present Her Majesty's is the fourth theatre on this site). While the building was going on, Vanbrugh was annoyed by a reverberation of the Collier crusade. On hearing that he was about to assume the management of a London theatre, the Society for the Reformation of Manners addressed a letter of protest to Archbishop Tenison (dated 10 Dec. 1704) with the usual quotations and a description of ‘Mr. Vanbrook’ as ‘a man who had debauch'd the stage beyond the looseness of all former times.’ But nothing came of the protest, and Vanbrugh continued to allow himself the fullest license (witness the scenes between Flippanta and her mistress in the ‘Confederacy’).
The Queen's Theatre, or Italian Opera-house, of which Vanbrugh was not only builder but also lessee, manager, and author in chief, was opened on 9 April 1705, the corner-stone having been laid by Lady Sunderland on 18 April 1704 (see Fizgerald, New Hist. of Stage, i. 238); a prologue written by Garth, and spoken by Mrs. Bracegirdle, referred to the edifice as ‘By beauty founded and by wit designed.’ The piece performed was Giacomo Greber's ‘Loves of Ergasto,’ a melodrama with Italian music (englished apparently by P. A. Motteux; cf. Burney, Hist. of Music, iv. 200; Hawkins, iv. 810; Clement and Larousse, Dict. des Opéras, p. 661; Wilkinson, Londina Illustrata, vol. ii. sig. R). This is believed to have been the second opera of the kind performed in England (Thomas Clayton's ‘Arsinoe’ being the first). Despite its want of success and the loud gibes of Addison and other wits, Vanbrugh (who had doubtless witnessed the triumphs of Quinault and of Lulli and Scarlatti in Paris) determined to persevere, and he varied the usual repertory of plays with several operas during his two seasons of management. He was probably the most enlightened of early patrons of opera in England, and he was the impresario who first introduced an Italian prima donna of distinction into England in the person of Nicolini. Unfortunately the house had serious acoustic defects. Several of the 100l. shareholders (whig friends of the manager, of whom Congreve was one) disposed of their interest in the concern at the close of the first season, and Vanbrugh himself was glad in 1707 to shift the bulk of the responsibility to the shoulders of Owen MacSwiney or Swinny [q. v.] ‘I lost so much money by the opera this last winter,’ he wrote to the Earl of Manchester on 27 July 1708, ‘that I was glad to get quit of it, and yet I do not doubt that operas will thrive and settle in London.’ He appears to have eventually let the theatre to MacSwiney at a maximum rent of 700l. per annum (cf. Genest, ii. 333; Cibber, Apology, i. 330 n.).
In the same month that the Haymarket Theatre was opened, by an instrument dated 9 June 1705 and signed by Godolphin, Vanbrugh, by the special request of the Duke of Marlborough, was appointed architect and surveyor of the palace it was proposed to erect at Woodstock in commemoration of the victory of Blenheim. Wren, as surveyor-general, was Vanbrugh's official superior at the board of works, but he was now over seventy, while the younger man was in the first flush of his admitted success at Castle Howard. Vanbrugh seems to have felt it incumbent upon him to amaze his patrons, and Blenheim is certainly deficient neither in originality nor in grandiose effect. The work was begun on 19 June 1705, when the architect laid the first stone. The first difficulty arose over the question of the retention of the old manor-house of Woodstock. The architect was anxious to preserve it in subordination to his general scheme on account of its historical and archæological interest. But the duchess suspected some sinister design on the part of the comptroller. The breach was widened when the works were stopped by the cutting off of supplies in October 1710. Some 200,000l. had already been paid out of the civil list, and the duchess deprecated the extravagant scale of the work, still far from completion.
A fresh instalment was obtained from the treasury, and work recommenced in the spring of 1711; but at the close of that year Marlborough was dismissed from all his appointments, and in the summer of 1712 the building was abandoned by the queen's command. The brunt of all the claims for arrears of payment fell upon the unfortunate architect. A letter of protest against the conduct of the treasury (addressed to the mayor of Woodstock on 25 Jan. 1712–13) led to Vanbrugh's dismissal from the comptrollership of the board of works in the following April. With the accession of George I the horizon appeared about to clear. Vanbrugh was knighted at Greenwich House, upon Marlborough's introduction, on 19 Sept. 1714, and it was decided that the Blenheim arrears, amounting to about 50,000l., should be considered as one of the late queen's debts, for the liquidation of which half a million had been allocated. Ultimately in January 1715 the sum of 16,000l., or about a third of what was actually due, was paid to the creditors by the treasury, which also gave it clearly to be understood that no more money would be expended on account of Blenheim. When, in consequence of this proceeding, in Easter term 1718 two contractors brought a suit for 7,314l. due to them for work done since 1710, the duchess, acting during the duke's infirmity, tried her hardest to divert the responsibility upon Vanbrugh. Fortunately for him, Godolphin's warrant of 1705 was held to exonerate him from such liability, and this judgment was confirmed upon appeal by House of Lords. Thereupon, with a view of defaming the architect's character, the duchess caused to be printed and privately circulated the ‘Case of the Duke of Marlborough and Sir John Vanbrugh,’ ‘the only architect in the world who could have built such a house, and the only friend in the world capable of contriving to lay the debt upon one to whom he was so highly obliged.’ In his ‘Justification of what he Deposed in the Duchess of Marlborough's late Tryal’ (London, 1718, folio) Vanbrugh retorts by reciting the court favour he had lost by espousing the duke's interest; while, instead of reward for his labours and his difficulties with the treasury and the workmen, he complains that his authority was ridiculed and his just claims repudiated. In June 1722, when the Duke of Marlborough died, Vanbrugh commented bitterly upon his vast properties (‘greater even than was expected’) and his inability to pay either his workmen or his architect.
Vanbrugh's own dues as an architect amounted to some 2,000l., and he had practically resigned all hopes of recovering the sum, when in 1725 Walpole interfered in his behalf, and succeeded (by means to which no clue is afforded) in extorting the money from the duchess. In the meantime the long wrangle had told heavily upon his equanimity and even upon his health. The duchess succeeded in completing the building in strict accordance with his plans, but without his aid, in 1724. When, shortly before its completion, Vanbrugh took his wife to inspect his architectural chef d'œuvre, the duchess sent special orders to her servants that Lady Vanbrugh was not to be admitted within the limits of the park (see The Secret History of the Building of Blenheim, ap. D'Israeli, Lit. Curiosities, 1840, pp. 411–414; the Blenheim Castle building accounts are among the ‘Marlborough Papers’ in Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 19592–605).
The verdict of Vanbrugh's literary rivals as to the architectural merit of Blenheim was wholly unfavourable. In the minds of less prejudiced critics there has been great divergence of opinion; but it must be conceded that Vanbrugh hardly rose to his opportunities. The general plan of a grand central edifice, connected by colonnades with two projecting quadrangular wings, and of the approaches (including the ‘Titanic bridge’), is admirable in its way. The sky-line is broken in a picturesque fashion, and the light and shade are balanced and contrasted in a manner which evoked the enthusiastic eulogy of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Uvedale Price, Allan Cunningham, and other connoisseurs of scenic effect. On the other hand, the ornament, when not positively uncouth, is unmeaning, and there is a sensible coarseness in matters of detail throughout the work. Voltaire remarked upon Blenheim that if the rooms were as wide as the walls were thick, the château would be convenient enough. The last thing that Vanbrugh had in his mind was personal comfort of his clients. Provided he made his effect, he was satisfied (detailed elevations are given in Campbell, Vitruvius Britannicus, and a good idea of the general effect can be gathered from the five engraved views in Neal's Seats, 1820, vol. iii.; cf. Addit. MSS. 9123, 19591, and 19618; Fergusson, Hist. of Architecture, 1862, iii. 282; Gwilt, Encyclopædia, 1867, pp. 216–17; Neal, Hist. of Blenheim, 1823; Marshall, Woodstock, 1873; Blomfield, Renaissance Architect. in England, 1898).
Vanbrugh's peculiar style was ill adapted to works less than the largest size of palace, yet from 1706 onwards, though preoccupied with Blenheim, he was busily employed upon a number of lesser houses. However small the commission, his endeavour was the same—namely, to convey the majesty of stupendous size, and this aim fitted in well with the ideas of his clients. He wrote to his friend the Earl of Carlisle in 1721 that all the world was ‘mad on building as far as they can reach’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. App. vi.). In 1707 he restored Kimbolton Castle for the Earl of Manchester, of whom, as of most noblemen with whom he came into contact, he made a steady friend (see Manchester, Court and Society from Elizabeth to Anne, ii. 224 seq.). In 1710 for the Earl of Clare (afterwards Duke of Newcastle) he built Old Claremont House at Esher, ‘where nature borrows dress from Vanbrook's art’ (Garth, Claremont, 1715, p. 5; cf. Brayley, 1841, ii. 440; Stowe MS. 748, f. 9). Garth further compared the architect to Apollo, or rather Amphion, at the touch of whose lyre ‘stones mount in columns, palaces aspire.’ In 1711, in conjunction with Nicholas Hawksmoor [q. v.], he built the ‘Clarendon Printing Office,’ that is, the old ‘Clarendon Building,’ in Broad Street, Oxford (see Ackermann, Coll. of Oxford, 1814, ii. 238; Blomfield, ii. 206). In 1713 he erected the seat of King's Weston, near Bristol (Gloucestershire Notes and Queries, 1884, ii. 359); in 1716–18 Eastbury, Dorset, for Bubb Dodington (the old seat was pulled down by Earl Temple); and about the same time Oulton Hall in Cheshire (see Ormerod, Cheshire, ii. 118).
Vanbrugh was reappointed to the post of comptroller to the board of works by George I in January 1715, and about a year later the interest of his numerous friends at court procured him the post of architect to Greenwich Hospital at a salary of 200l. a year. Pressure had been applied to make Wren resign this post, on the ground that he could not give the palace his constant supervision; but no increased rate of progress followed Vanbrugh's appointment, and the brickwork of the southern range of the west front, which is often assigned to Sir John, was for the most part the work of his coadjutor, Hawksmoor (cf. Gent. Mag. 1815, ii. 494; L'Estrange, Greenwich Chronicles, 1886, ii. 85 sq.). The architect's chief memorials in this neighbourhood are the two houses which he built for himself at Blackheath, and which are still standing. One, the ‘Bastille’ on Maze Hill, known latterly as Vanbrugh Castle, passed from Lady Vanbrugh to Lord Tyrawley, and has now been for many years a boarding school for girls; the other, in ‘Vanbrugh Fields,’ was called ‘Mince-pie House’ (Hasted, 1886, i. 78), but is now known as Vanbrugh House.
In 1718 Vanbrugh built Floors, near Kelso, for the Duke of Roxburghe; but this ‘severely plain building’ was transformed into a Tudor edifice in 1849 (Hindes Groome, Gazett. of Scotland, ii. 32). In the following year, in strict accordance with the rococo taste of the day, he planned the famous gardens of Stowe in Buckinghamshire, where a pyramid sixty feet high was erected in his honour and inscribed ‘Inter plurima hortorum horum ædificia a Johanne Vanbrugh equite designata hanc pyramidem ad illius memoriam sacram voluit Cobham’ (Bickham, Beauties of Stowe, 1769, p. 6). ‘Immensity and Van Brugh appear in the whole and in every part,’ wrote the Earl of Peterborough. The details of his next house, Seaton Delaval in Northumberland (1720–21), show a marked improvement upon his earlier design; but his alterations at Audley End, where in 1721 he removed three sides of the old quadrangle and erected lodges at the north and south end of the west front, have not been deemed successful (Lord Braybrooke, Hist. of Audley End, pp. 92, 99). The latest of his more important works was Grimsthorpe, Lincolnshire, built for the Duke of Ancaster (1722–4), and including the ‘biggest entrance-hall in the kingdom’ (see Notes and Queries, 7th ser. iv. 47). Here, though ‘he could not shake himself free of his gigantic rusticated columns, 3½ ft. in diameter, and of certain enormous key-blocks, the front is a fine, unaffected, and almost reasonable design. Had Vanbrugh lived longer, it seems that he might have become a really great architect’ (Blomfield, ii. 199).
Simultaneously with the Brobdingnagian mansions in which he delighted, Vanbrugh was building for himself between Scotland Yard and the Banqueting House, ‘out of the ruins of Whitehall,’ a modest town house, which was also to be his official residence as comptroller (a drawing is at South Kensington; cf. Gent. Mag. 1815, i. 423). The house was not remarkable in any way, but it elicited from Swift the clever satiric verses in which it was likened to a goose-pie. The ‘goose-pie’ survived for two hundred years, being known in its declining days as the ‘pill-box,’ was occupied for some years by the United Service Institution, and was finally demolished on 1 Oct. 1898. To Swift, who disliked ‘Brother Van’ for his whiggism, his popularity with the great, and his lack of veneration for the cloth, has often been attributed, but wrongly, the well-known epitaph, ‘Lie heavy on him earth …’ which appears to have emanated from Abel Evans [q. v.] (cf. Nichols, Select Collection of Poems, 1780, iii. 161). After Vanbrugh's death Swift joined with Pope (who had also had his fling at the architect) in expressing regret that their raillery, ‘though ever so tender, had ever been indulged’ against Sir John, ‘a man of wit and honour’ (joint preface to ‘Prose Miscellanies’ of 1727).
In April 1718 John Anstis the younger [q. v.] had established his right (by a reversionary patent dated 2 April 1714) to the office of Garter, and Vanbrugh was disappointed of holding permanently the post which he had temporarily filled (1715–18). On 14 Jan. 1719 he married, at St. Lawrence's Church, York, Henrietta Maria, eldest child of James Yarburgh, colonel of the foot guards, of Snaith Hall, Yorkshire, by Ann, daughter and coheir of Thomas Hesketh of Heslington. Writing from Castle Howard on Christmas day 1718 to the Duke of Newcastle, he had remarked, after cursing the coldness of the winter: ‘I have almost a mind to marry to keep myself warm.’ Lady Mary Wortley Montagu gives a vivacious, if somewhat spiteful, account of the wooing. Henceforth Vanbrugh spent an increasing portion of his time at Blackheath. Some of his later letters to Carlisle give a pleasant picture of his family life. On 9 Feb. 1726 he disposed of his tabard for two thousand guineas to Knox Ward. He died of quinsy at his house in Whitehall on 26 March 1726 (Hist. Reg. Chron. Diary, p. 13), and was buried in the Vanbrugh vault in the north aisle of St. Stephen's, Walbrook. In his will, dated 25 Aug. 1725, he names his sisters Mary, Victoria, and Robina, his [half] sister Garencieres and her daughter Lucia; his brothers, Charles and Philip, and his son Charles. The will was proved on 22 April 1726 by Dame Henrietta Maria Vanbrugh, executrix (P. C. C. 84, Plymouth).
Lady Vanbrugh died at East Greenwich on 26 April 1776 (Gent. Mag. 1776, p. 240, ‘aged 90;’ her real age was eighty-two), and was buried in the Vanbrugh vault on 3 May following. By her will, dated 15 June 1769, she leaves 200l. to her daughter, Mrs. Tulloh, and to ‘Mr. Vanbrugh’ (probably a nephew), with other property, ‘the rooms and cellars that belong to me in the Opera House … all the family pictures, and two small pictures set in gold—one of Sir John Vanbrugh, and the other of Sir Dudley Carleton.’ The will was proved on 22 May 1776 (P. C. C. 250, Bellas; cf. Foster, Yorkshire Pedigrees, 1874; Robinson, Priory and Peculiar of Snaith, 1861, pp. 55 sq.; Genealogist, 1878, ii. 237).
Charles Vanbrugh (d. 1745), their only surviving son, the idol of his parents and godson of the Earl of Carlisle, was educated privately until about 1736, when he went to finish his studies at Lausanne. There in April 1738 he became a member of the ‘Compagnie des Nobles Fusillers,’ and soon afterwards he returned to England and obtained an ensigncy in the Coldstream guards (2nd foot guards). He went with his regiment to Flanders in 1744. He died of wounds ‘received at the late battle near Tournai’ (that is, Fontenoy) on 12 May 1745 (Gent. Mag. 1745, p. 276). He was twenty-six years old on the day of his death. He was buried at Ath on 13 May (Genealogist, ii. 239; cf. Walpole, Letters to Sir Horace Mann, 1833, ii. 94; Carlisle Papers; Addit. MS. 32703).
Apart from the Duchess of Marlborough (upon whom, in his correspondence with Tonson, Vanbrugh wasted many unparliamentary epithets) and Hearne, who disliked all whigs impartially, Vanbrugh had a good word from everybody as the best of good fellows. As an architect, although he had a passion for size amounting to megalomania, he had an original and powerful imagination and a just idea of subordination. His scenic talent was distinctive, and his ‘passionate appreciation of the abstract qualities of architecture gives him a place by himself’ (Blomfield).
In his plays he lacked originality and sentiment, but excelled in wit and in all the refinements of technique. He rarely attempts blank verse, and when he does (as in ‘Æsop’) the result is atrocious, while his attempts at poetic utterance are the merest fustian. But the ‘Relapse’ and the ‘Confederacy’ are full of sparkling dialogue and not deficient in character. Vanbrugh and Congreve copied nature, says Fielding (Tom Jones, pref. to bk. xiv.), while their successors do but copy them. Lord Foppington, ‘the best fop ever brought upon the stage’ (Ward), is as famous as Dundreary, and with more reason. Above all, Vanbrugh's comedies have the merit of facility. Contemporary actors liked them because the parts were so easy to learn; nowadays he is the most readable of the Restoration dramatists. In like manner Voltaire praised him for being the gayest, as Congreve the wittiest and Wycherley the strongest, of the English playwrights. Walpole attributed his ease to the fact that he lived in the best society and wrote as they talked. Another good saying of Walpole's was that ‘if Vanbrugh had adapted from Vitruvius as well as from Dancour, Inigo Jones would not have been the first architect of Britain.’ To which it may be added that if a few only among adapters had approached Vanbrugh's excellence, adaptation need not have proved ‘the bane of the English drama.’
The best portrait of Vanbrugh is the Kit-Cat by Kneller (36 × 28½), painted when he was about forty, and still preserved at Bayfordbury. It has been engraved by John Simon [q. v.], by T. Chalmers, by Cooper (for the ‘Memoirs of the Kit-Cat Club,’ 1821), and by many others (Cat. Loan Portraits, 1867, No. 112). Another portrait, now preserved at the Heralds' College, was painted by J. Richardson in 1725. The Kneller portrait depicts him holding a pair of compasses; in this he holds in his left hand a plan of Blenheim. The fine mezzotint executed by Faber in 1727 is reproduced as frontispiece to ‘Sir John Vanbrugh’ (1893).
Collective editions of Vanbrugh's works were published in London, 1730, 2 vols. 8vo; 1735 and 1739, 2 vols. 12mo; Dublin, 1765, 2 vols. 12mo; London, 1776, 2 vols. 12mo. In 1840 appeared ‘The Dramatic Works of Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar,’ with excellent biographical and critical notices from the pen of Leigh Hunt, and this volume, dedicated to Thomas Moore, has been several times reprinted. In 1893 appeared in two volumes (London, 8vo) ‘Sir John Vanbrugh,’ edited by W. C. Ward, and this edition, containing all Vanbrugh's known works, of which the chronological order is for the first time properly ascertained, will doubtless remain the standard one. Select ‘Plays’ (including the ‘Relapse,’ ‘Provok'd Wife,’ ‘Confederacy,’ and part of the ‘Provok'd Husband’), with introduction and notes by A. E. H. Swaen, and a reprint of Leigh Hunt's ‘Essay,’ was issued in the ‘Mermaid Series’ in 1896. Selections from Vanbrugh, with an interesting critical note, appear in ‘English Comic Dramatists’ (ed. Crauford, 1884). The more popular plays, such as the ‘Relapse,’ ‘Provok'd Wife,’ and ‘Confederacy,’ have been printed in Oxberry, Inchbald, Dibdin, Bell, and similar collections of plays. A German translation of select plays appeared at Basle and Frankfort in 1764.
A considerable number of Vanbrugh's letters, many of them models of sprightliness and good humour, are scattered through the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ during 1836, 1837, and 1839 (those to Jacob Tonson being the most important). Of his letters to the Earl of Manchester, preserved at Kimbolton, examples are given in the ‘Athenæum’ (1861, i. 84–6) and in the Duke of Manchester's ‘Court and Society from Elizabeth to Anne,’ and of those to the Earl of Carlisle extracts are given in the ‘Carlisle Papers’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 15th Rep. App. vi. passim). Others of his letters are in the British Museum, to the Duchess of Marlborough (Addit. MS. 32670), to the Duke of Newcastle (ib. 32687 and 33064), and to P. Mauduit (Egerton MS. 2721). A selection of these letters was printed in the ‘Athenæum’ (1890, ii. 289–91, 321–2). For a letter to Sir Robert Walpole respecting the building of a summerhouse at Chelsea, see Beaver's ‘Memorials of Old Chelsea’ (p. 285; cf. Martin, Old Chelsea, 1889, p. 83).[In spite of the interest of the materials, no exhaustive ‘life’ of Vanbrugh has yet been attempted. Short accounts were prefixed to the early editions, and these were summarised in Baker's ‘Biographia Dramatica’ (1812, i. 724) and elsewhere. Noble in his ‘College of Arms’ (1804, pp. 355–6) supplied some new materials, and these were reproduced with a fresh criticism by Allan Cunningham in his ‘Lives of British Painters, Sculptors, and Architects’ (1829–33). Leigh Hunt furnished a good biographical account in his Introduction of 1840, embodying the materials collected by D'Israeli in his ‘Curiosities of Literature’ relative to the building of Blenheim. This edition was favourably noticed by Macaulay in his well-known ‘Essay on the Comic Dramatists,’ in which he deals at length with Congreve and Wycherley to the exclusion of Vanbrugh and Farquhar. All these accounts were superseded by the memoir by Arthur Ashpitel [q. v.] in the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica’ (8th edition, 1860), which is based upon the most careful research. Wyatt Papworth added much as to Vanbrugh's architectural career in the ‘Dictionary of Architecture,’ and in 1893 appeared the valuable ‘life’ prefixed to the standard edition of Vanbrugh by W. C. Ward. Max Dametz's Vanbrughs Leben und Werke appeared at Vienna in 1898. Other authorities are: Dalton's English Army Lists, iii. 409; Carlisle Papers in Hist. MSS. Comm. 15th Rep. App. vi.; Le Neve's Knights, 1873; Genealogist, ii. 237; Herald and Genealogist (1873), vii. 112–114; Ravaisson's Archives de la Bastille, vol. ix.; St. Nicholas Acons Reg., ed. Brigg, 1890, pp. 31–3; Athenæum, 1890 ii. 289, 321, 1894 ii. 234, 299; Gent. Mag. 1802 ii. 1065, 1804 i. 411, ii. 737, 1815 ii. 494, 1816 i. 37, 135, 1829 i. 42, 1831 i. 330, 1836 i. 13, ii. 27, 374, 1837 i. 243, 479, 1839 i. 149, 1857 ii. 420. See also Luttrell's Brief Relation, Oxford, 1857; Coxe's Life of Marlborough, passim; Thomson's Memoirs of the Duchess of Marlborough, vol. ii. passim; Cibber's Lives, iv. 99–111; Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed. Wornum, iii. 297, and Correspondence, ed. Cunningham, passim; Genest's Hist. of the Stage; Gildon's Comparison between the Two Stages, 1702, p. 32; Knight's Garrick, 1894, p. 321; Pope's Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, iii. 173–6, 366, vi. 112, x. 106, 187; Dryden's Works, ed. Scott, viii. 440; Swift's Works, ed. Scott, ii. 71, xiii. 6, xiv. 80; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 299, 341, viii. 594; Bingham's The Bastille, i. 444; Ward's English Dramat. Lit. ii. 589; Lowe's Bibl. Account of English Theatr. Lit. and Life of Betterton; Gosse's Congreve, 1888, pp. 117 sq.; Aitken's Steele, i. 61, 70, 99, 146, ii. 58 n. 274; Boswell's Johnson, ed. Hill, iv. 48, 55, 284–6; Hazlitt's Lectures on English Comic Writers, vol. iv.; Hallam's Lit. Hist. of Europe, 1854, iii. 514, 528; Beljame's Hommes de Lettres en Angleterre, pp. 249, 499; Lemaître's Théâtre de Dancourt, 1882; De Grisy's La Comédie Anglaise, 1672–1707, pp. 260–345 (where the plots are lucidly abridged); Lenient's La Comédie au xviiime Siècle, 1888, i. ch. v; Moland's Molière et la Comédie Italienne, 1867, p. 112; Gaetschenberger's Geschichte der engl. Lit. iii. 209 sq.; Zinck's Congreve, Vanbrugh og Sheridan, 1869, 8vo; Quérard's France Littéraire, x. 35; Roget's ‘Old Watercolour’ Society, i. 9; Leigh Hunt's The Town, p. 377; Marshall's Woodstock, 1873, p. 263; Davis's Memorials of Knightsbridge, 1859, p. 83; Times, 8 March 1888; Builder, 1860, p. 460; Saturday Review, 11 March 1893; Architect. Journal, 1850, ii. 430; Boase and Courtney's Biblioth. Cornub. ii. 820; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Smith's Mezzotinto Portraits, p. 435; Evans's Cat. of Engr. Portr. i. 356, ii. 396; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ix. 499, 7th ser. iv. 28, 113, 8th ser. vii. 166, 258, 509.]