George Farquhar was an Irish dramatist. He is noted for his contributions to late Restoration comedy, particularly for his plays The Constant Couple (1699), The Recruiting Officer (1706) and The Beaux' Stratagem (1707).
Born in Derry, Farquhar was one of seven children born to William Farquhar, a clergyman of modest means.The author of "Memoirs of Mr. George Farquhar," a biographical sketch prefixed to certain 18th-century editions of his works, claims that Farquhar
discovered a Genius early devoted to the Muses. When he was very young, he gave Specimens of his Poetry; and discovered a Force of Thinking, and Turn of Expression, much beyond his years."
He was educated at Foyle College and later entered Trinity College, Dublin at age 17 as a sizar under the patronage of the Bishop of Dromore, who may have been related to Farquhar's mother.Farquhar may have initially intended to follow his father's profession and become a clergyman, but was "unhappy and rebellious as a student" and left college after two years to become an actor. His 18th-century biographer claims that the departure was because "his gay and volatile Disposition could not long relish the Gravity and Retirement of a College-life," but another story of uncertain veracity has him being expelled from Trinity College due to a "profane jest."
Farquhar joined a company performing on the Dublin stage, probably through his acquaintance with the well-known actor Robert Wilks. However, Farquhar was reportedly not that impressive as an actor. We are told that "his Voice was somewhat weak"] and that "his movements [were] stiff and ungraceful."But he was well received by audiences and thought to continue in this career "till something better should offer." Some of the roles reportedly played by Farquhar were Lennox in Shakespeare's Macbeth, Young Bellair in The Man of Mode by George Etherege, Lord Dion in Philaster by Beaumont and Fletcher, and Guyomar in The Indian Emperor by John Dryden.
Farquhar then left for London, "possibly with a draft of his first play in his portmanteau."Some writers tie his move to that of his friend Wilks, who had received an offer from the manager of Drury Lane to come to London and join that theatre, and Wilks is also credited with encouraging Farquhar's efforts at writing plays.
Farquhar's first comedy, Love and a Bottle, was premiered in 1698; "for its sprightly Dialogue and busy Scenes," it is said to have been "well received by the Audience." Called a "licentious piece" by one scholar, and cited as proof that Farquhar had "absorbed the stock topics, character-types, and situations of Restoration comedy" by another, the play deals with Roebuck, "An Irish Gentleman of a wild roving Temper" who is "newly come to London." The general character of the play can be evaluated by considering that in the opening scene, Roebuck tells his friend Lovewell that he has left Ireland due to getting a woman pregnant with twins (a boy and a girl) and to Roebuck's father trying to force Roebuck to marry the woman; however, Roebuck remarks, "Heav'n was pleas'd to lessen my Affliction, by taking away the She-brat."
Farquhar died on 29 April 1707, not quite two months after the opening of this last play. He was buried in the Church of St. Martin in the Fields, London, on 3 May.
Books by George Farquhar
The Beaux Stratagem
Two gentlemen of broken fortune, disguised as master and servant, and thinking that a good dowry split both ways would solve their problems; some cludgy highwaymen and their confederates; foxy inn-keeper and saucy daughter; a country home with a drun...