John Vanbrugh

Vanbrugh, Sir John

Sir John Vanbrugh (vănbrōō´, văn´brə), 1664–1726, English dramatist, architect, soldier, and adventurer, b. London, of Flemish descent. In 1686 he obtained a commission in the army. He was arrested for espionage in 1690 and spent two years in a French prison. After his return from France he turned to writing for the stage. His first play, The Relapse (1696), was a counterblast to Colley Cibber's Love's Last Shift. Vanbrugh's masterpiece, The Provoked Wife (1697), was attacked (1698) by Jeremy Collier in his famous diatribe on the immorality of the English stage. Vanbrugh was an inventive playwright, imbued with the wit and cynicism that were common to the Restoration dramatists. As his reputation as an architect grew, Vanbrugh turned away from the stage. He became Wren's principal colleague and his style, expansive, ostentatious, and theatrical, is derived from Sir Christopher Wren and from Nicholas Hawksmoor. His best-known buildings are Blenheim Palace (the perfect example of his genius for the heroic and a culmination of English baroque), Castle Howard, the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket, and Seaton Delaval (one of the finest English baroque homes). Vanbrugh's later plays include The Confederacy (1705) and A Journey to London (completed by Cibber as The Provoked Husband, 1728). He was knighted in 1714.

See his complete works, including letters (ed. by B. Dobrée and G. Webb, 4 vol., 1927–28); biography by L. Whistler (1938, repr. 1971); study of his architecture by K. Downs (1977).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Comic Spirit in Restoration Drama: Studies in the Comedy of Etherege, Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar
Henry Ten Erck Perry.
Yale University Press, 1925
FREE! The Comedy of Manners
John Palmer.
G. Bell & Sons, 1913
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VI "Sir John Vanbrugh"
FREE! The Lives of the British Architects from William of Wykeham to Sir William Chambers
E. Beresford Chancellor.
Duckworth, 1909
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VI "Bell of Lynn; Talman; Pratt; Hawksmoor; Vanbrugh"
Architecture in Britain, 1530 to 1830
John Summerson.
Penguin Books, 1954
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 17 "English Baroque: Hawksmore, Vanbrugh, Archer"
Essays in Biography, 1680-1726
Bonamy Dobrée.
Oxford University Press, 1925
Librarian’s tip: "The Architect of Blenheim" begins on p. 57
Restoration Comedy, 1660-1720
Bonamy Dobrée.
Clarendon Press, 1924
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IX "Vanbrugh and Farquhar Vanbrugh"
Humor in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Literature: A Reference Guide
Don L. F. Nilsen.
Greenwood Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726)" begins on p. 19
FREE! Essays about Men, Women, and Books
Augustine Birrell.
C. Scribner's Sons, 1894
Librarian’s tip: "Sir John Vanbrugh" begins on p. 96
The Old Drama and the New: An Essay in Re-Valuation
William Archer.
Small, Maynard and Company, 1923
Librarian’s tip: "The Restoration to the Renascence" begins on p. 139
FREE! English Drama of the Restoration and Eighteenth Century (1642-1780)
George Henry Nettleton.
Macmillan, 1914
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VIII "Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar"
A Biographical Dictionary of English Architects, 1660-1840
H. M. Colvin.
Harvard University Press, 1954
Librarian’s tip: "Vanbrugh, Sir John (1664-1726)" begins on p. 634
The Life and Times of Colley Cibber
Dorothy Senior; Cibber Colley.
Rae D. Henkle Co., Inc., 1928
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