WYCHERLEY. WILLIAM (1640? 1716). An English dramatist, one of the found ers of the school of 'artificial comedy,' which reached its complete development in the work of Congreve and Ins associates and, at a later day, of Sheridan. Wycherley was born at Clive, in Shropshire. He was the son of a well-to-do cavalier squire. who sent him at the age of fifteen to be educated in France. After his re turn to England he was entered at the Inner Temple in 1659. but literature proved more at tractive than the law. His first comedy, Lore in a Wood, or Saint James's Park, was acted with great applause, and published shortly afterward, probably in 1672. The Gentleman Dancing-mas ter. which appeared in the following year, was somewhat less successful, but his two other comedies. The Country Wife (1675), and The Plain Dealer (1677), which are his strongest works, though in both lie is more or less indebted to Moliere. became exceedingly popular. About 1680, Wycherley married a rich young widow, the Countess of Drogheda. She did not live long and left him the whole of her fortune; but his succession to the estate was disputed and an expensive lawsuit ensued, the costs of which fairly broke down the unlucky dramatist. He was committed to the debtors' prison and suf fered to languish there neglected for seven years. He was partly relieved by the bounty of James 11., and upon his father's death lie succeeded to the patrimonial estate in Shropshire. This, how
ever, was heavily mortgaged and strictly entailed. lle was on bad terms with the heir-at-law, his nephew; and on purpose to injure this relative, Le married. at the age of seventy-five, a young girl. on whom he settled a jointure. Eleven days afterward he died. Besides his comedies. Wycher ley published a volume of wretched Miscellany Poems in 1704, and after his death another vol Thr Posthumous of William Wycher ley, Esq., in Those and Verse, appeared in 1728. Ills comedies, on which his fame rests, reficet the literary taste. the manners. and the vices of the time in which lie lived. They are grossly im moral, but t1n.ir dramatie construction is ex cellent. the language is clear and forcible, the dialogues are often witty and lively. some of the characters are vigorously drawn. and the observa tions and maxims scattered throughout the differ ent sevIll.?• are shrewd and sensible and are ex pressed in a terse. sententious style. Consult: The memoir published with the Posthumous Works (172"-o: Lord Lansdowne, Memoirs of the Life of William Esq.: trith a Character of IlisWritinas ( London. 1718) ; W. C. Ward, ed., Ms/ Ploys of Witriqn Wiwi/et-fry, with on dnrtion Votes (ib.. 158N); and I1araI1lt, tures on the English Cmnic Writrrs (lb., 1819).