Vanbrugh, Sir John


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Vanbrugh, Sir John

(vănbro͞o`, 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 CibberCibber, Colley
, 1671–1757, English dramatist and actor-manager. Joining the company at the Theatre Royal in 1690, Cibber became successful as a comedian, playing the fops of Restoration comedy.
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's Love's Last Shift. Vanbrugh's masterpiece, The Provoked Wife (1697), was attacked (1698) by Jeremy CollierCollier, Jeremy,
1650–1726, English clergyman. Collier was imprisoned as one of the nonjurors, who refused to pledge allegiance to William III and Mary II. He later was outlawed (1696) for absolving on the scaffold two of those involved in the assassination plot against
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 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 WrenWren, Sir Christopher,
1632–1723, English architect. A mathematical prodigy, he studied at Oxford. He was professor of astronomy at Gresham College, London, from 1657 to 1661, when he became Savilian professor of astronomy at Oxford.
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 and from Nicholas HawksmoorHawksmoor, Nicholas,
1661–1736, English architect involved in the development of most of the great buildings of the English baroque. From the age of 21 he assisted Sir Christopher Wren in the design of Chelsea Hospital, city churches, royal residences, and St.
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. 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.

Bibliography

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).

Vanbrugh, Sir John

(1664–1726)
An architect with no formal training, who designed England’s largest and most flamboyant Baroque country houses, with bold massing and dramatically varied skylines. Works include Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire.