James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

January 19

To Mr. Congreve

By Elizabeth Tollet (1694–1754)

  • William Congreve was an English dramatist and one of the greatest writers of comedy. He is celebrated for his wit and the beauty of his style. He died Jan. 19, 1729.

  • CONGREVE! the justest glory of our age!

    The whole Menander of the English stage!

    Thy comic muse, in each complete design,

    Does manly sense and sprightly wit combine.

    And sure the theatre was meant a school,

    To lash the vicious, and expose the fool;

    The wilful fool, whose wit is always shown

    To hit another’s fault and miss his own,

    Laughs at himself, when by thy skill exprest,

    And always in his neighbor finds the jest.

    A fame from vulgar characters to raise

    Is every poet’s labour, and his praise:

    They, fearful, coast; while you forsake the shore,

    And undiscovered worlds of wit explore,

    Enrich the scene with characters unknown,

    There plant your colonies and fix your throne.


    Then let half critics veil their idle spite,

    For he knows best to rail who worst can write.

    Let juster satire now employ thy pen,

    To tax the vicious on the world’s great scene;

    There the reformer’s praise the poet shares,

    And boldly lashes whom the zealot spares.