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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

VII. The Restoration Drama

§ 15. Crowne

The birthday and parentage of John Crowne, one of the most prolific of the crowd of restoration dramatists, are alike unknown. From recent researches it appears probable that he was the son of William Crowne, who emigrated to Nova Scotia, and that he was born about 1640. He was certainly in London in 1665, for his first work appeared in that year, the romance entitled Pandion and Amphigenia. In 1671 was acted and published his tragi-comedy Juliana, or the Princess of Poland—the first of a long series of dull and half-forgotten tragedies. It was succeeded by The History of Charles the Eighth of France (1672), in rimed couplets, and Andromache (1675), in prose. The last seems to have been a mere adaptation of a translation, chiefly in verse, by another hand, of Racine’s Andromaque. In 1675 also appeared the masque Calisto, or the Chast Nymph, acted at court by members of the royal family and household. It is without charm, and owes whatever interest it may retain to the personalities of the performers, and to the fact that, on the occasion for which it was written, Dryden, the poet laureate, was passed over in favour of Crowne through the interest of Rochester.

Crowne’s first comedy, The Country Wit, was acted in 1675. It is founded on Molière’s Le Sicilien, ou l’Amour Peintre (1667), and, in Sir Mannerly Shallow, contains a sort of first sketch of the type—that of the pompous gull—which Crowne afterwards developed with marked success into the Podestà (in City Politiques), Sir Courtly Nice (in the play of that name), and Lord Stately (in The English Frier).

Then followed three tragedies of absolute dulness, The Destruction of Jerusalem (1677); The Ambitious Statesman (1679), of which the theme and sources are alike French; and Thyestes, taken from Seneca (1681). The concentrated horror of the last-mentioned piece has led to its receiving more notice from Crowne’s critics than his other tragic productions; but there is not any nobility in his treatment of the awful story. Shortly before the appearance of this tragedy, Crowne, in 1680, produced a hash of Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part II, which he called The Misery of Civil-War, and followed this, in 1681, with Henry the Sixth, the First Part. With the Murder of Humphrey, Duke of Glocester.