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

VI. The Restoration Drama

§ 15. Vanbrugh and Perrault

The last years of Vanbrugh’s life were devoted to architecture, and to its consequent disputes. His first experiment in the art—Castle Howard—was finished under happy auspices. The theatre, which he built in the Haymarket, the single failure of a fortunate life, involved him in disaster, because he forgot that the chief end of a theatre is to transmit what is spoken on the stage to the audience, and because he did not foresee that the Haymarket would prove inaccessible to the quality. Blenheim, interrupted though it was by the meanness and temper of the implacable duchess, was one of the triumphs of his career. Confused in construction, like The Relapse, it is as vividly effective as the most brilliant of the author’s comedies. A finished artist in neither medium, he was lifted high above such difficulties as perplex smaller men, by his courage and good temper. He suffered the fate of the great Perrault, with whom he may fittingly be compared, from the wits of his time. But detraction never checked the buoyancy of his spirit, and he died, still untouched by the years, in 1726.