Read EDWARD RAVENSCROFT of The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) Vol. III, free online book, by Theophilus Cibber, on

This gentleman is author of eleven plays, which gives him a kind of right to be named in this collection.  Some have been of opinion, he was a poet of a low rate, others that he was only a wit collector; be this as it may, he acquired, some distinction by the vigorous opposition he made to Dryden:  And having chosen so powerful an antagonist, he has acquired more honour by it, than by all his other works put together; he accuses Dryden of plagiary, and treats him severely.

Mr. Dryden, indeed, had first attacked his Mamamouchi; which provoked Ravenscroft to retort so harshly upon him; but in the opinion of Mr. Langbain, the charge of plagiarism as properly belonged to Ravenfcroft himself as to Dryden; tho’ there was this essential difference between the plagiary of one and that of the other; that Dryden turned whatever he borrowed into gold, and Ravenscroft made use of other people’s materials, without placing them in a new light, or giving them any graces, they had not before.

Ravenscroft thus proceeds against Mr. Dryden:  ’That I may maintain the character of impartial, to which I pretend, I must pull off his disguise, and discover the politic plagiary that lurks under it.  I know he has endeavoured to shew himself matter of the art of swift writing, and would persuade the world that what he writes is extempore wit, currente calamo.  But I doubt not to shew that tho’ he would be thought to imitate the silk worm that spins its webb from its own bowels, yet I shall make him appear like the leech that lives upon the blood of men, drawn from the gums, and when he is rubbed with salt, spues it up again.  To prove this, I shall only give an account of his plays, and by that little of my own knowledge, that I shall discover, it will be manifest, that this rickety poet, (tho’ of so many years) cannot go without others assistance; for take this prophecy from your humble servant, or Mr. Ravenscroft’s Mamamouchi, which you please,

  ’When once our poet’s translating vein is past,
  From him, you can’t expect new plays in haste.

Thus far Mr. Ravenscroft has censured Dryden; and Langbain, in order to prove him guilty of the same poetical depredation, has been industrious to trace the plots of his plays, and the similarity of his characters with those of other dramatic poets; but as we should reckon it tedious to follow him in this manner, we shall only in general take notice of those novels from which he has drawn his plots.

We cannot ascertain the year in which this man died; he had been bred a templer, which he forsook as a dry unentertaining study, and much beneath the genius of a poet.

His dramatic works are,

1.  The Careless Lovers, a Comedy, acted at the duke’s theatre, 4t.  The scene Covent-Garden, part of this play is borrowed from Moliere’s Monsieur de Pourceaugnac.

2.  Mamamouchi; or the Citizen turned Gentleman, a Comedy, acted at the duke’s theatre, 4t, dedicated to his Highness prince Rupert.  Part of this play is taken from Moliere’s Bourgeois Gentilliome.  Scene London.

3.  Scaramouch a Philosopher, Harlequin a schoolboy, Bravo Merchant and Magician; a Comedy, after the Italian manner, acted at the theatre-royal 1677.  The poet in his preface to this play boasts his having brought a new sort of Comedy on our stage; but his critics will not allow any one scene of it to be the genuine offspring of his own brain, and denominate him rather the midwife than the parent of this piece; part of it is taken from Burgeois Gentilhome, & la Marriage Force.

4.  The Wrangling Lovers; or the Invisible Mistress, a Comedy, acted at the duke’s theatre, 4t.  This play is founded upon Corneille’s Les Engagements du Hazard, and a Spanish Romance, called, Deceptio visus; or seeing and believing are two things.

5.  King Edgar, and Alfreda, a Tragedy, acted at the theatre-royal 1677.  The story is taken from the Annals of Love, a novel, and Malmesbury, Grafton, Stow, Speed, and other English chronicles.

6.  The English Lawyer, a Comedy; acted at the theatre-royal 1678; this is only a translation of the celebrated latín comedy of Ignoramus, written by Mr. Ruggle of Clare-hall, Cambridge.  Scene Bourdeaux.

7.  The London Cuckolds, a Comedy; acted at the duke of York’s theatre.  This play is collected from the novels of various authors, and is esteemed one of the most diverting, though perhaps the most offensive play of the author’s; it was first acted 1682.  This play has hitherto kept possession of the flags, a circumstance owing to the annual celebration of the lord mayor’s inauguration:  Though it seems to be growing into a just disesteem.  It was deprived of its annual appearance at Drury-Lane Theatre, in the year 1752, by Mr. Garrick; whose good sense would not suffer him to continue so unwarrantable and ridiculous an insult, upon so respectable a body of men as the magistrates of the city of London.

The citizens are exposed to the highest ridicule in it; and the scenes are loose and indecent.  The reason why the comic poets have so often declared themselves open enemies to the citizens, was plainly this:  The city magistrates had always opposed the court, on which the poets had their dépendance, and therefore took this method of revenge.

8.  Dame Dobson, or the Cunning Woman, a Comedy; acted and damn’d at the duke’s theatre, printed in quarto, 1684.  This is a translation of a French comedy.

9.  The Canterbury Guests, or a Bargain Broken, a Comedy; acted at the theatre-royal, in 1695.

10.  The Anatomist, or the Sham Doctor, a Comedy; acted at the theatre-royal in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields, 1697.

11.  The Italian Husband, a Tragedy; acted at the theatre in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields 1698.  To this play, besides the prologue, is prefixed a dialogue, which the author calls the prelude, managed by the poet, a critic, and one Mr. Peregrine the poet’s friend.  The author here seems to be under the same mistake with other modern writers, who are fond of barbarous and bloody stories.  The Epilogue is written by Jo.  Haynes.