was a British
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...
dramatist and a native of Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...
His father "Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...
" William Crowne
William Crowne had a varied career as an officer of arms, a Member of Parliament, a colonel during the English civil war, and one of the early colonists of North America...
, accompanied the earl of Arundel on a diplomatic mission to Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...
in 1637, and wrote an account of his journey. He emigrated to Nova Scotia where he received a grant of land from Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....
, but the French took possession of his property, and the home government did nothing to uphold his rights.
He was born in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...
on 6 April 1641, and accompanied his father to the New World in 1657 when he studied at Harvard. Crowne left without graduating, however, and returned to England with his father in 1660.
When the son came to England his poverty compelled him to act as gentleman usher to an independent lady of quality, and his enemies asserted that his father had been an Independent minister. He began his literary career with a romance, Pandion and Amphigenia, or the History of the coy Lady of Thessalia
(1665). In 1671 he produced a romantic play, Juliana, or the Princess of Poland
, which has, in spite of its title, no pretensions to rank as an historical drama.
The earl of Rochester procured for him, apparently with the sole object of annoying Dryden
John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...
by infringing on his rights as poet-laureate
A poet laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government and is often expected to compose poems for state occasions and other government events...
, a commission to supply a masque for performance at court. Calisto
gained him the favour of Charles II
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...
, but Rochester proved a fickle patron, and his favour was completely alienated by the success of Crowne's heroic play in two parts, The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian
(1677). This piece contained a thinly disguised satire on the Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...
party in the description of the Pharisees
The Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty in the wake of...
, and about 1683 he produced a distinctly political play, The City Politiques
, satirizing the Whig
The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule...
party and containing characters which were readily recognized as portraits of Titus Oates
Titus Oates was an English perjurer who fabricated the "Popish Plot", a supposed Catholic conspiracy to kill King Charles II.-Early life:...
and others. This made him many enemies, and he petitioned the king for a small place that would release him from the necessity of writing for the stage.
The king exacted one more comedy, which should, he suggested, he based on the No puede ser guardar una mujer
Agustín Moreto y Cavana , was a Spanish Catholic priest, dramatist and playwright.He was of Italian descent. His exact date of birth is unknown, but he was baptized at Madrid on 9 April 1618. He attended the University of Alcalá de Henares between 1634 and 1637, studying logic and physics and...
. This had already been unsuccessfully adapted, as Crowne discovered later, by Sir Thomas St Serfe, but in Crowne's hands it developed into Sir Courtly Nice, or It Cannot Be
(1685), a comedy which kept its place as a stock piece for nearly a century. Unfortunately Charles II died before the play was completed, and Crowne was disappointed of his reward. He continued to write plays, and it is stated that he was still living in 1703. According to an article in the Gentleman's Magazine John was still alive in the first decade of the 18th century when the writer recalls drinking with him. Letters to the royal household indicates he relied on the charity of Queen Mary II
Mary II was joint Sovereign of England, Scotland, and Ireland with her husband and first cousin, William III and II, from 1689 until her death. William and Mary, both Protestants, became king and queen regnant, respectively, following the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the deposition of...
and Queen Anne who remembered performing one of his plays for Charles II when they were young princesses.
Crowne was a fertile writer of plays with an historical setting, in which heroic love was, in the fashion of the French romances, made the leading motive. The prosaic level of his style saved him as a rule from the rant to be found in so many contemporary heroic plays, but these pieces are of no particular interest. He was much more successful in comedy of the kind that depicts "humours."
Little is known of John Crowne's later life although records show an Elias Crowne (birthplace listed as outside the county) marrying in Norfolk in the late 1680s, the son of a John and Sarah Crowne. There was also a John Crown born in 1667 in London.
John Crowne died around 1712 and was buried at St Giles in the Fields, London.
- The History of Charles the Eighth of France, or The Invasion of Naples by the French (1672) was dedicated to Rochester. In Timon, generally supposed to have been written by the earl, a line from this piece--"whilst sporting waves smil'd on the rising sun "--was held up to ridicule
- The Country Wit: A Comedy (acted 1675, pr. 1693), derived in part from Molière
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature...
's Le Sicilien, ou l'Amour peintre, is remembered for the leading character, Sir Mannerly Shallow
- The Ambitious Statesman, or The Loyal Favourite (1679), one of the most extravagant of his heroic efforts, deals with the history of Bernard d'Armagnac, Constable of France, after the battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army in the Hundred Years' War. The battle occurred on Friday, 25 October 1415 , near modern-day Azincourt, in northern France...
- Thyestes, A Tragedy (1681), spares none of the horrors of the Senecan
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...
tragedy, although an incongruous love story is interpolated
- The Misery of Civil War (1681), adapted from William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...
's Henry VI, Part 2
Henry VI, Part 2 or The Second Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...
and Henry VI, Part 3
Henry VI, Part 3 or The Third Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...
- City Politics (1683)
- Sir Courtly Nice, or It Cannot Be (1685), a comedy
- Darius, King of Persia (1688), a tragedy
- Regulus (acted 1692, pr. 1694)*The English Frier; or The Town Sparks (acted 1689, pr. 1690), perhaps suggested by Molière's Tartuffe, ridicules the court Catholics, and in Father Finical caricatures Father Edward Petre.
- The Married Beau; or The Curious Impertinent (1694), is based on the Curioso Impertinente in Don Quixote.
- Caligula (1698)
He also produced a version of Racine
Jean Racine , baptismal name Jean-Baptiste Racine , was a French dramatist, one of the "Big Three" of 17th-century France , and one of the most important literary figures in the Western tradition...
, and an unsuccessful comedy, Justice Busy
See The Dramatic Works of John Crowne
(4 vols., 1873), edited by James Maidment
James Maidment was a British antiquary and collector.He passed through Edinburgh University to the Scottish bar, and was chief authority on genealogical cases.Maidment's hobby was the collection of literary rarities...
and W. H. Logan for the Dramatists of the Restoration