I’ve just finished reading Mark Dawson’s Gentility and the Comic Theatre of Late Stuart London (Cambridge, 2005), an excellent study of how gentility was staged in comic drama between 1660 and 1725, with particular emphasis on the post-1688 years.

I’m reviewing this book for a journal, so I’ll leave all the normal review stuff for that. But I thought that this would be a good space in which to reflect a little on how Dawson’s book has spurred me to think about a couple of professional issues.

To be honest, I’ve always been a little bored by English drama between 1688 and 1725. My own research has focused on the period between 1660 and 1685, the best 25-year-period in English literature, imo, and I have a fondness for many of the plays written in the late eighteenth century, works like She Stoops to Conquer and A School for Scandal. (I once saw a great production of the former at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, CT. It was hilarious and very well produced.) But the period in between has held little interest for me, with the exception of John Gay’s A Beggar’s Opera, which is a masterpiece. About a year-and-a-half ago, I taught Susan Centlivre’s 1718 comedy A Bold Stroke for a Wife in both my undergraduate and graduate courses, but it left me thinking that sometimes there’s a reason why some literary works are forgotten or neglected by history.

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