John Crowne (fl. 1665-1700)
From Anecdotes About 17th Century Authors

IT was at the very latter end of King Charles's reign that Mr. Crowne, being tired with the fatigue of writing, and shocked by the uncertainty of theatrical success, and desirous to shelter himself from the resentments of those numerous enemies which he had made by his City Politics, made his application immediately to the King himself; and desired his Majesty to establish him in some office that might be a security to him for life. The King had the goodness to assure him he should have an office, but added that he would first see another comedy. Mr. Crowne endeavouring to excuse himself, by telling the King that he plotted slowly and awkwardly, the King replied that he would help him to a plot, and so put into his hands the Spanish comedy called Non pued Esser. Mr. Crowne was obliged immediately to go to work upon it; but, after he had writ three Acts of it, found to his surprise that the Spanish play had some time before been translated, and acted, and damned, under the title of Tarugo's Wiles, or the Coffee-house. Yet, supported by the King's command, he went boldly on and finished it...

The play was now just ready to appear to the world; and as everyone that had seen it rehearsed was highly pleased with it, everyone who had heard of it was big with the expectation of it, and Mr. Crowne was delighted with the flattering hope of being made happy for the rest of his life by the performance of the King's promise; when, upon the very last day of the rehearsal, he met Cave Underhill coming from the playhouse as he himself was going toward it. Upon which the poet reprimanding the player for neglecting so considerable a part as he had in the comedy, and neglecting it on a day of so much consequence as the very last day of rehearsal, 'Oh Lord, sir,' says Underhill, 'we are all undone!' 'Wherefore?' says Mr. Crowne. 'Is the playhouse on fire?' The whole nation,' replies the player, 'will quickly be so, for the King is dead.' At the hearing which dismal words, the author was little better; for he who but the moment before was ravished with the thought of the pleasure which he was about to give to his King, and of the favours which he was afterwards to receive from him, this moment found, to his unspeakable sorrow, that his royal patron was gone for ever, and with him all his hopes. The King indeed revived from his apoplectic fit, but three days after died, and Mr. Crowne by his death was replunged in the deepest melancholy.

[Crowne's play, Sir Courtly Nice, was produced successfully early in the reign of James II.]

From The Critical Works of John Dennis, ed. Edward Niles Hooker (1939-43), ii. 405-6 (in a letter dated 23 June 1719).

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