Sir John Vanbrugh: A Biography

Kerry Downes, Author St. Martin's Press $29.95 (560p) ISBN 978-0-312-01825-2
Although two of his sharp-tongued Restoration comediesThe Relapse and The Provok'd Wifestill pack theaters in England, Vanbrugh (1664-1726) is best remembered as an architect who designed opulent houses. The spasmodic construction of Blenheim Palace, which took a decade to build at huge cost, was the talk of coffeehouses and the butt of Jonathan Swift's satires. Vanbrugh was a late bloomer; he wasted his young manhood in French jails and turned surveyor at age 35. A member of the secretive Kit-Cat Club, a gathering-spot for the likes of Congreve, Addison and Steele, he was entrusted with missions for advancing the Whig cause. His eventful life never really catches fire in this workmanlike biography by British art historian Downes. Along the way, the reader learns about the design of playhouses, Fleet Street literary squabbles, opera finances and architectural styles. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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