William Congreve

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Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing.

William Congreve (24 January 167019 January 1729) was an English playwright and poet.


I find we are growing serious, and then we are in great danger of being dull.
  • Careless she is with artful care,
    Affecting to seem unaffected.
    • "Amoret", line 7 (1710)
  • Invention flags, his brain goes muddy,
    And black despair succeeds brown study.
    • "An Impossible Thing", line 105 (1720)
  • Defer not till tomorrow to be wise,
    Tomorrow's sun to thee may never rise.
    • "Letter to Cobham", line 61. Compare: "Be wise to-day, 't is madness to defer", Edward Young, Night Thoughts, Night i. line 390
The Old Bachelor
  • In my conscience I believe the baggage loves me, for she never speaks well of me herself, nor suffers any body else to rail at me.
    • Act I, scene iii
  • Hannibal was a very pretty fellow in those days.
    • Act II, scene 2
  • I find we are growing serious, and then we are in great danger of being dull.
    • Act II, scene vii
  • If this be not love, it is madness, and then it is pardonable.
    • Act III, scene x
  • Eternity was in that moment.
    • Act IV, scene vii
  • Men are apt to offend ('tis true) where they find most goodness to forgive.
    • Act IV, scene xi
  • Thus grief still treads upon the heels of pleasure;
    Married in haste, we may repent at leisure.
    • Act V, scene viii. Compare: "Who wooed in haste, and means to wed at leisure", William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, Act iii, scene 2
Full text online
  • It is the business of a comic poet to paint the vices and follies of human kind.
    • Epistle dedicatory
  • Retired to their tea and scandal, according to their ancient custom.
    • Act I, scene i
  • Though marriage makes man and wife one flesh, it leaves 'em still two fools.
    • Act II, scene iii
  • Now will I, in my old way, discover the whole and real truth of the matter to him, that he may not suspect one word on’t.
No mask like open truth to cover lies,
As to go naked is the best disguise.
  • Act V, scene iv
I warrant you, if he danced till doomsday, he thought I was to pay the piper.
Full text online
  • Thou liar of the first magnitude.
    • Act II, scene ii
  • I warrant you, if he danced till doomsday, he thought I was to pay the piper.
    • Act II, scene ii
  • Ferdinand Mendez Pinto was but a type of thee, thou liar of the first magnitude.
    • Act II, scene v
  • I came up stairs into the world, for I was born in a cellar.
    • Act II, scene vii; comparable to: "Born in a cellar, and living in a garret", Samuel Foote, The Author, act 2; "Born in the garret, in the kitchen bred", Lord Byron, A Sketch
  • O fie, miss, you must not kiss and tell.
    • Act II, scene x
  • I know that's a secret, for it's whispered every where.
    • Act III, scene iii
  • Women are like tricks by sleight of hand,
    Which, to admire, we should not understand.
    • Act IV, scene iii
  • Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing.
    • Act IV, scene xx
  • 'Tis well enough for a servant to be bred at an University. But the education is a little too pedantic for a gentleman.
    • Act V, scene iii
  • Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
    To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.

    I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
    And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
    By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
    What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
    Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
    'Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
    Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
    The silent Tomb receiv'd the good Old King;
    He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg'd
    Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
    Why am not I at Peace?
    • Act I, scene i; the first lines of this passage are often rendered in modern spelling as "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast", or misquoted as: "Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast".
  • Vile and ingrate! too late thou shalt repent
    The base Injustice thou hast done my Love:
    Yes, thou shalt know, spite of thy past Distress,
    And all those Ills which thou so long hast mourn'd;
    Heav'n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn'd,
    Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn'd.
    • Act III, scene viii; often paraphrased: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". A similar line occurs in Love's Last Shift, by Colley Cibber, act iv.: "We shall find no fiend in hell can match the fury of a disappointed woman".
  • For blessings ever wait on virtuous deeds,
    And though a late, a sure reward succeeds.
    • Act V, scene 12
Full text online
  • They come together like the Coroner's Inquest, to sit upon the murdered reputations of the week.
    • Act I, scene i
  • Say what you will, 'tis better to be left than never to have been loved.
    • Act II, scene i. Precedent for Alfred Tennyson's more famous: "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"
  • Love's but a frailty of the mind,
    When 'tis not with ambition joined.
    • Act III, scene xii
  • If there's delight in love, 'tis when I see
    That heart which others bleed for, bleed for me.
  • I nauseate walking; 'tis a country diversion, I loathe the country.
    • Act IV, scene v
  • Let us be very strange and well-bred:
    Let us be as strange as if we had been married a great while;
    And as well-bred as if we were not married at all.
    • Act IV, scene v
  • Thou art a retailer of phrases, and dost deal in remnants of remnants, like a maker of pincushions; thou art in truth (metaphorically speaking) a speaker of shorthand.
    • Act IV, scene ix
  • O, she is the antidote to desire.
    • Act IV, scene xiv

Quotes About William Congreve

  • "Mr Congreve,for instance would make many brilliant hits - half a dozen in a night sometimes - but like sharpshooters, when they had fired their shot they were obliged to retire under cover till their pieces were loaded again".
    • William Thackeray, The History of Henry Esmond [1]


  • Never go to bed angry, stay up and fight.
    • Phyllis Diller, as quoted in Getting Through to the Man You Love : The No-Nonsense, No-Nagging Guide for Women (1999) by Michele Weiner-Davis, p. 151
Wikipedia has an article about:
  1. The History of Henry Esmond, Penguin Classics, 1985, page 293