George Farquhar



The Works of George Farquhar, ed. Shirley Strum Kenny, 2 vols (Oxford, 1988)


The Complete Works of George Farquhar, ed. Charles Stonehill, 2 vols (London, 1930)


Documents and Farquhar's Widow

No example of Farquhar's hand is known to survive, neither have any authoritative manuscripts of any of his works been recorded in modern times.

The extant documents most closely related to the dramatist are a brief series of undated letters and petitions written c.1707-10 by or on behalf of his widow, Margaret. Three, addressed to the Secretary of State, Robert Harley, and begging him to help her get a pension from the Queen. These are among the Harley Papers in the Duke of Portland's muniments formerly at Welbeck Abbey and now in the British Library. One, written according to her subscription in ‘my sons hand’, is Add. MS 70225, [unnumbered page]. Another, written in a different hand, is Add. MS 70024, ff. 105r-7v. Here she is found commenting on her distressed condition and remarking: ‘I neuer yet receiu'd a farthing from her matie; except ten Guinneys by ye hands of ye Dutchess of Devonshire, vpon ye presentation of my husbands poem’. A third letter, in yet another style of hand, is Add. MS 70024, f. 108r-v. Here she refers to Harley's ‘Generous favors in return of my book by my Daughter’, asks him to further her petition to the Queen by ‘reading over these papers wch are ye coppys of ye Originalls wch I have by me’ and refers again to having received ten guineas from the Queen ‘for ye book wch you did me ye honr to receive’.

In another division of the Harley Papers, which was at Welbeck Abbey in 1937 but whose present whereabouts is unclear, two of Margaret Farquhar's original petitions to Queen Anne were to be found, accompanied by three certificates concerning Farquhar's military service, signed by the Duke of Ormonde (Lord Lieutenant of Ireland), the Duke of Bolton, and Farquhar's regimental commander, the Earl of Orrery. For these, and related documents, see the discussion and partial transcript in James R. Sutherland, ‘New Light on George Farquhar’, TLS (6 March 1937), p. 171, and also the related discussion in Robert John Jordan, ‘George Farquhar's Military Career’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 37 (1973-4), 251-64. In her petitions, Margaret Farquhar summarises her husband's military career (including his being ‘a Voluntier at ye Battle of ye Boyn’ [in 1690] and Lieutenant of Grenadiers in Orrery's Regiment of Foot [in 1704-5]), while Orrery, in his certificate of support, interestingly describes Farquhar as ‘a Person of great Ingenuity’ (a phrase reminiscent of the first collected edition of ‘The Works of the late ingenious Mr George Farquhar’ [1711?]).

Yet another recorded letter by Margaret Farquhar, addressed to the Hon. Mr Vice-Chamberlain and complaining of her inadequate receipts from the playhouse, is cited in Stonehill (I, xxxii). The original letter was offered for sale in Dobell's catalogue No. 26 (1937), as item 117, where more of the text is quoted, including her statement: ‘the players I understand usually allowed for their benefit play but still I hope thro your powerfull mediation it may be reduced to a much less sume, for ye chief actors I presume may be easily prevaild to quett their own charges upon Mr. Farquhars account who has bin so serviceable to them’.

In 1710, Farquhar's widow published his Barcellona A Poem or The Spanish Expedition. Presumably this was ‘ye book’ — ‘my husbands poem’ — which, according to her letters to Harley, she presented to Queen Anne, although her dedication in the printed edition is to Charles Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough. The poem was found, she says ‘among my dear Deceas'd Husband's Writings’, the ‘Original’ being ‘produc'd under his own Hand’ (Stonehill, II, 363-4).


Of George Farquhar's own correspondence, a number of texts are preserved only in such (less than totally reliable) publications as Familiar and Courtly Letters, written by Monsieur Voiture (1700-1), Abel Boyer's Letters of Wit, Politicks and Morality (1701), and Farquhar's own Love and Business (‘1702’ [i.e. 1701]), for which see Stonehill, II, 217-343. The addressees of the dedicatory epistle of Farquhar's various published works include Peregrine Osborne, Marquess of Carmarthen (and later second Duke of Leeds); Sir Roger Mostyn, Bt; Arnold Joost Van Keppel, first Earl of Albemarle; Richard Tighe; Henry Brett; Samuel Bagshaw; and Edmond Chaloner.


Later prompt-copies of Farquhar's best known plays, especially The Beaux' Stratagem, are to be found in various collections. For four 18th-century examples of The Beaux' Stratagem (2), The Constant Couple, and The Twin-Rivals, see Edward A. Langhans, Eighteenth Century British and Irish Promptbooks: A Descriptive Bibliography (New York, Westport, Conn. & London, 1987), pp. 49-51. For some 19th-century examples, see Barry N. Olshen, ‘The Beaux Stratagem on the Nineteenth Century London Stage’, Theatre Notebook, 28 (1974), 70-80. Another is in Boston Public Library (*K.38.51), and yet another was sold at Sotheby's, 6 December 1984, lot 44, to the (now defunct) British Theatre Museum.

The Canon

The canon of Farquhar's works is taken to be that established in Stonehill, with the addition of a prologue discovered by Shirley Strum Kenny: see ‘A Broadside Prologue by Farquhar’, Studies in Bibliography, 25 (1972), 179-85. Two songs by the composer Richard Leveridge (‘Early in ye Dawning of a Winters Morn’ and ‘When Cupid from his Mother fled’) which featured in early performances of Farquhar's Love and a Bottle, although they do not appear in the first edition of the text (1699), are copied in a manuscript songbook in the Bodleian (MS Mus. Sch. C. 95, pp. 119, 122). A contemporary printed broadside of these ‘Songs in the new Comedy call'd Love and a Bottle. Sung by Mrs. Allison’ and including a third song (‘On Sunday after Mass’ as sung ‘by Mrs. Mills’) is now in the Folger Shakespeare Library. It is reproduced in facsimile and discussed in Shirley Strum Kenny, ‘Songs in Love and a Bottle’, The Scriblerian, 17 (1984), 1-7, and in her edition of Farquhar, I, 21.

Editorial Papers

Some original working papers and proofsheets for Stonehill's edition of this author are preserved at Yale (Gen MSS Misc Group 1741, formerly MS Vault file/Farquhar).

Peter Beal