As ironic as any play he wrote, when English playwright and poet William Congreve (1670-1729) released his Way of the World (1700), the play failed terribly. This experience so discouraged him that he quit the stage and retired to live as a country gentleman.
"Say what you will, 'tis better to be left than never to have been loved," he wrote in Act 2 of the famous five-act play.
Often revived, Way of the World is considered his masterpiece, "the best of the Restoration plays." A comedy of manners and satire about the time he lived; its beautiful heroine Millamant offered actresses a fine comedic role.
"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned," he observed.
Born to genteel society of Leeds, Congreve's other major plays included The Old Bachelor (1693), The Double-Dealer (1693), and Love for Love (1695).
Praised by Samuel Johnson, Congreve was a wizard with comic dialogue and intricate plot twists which poked fun at his society's rules about love and marriage.
"Music has charms to soothe a savage breast," Congreve believed, "to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak."
Let ambition be tempered with your heart.