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William Congreve was born on January 24th, 1670 in Bardsey, West Yorkshire.
Congreve’s childhood was spent in Ireland (his father, a Lieutenant in the British Army had received a posting there). He was educated at Kilkenny College and then Trinity College in Dublin. After graduating he returned to London to study law at Middle Temple. However his interest in studying law soon lessened as the attraction of literature, drama, and the fashionable life began to exert its pull. This first play, The Old Bachelor, was written, to amuse himself during convalescence, and was produced at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1693. It was an enormous success. Although his playwrighting career was successful it was also very brief. Five plays authored from 1693 to 1700 would prove the entirety of his output.
Although no further plays were to flow from his pen Congreve did write librettos for two operas and to begin translating the works of Molière as well as Homer, Ovid and Horace and to write poetry. He also took an interest in politics and obtained various minor political posts, including being named Secretary of the Island of Jamaica by George I in 1714.
Congreve suffered a carriage accident in late September 1728, from which he never recovered (having probably received an internal injury); William Congreve died in London on January 19th, 1729, and was buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.