Susanna Centlivre (1667-1723) and her famous works

Susanna Centlivre was an actress, dramatist, essayist, and poet, known at her age as the ‘Celebrated Mrs. Centlivre’. She survived anti-feminist criticism to become the most prolific playwright. Nothing is known for certain about her birth and early girlhood. Even her date of birth is doubtful. From her dramas, it is conjectured that she knew French, and that she learnt it from a French master privately. One account has her masquerading as a youth and studying at Cambridge University before she came to London as an itinerant actress. Her first husband Mr. Carroll whom she married in her teens died perhaps in a duel. She married the second time one Mr. Joseph Centlivre (in 1707) who was the master cook of Queen Anne. She contracted friendship with many illustrious writers of the age including Farquhar, Steele, Heywood, Mary Pix, Colley Cibber, Nicholas Rowe and the famous actress Anne Oldfield.

She was a prolific writer. She started writing poetry and letters to some imaginary or real George Farquhar and some other persons and published them.

She wrote as many as nineteen plays. Her most famous works are:

1. The Perjured Husband (1700)—a cross between a tragedy and tragicomedy which was performed at Drury Lane.

2. The Stolen Heiress(1702)

3. Love’s Contrivance(1703)
4. The Busie Body (1704), a farcical comedy that became very popular for its admirable but foolish character Marplot.
5. Marplot in Lisbon (1710)—a sequel to The Busie Body did not succeed theatrically.
6. The Gamester (1705).(mainly shows attack the over-weening vices of gambling and card-playing of the upper-class society.)
7. The Wonder: A Woman Keeps a Secret (1714).
8. A Bold Stroke for a Wife (1717).

Also read: Matthew Gregory Lewis and his important works