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 George Lillo

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George Lillo

  • Birth 4 Feb 1693 Moorgate, City of London, Greater London, England
  • Death 3 Sep 1739 Rotherhithe, London Borough of Southwark, Greater London, England
  • Burial Shoreditch, London Borough of Hackney, Greater London, England
  • Plot churchyard, unmarked
  • Memorial ID 14866698

Dramatist. He was the author of "The London Merchant; or, The History of George Barnwell" (1731), one of the most popular English plays of the 18th Century. A fact-based tale of a young apprentice seduced into a life of crime by a vengeful prostitute, it was credited with reviving the genre of domestic tragedy and spreading its influence to Continental Europe. Lillo was born in London, the son of a jeweller of Flemish descent. He became a partner in his father's business and apparently indulged in playwrighting as a hobby. Henry Fielding, who produced two of his plays, described him as a modest man "content with his little state of life". This was temporarily disrupted by "The London Merchant", which made him a celebrity overnight. It was given a command performance for King George II, and its unauthorized 1731 publication sold out three editions by the end of the year. His other notable drama, "The Fatal Curiosity" (1736), was likewise based on a true crime story; it enjoyed none of the success of "The London Merchant", though many consider it the better play. At the time of his death Lillo was working on an adaptation of "Arden of Feversham", the anonymous 1592 drama that launched the domestic tragedy genre; his version was completed by others and published in 1762. The rest of his work is undistinguished and some of it appeared posthumously: the ballad opera "Silvia: or, The Country Burial" (1730), "The Christian Hero" (1735), "Marina" (1738), based on Shakespeare's "Pericles", "Elmerick: or, Justice Triumphant" (1740), and the masque "Britannia and Batavia" (1740). "The Works of Mr. George Lillo; with Some Account of his Life" was published in 1775. The prosaic merchant-class attitudes that led Lillo to rediscover the domestic tragedy also enabled him to endow it with fresh life. His style is blunt and unusually realistic for the time. For the last scene of "The London Merchant" he shocked audiences by presenting the gallows onstage, and villainess Sarah Millwood's soliloquy about her abuse at the hands of predatory, hypocritical men strikes a curiously modern note. The play inspired the domestic dramas of Denis Diderot in France and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in Germany, and was still well enough known in the Victorian Age to be mentioned in Charles Dickens' novel "Great Expectations" (1861).

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Mark McManus
  • Added: 9 Jul 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 14866698
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for George Lillo (4 Feb 1693–3 Sep 1739), Find A Grave Memorial no. 14866698, citing St Leonard Churchyard, Shoreditch, London Borough of Hackney, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .