George Stimpson

His life and works

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Why is a hotel proprietor called a Boniface?

Boniface as a facetious generic nickname for hotel proprietors and innkeepers is an allusion to Will Boniface, a distinctively original character in Beaux' Stratagem, the best of the plays of George Farquhar (1678-1707), Irish-born British dramatist. Farquhar died before he was thirty and Beaux' Stratagem was first produced on the London stage in 1707 three days before the author's death. This play was very popular and kept the stage for years. There were nineteen revivals of it up to 1828. In the play Will Boniface is the landlord of an inn at Richfield, England. He is sleek, jovial, good-natured, a thorough rascal—and in league with the highwaymen. Beaux' Stratagem is also the source of Lady Bountiful in the sense of a conspicuously beneficent woman. The original Lady Bountiful was a country gentlewoman noted for her benevolence to the poor. Farquhar, one of the best playwrights of his generation, started out to be an actor on the Dublin stage. He quit the stage because, while playing in Dryden's Indian Emperor, he failed to exchange his sword for a foil and almost killed a fellow actor.