Collier, Jeremy (1650–1726)
English cleric and writer of *anti-theatrical polemic. Unlike his most famous forebears in the genre, Collier was not a Puritan but a high-church monarchist: in 1689, after James II had been driven into exile, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary, and in 1696 he publicly absolved two condemned Jacobites who had tried to assassinate them. Though he later became a non-juring bishop, Collier nonetheless achieved less prominence for his politics than for his Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698). This long, learned, and intemperate attack on contemporary dramatists, notably *Dryden, *D'Urfey, *Congreve, and *Vanbrugh, singles out in particular their alleged disrespect for marriage and their abuse of the clergy. It provoked an immediate pamphlet war, including replies from Vanbrugh. Ironically, it was the banishment of James, which Collier so deplored, which left the *playhouses vulnerable to his assault: neither William and Mary nor Anne took the same protective interest in the *Theatres Royal as had the earlier Stuarts, and they took no action to defend actors and playwrights from the private prosecutions for blasphemy mounted by some of Collier's supporters, even when the blasphemies in question consisted merely of speaking lines which had been duly licensed by the *Master of the Revels. In the wake of the ‘Collier controversy’, Societies for the Reformation of Manners were established to uphold public virtue within the playhouses and beyond: the whole furore encouraged a trend away from the graphic dramatic *satire of the Restoration and towards the more sentimental, middle-class
morality that would be exemplified by *Lillo (see BOURGEOIS THEATRE ).