Upon graduation, he became a disciple of John Dryden, William Congreve wrote some of the most popular English plays of the late 17th and very early 18th centuries. By the age of thirty, he had written several notable plays, including 1700's The Way of the World.
Unfortunately, his career ended almost as soon as it began. After writing five plays from his first in 1693 until 1700, he produced no more as public tastes turned against the sort of high-brow sexual comedy of manners in which he specialized. He reportedly was particularly stung by a critique written by Jeremy Collier[?] (A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage), to the point that he wrote a long reply, "Amendments of Mr. Collier's False and Imperfect Citations".
In any case, he withdrew from the theatre and lived the rest of his life on residuals from his early work. His output from 1700 was restricted to the occasional poem and some translation (notably Molière's Monsieur de Pourceaugnac). Congreve died in a London carriage accident in 1729, and was buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.
Two of Congreve's turns of phrase have entered the English language. "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned" is from Act I, Scene I of his play The Mourning Bride, and "Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast" can be found in Act 3, Scene 8 of the same work.
Born and raised in Kent, William Congreve was educated in law at Trinity College, Cambridge. After the use of gunpowder rockets against British troops during the later Mysore Wars[?] against Tipu Sultan, he was inspired to work on similar devices for use by the British military. By 1805 he considered his work sufficiently advanced to engage in two Royal Navy-run attacks on the French fleet at Boulogne, France[?], one that year and one the next.
Congreve rockets were used for the remainder of the Napoleonic Wars, as well as the War of 1812 -- the "rockets' red glare" in the American national anthem describes their firing at Fort McHenry during the latter conflict. They remained in the arsenal of the United Kingdom until the 1850s.
Besides his rockets, Congreve was a prolific (if indifferently successful) inventor for the remainder of his life. Congreve died in Toulouse, France in 1828.