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Amongst the first five-act plays in which this She Stoops to Conquer, performed in 1773, has all improvement was seen, was The Suspicious Husband the requisites for interesting and amusing an audiof Hoadly, in which there is but a slight dash of ence; and Johnson said, he knew of no comedy the license of Farquhar. Its leading character, for many years that had answered so much the Ranger, is still a favourite. GEORGE COLMAN, ma- great end of comedy-making an audience merry.' nager of Covent Garden theatre, was an excellent The plot turns on what may be termed a farcomic writer, and produced above thirty pieces, a cical incident-two parties mistaking a gentleman's few of which deservedly keep possession of the stage. house for an inn. But the excellent discriminaHis Jealous Wife, founded on Fielding's 'Tom Jones,' tion of character, and the humour and vivacity has some highly effective scenes and well-drawn cha- of the dialogue throughout the play, render this racters. It was produced in 1761; five years after-piece one of the richest contributions which have been made to modern comedy. The native pleasantry and originality of Goldsmith were never more happily displayed, and his success, as Davies records, revived fancy, wit, gaiety, humour, incident, and character, in the place of sentiment and moral preachment.'
wards, Colman joined with Garrick and brought out The Clandestine Marriage, in which the character of an aged beau, affecting gaiety and youth, is strikingly personified in Lord Ogleby. ARTHUR MURPHY (1727-1805), a voluminous and miscellaneous writer, added comedies as well as tragedies to the stage, and his Way to Keep Him is still occasionally performed. HUGH KELLY, a scurrilous newspaper writer, surprised the public by producing a comedy, False Delicacy, which had remarkable success both on the fortunes and character of the author: the profits of his first third night realised £150-the largest sum of money he had ever before seen- and from a low, petulant, absurd, and ill-bred censurer,' says Davies, Kelly was transformed to the humane, affable, good-natured, well-bred man.' The marked success of Kelly's sentimental style gave the tone to a much more able dramatist, RICHARD CUMBERLAND (17321811), who, after two or three unsuccessful pieces, in 1771 brought out The West Indian, one of the best stage plays which English comedy can yet boast. The plot, incidents, and characters (including the first draught of an Irish gentleman which the theatre had witnessed), are all well sustained. Other dramas of Cumberland, as The Wheel of Fortune, The Fashionable Lover, &c., were also acted with applause, though now too stiff and sentimental for our audiences. Goldsmith thought that Cumberland had carried the refinement of comedy to excess, and he set himself to correct the fault. His first dramatic performance, The Good-Natured Man, presents one of the happiest of his delineations in the character of Croaker; but as a whole, the play wants point and sprightliness. His second drama,
[From 'She Stoops to Conquer."]
LANDLORD and TONY LUMPKIN.
Landlord. There be two gentlemen in a post-chaise at the door. They've lost their way upon the forest, and they are talking something about Mr Hardcastle.
Tony. As sure as can be, one of them must be the gentleman that's coming down to court my sister. Do they seem to be Londoners?
Land. I believe they may. They look woundily like
Tony. Then desire them to step this way, and I'll set them right in a twinkling. [Exit Landlord.] Gentlemen, as they mayn't be good enough company for you, step down for a moment, and I'll be with you in the squeezing of a lemon. [Exeunt Mob.] Fatherin-law has been calling me a whelp and hound this half-year. Now, if I pleased, I could be so revenged upon the old grumbletonian. But then I am afraid -afraid of what? I shall soon be worth fifteen hundred a-year, and let him frighten me out of that if he
Enter LANDLORD, conducting MARLOW and HASTINGS. had of it! We were told it was but forty miles across Mar. What a tedious uncomfortable day have we the country, and we have come above threescore.
Hast. And all, Marlow, from that unaccountable reserve of yours, that would not let us inquire more frequently on the way.
self under an obligation to every one I meet; and Mar. I own, Hastings, I am unwilling to lay myoften stand the chance of an unmannerly answer.
Hast. At present, however, we are not likely to receive any answer.
Tony. No offence, gentlemen; but I am told you have been inquiring for one Mr Hardcastle in these parts. Do you know what part of the country you are in?
Hast. Not in the least, sir; but should thank you for information.
Tony. Nor the way you came?
Hast. No, sir; but if you can inform usTony. Why, gentlemen, if you know neither the road you are going, nor where you are, nor the road you came, the first thing I have to inform you is that you have lost your way.
Mar. We wanted no ghost to tell us that.
Tony. Pray, gentlemen, may I be so bold as to ask the place from whence you came?
Mar. That's not necessary towards directing us where we are to go.
Tony. No offence; but question for question is all fair, you know. Pray, gentlemen, is not this same Hardcastle a cross-grained, old-fashioned, whimsical fellow, with an ugly face, a daughter, and a pretty son?
Hast. We have not seen the gentleman; but he has the family you mention.
Tony. The daughter a tall, trapesing, trolloping, talkative maypole; the son a pretty, well-bred, agreeable youth, that everybody is fond of.
Mar. Our information differs in this: the daughter is said to be well-bred and beautiful; the son an awkward booby, reared up and spoiled at his mother's apron-string.
Tony. He-he-hem. Then, gentlemen, all I have to tell you is, that you won't reach Mr Hardcastle's house this night, I believe.
Tony. It's a long, dark, boggy, dangerous way. Stingo, tell the gentlemen the way to Mr Hardcastle's [winking at the Landlord]-Mr Hardcastle's of Quagmire-marsh. You understand me?
Land. Master Hardcastle's? Lack-a-daisy! my masters you're come a deadly deal wrong. When you came to the bottom of the hill you should have crossed down Squash-lane.
Mar. O, sir! you're facetious.
Tony. Then, keeping to the right, you are to go sideways till you come upon Crack-skull Common; there you must look sharp for the track of the wheel, and go forward till you come to Farmer Murrain's barn. Coming to the farmer's barn, you are to turn to the right, and then to the left, and then to the right about again, till you find out the old mill
Mar. Zounds! man, we could as soon find out the longitude!
Mar. The usual fate of a large mansion. Having first ruined the master by good house-keeping, it has at last come to levy contributions as an inn.
Hast. As you say, we passengers are to be taxed to pay all these fineries. I have often seen a good sideboard, or a marble chimney-piece, though not actually
Mar. Cross down Squash-lane?
Land. Then you were to keep straight forward till put in the bill, inflame the bill confoundedly. you came to four roads. Mar. Travellers must pay in all places; the only difference is, that in good inns you pay dearly for
Mar. Come to where four roads meet?
Tony. Ay; but you must be sure to take only luxuries; in bad inns you are fleeeed and starved.
Hast. What's to be done, Marlow?
Mar. This house promises but a poor reception; though perhaps the landlord can accommodate us. Land. Alack, master! we have but one spare bed in the whole house.
keeps as good wines and beds as any in the whole county.
Mar. Well, if he supplies us with these, we shall want no further connexion. We are to turn to the right, did you say?
Hast. I hate sleeping by the fireside.
Mar. And I detest your three chairs and a bol
Tony. No, no, straight forward. I'll just step myself and show you a piece of the way. [To the Landlord.] Mum! [Exeunt.
Tony. You do, do you? Then let me see what if you go on a mile farther to the Buck's Head, the old Buck's Head on the hill, one of the best inns in the whole country.
Hast. O ho! so we have escaped an adventure for this night, however.
[Arrival at the Supposed Inn.]
Enter MARLOW and HASTINGS.
Hast. After the disappointments of the day, welcome once more, Charles, to the comforts of a clean room and a good fire. Upon my word a very welllooking house; antique, but creditable.
Hard. Gentlemen, once more you are heartily welcome. Which is Mr Marlow! [Mar. advances.] Sir, you're heartily welcome. It's not my way, you see, to receive my friends with my back to the fire! I like to give them a hearty reception, in the old style, at my gate; I like to see their horses and trunks taken
Mar. [Aside.] He has got our names from the servants already. [To Hard.] We approve your caution and hospitality, sir. [To Hast.] I have been thinking, George, of changing our travelling dresses in the morning; I am grown confoundedly ashamed of mine. Hard. I beg, Mr Marlow, you'll use no ceremony in this house.
Tony. And to my knowledge that's taken up by three lodgers already. [After a pause, in which the rest seem disconcerted.] I have hit it: don't you think, Stingo, our landlady would accommodate the gentle-Liberty-hall, men by the fireside with three chairs and a bol
Mar. Yet, George, if we open the campaign too fiercely at first, we may want ammunition before it is over. We must show our generalship by securing, if necessary, a retreat.
Hard. Your talking of a retreat, Mr Marlow, puts me in mind of the Duke of Marlborough when he went to besiege Denain. He first summoned the garrison
Hast. I fancy, you're right: the first blow is half the battle. We must, however, open the campaign. Hard. Mr Marlow-Mr Hastings-gentlemenpray be under no restraint in this house. This is gentlemen; you may do just as you
Mar. Ay, and we'll summon your garrison, old boy. Hard. He first summoned the garrison, which might consist of about five thousand men
Land. [Apart to Tony.] Sure you bean't sending them to your father's as an inn, be you?
Hast. Marlow, what's o'clock ?
Tony Mum! you fool, you; let them find that out. [To them.] You have only to keep on straight forward till you come to a large house on the road-side: you'll see a pair of large horns over the door; that's the sign. Drive up the yard, and call stoutly about
Hard. I say gentlemen, as I was telling you, he summoned the garrison, which might consist of about five thousand men
Mar. Five minutes to seven.
Hard. Which might consist of about five thousand men, well appointed with stores, ammunition, and other implements of war. Now, says the Duke of Marlborough to George Brooks, that stood next to him
Tony. No, no: but I tell you though, the landlord-you must have heard of George Brooks-I'll pawn is rich, and going to leave off business; so he wants to be thought a gentleman, saving your presence, he, he, he! He'll be for giving you his company; and, ecod! if you mind him, he'll persuade you that his mother was an alderman, and his aunt a justice of the
my dukedom, says he, but I take that garrison without spilling a drop of blood. So
Mar. What? My good friend, if you give us a glass of punch in the meantime, it would help us to carry on the siege with vigour.
Hard. Punch, sir!-This is the most unaccountable kind of modesty I ever met with.
Land. A troublesome old blade, to be sure; but a
Mar. Yes, sir, punch. A glass of warm punch after actual consultation upon what's for supper this moour journey will be comfortable.
ment in the kitchen.
Enter SERVANT with a tankard.
This is Liberty-hall, you know.
Mar. So this fellow, in his Liberty-hall, will only let us have just what he pleases. [Aside to Hast. Hard. [Taking the cup.] I hope you'll find it to your mind. I have prepared it with my own hands, and I believe you'll own the ingredients are tolerable. Will you be so good as to pledge me, sir? Here, Mr Marlow, here is to our better acquaintance.
[Drinks, and gives the cup to Marlow.prise.] Mar. A very impudent fellow this; but he's a character, and I'll humour him a little. [Aside.] Sir, my service to you.
Hast. I see this fellow wants to give us his company, and forgets that he's an innkeeper before he has learned to be a gentleman. [Aside. Mar. From the excellence of your cup, my old friend, I suppose you have a good deal of business in this part of the country. Warm work now and then at elections, I suppose. [Gives the tankard to Hardcastle. Hard. No, sir; I have long given that work over. Since our betters have hit upon the expedient of electing each other, there's no business for us that sell ale. [Gives the tankard to Hastings. Hast. So, you have no turn for politics, I find. Hard. Not in the least. There was a time, indeed, I fretted myself about the mistakes of government, like other people; but finding myself every day grow more angry, and the government growing no better, I left it to mend itself. Since that, I no more trouble my head about who's in or who's out than I do about John Nokes or Tom Stiles. So my service to you.
Hast. So that, with eating above stairs and drinking below, with receiving your friends within and amusing them without, you lead a good, pleasant, bustling life of it.
Hard. I do stir about a good deal, that's certain. Half the differences of the parish are adjusted in this very parlour.
Mar. [After drinking.] And you have an argument in your cup, old gentleman, better than any in Westminster-hall.
Hard. Ay, young gentleman, that, and a little philosophy.
Mar. Well, this is the first time I ever heard of an innkeeper's philosophy. [Aside.
Hast. So then, like an experienced general, you attack them on every quarter. If you find their reason manageable, you attack them with your philosophy; if you find they have no reason, you attack them with this. Here's your health, my philosopher. [Drinks. Hard. Good, very good; thank you; ha! ha! Your generalship puts me in mind of Prince Eugene when he fought the Turks at the battle of Belgrade. You shall hear.
Mar. Instead of the battle of Belgrade, I think it's almost time to talk about supper. What has your philosophy got in the house for supper?
Hard. For supper, sir? Was ever such a request to a man in his own house? [Aside.
Mar. Yes, sir; supper, sir; I begin to feel an appetite. I shall make devilish work to-night in the larder, I promise you.
Hard. Such a brazen dog sure never my eyes beheld. [Aside.] Why really, sir, as for supper I can't well tell. My Dorothy and the cookmaid settle these things between them. I leave these kind of things entirely to them.
Mar. You do, do you?
Mar. Then I beg they'll admit me as one of their privy-council. It's a way I have got. When I travel, I always choose to regulate my own supper. Let the cook be called. No offence I hope, sir.
Hard. O no, sir, none in the least: yet, I don't know how, our Bridget, the cookmaid, is not very communicative upon these occasions. Should we send for her, she might scold us all out of the house.
Hast. Let's see the list of the larder, then. I always match my appetite to my bill of fare. Mar. [To Hardcastle, who looks at them with surSir, he's very right, and it's my way too. Hard. Sir, you have a right to command here. Here, Roger, bring us the bill of fare for to-night's supper: I believe it's drawn out. Your manner, Mr Hastings, puts me in mind of my uncle, Colonel Wallop. It was a saying of his that no man was sure of his supper till he had eaten it.
[Servant brings in the bill of fare, and exit. Hast. All upon the high ropes! His uncle a colonel! We shall soon hear of his mother being a justice of peace. [Aside.] But let's hear the bill of fare.
Mar. [Perusing.] What's here? For the first course; for the second course; for the dessert. The devil, sir! Do you think we have brought down the whole Joiners' Company, or the Corporation of Bedford, to eat up such a supper? Two or three little things, clean and comfortable, will do. Hast. But let's hear it.
Mar. [Reading.] For the first course: at the top, a pig and prune sauce. * Hard. And yet, gentlemen, to men that are hungry, pig, with prune sauce, is very good eating. Their impudence confounds me. [Aside.] Gentlemen, you are my guests, make what alterations you please. Is there any thing else you wish to retrench or alter, gentlemen?
Mar. Item: a pork pie, a boiled rabbit and sausages, a florentine, a shaking-pudding, and a dish of tiff-taff-taffety cream.
Hast. Confound your made dishes! I shall be as much at a loss in this house as at a green and yellow dinner at the French ambassador's table. I'm for plain eating.
Hard. I'm sorry, gentlemen, that I have nothing you like; but if there be any thing you have a particular fancy to
Mar. Why, really, sir, your bill of fare is so exquisite, that any one part of it is full as good as another. Send us what you please. So much for supper: and now to see that our beds are aired, and properly
taken care of.
Hard. I intreat you'll leave all that to me. shall not stir a step.
Mar. Leave that to you! I protest, sir, you must excuse me; I always look to these things myself.
Hard. I must insist, sir, you'll make yourself easy on that head.
Mar. You see I'm resolved on it. A very troublesome fellow, as ever I met with. [Aside. Hard. Well, sir, I'm resolved at least to attend you. This may be modern modesty, but I never saw anything look so like old-fashioned impudence. [Aside. [Exeunt Mar. and Hard.
Hast. So, I find this fellow's civilities begin to grow troublesome. But who can be angry with those assiduities which are meant to please him? Ha! what do I see? Miss Neville, by all that's happy!
Two years after Goldsmith's dramatic triumph, a still greater in legitimate comedy arose in the person of that remarkable man, who survived down to our own day, RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. On
Hard. Entirely. By the by, I believe they are in the 17th of January 1775, his play of The Rivals was
brought out at Covent Garden. In this first effort
The School for Scandal' abounds: his genius shines forth in its witty dialogues. The entire comedy,' says Moore, is an El Dorado of wit, where the precious metal is thrown about by all classes as carelessly as if they had not the least idea of its value.' This fault is one not likely to be often committed! Some shorter pieces were afterwards written by Sheridan: The Camp, a musical opera, and The Critic, a witty afterpiece, in the manner of The Rehearsal.' The character of Sir Fretful Plagiary, intended, it is said, for Cumberland the dramatist, is one of the author's happiest efforts; and the schemes and contrivances of Puff the manager-such as making his theatrical clock strike four in a morning scene, to beget an awful attention' in the audience, and to save a description of the rising sun, and a great deal about gilding the to the managers yet? or can I be of any service to Dan. But, Sir Fretful, have you sent your play eastern hemisphere'-are a felicitous combination of humour and satire. The scene in which Sneer mortifies the vanity of Sir Fretful, and Puff's description of his own mode of life by his proficiency in the art of puffing, are perhaps the best that She-theatre this morning.
had sufficient recommendation with it. I thank you Sir F. No, no, I thank you; I believe the piece though. I sent it to the manager of Covent Garden
ridan ever wrote.
Sneer. I should have thought now, that it might have been cast (as the actors call it) better at Drury Lane.
Mrs D. I confess he is a favourite of mine, because every body else abuses him.
Sneer. Very much to the credit of your charity, madam, if not of your judgment.
Dan. But, egad! he allows no merit to any author but himself; that's the truth on't, though he's my friend.
[A Sensitive Author.]
[From The Critic."]
Enter SERVANT to DANGLE and SNEER.
Servant. Sir Fretful Plagiary, sir.
Sneer. Never. He is as envious as an old maid verging on the desperation of six-and-thirty; and then the insidious humility with which he seduces you to give a free opinion on any of his works, can be exceeded only by the petulant arrogance with which he is sure to reject your observations.
Dan. Very true, egad! though he's my friend. Sneer. Then his affected contempt of all newspaper strictures; though, at the same time, he is the sorest man alive, and shrinks like scorched parchment from the fiery ordeal of true criticism: yet is he so covetous of popularity, that he had rather be abused than not mentioned at all.
Dan. There's no denying it; though he's my friend. Sneer. You have read the tragedy he has just finished, haven't you?
Dan. O yes; he sent it to me yesterday.
Sir F. [Without] Mr Sneer with him, did you say?
Enter SIR FRETFUL PLAGIARY.
Dan. Ah, my dear friend! Egad! we were just speaking of your tragedy. Admirable, Sir Fretful,
Sneer. You never did anything beyond it, Sir Fretful; never in your life.
Sir F. You make me extremely happy; for, without a compliment, my dear Sneer, there isn't a man in the world whose judgment I value as I do yours; and Mr Dangle's.
Mrs D. They are only laughing at you, Sir Fretful; for it was but just now that
Dan. Mrs Dangle !-Ah! Sir Fretful, you know Mrs Dangle. My friend Sneer was rallying just now. He knows how she admires you, and
Sir F. O Lord! I am sure Mr Sneer has more taste and sincerity than to- A double-faced fellow! [Aside. Dan. Yes, yes; Sneer will jest, but a betterhumoured
Sir F. O! I know.
Dan. He has a ready turn for ridicule; his wit costs him nothing.
Sir F. No, egad! or I should wonder how he came by it. [Aside. Mrs D. Because his jest is always at the expense of his friend.
Sir F. O lud! no-never send a play there while I live. Hark ye! [Whispers Sneer.
Sneer. Writes himself! I know he does. Sir F. I say nothing-I take away from no man's merit-am hurt at no man's good fortune. I say nothing; but this I will say; through all my knowledge of life, I have observed that there is not a passion so strongly rooted in the human heart as envy!
Sneer. I believe you have reason for what you say, indeed.
Sir F. Besides, I can tell you, it is not always so safe to leave a play in the hands of those who write themselves.
Sneer. What! they may steal from them? eh, my dear Plagiary?
Sir F. Steal! to be sure they may; and, egad! serve your best thoughts as gipsies do stolen children, disfigure them to make 'em pass for their own.
Sneer. But your present work is a sacrifice to Melpomene; and he, you know, never
Sir F. That's no security. A dexterous plagiarist may do anything. Why, sir, for aught I know he might take out some of the best things in my tragedy and put them into his own comedy.
Sneer. Tat might be done, I dare be sworn. Sir F. And then, if such a person gives you the least hint or assistance, he is devilish apt to take the merit of the whole.
Sir F. But, come now, there must be something that you think might be mended, eh? Mr Dangle, has nothing struck you?
Dan. Why, faith, it is but an ungracious thing for the most part to
Sir F. With most authors it is just so, indeed; they are in general strangely tenacious; but, for my part, I am never so well pleased as when a judicious critic points out any defect to me; for what is the purpose of showing a work to a friend if you don't mean to profit by his opinion?
Sneer. Very true. Why then, though I seriously admire the piece upon the whole, yet there is one small objection which, if you'll give me leave, I'll
Sir F. Sir, you can't oblige me more.
Sir F. Good God! you surprise me ! wants incident? Sneer. Yes; I own I think the incidents are too few. Sir F. Good God! Believe me, Mr Sneer, there is no person for whose judgment I have a more implicit deference; but I protest to you, Mr Sneer, I am only apprehensive that the incidents are too crowded. My dear Dangle, how does it strike you?
Dan. Really, I can't agree with my friend Sneer. I think the plot quite sufficient; and the four first acts by many degrees the best I ever read or saw in my life. If I might venture to suggest anything, it is that the interest rather falls off in the fifth.
Sir F. Rises, I believe you mean, sir.
Sir F. Yes, yes, you do, upon my soul; it certainly don't fall off, I assure you; no, no, it don't fall off. Dan. Now, Mrs Dangle, did'nt you say it struck you in the same light?
Mrs D. No, indeed, I did not. I did not see a fault in any part of the play from the beginning to
Sir F. Upon my soul, the women are the best judges after all!
Mrs D. I hope to see it on the stage next. [Erit. Dan. Well, Sir Fretful, I wish you may be able to get rid as easily of the newspaper criticisms as you do of ours.
Sir F. The newspapers! sir, they are the most villanous, licentious, abominable, infernal-not that I ever read them; no, I make it a rule never to look into a newspaper.
Dan. You are quite right; for it certainly must hurt an author of delicate feelings to see the liberties they take.
Sir F. No; quite the contrary; their abuse is, in fact, the best panegyric; I like it of all things. An author's reputation is only in danger from their support.
Sir F. Ha, ha, ha! very pleasant.
Sneer. Nay, that you are so unlucky as not to have the skill even to steal with taste; but that you glean from the refuse of obscure volumes, where more judicious plagiarists have been before you; so that the body of your work is a composition of dregs and sediments, like a bad tavern's worst wine. Sir F. Ha, ha!
Sneer. In your more serious efforts, he says, your bombast would be less intolerable if the thoughts