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assured from the materials that go to make up an audience, must often be the result of the caprice, or humour of the moment. There is however no appeal; critics may question the justice, but there is no disputing the tastes, of the multitude. as a dramatic author writes for the express gratification of these tastes, if he fails, he can scarcely condemn, however he may lament, the decision of his judges.
Examined in the closet as a dramatic composition, it will not be found deficient in the usual sources of interest, plot, business, humour, and character; the delineation of the latter he says in the preface, having been his principal aim. We have therefore three which seem in great measure new to the stage; Lofty who promises favours to his friends from his alleged intimacy with the great of whom he knows nothing; Croaker always anticipating evil from trifling occurrences, yet selfish and arbitrary, a character borrowed from that of Suspirius in the Rambler; and Honeywood, drawn in the extreme of inconsiderate and almost insipid good nature, who is incapable of giving a negative to an application from his friends, whether it be for his mistress or his money; and in many of whose characteristics Goldsmith is supposed to have had his own peculiarities in view. Burke applauded the play as one of the best of the time, and took some interest in its success. Dr. Johnson said that "The Good Natured Man" was the best comedy that had appeared since the " Provoked Husband;"
while "False Delicacy" the rival, and more successful performance at Drury Lane, he considered devoid of character. Theatrical critics differed with him so far that while the merit of the former was allowed, equal praise was claimed for the latter; but the prevailing taste of the town will be better estimated by the opinion one of its chief leaders at this period, whose approbation is divided with more seeming impartiality. "We cannot help expressing how much satisfaction it gives us, to see the public at once in possession of two such comedies, as False Delicacy and The Good Natured Man; each of which notwithstanding their respective imperfections, must be allowed to be the productions of genius. If the Drury Lane comedy is more refined, correct, and sentimental, the Covent Garden performance is more bold, more comic, and more characteristic; and if the former, from the chaste accuracy and dulytempered spirit of the author, has less need of pardon, the latter from having hazarded more has more title to mercy and forgiveness. The merit of both is great, and we are happy that the beauties of each piece are of a different complexion from that of the other; for in an age of good writers each several author will have a manner peculiar to himself; but when contemporary poets all fall into the same vein, such a similarity of style denotes a barrenness of invention in them all; not but the two writers in question have shewn themselves equal to the efforts of the other. The character of
Cecil in False Delicacy is drawn to the true spirit of comedy, and many scenes of the Good Natured Man abound with the most elegant sentiments. The first of these pieces needed no alteration; and we are pleased to find that the only amendments which were necessary have been made in the latter."
"False Delicacy," so extolled at the moment though long since forgotten by readers as well as play-goers, appeared at Drury Lane on the 23d of January, nearly a week before the play of Goldsmith at the other house. So great was the applause as to cause Garrick nearly to break through a regulation announced only that morning in the journals that "the managers of Drury Lane Theatre intend for the future not to run any new piece nine nights successively, but to perform other pieces occasionally that they may give a greater variety of entertainments to the public." Whether doubts of success were implied by this announcement does
not appear, but a reception so unequivocal decided him to run it eight nights in succession, thus keeping just within the line of his engagement, and he repeated it not unfrequently during the season. When published, it had equal success if we are to believe the following announcement. "The new comedy, called 'False Delicacy,' published yesterday morning, was so rapidly bought, that the proprietors had sold the first impression of three thousand copies before two o'clock." It passed to a fourth edition within two or three weeks, and ten
thousand copies were sold in the season; a public breakfast was given to the author, at the Chapter Coffee House; and a piece of plate, value twenty pounds, presented to him by the publishers.
Two comedies appearing nearly at the same moment at the two houses, of professedly opposite styles and merits, necessarily involved a kind of rivalry between the authors; and the continual discussions to which they gave rise when theatrical affairs were of general interest, their publication within three days of each other, their progress step by step through the press, a fourth edition of each being called for about the same time, produced at length something like jealousy. Rumour insinuated that the Good Natured Man had been seen by Kelly, while in the hands of Garrick or of some of his friends; and that hints from its situations and sentiments had been taken to improve his own piece. For this charge there seems no foundation, excepting the slight coincidence of the offer of Miss Marchmont in False Delicacy to surrender her lover, be supposed similar to Honeywood's design of surrendering his mistress.
The report however increased the unpleasant feelings arising between the parties. Goldsmith was induced to speak freely of his opponent's play by the remarks and flattery of several of the lower order of writers, who surrounded and preyed upon him; men who too often when their own attacks fail upon a work of genius, take delight in making greater wits assail each other.
Kelly is said to have retaliated. When they met
however on one occasion behind the scenes of Covent Garden, Goldsmith thought it necessary to congratulate him on the success of his play, to which the other, who was well aware of his opinion, replied with sufficient spirit and readiness-" If I thought you sincere, Mr. Goldsmith, I should thank you." Thenceforward their intercourse which had assumed some degree of intimacy, ceased; it had commenced at Newbery's about 1765, and gave rise to a story, that Goldsmith once entertained the design of marrying the sister of Kelly's wife, a rumour for which the late Mr. John Taylor, who knew her, informed the writer there was no foundation. After the quarrel, Kelly was commonly numbered among the anonymous assailants of the Poet, of whom there were always many in the newspapers; an assertion never proved against him, and probably from the emotion, much to his credit, evinced at the funeral of his dramatic opponent which he attended, untrue; yet even this tribute of tears, shed over the grave of a former friend, became a handle for abuse in some lines, of which the following are a sufficient specimen.
"Hence K ....y who years, without honor or shame,
* In allusion to his original calling of stay-maker.