dramatist may at all times oppose the mirth of his audience; for time has confirmed the opinion which Dr. Johnson gave at the moment — “ I know of no comedy for many years that has so much exhilarated an audience; that has answered so much the great end of comedy — making an audience merry.”

A similar idea of the true design of comedy generally, seems to have been entertained by the Author himself. Inquiring of Northcote, then a pupil of Sir Joshua, to whom as we have seen he had good-naturedly given tickets for the performance on his benefit night, his opinion of its merits, the latter said he could not presume to decide upon the matter.

“ Did it make you laugh ?” Exceedingly” was the reply; “Then” continued the Poet “that is all that I require.”

The greater indifference now shown to theatrical pieces, renders it difficult to give an adequate idea of the general exultation at the overthrow, as it was considered, of the class of sentimental comedies which had for a few years occupied the place of mirth and humour. Though fashion had upheld them for a time, sufficient good taste existed among the people to disapprove when the opportunity offered, of what were termed, “Comedies taken from the Whole Duty of Man, and Sentiments from the Book of Proverbs.” Goldsmith was loudly hailed as the champion of this reform in taste; he became the theme of conversation, the daily journals rang with his praises or

[blocks in formation]

ridicule of his rivals, and complimentary paragraphs and verses were showered down upon the vivacity and humour of his muse. A few of these, as proofs of the general feeling of the moment, may be quoted ; one absurdly assumes the name of Johnson, though without a particle of his energy, correctness, or power, and in the concluding lines, pays rather an equivocal compliment; the fourth and best is said to have been written by Mr. Wilkes, although intimate with the manager whom he so wittily assails. *

* Verses from Dr. Johnson to Dr. Goldsmith,



« No wonder the Vis Comica is scarce,
Bad taste had banished Comedy and Farce,
Fettered the Drama's sons, their genius dampt,
Their native, manly, sterling humour crampt;
No flights permitted as in days of yore,
’T was dangerous alike to sink or soar.
With some pert fools who call'd themselves the Town,
Wit was a pedant, Humour was a clown ;
Nor one nor t’ other durst a play.wright show,
Wit was too high and Humour was too low.
The play-house bard who wanted cloaths and fuel,
Must bring a piece harmless as water-gruel :
In order to secure his houses full,
Be chastely moral and genteely dull ;
And if he hoped to live his nine nights out,
Must give no Bill-of-Rights-man cause to pout;
To sentimental dialogue must keep,
Whilst the tame audience yawn, admire, and weep.
Too many tears the Comic Muse hath shed,
Too much of Sentiment in Humour's stead;
Old saws too long have charm’d the slumb’ring Pit,
And musty Proverbs in default of Wit.

“ But now with joy I tell the Drama's friends,
Now a new progeny from heaven descends;
Thalia long, too long from Britain stray'd,
Appears again in all her charms array'd :

In proportion to the praises of the successful author, were the ridicule and odium cast upon his

Say not that Wit and Humour now are scarce,
Say not we've no new Comedy or Farce;
The arduous task a modern bard has done,
Restoring Farce and Comedy in one.”



“ Long have our comic writers tried to move,

With tales of pity and chaste scenes of love ;
On stilts sublime the laughing muse they raise,
For nothing low our taste refined can please.
Nor wit nor humour such grave preachers knew,
The Maudlin-house resembles Whitfield's crew.
No bursts of laughter shook the merry Pit,
In solemn silence all attentive sit ;
Till some sad story big with tragic woe,
From the touch'd Boxes cause the tear to flow.
So deep the comedy, it makes you stare,
To find no poisoned bowl or dagger there.
Gay mirth and honest joke are in disgrace,
Melpomene usurps her Sister's place :
Let sentiment but stiffen every line,
The raptur'd audience loudly cry, how fine!
Goldsmith at length warm in Thalia's cause,
Broke the dull charm, and rescued Nature's laws.”

To Dr. Goldsmith,



so Long has the Comic Muse, seduc'd to town,

Shone with false charms, in fin'ry not her own;
And strove by affectation's flimsy arts,
And sickly sentiments to conquer hearts:
But now reclaim’d, she seeks her native plains,
Where pass'd her youth, where mirth, where pleasure reigns ;
She throws each tinsel ornainent aside,
And takes once more plain Nature for her guide ;
With sweet simplicity she smiles again,
And Stoops to Conquer with her Goldsmith's pen.”


supposed enemies, both in prose and verse. Among these, besides the persons already men

To Dr. Goldsmith.

“ Has then (the question pray excuse,

For Doctor you ’re a droll man),
The dose that saved the Comic Muse,
Almost destroyed poor

Colman ?

“ How drugs, alike in strength and name,

In operation vary!
When what exalts the Doctor's fame

Undoes th' Apothecary!'

* On Mr. Hugh Kelly's Censure of the New Comedy.


“ If Kelly finds fault with the shape of your muse,

And thinks that too loosely it plays,
He surely, dear Doctor, will never refuse

To make it a new Pair of Stays !

“ His lining is small talk pick'd up at a dance,

His laces are tragedy groans,
His Tabby 's a Novel, his Twist a Romance,

And sentiments serve for the Bones!

To the Printer of the St. James's Chronicle.

66 SIR,

“ Though Dr. Goldsmith's brow has been already covered with such laurels as this grateful nation could bestow, perhaps after all he may regard a sprig of Northern bays as the greater curiosity.

“ It is well known that Mr. Macpherson attended the first night's representation of the New Comedy; but the public has not yet been informed, that soon after the conclusion of the piece, he was heard to utter the following sentiments, and in that peculiar style with which he has dignified his late Translation of Homer:

Through the sable boxes darkened the bombazeens of women : But along the mournful veil of artificial grief –

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

tioned, were numbered Macpherson though no dramatist, which may of itself disprove the story of Cumberland of the play being supported by many North Britons. But Colman, as manager, was selected more especially for the object of cen

Goldsmith's cause was indeed extremely


quick shot the gay radiance of joy:

and kindled in every bright eye.'

666 Dumb the sullen critic sat:- on his cankered heart feeding:- Fiercely frowning, deeply glooming. - Till at last, from lungs of poison — burst faintly a timorous hiss Turn him out, turn him out, toss him over was the voice of the crowd in a rage.

“ The Manager grumbled within:- The people sat laughing amain :— Through galleries, boxes, and pit - loud rattled the tumult of joy.'

“ I am Sir, with the sincerest pleasure in being able to contmunicate this literary curiosity to your paper, your most obedient servant,

“ Philo-FUSTIAN.”.

To George Colman, Esq.,


“ Come, Coley, doff those mourning weeds,

Nor thus with jokes be flamm'd;
Tho' Goldsmith's present play succeeds,

His next may still be damn'd.
As this has 'scap'd without a fall,

To sink his next prepare ;
New actors hire from Wapping Wall,

And dresses from Rag Fair.
For scenes let tatter'd blankets fly,

The prologue Kelly write,
Then swear again the piece must die

Before the author's night.
Should these tricks fail, the lucky elf

To bring to lasting shame,
E’en write the best you can yourself,
And print it in his nanve.

« VorigeDoorgaan »