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It was little more than a month before the death of the elder Newbery that Burke read the comedy of the “Goodnatured Man”;' and thus, with mirth and sadness for its usbers, the last division of Goldsmith's life comes in. The bond of service so long continued, though checkered with mortifying incidents, could hardly be snapped without regret; nor could the long-attempted trial of the theatre, painful as its outset had been, without something of cheerfulness and hope approach its consummation. Newbery died on the 22d of December, 1767; and the performance of the comedy was now promised for the 28th of the following January

Unavailingly, for special reasons, had Goldsmith attempted to get it acted before Christmas. Quarrels had broken out among the new proprietary of the theatre, and these were made excuses for delay. Colman had properly insisted on his right, as manager, to cast the part of Imogen to Mrs. Yates, rather than to a pretty-faced, simpering lady (Mrs. Lessingham)' whom his brother proprietor, Harris, “protected”; and the violence of the dispute became so notorious, and threatened such danger to the new manage

1 Richard Cumberland's Memoirs, i. 364. “His first comedy was read and applauded in its manuscript by Edmund Burke, and the circle in which he then lived." The hint for the title, as I have stated, occurs in the Life of Nash. And see ante, ii. 93.

* This lady began life by sharing Derrick's garret. For a curious account of her, see Taylor's Records, i. 5-8.

ment, that the papers describe Garrick “growing taller” on the strength of it. Tall enough he certainly grew to overlook something of the bitterness of Colman's first desertion of him; and civilities, perhaps arising from a sort of common interest in the issue of the Lessingham dispute, soon after recommenced between the rival managers. Bickerstaff (a clever and facile Irishman, who, ten years before, had somewhat suddenly thrown up a commission in the Marines, taken to theatrical writing for subsistence, and since obtained repute as the author of “Love in a Village” and the “Maid of the Mill”) was just now pressing Colman with his opera of “Lionel and Clarissa”; and, in one of his querulous letters, seems to point at this resumption of intercourse with Garrick, whom he had himself offended by beginning to write for Colman. “When I talked with you last summer,” he complains, writing on the 26th January, 1768, “I told you that it would be impossible to have my opera ready till after Christmas; and named about the 20th January. You received this with great goodness, said you were glad of it, because it would be the best time of the year for me, and then told me that Mr. Goldsmith's play should come out before Christmas; and this you repeated, and assurd me of, more than once, in subsequent meetings. ... The fact is, you broke your word with me, in ordering the representation of the 'Good - natur'd Man’ in such a manner that it must unavoidably interfere with my opera.

At the reading it was said the 'Good-natur'd Man' should appear the Wednesday after; but at the same time it was whispered to me that it was privately determined not to bring it out till the Saturday fortnight, and that there was even a promise given to Mr. Kelly that it should not appear till after his nights were over.

If such a promise had been given (and circumstances justify the suspicion), Goldsmith had better reason than has been hitherto supposed for that dissatisfaction with Colman and difference with Kelly which attended the performance

1 MS. penes me.

of his comedy. Kelly had been taken up by Garrick, in avowed and not very generous rivalry to himself;' it was the town talk, some weeks before either performance took place, that the two comedies, written as they were by men well known to each other and who had lived the same sort of life, were to be pitted against each other; and so broadly were they opposed in character and style that the first in the field, supposing it well received, could hardly fail to be a stumbling-block to its successor. Kelly bad sounded the depths of sentimentalism. I have mentioned the origin of that school as of much earlier date; nor can it be doubted that it was with Steele the unlucky notion began, of setting comedy to reform the morals, instead of imitating the manners, of the age. Fielding slyly glances at this when he makes Parson Adams declare the “Conscious Lovers” to be the only play fit for a Christian to see, and as good as a sermon; and in so witty and fine a writer as Steele so great a mistake is only to be explained by the intolerable grossness into which the theatre had fallen in his day. For often does it happen in such reaction that good and bad suffer together; and that while one has the sting taken out of it, the other loses energy and manhood. Where a sickly sensibility overspreads both vice and virtue, we are in the

" It is fair at the same time to add that Cooke (who knew both well, and has left us anecdotes about Kelly also printed in the European Magazine) says the difference originated before Kelly's comedy was accepted, and was simply owing to the fact that he had presumed to attempt a comedy at all. “He was at this time much acquainted with Goldsmith and Bickerstaff, but except their barely hearing he was engaged that way, he scarcely ever mentioned the subject. . Goldsmith kept back and was silent; till one day, when asked about Kelly's writing a comedy, he said: • He knew nothing at all about it-he had heard there was a man of that name about town who wrote in newspapers, but of his talents for comedy, or even the work he was engaged in, he could not judge.' This,” adds Cooke, “would be a great drawback on the character of Goldsmith, if it arose from a general principle ; but nothing could be further from the truth. He was kind, beneficent, and good-natured in the extreme, to all but those whom he thought his competitors in literary fame ; but this was so deeply rooted in his nature, that nothing could cure it. Poverty had no terrors for him ; but the applauses paid a brother poet 'made him poor indeed.'”- European Magazine, xxiv. 422.

right to care as little for the one as for the other; since it is life that the stage and its actors should present to us, and not anybody's moral or sentimental view of it. A most masterly critic of our time, William Hazlitt, has disposed of Steele's pretensions as a comic dramatist; and poor Hugh Kelly, who has not survived to our time, must be disinterred to have his pretensions judged; yet the stage continues to suffer, even now, from the dregs of the sentimental school, and it would not greatly surprise me to see the comedy with which Kelly's brief career of glory began again lift up a sickly head among us.'

It is not an easy matter to describe that comedy. One can hardly disentangle, from the maze of cant and makebelieve in which all the people are involved, what it precisely is they drive at; but the main business seems to be that there are three couples in search of themselves throughout the five acts, and enveloped in such a haze or mist of “False Delicacy” (the title of the piece) that they do not, till the last, succeed in finding themselves. There is a lord who has been refused, for no reason on earth, by a Lady Betty, who loves him, and who, with as little reason and as much delicacy on his own side, transfers his proposals to a friend of Lady Betty's, whom he does not love, and selects her ladyship to convey the transfer. There is Lady Betty's friend, who, being in love elsewhere, is shocked to receive his lordship’s proposals; but, being under great obligations to Lady Betty, cannot in delicacy think of opposing what she fancies her ladyship has set her heart upon. There is a mild young gentleman, who is knocked hither and thither like a shuttlecock; now engaged to this young lady whom he does not love, now dismissed by that whom he does; and made at last the convenient means of restoring, with all proper delicacy, Lady Betty to his lordship. There is a young lady who in delicacy ought to marry the mild:

1

Shortly after the publication of these remarks in my first edition (1848) Mr. Farren, attracted by the part of the “slovenly old bachelor" to which I presently advert, announced a proposed revival of the play ; but it was afterwards dropped.

young gentleman, but indelicately prefers instead to run away with a certain Sir Harry. There is Sally, her maid, who tells her mistress that she has transported her poor Sally “ by that noble resolution” (to run away). And there is the delicate old Colonel, her father, who plays eavesdropper to her plan of flight; intercepts her in the act of it; gives her, in the midst of her wickedness, £20,000 (which he pulls out of a pocket-book), because he had promised it when she was good; and tells her to banish his name entirely from her remembrance, and be as happy as she can with the consciousness of having broken an old father's heart. There are only two people in the play with a glimmering of commonsense or character, an eccentric widow and a slovenly old bachelor, who are there to do for the rest what the rest have no power to do for themselves; and, though not without large infusions of silly sentimentality and squeamish charity, to bring back enough common-sense to furnish forth a catastrophe. It is the most mechanical of contriv. ances; yet it is the proof, if any were wanting, that such a piece has no life in itself; and it is the distinguishing quality, which, thanks to Mr. Kelly's example, in proportion as reality or character is absent from a modern comedy, will still be found its chief resource. Examples need not be cited. Mr. Kelly's style will never want admirers. While it saves great trouble and wit to both actor and author, it exacts from an audience neither judgment nor discrimination; and with an easy, indolent indulgence of such productions, there will always be mixed up a sort of secret satisfaction in their mouthing morals and lip-professions of humanity.

Let us not be so hard on our grandfathers and grandmothers for having taken so mightily to Mr. Kelly's “ False Delicacy” as not to admit thus much. It had every advantage, too, in its production. Garrick not only wrote a prologue and epilogue, and was said to have heightened the old bachelor played by King, but went out of his way to induce Mrs. Dancer to forgive the abuse she had received in Mr. Kelly's Thespis, and act the widow. Produced on Satur

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