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THE GOOD-NATURED MAN;
AS PERFORMED AT
THE THEATRE-ROYAL, COVENT GARDEN.
London : Printed for W. Griffin, in Catharine Street, Strand. 1768.
8vo. Price 18. 6d.
"The Good-natured Man" was first performed at Covent Garden Theatre (then
under the management of the elder Colman) on the 29th of January, 1768,
ran ten nights, and went through at least five editions the same year. Goldsmith seems to have taken the hint of Mr. Honeywood's character (the good
natured man of the piece) from the celebrated Mr. S--, who at that time went by the name of “The Good-natured Man"—the lover of the unfortunate Miss Braddock, commemorated in his own “Life of Nash" (see Vol. IV.). IIe owned to Johnson, as Johnson informed Boswell, that he had borrowed the character of Croaker from Suspirius in “The Rambler” (No. 59). Mr. Forster has pointed out resemblances in the 92d letter of “The Citizen of the World" (see Forster's “Goldsmith," vol. ii. p. 58; ed. 1854).
When I undertook to write a comedy, I confess I was strongly prepossessed in favor of the poets of the last age, and strove to imitate them. The term genteel comedy was then unknown amongst us, and little more was desired by an audience than nature and humor, in whatever walks of life they were most conspicuous. The author of the following scenes never imagined that more would be expected of him, and therefore to delineate character has been his principal aim. Those who know anything of composition are sensible that, in pursuing humor, it will sometimes lead us into the recesses of the mean: I was even tempted to look for it in the master of a sponginghouse; but, in deference to the public taste, grown of late, perhaps, too delicate, the scene of the bailiffs was retrenched in the representation. In deference, also, to the judgment of a few friends, who think in a particular way, the scene is here restored. The author submits it to the reader in his closet; and hopes that too much refinement will not banish humor and character from ours, as it has already done from the French theatre. Indeed, the French comedy is now become so very elevated and sentimental that it has not only banished humor and Molière from the stage, but it has banished all spectators too."
1 “The scene of the bailiffs,” in the opening of the third act, appeared so broad in its humor as on the first night to keep the fate of the piece some time in suspense; nor was its safety fully secured till the fourth act, where Shuter, in the character of Croaker, read the supposed incendiary letter.
2 “Returning home one day from dining at the chaplain's table, Mr. Johnson told me that Dr. Goldsmith had given a very comical and unnecessarily exact recital there of his own feelings when his play was hissed; telling the company how he went to the Literary Club at night, and chatted gayly among his friends as if nothing had happened amiss; that to impress them still more forcibly with an idea of his magnanimity, he even sang his favorite song about an old woman tossed in a blanket seventeen times as high as the moon ;' but all this while I was suffering horrid tortures,' said he, . and verily believe that if I had put a bit into my
Upon the whole, the author returns his thanks to the public for the favorable reception which “ The Good-natured Man” has met with; and to Mr. Colman,' in particular, for his kindness to it. It may not also be improper to assure any who shall hereafter write for the theatre that merit, or supposed merit, will ever be a sufficient passport to his protection.
mouth, it would have strangled me on the spot, I was so excessively ill; but I made more noise than usual to cover all that; and so they never perceived my not eating, nor I believe at all imagined to themselves the anguish of my heart; but when all were gone except Johnson here, I burst out a-crying, and even swore that I would never write again.' 'All which, Doctor,' said Johnson, amazed at his odd frankness, 'I thought had been a secret between you and me; and I am sure I would not have said anything about it for the world.'”—Mrs. Prozzi's Anecdotes,
George Colman, senior, then the lessee of Covent Garden Theatre.
Written by Dr. Johnson, spoken by Mr. Bensley.'
Press'd by the load of life, the weary mind
· Robert Bensley retired from the stage 6th of May, 1796, on which occasion he acted Evander, in “The Grecian Daughter,” to Mrs. Siddons's Euphrasia. He is now best remembered by the labored eulogium of Lamb in his delightful essay “On Some of the Old Actors."
2 " The first lines of this prologue are strongly characteristic of the dismal gloom of Johnson's mind; which in his case, as in the case of all who are distressed with the same malady of imagination, transfers to others its own feelings. Who could suppose it was to introduce a comedy when Mr. Bensley solemnly began
• Press'd by the load of life, the weary mind
Surveys the general toil of humankind ?' But this dark ground might make Goldsmith's humor shine the more."-BOSWELL by Croker, p. 189. 3 “After this line the following couplet was inserted :
• Amidst the toils of this returning year,
Our little bard,' etc. So the prologue appeared in the Public Advertiser. Goldsmith probably thought that the lines printed in italic characters might give offence, and therefore prevailed on Johnson to omit them. The epithet little, which perhaps the author thought might diminish lis dignity, was also changed to anxious," etc.-MALONE.