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[The “Good-Natured Man" was first performed at Covent Garden Theatre on the 29th of January 1768. Goldsmith seems to have taken the hint of the character from whom the play is named from the lover of the unfortunate Miss Braddock, in his own Life of Beau Nash, see vol. iii. p. 308. "Dr. Johnson," says Boswell, “pronounced it to be the best comedy that had appeared since The Provoked Husband,' and declared that there had not been of late any such character exhibited on the stage as that of Croaker. I observed, it was the Suspirius of his Rambler. He said Goldsmith had owned he had borrowed it from thence."—See Life, ch. xvii.]
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 any thing 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 spunging-house; 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
* [The taste of the town had become sentimental, and the scene of the bailiffs in the opening of the third act appeared so broad in its humor, as to keep the fate of the piece some time in suspense ; nor was its safety fully secured till the scene of the fourth act, where Shuter, in the character of Croaker, read the supposed incendiary letter.]
not only banished humor and Molière from the stage, but it has banished all spectators, too.*
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.
* ["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 sung 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 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 any thing about it for the world." "-Prozzi.)
WRITTEN BY DR. JOHNSON ;
Spoken by Mr. Bensley.*
Press'd by the load of life, the weary mind
* [" 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 human kind.'
Amidst the toils of this returning year,
Our little bard,' &c. 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 his dignity, was also changed to anxious," &c. -MALONE.]
Uncheck’d, on both loud rabbles vent their
rage, As mongrels bay the lion in a cage.* Th' offended burgess hoards his angry tale, For that blest year when all that vote may rail; Their schemes of spite the poet's focs dismiss, Till that glad night, when all that hate may hiss. “ This day the powder'd curls and golden coat," Says swelling Crispin, "begg'd a cobbler's vote." “ This night, our wit," the pert apprentice cries, “ Lies at my feet-I hiss him, and he dies." The great, 'tis true, can charm the electing tribe ; The bard may supplicate, but cannot bribe. Yet judged by those, whose voices ne'er were sold, He feels no want of ill-persuading gold; But confident of praise, if praise be duc, Trusts without fear, to merit, and to you.
["Uncheck’d, on both caprice may vent its rage,
As children fret the lion in a cage."-Orig.)