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[This admirable comedy was represented, for the first time, at Covent Garden, January 29, 1768. It kept possession of the stage for nine nights, but was considered by the author's friends not to have met with all the success it deserved. Dr. Johnson spoke of it as the best comedy which had appeared since The Provoked Husband,' and Burke estimated its merits still higher.-B. The first edition, published in the usual 8vo. play-book form, bears date 1768, with the imprint-" Printed for W. Griffin, in Catharine-street, Strand." Five editions in this form appeared in the same year.-ED.]
WHEN I undertook to write a comedy, I confess I was strongly prepossessed in favour 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 humour, 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 humour, 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.1 In deference also to the judgment of a few friends, who think in a particular way, the scene is here
1 This scene (Act III.) was struck out after the first representation, at the desire of the manager, Mr. Colman.-B. Besides being restored in the printed copy, this scene-one of the most humorous in the play -was afterwards restored to the acting version.-ED.
restored. The author submits it to the reader in his closet; and hopes that too much refinement will not banish humour 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 humour and Moliere from the stage, but it has banished all spectators too.
Upon the whole, the author returns his thanks to the public, for the favourable reception which the GoodNatured 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.
[THE CAST OF THE PLAY AS IT WAS FIRST ACTED AT
WRITTEN BY DR. JOHNSON, SPOKEN BY MR. BENSLEY.
PRESS'D by the load of life, the weary mind
Toss'd in one common storm with all the great;
Must hear all taunts, and hear without reply;
In the Prologue as given in the Public Advertiser of Feb. 3, 1768, these lines are followed by
"Amidst the toils of this returning year,
The alterations here and in other lines of the Prologue were made for the first edition as printed.-Ed.