« 이전계속 »
undeserved suffering. This sentimental view of conduct ex pressed itself, of course, in many literary forms. The shor domestic tales of The Tatler and The Spectator, the novels of Richardson, and the poetry of Akenside, Collins, Gray, and even of Wordsworth, are successful artistic expressions of this philosophy. The first sentimental comedy was written by Colley Cibber in 1696. The play, called Love's Last Shift, is the story of a dissipated husband who, through his wife's appeal to his pity, repents and comes back to her love. In the crisis, the truant, on his knees, asserts that his wife's fidelity and tears have roused him from the deepest lethargy of vice.” The audience in shedding honest tears at this ending, experienced a new and delightful sort of theatrical enjoyment. The story of reformation in this play and in others like it, such as Farquhar's The Twin Rivals (1702), was accompanied by sententious utterance and a straining for solemn exaltation.
Partisans of sentimental comedy professed to believe it a much nobler form of art than pure comedy. Horace Walpole, the affected exquisite of the eighteenth century, in a hostile criticism of She Stoops to Conquer, laments the absence of any moral drift or edification in the play. Naturally to such a critic the dramatist's concern with persons beyond the pale of good society was low. For the same reason hearty and prolonged laughter was considered vulgar. Hugh Kelly in his School for Wives, written in 1773, puts into the mouth of one of his characters an attack on the critics who insisted that the first duty of comedy was to arouse laughter. Such a view, the character asserts, degrades the dignity of letters and lessens the utility of the stage. "A good comedy," he concludes, "is a capital effort of genius, and should, therefore, be directed to the noblest purposes.” Almost all the successful dramatists of the eighteenth century accepted these principles. Their plays, paradoxically called comedies, made continuous appeals to pity and smothered laughter in weeping.
Opposition to this sort of play had existed, but only fitfully, throughout the century. The truth is that this opposition lacked a robust tradition in which to work. The prevailing
comedy of the Restoration as written by its masters, Etherege, Wycherley, and Congreve, was the product of artificial social life. It was called comedy of manners, but restricted itself to the humorous exhibition of persons in fashionable society. The characters are made ridiculous because they appear to be mere social puppets. The laughter comes at the exposure of the utter incongruity between the actions which their standards of social elegance prescribe for a given situation, and those which genuine human feeling dictates. When this particular world of fashion disappeared, as it did about the year 1700, the comedy dependent upon it immediately languished. Its unpopularity was rendered doubly sure because Restoration social manners were deeply tinged with immorality and licentiousness, which became distasteful to succeeding generations of play-goers. Yet this artificial, degenerate society excelled in wit and all forms of conversational cleverness, which were brilliantly reflected in the dialogue of Restoration Comedy. This aspect of comedy of manners outlasted the type, so that writers of pure comedy from that time forward have felt that their first duty was to write smart dialogue. Flourishes of wit, however, are not stuff out of which the substance of comedies can be made, so that this obligation to contrive witty speech, being felt as primary, lay often as a pall on the invention of the authors. The tradition of Restoration Comedy by 1770, therefore, contained no constructive principle which those interested in pure comedy could adapt to their immediate purposes.
Farquhar in comedies like The Recruiting Oficer (1706) and The Beaux's Stratagem (1707) made a successful effort to apply the virtues of this Restoration Comedy to a life much larger than a little London coterie. He kept the wit, the swift verbal exchange, and even some of the attitudinizing of the older form. The scene, however, is not London; and the members of the world of fashion have been greatly freshened by their escape and by their association with the hearty folk of the countryside. Landlords, pert tavern maids, highwaymen, and dignitaries of rural life are of as much importance
as they. Farquhar also added brisker elements of action. His plots are not a series of situations designed to display social poses. They are rather stages in a stirring piece of action. His vigorous comedy, however, had no successors and after his death, sentimental comedy resumed its undisputed sway. These were the historical foundations of the dramatic situation into which the three comedies in this volume flashed with sudden brilliance.
Oliver Goldsmith was not a man of the theatre either by tradition or experience. He wrote his plays merely as one part of the most miscellaneous sort of literary activity; and he turned to literature only after a prolonged and vagrant youth. He was perhaps the most irresponsible and desultory young Irishman in the annals. He spent many years of his life and much money of good-natured relatives in making false starts from the home of his mother in Ballymahon to enter upon a career. He set out for America, but got no further than Cork and came home with an impossible tale of having spent all his money for the passage but of missing the boat. He went hopefully to study law in Dublin, but was soon back in Ballymahon without a penny. An uncle suggested medicine and the obliging Oliver, scenting further travel, set forth eagerly for Edinburgh and thence for Leyden. Tiring of study, he took a prolonged walking trip on the continent. He trudged from country to country, making his way by playing for the peasants on his flute. Returning to England, he became first an apothecary's assistant and then an usher in a boys' school. He tried for a medical appointment in India and for a position in a London hospital, but failed to qualify for either. These desultory efforts kept him but a short distance from actual want. At length he turned to literature.
When Goldsmith began to write in London, the days of the benevolent patron were gone. Gone, also, were those prosperous days of the subscription edition, through which Pope
had made his hundreds of pounds. Instead, the author was almost inevitably a hireling of the booksellers or publishers. They paid the writers dependent upon them back-prices. Goldsmith received twenty-one pounds for his poem The Traveller and but sixty pounds for his immortal Vicar of Wakefield. The one hundred pounds which he obtained from the publisher Griffin for The Deserted Village was so extraordinarily large that a tradition promptly grew up that Goldsmith in amazement returned the money. He made his living through humble and dreary hack-work undertaken for the same publishers. He compiled huge collections, such as The Beauties of English Poetry or A History of Animated Nature. Immediately after the literary success of both The Vicar of Wakefield and The Traveller, we find him at work on a collection of Poems for Young Ladies, in Three Parts, Devotional, Moral and Entertaining. It is no wonder that he sought in the drama a field for his literary ability in which he hoped to be free from this sort of intellectual slavery.
Before this time, as early as 1761, he had attracted the attention of the great Dr. Samuel Johnson. He sought Goldsmith out at his lodgings, was attracted by his elfish, whimsical nature, recognized his genius, and secured his election to the Literary Club. This organization was composed of the most interesting men of letters, of art, and of politics of the day. Some of the most famous members besides Dr. Johnson were James Boswell, his biographer, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Gibbon, David Garrick, Charles James Fox, and Edmund Burke. These men were of the greatest aid in bringing his plays to production.
Goldsmith had always shown a lively interest in the theatre. An essay in his periodical, The Bee, on Mlle. Clairon, an actress whom he had seen in Paris, shows him to have been an assiduous and intelligent play-goer. Moreover, having his own ideas of what the stage should be, he was a trenchant critic of many aspects of the contemporary theatre. In chapter ten of his Polite Learning in Europe (1759) he had complained that “the actor is ever in our eye, and the poet seldom permitted to appear.” He had also protested against the commercial standards of the managers, particularly against their frugal policy of producing only the works of deceased authors, so that “the stage, instead of serving the people, is made subservient to the interests of avarice.” These remarks alienated Garrick, the great actor-manager of Drury Lane Theatre, whose favor was regarded as essential to the success of any young playwright. Goldsmith had also more than once expressed his disapproval of the fashionable sentimental comedy. Humour, he laments, has been driven off the stage. If comedy is to make us weep, he insists, "we have an equal right to make tragedy laugh and to set down in blank verse the jests and repartees of all the attendants in a funeral procession.” His ideas on both these subjects were undoubtedly sound, but the coolness of Garrick and Goldsmith's own hostility to the popular sentimental comedy put serious difficulties in the way of getting his plays produced.
Nevertheless, when Goldsmith finished his first drama, The Good-Natured Man, Dr. Johnson, Burke, and Sir Joshua Reynolds all insisted that he offer it to Garrick. The great man promptly read it and suggested several alterations; but he gave the author to understand that he would produce it. However, as the season drew to a close, Garrick found more and more reasons for changing his mind. Goldsmith then politely withdrew the play from Garrick and gave it to George Colman, who had lately taken over the Covent Garden Theatre. He accepted it and set January 1768 as the date for its first production. This date was late enough to allow Garrick to bring out before it a very sentimental comedy called False Delicacy by another Irishman, Hugh Kelly. Garrick also contrived to make the public regard it as a direct challenge to Goldsmith's forthcoming comedy. If you liked the former, you had logically to detest the latter. In the eighteenth century the exercise of literary judgment was almost inevitably an act of warfare. False Delicacy was an enormous success both on the stage and in the book-trade. Under the shadow of this triumph, The Good-Natured Man was forced to make