페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

1701 (2d ed., 1702, has an added scene): Tamerlane, L.I.F., 1702; 1702 : The Fair Penitent, L.I.F., 1703 ; 1703 : The Biter, L.I.F., December 4, 1704; 1705: Ulysses, Hay., November 23, 1705; 1706: The Royal Convert, Hay., November 25, 1707; 1708 : The Tragedy of Jane Shore, written in imitation of Shakespeare's style, D.L., February 2, 1714; (1714]: The Tragedy of Lady Jane Gray, D.L., April 20, 1715; 1715.

moreover, his personality was felt until the year 1724 through his interest in the Drury Lane Theatre.

In January, 1715, Steele obtained the patent for producing plays there, in conjunction with subordinate holders. Wilks, Cibber, and Booth were his fellows in the agreement, but Steele was dominant until dispossessed temporarily in January, 1720, through political machinations. Thereafter his interest was slight, until in 1724, through his neglect, French comedy and opera had greatly lessened the value of this government patent.? After a few more years of inactivity Steele died on September 1, 1729, having lost contact with his theatrical companions through a lawsuit initiated against him for lack of interest. Throughout the years from 1700 to the time of his death, however, he had constantly exercised an influence toward natural, wholesome comedy on the English stage, and it should not be charged too heavily against his artistic taste that his successors debased these characteristics into sentimental moralizing.

The Funeral, or Grief-à-la-Mode, fall of 1701 ; December 20, 1701: The Lying Lover, or The Ladies' Friendship, December 2, 1703; January 26, 1704: The Tender Husband, or The Accomplished Fools, April 23, 1705; 1705: The Conscious Lovers, November 7,1722; December 1,1722.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

RICHARD STEELE was born in Dublin, in March, 1672, of an Irish mother and an English father. His literary friendship with Addison rests upon their association at Charterhouse School, whence Steele in 1689 followed Addison to Oxford. While a student at Christ's Church College he wrote a comedy but burned it. In 1694, without a degree, Steele entered the Duke of Ormond's guards as a private; by 1700 he was an army captain, but without active service in prospect began his social life among the groups in London coffeehouses. Remorse over a duel undoubtedly influenced the choice of theme for two of his plays; nothing further regarding his political and literary attachments from 1700 to 1715 is essential to a study of his career as a dramatist.

Steele's first play, The Funeral, or Grief-à-laMode, has the moral intent that later distinguished its author's work and is a practical satire in its remarks concerning lawyers and undertakers. The reforming tendency and occasional farcical action most effectually drove away the marks of high comedy left on English drama by Congreve, so that The Funeral falls into the style set by Colley Cibber in Love's Last Shift (1696). The Lying Lover, from Corneille's Menteur, is also a sign of Steele's later inclination toward sentimental appeal, and this play stands as the first definite representative of the school that was to hold the comic stage for a generation. His later comedies made sentimental drama popular through a development of the spirit shown in the two earlier plays. The Tender Husband is based on Molière's Sicilien, and The Conscious Lovers, upon the action of Terence's Andria, with many additions of English material. In them all Steele persistently stresses moral reform on the stage and in society.

That Steele was not a great writer of comedy must be admitted, and yet no other man of the time so fully repays careful study. His dramatic essays in the Tatler, the Spectator, and the Guardian give proper setting for the stage history of all English comedies then being produced;

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

John Gay was born in Barnstaple, Devonshire, his date of baptism being September 16, 1685. After a grammar-school training he served a short apprenticeship to a London silk mercer, and then after a brief stay at home returned to London in order to venture upon a literary career. His entire life thereafter was passed in somewhat servile seeking after favor from nobles and party leaders, with fair returns. Swift got him the place of secretary to the Hanoverian embassy, only to see Gay lose the place three months later upon the death of Queen Anne. Pope patronized him unceasingly after having been lauded in the dedication of Gay's Rural Sports (1713). The publication in 1720 of his Poems on Several Occasions brought Gay a thousand pounds, which he speedily lost, with a gift from Secretary Craggs, in South Sea speculation. Two years later, however, he was made lottery commissioner and for ten years had therefrom an annual income of a hundred fifty pounds. The climax of Gay's hopes came with the crowning of George II in 1727, for long acquaintance had led him to

1 The full account is available in George A. Aitken's Life of Richard Steele, 2 vols., London, 1889.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

ajter Marriage (with Pope and Arbuthnot), D.L., January 16, 1717; 1717, anon.: The Captives, D.L., January, 1724; 1724: The Beggar's Opera, L.I.F., January 29, 1728; 1728: Polly, never acted; 1729: Acis and Galatea, Hay., May, 1732; 1732 : Achilles, C.G., February 10, 1733 ; 1733: The Distressed Wife, C.G., March 5, 1734; 1743 : The Rehearsal at Gotham, written about 1729; 1754.

expect much from the Prince; but his only favor was an offer of appointment as gentleman-usher to Princess Louisa, and this he indignantly refused as beneath him. At his death on December 4, 1732, Gay was dependent upon his unfailing friends, the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry. His indolent nature continually had led him to rely upon political and private patronage when by industry he might easily have had success through subscription publication. In fact, the returns from his poems were sufficient to provide a good living had they been properly administered.

The dramatic work of Gay is various and abundant enough to suggest greater industry than is actually evident from reading the plays themselves, for several of them are slight pieces. Most of his attempts were signally unfortunate, from The Wife of Bath, possibly suggested by Pope, to The Distressed Wije, unsuccessfully staged two years after his death. His satire in The Whald'ye-call-it had the aid of Pope's keen mind, but the hits at tragic extravagance and particularly at Otway were so obscure that a Key was written by others in order to explain the printed text. As for Three Hours after Marriage, Pope and Arbuthnot were discreet to hide their share in its obscenity and slack structure. In tragedy and in the operas following his one great success Gay was equally weak. His dramatic career shows no line of growth, but rather a spirit of experimentation in a literary form uncongenial to this light, whimsical satirist of town life.

All these criticisms fail when applied to The Beggar's Opera, a play that had unparalleled success through its opportuneness and because of Gay's skill in fashioning lively songs for familiar airs. He was fitted by nature to catch the popular taste developed by a decade of opera, and the supposed injustice of George II fired him to a satiric ardor of which ordinarily his disposition was incapable. Consequently the place of Gay in English dramatic history may be accounted accidental but entirely secure. The Beggar's Opera has in it the germs of modern comic opera; it also shows the social and political structure of eighteenth-century London in a manner unexcelled by any other play of the period.

The Mohocks, a tragi-comical farce; as it was acted near the Watch House in Covent Garden (Genest says it was not acted); 1712, anon.: The Wife of Bath, D.L., May 12, 1713; 1713 (republished as altered, 1730, and staged on January 19, at L.I.F.): The What-d’ye-call-it (with Pope), D.L., February 23, 1715; 1715: Three Hours

HENRY FIELDING was born at Sharpham Park, near Glastonbury, on April 22, 1707. After years at Eton and in the study of law at Leyden, be returned to London when the death of his father forced him to self-support. From about his twentieth year until the end of his dramatic period Fielding indulged in all the pleasures of the town while making a livelihood from loosely constructed farces and unhappily coarse comedies. His career properly enough has been estimated by the success of his novels, not by his plays, many of which were surely forgotten when Fielding died in 1754.

There is little unusual merit to note in Fielding's earlier comedies. The adaptations of Molière are true to the originals but have many marks of hasty workmanship. One, The Wedding Day, is interesting through a use of the "revelation” ending found in Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones. In general, Fielding's attempts at social comedy have the intent of Congreve, without the social sophistication requisite for delicate witticism and with much brutish unpleasantness guised as humor. Pasquin reached higher levels of satire because Fielding was dealing with political and literary objects, not with society; yet even there, as in Tom Thumb, the success was literary not dramatic. It is doubtful whether anyone bears away from reading the plays of Fielding any clearly defined characterization; rather he remembers the absurdities that resemble the substance of his later satire in prose fiction. As for his moral purpose, none appears; he has only a complaisant asking that "natural" vice be unmingled with selfishness or cowardly treachery. His only reform, and that unintentional, was to incite the government to pass the Licensing Act of 1737. The political satire of Pasquin and of The Historical Register for the Year 1736 brought on this act requiring the submission of all plays for reading before public performance.

At their best, however, the plays of Fielding possess the true fundamentals of satire. His dramatic and political criticisms were honestly 1737; 1737: Miss Lucy in Town, a Sequel to The Virgin Unmasked, D.L., May 5, 1742; 1742: The Wedding Day, D.L., February 17, 1743; 1743 : The Fathers, or The Good-Natured Man, D.L., November 30, 1778; 1778. In 1742 Fielding and William Young issued their translation of Aristophanes' Plutus, the God of Riches.

made, without personal animus. This is true of Tom Thumb, even though authors and critics are openly named in the notes and prefaces. He had that purpose to reform which Pope constantly professed, and by contrast he kept above personal abuse of his adversaries. For this reason Tom Thumb appeals to modern readers, who see the faults of pedantic criticism and the misapplied laws of tragic structure with clearer perspective than could the average Englishman of the eighteenth century.

Love in Several Masks, D.L., February 16, 1728; 1728: The Temple Beau, G.F., January 26, 1730; 1730: The Author's Farce, and the Pleasures of the Town, Hay., March, 1730; 1730: Rape upon Rape, or The Justice Caught in his own Trap, Hay., before December 4, 1730 (when it appeared as The Coffee-house Politician, etc.); 17.30: Tom Thumb, Hay., 1730; 1730 (2d ed. of that year has added scenes; the version with notes and the long title was staged at the Haymarket in March, 1731, and was printed in the same month): The Welsh Opera,or The Gray Mare is the Better Horse (title made The Grub Street Opera, etc. at Hay., July, 1731), 1731; 1731: The Letter Writers, or A New Way to keep a Wife at Home, March, 1731; 1731: The Lottery, D.L., January 1, 1732; 1732 (3d ed. of that year, with added scene): The Modern Husband, D.L., February 14, 1732; 1732 : The Covent Garden Tragedy, D.L., June 1, 1732; 1732 : The Old Debauchees, D.L., June 1, 1732; 1732 (3d ed., 1750, as The Debauchees, or The Jesuit Caught): The Mock Doctor, or The Dumb Lady Cured (from Molière's Médecin maigré lui), D.L., 1732; 1732: Deborah, or A Wise for You All, 1733 : Tlie Miser (from Plautus's Aulitlaria and Molière's L'Avare), D.L., February 17, 1733 ; 1733: The Intriguing Chambermaid (from Regnard, and Plautus(?)), January 15, 1734 ; 1734: Don Quixote in England, Hay, April (?), 1734; 1734: (changed from three to two acts, and from prose to verse, as Squire Badger, in 1772: in 1775, T. A. Arne made it into The Sol, a Burletta): An Old Man Taught Wisdom, or The Virgin Unmasked, D.L., January 6, 1735; 1735: The Universal Gallant, or The Different Husbands, D.L., February 10, 1735; 1735: Pasquin, a dramatic satire on the times, etc., 1736; 1736 : Tumble-Down Dick, or Phaeton in the Suds, etc., Hay., 1736; 1736: Eurydice (or The Devil Henpecked), D.L., February 19, 1737; 1737: The Historical Register for the Year 1736, with Eurydice hissed, or A Word to the Wise, Hay.,

GEORGE Lillo, son of a Dutch jeweler, was born in London on February 4, 1693. He spent his life in the trade of his father, meanwhile writing several plays. He was a nonconformist and among the city merchants must have had a wide circle of friends. At his death, on September 3, 1739, he was recognized as creator of a new type of domestic tragedy. Little more than this is known, though many clear ideas regarding his tastes may be deduced from Lillo's plays. His Biblical training is entirely evident, as is the fact that he read widely in old English drama. He adapted Shakespeare's Pericles, worked on the Arden of Feversham theme, and for his Fatal Curiosity used an actual occurrence of the year 1618. His mind was inclined toward English themes and traditions, with which he constructed plays that justify his distaste for the forms of classical tragedy. (Among many contemporary praises of Lillo, that of Fielding is most significant; therein by contrast with the writers of sentimental comedy he is lauded for truth to nature. His chief importance to dramatic history comes from the new interest in domestic tragedy resulting from his work, both on the Continent and in England, and in the likeness between his sentimental moralizing and that of the novelist Richardson,

Silvia, or The Country Burial, L.I.F., November 10, 1730; 1731: The London Merchant, or The History of George Barnweil, D.L., June 22, 1731; 1731: Britannia and Batavia, a masque, 1734(?); 1740: The Christian Hero, D.L., January 13, 1735; 1735: Fatal Curiosity, a True Tragedy, Hay., 1736; 1737: Marina (from Shakespeare's Pericles), C.G., August 1, 1738; 1738 : Arden of Feversham (nearly finished in 1736; the ending is by John Hoadley), D.L., July 19, 1759;1762: Elmerick, or Justice Triumphant, D.L., February 23, 1740; 1740: The Regulators, a comedy, is mentioned by Davies, but is not in print.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

lowed that with the study of divinity. His only church appointment was to the parish of Athelstaneford, previously held by Robert Blair. Thence he carried his first tragedies to London for Garrick's reading. Denied a hearing in London, he produced Douglas in Edinburgh with such tremendous success that the discreet resignation of his church post worked him no hardship. Thereafter his plays were speedily produced in both theatrical centers while Home lived upon state patronage.

None of Home's other plays reached the fame of his Douglas, which ranks high among early pieces in the Ossianic style. It is based upon the Scotch version of the old ballad "Childe Maurice,!' but has the impassioned feeling for wild scenes in nature and the austere melancholy of Thomson, Collins, and Blair.

In addition to his dramas Home composed late ir life a History of the Rebellion of 1745. He had taken part in the war against the Pretender, and in 1778 resumed army service for a time. A fall from horseback led to complications rendering him unfit for study, but he lived until September 5, 1808, dying in his eighty-sixth year.

Douglas, Edinburgh, December 14, 1756; C.G.,

arch 14, 1757; 1757: Agis (his first play, inished in 1747), D.L., February 21, 1758; 1758: The Siege of Aquileia, D.L., February 21, 1760; 1760: The Fatal Discovery, D.L., February 23, 1769; 1769: Alonzo, D.L., February 27, 1773; 1773 : Alfred, C.G., January 21, 1778; 1778.

don, where he inefficiently tried various occupations in succession. At thirty Goldsmith had begun his hack work on reviews, essays, books for children, and incorrect historical accounts. Johnson, Burke, and Reynolds became his comrades ----great solace for dull labor; their club, founded in 1763 with nine members, was a nucleus for literary and artistic spirits. Through innumerable anecdotes concerning this group, Goldsmith's way of life from then on has become matter of common knowledge.

Goldsmith's interest in theatrical affairs, however, is not so well known. He tried playwriting as a source of income on his customary experimental plan. Without serious study of dramatic principles he succeeded in spite of an artificial popular taste in drama that controlled both the leading London theatres. Garrick refused his first play, but its production at Covent Garden brought Goldsmith a total of five hundred pounds. Johnson's stalwart friendship made She Stoops to Conquer even more successful, for the partisans of Kelly and Cumberland could not dominate Covent Garden audiences while the Great Cham was leading the applause. Natural comedy on homely themes was revived.

After his second success Goldsmith drifted off again into miscellaneous writing. Undoubtedly the force of his dramatic genius could have been developed to higher levels, but his associates in London taverns and the Temple were too agreeable for the accomplishment of arduous tasks. Consequently he is known for his incomparable Vicar of Wakefield, The Deserted Village, and She Stoops to Conquer. To-day Goldsmith is loved by old and young alike. One could not safely guess at the age or temperament of those who still adorn his memorial stone in the Temple churchyard with fresh flowers; neither can the critic analyze his works by the set rules of literary types in a fashion to disturb the even progress of Goldsmith's fame.

The Good-Natured Man, C.G., January 29, 1768; 1768: She Stoops to Conquer, March 15, 1773 ; 1773.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH was born of Protestant English parents in a village of central Ireland, in the year 1728. He died in London on April 4, 1774. His father, both curate and farmer, moved soon after his son's birth to Lissoy, where young Oliver had some schooling under an old Irish quartermaster; this inexpert instruction gave the nine-year-old boy a liking for Irish tradition and folklore that has led to a popular misconception regarding his ancestry. In 1744 young Goldsmith passed from grammar school to Trinity College, Dublin, and thence five years later he laboriously bore off a degree. A feint at sailing for America, a useless try at medicine in Edinburgh, a second venture in the same field at the University of Leyden, were the steps that brought Goldsmith to his continental walking trip. This was the first natural expression of his untutored heart.

His tour of Flanders, France, and Switzerland ended in February, 1756, with a return to Lon

RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN was born in Dublin on October 30, 1751, of parents having much interest in dramatic and theatrical affairs. He was an industrious student at Harrow and Oxford; at college his tendencies appeared in a farce called Jupiter (a revision of a farce, Ixion, by a schoolmate, Halhed), as well as in many odd bits of stage dialogue, poems, and political

[ocr errors]

sketches. Meanwhile an occasional visit to Bath was giving him insight into the frivolous side of English life.

The London career of Sheridan began in 1773, when he married and entered the Middle Temple. From then on he was a prominent person in theatrical circies by reason of his work as a manager as well as through his own writing for the stage. With the aid of his father-in-law and a Doctor Ford he bought Drury Lane from Garrick in 1776. Twice rebuilt during Sheridan's lifetime, the famous playhouse yielded handsome returns.

From 1780 to 1812 Sheridan had a prominent and fairly useful place in the House, where he ranked with his friend Charles Fox among the most able speakers on the Opposition side. His speeches against Hastings and those defending the rights of the American colonies became memorable in an age of great oratory. In 1812, however, Sheridan failed of reëlection. He had lived wastefully for many years and consequently passed his last years in real poverty. At his death on July 7, 1816, he possessed little more than the fame of his comedies. With much display and ceremony he was buried in Westminster Abbey amid acclamations of greatness that have never fallen away from his name. The comic spirit of Sheridan's best work still holds a place on the English-speaking stage; moreover his standards will always arouse other writers to emulation.

The plays not printed in this volume are useful in any study of. Sheridan's development. Less than four months after The Rivals came St. Patrick's Day, or The Scheming Lieutenant, a lively farce in the style of Molière. It was written rapidly for a benefit performance for Lawrence Clinch on May 2, 1775. In November of the same year his second major play, The Duenna, opened the way to success that kept Sheridan from exerting himself anew for many months; when he did, it was merely to expurgate Vanbrugh's Relapse. This appeared on February 24, 1777, as A Trip to Scarborough. Many years after his final triumphs with his third and fourth major works, Sheridan in 1798 again made a stop-gap for Drury Lane by adapting a play of Kotzebue's; a year later he used another by the same German author in making his Pizarro.

Though Sheridan saw to the editing of only The Rivals, all his plays have standard texts with the exception of The School for Scandal. Of this he steadfastly refused to print an authoritative

version, but made successive copies for his fr As a result, the contemporary editions and n script remains have perplexed modern ed I'S. A well-authenticated anecdote shows that S cidan gave his sister the early version formin "he basis of the undated Dublin edition, the fi:; in print; this text is consequently of high authty and cannot be overvalued in any assay of riaterials. In spite of this fact the text of The School for Scandal given in the Moore ection of 1821 has been used for the present edition.

In 1902 W. Fraser Rae led many to think wat he had discovered the final version of the ; ay by announcing his edition of Sheridan's 6 jor plays "as he himself wrote them,” but exar nation of his text of The School for Scandal will convince the unprejudiced that it is an early draft. To spare elaborate details of analysis, one need only observe that the Rae text gives the story of the twins twice, with identical empais and the same auditors, a fact proving colusively that at the time Sheridan was under led as to the more effective situation for its use. Other faults are the unfinished drawing of liss Verjuice, who weakly monopolizes Snake's rôle, and gross textual faults that raise doubts garding the editing without impairing the ry tales of Sheridan's inability to spell. As for *** manuscripts, Walter Sichel showed in his 191 biography how useful they may be made in establishing the authoritative version; yet he personally made no attempt to solve the rille, going so far as to pass over in silence More's claims to contemporary knowledge and I's "discovery” of the same decade. For ch reasons and others here omitted, the 1821 te i is still standard and will continue so until the mi, ilscripts have been tested in scholarly fashion.

The Rivals, C.G., January 17, 1775; 1775 Si Patrick's Day, or The Scheming Lieutenant,(G, May 2, 1775; 1821(?): The Duenna, or 7130 Double Elopement, C.G., November 21, 17), 1794 (published in Dublin as The Gover 1777): A Trip to Scarborough (Vanbrugh's . lapse adapted), D.L., February 24, 1777; 1“:: The School for Scandal, D.L., May 8, 1;7; Dublin ed. (1778-1779]: The Critic, or A Tra, y Rehearsed, D.L., October 30, 1779; 1781: 7 }e Stranger (from Benj. Thompson's translation cf Kotzebue's Menschenhass und Reue), 1795: Pizarro (adapted from Kotzebue's Die Spaniein Peru), D.L., May 24, 1799; 1799.

« 이전계속 »