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Goldsmith's time. The part of the affected fop was in fact invented by Etheridge in his Sir Fopling Flutter, and the part appears frequently in the simpering “macaronies” of the eighteenth century stage in Lord Foppington of Cibber's Careless Husband, in the Sir Novelty Fashion of Cibber's Love's Last Shift, in the Tom Fashion of Vanbrugh's Relapse, and of Lee's Man of Quality, and in Daffodil of The Male-Coquette. The name Sir Thomas Lofty was used as recently as 1764 in Foote's The Patron. It may even be said that the bragging fop is the eighteenth century correspondent to the Latin and Elizabethan braggart captain of the Miles Gloriosus type. Another play by the French Brueys provides a French prototype of Lofty. This is L’Important de la Cour, produced December 16, 1693, and dealing with a coxcomb who pretends to extraordinary influence at court and in high society.
An early critic of the play (in “The London Magazine” for February, 1768) compares the scene with the bailiffs with a scene in Racine's Les Plaideurs ; the scene in which Honeywood attempts alternately to espouse the opinions of Mr. and Mrs. Croaker with a scene in Molière's L'Avare; Honeywood's soliciting of Miss Richland in favor of Lofty is compared with Le Dissipateur by Dr. Touche. These similarities must not be pushed too far; neither must they be ignored. Other similarities are no less striking. Lofty's detection and embarrassment should be compared with a. like scene from Fielding's The Wedding Day. The episode of Croaker's son Leontine and his supposed sister from the Continent is closely paralleled in The
Counterfeit Bridegroom (1677), which itself was probably altered by Mrs. Behn from Middleton's No Wit, No Help, Like a Woman's.
In character, plot, and treatment, She Stoops to Conquer is in every way more original than The Good-Natured Man. The title of the play was paraphrased from a line in Dryden, an author whose works Goldsmith knew and loved,
But kneels to conquer, and but stoops to rise. This really excellent title was not chosen until the last minute, the favorite suggestion up to this time having been that of Reynolds, “ The Belle's Stratagem,” by adaptation from Farquhar's The Beaux' Stratagem (1707). This title was later taken by Mrs. Cowley for one of her comedies, which has, by the way, some points of similarity with Goldsmith's play.
It is probable that Goldsmith was not willing to accept Reynolds's suggestion for a title on account of the already striking similarities between his own play and that of Farquhar. In each play, the leading male parts are taken by two young men, Marlow and Hastings corresponding with Aimwell and Archer, who come down from London to make conquests in the country. In each the action presumably takes place in an inn, and in each the innkeeper has a daughter to whom love is made under false pretenses ; in the earlier play, by the young man's stratagem, in Goldsmith's play, by the stratagem of the young woman. In each a valuable casket is used for comic effect. Finally, Goldsmith mentions Cherry, the innkeeper's daughter, and the play itself in his own play. These
points are not sufficient to show indebtedness. They do reveal, however, a plausible reason why Goldsmith was unwilling to call his play “The Belle's Stratagem.' There are words in the Epilogue first printed in Miscellaneous Works (1801) which seem to reveal a particular appropriateness in the title finally chosen :
No high-life scenes, no sentiment; — the creature
These words seem to give the title a double mean. ing, for they indicate that not Miss Hardcastle alone was stooping, but that “stoops to conquer” provides Goldsmith's own apology for the particular form of drama which he composed.
Of all the characters in this play, the most unconventional are those of Mrs. Hardcastle and her son Tony. These were almost completely new to the English stage, the only known prototypes being the Widow Blackacre and her son Jerry of Wycherly's The Plain Dealer; there is a possibility that the latter widow was an imitation of the Countess in Racine's comedy Les Plaideurs, mentioned above. One circumstance supports the theory that The Plain Dealer was in Goldsmith's mind when writing his play, and that is a parallel in the episode of the theft of the jewels. Such a theft is also made a comedy expedient in Molière’s L'Avare. Fitzgerald in A New History of the English Stage (vol. ii) tries to make it appear that Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle and their son Tony are patterned after Mr. and Mrs. Aircastle and their son Toby in Foote's The Cozeners. As a matter of fact, The Cozeners had its first appearance in the summer of 1774
(9th performance August 3). Foote was a famous plagiary, and on him must rest the imputation of the borrowing. These three characters remain Goldsmith's most original contribution to the gallery of the stage.
More interesting than the pursuit of literary sources is it to discover that two episodes of She Stoops to
Conquer are based on incidents in the author's own life. These are the mistaking of a private house for an inn, which is an essential factor of the plot, and is based on a youthful experience of Goldsmith’s while still in his native Ireland ; the other is an allusion to the tying of Mr. Hardcastle's wig to a chair, a trick that had been played on Goldsmith while he was writing the play. Both these incidents are told in some detail in Forster's Life of Goldsmith.
Goldsmith as a Playwright. The merits of Goldsmith as a playwright lie close to the surface, and are easily discernible by a sympathetic reader. They are made more manifest when one studies, as we have done, the conditions under which the average drama of his day was written. In the larger matters of structure and design, hardly an adverse criticism can be made of these plays. The development of the story is steady, unforced, and transparent from beginning to end. One of Goldsmith's greatest gifts was clearness of perception and expression. Whatever his opinion may have been of language as an obscurer of thought, his own practice was to make language richly expressive. His peculiar theories of vis comica precluded the treatment in his plays of those tenderer and more humane characteristics that we find in his essays and
poems. He who limits his reading to Goldsmith's plays sees only half the man. But within the limits of the plays, Goldsmith was rigorously consistent with his foreordained principles. His art of the stage was something more than a return from stage types to nature; it depended upon an exaggeration of nature for the purposes of the ludicrous. From these principles grew all those characteristics for which Goldsmith's plays were early condemned. They led naturally to farce and to a straining of the verities. So the scene of the bailiffs and Croaker's letter scene in The Good-Natured Man must be judged merely as they make the audience merry; and Tony's journey down Featherbed Lane, forty miles away to his father's back yard, can be considered true only in Farce, the fact that such an event is said to have happened not serving in the least to make it veracious.
Though far ahead of the comedy of his time, Goldsmith's comedy does not reach the glories of the comedy of the Restoration age. Only once again, and that with the diminished lustre of a Sheridan,did English comedy show anything of the brilliancy, wit, epigram, and marvelous balance of the “poets of the last age.” While Goldsmith's second play gained in incident, and therefore, from the modern point of view, in acting quality, it lost greatly in polish, repartee, and that real gentility that marked the prime of English as well as of French comedy. In short, bad Goldsmith lived a century earlier, The Good-Natured Man would have been hailed as a better play than its successor. As it occurred, The Good-Natured Man, which was the more decorous, was lost amid the inanity of a sentimental