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SHERIDAN's The Rivals was produced at Covent Garden Theatre on January 17, 1775, and promptly withdrawn. On its reappearance, in a revised form, eleven days later, with a better actor in the part of Sir Lucius O'Trigger, it attained a great success, and was speedily put into print. Before the end of the year another edition was called for, and a third in 1776, but the literary critics, so we are told, were unappreciative, and perhaps to their obtuseness should be attributed the disinclination to publish his plays which Sheridan afterwards showed. Produced on May 2, 1775," less than four months after The Rivals, the farce of St. Patrick's Day, certainly his weakest work, was never printed with his sanction. The Duenna, brought out in the following November, remained unprinted till 1794; A Trip to Scarborough, his adaptation from Vanbrugh's Relapse, though put on the stage in February 1777, did not appear in book form till 1786. Of The School for Scandal, produced in London on May 8, 1777, an edition was printed for J. Ewling of Dublin, without date, but presumably during the course of the next year. Sheridan had given a copy of his manuscript to his sister, Mrs. Lefanu, who
1 Moore gives the date of production as ‘November 1775,' obviously confusing it with that of The Duenna.
sold it for a hundred guineas to the manager of the Dublin Theatre, and no doubt Ewling's edition was produced with the manager's consent. Several reprints followed, but when Ridgway of Piccadilly pressed Sheridan later on to fulfil a promise of allowing him to print an authorised English edition, he refused to do so on the ground, according to Moore, that he had been nineteen years endeavouring to satisfy himself with the style of The School for Scandal, but had not yet succeeded.'
Of The Critic, Sheridan's last important play, an edition was printed, with his sanction, in 1781. The comedy had been produced on the 30th October 1779, and its comparatively speedy appearance in print may have been due partly to its great popularity, partly perhaps to the publication in 1780 of a dull political parody in which its title was taken over with impudent completeness.
Of Pizarro, Sheridan's adaptation from Kotzebue, which is said to have brought £15,000 to the treasury of Drury Lane, where it was produced on May 24, 1799, an edition was printed the same year, and this closes the record of Sheridan “first editions. For those who are interested in such matters it may be mentioned that a most unusually fine set of them was sold at Sotheby's in 1898, and that The Rivals then fetched £18, The School for Scandal £24, The Critic £3 : 109., A Trip to Scarborough £5, and The Duenna and Pizarro £3 apiece. The value of these editions for establishing the true text of the plays is not overwhelming, even those of which the proof-sheets presumably passed through Sheridan's hands being very carelessly printed. In 1821 Thomas Moore edited all Sheridan's plays (including among them the wretched 'musical entertainment,' The Camp, the authorship of which is now universally assigned to Thomas Tickell), and his text is certainly superior to that of the plays as separately published. Even in the case of The School for Scandal, where the Dublin edition in some cases corresponds more closely to Sheridan's early drafts, of which portions have been preserved to us, Moore's text is greatly preferable, and as Sheridan's letter to Ridgway shows that he had himself at times tried to tinker at the play, it is reasonable to believe that Moore had authority for his alterations. In any case there are few men whose judgment on what Sheridan was likely to have written is more to be respected. In this edition, therefore, Moore's text has been followed, but in the matter of proof-reading Moore himself was probably no more careful than Sheridan, and here and there obvious corrections have been made. Thus in Act III. Sc. 2 (last line of p. 50) all editions that have been consulted inform us that Julia is coming too,' where coming to' is an emendation made certain by Jerome's inquiry, What, does she come to?' in The Duenna (p. 158). So on p. 92 the exclamation · Hah!—no faith,' attributed to Sir Lucius by the first edition and Moore, as if he were accusing Faulkland and Absolute of breaking their appointment, must surely be read as 'Hah!-No, faith!' to introduce the 'I think I see them coming' by which it is followed. That in Sir Oliver's remark (p. 227), 'I hate to see prudence clinging to the green suckers of youth,' 'suckers' has been printed instead of 'succours,' and that in the closing tag the dear maid' is made to * waive' instead of to "wave' her beauty's sway,' are alterations for which no apology is needed, though not all editors have been at the pains to make them. In Sir Peter's remark at the opening of Act III., 'I don't see the jet of your scheme,' the substitution of 'gist' for the old-fashioned “jet’ is less excusable. But in a recent separate edition of this play, and a very good one, jet' has been replaced by jest, and to avoid such a confusion in any reader's mind it seemed better to give up the old form. In a popular edition, to mark small corrections such as these by footnotes would be pedantic, but readers may be assured that editorial meddling has been confined to what is absolutely necessary.