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THEATRICAL DELAYS.

309

CHAPTER XXXVII.

Theatrical delays.—Negotiations with Colman.—Letter to Garrick.-Croaking

of the manager.—Naming of the play.—She Stoops to Conquer.- Foote's Primitive Puppetshow, Piety on Pattens.—First performance of the comedy.--Agitation of the author.–Success.—Colman squibbed cut of

town.

THE gay life depicted in the two last chapters, while it kept Goldsmith in a state of continual excitement, aggravated the malady which was impairing his constitution ; yet his increasing perplexities in money matters drove him to the dissipation of society as a relief from solitary care. The delays of the theatre added to those perplexities. He had long since finished his new comedy, yet the year 1772 passed away without his being able to get it on the stage. No one, uninitated in the interior of a theatre, that little world of traps and trickery, can have any idea of the obstacles and perplexities multiplied in the way of the most eminent and successful author by the mismanagement of managers, the jealousies and intrigues of rival authors, and the fantastic and impertinent caprices of actors. A long and bafiling negotiation was carried on between Goldsmith and Colman, the manager of Covent-Garden; who retained the play in his hands until the middle of January, (1773,) without coming to a decision. The theatrical season was rapidly passing away, and Goldsmith's pecuniary difficulties were augmenting and pressing on him. We may judge of his anxiety by the following letter:

* To George Colman, Esq. 6 DEAR SIR,

“I entreat you'll relieve me from that state of suspense in which I have been kept for a long time. Whatever objections you have made or shall make to my play, I will endeavor to remove and not argue about them. To bring in any new judges either of its merits or faults I can never submit to. Upon a former occasion, when my other play was before Mr. Garrick, he offered to bring me before Mr. Whitehead's tribunal, but I refused the proposal with indignation : I hope I shall not experience as harsh treatment from you as from him. I have, as you know, a large sum of money to make up shortly; by accepting my play, I can readily satisfy my creditor that way; at any rate, I must look about to some certainty to be prepared. For God's sake take the play, and let us make the best of it, and let me have the same measure, at least, which you have given as bad plays as mine. “I am your friend and servant,

66 OLIVER GOLDSMITH.”

Colman returned the manuscript with the blank sides of the leaves scored with disparaging comments, and suggested alterations, but with the intimation that the faith of the theatre should be kept, and the play acted notwithstanding. Goldsmith submitted the criticisms to some of his friends, who pronounced them trivial, unfair, and contemptible, and intimated that Colman, being a dramatic writer himself, might be actuated by jealousy.

NEGOTIATIONS WITH COLMAN.

311

The play was then sent, with Colman's comments written on it, to Garrick; but he had scarce sent it when Johnson interfered, represented the evil that might result from an apparent rejection of it by Covent-Garden, and undertook to go forthwith to Colman, and have a talk with him on the subject. Goldsmith, therefore, penned the following note to Garrick:

“ DEAR SIR,

"I ask many pardons for the trouble I gave you yesterday. Upon more mature deliberation, and the advice of a sensible friend, I began to think it indelicate in me to throw upon you the odium of confirming Mr. Colman's sentence. I therefore request you will send my play back by my servant; for having been assured of having it acted at the other house, though I confess yours in every respect more to my wish, yet it would be folly in me to forego an advantage which lies in my power of appealing from Mr. Colman's opinion to the judgment of the town. I entreat, if not too late, you will keep this affair a secret for some time. “I am, dear Sir, your very humble servant,

66 OLIVER GOLDSMITH."

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The negotiation of Johnson with the manager of CoventGarden was effective. Colman,' he says, was prevailed on at last, by much solicitation, nay, a kind of force,” to bring forward the comedy. Still the manager was ungenerous; or, at least, indiscreet enough to express his opinion, that it would not reach a second representation. The plot, he said, was bad, and the interest not sustained; "it dwindled, and dwindled, and at last went out like the snuff of a candle.” The effect of his croaking

was soon apparent within the walls of the theatre. Two of the most popular actors, Woodward and Gentleman Smith, to whom the parts of Tony Lumpkin and Young Marlow were assigned, refused to act them; one of them alleging, in excuse, the evil predictions of the manager.

Goldsmith was advised to postpone the performance of his play until he could get these important parts well supplied. “No," said he, “I would sooner that my play were damned by bad players than merely saved by good acting."

Quick was substituted for Woodward in Tony Lumpkin, and Lee Lewis, the harlequin of the theatre, for Gentleman Smith in Young Marlow; and both did justice to their parts.

Great interest was taken by Goldsmith's friends in the success of his piece. The rehearsals were attended by Johnson, Cradock, Murphy, Reynolds and his sister, and the whole Horneck connection, including, of course, the Jessamy Bride, whose presence may have contributed to flutter the anxious heart of the author. The rehearsals went off with great applause, but that Colman attributed to the partiality of friends. He continued to croak, and refused to risk any expense in new scenery or dresses on a play which he was sure would prove a failure.

The time was at hand for the first representation, and as yet the comedy was without a title. 6 We are all in labor for a name for Goldy's play,” said Johnson, who, as usual, took a kind of fatherly protecting interest in poor Goldsmith's affairs. Old House a New Inn" was thought of for a time, but still did not please. Sir Joshua Reynolds proposed “ The Belle's Stratagem,” an elegant title, but not considered applicable, the perplexities of the comedy being produced by the mistake of the hero, not the stratagem of the heroine. The name was afterwards

66 The

THE PRIMITIVE PUPPETSHOW.

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adopted by Mrs. Cowley for one of her comedies. 66 The Mistakes of a Night” was the title at length fixed upon, to which Goldsmith prefixed the words, “She Stoops to Conquer.”

The evil bodings of Colman still continued: they were even communicated in the box office to the servant of the Duke of Gloucester, who was sent to engage a box. Never did the play of a popular writer struggle into existence through more difficulties.

In the mean time Foote's Primitive Puppetshow, entitled the Handsome Housemaid, or Piety on Pattens, had been brought out at the Haymarket on the 15th of February. All the world, fashionable and unfashionable, had crowded to the theatre. The street was thronged with equipages—the doors were stormed by the mob. The burlesque was completely successful, and sentimental comedy received its quietus. Even Garrick, who had recently befriended it, now gave it a kick, as he saw it going down hill, and sent Goldsmith a humorous prologue to help his comedy of the opposite school. Garrick and Goldsmith, however, were now on very cordial terms, to which the social meetings in the circle of the Hornecks and Bunburys may have contributed.

On the 15th of March the new comedy was to be performed. Those who had stood up for its merits, and been irritated and disgusted by the treatment it had received from the manager, determined to muster their forces, and aid in giving it a good launch upon the town. The particulars of this confederation, and of its triumphant success, are amusingly told by Cumberland in his memoirs.

“ We were not over sanguine of success, but perfectly determined to struggle hard for our author. We accordingly assembled our strength at the Shakspeare Tavern, in a considerable

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