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When I undertook to write a comedy, I confess I was strongly prepossessed in favour of the poets of the last age, and strove to imitate them. The term, genteel comedy, was then unknown amongst us, and little more was desired by an audience, than nature and humour, in whatever walks of life they were most conspicuous. The author of the following scenes never imagined that more would be expected of him, and therefore to delineate character has been his principal aim. Those who know any thir.g of composition, are sensible, that in pursuing humour, it will sometimes lead us into the recesses of the mean; I was even tempted to look for it in the master of a spunging house : but in deference to the public taste, grown of late, perhaps, too delicate ; the scene of the bailiffs was retrenched in the representation. In deference also to the judge ment of a few friends, who think in a particular way, the scene is here restored. The author submits it to the reader in his closet; and hopes that too much refinement will not banish humour and character from ours, as it has already done from the French theatre. Indeed the French comedy is now become so very elevated and sentimental, that it has not only banished humour and Moliere from the stage, but it has banished all spectators too.
Upon the whole, the Author returns his thanks to the pube lic for the favourable reception which The Good Natured Man has met with : and to Mr. Colman in particular, for his kindness to it. It may not also be improper to assure any, who shall hereafter write for the theatre, that merit, or supposed merit, will ever be a sufficient passport to his protection.
This Comedy, which was, like the Rivals, nearly driven from the Stage at its first representation, is a very strong proof of rich comic talents in the late Dr. GOLDSMITH, from which a good taste in the age might have elicited humour that would have lived ;--but KELLY had flattered it up to a pitch of False Delicacy, from whose nauseous fastidiousness it could not descend to welcome the just delineations of varied life.
Upon this play two authors have built similar cha. racter and incident-CROAker certainly suggested old RuEFUL, and the scene wherein CROAKER brings his son LOntine to court Miss RicHLAND, clearly gave Mr. SHERIDAN the example to bring on Sir ANTHONY ABSOLUTE and his son to address LYDIA LANGUISH. The reception of Goldsmith's play was a striking lesson, however, to the modern Con. GREVE, who, in compliance with the sentiment that was in vogue, adorned the RIVALS with those exquisite scenes of polite passion between FALKLAND and Julia, which we know the Stage cannot equal.
Disclaiming the refinement of the moderns, Gold. SMITH, however, has here produced a fine, strong, diverting play, to which JOHNSON contributed an excellent Prologue, wherein the election sentiments of one of his political pamphlets are very neatly versifed.
WRITTEN BY DR. JOHNSON.
Spoken by Mr. BENSLEY.
PREST by the load of life, the weary
mind Surveys the general toil of human kind; With cool submission joins the labouring train, And social sorrow loses half its pain: Our anxious Bard, without complaint, may share This bustling season's epidemic care. Like Cæsar's pilot, dignify'd by fate, Tost in one common storm with all the great; Distrest alike, the statesman and the wit, When one a borough courts, and one the pit. The busy candidates for power and
fame, Have hopes, and
fears, and wishes, just the same ; Disabled both to combat, or to fly, Must hear all taunts, and hear without reply. Uncheck'd on both, loud rabbles vent their rage, As mongrels bay the lion in a cage. Th' offended burgess hoards his angry tale, For that blest year when all that vote may rail; Their schemes of spite the poet's foes dismiss, Till that glad night, when all that hate
hiss. This day the powder'd curls and golden coat, Says swelling Crispin, begg'd a cobler's vote.
This night, our wit, the pert apprentice cries,