« PreviousContinue »
Goldsmith, through fear of wounding his feelings. A further misunderstanding was the result of this want of decision and frankness; repeated interviews and some correspondence took place without bringing matters to a point, and in the mean time the theatrical season passed away.
Goldsmith's pocket, never well supplied, suffered grievously by this delay, and he considered himself entitled to call upon the manager, who still talked of acting the play, to advance him forty pounds upon a note of the younger Newbery. Garrick readily complied, but subsequently suggested certain important alterations in the comedy as indispensable to its success; these were indignantly rejected by the author, but pertinaciously insisted on by the manager.
Garrick proposed to leave the matter to the arbitration of Whitehead, the laureate, who officiated as his 66 reader” and elbow-critic. Goldsmith was more indignant than ever, and a violent dispute ensued, which was only calmed by the interference of Burke and Reynolds.
Just at this time, order came out of confusion in the affairs of Covent Garden. A pique having risen between Colman and Garrick, in the course of their joint authorship of “The Clandestine Marriage,” the former had become manager and part-proprietor of Covent Garden, and was preparing to open a powerful competition with his former colleague. On hearing of this, Goldsmith made overtures to Colman; who, without waiting to consult his fellow-proprietors, who were absent, gave instantly a favorable reply. Gold
LETTER TO GARRICK.
smith felt the contrast of this warm, encouraging conduct, to the chilling delays and objections of Garrick. He at once abandoned his piece to the discretion of Colman. “ Dear sir,” says he, in a letter dated Temple Garden Court, July 9th, “ I am very much obliged to you your tiality in my favor, and your tenderness in shortening the interval of my expectation. That the play is liable to many objections I well know, but I am happy that it is in hands the most capable in the world of removing them. If then, dear sir, you will complete your favor by putting the piece into such a state as it may be acted, or of directing me how to do it, I shall ever retain a sense of your goodness to me. And indeed, though most probably this be the last I shall ever write, yet I can't help feeling a secret satisfaction that poets for the future are likely to have a protector who declines taking advantage of their dreadful situation - and scorns that importance which may be acquired by trifling with their anxieties.”
The next day Goldsmith wrote to Garrick, who was at Litchfield, informing him of his having transferred his piece to Covent Garden, for which it had been originally written, and by the patentee of which it was claimed, observing, “ As I found
had very great difficulties about that piece, I complied with his desire. I ar extremely sorry that you should think me warm hit our last meeting ; your judgment certainly ought to be free, especially in a matter which must in some measure concern your own credit
l'heatrical Manæuvring. The Comedy of“ False Delicacy."
First Performance of “ The Good-natured Man.” — Conduct of Johnson.- Conduct of the Author. — Intermed. dling of the Press.
HE comedy of “ The Good - natured
Man” was doomed to experience delays
and difficulties to the very last. Garrick, notwithstanding his professions, had still a lurking grudge against the author, and tasked his managerial arts to thwart him in his theatrical enterprise. For this purpose he undertook to build up Hugh Kelly, Goldsmith's boon companion of the Wednesday club, as a kind of rival. Kelly had written a comedy called “False Delicacy,” in which were embodied all the meretricious qualities of the sentimental school. Garrick, though he had decried that school, and had brought out his comedy of “ The Clandestine Marriage ” in opposition to it, now lauded “ False Delicacy” to the skies, and prepared to bring it out at Drury Lane with all possible stage-effect. He even went so far as to write a prologue and epilogue for it, and to touch up some parts of the dialogue. He had become reconciled to his former colleague, Colman, and it is intimated that ne condition in the treaty of peace between
these potentates of the realms of pasteboard (equally prone to play into each other's hands with the confederate potentates on the great theatre of life) was, that Goldsmith's play should be kept back until Kelly's had been brought forward.
In the mean time the poor author, little dreaming of the deleterious influence at work behind the scenes, saw the appointed time arrive and pass by without the performance of his play; while “False Delicacy” was brought out at Drury Lane (January 23, 1768) with all the trickery of managerial management. Houses were packed to applaud it to the echo; the newspapers vied with each other in their venal praises, and night after night seemed to give it a fresh triumph.
While “ False Delicacy” was thus borne on the full tide of fictitious prosperity, “ The Goodnatured Man” was creeping through the last rehearsals at Covent Garden. The success of the rival piece threw a damp upon author, manager, and actors. Goldsmith went about with a face full of anxiety ; Colman's hopes in the piece declined at each rehearsal; as to his fellow-proprietors, they declared they had never entertained any.
All the actors were discontented with their parts, excepting Ned Shuter, an excellent low comedian, and a pretty actress named Miss Walford ; both of whom the poor author ever afterward held in grateful recollection.
Johnson, Goldsmith's growling monitor and unsparing castigator in times of heedless levity, stood by him at present with that protecting kindness
with which he ever befriended him in time of need. He attended the rehearsals; he furnished the prologue according to promise ; he pish'd and pshaw'd at any doubts and fears on the part of the author, but gave him sound counsel, and held him up with a steadfast and manly hand. Inspirited by his sympathy, Goldsmith plucked up new heart, and arrayed himself for the grand trial with unusual care. Ever since his elevation into the polite world, he had improved in his wardrobe and toilet. Johnson could no longer accuse him of being shabby in his appearance; he rather went to the other extreme. On the present occasion there is an entry in the books of his tailor, Mr. William Filby, of a suit of “ Tyrian bloom, satin grain, and garter blue silk breeches, £8 2s. 7d.” Thus magnificently attired, he attended the theatre and watched the reception of the play, and the effect of each individual scene, with that vicissitude of feeling incident to his mercurial nature.
Johnson's prologue was solemn in itself, and being delivered by Brinsley in lugubrious tones suited to the ghost in “ Hamlet,” seemed to throw a portentous gloom on the audience. Some of the scenes met with great applause, and at such times Goldsmith was highly elated ; others went off coldly, or there were slight tokens of disapprobation, and then his spirits would sink. The fourth act saved the piece ; for Shuter, who had the main comic character of Croaker, was so varied and ludicrous in his execution of the scene in which he reads an incendiary letter, that he drew down thunders of applause. On his coming behind