1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Colman the Younger

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 1:108-19.



GEORGE COLMAN ESQ. the present Proprietor of the little Theatre in the Haymarket, and son of the late proprietor, a celebrated character in the literary world of the same name, who died in 1794. This gentleman was originally intended for the Bar, but early in life resigned Coke and Littleton in favour of the Muses. When his father was seized with a malady which rendered him incapable of superintending the theatre, Mr. Colman evinced a most sincere and commendable filial affection, by the great attention he paid to him and the interests of his theatre. On the death of his father his Majesty was pleased to transfer the patent to him. His early productions, Turk and no Turk, and Two to One, discover considerable genius though they are not destitute of puerilities. But his comic opera of Inkle and Yarico at once raised the reputation of its author. Mr. Colman next brought out the comedy of Ways and Means, the prologue to which incurred the displeasure of the critics of the day, against whom it was particularly pointed. He is also, besides some occasional pieces, author of The Battle of Hexam, The Surrender of Calais, The Mountaineers, and The Iron Chest. For the latter of these performances, we cannot help thinking Mr. Colman in some measure amenable to the public on account of its immorality of tendency. The construction of the plot likewise appears highly unnatural. It is founded on a very unpleasant and absurd story, extracted without improvement from Godwin's Adventures of Caleb Williams. During the first season of its representation at Drury Lane Theatre, the town puzzled between its approbation of what was found of value in the Iron Chest, and its just dislike of its other contents, alternately condemned and reprieved it. When it was printed the resentful author, in a long and vengeful preface, ascribed its indifferent success to Mr. Kemble's manner of performing the principal character: which produced a pamphlet by a gentleman of the Temple, in Defence of Mr. Kemble, and particularly severe against Mr. Colman. The piece experienced a successful revival at the author's own theatre in the subsequent season. In the spring of the year 1797, Mr. Colman published My Night Gown and Slippers, a thin quarto pamphlet, consisting of some poetic trifles, which (as is not unfrequently the case with his writings) abound with flippancy and quaintness rather than wit. And in the summer of that year he produced at his own Theatre The Heir at Law, a Comedy, which was favourably received.