1794 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Colman

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 64 (August 1794) 772-73.



At Paddington, George Colman, esq. senior, the patentee of the theatre royal, Hay-market. A few hours before his death he was seized with violent spasms, which were succeeded by a fit of melancholy stupor, in which he drew his last breath. He was buried on the 24th, in the vault belonging to his family, at Kensington, with no absurd parade of pomp; only a few of his old friends attending, to pay the last tribute of respect to his memory. — It has been often asserted, that Mr. Colman was a natural son of the celebrated William Pulteney, afterwards Earl of Bath; but he was in reality the son of Thomas Colman, esq. British Resident at the Court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany at Pisa, whose wife was a sister of the Countess of Bath. Mr. George C. was born at Florence, about 1733, and placed at a very early age in Westminster-school, where he soon distinguished himself by the rapidity of composition, and the dawning splendour of his talents. In 1748 he removed to Christ Church College, Oxford, and there took the degree of M.A. During his progress at Westminster, and whilst at College, he formed those literary connexions with whom he remained in friendship till they severally dropped off the stage of his life. Lloyd, Churchill, Bonnel Thornton, and other celebrated wits of a former day, were among the intimate associates of Mr. Colman, and gave eclat to his name, by noticing him in several of their compositions. Even so early as the publication of the Rosciad, Churchill proposed Mr. Colman as a proper judge to decide on the pretensions of the several candidates for the chair of Roscius, and only complains that he might be thought too juvenile for so important a reward. Speaking of the proposed judges who were supported by the suffrages of the publick, he says,

For Colman many; but the peevish tongue
Of prudent Age found out that he was young.

When he came to London, to study the law, he was received with great kindness by Lord Bath, who seemed to mark him for intended patronage; and this circumstance gave rise to the suspicion that his Lordship had a natural bias in favour of young Colman. Mr. C. was admitted into the Society of Lincoln's-inn, and was called to the bar, where he practiced a very short time. At this period Lloyd addressed to him a very pleasant poem on the importance of his profession, and the seducements which he was liable to on account of his attachment to the Muses. It was not probable that a genius like that of Mr. Colman could have remained devoted to the dry study of the law, and therefore, when he renounced the bar, and attached himself to literary pursuits, and more particularly to the Drama, he did no more than what the publick had long expected. Lord Bath left him a very comfortable annuity, but less than was expected, owing, it is said, to some little difference that prevailed between them just before the death of that nobleman. About the year 1768, Mr. Beard, being incapable of bearing any longer the fatigues of a theatrical life, and wishing to retire from the management of Covent garden theatre, disposed of his property in that house to Messrs. Colman, Harris, Powell, and Rutherford. These gentlemen carried on the management together; but, in a short time, Mr. Colman appearing to aspire to a greater authority than the other patentees, excepting Mr. Powell, were disposed to grant; and after a severe literary contest, which was published; Mr. Colman sold his share, and retired. Soon after, Mr. Foote, then proprietor of the Hay-market theatre, having been induced to withdraw from the stage, for a handsome annuity, which he did not long enjoy; and on his death Mr. C. obtained the licence, and from that period conducted the theatre with great judgment and assiduity, occasionally supplying many dramas from his own fancy, as well as many pleasant translations from the French. A few years ago he was struck with a palsy, which nearly deprived him of the use of one side of his body; and in a short time thereafter he gave evident signs of mental derangement: in consequence of which, he was placed under proper management at Paddington, and the conduct of the theatre was vested in his son, who, besides many proofs of dramatic genius, in deserved esteem with the publick, has deported himself, as a manager, with judgement, liberality, and a spirit of industry, which is rarely to be found in men of his lively powers. To him, we are happy to add, the patent for the Hay-market theatre has since been allotted. Lord Salisbury, in referring this point to his Majesty's determination, mentioned Mr. Colman, as a person recommended by talents, conduct, and his relation to the deceased manager, as most eligible to the situation; and his Majesty was graciously pleased to sanction the nomination. — The late Mr. Colman was one of the chief writers in The Connoisseur, and has produced a variety of miscellaneous poems and papers, which he collected in three volumes a year or two before what may be termed his intellectual demise. As a scholar, he holds a very respectable rank, as may be seen in his translations of Horace's Art of Poetry, and of the comedies of Terence. The readers of almost every periodical publication of note, and more especially of The St. James's Chronicle, have been indebted to him for much information and amusement. His manners were as pleasing as his talents were respectable. The following is a list of the several works for which the British drama is indebted to Mr. Colman, with the dates of the times when they respectively appeared: 1. Polly Honeycomb, 1760; 2. The Jealous Wife, 1761; 3. The Musical Lady, 1762; 4. Philaster, altered, 1763; 5. The Deuce is in Him, 1763; 6. A Midsummer Night's Dream, altered, 1763; 7. A Fairy Tale, 1764; 8. The Clandestine Marriage, 1766; 9. The English Merchant, 1767; 10. King Lear, altered, 1768; 11. The Oxonian in Town, 1769; 12. Man and Wife, 1769; 13. The Portrait, 1770; 14. The Fairy Prince, 1771; 15. Comus, altered, 1772; 16. Achilles in Petticoats, altered, 1774; 17. The Man of Business, 1774; 18. Epicene, or, the Silent Woman, altered, 1776; 19. The Spleen, or, Islington Sap, 1776; 20. Occasional Prelude, 1776; 21. New Brooms, 1776; 22. The Spanish Barber, 1777; 23. The Female Chevalier, altered, 1778; 24. Bunduca, altered, 1778; 25. The Suicide, 1778; 26. The Separate Maintenance, 1779; 27. The Manager in Distress, a Prelude, 1780.