1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Colman the Younger

Francis William Blagdon, "Biographical Sketches: George Colman, Esq." Flowers of Literature for 1803 (1804) 40-42.



Among the rare instances which show that the endowments of nature, like the advantages of fortune, are sometimes hereditary, may be numbered the subject of the present biographical sketch. George Colman, the younger, is the son of a gentleman long admired for his literary talents and attainments, and whose rank as a man of genius will be immortalized its this country by a very spirited and elegant translation of Terence, and by the comedy of the Jealous Wife.

Our dramatist displayed tokens of promising talents very early in life, which talents his father showed himself disposed to cultivate with all the zeal of parental solicitude. He was, at a proper age, placed at Fountain's academy in Marybone; next, he was sent to Westminster school, and afterwards entered at Christ's Church Oxford. As he was distinguished for his vivacity, his father thought proper to remove him to King's College, Old Aberdeen; where the severer habits of studious discipline, and the general manners of the people seemed likely to exempt huts from the allurements that too often impede the course of juvenile ambition in the career of litera ture. The sprightliness of our hero was, however, not to be subdued by the rigour and formality that surrounded him, which, on the contrary, formed the fruitful theme of his humour and ridicule.

Having remained as long on this ungenial soil as might be expected from the gaiety of his temper, and having laid its a good store of classical knowledge, his thoughts naturally turned towards London, the region of diversified amusement, and the place in which his father, as the proprietor and manager of a theatre, commanded a principal source of entertainment, and the chief object of youthful expectation.

To London then he came, and he found the metropolis at amusing in reality as it appeared to the promise of youthful enthusiasm. His first serious attachment manifested taste and feeling. He married Miss Morris, a young lady belonging to his father's company of performers, and thereby deprived the public of one whose musical talents and good sense rendered her an ornament of the stage.

The consciousness of literary talents, and an easy access to the public, through the medium of his father's theatre, naturally directed his attention to the drama. His works have long passed the public ordeal, and their fate has been successfully decided. In his heroic pieces there are passages, that, in point of vigour, have never been excelled by any dramatic writer since the days of Shakespear. Indeed it is evident that our author has formed himself upon the model of our old dramatic writers, and particularly of Shakespear, with whose form of language and cast of sentiment he seems to be thoroughly conversant. In all his heroic pieces the expression bears little resemblance to the language of the present day, and exhibits a hardy strength that seems to be fashioned in an antique mould. The same observation is also applicable to the sentiments, which display no trace of modern imbecility.

When we consider the labour Mr. Coleman must have devoted to the old dramatists, in order so deeply to impress his mind with their cast of thought and mode of expression, as well as the time he must have employed in the composition of his various works, we have great reason to admire the readiness and fertility of his powers, as "he mingles with society," and takes his full share in all the fashionable amusements of the age.

That Mr. Colman possesses a great share of literary intrepidity, evident from his attack, a few years ago, on the whole body of newspaper writers, regardless of the nest of hornets he might thus draw upon his head. There are, certainly, too many venal, profligate and malignant scribblers, among the class alluded to; but he has made no distinction, and seems to have considered his father's Spatter, in the comedy of the English Merchant, as the representative of the whole fraternity. We doubt not, however, that he knows there are many gentlemen of worth and learning who contribute to the public prints, and whose productions might adorn any other province of literature.

.... As a manager, Mr. Colman is liberal, affable, and assiduous. He assumes no affected reserve or superiority, but is with all his performers familiar and friendly. His treasury may really be said to equal, in punctuality, whatever the city may boast in commercial precision. Candidates for theatrical honours obtain an easy access to him, and, if they deserve it, always receive a cheering encouragement. Though "he writes himself," yet he is exempt from the narrow jealousy too often prevalent in the literary character, and those who aspire at dramatic distinction are sure to meet at his theatre with counsel, assistance, and protection.

[Author's note: We have partly borrowed and abridged the preceding biographical sketch from the memoirs of Mr. Colman's life, written by a gentleman of considerable literary eminence, and published in No. XXII of The Monthly Mirror; a literary and historical review, which contains much information on a great variety of useful and entertaining subjects; and the editors of which are uniformly distinguished by the rare impartiality, the sure taste, the discriminating judgment, and the gentleman-like moderation of their criticisms.]