1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Colman

Isaac Reed, in Biographia Dramatica; or, A Companion to the Playhouse (1782) 1:93-94.



GEORGE COLMAN. This gentleman is son of Thomas Colman, Esq; resident at the court of the great duke of Tuscany at Pisa, by a sister of the late countess of Bath. It has been said that he was born abroad, where also his father died 8th April, 1733. He received his education at Westminster-school, from whence he removed to Christ-Church College, Oxford, and there took the degree of M.A. March 18, 1758. He afterwards went to Lincolns-Inn, in order to study the law, and was called to the bar, at which he practised a very short time. On the death of the earl of Bath he came into possession of a considerable annuity, left him by that nobleman, which was augmented on the death of general Pulteney. It may be presumed, that his professional pursuits were rather in compliance with the wishes of his friends than from any inclination to such kind of studies. He therefore soon afterwards entirely quitted the law, and devoted his attention to dramatick writing. In the year 1768 he became one of the joint patentees of Covent Garden theatre, and continued in the management thereof until 1775, when he sold his share and interest in it to his partners. On Mr. Foot's intention of relieving himself from the fatigues of management, Mr. Colman became proprietor of the Haymarket theatre in 1777, in which post he has ever since continued. His genius leads him to works of humour, a considerable fund of which appears in some of the Essays which he has written in the course of a periodical paper, called the Connoisseur. He afterwards however paid his court solely to the Comic Muse, by whose inspiration he has produced the following Dramas, viz.

1. Polly Honeycomb. D. N. 1760. 8vo.
2. The Jealous Wife. C. 1761. 8vo.
3. The Musical Lady. F. 1762. 8vo.
4. Philaster. T. altered, 1763. 8vo.
5. The Deuce is in him. F. 1763. 8vo.
6. A Midsummer's Night Dream. altered, 1763. 8vo.
7. A Fairy Tale. 1764. 8vo.
8. The Clandestine Marriage. C. 1766. 8vo.
9. The English Merchant. C. 1767. 8vo.
10. King Lear. T. altered, 1768. 8vo.
11. The Oxonian in Town. C. 1769. 8vo.
12. Man and Wife. C. 1769. 8vo.
13. The Portrait. B. 1770. 8vo.
14. The Fairy Prince. M. 1771. 8vo.
15. Comus. M. altered. 1772. 8vo.
16. Achilles in Petticoats. O. altered, 1774. 8vo.
17. The Man of Business. C. 1774. 8vo.
18. Epicoene; or, The Silent Woman. C. altered, 1776. 8vo.
19. The Spleen; or, Islington Spa. C. P. 1776.
20. Occasional Prelude. 1776. 8vo.
21. New Brooms. O. P. 1776. 8vo.
22. The Spanish Barber. C. 1777. N. P.
23. The Female Chevalier. C. altered, 1778. N. P.
24. Bonduca. T. altered, 1778. 8vo.
25. The Suicide. C. 1778. N. P.
26. The Separate Maintenance. C. 1779. N. P.
27. The Manager in Distress. Prel. 8vo. 1780.
Also a translation of the Comedies of Terence. 4to. 1765.

These Pieces have considerable merit. In his Petite Pieces the plots are simple, and no great matter of incident introduced into them; yet they contain strong character, and are aimed at the ridiculing of fashionable and prevailing follies, which ought to be made essential points of consideration in every production of the sock. His more regular Comedies have the same merit with the others as to the preservation of character, which reflect honour on the author, and afford us the prospect of an ample contribution from this quarter to the variety of our dramatic entertainments of this kind. This gentleman has been also supposed to be the author of some Essays, under the title of the "Genius," published in the St. James's Evening Post.