1773 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Oliver Goldsmith

S. J. [not Samuel Johnson], "Verses from Doctor Johnson to Doctor Goldsmith, occasioned by the new Comedy, intitled, The Mistakes of a Night" London Chronicle (1 April 1773) 313.



No wonder the Via Comica is scarce,
Bad taste had banish'd Comedy and Farce,
Fetter'd the Drama's sons, their genius dampt
Their native, manly, sterling humour crampt;
No flights permitted, as in days of yore,
'Twas dangerous alike to sink or soar:
With some pert Fools who call'd themselves THE TOWN,
WIT was a PEDANT, Humour was a Clown;
Nor one nor t' other must a Play-wright show,
Wit was too HIGH, and Humour was too low:
The Playhouse Bard, who wanted cloaths and fuel,
Must bring a piece harmless as water-gruel,
In order to secure his Houses full,
Be chastely moral, and genteelly dull,
And if he hoped to live his nine Nights out
Must give no Bill-of-Rights-man cause to pout;
To sentimental Dialogue must keep
Whilst the tame Audience yawn, admire and weep.—
Too much of Sentiment, in Humour's stead;
Too many tears the comic Muse hath shed,
Old saws too long have charm'd the slumb'ring Pit,
And musty proverbs in default of Wit.—

But now with joy I tell the Drama's friends,
Now a new progeny from Heaven descends;
THALIA long, too long from Britain stray'd,
Appears again in all her charms array'd;
Say not, that Wit and Humour now are scarce;
Say not, we've no new COMEDY or Farce;
The arduous task a modern Bard has done,
Restoring Farce and COMEDY in one.