1847 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Colman the Younger

Horace Smith, in "A Graybeard's Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance" New Monthly Magazine 79 (March 1847) 48.



Colman afforded another instance of his touchiness, by his furious onslaught on the reviewers, who, in noticing his poems, entitled My Night Gown and Slippers, had justly condemned the ribaldry which polluted the writer's wit, and referring to his mature years, had applied to him the reproach addressed to Falstaff, "How ill gray hairs become a fool and jester!" Here he had not only a bad, but an indefensible case, and his anger and vituperation of his judges only served to confirm the justice of their sentence. Strange! that the man who, as a writer of harmless farces had sheltered himself under the nom de guerre of Arthur Griffenhoof, should not only avow, but attempt to defend an objectionable volume of poems. Stranger still, that the same writer who had allowed himself so very broad a latitude in his own plays should, when he became dramatic licenser, exercise a squeamish fastidiousness in supervising the works of others, which could hardly have been surpassed by a Puritan Mawworm. As if for the purpose of illustrating Swift's position, that a nice man is a man of nasty ideas, his prurient delicacy discovered immodest meanings where none were dreamt of by the writers; the name of the deity, however reverently introduced, was instantly expunged; and all sorts of swearing, even where conventional usage sanctioned it as a venial expletive, was blotted out by the sanctimonious censor. Apropos to this rigour, I remember an anecdote of my friend Tom Dibdin, some one talking to him about his forthcoming play, asked him where the scene was laid. "At Rotter," was the reply.

"Rotter! where's that? I never heard of such a place."

"Nor I either," resumed the playwright, "it was Rotter-dam, but Colman has struck out the dam."