HE occupied one room in the farmhouse—the guest-chamber it had probably been called when the farm was young. It was a pretty spacious apartment up one pair of stairs and to the right of the landing, and from its window there was a pleasing prospect of a paddock with wheat-fields beyond; there was a drop in the landscape in the direction of Hendon, and here was a little wood. The farmer's name was Selby, a married man with a son of sixteen, and younger children, and the farmhouse was the nearest building to the sixth milestone on the Edgware Road in the year 1771.

He was invariably alluded to as “The Gentleman,” and the name did very well for him, situated as he was in the country; in the town and among his acquaintances it would serve badly as a means of identification. He was never referred to as “The Gentleman” of his circle. In his room in the farmhouse there was his bed and table—a large table littered with books; it took two chaises to carry his books hither from his rooms in the Temple. Here he sat and wrote the greater part of the day, and when he was very busy he would scarcely be able to touch the meals which were sent up to him from the kitchen. But he was by no means that dignified type of the man of letters who would shrink from fellowship with the farmer or his family. He would frequently come down his stairs into the kitchen and stand with his back to the fire, conversing with the housewife, and offering her his sympathy when she had made him aware of the fact that the privilege of being the wife of a substantial farmer, though undoubtedly fully recognised by the world, carried many troubles in its train, not only in connection with the vicissitudes of churning, but in regard to the feeding of the calves, which no man could attend to properly, and the making of the damson and cowslip wine. He told her that the best maker of cowslip wine whom he had ever met was a Mrs. Primrose; her husband had at one time occupied the Vicarage of Wakefield—he wondered if Mrs. Selby had ever heard of her. Mrs. Selby's knowledge did not go so far, but she thought that Mrs. Primrose's recipe must be a good one indeed if it brought forth better results than her own; and the gentleman said that although he had never tasted Mrs. Selby's he would still have no hesitation in backing it for flavour, body, headiness, and all other qualities associated with the distillation of the cowslip, against the Primrose brand.

And then he would stare at the gammon in the rafter and mutter some words, burst into a roar of laughter, and stumble upstairs to his writing, leaving the good woman to thank Heaven that she was the wife of a substantial farmer and not of an unsubstantial gentleman of letters, who could not carry on a simple conversation without having some queer thought fly across his brain for all the world like one of the swallows on the water at Hendon, only maybe a deal harder to catch. She knew that the gentleman had hurried to his paper and ink to complete the capture of that fleet-flitting thought which had come to him when he had cast his eyes toward the gammon, though how an idea worth putting on paper—after a few muttered words and a laugh—could lurk about a common piece of hog's-flesh was a mystery to her.

And then upon occasions the gentleman would take a walk abroad; the farmer's son had more than once come upon him strolling about the fields with his hands in his pockets and his head bent toward the ground, still muttering fitfully and occasionally giving a laugh that made the grey pad in the paddock look up slowly, still munching the grass. Now and again he paid a visit to his friend Mr. Hugh Boyd at the village of Kenton, and once he returned late at night from such a visit, without his shoes. He had left them in a quagmire, he said, and it was only with a struggle that he saved himself from being engulfed as well. That was the story of his shoes which young Selby remembered when he was no longer young. And there was another story which he remembered, but it related to his slippers. The fact was that the gentleman had acquired the bad habit of reading in bed, and the table on which his candlestick stood being several feet away from his pillow, he saved himself the trouble of rising to extinguish it by flinging a slipper at it. In the morning the overturned candle was usually found side by side on the floor with an unaccountably greasy slipper. This method of discharging an important domestic duty differed considerably from Johnson's way of compassing the same end. Johnson, being extremely short-sighted, was compelled to hold the candle close to the book when reading in bed, so that he had no need to use his slipper as an extinguisher. No, but he found his pillow very handy for this purpose. When he had finished his reading he threw away the book and went asleep with his candle under his pillow.

The gentleman at the farm went about a good deal in his slippers, and with his shirt loose at the collar—the latter must have been but one of his very customary negligences, or Sir Joshua Reynolds would not have painted him thus. Doubtless the painter had for long recognised the interpretative value of this loosened collar above that of the velvet and silk raiment in which the man sometimes appeared before the wondering eyes of his friends.

But if the painter had never had an opportunity of studying the picturesqueness of his negligence, he had more than one chance of doing so within the farmhouse.

Young Selby recollected that upon at least one occasion Sir Joshua, his friend Sir William Chambers, and Dr. Johnson had paid a visit to the gentleman who lodged at the farm. He remembered that for that reception of so distinguished a company the farmhouse parlour had been opened and tea provided. There must have been a good deal of pleasant talk between the gentleman and his friends at this time, and probably young Selby heard an astonishingly loud laugh coming from the enormous visitor with the brown coat and the worsted stockings, as the gentleman endeavoured to tell his guests something of the strange scenes which he was introducing in the comedy he was writing in that room upstairs. It was then a comedy without a name, but young Selby heard that it was produced the following year in London and that it was called She Stoops to Conquer.

This was the second year that the gentleman had spent at the farm. The previous summer he had been engaged on another work which was certainly as comical as the comedy. It was called Animated Nature, and it comprised some of the most charmingly narrated errors in Natural History ever offered to the public, and the public have always been delighted to read pages of fiction if it is only called “Natural History.” This is one of the best-established facts in the history of the race. After all, Animated Nature was true to half its title: every page was animated.

It was while he was so engaged, with one eye on Buffon and another on his MS., that he found Farmer Selby very useful to him. Farmer Selby knew a great deal about animals—the treatment of horses under various conditions, and the way to make pigs pay; he had probably his theories respecting the profit to be derived from keeping sheep, and how to feed oxen that are kept for the plough. All such knowledge he must have placed at the disposal of the author, though the farmer was possibly too careless an observer of the simple incidents of the fields to be able to verify Buffon's statement, reproduced in Animated Nature, to the effect that cows shed their horns every two years; he was probably also too deficient in the spirit in which a poet sets about the work of compilation to be able to assent to the belief that a great future was in store for the zebra when it should become tame and perform the ordinary duties of a horse. But if the author was somewhat discouraged in his speculations now and again by Farmer Selby, he did not allow his fancy as a naturalist to be wholly repressed. He had heard a story of an ostrich being ridden horsewise in some regions, and of long journeys being accomplished in this way in incredibly short spaces of time, and forthwith his imagination enabled him to see the day when this bird would become as amenable to discipline as the barn-door fowl, though discharging the tasks of a horse, carrying its rider across England with the speed of a racer!

It was while he was engaged on this pleasant work of fancy and imagination that Mr. Boswell paid him a visit, bringing with him as a witness Mr. Mickle, the translator of the Lusiad. “The Gentleman” had gone away for the day, Mrs. Selby explained; but she did not know Mr. Boswell. She could not prevent him from satisfying his curiosity in respect of Dr. Goldsmith. He went upstairs to his room, and he was fully satisfied. He found the walls all scrawled over with outline drawings of quite a number of animals. Having thus satisfied himself that the author of Animated Nature was working in a thoroughly conscientious manner he came away. He records the incident himself, but he does not say whether or not he was able to recognise any of the animals from their pictures.

But now it was a professed and not an unconscious comedy that occupied Dr. Goldsmith. Whatever disappointment he may have felt at the indifferent success of the first performance of The Good-Natured Man—and he undoubtedly felt some—had been amply redeemed by the money which accrued to him from the “author's rights” and the sale of the play; and he had only awaited a little encouragement from the managers to enable him to begin another comedy. But the managers were not encouraging, and he was found by his friends one day to be full of a scheme for the building of a new theatre for the production of new plays, in order that the existing managers might not be able to carry on their tyranny any longer. Such a scheme has been revived every decade since Goldsmith's time, but never with the least success. Johnson, whose sound sense was rarely at fault, laughed at the poet's project for bringing down the mighty from their seats, upon which Goldsmith cried: “Ay, sir, this matter may be nothing to you who can now shelter yourself behind the corner of your pension,” and he doubtless went on to describe the condition of the victims of the tyranny of which he complained; but it is questionable if his doing so effected more than to turn Johnson's laughter into another and a wider channel.

But Goldsmith spoke feelingly. He was certainly one of the ablest writers of the day, but no pension was ever offered to him, though on every hand bounties were freely bestowed on the most indifferent and least deserving of authors—men whose names were forgotten before the end of the century, and during the lifetime of the men themselves remembered only by the pay clerk to the almoner.

Of course, the scheme for bringing the managers to their senses never reached a point of serious consideration; and forthwith Goldsmith began to illustrate, for the benefit of posterity, the depths to which the stupidity of the manager of a play-house can occasionally fall. The public have always had abundant proofs of the managers' stupidity afforded them in the form of the plays which they produce; but the history of the production of the most brilliant comedy of the eighteenth century is practically unique; for it is the history of the stupidity of a manager doing his best to bring about the failure of a play which he was producing at his own theatre. He had predicted the failure of the piece, and it must strike most people that the manager of a theatre who produces for a failure will be as successful in compassing his end as a jockey who rides for a fall. Colman believed that he was in the fortunate position of those prophets who had the realisation of their predictions in their own hands. He was mistaken in this particular case. Although he was justified on general principles in assuming his possession of this power, yet he had made no allowance for the freaks of genius. He was frustrated in his amiable designs by this incalculable force—this power which he had treated as a quantité négligeable. A man who has been accustomed all his life to count only on simple ability in the people about him, is, on suddenly being brought face to face with genius, like an astronomer who makes out his tables of a new object on the assumption that it is a fixed star, when all the time it is a comet, upsetting by its erratic course all his calculations, and demanding to be reckoned with from a standpoint that applies to itself alone.

The stars of Colman's theatrical firmament were such as might safely be counted on; but Goldsmith's genius was not of this order. The manager's stupidity lay in his blunt refusal to recognise a work of genius when it was brought to him by a man of genius.

It has been said that the central idea of the plot of She Stoops to Conquer was suggested by an incident that came under Goldsmith's notice before he left Ireland. However this may be, it cannot be denied that the playing of the practical joke of Tony Lumpkin upon the two travellers is “very Irish.” It would take a respectable place in the list of practical jokes of the eighteenth century played in Ireland. In that island a collector of incidents for a comedy during the past two centuries would require to travel with a fat notebook—so would the collector of incidents for a tragedy. Goldsmith's task may not have been to invent the central idea, but to accomplish the much more difficult duty of making that incident seem plausible, surrounding it with convincing scenery and working it out by the aid of the only characters by which it could be worked out with a semblance of being natural. This was a task which genius only could fulfil. The room whose walls bore ample testimony to its occupant's sense of the comedy of a writer's life, witnessed the supreme achievement in the “animated nature” of She Stoops to Conquer. It contains the two chief essentials to a true comedy—animation and nature.

It is certain that the play was constructed and written by Goldsmith without an adviser. He was possibly shrewd enough to know that if he were to take counsel with any of his friends—Garrick, Johnson, Reynolds, or Colman—he would not be able to write the play which he had a mind to write. The artificial comedy had a vogue that year, and though it may have been laughed at in private by people of judgment, yet few of those within the literary circle of which Johnson was the acknowledged centre, would have had the courage to advise a poet writing a piece in hopes of making some money, to start upon a plot as farcical as Nature herself. At that period of elegance in art everything that was natural was pronounced vulgar. Shakespeare himself had to be made artificial before he could be played by Garrick. Goldsmith must have known that his play would be called vulgar, and that its chances of being accepted and produced by either of the managers in London would be doubtful; but, all the same, he wrote the piece in accordance with his own personal views, and many a time during the next two years he must have felt that he was a fool for doing so.

However this may be, the play was finished some time in the summer of 1771; and on September 7th the author was back at his rooms in the Temple and writing to his friend Bennet Langton, whom he had promised to visit at his place in Lincolnshire. “I have been almost wholly in the country at a farmer's house, quite alone, trying to write a comedy. It is now finished, but when or how it will be acted, or whether it will be acted at all, are questions I cannot resolve,” he told Langton.


The misgivings which he had at this time were well founded. He considered that the fact of his having obtained from Colman a promise to read any play that he might write constituted an obligation on his part to submit this piece to Colman rather than to Garrick. He accordingly placed it in Colman's hands; but it is impossible to say if the work of elaborate revision which Goldsmith began in the spring of 1772 was due to the comments made by this manager on the first draft or to the author's reconsideration of his work as a whole. But the amended version was certainly in Colman's hands in the summer of this year (1772). The likelihood is that Colman would have refused point-blank to have anything to do with the comedy after he had read the first draft had it not been that just at this time Goldsmith's reputation was increased to a remarkable extent by the publication of his Histories. It would be difficult to believe how this could be, but, as usual, we are indebted to Mr. Boswell for what information we have on this point. Boswell had been for some time out of London, and on returning he expressed his amazement at the celebrity which Goldsmith had attained. “Sir,” he cried to Johnson, “Goldsmith has acquired more fame than all the officers last war who were not generals!”

“Why, sir,” said Johnson, “you will find ten thousand fit to do what they did before you find one who does what Goldsmith has done”—a bit of dialogue that reminds one of the reply of the avaricious prima donna when the Emperor refused to accede to her terms on the plea that were he to pay her her price she would be receiving more than any of his marshals. “Eh bien, mon sire. Let your marshals sing to you.”

At any rate, Colman got the play—and kept it. He would give the author no straightforward opinion as to its prospects in his hands. He refused to say when he would produce it—nay, he declined to promise that he would produce it at all. Goldsmith was thus left in torment for month after month, and the effect of the treatment that he received was to bring on an illness, and the effect of his illness was to sink him to a depth of despondency that even Goldsmith had never before sounded. The story told by Cooke of his coming upon the unhappy man in a coffeehouse, and of the latter's attempt to give him some of the details of the plot of the comedy, speaks for itself. “I shook my head,” wrote Cooke, “and said that I was afraid the audience, under their then sentimental impressions, would think it too broad and farcical for comedy.” This was poor comfort for the author; but after a pause he shook the man by the hand, saying piteously: “I am much obliged to you, my dear friend, for the candour of your opinion, but it is all I can do; for alas! I find that my genius, if ever I had any, has of late totally deserted me.”

This exclamation is the most piteous that ever came from a man of genius; and there can be no doubt of the sincerity of its utterance, for it was during these miserable months that he began a new novel, but found himself unable to get further than a few chapters. And all this time, when, in order to recover his health, he should have had no worries of a lesser nature, he was being harassed by the trivial cares of a poor, generous man's life—those mosquito vexations which, accumulating, become more intolerable than a great calamity.

He had once had great hopes of good resulting from Colman's taking up the management of Covent Garden, and had written congratulations to him within the first week of his entering into possession of the theatre. A very different letter he had now to write to the same man. Colman had endeavoured to evade the responsibility of giving him a direct answer about the play. He clearly meant that the onus of refusing it should lie at the door of some one else.

“Dear Sir,” wrote the author in January, 1773, “I entreat you'll release me from that state of suspense in which I have been kept for a long time. Whatever objections you have made or shall make to my play I will endeavour to remove and not argue about them. To bring in any new judges either of its merits or faults I can never submit to. Upon a former occasion when my other play was before Mr. Garrick he offered to bring me before Mr. Whitehead's tribunal, but I refused the proposal with indignation. I hope I shall not experience as hard treatment from you as from him.... For God's sake take the play and let us make the best of it, and let me have the same measure at least which you have given as bad plays as mine.”

Upon receiving this letter, Colman at once returned to him the manuscript of the play, and on the author's unfolding it he found that on the back of almost every page, on the blank space reserved for the prompter's hieroglyphs, some sneering criticism was scrawled. To emphasise this insult Colman had enclosed a letter to the effect that if the author was still unconvinced that the piece would be a failure, he, Colman, would produce it.

Immediately on receipt of this contemptible effort at contempt Goldsmith packed up the play and sent it to Garrick at Drury Lane. That same evening, however, he met Johnson and told him what he had done; and Johnson, whose judgment on the practical side of authorship was rarely at fault, assured him that he had done wrong and that he must get the manuscript back without delay, and submit to Colman's sneers for the sake of having the comedy produced. Upon Johnson's promising to visit Colman, and to urge upon him the claims of Goldsmith to his consideration, the distracted author wrote to Drury Lane:

“Upon more mature deliberation and the advice of a sensible friend, I begin to think it indelicate in me to throw upon you the odium of confirming Mr. Colman's sentence. I therefore request that you will send my play by my servant back; for having been assured of having it acted at the other house, though I confess yours in every respect more to my wish, yet it would be folly in me to forgo an advantage which lies in my power of appealing from Mr. Colman's opinion to the judgment of the town.”

Goldsmith got back the play, and Johnson explained to him, as he did some years later to Reynolds, that the solicitations which he had made to Colman to put it in rehearsal without delay amounted almost to force. At any rate, the play was announced and the parts distributed to the excellent company which Colman controlled. It was soon proved that he controlled some members of this company only too well. The spirit in, which he set about the discharge of his duties as a manager was apparent to every one during the earliest rehearsals. Johnson, writing to an American correspondent, mentioned that Colman made no secret of his belief that the play would be a failure. Far from it. He seems to have taken the most extraordinary trouble to spread his belief far and wide; and when a manager adopts such a course, what chance, one may ask, has the play? What chance, the players could not but ask, have the players?

This was possibly the only occasion in the history of the English drama on which such questions could be asked. If managers have a fault at all—a question which is not yet ripe for discussion—it has never been in the direction of depreciating a play which they are about to produce—that is, of course, outside the author's immediate circle. It is only when the play has failed that they sometimes allow that it was a bad one, and incapable of being saved even by the fine acting of the company and the sumptuous mounting.

But Colman controlled his company all too well, and after a day or two it was announced that the leading lady, the accomplished Mrs. Abington, had retired from the part of Miss Hardcastle; that Smith, known as Gentleman Smith, had refused to play Young Marlow; and that Woodward, the most popular comedian in the company, had thrown up the part of Tony Lumpkin.

Here, in one day, it seemed that Colman had achieved his aims, and the piece would have to be withdrawn by the author. This was undoubtedly the managerial view of the situation which had been precipitated by the manager, and it was shared by those of the author's friends who understood his character as indifferently as did Colman. They must all have been somewhat amazed when the author quietly accepted the situation and affirmed that he would rather that his play were damned by bad players than merely saved by good acting. One of the company who had the sense to perceive the merits of the piece, Shuter, the comedian, who was cast for the part of old Hardcastle, advised Goldsmith to give Lewes, the harlequin, the part of Young Marlow; Quick, a great favourite with the public, was to act Tony Lumpkin; and, after a considerable amount of wrangling, Mrs. Bulkley, lately Miss Wilford, who had been the Miss Richland of The Good-Natured Man, accepted the part which the capricious Mrs. Abington resigned.

Another start was made with the rehearsals of the piece, and further efforts were made by Colman to bring about the catastrophe which he had predicted. He refused to let a single scene be painted for the production, or to supply a single new dress; his ground being that the money spent in this way would be thrown away, for the audience would never allow the piece to proceed beyond the second act.

But happily Dr. Johnson had his reputation as a prophet at stake as well as Colman, and he was singularly well equipped by Nature for enforcing his views on any subject. He could not see anything of what was going on upon the stage; but his laugh at the succession of humorous things spoken by the company must have had an inspiring effect upon every one, except Colman. Johnson's laugh was the strongest expression of appreciation of humour of which the century has a record. It was epic. To say that Johnson's laugh at the rehearsals of She Stoops to Conquer saved the piece would perhaps be going too far. But can any one question its value as a counteracting agent to Colman's depressing influence on the stage? Johnson was the only man in England who could make Colman (and every one else) tremble, and his laugh had the same effect upon the building in which it was delivered. It was the Sirocco against a wet blanket. When one thinks of the feeling of awe which was inspired by the name of Dr. Johnson, not only during the last forty years of the eighteenth century, but well into the nineteenth, one begins to appreciate the value of his vehement expression of satisfaction upon the people on the stage. Goldsmith dedicated his play to Johnson, and assuredly the compliment was well earned. Johnson it was who compelled Colman to produce the piece, and Johnson it was who encouraged the company to do their best for it, in spite of the fact that they were all aware that their doing their best for it would be resented by their manager.

Reynolds also, another valuable friend to the author, sacrificed several of his busiest hours in order to attend the rehearsals. His sister's sacrifices to the same end were perhaps not quite so impressive, nor were those made by that ingenious “country gentleman,” Mr. Cradock, referred to by Walpole. Miss Horneck, his beautiful “Jessamy Bride,” and her sister, lately married to Mr. Bunbury, bore testimony to the strength of their friendship for the poet, by accompanying him daily to the theatre.

But, after all, these good friends had not many opportunities of showing their regard for him in the same way; for the play must have had singularly few rehearsals. Scarcely a month elapsed between the date of Colman's receiving the manuscript on its being returned by Garrick and the production of the piece. It is doubtful if more than ten rehearsals took place after the parts were recast. If the manager kept the author in suspense for eighteen months respecting the fate of his play, he endeavoured to make up for his dilatoriness now. It was announced for Monday, March 15th, and, according to Northcote, it was only on the morning of that day that the vexed question of what the title should be was settled. For some time the author and his friends had been talking the matter over. “We are all in labour for a name to Goldy's play,” wrote Johnson. The Mistakes of a Night, The Old House a New Inn, and The Belle's Stratagem were suggested in turn. It was Goldsmith himself who gave it the title under which it was produced.

On the afternoon of this day, March 15th, the author was the guest at a dinner-party organised in his honour. It is easy to picture this particular function. The truth was that Colman's behaviour had broken the spirit not only of the author, but of the majority of his friends as well. They would all make an effort to cheer up poor Goldsmith; but every one knows how cheerless a function is one that is organised with such charitable intentions. It is not necessary that one should have been in a court of law watching the face of the prisoner in the dock when the jury have retired to consider their verdict in order to appreciate the feelings of Goldsmith when his friends made their attempt to cheer him up. The last straw added on to the cheerlessness of the banquet was surely to be found in the accident that every one wore black! The King of Sardinia had died a short time before, and the Court had ordered mourning to be worn for some weeks for this potentate. Johnson was very nearly outraging propriety by appearing in coloured raiment, but George Steevens, who called for him to go to the dinner, was fortunately in time to prevent such a breach of etiquette. “I would not for ten pounds have seemed so retrograde to any general observance,” cried Johnson in offering his thanks to his benefactor. Happily the proprieties were saved; but what must have been the effect of the appearance of these gentlemen in black upon the person whom they meant to cheer up!

Reynolds told his pupil, Northcote, what effect these resources of gaiety had upon Goldsmith. His mouth became so parched that he could neither eat nor drink, nor could he so much as speak in acknowledgment of the well-meant act of his friends. When the party after this entertainment set out for the theatre they must have suggested, all being in black, a more sombre procession than one is accustomed to imagine when conjuring up a picture of an eighteenth-century theatre party.

And Goldsmith was missing!

Unfortunately Boswell was not present, or we should not be left in doubt as to how it happened that no one thought of taking charge of Goldsmith. But no one seemed to think of him, and so his disappearance was never noticed. His friends arrived at the theatre and found their places, Johnson in the front row of the boxes; and the curtain was rung up, and Goldsmith was forgotten under the influence of that comedy which constitutes his greatest claim to be remembered by theatre-goers of to-day.

He was found by an acquaintance a couple of hours later wandering in the Mall of St. James's Park, and was only persuaded to go to the theatre by its being represented to him that his services might be required should it be found necessary to alter something at the last moment.

Now, among the members of that distinguished audience there was a man named Cumberland. He was the author of The West Indian and several other plays, and he was regarded as one of the leaders of the sentimental school, the demise of which was satirised in the prologue to this very play which was being performed. Cumberland was a man who could never see a particle of good in anything that was written by another. It was a standing entertainment with Garrick to “draw him on” by suggesting that some one had written a good scene in a play, or was about to produce an interesting book. In a moment Cumberland was up, protesting against the assumption that the play or the book could be worth anything. So wide a reputation had he for decrying every other author that when Sheridan produced The Critic; or, the Tragedy Rehearsed, his portrait was immediately recognised in Sir Fretful Plagiary.

What must have been the feelings of this man when, from the first, the play, which he had come to wreck, was received by the whole house with uproarious applause? Well, we don't know what he felt like, but we know what he looked like. One of the newspapers described him as “looking glum,” and another contained a rhymed epigram describing him as weeping. Goldsmith entered the theatre by the stage door at the beginning of the fifth act, where Tony Lumpkin and his mother appear close to their own house, and the former pretends that the chaise has broken down on Crackscull Common. He had no sooner got into the “wings” than he heard a hiss. “What's that, sir?” he whispered to Colman, who was beside him. “Psha, sir! what signifies a squib when we have been sitting on a barrel of gunpowder all night?” was the reply. The story is well known; and its accuracy has never been im peached. And the next day it was well known that that solitary hiss came from Cumberland, the opinion that it was due to the malevolence of Macpherson, whose pretensions to the discovery of Ossian were exposed by Johnson, being discredited.

But the effect of Colman's brutality and falsehood into the bargain had not a chance of lasting long. The hiss was received with cries of “Turn him out!” and, with an addition to the tumultuous applause of all the house, Goldsmith must have been made aware in another instant of the fact that he had written the best comedy of the day and that Colman had lied to him. From the first there had been no question of sitting on a barrel of gunpowder. Such applause could never greet the last act of a play the first four acts of which had been doubtful. He must have felt that at last he had conquered—that he had by one more achievement proved to his own satisfaction—and he was hard to satisfy—that those friends of his who had attributed genius to him had not been mistaken; that those who, like Johnson and Percy and Reynolds, had believed in him before he had written the work that made him famous, had not been misled.

The next day all London was talking of She Stoops to Conquer and of Colman. Horace Walpole, who detested Goldsmith, and who found when he went to see the play that it was deplorably vulgar, mentioned in a letter which he wrote to Lady Ossory on the morning after the production that it had “succeeded prodigiously,” and the newspapers were full of epigrams at the expense of the manager. If Colman had had the sense to keep to himself his forebodings of the failure of the piece, he would not have left himself open to these attacks; but, as has been said, he took as much pains to decry the coming production as he usually did to “puff” other pieces. It would seem that every one had for several days been talking about nothing else save the coming failure of Dr. Goldsmith's comedy. Only on this assumption can one now understand the poignancy of the “squibs”—some of them partook largely of the character of his own barrel of gunpowder—levelled against Colman. He must have been quite amazed at the clamour that arose against him; it became too much for his delicate skin, and he fled to Bath to get out of the way of the scurrilous humourists who were making him a target for their pop-guns. But even at Bath he failed to find a refuge. Writing to Mrs. Thrale, Johnson said: “Colman is so distressed with abuse that he has solicited Goldsmith to take him off the rack of the newspapers.”

It was characteristic of Goldsmith that he should do all that was asked of him and that he should make no attempt, either in public or in private, to exult in his triumph over the manager. The only reference which he made to his sufferings while Colman was keeping him on the rack was in a letter which he wrote to his friend Cradock, who had written an epilogue for the play, to explain how it was that this epilogue was not used at the first representation. After saying simply, “The play has met with a success beyond your expectation or mine,” he makes his explanation, and concludes thus: “Such is the history of my stage adventure, and which I have at last done with. I cannot help saying that I am very sick of the stage, and though I believe I shall get three tolerable benefits, yet I shall on the whole be a loser, even in a pecuniary light; my ease and comfort I certainly lost while it was in agitation.”

Goldsmith showed that he bore no grudge against Colman; but the English stage should bear him a grudge for his treatment of one of the few authors of real genius who have contributed to it for the benefit of posterity. If She Stoops to Conquer had been produced when it first came into the manager's hands, Goldsmith would certainly not have written the words just quoted. What would have been the result of his accepting the encouragement of its production it is, of course, impossible to tell; but it is not going too far to assume that the genius which gave the world The Good-Natured Man and She Stoops to Conquer would have been equal to the task of writing a third comedy equal in merit to either of these. Yes, posterity owes Colman a grudge.

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