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that the knowledge has done me; so, if you never teach him his A, B, C, at all, it don't much signify." Within an hour after this, poor Bonnell Thornton breath'd his last. This is dreadful! To see a man of learning and genius lost and besotted, at an age when his talents and experience should have elevated him to many years' enjoyment of the world's admiration and respect, to see him on the brink of a premature grave, looking down, like an idiot, into the “ narrow dwelling,” and beholding it with fever'd levity !--can there be a more mortifying picture of frail humanity?' -vol. i. pp. 140-143.
George's first night in his rooms at Oxford is not badly described.
My spirits had been flurried during the day, from the revolution in my state: -launched from the School-dock into the wide Ocean of a University, matriculated by the Vice Chancellor in the morning, left by my father at noon, dining in the Hall at three o'clock, unknowing and almost unknown, informed that I must be in the Chapel next day, soon after sun-rise, elated with my growing dignity, depressed by boyish mauvaise honte, among the Sophs, dreading College discipline, forestalling College jollity,—ye gods! what a conflict of passions does all this create in a booby
· I was glad, on retiring early to rest, that I might ruminate for tive minutes over the important events of the day, before I fell fast asleep.
• I was not then in the habit of using a night-lamp, or burning a rush· light, so, having dropt the extinguisher upon my candle, I got into bed, · and found, to my dismay, that I was reclining in the dark, upon a surface
very like that of a pond in a hard frost. The jade of a bedmaker had spread the spick and span new sheeting over the blankets, fresh from the linendraper's shop, unwash'd, uniron’d, unair’d, “ wiith all its imperfections on its head."
* Through the tedious hours of an inclement January night, I could not close my eyes; my teeth chatter'd, my back shiver'd, I thrust my head under the bolster, drew up my knees to my chin, it was all useless, I could not get warm; I turned again and again, at every turn a hand or a foot touch'd upon some new cold place, and, at every turn, the chill, glazy cloth work crepitated like iced buckram. God forgive me for having execrated the authoress of my calamity! but, I verily think that the meekest of Christians, who prays for his enemies, and for mercy upon all
“ Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Hereticks," would, in his orisons, in such a » night of misery, make a specific exception against his bedmaker.
I rose betimes, languid and feverish, hoping that the customary morning ablutions would somewhat refresh me, but on taking up a towel, I might have exclaim'd with Hamlet, “ Aye there's the rub !" it was just in the same stubborn state as the linen of the bed, and as uncompromising a piece of huckaback, of a yard long and three-quarters wide (I give the usual dimensions), as ever presented its superficies to the skin of a gentleman.
• Having wash'd and scrubb'd myself in the bedchamber till I was pearly flay'd with the friction, I proceeded to my sitting-room, where I found a blazing fire, and a breakfast very neatly laid out, but again I encounter'd the same rigour! The tea equipage was placed upon a substance which was snow white, but unyielding as a skin of new parchment from the law stationer, it was the eternal unwash'd linen ! and I dreaded to sit down to hot rolls and butter, lest I should cut my shins against the edge of the table-cloth,
. In short, I found upon inquiry that I was only undergoing the common lot, the usual seasoning, of almost every Freshman, whose fate it is to crackle through the first ten days or fortnight of his residence in College. But the most formidable piece of drapery belonging to him is his new surplice, in which he attends chapel on certain days of the week; it covers him from his chin to his feet, and seems to stand on end in emulation of a full suit of armour. Cased in this linen panoply, (the certain betrayer of an academical débutant), the new comer is to be heard at several yards distance on his way across a quadrangle, cracking and bouncing like a dry faggot upon the fire, and he never fails to coinmand notice in his repeated marches to prayer, till soap and water have silenced the noise of his arrival at Oxford.'—vol. i. pp. 300—303.
The only poet whom the embryo dramatist knew was a poor devil named Harding, whom we must introduce to the reader.
• Had my rage for scribbling, by the bye, broken out before I quitted Oxford, I do not recollect any rival (the professor of poetry always excepted) whom I should have encounter'd in the whole University, but poet Harding. * This man was a half crazy creature (as poets indeed generally are), and was well-known in most of the Colleges. He ran the Bell-Man hard in composition, but could not come up to him in rank, or in riches; living chiefly upon what he could get from the under-graduates, by en-1 gaging to find, instantaneously, a rhyme for any word in the English language; and when he could not find, he coined one, as in the case of rimney for chimney, which he call'd a wild rhyme. To this improvisare talent, he added that of personification; sometimes he walk'd about with a scythe in his hand as Time, sometimes with an anchor as Hope. One day I met him with a huge broken brick and some bits of thatch upon the crown of his hat; on my asking him for a solution of this prosopopoeiam “Sir,” said he, “to-day is the anniversary of the celebrated Doctor Goldsmith's death, and I am now in the character of his · Deserted Village.'” -vol. i. pp. 306, 307.
What a pity it is that Foote does not rise from his grave, to lecture our country gentlemen upon the currency !
• In giving sumptuous dinners to the first society in Edinburgh, his mode of preparing for these entertainments was a strange kind of satire, by contrast, upon
“Scotch economy." Jewel told me, that while Footę remain'd there, he paper'd up the curls of his wig, every night before he went to bed, with the one-pound notes of Scotland, to show his contempt for promissory paper of so little value, which was not then in English circulation; and that when his cook attended him next morning for orders, not orders for the play, but orders for dinner, he unroll’d the curls on each side of his head, giving her the one-pound notes to purchase provisions, ad libitum, and then sent her to market in a sedan-chair.
Oxford was better stock'd with poets in previous times, as appears by the following distich:
“ Alma novem genuit celebres Rhedyeina poetas,
• Even in England, Foote was ostentatious and vulgarly fine before his guests. It was his custom at his own table, as soon as the cloth was removed, to ask “ Does anybody drink port ?" if the unanimous answer happen’d to be “10," he always call?d out to the servants in waiting, "take away the ink.” '-vol. ii. pp. 69, 70.
George is rather more communicative upon the subject of his dramas than upon any other part of his personal narrative. As those famous compositions are so well known, and so universally admired, the reader must be curious to become initiated in their secret history, and especially in the general rules for dramatic writing which our great author lays down.
• Shortly after my return to College, I sat down to write my First Play: and boy's play I made of it! trusting, at the beginning of my fable, entirely to chance for a middle and an end. I had no materials for a plot, further than the common-place foundation of a marriage projected by parents, contrary to the secret views and wishes of the parties to be united; and - which, of course, is to be obviated by the usual series of stratagems, accidents, and equivoques. Alas! what those stratagems, &c. were to be, or how the second scene was to be conducted, I had not any idea, while I was writing the first : but, having finish'd the first, I hurried on into the - second, with as little forecast about the third; and so on, from scene to
scene, spinning out stage business (as it is term’d) as I went along, and scribbling at hap-hazard," as humours and conceits might govern,” till I came to the conclusion of Act One.
• One act completed, enabled me to proceed somewhat less at random, in the two acts to come, by obliging me to consider a little about the means of continuing, and then unravelling, the perplexities I had already created ; still I persevered, as to whole acts, in the same want of regular plan which had mark'd my progress, in respect to scenes; at Christmas, however, I found that I had founder'd through two-thirds of a three-act piece, which I callid a Musical Comedy, under the title of “ Two to One,” and which I have already mention’d in the fourth chapter of this volume.
• In this improvident way I have written all my dramas, which are not founded either on some historical incident, or on some story or anecdote, which I have met with in print; and, of those thus founded, I never made out a scheme of progressive action before I began upon the dialogue.
· The historical incidents to which I have been indebted have, of course, help'd me, in some measure, to see my way in the formation of a plot, but they have not been of a nature to furnish me with materials for a whole play; no more have the fictitious stories, except one, * so that, even when I have borrowed a little, I have coin'd a great deal, and have coin'd (to use a common phrase) off-hand.
• It is out of my power to ascertain in what manner all poets buckle to their task; but if Bayes's question of “ how do you do when you write pou were put to every living dramatist, I doubt whether any two of them would answer alike ; at all events, I presume to think that not one of them goes into training for the undertaking after Bayes's own original receipt; “ If,”
“ Things as they are, or the Adventures of Caleb William, written by William Godwin." This novel is best known by its second title.
says he, “ I am to write familiar things, I make use of stew'd prunes only but when I have a grand design in hand I ever take physick and let blood.
• Æschylus, we are told, took a directly opposite course—drinking deer before he could flash his poetical fires, or thunder his dithyrambicks; his style was, in consequence, so very vehement, that Aristophanes call’d him a mad bull, and Sophocles said to him (but he was a rival, remember that his tragedies were produced by the wine, and not by the poet. I know not whether any modern bards may follow the bibacious Greciao example, but certainly some of them indulge in flights which are none al the soberest, while several, on the other hand, if they be water-drinkers have resorted to Hippocrene, less than to any other fountain, for ther potations.
• I have heard of an indefatigable author, whose method was to write five-and-twenty acts, and then to reduce them to five, by paring down his exuberances; of another, who so matured his plan, that he always wrote his last act first; and of a third, who was so plagued and puzzled in making denouements, that he was for abolishing the last acts of plays altogether. Various, indubitably, are the modes of going to work upon a theatrical entertaininent; but if I were to start afresh as a dramatist, (quod Dii avertant !) I would so far profit froin experience as to abide by the few following resolutions :
. First, To draw up a prospecius of the story and the stage business, previously to beginning to write the Play. This I believe to be the practice of most authors. My father made an outline, of the above kind, (which I have publish'd, *) for the comedy of “ The Clandestine Marriage,” under three different heads; namely, “ Idea of Principal Characters; “ Rough Draught of the General Scheme;" and “ Loose Hints of Acts and Scenes.”
Secondly, To avoid much precision, and detail in the prospectus; for, by filling up the outline too minutely, there is danger of fettering fancy, and checking further invention, while writing the Play. When an author is contented with what he has specifically set down for himself to do, he is, less likely to warm with the subject as he proceeds ;-it is natural for himi, to go plodding on, without eliciting such new matter as is sometimes happily produced from the spur of the moment.-Criticks have been pleased to observe, that it was a good hit when I made Inkle offer Yarico for sale to the person whom he afterwards discovers to be his intended father-in law ;t -the hit, good or bad, only occurr'd to me when I came to that part of the piece in which it is introduced, and arose from the accidental turn which I had given to previous scenes; as it is not in the original story, it would, in all probability, not have occur’d to me while coldly preparing an elaborate prospectus; and such a prospectus once made, it is ten to one that I should have follow'd it mechanically,
• Thirdly, in choosing to strike out a Drama from some historical fact, or ready-made tale of fiction, always to select a short and single one ;
* See “ Addenda to Posthumous Letters to the Colmans.”
+ «« The incident of Inkle's happening to make the offer of Yarico for sale to the Governor of Barbadoes, his intended father-in-law, without knowing him, is a very happy idea."- Biographia Dramatica.'
· single, I mean free from complications. A scanty subject which reiires to be amplified, both stimulates the imagination and gives it elbowom. Hence, new characters are engrafted upon the original stock, new cidents grow out of the appropriated ground; and the dramatist obtains eater credit when his own creative muse has assisted in laying out a atch taken from the common.
e lo the Play of “ The Battle of Hexham” (my first raw attempt at that ind of drama) I took little more than the historical hint of Queen Mararet's adventure with the Robber ;-in “ The Surrender of Calais,” my
perstructure was raised upon the simple basis of Edward the Third orering six French citizens to be hang'd. The “ Biographia Dramatica" sserts, that I have borrow'd the plot from a novel, call’d “ The Siege of Calais :" I have read that novel, but am not conscious of being thus inlebted to it. The Opera of “ Inkle and Yarico" owes its origin to a page Of two in the “Spectator;" in these, and other instances, where I adopted less limited though not extensive ground-works, I found, or fancied I fonnd, that, (however eligible the subjects which I borrow'd) if the loans had been larger, I should have been duller.
I had almost forgotten my obligations to the Parisian stage ; but there is much adulteration in those few light dramas which I have imported from abroad; and my versions of them may be call'd, (as Sneer says in “ The Critick”) “not translations, but only taken from the French.”
• Fourthly, Which is a kind of corollary from the third resolution,-as, indeed, the third is a branch from the second ; never to dramatize a novel of two or three volumes ; there is so much to reject for want of room, yet so much to compress which cannot be left out, that the original is mutilated, while the copy-is encumber'd.'-vol. ii. pp. 175—182.
If our readers complain, after poring over this article, that they knew as little of George Colman the Younger when they arrive at the end, as they did when they began at the beginning of it, we must avow that we are ourselves precisely in the same happy condition. We have read the two volumes, and yet we have gained no acquaint. ance with the author. Other volumes (alas !) are said to be in preparation, in which George will, perhaps, tell us how many cups and saucers he has, how many coats he wears in the year, and how many days in the week he dines out. If it would not be too great a favour, we hope he will oblige us so far as to add, in an appendix, his tailor's bill, and that occasionally furnished to him by his washerwoman. These would be rare documents ! With a little contrivance they might be made to occupy five or six pages, and so be of some assistance towards the fulfilment of his new contract.
*"" The Africans," taken from a compendious Tale in the French language, by Florian ; and “ The Mountaineers," partly from the Don Quixote of Cervantes."