The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 19. The Good-Naturd Man
This was no easy matter, for it had to go through what Goldsmith had himself termed “a process truly chymical.” It had to “be tried in the manager’s fire, strained through a licenser, and purified in the Review, or the newspaper of the day.” And he had said more indiscreet things than these. He had condemned the despotism of the monarchs of the stage, deplored the over-prominence of that “histrionic Daemon,” the actor, and attacked the cheeseparing policy of vamping up old pieces to save the expense of “authors’ nights.” All these things were highly unpalatable to Garrick; but, to Garrick, owing to the confusion at Covent garden caused by the death of Rich, Goldsmith had to go. The result might have been foreseen. Garrick played fast and loose—finessed and temporised. Then came the inevitable money advance, which enabled him to suggest unwelcome changes in the MS., followed, of course, by fresh mortifications for the luckless author. Eventually, The Good-Natur’d Man was transferred to Colman, who, in the interval, had become Rich’s successor. But, even here, difficulties arose. Colman did not care for the play, and the intrigues of Garrick still pursued its writer; for Garrick persuaded Colman to defer its production until after the appearance at Drury lane of a vapid sentimental comedy by Kelly called False Delicacy, which, under Garrick’s clever generaliship, had an unmerited success. Six days later, on 29 January, 1768, the ill-starred Good-Natur’d Man was brought out at Covent garden by a desponding manager, and a (for the most part) depressed cast. Nor did it derive much aid from a ponderous prologue by Johnson. Nevertheless, it was by no means ill received. Shuter made a hit with Croaker, and Woodward was excellent as Lofty, the two most important parts; and though, for a space, a “genteel” audience could not suffer the “low” scene of the bailiffs to come between the wind and its nobility, the success of the comedy, albeit incommensurate with its deserts and its author’s expectations, was more than respectable. It ran for nine nights, three of which brought him £400; while the sale in book form, with the omitted scene, added £100 more. The worst thing was that it came after False Delicacy, instead of before it.