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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

IV. The Drama and the Stage

§ 23. Murphy and Bickerstaff

Of the playwrights of the Garrick era, Arthur Murphy may serve as a type of prolific industry. His dramatic efforts include farces, like The Upholsterer (1758), in the general vein of Fielding’s political satire; adaptations from Voltaire; comedies, often, like All in the Wrong (1761) and The School for Guardians, based on Molière; and tragedies such as Zenobia (1768) and The Grecian Daughter (1772). Without enough originality to channel out his own way, he drifted easily with the tide, appropriating whatever came within easy reach. His comedy has the usual didactic note, schooling wives in the way to keep their husbands, and husbands in the lesson that constancy should not be shamefaced. His tragedy preserves the conventional cast, and The Grecian Daughter owes its place in theatrical traditions largely to Mrs. Siddons. Yet, Murphy had the cleverness required for fashioning successful acting plays, and to some ingenuity added much industry.

Another popular Irish playwright of the day was Isaac Bickerstaff. His facile pen turned most successfully to opera libretti. With much of Murphy’s ability in adaptation and sense of theatrical effectiveness, he blended materials from such divergent sources as Charles Johnson, Wycherley and Marivaux into his successful comic opera, Love in a Village (1762), and found in Richardson’s Pamela the basis for his popular Maid of the Mill (1765). In 1768, he scored two popular hits at Drury lane by his “musical entertainment,” Padlock, and by his version of Cibber’s Non-Juror, and produced successfully at Covent garden (1768) Lionel and Clarissa (published anonymously in 1768). To many of his operatic works, Charles Dibdin, later a prolific playwright, supplied much of the music.