The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.

II. The Early Drama, 1756–1860

§ 19. Romantic Comedy

In romantic comedy, there was very little that could compare with the achievement in romantic tragedy. The Deformed, played in 1830, by Richard Penn Smith, has some real merit, though it owes much to Dekker. Tortesa, The Usurer, by N. P. Willis, was played by J. W. Wallack in 1839 in New York and later in England, where Lester Wallack played Angelo to his father’s Tortesa. It is an excelent play, and the last act, in which the usurer rises to the dignity of self-sacrifice, is especially appealing. Another play in which the two Wallacks were associated, The Veteran (1859), written by Lester Wallack, is an entertaining comedy laid in France and Algeria. Boker’s Betrothal has already been mentioned. Mrs. Mowatt’s Armand, or The Child of the People, produced in 1847 in New York and in 1849 in London, is a blank verse comedy of some merit. But here again the line between comedy and melodrama is hard to draw. Especially is this true in the plays dealing with Irish life, of which there are a number. One of the most interesting records in this connection is that describing the production, in 1842, after the playwright’s death, of the adaptation of the novel of The Collegians by Louisa Medina. This play has not survived, but the cast of characters is significant in view of the later dramatization of the same material in Dion Boucicault’s Colleen Bawn.