George Colman (1732-1794)

Life
1732-94 [The Elder]; English playwright; b. Florence, son of British envoy; ed. Westminster and Oxford; joint ed. The Connoisseur; friend of Garrick; adapted Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, and trans. Terence; member Dr. Johnson’s Club; wrote a successful farce, 1760; also The Jealous Wife (1761); 30 dramatic pieces, incl. adaptations, 1762-1789; inherited 945 p.a. from Earl of Bath, his uncle; translated Terence, 1765; manager Covent Garden, 1767-74; ed. Beaumont and Fletcher, 1778; trans. Horace’s Art of Poetry, 1783; miscellaneous essays, 1787; died insane. ODNB

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Commentary
Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fíor Ghael (1986), The Oxonians in town (1769) was hissed for its negative representation of Irish characters [Leerssen, p.140]. ALSO, In the Elder Colman’s plays, a good Irishman is an Anglicised one, such as the Irish Oxonian Knowall, in The Oxonians in town (London 1770), who says, ‘National reflections are always mean and scandalous, but it is owning to such men as these that so much undeserved scandal has been thrown on our country, a country, which has always produced men as remarkable for honour and genius as any in the world. &c.’ Colman defended himself against the imputation of national bigotry thus and by dedicating the piece to the leading Irish Patriot political, Hely Hutchinson. ‘.. so far from intending to cast an illiberal reflection on the Irish nation, it was evidently his main design to vindicate the gentlemen of that country from the reproach deservedly incurred by worthless adventurers and outcasts ... &c.’ (The Oxonians in town, p.[v], ftn.111 [p.465].

G. C. Duggan, The Stage Irishman (1937), An unpleasant specimen [of Irish social adventurer] is found in George Colman the Elder’s The Oxonian in Town (1769), a play was impeded by the rioting of London Irishmen. The Dublin edition was dedicated to John Hely Hutchinson, Sergeant-at-Law in Ireland, with the defence, ‘“so far from intending to cast an illiberal reflection on the Irish nation, it was evidently the authors main design to vindicate the gentlemen of that country from the reproach deservedly incurred by worthless adventurers and outcasts.” The principal characters are Irish; Careless and Knowell, Oxonians, and sons of Irish landlords; Rook, Sharp, and M’Shuffle are tricksters who intrigue to get control of his patrimony, and also to match him with a lady of the town so as to elicit a pension from his father. Colman the Younger, in Who Wants A Guinea, or the Irish Yorkeshireman, has a descendent of Sir Lucius O’Trigger in Sir Larry MacMurrough of Ballygrennanclonfergus, Bart., who is comically the host of a girl employed to attend an aged gentleman; Sir Larry proves a gentleman and not a rascal.

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Notes
English playwrights, Elder and Younger; one was a protagonist in the Barry affair at Covent Garden, which resulting in his sacking by the manager (details in Arnott and Fitzpatrick’s Life of Garrick).

G. C. Duggan, The Stage Irishman (1937), Irishmen appear as chairmen in the Elder George Colman The Occasional Prelude (TR Lon., 1772) [where again, “a cara” is rendered as my “dear”]. ALSO, In George Colman, the Elder’s, The New Brooms, a curtain-raiser written to open Drury lane Theatre under the new Sheridan management, an Irishman, and stagehand Phelim makes fun of the fad for operas and contemplates putting his own “ganius” on the stage. To obvious objections, he replies, “the brogue’s nothing at all my dear. It’s very well known that nobody speaks Engish so well as your Irishman, except the Scotch, indeed, indeed.’

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