GEORGE COLMAN.—Among the respectable dramatists of this period who exerted an influence in leading the public taste away from the witty and artificial schools of the Restoration, the two Colmans deserve mention. George Colman, the elder, was born in Florence in 1733, but began his education at Westminster School, from which he was removed to Oxford. After receiving his degree he studied law; but soon abandoned graver study to court the comic muse. His first piece, Polly Honeycomb, was produced in 1760; but his reputation was established by The Jealous Wife, suggested by a scene in Fielding’s Tom Jones. Besides many humorous miscellanies, most of which appeared in The St. James’ Chronicle,—a magazine of which he was the proprietor,—he translated Terence, and produced more than thirty dramatic pieces, some of which are still presented upon the stage. The best of these is The Clandestine Marriage, which was the joint production of Garrick and himself. Of this play, Davies says “that no dramatic piece, since the days of Beaumont and Fletcher, had been written by two authors, in which wit, fancy, and humor were so happily blended.” In 1768 he became one of the proprietors of the Covent Garden Theatre: in 1789 his mind became affected, and he remained a mental invalid until his death in 1794.
GEORGE COLMAN. THE YOUNGER.—This writer was the son of George Colman, and was born in 1762. Like his father, he was educated at Westminster and Oxford; but he was removed from the university before receiving his degree, and was graduated at King’s College, Aberdeen. He inherited an enthusiasm for the drama and considerable skill as a dramatic author. In 1787 he produced Inkle and Yarico, founded upon the pathetic story of Addison, in The Spectator. In 1796 appeared The Iron Chest; this was followed, in 1797,. by The Heir at Law and John Bull. To him the world is indebted for a large number of stock pieces which still appear at our theatres. In 1802 he published a volume entitled Broad Grins, which was an expansion of a previous volume of comic scraps. This is full of frolic and humor: among the verses in the style of Peter Pindar are the well-known sketches The Newcastle Apothecary, (who gave the direction with his medicine, “When taken, to be well shaken,”) and Lodgings for Single Gentlemen.
The author’s fault is his tendency to farce, which robs his comedies of dignity. He assumed the cognomen the younger because, he said, he did not wish his father’s memory to suffer for his faults. He died in 1836.
OTHER HUMORISTS AND DRAMATISTS OF THE PERIOD.
John Wolcot, 1738-1819: his pseudonym was Peter Pindar. He was a satirist as well as a humorist, and was bold in lampooning the prominent men of his time, not even sparing the king. The world of literature knows him best by his humorous poetical sketches, The Apple-Dumplings and the King, The Razor-Seller, The Pilgrims and the Peas, and many others.