This reprint of Edward Moore’s The Gamester makes available to students of eighteenth century literature a play which, whatever its intrinsic merits, is historically important both as a vehicle for a century of great actors and as a contribution to the development of middle-class tragedy which had considerable influence on the Continent. The Gamester was first presented at the Drury Lane Theatre February 7, 1753 with Garrick in the leading role, and ran for ten successive nights. Up to the middle of the nineteenth century it remained a popular stock piece—John Philip Kemble, Mrs. Siddons, Mrs. Barry, the Keans, Macready, and others having distinguished themselves in it—and in America from 1754 to 1875 it enjoyed even more performances than in England. (J.H. Caskey, The Life and Works of Edward Moore, 96-99). Moore’s middle-class tragedy is the only really successful attempt to follow Lillo’s decisive break with tradition in England in the eighteenth century. His background, like Lillo’s, was humble, religious, and mercantile. The son of a dissenting pastor, Moore received his early education in dissenters’ academies, and then served an apprenticeship to a London linen-draper. After a few years in Ireland as an agent for a merchant, Moore returned to London to join a partnership in the linen trade. The partnership was soon dissolved, and Moore turned to letters for a livelihood. Among his works are Fables for the Female Sex (1744) which went through three editions, The Foundling (1748), a successful comedy, and Gil Blas (1751), an unsuccessful comedy. In 1753, with encouragement and some assistance from Garrick, he produced The Gamester, upon which his reputation as a writer depends.
It is impossible, of course, to review here all the factors involved in the development of middle-class tragedy in England in the eighteenth century. However, certain aspects of that movement which concern Moore’s immediate predecessors and which have not been adequately recognized might be mentioned briefly. Aside from Elizabethan and Jacobean attempts to give tragic expression to everyday human experience, historians have noted the efforts of Otway, Southerne, and Rowe to lower the social level of tragedy; but in this period middle-class problems and sentiments and domestic situations appear in numerous tragedies, long-since forgotten, which in form, setting, and social level present no startling deviations from traditional standards. Little or no attention has been given to some of these obscure dramatists who in the midst of the Collier controversy attempted to illustrate in tragedy the arguments advanced in the third part of John Dennis’s The Usefulness of the Stage, to the Happiness of Mankind, to Government, and to Religion (1698). Striving to demonstrate the usefulness of the stage, these avowed reformers produced essentially domestic tragedies, by treating