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This comedy ranks among the most successful of modern plays. There is merit in the writing, but much more in that dramatic science, which disposes character, scenes, and dialogue, with minute attention to theatric exhibition : for the author has nicely considered, that it is only by passing the ordeal of a theatre with safety, that a drama has the privilege of being admitted to a library.
The nice art, with which the conversations in this play are written, will, by a common reader, pass unadmired and unnoticed. Some of the most important speeches consist of no more than one line. The grand skill has been to make no skill evident-to force a reader to forget the author, but to remember his play, and each distinct character,
To produce this effect, both on the stage and in the closet, the whole comedy is perfectly natural. Paternal and filial affection are described with infinite power, and yet without one inflated or poetic sentence. The scenes between Dornton and his son are not like scenes in a play, but like occurrences in the house of a respectable banker, who has a dissipated, though a loving and beloved, son.
Nature has never been violated in this comedy, except in one instance ; where, in search of too much nature, the author has been deluded into the wiles of art.
In a comedy, where every part is deformed by extravagance, Sophia would appear a probable charac. ter. But the tax on an able dramatist is to have his slightest failure observed : for who can behold that which is near perfect, without longing after perfection itself?
Sophia is described as being turned of seventeen; and, though she did come from Gloucestershire, she is certainly old enough to be wiser than she is ;-it is therefore a reproach to Harry Dornton's taste, that he should fix his choice on her, rather than on her mother; for, as far as a rogue is preferable to a fool, the mother would certainly have made the most companionable wife; and a husband might, in her case, have looked forward with hope to the chance of amendment.
In the original disposal of the parts of this play to the actors, there was novelty; and, what does not always combine with novelty, improvement. Lewis, in a low comedy part, was new to the town : and, by superior ability, he added interest and importance to a character, where a professed low comedian would merely have excited a loud laugh.
Coarse manners, like old age, should always be counterfeit on the stage: when either of these is ina herent in the actor himself, as well as in the charace ter he represents, the sensitive part of the audience are more afflicted than entertained.
Lewis, in Goldfinch, had the talent to display all the bold features of the vulgar citizen, whilst his own
feeling themselves in bad company. He has, in fact, when he descends to play what is called low comedy, the very soul of vulgarity, without incommoding his - audience with any of its gross corporeal parts.
Munden was another excellent novelty, transformed from low to high comedy :—nothing relating to him appeared assumed ; (characters of the good should not shew the counterfeit) and his person, dress, manners, all excited such a degree of reve. rence, that even when it was said his banking-house had failed, a miser would have placed his whole store of gold there, with perfect confidence. Then, all he had to say in rage against his son, was delivered with such paternal fondness, that voice, mien, and features were opposed to every angry sentence; and gave a highly-finished proof how words can falsify the meaning of the heart. Still he did not speak as if to deceive his hearers, but skilfully showed he was deceiving himself,
“ The Road to Ruin” is a complete drama; resting its power on itself alone, without adventitious aid; neither music, song, dance, or spectacle, such as authors fly to, when, like Shakspeare's Orlando, " they are gravelled for lack of matter,” is here introduced. This is an example that should ever be pursued, when it can be done with safety. But good plays are difficult to produce; and those who write, often must divide the materials, which would consti. tute one extraordinary, into two ordinary dramas.
WAITER, CLERKS, SERVANTS, TRADESMEN, PosTILLIONS,
TENNIS - MARKERS, MILLINERS, MANTUAMA KERS, &c. &c.
The House of DORNTON.
MR DORNTON alone.
Enter Mr SMITH.
Dorn. Are you sure Harry Dornton said he should return to-night?
Mr Smith. Yes, sir.
don't know where he is gone?
-I'll sit up no longer-Tell the servants to go to bed-And, do you hear ? should he apply to you for money, don't let him have a guinea.