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John Bull Or, The Englishman's Fireside: A Comedy, in Five Acts   By: (1762-1836)

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The Englishman's Fireside: A Comedy, in Five Acts;



As Performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.

Printed Under the Authority of the Managers from the Prompt Book.

With Remarks by Mrs. Inchbald.

[Illustration: JOHN BULL




London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, Paternoster Row.

William Savage, Printer, London.


"Yet be not blindly guided by the throng; "The multitude is always in the wrong."

Roscommon surely meets with a bold contradiction in this comedy for it was not only admired by the multitude, but the discerning few approved of that admiration.

The irresistible broad humour, which is the predominant quality of this drama, is so exquisitely interspersed with touches of nature more refined, with occasional flashes of wit, and with events so interesting, that, if the production is not of that perfect kind which the most rigid critic demands, he must still acknowledge it as a bond, given under the author's own hand, that he can, if he pleases, produce, in all its various branches, a complete comedy.

The introduction of farces into the entertainments of the theatre has been one cause of destroying that legitimate comedy, which such critics require. The eye, which has been accustomed to delight in paintings of caricature, regards a picture from real life as an insipid work. The extravagance of farce has given to the Town a taste for the pleasant convulsion of hearty laughter, and smiles are contemned, as the tokens of insipid amusement.

To know the temper of the times with accuracy, is one of the first talents requisite to a dramatic author. The works of other authors may be reconsidered a week, a month, or a year after a first perusal, and regain their credit by an increase of judgment bestowed upon their reader; but the dramatist, once brought before the public, must please at first sight, or never be seen more. There is no reconsideration in his case no judgment to expect beyond the decree of the moment: and he must direct his force against the weakness, as well as the strength, of his jury. He must address their habits, passions, and prejudices, as the only means to gain this sudden conquest of their minds and hearts. Such was the author's success on the representation of "John Bull." The hearts and minds of his auditors were captivated, and proved, to demonstration, his skilful insight into human kind.

Were other witnesses necessary to confirm this truth, the whole dramatis personæ might be summoned as evidence, in whose characters human nature is powerfully described; and if, at times, too boldly for a reader's sober fancy, most judiciously adapted to that spirit which guides an audience.

It would be tedious to enumerate the beauties of this play, for it abounds with them. Its faults, in a moment, are numbered.

The prudence and good sense of Job Thornberry are so palpably deficient, in his having given to a little run away, story telling boy (as it is proved, and he might have suspected) ten guineas, the first earnings of his industry that no one can wonder he becomes a bankrupt, or pity him when he does. In the common course of occurrences, ten guineas would redeem many a father of a family from bitter misery, and plunge many a youth into utter ruin. Yet nothing pleases an audience so much as a gift, let who will be the receiver. They should be broken of this vague propensity to give; and be taught, that charity without discrimination is a sensual enjoyment, and, like all sensuality, ought to be restrained: but that charity with discretion, is foremost amongst the virtues, and must not be contaminated with heedless profusion. Still the author has shown such ingenuity in the event which arises from this incident, that those persons, who despise the silly generosity of Thornberry, are yet highly affected by the gratitude of Peregrine... Continue reading book >>

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