Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/401

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Colman
Colman
395

his Wife, or Paint, Poetry, and Putty ! ' acted at the Haymarket, 6 July 1798, under the altered title of 'Throw Physic to the Dogs,' the very popular character of Caleb Quotem ; the ' Review ' involved Colman in a dispute with Lee, its author, who with some justice objected to the appropriation, and published his piece in 1809 with a preface in which Column's behaviour is reprehended. 'Blue Devils,' from the French of Patrat, a farce, 8vo, 1808, was given at Covent Garden, 24 April 1798, and transferred to the Haymarket, 12 June 1798. ' The Africans, or War, Love, and Duty,' a ' pastoral ' from ' Florian,' at the Haymarket, 29 July 1808 ; and ' X. Y. Z.,' a farce, at Covent Garden, 11 Dec. 1810. The piece last named was acted only once, an injunction against its performance having been obtained in chancery by Morris, Column's brother-in-law and partner in the management. 'The Law of Java,' three-act play, 8vo, 1822, was given at Covent Garden, 11 May 1822. A collection of these plays has not been made in England, though one in four volumes 16mo has been issued (Paris, 1827), with an original life of the author (by J. W. Lake). Some of the plays have never been printed, of others the songs only exist. Manuscript copies of some, including one or two which Colman not too ingenuously claims to have destroyed as worthless, were in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire, to whom they were presented by 'Mrs.' Colman. Many of these works are included in the collections of Duncombe, Cumberland, Lacy, and the 'London Stage.' Colman's plays are often briskly written, and certain characters, such as Dr. Pangloss, Dr. Ollapod, Dennis Brulgruddery, &c., remain to this day test characters for comedians. For many of his plays he received what were then held large sums. For the ' Poor Gentleman ' and ' Who wants a Guinea ? ' he was paid 550l. each. For 'John Bull,' the most attractive and remunerative (to the management) piece of its day, he received in all 1,200l. These sums and the profits of the theatre were swallowed up in extravagance and ostentation. Almost from the outset Colman's recklessness involved him in disputes and litigation. He lived for some time in an obscure chamber at the back of the Haymarket Theatre, and afterwards, under the name of Campbell, in a cottage a few miles from town. In 1805 he disposed of shares for 8,000l. in the theatre to David Morris (his brother-in-law), Winston, and an attorney named Tahourdin, who subsequently assigned his share to Morris. Quarrels soon began, and in 1810 Colman and Winston were engaged in continuous litigation with Harris. In consequence of these proceedings the salaries of principal actors were not paid, and other irregularities were made public. Colman's monetary difficulties compelled him to reside in the King's Bench. With or without leave, however, he made frequent sorties. On one occasion permission was obtained for him by the Duke of York, his constant patron, to dine with him at Carlton House to meet George IV, then prince regent, with whom he took some comical liberties which were pardoned. From the King's Bench Colman managed the Haymarket. In 1813, however, so bitter was the feud, no performance could be given at the theatre. In the following year it reopened, though litigation continued. On 13 May 1820, by which time he had disposed of his share of the theatre to Morris, Colman was appointed lieutenant of the yeomen of the guard, a post ordinarily sold, but given him by George IV. This office by permission he afterwards sold. On 19 Jan. 1824 Colman was appointed examiner of plays. This post he held until his death. His conduct in it has subjected him to not unreasonable condemnation. Himself the author of some of the least decent publications of his day, he showed himself squeamish beyond precedent in the task of censor, his proceedings being at once tyrannical, futile, and rapacious. Not only did he cut out all reference to the deity, every form of prayer or hymn, and even such modified forms of apostrophe as ' O Lord ! ' and ' demmee ! ' but he objected to the use of words such as ' heaven ' and ' providence,' and would not even allow a lover to address his mistress as an 'angel.' When examined in 1832 before a committee of the House of Commons appointed to inquire into the state of dramatic literature, he with apparent seriousness defended the preposterous severity. The works of Colman in which he permitted himself the greatest license were his comic poems. The first of these appeared under the title of ' My Nightgown and Slippers,' London, 4to, 1797. It was reprinted, London, 1802, crown 8vo, and 1839, 12mo, with additional tales, under the title of 'Broad Grins.' 'Poetical Vagaries' followed, 4to, 1812. In 1813, 4to, appeared 'Vagaries vindicated, or Hypocritic Hypercritics. A Poem addressed to the Reviewers.' Lastly in this line came 'Eccentricities for Edinburgh,' Edinburgh, no date (1820 ?). The stories were written in imitation of ' Peter Pindar ' (Wolcot), and are very humorous and some of them extravagantly indecent. They brought upon Colman severe reprimands, especially at the hands of the 'Quarterly Review,' viii. 144. This magazine he answered in the 'Vagaries vindicated,' with the result of receiving a