the Colmans

Definition

Theater

  • George Colman the elder (1732 - 94) and his son GeorgeColman the younger (1762 - 1836), both of whom were playwrightsand theater managers.

    The elder Colman was a friend of David Garrick, whosename appeared on the title page of Colman's first play, the farcePolly Honeycombe. It was first performed in 1760 at Garrick'sDrury Lane, and Colman admitted writing it the following year, afterthe success of his play The Jealous Wife. His most acclaimedwork was the comedy The Clandestine Marriage (1766), cowrittenwith Garrick, who caused a rift with Colman when he refused to actin it.

    Colman and three partners bought the patent to Covent Gardenin 1767. During his management Oliver Goldsmith's only two plays werepremiered: The Good-Natured Man was coolly received in 1768,but She Stoops to Conquer was a great success in 1773. Threeyears later Colman took over the Haymarket and ran it forsome 12 years until his final descent into mental illness. During that timehe produced several plays by his son, including the successful comic operaInkle and Yarico (1787).

    The younger Colman became effective manager of the Haymarket duringhis father's illness and took it over on his death. His own plays includedThe Iron Chest (1796), based on Godwin's gothic novel Caleb Williams;Edmund Kean revived it in 1816, finding a great tragic part in thecharacter of Sir Edward Mortimer.

    Colman was also a successful writer of comedy, creating suchmemorable characters as Dr Pangloss in The Heir-at-Law (1797)and Dennis Brulgruddery in John Bull; or, The Englishman's Fireside(1803). In 1817 he wrote The actor of all Work; or, First and SecondFloor, a drama with an innovative set that showed two rooms simultaneously.

    Colman was known to be extravagant and unstable both financiallyand in his personal life, having secretly married Clara Morris, ayoung actress, in 1784. He was nevertheless appointed Examiner ofPlays in 1824 and remained in the post until his death, demonstratinga surprisingly strict sense of propriety in judging new works forthe stage.

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