Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.
George Colman the Elder
April 1732 – August 14 1794
Colman was an English dramatist and essayist.
He was born in Florence, where his father was stationed as British Resident Minister at the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Colman’s father died within a year of his son’s birth, and the boy’s education was undertaken by William Pulteney, afterwards the 1st Earl of Bath, whose wife was Mrs Colman’s sister. Colman then attended a private school in Marylebone, after which he was sent to Westminster School, and left in due course for Christ Church, Oxford.
Here he made the acquaintance of Bonnell Thornton. Together they founded The Connoisseur (1754–1756), a periodical which, although it reached its 140th number, “wanted weight,” according to Samuel Johnson. He then entered Lincoln’s Inn and was called to the bar in 1757. A friendship formed with David Garrick did not help his career as a barrister, but he continued to practice the law until the death of his uncle Lord Bath, out of respect for his wishes.
George Colman the Elder
In 1760, he produced his first play, Polly Honeycomb, which met with great success. In 1761, The Jealous Wife, a comedy partly founded on Tom Jones, made Colman famous. The death of Lord Bath in 1764 placed him in possession of independent means. In 1765 appeared Colman’s metrical translation of the plays of Terence; and in 1766, he produced The Clandestine Marriage, jointly with Garrick. In the next year he purchased a fourth share in the Covent Garden Theatre, a step which is said to have induced General Pulteney to revoke a will by which he had left Colman large estates. The general, who died in that year, did, however, leave him a considerable annuity.
Colman was acting manager of Covent Garden for seven years. He produced several “adapted” plays of Shakespeare. In 1768 he was elected to the Literary Club. In 1771 Thomas Arne’s masque The Fairy Prince premiered at Covent Garden for which Colman wrote the libretto. In 1774 he sold his share in the great playhouse, which had involved him in much litigation with his partners. Three years later he purchased of Samuel Foote, the little theatre in the Haymarket. Colman was attacked with paralysis in 1785; in 1789 his brain became affected, and he died on the 14 August 1794.
- Polly Honeycombe (1760)
- The Jealous Wife (1761)
- The Clandestine Marriage (1766)
- The Oxonian in Town (1767)
- The Manager in Distress (1780)
- The Genius of Nonsense (1780)