Wednesday, June 20, 2007

James Boswell and She Stoops

To Oliver Goldsmith, 29 March 1773 [Edinburgh]

Dear Sir,

I sincerely wish you joy on the great success of your comedy, She Stoops to Conquer or The Mistakes of A Night. The English nation was just falling into a lethargy. Their blood was thickened and their minds creamed and mantled like a standing pool; and no, the wonder--when their comedies which should enliven them, like sparkling champagne, were become mere syrup of poppies, gentle soporific draughts. Had there been no interruption to this, our audiences must have gone to the theatres with their nightcaps. In the opera houses abroad, the boxes are fitted up for tea-drinking. Those at Drury Lane and Covent Garden must have been furnished with settees and commodiously adjusted for repose. I am happy to hear that you have waked the spirit of mirth which has long lain dormant, and revived natural humour and hearty laughter. It gives me pleasure that our friend Garrick has written the prologue for you. It is at least lending you a postilion, since you have not his coach; and I think it is a very good one, admirably adapted both to the subject and to the author of the comedy.

You must know my wife was safely delivered of a daughter the very evening that She Stoops to Conquer first appeared. I am fond of the coincidence. My little daughter is a fine, healthy, lively child and, I flatter myself, shall be blessed with the cheerfulness of your comic muse. She has nothing of that wretched whining and crying which we see children so often have; nothing of the comedie larmoyante. I hope she shall live to be an agreeable companion and to diffuse gaiety over the days of her father, which are sometimes a little cloudy.

I intend being in London this spring and promise myself great satisfaction in sharing your social hours. In the meantime, I beg the favour of hearing from you. I am sure you have not a warmer friend or steadier admirer. While you are in the full glow of theatrical splendour, while all the great and the gay in the British metropolis are literally hanging upon your smiles, let me see that you can stoop to write to me.

-from The Essential Boswell: Selections from the Writings of James Boswell selected and edited by Peter Martin. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003) p. 164-65.

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