Sunday, September 11, 2011

Richard Cumberland

‘Saturday, 11th September

It was a storm of wind and rain; so we could not set out. I wrote some
of this Journal, and talked awhile with Dr Johnson in his room, and
passed the day, I cannot well say how, but very pleasantly. I was here
amused to find Mr Cumberland's comedy of the Fashionable Lover, in
which he has very well drawn a Highland character, Colin M'Cleod, of
the same name with the family under whose roof we now were. Dr Johnson
was much pleased with the Laird of Macleod, who is indeed a most
promising youth, and with a noble spirit struggles with difficulties,
and endeavours to preserve his people…’

James Boswell found a production of Richard Cumberland’s The Fashionable Lover while
traveling with Samuel Johnson in Scotland’s Western Isles.  He reported this in his
 ” The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D.”.
Cumberland wrote a total of 54 plays (not all published).  Walter Scott authored a biography
on Cumberland, which is included in “The Miscellaneous Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott”. 
From that bio:
 This author, distinguished in the eighteenth century, survived till the present was considerably
advanced, interesting to the public, as well as to private society, not only on account of his own
claims to distinction, but as the last of that constellation of genius which the predominating spirit
of Johnson had assembled about him, and in which he presided a stern Aristarchus.
Cumberland's character and writings are associated with those of Goldsmith, of Burke, of Percy,
of Reynolds— names which sound in our ears as those of English classics…
The Fashionable Lover, which followed the West Indian, was an addition to Cumberland's reputation.
There was the same elegance of dialogue, but much less of the vis comica. The scenes hang heavy
on the stage, and the character of Colin M'Leod,the honest Scotch servant, not being drawn from
nature, has little, excepting lameness, to distinguish it from the Gibbies and Sawnies which had
hitherto possession of the stage, as the popular representatives of the Scottish nation.
The author himself is, doubtless, of a different opinion, and labours hard to place his
 Fashionable Lover by the side of the West Indian, in point of merit; but the critic cannot
 avoid assenting to the judgment of the audience…’

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