Augustus Thomas.

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A Comedy in Three Acts



Revised 1916 by AUGUSTUS THOMAS

Copyright. 1916, by AUGUSTUS THOMAS


CAUTION. All persons are hereby warned that "OLI
VER GOLDSMITH," being fully protected under the
copyright laws of the United States, is subject to
royalty, and anyone presenting the play without the
consent of the owners or their authorized agents
will be liable to the penalties by law provided Ap
plication for amateur acting rights must be made to
SAMUEL FRENCH. 2S-30 Went 38th street. New York.
Application for the professional acting rights must
be made to the AMERICAN PLAY COMPANY 33
West 42nd Street, New York.






Especial notice should be taken that the possession of this
book without a valid contract for production first having
been obtained from the publisher, confers no right or license
to professionals or amateurs to produce the play publicly or
in private for gain or charity.

In its present form this play is dedicated to the reading
public only, and no performance of it may be given except
by special arrangement with Samuel French, 28-30 West 38th
Street, New York.

SECTION 28 That any person who wilfully or for profit
shall infringe any copyright secured by this act, or who shall
knowingly and wilfully aid or abet such infringement shall
be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction
thereof shall be punished by imprisonment for not exceeding
one year, or by a fine of not less than one hundred nor more
than one thousand dollars, or both ; in the discretion of the

Act of March 4, 1909.




THIS preface is the fourth of a short series pre
fixed each to a play. The first dealt with a drama
written to exploit a theory: perhaps the most dif
ficult starting point that a playwright can take. The
second explained a play written to fit a particular
actor. The third showed a method of utilizing some
bits of material in the playwright s possession and
supposed to be funny.

This preface will tell of the construction of a play
about an historical character ; a comedy made from
incidents principally authentic and associated in this
case with a figure in literary history ; the building of
a play about a man more or less well known in
anecdote and biography.

Except for the writer engaged in similar work, it
cannot have the interest of the task imposed by the
other plays. It is largely a " scissors and paste-pot "
undertaking, and is the least difficult and least com
mendable of a playwright s performances, except
ing, perhaps, the dramatizing of a novel, which it
strongly resembles. The finished product, depend
ent as it is upon research, can never have the value
of a play written by equal experience and based on
observation, but dramatic literature would neverthe
less be the loser if we eliminated such plays as
Richelieu, David Garrick, Edmund Kean, Amy
Robsart, Beau Brummell, Nathan Hale, Tom
Moore, Disraeli and the like, all made after much
the same fashion. It is perhaps pertinent then to
repeat the implication of the other prefaces that the
series is modestly addressed to workers in the same

I had already made for Mr. Stuart Robson so




long and so well known as business associate and
fellow artist with Mr. William H. Crane, a drama
tization of Mr. Opie Reed s " Jucklins " and had
written for him an original comedy called " The
Meddler ". Both pieces had served their time and
purpose and Mr. Robson was in need of a new
vehicle. We were old friends of many years inti
mate acquaintance and I had for " Rob " a great
respect and real affection. In our earlier days I
had been " haunted " with a sense of having known
him before ; that consciousness so common of being
constantly reminded of some uncertain other. This
feeling cleared up one day, with the sudden recogni
tion of his resemblance to the profile portraits of
Oliver Goldsmith; and the idea being brought to
the surface we amused ourselves by my establishing
such resemblances of character between the poet
and the actor as a tolerant fancy and the absence of
vanity would accept. And with the profile and
these convivial qualifications " Rob " consented to
announce "Oliver Goldsmith" in preparation; and
I began training for the play.

The pitfalls in such a task are the disposition to
Crowd a life time into two hours and a half; the
temptation to touch briefly all the attractive inci
dents in a biography rather than to grasp firmly,
and treat thoroughly, the principal dramatic hap
pening; the inclination to be episodic, instead of
symmetrical and proportionate ; and the weakness
to be historically accurate, and historically cribbed,
instead of bending the facts to one s purpose and
inventing enough line to round out an indicated arc.
The fatal wish " to tell all " almost invariably in
cludes " the death ", that headsman in so many
semi-historical attempts. Now deaths are naturally
very definite finishes but unless they affect the emo
tions of remaining and very important characters
in the play, or are in themselves the result of the


dramatic clash, their usefulness should be ques

The big thing in Goldsmith s life from my point
of view was his production of " She Stoops to Con
quer ". It was a fairly sized fact in Stuart Rob-
son s life, as Tony Lumpkin in that play was a part
in which he had won much applause. Also Gold
smith s seizing of the idea that was the germ of the
play, the mistaking the house of a private gentleman
for an inn, was of itself capital material as his own
play showed; and in a theatrical use of Goldsmith
and his play that initial happening had logical place.

I therefore decided to make his conception of
" She Stoops to Conquer "; the public production of
it; and the immediate consequences of its success
the subject of the play to be called Oliver Gold
smith; and to take the time included in that action
for the period we would try to dramatize ; and to
make the persons logically or poetically associated
with his play, and with Goldsmith during that
period, the characters in the play for Stuart

Within this restricted field I re-read the few re
lated things with which I had any familiarity, and
read newly all that these pointed to as valuable:
that is to say I read, or re-read, the lives of Gold
smith, Doctor Samuel Johnson, David Garrick, Sir
Joshua Reynolds, Edmund Burke and James Bos-
well. I read also the things those men had written.
As Goldsmith had drawn upon one misadventure of
his own for the idea of " She Stoops to Conquer ", I
suspected him of other biographical confessions dis
guised in his other writings. I found an excellently
humorous situation, rather indifferently treated, in
his " Good Natured Man ", where a bailiff and his
deputy, in possession of the hero and his premises,
are persuaded to disguise themselves as visitors and
to be so introduced to some unexpected callers. I


had little doubt that in those old days of arrest for
small accounts over due; of bribes to bailiffs; of
sudden seizure of goods and person ; of the spong
ing house; and imprisonment for debt, some such
occurrence was within Goldsmith s knowledge and
may be experience. In fact his casual, rather than
a capital use of it, inclined me to think that perhaps
it was too common to be played up strongly; just as
some years ago in America, a hotel proprietor,
hopefully accompanying some hard up, fly-by-night
show company was too recurrent for astonished
comment. That was the only scene that I adapted
from a Goldsmith play, and there is a singular irony
in the fact that it was the only one that was criti
cized by a newspaper as being too improbable.

With " She Stoops to Conquer " as my assem
bling point of interest I found these historical facts :

That it was founded on a blunder of his own
previously referred to ; Colman, his manager, ob
jected to it on the ground that no such blunder
could occur; David Garrick, a rival manager and
the friend of Goldsmith was ready to produce the
play; Doctor Samuel Johnson thought it excellent
and was instrumental in having it done by Col
man ; Dr. Johnson suggested the name for it ; Gold
smith caned a critic who in reviewing it unfavor
ably had unpleasantly connected Goldsmith s name
with that of a young lady for whose family Gold
smith had acted as escort during a trip on the Con
tinent; Goldsmith was familiar with the lines in the
part of Tony Lumpkin; Edmund Burke thought it
a good play and was very friendly with Goldsmith
during the period of its preparation.

These facts all made " She Stoops " not only a
central point for a dramatic story of Goldsmith but
they enforced a veritable portrait gallery of notables
for the cast, each strongly characterized, and all
picturesque to a degree. The most notable of the
lot was of course Doctor Johnson. The most lov-


able and warm-hearted, after Oliver himself, was
his fellow Irishman, Edmund Burke ; while the most
gallantly picturesque was Garrick. Boswell de
lightfully pictures him, holding Johnson by the
lapels and dancing about him with laughter, trying
to cheer the old man from some fit of displeasure;
or making the coffee house club roar with some imi
tation of a member ; or playing some protean prank
of impersonation. It was all so warm and human
and fraternal, the daily association of these gifted
men drawn together by their congenial tastes, and
their common interest in art, in letters, and in the
playhouse for which all were writing, and some
what held together by their occasionally equal pov

In my own observation there had been certain
memorable, chimney-corner, nights at the Lambs
Club, which gave the nearest modern approach that
America furnished to that coffee house atmosphere ;
nights in which the gentle influence of Robson him
self was measurable, and that made the considera
tion of such a play a genuine pleasure.

The wish to use that earlier group of men made
not only a portrait of Goldsmith necessary but
called for equal physical resemblance in the others.

That distinguished writer and illustrator of the
present day, Mr. Walter Hale, was at the time of
our production an actor ; and while finer looking and
more romantic than the portraits of Edmund Burke,
he was as strikingly like them as Robson was like
the Goldsmith pictures. The nearest approach we
could make to Garrick among the American players
of prominence was Mr. Henry Dixey. Both these
men were tentatively engaged before the play was
written and the idea of each was inspiring to the
writer. In private life Henry Dixey is so con
stantly protean that his existence seems a continu
ous series of secondary personalities from long
shoreman to grand dukes ; and chameleon like, he


takes his color from the dominant factor of the
running talk, or group composition. If Mr. DeWolf
Hopper comes into the circle, Dixey beams as a
comic opera buffo. If Dixey meets Mr. Drew on
the steps of the club house, out comes the imaginary
snuff box and with " Sir John " he exchanges the
courtesies of the old English gentleman, and fin
ishes by dusting the snuff from his phantom ruffles.

We were equally fortunate in getting an expon
ent for Doctor Johnson in the person of Mr.
Weaver, a venerable actor of that time.

In shaping a first outline of the play for Robson,
I felt that the form should be three acts ; and if so
that the production of " She Stoops " should serve
as act two. The first night itself would be the ap
parently logical setting ; but as plays when depicted
in the moment of presentation are usually looked at
from behind the scenes, and their progress reported
by eager relays of couriers from the wings, I felt
that a rehearsal that could be shown, was preferable
to a performance that had to be only talked about.

Moreover, the rehearsal, if we introduced Gar-
rick, might show the professional side of that actor.
It could show Johnson s interest ; and it would give
Mr. Goldsmith, as author, a chance to rehearse.
Tony Lumpkin, which Mr. Robson would do very

In picking your proposed work up that way by
the middle, as a tailor might pick up the basted
pattern of a pair of trousers it is well to study a
more graceful presentation for the finished prod
uct; and the finish of the second act of a three act
play is likely to be your climax and most important
moment. Years ago Mr. George Broadhurst
thought his failures had taught him and the best
things a playwright knows are learned that way
had taught him that " an audience at your penulti
mate curtain will not applaud a thing that they do


not wish to see happen." I haven t since then found
any reason to quarrel with that Broadhurst dictum
at that time I resolved to be guided by it. I was
to choose from my bulk of material a situation, or
using some of it as spring board, was to jump to
some invented situation, that would give my hero
an emotion stirring moment in the accomplishment
of something the audience would like to see take

My memoranda included those items of interest
connected with the play and above enumerated and
also scores of lines of speech or dialogue trans-
scribed from the books, and possibly available to
their proper characters, or as suggestions of episode
or situation. In a review of them and after I had
discounted all personal feeling in judging them, it I
still seemed to me that Goldsmith caning a critic
was the most spirited and acceptable bit. If the set-\
ting were for a rehearsal, and the company were^
present, the caning could of course not go far with
out interference. The critic of the records, a man
named Kenrick was a bitter person, but by no means
a coward. In that hostile group I had him draw his
sword gentlemen still wore them occasionally at
that period I gave Garrick the showy bit of wrest
ing the sword from him and breaking it while
Burke and Johnson restrained Goldsmith from fur
ther assault.

One memorandum was a transcription of the par
agraph that had aroused Goldsmith s anger and it
contained the phrase " Could the lovely H-K but
know " etc. The lovely H-K was understood to
be Miss Mary Horneck the young lady who, with
her mother and younger sister, had been under
Goldsmith s escort in France. The sister, Cather
ine, was generally referred to by Goldsmith as " Lit
tle Comedy ", and for Mary his regard was evi
dently more serious and his address more formal.


Kenrick s allusion to her implied that Goldsmith s
attentions were at least noticeable; and the use of
the knowledge in that way indicated an envy, and
perhaps a rivalry, on the part of the critic.

Evidences of Goldsmith s sentimental interests in
women are about as rare and as slight as those
recorded of George Washington before his meeting
with Martha Custis, and any romance constructed
from them must hinge upon slender hints. Ken-
rick s printed resentment; Goldsmith s prompt can
ing of him; and the recorded friendship of the
Horneck family for the poet, gave me enough stage
license to portray Mary as his sweetheart, and in
vent such romance as the sketchy confines of the
facts did not violently contradict. Of course Mary
should be present at this spontaneous encounter,
and bear the most effective relation to the scene that
.the playwright could devise.

To be back of the scenes in the day time, a young
lady would need more than the company of a
younger sister. I think I found Mrs. Featherstone
in Boswell s life of Johnson ; also her connection
with the theatre; and her suburban residence I
made Kenrick, Goldsmith s avowed rival, and to
further enhance Mary s popularity, I made Burke
also interested in her.

When a play in rehearsal is much in doubt there
is always considerable flutter between the stage and
the box office ; and in the day time the shortest way
between these points is through the auditorium. At
the time we were doing this for Robson, putting
members of the company in the stage boxes was not
unknown, but marching actors and ballet girls up
and down the aisles of the theatre had not yet been
introduced by Sumurun and the Winter Garden
we felt that Garrick suddenly appearing in the par
quet with Goldsmith, and taking the rehearsal from
less experienced hands would be effective as it
was. In the text of the play it is rather hard read-


Ing for the layman to follow the technical shifts in
the rehearsal scene, but I knew with the experience
of Lambs Club Gambols, what these shifts would be
in Dixey s swift changing treatment. Even with
the danger of turning this preface into a " gaffer s "

fossip I must record one episode that was the model
or a short passage, again nothing in the printed
line, but irresistible with Dixey. The late Dan
Daly, gifted comedian and dancer, was bending
over a pool table in the club carefully " addressing "
a difficult shot; Dixey happened in at the moment
and, immediately possessed by the Daly personality,
he said in the wooden drawl of Daly s, " Do you
think you can make that shot " and followed the
speech with the stencil " break " of the clog dancer,
rap tap a raptap rap tap tap. Daly didn t alter his
pose a particle but with his left hand still making a
bridge on the cloth and divining the imitator with
out looking around, answered in the same tone, " I
don t know, but I mean to try " ; and in true mum
mer masonry followed his speech with a repetition
of the clog finish; rap tap a raptap rap tap tap;
and capped the last step with the rythmic stroke of
the billiard cue, and a successful shot. Neither co
median smiled although the score or so of onlook
ers roared with laughter. I paraphrased that
spirited exchange and gave it to Dixey and the
young comic who did " props ".

The incidents related and referred to made a
sufficiently full second act and the preparation for
them enforced an adequate first one.

For the third act the advisable thing was to carry
the Mary Horneck interest to an implied promise of
marriage; to show Goldsmith in his historic attic;
and display the help of Johnson, Burke and Gar-
rick in those trying days. The sordid arrest for
debt was modified by Goldsmith s own device of
dressing up the bailiff ; and made further useful by
having the bailiff not genuine, but a masquerade of


Garrick s, undertaken to keep Goldsmith, an inex
perienced swordsman, from a duel with Kenrick
who had some knowledge of the weapon. This was
the act that offered an over numerous choice of con
struction and treatment. Goldsmith could have
been shown as suffering, and dying in want, as he
finally did, but a more cheerful period was just as
accurate, and more closely related to the production
of his comedy, which, as was stated earlier, was
chosen as the cohesive idea for the play printed

I should like more definitely to indicate my in
debtedness for such lines as were transcribed from
various historical sources, but at this late day I find
it is not possible in all cases to tell the borrowed
from the invented speeches. A few weeks reading
of Johnson, Boswell, Goldsmith, Burke and Garrick
saturates one with the manner of the day, and, when
needed, a little sympathetic reflection gives even the
manner of the individual. Nothing in fact is much
easier than such imitation and I naturally practiced
it wherever it did not halt the action. It is a plea
sure to record Stuart Robson s success in the part,
and to acknowledge the many illuminating touches
his gentle art brought to the presentation. A fact
that gratified him profoundly was the disposition,
largely inspired by the advance agent I suspect, of
the English literature classes of the various semi
naries to come in large parties to see his play.
Their undiluted interest and fluttering approval
were more valued than the praise of the profes
sional critics ; the gentlemen of the press were look
ing at the actor, but the girls in the senior division
were seeing Oliver Goldsmith.

Augustus Thomas.





MARY HORNECK Florence Rockwell



ROGER Walter Clews


BOSWELL Beaumont Smith



KENRICK Ogden Stevens

CAPT. HORNECK Clifford Leigh



COLMAN Joseph P. Winter

DRUMMOND Bert Washburn


LITTLE MARY Monica Harris


MRS. HIGGINS Bessie Scott

TWITCH Harry Dixey


BIFF Charles E. Long



ACT I. Scene Interior of an old English
country-house. Main room done in

ACT II. Theatre. Stage set for rehearsal and
one or two of leading characters
make their entrance through the

ACT III. A garret. GOLDSMITH S historical
lodgings in London.



SCENE : Interior of hall of English country house.
Low ceiling with beams. At back and center
is fireplace with heavy shelf and inglenook
seats seats are about ten feet apart. To left
of inglenook is square opening five feet wide
into reception hall. To R. of inglenook is flight
of four steps and platform going to arch lead-
ing off through wall R. The steps and landing
come into stage from back flat. There are also
double width openings in I R. and I L. with in
terior backings. The one R. is to dining room.
The one L. to music room and gallery. There
is a bay window L. u. E. A stag s head is over
fireplace. Window is fitted with seat. Be
tween window and door is old black wood set
tle. There is a massive round top mahogany
table down R. c. with high back heavy arm
chairs to match. Walls are wainscoted and
finished above in terra cotta. Ceiling between
beams is plain dark wood.

of steps. She is a wholesome and robust lady
about forty years old and wears the Kate
Hard castle dress of the period. She is looking
R. I and smiling in anticipation. Enter MARY
HORNECK from R. MARY starts up steps. MRS.
FEATHERSTONE smiles and exit. MARY is a


beautiful girl of twenty. Enter EDMUND
BURKE, R. BURKE has followed MARY. He is
the young BURKE of the early portraits.

BURKE. Mary. (Goes to side of staircase)

MARY. Mr. Burke.

BURKE. A moment with you.

MARY. Well.

BURKE. (Gallantly, yet with diffidence as he
talks to her over the banister) It isn t an Irish
man s way to stammer, or grow still, before the face
of a woman he loves, but I seem an alien and a
weakling whin I try to spake to you.

MARY. I hope you will say no more, Mr. Burke.

BURKE. That may be justice, Miss Mary but it
isn t hope (Defers) Won t you come down.
Ye ll be far enough above me wherever ye stand.

MARY. (Coming down to stage) I don t feel
that way. You re only a boy, you know and I
want you to remember some day to my credit that
I say the time will come when the name of Edmund
Burke will have magic in it.

BURKE. If thinkin of you could make it so

MARY. (Stopping him) Not that Don t think
of me.

BURKE. That may be what the God o Day says
to the sun flower but

MARY. (Compassionate and smiling) Oh Burke
you boys of Ireland you say those things.

BURKE. We feel them.

MARY. You think you do.

BURKE. We prove it whin we may. Give me a
chance to die for you.

MARY. Nonsense ! I ll give you a chance to live
for yourself. You re just a boy, Ned Burke

BURKE. I m older n you

MARY. (Not regarding the interruption) You re
filled with a great strength that s ready to lavish


5tself on some ideal. You think now that / am that ;
and as you say you d die for me

BURKE. (In fervor almost tearful) With a

MARY. Yes, you spendthrift " with a smile "
but no woman is worthy of the sacrifice.

BURKE. (Accusing) You don t love me, Mary

MARY. (Smiling) No, Burke, I don t love you.

BURKE. If I were only an Englishman

MARY. (Imitating him) Burke whisper if
ever I marry any man twill be an Irishman. (Runs
up the stairs)

BURKE. (Eagerly) Mary (She turns on the
landing and laughs over the rail) Is it Goldsmith?

MARY. I won t tell you. You d be a dangerous

BURKE. To him, Nolly Goldsmith? Why with

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Online LibraryAugustus ThomasOliver Goldsmith, a comedy in three acts → online text (page 1 of 7)