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A COMIC OPERA,
IN THREE ACTS,
BY ISAAC BICKERSTAFF.
AS PERFORMED AT THE
THEATRE ROYAL, COVENT GARDEN.
PRINTED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE MANAGERS
FROM THE PROMPT BOOK.
BY MRS. INCHBALD.
PRINTED FOR LONGMAN, HURST, REES, AND ORME,
This drama is from a pen, to which, next to Gay's, the English nation is indebted for the species of entertainment, called opera.
“ Love in a Village,” and “ The Maid of the Mill,” had for several years delighted the town, when the author of these pieces produced the present musical work; more satisfied with his composition than he had been upon any other occasion, and, of course, more confident in his hopes of success.
“ Lionel and Clarissa” was received with approbation; but in comparing it with those productions, which had preceded it, and which the author had considered as inferior, it failed in reputation and attraction; and both he and the public were disappointed.
It is somewhat hard to be judged and punished upon the score of past services; and yet, in the usual method of rating, by the comparison of works from the same hand, is many a poor artist, more especially an author, tried and condemned.
It was the boast of the writer, in his preface to this drama, that the whole was of his own invention; having borrowed neither plot, incident, nor charac
ter:-it, perhaps, had been better if he had; for his " Maid of the Mill,” taken from “ Pamela," and his “ Love in a Village,” taken from fifty things, will both long outlive all such
Lionel and Clarissa.” Yet, let not the reader suppose that he shall meet with no entertainment in perusing this play; for it contains many interesting scenes, some humour, and
excellent lessons of moral purpose-especially to parents.
On account of its last stated quality, when “Lionel and Clarissa" was (after having been acted some years at Covent Garden) brought upon the stage at Drury Lane, it had the additional title of “ The School for Fathers” conferred by Garrick, who was then manager.
The School for Coxcombs had been an appellaion equally just--for Jessamy is a striking likeness of the youthful tourists of that period, and was so excellently personated, in the Dublin theatre, by a comedian, called Wilkes, that the opera, on his account alone, was attractive beyond any former example of theatric allurement in that metropolis, and ruined the opposing theatre, where some of the great tragedians of London were performing along with the most favoured actors of the Irish stage.
The song of Diana Oldboy to her brother, on his fantastic habiliments, is perfectly curious at the present day; being an exact description of the attire worn by men, called fops, at that, no very distant, time when it was written. Yet Miss Diana may be told—that even Jessamy's dress is not more out of
fashion now among men, than her total ignorance of the rudiments of astronomy is, at this period, among women of her birth and fortune.
The contrast between Sir John Flowerdale and the colonel, is very happily executed; and whilst the wishes of an audience must ever be excited for a happy conclusion to the paternal anxieties of the first; every spectator is sure to be so extremely dissatisfied with the mind and manners of the last, that,,but for the preservation of the filial duty of the daughter, to spare her heart compunction for deceit and treachery-it might be wished that she had married the mean impostor her lover, without returning to obtain the consent of her profligate father.
Lionel and Harman are as much contrasted in the character of lovers, as the elder gentlemen are in the character of parents—and, how much soever the young ladies of former times might allow themselves to sigh for men who descended to the vilest falsehoods, in or. der to obtain their hands--the better informed woman of the present era, would, perhaps, as soon become the wife of the effeminate Jessamy, as of the unprincipled Harman; and have sense to look forward for happiness in wedlock only with a man of strict hanour--such as Lionel.