The London Merchant: Or, the History of George Barnwell, and Fatal Curiosity

The London Merchant: Or, the History of George Barnwell, and Fatal Curiosity

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The London Merchant: Or, the History of George Barnwell, and Fatal Curiosity

The London Merchant: Or, the History of George Barnwell, and Fatal Curiosity

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The London Merchant, or The History of George Barnwell, when first acted at Drury Lane on June 22, 1731, seems to have been announced under the title of The Merchant, or the True History of George Barnwell. The sub-title in each case clearly shows the author to have desired it to be understood that his play was directly founded upon fact. Conscious of the innovation which this at the time implied, and as a dramatist who had not yet made his way with the public, Lillo seems to have preferred to produce his play on the stage out of the regular theatrical season. Yet, though the critics ex officio may have been conspicuous by their absence from the pit at the first performance, and may afterwards have declined to allow their judgment to go simply by default, the arch-critic of the Augustan age is said to have been present on the memorable twenty-second of June, which heralded a literary revolution quite beyond his ken. Pope's criticism is on record that the author of The London Merchant had in this play 'never deviated from propriety, except in a few passages in which he aimed at a greater elevation of language than was consistent with the characters and the situation.' In anticipation of the performance, the old ballad of George Barnwell, which is

'His Barnwell once no critic's test could bear, But from each eye still draws the natural tear.'

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