Collection No. 20: The Man of Business, by George Colman the Elder

Publication Details | Synopsis | Secondary Commentary |Varieties & Dialects | Other

Publication details

Author: Colman, George (the Elder)
Author dates: 1732-1794
Title: The Man of Business

First played: 1774
First published: 1774, for T. Becket [etc.] 76 p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1774)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1997)

Genre: Comedy

Character types: Innkeeper

[Return to Top]


Beverly loses his fortune but marries Lydia with financial help from her father.

[Return to Top]

Secondary commentary

A) Sondergard, Sid. ‘George Colman, the Elder: April 15, 1732-August 14, 1794’. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 89: Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Dramatists, Third Series. Edited by Paula R. Backscheider, University of Rochester. The Gale Group, 1989. LiteratureResourceCenter. 26 May 2008.

"The Man of Business, which provoked reviews like the February 1774 Westminster Magazine's that condemned it as "dull, tedious, uninteresting an improbabale," an interesting response to the comedy's polemical focus on the unreliability and vindictiveness of the press. Bad reviews led Colman to play the martyr for freedom of expression in the drama's published dedication: "Better were it that thousands and ten thousands of such insignificant individuals as myself should be maliciously slandered, than that sacred right of Englishmen should be violated or infringed." Its reform-comedy plot combines a comedy of manners structure with the prodigal son motif of Terentian comedy, featuring an essentially good but fashionably frivolous young man (Beverly) who fritters away a fortune before being shown the errors of his ways and thereby becomes eligible to marry his virtuous beloved (Lydia) thanks to help from a parent / patron (Golding, Lydia's read father). Onto this structure are grafted vehement attacks on the newspapers' gossip and society columns (Tropick says of them "there are not a more silly, empty, insolent, impudent, ignorant, lying vermin, than your framers of common reports and collectors of personal paragraphs") and on abuses of the law, as displayed by the unscrupulous Denier ("A Caesar, a Machiavel, Sir! You know all the turnings and windings and narrow back stairs of the law too"). Though not a failure per se, this frustrated effort toward more serious comedy played only thirteen nights and signaled to Colman that it was time to resign as Covent Garden's manager."

[Return to Top]

Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Snap, an inn-keeper, consistently botches every grammatical construction. He also coins the terms “poet-man” and “actorman”.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Snap’s speech
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 65]
We does all in our power to oblige company, sir.---No body can do no more, you know--- especially such as behaves like gentlemen, like your honour, sir---for we has them of all sorts.---Within this fortnight, there has been no less than four or five different lodgers in this very apartment.---The room is genteel enough for that matter.---Let me see, who was they?---An ensign in the guards; a poet-man from Little-Britain; a Scotch actorman; [75]  an old battered lady from Soho; and a very fine young one from the New Buildings at Marybone---that's five---and now we have the honour of your honour to make up the even half-dozen, sir.
b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “We does”; “No body can do no more”; “such as behaves like gentlemen”; “we has”; “there has been no less than four or five”; “who was they?”
b.3 Vocabulary: “poet-man”; “actorman”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: an inn-keeper
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

[Return to Top]

Narrative comments on varieties and dialects


[Return to Top]

Other points of interest


[Return to Top]

©2008 Arden Hegele