Collection No. 22: New Brooms!, 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: New Brooms!

First played: 1776
First published: 1776
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1777)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1996)

Available at Robarts: PR3358 .N4 1980

Character types: Irish; Country; French; Nautical

[Return to Top]


The play satirizes Colman's retirement as manager of the Covent Garden theatre.

Playgoers, including the Drippings, the Furrows, a sailor and his lass, and Phelim and Catcall, arrive at the theatre. Catcall mentions that “Roscius is departed. – the little man has left the house”, referring to Colman himself. Phelim rejoices in Colman’s departure, as there is now room for other geniuses to take the stage. After he reads Shakespeare with a heavy brogue, Catcall, a writer affiliated with the theatres, agrees to help him get a stage part. They go to see Mr. Crotchet. This gentleman is accompanying Miss Quaver, an aspiring singer; she agrees to “show [him] a few little civilities” in return for a position on the stage. Crotchet tells Phelim that acting has gone out with Colman’s retirement, and that opera is now all the rage. Phelim sings for Crotchet and Catcall. Crotchet begins to describe his opera, Topsy-Turvy. The deaf musical expert Sir Dulcimer Dunder arrives. Miss Quaver sings a song taken from Sir John Suckling’s poetry. The totally deaf Sir Dulcimer does not notice that she has not sung the song he composed, but is furious when a musician informs him of this. Monsieur Mezzetin arrives; he has hurt his leg composing a ballet for the dancers engaged at Drury-Lane. They discuss the decline of Shakespeare and the degeneration of drama to pantomime and dance. Sprightly, a playwright, says that comedy and tragedy will dominate the stage forever, and concludes the piece with a recitation of a prologue that he has written: ‘the Stage’s a Stage-Coach’, so ‘Gee up! The Stage will run forever!’

[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.
"Commemorating the event, Colman wrote New Brooms! An Occasional Prelude, which opened on 21 September to inaugurate the 1776-1777 season. It begins amid the bustle of playgoers from every social station ("Have a care of your pockets, gentlefolks!"), but it moves quickly away from this setting; the drama critic Catcall decides he would prefer to visit Mr. Crochet the author rather than to see the scheduled piece. The entertainment at Mr. Crochet's is pompous and topical--but also reflective of some of the very tastes that Colman himself encouraged in London audiences, as Crochet's new opera, Topsy-Turvy, is set in the Antipodes where "The ladies judge, fight, swear, drink, ravish" while "the gentlemen knit, spin, scold, pout.""

B) Baldwin, Olive, and Thelma Wilson. ‘Colman, George, the elder (bap. 1732, d. 1794)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 May 2008.

"Colman wrote New Brooms! An Occasional Prelude for the first night under the new management, led by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and the following May he wrote the epilogue for The School for Scandal while Garrick provided the prologue."

[Return to Top]

Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Different playgoers (a fruit-woman, a country family, a sailor) enter the theatre, speaking in different dialects. Phelim, an Irishman, recites some of Richard II in brogue, and Mezzetin, a ballet-writer, speaks in Franglais.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Playgoers
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 9]
Ch'a some nonpareils! ch'a some fruit, your Honour! ---a bill of the Play!---take some fruit--- you'll be very dry in the house, sir---a bill of the Play!

Here!---let's see your bill, and sixpenn'orth of apples---
(takes bill and fruit.)
Is this the way to the gallery?

Up those steps, sir---bless your honour!---
(Exit Lad)
ch'a some nonpareils!--- a bill of the Play!

b.1 Orthography: “ch’a” (?); “sixpenn’orth”
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profiles: common attendees of a play; orange-girls often prostitutes
e. Consistency of representation: this scene only

Variety: the Furrow family
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 11]
Mrs. F.
Sha'n't we see the smart, handsome young fellow, that did Romeor at our town, in July, among the player men?

See him, Love!---Thou may'st see him, and some of the rest on 'em, mayhap---but in another-guess fashion than they were i'th' country.---Romeo---Romeo may sweep the stage, perhaps---and Alexander shift the scenes---and Julius Cæsar light the candles.

b.1 Orthography: “Romeor”; contractions: “sha’n’t”, “may’st” “i’th’”
b.2 Grammar: “thou”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profiles: country folk
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: a sailor
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 12]
Hark'ee, Moll! don't you be stowing [75]  too much sour-crout aboard---it will give you the cholick, mayhap.---Let's see, sweetheart! one, two, three---damme, what signifies reckoning? Here's a full night's pay for you, and we'll seize the whole cargo
(takes the basket.)
Come along, Moll!---Davy for ever!

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: nautical: “stowing…aboard”; “damme”; “seize the whole cargo”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: a sailor
e. Consistency of representation: consistent (within his few lines)

Variety: Phelim (an Irishman)
a. Sample of dialect
[page 12]
To be sure I don't know bitter, honey! Haven't I taken places, when they were not to be had, no more than a place at Coort? and haven't I stood here in the anti-chamber, on the outside of the house, among all the dear cratures, squeezing and crouding, and squeaking and squawling, and tearing of capuchins, and braking of ligs, and all the sport in nature, honey?

b.1 Orthography: “bitter” (better); “Coort” (Court); “cratures” (creatures); “ligs” (legs)
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: “honey”
c. Nationality: Irish
d. Character profile: a would-be actor
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Monsieur Mezzetin
a. Sample of dialect
[page 29]
Ver mosh, I assure you, Mr. Croché! I have hurt-a my leg ver mosh in writing

[page 30 ]

un grand ballet for de new danseurs & danseuses engage dis sason at Dury-lane.

b.1 Orthography: “Ver mosh” (very much); “hurt-a”; “dis sason”; “Dury-lane”
b.2 Grammar : “engage” (not “engaged”)
b.3 Vocabulary: “un grand ballet”; “danseurs & danseuses”
c. Nationality: French
d. Character profile: French composer of ballets
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

[Return to Top]

Narrative comments on varieties and dialects

Accents on the stage:
[page 15]
Why, where is the joke? What should hinder my going on the Stage, any more than his going off it?

Don't you think that the brogue---

Oh, the brogue's nothing at all, my dear. It's very will known that nobody spakes English so will as your Irishmen---except the Scotch, indeed.

[Return to Top]

Other points of interest

References to contemporary music:
Sir Dulc.
Handel's thunder strikes upon the nerve like electricity; the ear-piercing fife serves for a syringe;---nay, I should not lose a single demi-semi-quaver of a solo on the flageolet.--- Musick, sir, musick plays on the drum of my ear, like the wind on an Æolian harp, sir.

The suspected decline of the theatre:
Vat signify your triste Sha-kes-peare? Begar, dere vas more móneys got by de gran spectacle of de Sha-kes-peare Jubilee, dan by all de Comique and tragique of Sha-kes-peare beside, ma foi! ---You make-a de danse, and de musique, and de pantomime of your Sha-kes-peare, and den he do ver vell.
[Page 31 ]

Treason! high treason against the Majesty of Shakespeare, and the Empire of the Publick!

[Return to Top]

©2008 Arden Hegele