73 Pages

Charles Johnson, The generous husband: or, the coffee house politician. A comedy. As it is acted at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane. By Her Majesty’s servants. Written by Mr. Charles Johnson (London, printed for Bernard Lintott, and Egbert Sanger, [1711]), [8], 63 pp.; 4°. BL: 162.i.15. ESTCT57015

Charles Johnson (1679–1748) was a prolific and successful playwright of the early eighteenth century, writing a new comedy for each theatrical season between 1710 and 1719, and remaining in vogue until the 1730s. He was an amiable gentleman, educated at the Middle Temple, and a habitué of theatrical coffee-houses and taverns. Edmund Curll commented in Characters of the Times, that he was ‘famous for writing a play every season and for being at Button’s every day’ (see Maurice Shudofsky, ‘Charles Johnson and Eighteenth-Century Drama’, ELH, 10:2 (June 1943), pp. 131–58; p. 132). Renowned for his corpulence (‘a Martyr to obesity’ according to Curll), he later kept a tavern in Bow St, Covent Garden. The Generous Husband was his third play, and the second to be performed. It was performed for three nights at Drury Lane ߝ 20, 22 and 23 February 1711 ߝ which was sufficient to secure the author’s benefit performance, contractually the third night (London Stage, part II, p. 241). The play was subsequently printed by a prestigious combination of the booksellers, Bernard Lintot and Egbert Sanger. The character of Dipthong, a pedantic literary critic, was probably modelled on John Dennis (see Mary Dias, ‘A Satire on John Dennis, 1711’, The Review of English Studies, 19:74 (April, 1943), pp. 213–14). Dennis’s subsequent attack on Johnson, when he protested to the Master of the Revels about Johnson’s The Successful Pirate (1712), may have been motivated by this exchange (Dennis, original letters). Johnson was hurt to discover his name amongst the dunces of Pope’s The Dunciad. See William Burling, ‘Charles Johnson’, in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Dramatists, ed. by Paula Backsheider, Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 84 (Detroit, MI, Gales Research, 1989), pp. 234–42.