This drama has a charm for the public beyond its own intrinsic worth - it was written by Richard
Brinsley Sheridan. If that name has no power over the reader's imagination, so as to give to every sentence a degree of interest,
let him throw aside the book, and forbear to seek after literary pleasures, for he has not the taste to enjoy them.
Although "The Duenna's" highest claim to notice, depends, now, upon the reputation of its author, yet the author
was first indebted to "The Duenna" for the honour of ranking among poets, and of receiving from the fashionable
world all those animating caresses, so dear to a poet's heart.
This opera was brought upon the stage in 1775, and during that, and many following years, dellighted the dramatic world;
still the author did not receive undivided praise for its success: - Musicians had their share, and certain
singers of the most forcible attraction.
Divested of all adventitious aid, the value of the opera consists in the beautiful poetry of many of the songs;
for though it is a production of much ingenuity and skill, it does not give a presage, either in wit or incident,
of such a work, from the same hand, as "The School for Scandal." The comparing of Isaac's neuter faith to the
blank leaf between two scripture doctrines is, indeed, the happy conception of a very extraordinary imagination;
but as this brilliant sentence stands in the dialogue unrivalled, without companion, or comparison with any other
in the play, it has more the appearance of some other writer's wit, than that of the ostensible authorp;
though subsequent wit from the same pen allows him most probable claim to it.
Of less doubtful origin is the best incident in the opera, or rather, the foundation and fable of the opera
itself, which is borrowed from Wycherley's "Country Wife." - Not purloined, and the mark taken out, to
prevent detection; but fairly borrowed, and used almost to the very letter.
Neither is the scene of Friar Paul and his brethren of Mr. Sheridan's invention; but is either taken from
some other French author.
Margaret, the Duenna, has some resemblance to Bickerstaff's Ursula - but little Isaac, the Jew, seems to be a character
wholly original; and notwithstanding, there is great humour in him, there is, at the same time, infinite instruction.
He is an excellent example for men, vain either of their persons, or their intellects. He has all the folly of both elderly
and youthful coxcombs; and is happily punished by a destiny, which, in general, falls to their share.
It is painful to record errors; but as the author was a young man, and somewhat inexperienced, at the time of
writing this drama, these circumstances may be his excuse for having here slandered a noble science, which he has since
pursued with unremitting industry; and which, no doubt, has long given him reason to recant that
unguarded declaration, in page 44, which alleges that "conscience has nothing to do with politics."
- 1807 -