Now to the Drama turn - Oh! motley sight!


Bequest of Gabriel Wells, 1946 – MS Thr 5

Oh! SHERIDAN! if aught can move thy pen,
Let Comedy assume her throne again,
Abjure the mummery of German schools,
Leave new Pizarros to translating fools;
Give as thy last memorial to the age,
One classic drama, and reform the stage.

August von Kotzebue (1761-1819). Pizarro. The Spaniards in Peru: manuscript [in an unidentified hand], 1799.

This English translation of Die Spanier in Peru, oder, Rollas Tod (1796) has been extensively reworked by the Irish dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), whose own adaptation became a staple in the repertory of British theatre. The play earned Sheridan a small fortune, if not critical acclaim. “It is impossible to sink below Pizarro,” Southey contended: “Kotzebue’s play might have passed for the worst possible if Sheridan had not proved the possibility of making it worse.” Byron too had hoped for something more from the author of The Rivals (1775) and The School for Scandal (1777). This manuscript formerly belonged to the great collector Sir Thomas Phillipps.