The Rivals and Polly Honeycombe
  • Publication Date: July 25, 2012
  • ISBN: 9781554810062 / 155481006X
  • 324 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Rivals and Polly Honeycombe

  • Publication Date: July 25, 2012
  • ISBN: 9781554810062 / 155481006X
  • 324 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The Rivals and Polly Honeycombe revolve around young women who wish the world would conform to novelistic convention. Unlike most eighteenth-century heroines keen on novel reading, however, Lydia Languish and Polly Honeycombe are neither deluded nor in any real danger. Rather, they inhabit a world in which everyone is engaged in some sort of quixotic performance; the more appealing characters are just willing to admit it. Both farcical and wise, these plays teasingly celebrate the perennial appeal of fiction, while never letting us forget how much it relies upon the everyday rituals of performance.

The introduction to this Broadview edition explores the interrelations between print and performance in the eighteenth century, including a detailed and well-illustrated account of what it was like to go to the theater. Appendices include material on the original casts, the often dubious reputation of novel reading and circulating libraries, Sheridan’s high-profile elopement with Elizabeth Linley (which made him a celebrity before he ever staged a word), and the narrative possibilities conjured up by setting The Rivals in the resort city of Bath.


“These two comedies, about ‘novel-reading girls gone wild,’ make for an inspired pairing; in this edition, David A. Brewer makes the pairing pay off handsomely. With its revelatory illustrations, its deft notes, its brief biographies of the plays’ original performers, its varied and very amusing supplementary readings, and its ingenious, down-to-earth introduction, Brewer’s edition does the best job I’ve seen of getting readers not only through the plays but to the playhouse: of helping them to imagine the daily experiences—of work and leisure, print and public life—that shaped both actors and audiences, and that inflected their interactions during the first runs of these two hugely entertaining shows.” — Stuart Sherman, Fordham University

“David A. Brewer’s new edition of The Rivals and Polly Honeycombe is a fantastic resource for scholars and students studying eighteenth-century British literature and culture. The plays are, in themselves, two of the most entertaining works of the period, and they remain remarkably relevant for our own time, given their focus on the impact of popular culture. But what really make this edition stand out are the editorial apparatus and the rich historical and visual materials provided in the introduction and appendices. This edition can’t teach itself, but it will certainly help others teach this material to best effect.” — Matthew J. Kinservik, University of Delaware

List of Illustrations
George Colman the Elder and Richard Brinsley Sheridan: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Texts

Polly Honeycombe, A Dramatick Novel of One Act, George Colman the Elder

The Rivals, A Comedy, Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Appendix A: The Original Casts of the Plays

Appendix B: Novel-Reading and Its Discontents

  1. From [Samuel Johnson], The Rambler (31 March 1750)
  2. From [Francis Coventry], The History of Pompey the Little:
    or, The Life and Adventures of a Lap-Dog
  3. [William Whitehead], The World (10 May 1753)
  4. From [William Dodd], The Sisters; or, The History of Lucy and Caroline Sanson, Entrusted to a false Friend (1754)
  5. From [Owen Ruffhead], The Monthly Review (1761)
  6. From The Critical Review (1765)
  7. From [James Fordyce], Sermons to Young Women (1766)
  8. From [Hester Chapone], Letters on the Improvement of
    the Mind, Addressed to a Young Lady
  9. From The Monthly Review (1773)
  10. From [William Enfield], The Monthly Review (1775)
  11. From The Critical Review (1775)

Appendix C: “Such Paragraphs in the News-Papers!”

  1. Report of Sheridan’s Elopement with Elizabeth Linley, The Daily Advertiser (26 March 1772)
  2. Thomas Mathews’s Denunciation of Sheridan, The Bath Chronicle (9 April 1772)
  3. Report of the First Duel, The London Evening-Post (2-5 May 1772)
  4. Contradiction of The London Evening-Post Report, The Bath Chronicle (7 May 1772)
  5. Mathews’s Apology to Sheridan, The Bath Chronicle (7 May 1772)
  6. Draft of an unsent (?) letter from Sheridan (c. late June 1772)
  7. Report of Sheridan’s Second Duel with Mathews, The Bath Chronicle (2 July 1772)
  8. Report of Sheridan’s Wounding in the Second Duel, The London Chronicle (2-4 July 1772)
  9. Another Report of the Second Duel, The London Evening-Post (2-4 July 1772)
  10. Report on Sheridan’s Wounds, The Public Advertiser (8 July 1772)
  11. Another Report on Sheridan’s Wounds, The Bath Chronicle (9 July 1772)
  12. From “Anecdotes of the Maid of Bath (With an Elegant Engraving),” The London Magazine (September 1772)
  13. Yet Another Report on Sheridan’s Wounds, The St. James’s Chronicle (10-12 November 1772)
  14. “Miss Linley, the syren of Bath,” The Westminster Magazine (March 1773)
  15. Report of a Sheridan-Linley Marriage, The Bath Chronicle (1 April 1773)
  16. Letter probably written by Sheridan, The Bath Chronicle (15 April 1773)
  17. Report on The Rivals, The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (17 January 1775)
  18. Another Report on The Rivals, The Town and Country Magazine (January 1775)

Appendix D: The Narrative Possibilities of Bath

  1. From [Christopher Anstey], The New Bath Guide: or, Memoirs of the B—r—d Family. In a Series of Poetical Epistles (1766)
  2. From [Tobias Smollett], The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771)
  3. Report of an Elopement, The Bath Chronicle (9 September 1773)

Select Bibliography

David A. Brewer is Associate Professor of English at The Ohio State University.