The following article is reprinted from A Dictionary of the Drama. W. Davenport Adams. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1904.
Dramatic and miscellaneous writer Richard Cumberland was born February, 1732, and died May, 1811. The son of Dr. Denison Cumberland, Bishop of Kilmore, he was educated at Westminster and Cambridge, and was successively private secretary to Lord Halifax, Crown agent for Nova Scotia, assistant-secretary (and afterwards secretary) to the Board of Trade.
The following pieces, contributed by Cumberland to the stage, are named in the order in which they were published:-- The Banishment of Cicero (1761), The Summer's Tale (1765), Amelia (1768), The Brothers (1769), The West Indian (1771), The Fashionable Lover (1772), The Note of Hand (1774), The Choleric Man (1775), The Battle of Hastings (1778), Calypso (1779), The Widow of Delphi (1780), The Mysterious Husband (1783), The Carmelite (1784), The Natural Son (1785), The Impostors (1789), The Box-Lobby Challenge (1794), The Jew (1794), The Wheel of Fortune (1795), First Love (1795), Don Pedro (1796), The Days of Yore (1796), The Last of the Family (1797), False Impressions (1797), The Clouds (1797), Joanna of Mondfaucon (1800), The Sailor's Daughter (1804), Hints to Husbands (1806), and The Jew of Mogadore (1808). Cumberland was the author also of the following pieces:-- The Princess of Parma (1778), The Election (1778), The Walloons (1782), The Arab (1785), The Country Attorney (1787), The School for Widows (1789), The Armourer (1793), The Dependant (1795), The Eccentric Lover (1798), A Word for Nature (1798), Lover's Resolution (1802), Victory and Death of Lord Nelson (1805), The Robber (1809), The Widow's only Son (1810), Alcanor, The False Demetrius, The Passive Husband, The Sibyl, Tiberius in Capreae, and Torrendal. He was responsible, further, for adaptations of Timon of Athens (1771), The Bondman (1779), and The Duke of Milan (1779). A volume of dramatic works by him was published in 1813. See the Memoirs of Richard Cumberland, Written by Himself, Containing an Account of his Life and Writings
In his Retaliation, Goldsmith wrote:
- Here Cumberland lies, having acted his parts,
- The Terence of England, the mender of hearts;
- A flattering painter who made it his care
- To draw men as they ought to be, not as they are.
- His gallants are all faultless, his women divine,
- And Comedy wonders at being so fine;
- Like a tragedy queen he has dizened her out,
- Or, rather, like Tragedy giving a rout.
- His fools have their follies so lost in a crowd
- Of virtues and feelings, that Folly grows proud;
- And coxcombs, alike in their fallings alone,
- Adopting his portraits are proud of their own."
"Mr Cumberland," wrote Thomas Davies, "is unquestionably a man of very great abilities; it is his misfortune to rate them greatly above their value." "He wrote some good comedies," says Sir Egerton Brydges, "and was a miscellaneous writer of some popularity; but in every department he was of a secondary class--in none had he originality."
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