Summary and Critical Commentary
The author begins by saying that normally he would dispense with a preface, a convention which he compares to a plea of innocence after a guilty verdict. The unprecedented circumstance that prompted him to compose one was the withdrawal of the play after the first night, in order that its obvious flaws might be corrected. So the preface is in part an apology, and in part a justification; it is delicately phrased, and allows him to sketch a fairly convincing self-portrait of Richard Sheridan as a literary innocent. But it is hard to tell how far the playwright is speaking in character. When he says that he was happily ignorant of plays in general, and was thereby freed from the dangers of plagiarism and from having a mind full of precedents, is he not speaking relatively? Could the son of Thomas Sheridan have escaped his theatrical upbringing with so light a burden of knowledge?
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