Goldoni, Charles

, an eminent modern Italian dramatist, was born at Venice in 1707. In his infancy the drama was his darling amusement, and all his time was devoted to the perusing comic writers, among whom was Cicognini, a Florentine, little known in the dramatic commonwealth. After having well studied these, he ventured to sketch out the plan of a comedy, even before he went to school. When he had finished his grammatical studies at Venice, and his rhetorical studies at the Jesuits’ college in Perugia, he was sent to a boarding-school at Rimini, to study philosophy, but he paid far more attention to the theatres, entered into a familiar acquaintance with the actors, and when they were to remove to Chiozza, made his escape in their company. This was the first fault he committed, which, according to his own confession, drew a great many others after it. His father had intended him to be a physician, like himself: the young man, however, was wholly averse to the study. He proposed afterwards to make him an advocate, and sent him to be a practitioner in Modena; but a horrid ceremony of ecclesiastical | jurisdiction, at which he was present, inspired him with a melancholy turn, and he determined to become a Capuchin. Of this, however, he was cured by a visit to Venice, where he indulged in all the fashionable dissipation of the place. He was afterwards prevailed upon by his mother, after the death of his father, to exercise the profession of a lawyer in Venice, but by a sudden reverse of fortune he was compelled to quit at once both the bar and Venice. He then went to Milan, where he was employed by the resident of Venice in the capacity of secretary, and becoming acquainted with the manager of the theatre, he wrote a farce entitled “II Gondoliere Veneziano,” the Venetian Gondolier; which was the first comic production of his that was performed and printed. Some time after, Goldoni quitted the Venetian resident, and removed to Verona, where he got introduced to the manager of the theatre, for which he composed several pieces. Having removed along with the players to Genoa, he was for the first time seized with an ardent passion for a lady, who soon afterwards became his wife. He then returned with the company to Venice, where he displayed, for the first time, the powers of his genius, and executed his plan of reforming the Italian stage. He wrote the “Momolo,” “Courtisan,” the “Squanderer,” and other pieces, which obtained universal admiration. Feeling a strong inclination to reside some time in Tuscany, he repaired to Florence and Pisa, where he wrote “The Footman of two Masters,” and “The Son of Harlequin lost and found again.” He returned to Venice, and set about executing more and more his favourite scheme of reform. He was now attached to the theatre of S. Angelo, and employed himself in writing both for the company, and for his own purposes. The constant toils he underwent in these engagements impaired his health. He wrote, in the course of twelve months, sixteen new comedies, besides forty-two pieces for the theatre; among these many are considered as the best of his productions. The first edition of his works was published in 1753, in 10 vols. 8vo. As he wrote afterwards a great number of new pieces for the theatre of S. Luca, a separate edition of these was published, under the title of “The New Comic Theatre:” among these was the “Terence,” called by the author his favourite, and judged to be the master-piece of his works. He made another journey to Parma, on the invitation of duke Philip, and from thence he passed t | Rome. He had composed 59 other pieces so late as 1761, five of which were designed for the particular use of Marque Albergati Capacelli, and consequently adapted to the theatre of a private company. Here ends the literary life of Goldoni in Italy, after which he accepted of an engagement of two years in Paris, where he found a select and numerous company of excellent performers in the Italian theatre. They were, however, chargeable with the same faults which he had corrected in Italy; and the French supported, and even applauded in the Italians, what they would have reprobated on their own stage. Goldoni wished to extend, even to that country, his plan of reformation, without considering the extreme difficulty of the undertaking. His first attempt was the piece called “The Father for Love;” and its bad success was a sufficient warning to him to desist from his undertaking. He continued, during the remainder of his engagement, to produce pieces agreeable to the general taste, and published twenty-four comedies; among which “The Love of Zelinda and Lindor” is reputed the best. The term of two years being expired, Goldoni was preparing to return to Italy, when a lady, reader to the dauphiness, mother to the late king, introduced him at court, in the capacity of Italian master to the princesses, aunts to the king. He did not live in the court, but resorted there, at each summons, in a post-chaise, sent to him for the purpose. These journeys were the cause of a disorder in the eyes, which afflicted him the rest of his life; for being accustomed to read while in the chaise, he lost his sight on a sudden, and in spite of the most potent remedies, could never afterwards recover it entirely. For about six months lodgings were provided him in the chateau of Versailles. The death, however, of the dauphin, changed the face of affairs. Goldoni lost his lodgings, and only, at the end of three years, received a bounty of 100 Louis in a gold box, and the grant of a pension of four thousand livres a year. This settlement would not have been sufficient for him, if he had not gained, by other means, farther sums. He wrote now and then comedies for the theatres of Italy and Portugal; and, during these occupations, was desirous to shew to the French that he merited a high rank among their dramatic writers. For this purpose, he neglected nothing which could be of use to render himself master of | the French language. He heard, spoke, and conversed so much in it, that, in his 62d year, he ventured to write a comedy in French, and to have it. represented in the court theatre, on the occasion of the marriage of the king. This piece was the “Bourru Bienfaisant;” and it met with so great success, that the author received a bounty ’of 150 Louis from the king, another gratification from the performers, and considerable sums from the booksellers who published it. He published soon after, another comedy in French, called “L’Avare Fastueux.” After the death of Lewis XV. Goldoni was appointed Italian teacher to the princess Clotilde, and after her marriage, he attended the late unfortunate princess Elizabeth in the same capacity. His last work was the “Volponi,” written after he had retired from court. It was nis misfortune to live to see his pension taken away by the revolution, and, like thousands in a similar situation, he was obliged to pass his old age in poverty and distress. He died in the beginning of 1793. As a comic poet, Goldoni is reckoned among the best of the age in which he flourished. His works were printed at Leghorn in 1788—91, in 31 vols. 8vo. He has been reckoned the Moliere of Italy, and he is styled by Voltaire “The Painter of Nature.” Dr. Burney says that he is, perhaps, the only author of comic operas in Italy who has given them a little common sense, by a natural plot, and natural characters; and his celebrated comic opera of the “Buona Figliuola,” set by Piccini, and first performed in London Dec. 9th, 1766, rendered both the poet and composer, whose names had scarcely penetrated into this country before, dear to every lover of the Italian language and music, in the nation. 1


Sketch by Mr. Damiani. Rees’s Cyclopædia.- Life of Goldoni, translated by Mr. Black, published in 1814, 2 Vols. 8vo.