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The Comedy now published, was written by the late Henry Fielding some years before his death. The Author had shown it to his friend Mr. Garrick; and entertaining a high esteem for the taste and critical discernment of Sir Charles Williams, he afterwards delivered the manuscript to Sir Charles for his opinion. At that time appointed Envoy Extraordinary to the court of Russia, Sir Charles had not leisure to examine the play before he left England. Whether it has had the honour to travel with the Envoy into Russia, or was left behind, that it might not interfere with the intrigues of the embassy, we cannot determine. Sir Charles died in Russia, and the manuscript was lost.
As Mr. Fielding has often mentioned this affair, many enquiries were made, after his decease, of several branches of Sir Charles's family, but did not produce any tidings of the comedy.
About two years ago, Thomas Johnes, Esq., member for Cardigan, received from a young friend, as a present, a tattered manuscript play, bearing indeed some tokens of antiquity, else the present had been of little worth, since the young gentleman assured Mr. Johnes, that is was "a damn'd thing!"—Notwithstanding this unpromising character, Mr. Johnes took the dramatic foundling to his protection with much kindness; read it; determined to obtain Mr. Garrick's opinion of it; and for that purpose sent to Mr. Wallis of Norfolk-street, who waited upon Mr. Garrick with the manuscript, and asked him, if he knew whether the late Sir Charles Williams had ever written a play ?—Mr. Garrick cast his eye upon it—" The lost sheep is found!—This is Harry "Fielding's Comedy!" cried Mr. Garrick, in a manner that evinced the most friendly regard for the memory of the Author.
This recognition of the play was no sooner communicated to Mr. Johnes, than he, with the most amiable politeness, restored his foundling to the family of Mr. Fielding.
Two gentlemen, of the most distinguished dramatic talents of the age, have shewn the kindest attention to the fragment thus recovered. To the very liberal and friendly assistance of Mr. Sheridan, and to the Prologue and Epilogue, written by Mr. Garrick, is to be attributed much of that applause with which the Public have received the
THE GOOD NATUR'D MAN.