Hugh Kelly (1739-77)

b. Killarney [var. Dublin]; his father, Ferdinand Kelly, presumably genteel, became impoverished and was ‘under the necessity of keeping a tavern in Dublin’ (Cooke), where Kelly may have formed his early theatrical acquaintance; he was trained as staymaker but moved to London, 1760, where he took work as copying-clerk; contrib. to The Lady’s Museum,and then edited The Court Magazine, 1761-65; m. 1761; issued pamphlets in defence of Pitt, 1766, in response to the Almon-Temple charges; wrote as “The Babler” in Owen’s Weekly Chronicle, 1763-67; his pieces rep. by John Newbery as The Babler (2 vols., 1767), also containing Goldsmith’s “Essay on Friendship”;
issued Thespis, 2 pts. (1767), a verse-satire on Drury Lane, with additional parts on Covent Garden (2nd edn. 1967), being very partial to Garrick and severe - even coarse - in relation to some other actors; published Memoirs of a Magdalen (1767), a novel of reformed male manners in the pattern of Richardson's Clarissa, and featuring a secondary character called Melmoth; wrote False Delicacy, a play indicting the humour of the title which was produced by Garrick at Drury Lane (23 Jan. 1768), to immediate acclaim, putting Goldsmith’s Good Natur’d Man off the stage at rival Covent Garden;
began writing for the govt. [ministry] of the day, editing the Public Ledger, and was said to have received a £200 pension from Lord North; wrote A Word to the Wise (Drury Lane, 3 March 1770), which became the immediate object of a ‘patriotic’ riot; Kelly appeared on stage and offered to withdraw it and to forfeit his benefit, whereon Garrick played False Delicacy instead, with Bickerstaffe’s Padlock as an afterpiece; attacked by “Atticus” in Middlesex Journal for March 17-20; wrote a tragedy, Clementina, played at Covent Garden (23 Feb. 1771); also a new comedy, The School for Wives, premiered at Drury Lane (10 Dec. 1773);
Kelly was called to the English bar, 1774; wrote an afterpiece, The Romance of an Hour, played at Covent Garden, 2 December, 1774). gave up income of £5,000 to write exclusively; his last comedy, The Man of Reason, staged at Covent Garden (9 February, 1776), was a failure; he died in poverty of an abcess in his side, 3 Feb. 1777; an obit. appeared in Faulkner’s Dublin Journal (8-11 Feb. 1777); his Works were edited by Edward Thompson in 1778, with a Life of the Author incorporating Kelly’s ‘Address to the Public’ [orig. prefixed to A Word to the Wise], defending himself against charges of prostituting the Public Ledger. RR CAB ODNB PI JMC NCBE DIL DIW OCEL DIL FDA OCIL

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A Chronology of the Plays
  • False Delicacy (DL, 23 Jan. 1768)
  • A Word to the Wise (DL, 3 March 1770)
  • Clementina (CG, 23 Feb. 1771)
  • A School for Wives (DL, 10 Dec. 1773)
  • The Romance of an Hour (CG, 2 Dec. 1774)
  • The Man of Reason (CG, 9 Feb. 1776).
Plays (editions)
  • False Delicacy: A Comedy. As it is performed at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane. By His Majesty’s Servants. By Hugh Kelly (London: printed for R. Baldwin , No. 47, Pater-Noster-Row ; W. Johnston, No. 16, and G. Kearsly, No. 1, in Ludgate-Street, MDCCLXVIII [1768]), [8], 87, [1]pp., 8° [half-title; Prologue and epilogue by David Garrick; 5 edns. in 1768]; Do. [another edn.] ( London : printed for the author, and sold by J. Dodsley; J. and E. Dilly; G. Kearsly; and T. Cadell, 1770), xix, [17], 99, [3]pp., 8°; Do. [title idem.] (Dublin: printed for J. A. Husband, for J. Hoey, sen., P. and W. Wilson, J. Exshaw, H. Saunders, W. Sleator, J. Potts, D. Chamberlaine, L. Flin, J. Williams, J. Mitchell, W. Colles, and J. Sheppard, M,DCC,LXX. [1770]), 59pp., 12° [epilogue]; Do. [another edn.] (Paisley: printed and sold by J. Neilson M.DCCXCIII [1793]), 55pp., 12°.
  • The School for Wives: A Comedy (London: T. Becket 1774), vi, 88pp., 8° [4 edns. 1774; another edn. 1775]; Do., as The School for Wives: A comedy, by Hugh Kelly, Esq. Adapted for theatrical representation, as performed at the Theatres-Royal, Drury-Lane and Covent-Garden. Regulated from the prompt-books, ... (London: printed for the proprietors, under the direction of John Bell 1792), 132pp., 18°; Do. [another edn.] (London: ... Bell 1795); Do. [Bell’s British theatre, Vol. 30] (London:L 1797), 84pp., ill. [pl.], 8°.
  • A Word to the Wise: A Comedy, as it was performed at the Theatre Royal, in Drury-Lane. Written by Hugh Kelly [with an address to the public in defence of the play] (London: printed for the author, and sold by J. Dodsley; J. and E. Dilly; G. Kearsly; and T. Cadell 1770), xix, [17], 99, [3]pp. 8°; Do. [another edn.] (Dublin: printed for J. Exshaw, H. Saunders, D. Chamberlain, J Potts, W. Sleater [and 6 others] 1770), [8], 73, [3]pp., 12°; Do. [A new edition] (London: printed for Edward and Charles Dilly 1773), [8], 99, [3]pp., 8° [half-title and an epilogue]; Do., as A Word to the Wise: a comedy, as it was performed at the Theatre Royal, in Drury-Lane. By Hugh Kelly, Esq. of the Middle-Temple ... (London: printed for Edward and Charles Dilly 1775), [8], 62, [2]pp., 8°; Do. [another edn.] (London: printed for the proprietor, under the direction of John Bell 1795 ), 103pp., ill. [pls.], 12°, and Do. [Bell’s British Theatre, Vol. 30] (London 1797).
  • Clementina; A tragedy [in verse] (London: E. & C. Dilly & T. Cadell 1771), vi, 52pp., 8°; Do. [a new edn.] (London: E. & C. Dilly & T. Caddell 1771), x, 66pp., fol.; Do. (Dublin: W. Wilson &c. 1771), x, 60pp.; and Do. [another edn.] (Belfast: H. & R. Joy), vi, 52, 12°.
  • The Romance of an Hour, A Comedy: of two acts, as it is performed, with universal applause, at the Theatre-Royal, Covent-Garden. Written by Hugh Kelly ... (London: Printed for G. Kearsley 1774), 43pp., 8° [date of ded., 16 Dec. 1774]; Do. [a new edition] (London: Printed for G. Kearsley 1744), [12], 43, [1]pp., 8° [sheets of first edn. with diff. t.p.]; and Do. (Dublin: printed for Messrs. Exshaw, Sleater, Hay, Potts, Chamberlaine [and 9 others] 1775), 40pp., 12°.

See also L’Amour à la Mode, or Love à la Mode: A farce in three acts (London: John Williams 1760), 47pp., 8°. [unacted; attrib. to Kelly], and A Word to the Wise: A poetical farce, most respectfully addressed to the Critical reviewers. By T. Underwood, ... With an apology to the ingenuity of Mr. Hugh Kelly, for the title of the piece (London: printed by G. Scott. And sold by T. Noteman; H. Gardner; G. Pearch; and J. Marks 1770), [8], 38, [6]pp., 8°. .

  • [as anon.,] Memoirs of a Magdalen; or, The History of Louisa Mildmay, 2 vols. [2nd. edn.] (London: printed for W. Griffin 1767), 8° [prev. issued in Novelist’s Magazine, Vol. 7, London 1780-81]; Do. [another edn.] (Dublin: P. Wilson 1767) [copy text for the 1974 Garland facs. edn.]; Do., by Hugh Kelly, Esq. [another edn.] (London: printed for Harrison & Co., No. 18, Paternoster-Row, MDCCLXXXII [1782]), 85pp., pls., 8° [available on microfilm from Gale 2002]; Do. [another edn.] (Harrison 1792) [ESTC]; Do. [another edn.] Memoirs of a Magdalen: or the history of Louisa Mildmay. By Hugh Kelly, Esq. Two volumes in one. Cooke’s edition. Embellished with superb engravings, 2 vols. (London: printed for C. Cooke [1795]), ill. [pls.], 12°.

Also French trans. as Les égaremens réparés, ou histoire de Miss Louise Mildmay : Traduction libre de l’anglois, par Mademoiselle Matné de Morville (Londres [i.e Paris?]: et se trouve à Paris, chez J. B. G. Musier fils 1773), [12], 320pp., ill. 12°; and Do, as Les Dangers d’un tête-à-tête, ou histoire de Miss Mildmay, traduite de l’anglais ... par A[nne] Hycacinthe de Saint-Leger] Colleville, 2 tom. (Paris: an VIII [1800]), 12°

  • The Babler: Containing a Careful selection from those Entertaining and interesting Essays, which have geven the publis so much Satisfaction under that Title, during a Course of Four Years, in Owen’s Chronicle, 2 vols. (London: J. Newbery 1767); Do. [The Third Edition], 2 vols. (Dublin: J. Potts; W. Colles: [1770]), 12º; Do., as The Babler by Hugh Kelly, Esq. In two volumes [Harrison’s British classicks] (London: printed for J. Harrison & Co. MDCCXCIV [1794]), 199pp., ill. [pls. dated 1786], 8°; Do. [Harrison’s British Classicks], Vol. 6 (1796), 8º.
  • The Court Magazine, Vols. 1 & 2 ([London] 1761-63), 8°.
  • Thespis, or a Critical Examination into the Merits of all the Principle Performers Belonging to Drury Lane Theatre. Book the second. By Hugh Kelly, author of the first (London: printed for G. Kearsly, MDCCLXVII. [1767]), 28, 25-32, 37-53, [1]pp., 4° [half-title & errata slip]; Do. [2nd edn.] with additions as Thespis, A Critical Examination ... Covent Garden Theatre, 2 Vols. (1766-67).
  • M.-J. Riccoboni, False Delicacy [sic], ou la fausse delicatesse, in Oeuvres Comp., tome 6 (1818).
  • English Love, or Amour Anglais, an imitation of False Delicacy (1778).
  • Les Dangers d’un tête-à-tête ou l’Histoire L[ouisa] M[ilday], [being Memoirs of a Magdalen,] trad. A Colleville, 2 tom. (Paris: Arr. VIII ?1818).
  • F. L. Schroeder, Wie Man eine Hand umkehrt, oder flatterhafte Ehemann [School for Wives], Hamburger Th., Bd. 3 (1776).
Collected Editions
  • The Works of Hugh Kelly to which is prefixed the Life of the Author [by Edward Thompson] (London 1778) [see details].
  • Larry Carver, ed. & intro. The Plays of Hugh Kelly, with textual notes by Mary J. H. Gross [facs. of orig. edns. of 1768-78; in Eighteenth-century English Drama ser.] (NY: Garland Publ. 1980), 600pp. [var. pagings], ill. [1 port.], 23cm. [see details]

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Bibliographical details
The Works of Hugh Kelly / To which is prefixed the life of the author (London: Printed for the author’s widow; and sold by T. Cadell in the Strand; J. Ridley, in St. James’s Street; and N. Conant, in Fleet-Street, M,DCC,LXXVIII. [1778]), xix, [1], 492pp., ill. [front. port.], with list of subscribers, 26cm. CONTENTS: Life; False delicacy, a comedy; A word to the wise, a comedy; Clementina, a tragedy; The school for wives, a comedy; The romance of an hour, a comedy in two acts; Thespis: or, A critical examination into the merits of the principal performers belonging to Drury-Lane theatre; Thespis (book II) or, A critical examination into the merits of the principal performers belonging to Covent Garden theatre; An elegy, to the memory of William, earl of Bath; Fugitive pieces.

The Plays of Hugh Kelly, ed. & intro. by Larry Carver, with textual notes by Mary J. H. Gross [facs. of edns. of Facsims of orig. eds. of 1768-78; in Eighteenth-century English Drama ser.] (NY: Garland Publ. 1980), 600pp. [var. pagings], ill. [1 port.], 23cm. CONTENTS: False Delicacy (1768); A Word to the Wise (1770); Clementina (1771); The School for Wives (1775) [recte 1773]; The Romance of an Hour (1774); The Man of Reason (unpublished MS.); Prologue ... for the benefit of the infant poor (1778); Epilogue ... Macklin’s farce of Love-à-la-mode (1778); Textual notes.

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Modern studies
  • Jean-Michel Lacroix, L’Oeuvre de Hugh Kelly (1739-1777): contribution à l’étude du sentimentalisme anglais, 2 vols. [thèse doct.] (Bordeaux: Univ. Popl. de Bordeaux 1978), 1403pp., ill. [facs., ports.]
  • Robert R. Bataille, The Writing Life of Hugh Kelly: politics, journalism, and theater in late eighteenth century London (Southern Illinois UP 2000), ix, 206pp. [available at Google Books online; accessed 07.07.2010].
Older citations
  • [Obit.,] Faulkner’s Dublin Journal, 5654 (8-11 Feb. 1777).
  • ‘Memoirs of the Late Hugh Kelly, Esq.’, in The Town and Country Magazine, IX (Feb. 1777), pp.85-86, rep. in Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, VI (March 19777), pp.175-77, &c..
  • Thomas Cooke, ‘Hugh Kelly’, in ‘Table Talk’, The European Magazine, XXIV (Nov. 1793), pp.337-40; ‘Hugh Kelly, a Native of Ireland’, in Dodley’s Annual Register, XX (1777), p.171.
  • Gentleman’s Magazine, XLVII (Feb. 1777), p.95.
  • The Scots Magazine, XXXIX (Feb. 1777), p.380
  • Ernest Bernbaum, The Drama of Sensibility (Cambridge Mass. 1915; rep. edn. Gloucester, Mass. 1958), pp.224-27, 234-37; 247-49.
  • Frederick S. Boas, An Introduction to Eighteenth Century Drama (Oxford 1953), [chap. on Kelly,] pp.282-99.
  • Allardyce Nicoll, British Drama (NY 1925), pp.286-87.
  • Mark Shorer, ‘Hugh Kelly: His Place in the Sentimental School’, in PQ, XII (1933), pp.389-401.
  • C. J. Rawson, ‘Some Remarks on Eighteenth Century “Delicacy” with a Note on Hugh Kelly’s False Delicacy (1768)’, in JEGP, LXI (1962), pp.1-13

See also Warburton, History of Dublin (1818) and Alfred J. Webb, Compendium of Irish Biography (1878).

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Faulkner’s Dublin Journal
James Prior
Charles Dibdin
G. C. Duggan

Thomas K. O’Leary
Joseph Leerssen
Robert R. Bataille

Sundry commentators

Allardyce Nicoll writes of ‘that sickly emotionalism which had been passed down from Cumberland and Kelly’ (19th-century Drama, p. 153).
Robert W. Lowe, ‘A Bibliographical Account of English Theatrical Literature’ [1888; rep. edn.] (London: Society for Theatre Research 1970), calls him a ‘supporter of sentimental comedy’ and remarks that ‘his Thespis was extremely coarse and produced several pamphlet replies.’ (Quoted in Michael Arnott, English Theatrical Literature, 1979).
E. J. Burton, The British Theatre: Its Repertory and Practice, 1100-1900 (London: Jenkins 1960), lists works incl. False Delicacy (1768), comedy; School for Wives (1774); comedy; also A Word to the Wise (1770), at p.241 - but offers discussion of any of these in the text.

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Faulkner’s Dublin Journal (8-11 Feb. 1777): ‘On the 3rd inst. [Feb.] at his House in Gough-square (London) after a few Days Illness, in the Prime of Life, Hugh Kelly, Esq., Counsellor at Law, and Author of a Comedy intitled False Delicacy, and a Variety of Dramatic and other Pieces, which were well received by the Public. - Nor were the Virtues of his Heart inferior to his Abilities as a Writer; for he was so perfectly goodnatured that he was hardly ever known to make an Enemy; and so exceedingly Benevolent that though his Family was large, and his Fortune consisted solely in the Produce of his own Labour, he was every ready to assist a Friend in Distress not onloy with his Advice but with his Purse. - Beside a numerous Aquaintance, by whom he was extremely beloved, and who will long hold his Memory dear, he had left a disconsolate Widow with four young Children to lament their irreparable Loss.’ (From [front-page] photo-copy supplied by Robert West.)

James Prior, The Life of Oliver Goldsmith, Vol. II (London 1837): ‘Circumstances made it a kind of fashion to depreciate Kelly while alive, for no reason that can be discovered except the original sins of poverty and the calling to which he had been brought up, the latter furnishing a handle for the wit of such as assailed him. The learned treated him lightly from the limited nature of his acquirements, though this defect he remedied in part by sedulous study; men of the first genius denied his claims to equality; inferior writers questioned his superiority and could, at least, abuse what they failed to equal, for with this class the supposed use of his power as editor of periodical works, kept him in continual conflict. And having written largely in support of the ministers, those who disliked their politics though it necessary to condemn his plays in order to exhibit their patriotism. Between parties so unfriendly or hostile, there was little hope of meeting an unbiased judgement, and it is doubtful whether he ever received it. His political writings were shrewd and sensible, and from the anger excited in opponents, may be supposed to have had their effect; his dramatic pieces much above mediocrity and commonly successful; his essays though destitute of the depth of Johnson or the humour of Goldsmith, touch upon manners very agreeably; his novel is still perused; and Thespis, if inferior to Churchill’s satire, is not without pungency and power. All these and others not avowed were written amid the cares of providing for a young family wholly dependent on his pen for support; his life was therefore laborious, and his morals, it is said, blameless; and if we decline placing him in the first rank among the writers of his day, we cannot withhold the praise of variety and ingenuity.’ (pp.176-78; quoted in T. K. O’Leary, Hugh Kelly, 1965 [as infra], pp.3-4.)

Charles Dibdin, A Complete History of the Stage, Vol. V (London 1795): ‘Kelly ... wrote .. for the stage with some success. He happened, fortunately for himself, and unluckily for the public taste, to take advantage of the rage that then prevailed for sentiment. Everything was at that time sentiment. It was the only secret for sucess. If a man was to be hanged, or married, out came a sentiment. ... If the aldernman ate too much custard or his wife frequented to many routs; if the vice was gaming in the Alley, or at Brook’s, wenching, or drinking; if fortune came unasked, or was deaf to solicitations; if the subject was health or sickness, or happiness or misery; hoooraw for a sentiment! / False Delicacy, 1768, had almost all these requisites; and, that the audience might have enough of their darling sentiments after they had been delighted with a plentiful number of them in the course of the action, the moment the catastrophe finished, forward came every individual actor and actress, and suspended the fall of the curtain with a sentiment. Nay, so far did this folly prevail, that the critics themselves began to congratulate the world on the restoration of Menander, classically conveyed in the manner of the Greek chorus.’ (pp.277-78; quoted in quoted in T. K. O’Leary, Hugh Kelly, 1965 [as infra], p.209.)

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G. C. Duggan, The Stage Irishman (1937), gives an account of The School for Wives (1774), which has one Connolly as the law clerk; for plot, Belville, a philanderer, has run off with Miss Leeson, promising her a part in the Irish theatre of which he claims to be manager; her relations are involved in tangled love-intrigues; the financially embarrassed attorney Leeson is in love with Miss Moreland, who is really Belville’s sister; Connolly is the attorney’s clerk; Connolly is given the speeches against duelling which stand at the heart of the play, with its condemnation of that sentimentally-inspired but murderous practice, ‘An ounce of common sense is worth a whole ship-load of it [honour], if we must prefer a bullet or a halter to a fine lady and a great fortune’; his detestation of duelling dates from the time when he was second to his brother in the Fifteen Acres of the Phoenix Park; Duggan reads the play as testimony to the stride made by French humanitarian principles in the late 18th century.

Thomas Kenneth O’Leary, Hugh Kelly: Contributions Towards a Critical Biography [Ann Arbour Mich. Univ. Microfilms 65-9520] (PhD Fordham Univ., 1965). Epigraph cites Johnson’s Proflogue for the memorial performance of Kelly’s Word to the Wise (31 May 1777): ‘A generous foe regards with pitying eye/The man whom Fate has laid - where all must lie./To wit - reviving from its Author’s dust/Be kind, ye judges, or at least be just.’ O’Leary castigates the author of the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on Kelly by Edward Packenham (Chicago 1958), who characterises him (after Johnson) as a man who ‘wrote more than he had read’, a weak character, and a drunkard; the ODNB entry is by Gordon Goodwin (1892). O’Leary writes: ‘My own judgement of Kelly’s drama is that he was personally convinced of the necessity of morality on the stage and that, though his comedies were replete with tender pathos, aphorisms and didactic sermons, they were primarily successful because his audiences, although they demanded the sentimental, thorougly enjoyed the natural laughter which he provided at sentimental expense. Hugh Kelly was certainly not a great dramatist, but them, there are very few English dramatists who have survived their own age with any genuine vitality. Whe we cannot exonerate him of his dramatic defects merely by insisting that he catered successfully to his own age, neither can we dismiss him summarily because his plays are not to our taste.’ (p.9.) Bibl. as in Criticism, supra.

Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (Amsterdam 1986), quotes The School for Wives, written ‘to remove the imputation of barbarous ferocity, which dramatic writers, ever meaning to compliment the Irish nation, have connected with their ideas of that gallant people. (1774, [Preface, p.iv.) Further quotes: ‘[...] they are drawn with a brutal promptitude to quarrel ... to make them, proud of a barbarous propensity to duelling ... is to fasten a very unjust reproach upon their general character ... . (Ibid., p.v.) Leerssen remarks; ‘He [Kelly] vests dislike for the duel in a middle class clerk, Connolly. In this way the Irish gentleman with a predilection for duelling is not contradicted by a differently inclined Irish gentleman but counterbalanced by a middle-class Irishman. Console’s wisdom is, “I prefer a snug berth in this world, bad as it is, to the finest coffin in all Christendom ... I hope to see the day that it will be infamous to draw their [gentlemen’s] swords against any body but the enemies of their country.”’ (Leerssen, op. cit., pp.161-62.)The reviewers [...], generally applauded, the novel was called "a pretty imitation" of Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa by the reviewer in the Monthly Review (Nov. 1767) and when through at least two editions in 1767, one by Griffin and aonterh by a conger headed by [sic] Peter Wilson and John Exshaw. Two more editions followed by 1800 and two French translations appeared in 1773 and 1800.

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Robert R. Bataille, The Writing Life of Hugh Kelly: politics, journalism, and theater in late eighteenth century London (Southern Illinois UP 2000) - on Memoirs of a Magdalen (1767): ‘[...]The epistolary novel opens by relating how the hero, Sir Robert Harold, has met the heroine, Louisa Mildmay, throgh the offices of her sister, Lady Haversham. A sentimental rake, Sir Robert believes himself in love with Louisa. During a short prenuptial state at the Mildmay estate, Sir Robert sseduces Louisa; but fearing tht she is too amorous to be a faithful wife, he coldly forces her to break off the match, leaving her to inform her parents. After wounding Louisa’s brother, Col. Mildmay, in a duel, Sir Robert flees to Europe where he remains for most of the books’ remaining action. [Louisa is now abducted by the rake Harry Hastings.] Sir Robert, exiled in Europe, writes to his older friend, Melmoth, lamenting Louisa’s fate: his imagination is torn between picturing her a prostitute and hoping that she has somehow escaped infamy. [...] Tormented by guilt and emotionally unstable from her imprisonment, Louisa has voluntarily commited hersel to a London Magdalen House for repentent prostitutes [...] Sir Robert, having heard Louisa’s story frm Sir Harry Hastings, whome he afterwards wounds in a duel, returns form exile determined to reconcile with Louisa. He writes Melmoth of his intentions, and his friend informs al the others of the happy denouement. [... &c.]’ (pp.28-29; cont.)

Robert R. Bataille (The Writing Life of Hugh Kelly [...], 2000) - cont.: Bataille engages with the twentieth-century dismissal of Kelly’s novel and argues that the Richardshonian influence is indeed reflected in its treatment of the “key concept of delicacy”, but finds more in it than that: ‘Certainly Kelly could be said to share the Richardsonian agenda of male reformation - or, more specifically, the reformation of the gentleman’s code of honor. Kelly’s distasting for duelling and heavy drinking in all his conduct literature, his construction of a domesticated, avuncular male in Mr. Babler, and here in his only novel his creation of a sentimental rake in Melmoth all suggest that Kelly’s reformist ideology of sensibility had much in common with Richardson’s. / Neglected by earlier critics, however, are other concerns raised in this novel that indicate Kelly’s rahter complex situatedness in what Barker-Benfield has called the “reformation of male manners”. These concerns cluster mainly arond Kelly’s treatment of women, including female community and female sexuality. Kelly’s narrative thrust marginalises male voices as Lady Haversham Harriot Beauclerk, and Louisa herself come to dominate - indeed, write - the text: these characters various interactios and interventions - they create many different texts within the larger narrative - become the central sites of the novel. [...] several females become responsible for the central textual activity [...]. (p.31.) Note that the Melmoth name is the first in a long Irish pedigree of literary Melmoths including characters created by Charles Maturin and Oscar Wilde’s final guise (or alter ego), derived from the same.

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False Delicacy (1768): ‘Well the devil take this delicacy; I don’t know anything it does besides making people miserable.’ (Act, sc. i; quoted in Peter Kavanagh, op. cit., 1946, p.331.)

Thespis (1766): ‘Bold is the talk in this discerning age / When every witling prates about the stage [...] Yet has this art unhappily no rules / to check the vain impertinence of fools / To point out rude deformity form grace / And strike a line ‘twixt acting and grimace.’ (... &c.; From extract in Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature, 1904.)

Thespis, Vol. 1 - on Garrick:

Long in the annals of theatric fame,
Has truth graced Garrick with a foremost name;
Long in a wide diversity of parts,
Allow’d his double empire o’er our heats:
Either in mirth to laught us to excess,
Or where he weeps, to laod us with distress -
Nor is it strange, that even in partial days,
He gains so high an eminence in prase;
When his united requisites are more,
Than ever centred in one mind before:
Say, if we search minutely, from the age,
In which old Thespis first began the stage,
And range through all the celebrated climes,
In which it flourish’d, to the present times,
Where shall we find an actor who has prest,
With such extensive force upon the breats,
Fill’d such opposing characters for years,
Unmatch’d, alike, in laughter or in tears?


—quoted in Bataille, The Writing Life of Hugh Kelly, 2000, p.28.

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Dictionary of National Biography: playwright and author, came to London as staymaker, 1760; ed. Court Magazine; Ladies’ Museum, and later The Public Ledger; publ. Memoirs of a Magdalen (1767), and dram. crit.; False Delicacy, prod. by Garrick (DL 1768) in rivalry to Goldsmith, and later acted in Paris and Lisbon; A Word to the Wise (1770; rev. with prologue by Johnson, CG 1777); pension; barrister. See also Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, p.349-51.

Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: Catholic University of America 1904); gives ‘Critic of the Stage’; b. either in Killarney or in Dublin; f. tavern-keeper; apprenticed staymaker; met actors at father’s estab.; induced to leave for London; first staymaker, then copy-clerk; Ladies’ Museum, and Court Magazine, and pamphlets for Pottinger; married for love at 22; essays for Owen’s Weekly Chronicle, afterwards printed as The Babbler [sic]; also Louisa Mildmay, or the History of a Magdalen, a successful novel; Thespis (1767), attracted Garrick; False Delicacy (DL 1768), earned £700; Middle Temple, 1769, at first refused admittance to the bar; A Word to the Wise (falsely) attacked each night as being written by one in government pay, and withdrawn; received £800 in subscriptions on being published; his name withheld when Clementina (1777) produced; also withheld in A School for Wives (1774); The Romance of an Hour, afterpiece [n.d.]; The Man of Reason failed; his writing had produced £5,000 p.a.; called to bar and retired from writing; health undermined, d. 3 Feb.

D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912), lists Thespis, or A Critical Examination into the Merits o f all the Principal Performers Belonging to the Drury Lane Theatre (1766), verse; Do. [2nd edn. 2 vols.] (London 1768-67); False Delicacy (1768); A Word for the Wise, comedy (1770); Clementina (1771); The School for Wives (1774); The Romance of an Hour (1774); The Works of Hugh Kelly to which is prefixed the Life of the Author [... printed for the Author’s Widow] (1778) [plays and poems, with memoir and port., biographer unknown]; also cites The Man of Reason (1776), unprinted. [No date for False Delicacy; see JMC supra for revivals.]Delicacy as 1768]; The School for Wives, 566-70; taking Dublin eds. as copy texts, 654; BIOG & COMM, adds Michel Lacroix, L’Oeuvre de Hugh Kelly, 1739-1777, contribution a L’Etude du Sentimentalisme Anglais, 2 vols. (Bordeaux: Univ. of Paris, thesis, 1978) [656]. Remarks at 686: In Memoirs of a Magdalen, or the History of Louisa Milmay (1767), Hugh Kelly, better known as a dramatist, produced a novel whose exploration of the contemporary double-standard in sexual morality is as engrossing as it is extreme. Like Frances Sheridan, Kelly was influenced by Richardson; later writers in the sentimental mode; such as the author of The Triumph of Benevolence (1772), would look to Goldsmith ... &c. Notes that there is no full biography and cites Peter Kavanagh, The Irish Theatre (Tralee 1946), pp.226-48.

Peter Kavanagh, Irish Theatre (1946), calls Kelly ‘the chief writer of sentimenal comedy [whose] most popular work, False Delicacy (Drury Lane, Jan 1768), of a high moral type, was written in rivalry to Goldsmith’; also The Goodnatur’d Man (Covent Garden 1768); gives bio-details: b. Kerry, nr. Lakes of Killarney; f. bought tavern in Dublin where actors were entertained; apprenticed to stay-maker; went to London in 1760; clerking jobs, as copying clerk to Attorney; ed. of Court Magazine and Ladies’ Magazine, 1761; issued Thespis, a satirical poem attacking actors, all except Garrick, who befriended him, while Goldsmith and Bickerstaffe treated him contemptuously. Lists works: L’Amour a la Mode, or Love a La Mode, com. (unacted trans.) 1760; False Delicacy, com. (DL 23 Jan 1768) 1768; A Word to the Wise, com. (Drury Lane, 3 March 1770) 1770; Clementina, trag. (Covent Garden, 23 Feb. 1771) 1771; The School for Wives, com. (Drury Lane, 11 Dec. 1773) 1774; The Romance of an Hour, com. (Covent Garden, 2 Dec. 1774) 1774; The Man of Reason, com. (Covent Garden, 9 Feb. 1776 not printed. Garrick put on False Delicacy six days before Goldsmith’s Good natur’d Man to upset him; Kelly made £700 pounds by it. A Word to the Wise was suspected of defending unpopular govt. measures, and caused riots reported in The Gentleman’s Magazine, March 1770; revived 1777, with a prologue by Dr. Johnson. Clementina unsuccessful. To prevent riot, it was pretended that Addington was the author for eight successive nights. The plot of Romance borrowed from Marmontel. Kelly called to Bar 1774, and died of an abcess in his side 1777. A novel, Louisa Mildmay. Kelly though acknowledged the master of sentimental drama, also assailed it with pinpricks in his plays. [Kavanagh, 331].

Library catalogues
British Library holds L’Amour a la Mode, or Love a la Mode, farce, from French [?H.K] (1760); ed. Court Magazine; Works (1788) [prefixed life] port., 4o; The Babler [sic], etc. (1767); also The Babbler [sic], 3rd edn., 2 vols. (1770), 12o; The Babbler, another ed, in Harrison’s British Classics (1796); Clementina, trag., by H. [Kelly] (1771), vi+52; False Delicacy, com. 5 acts prose (London 1768), 8o; Do., Bell’s British Theatre, Vol. 30 (1797); False Delicacy, ou La Fausse Delicatesse, trans. MJ Riccoboni, in Oeuvres Comp., tome 6 (1818); also English Love, or Amour Anglais, imit. of False Delicacy (1778); Memoirs of a Magdalen, the History of Louisa Mildmay, 2 vols. (London 1782) [as issued in Novelist’s Magazine]; Do., Les Dangers [sic] d’un tête-à-tête ou l’Histoire LM, trad. A Colleville, 2 tom. (Paris: Arr. VIII ?1818); Romance of an Hour, 2 act com. (1774), prose; Do., new edn. 1774; Do., Dublin edn. (Exshaw &c 1775), 12o; Do., in British Stage (1786); School for Wives, 5 act prose [H.K. (1774), 8o; 2nd edn. 1774; 3rd edn., 1774, vi+88pp.; 4th edn. 1774; Do., another edn., 1775; another edn. in Collection of New Plays, Vol. 4 (1774); another edn. in Bell’s Brit. Th., Vol. 7 (1797, etc.); another edn. in Mrs E. Inchbald, The Modern Theatre, Vol. 9 (1811); Comedy of the School for Wives, etc in British Drama a Collection by R. Cumberland, Vol. 2 (London: C. Cooke 1817), x+86pp.; another edn., London Stage, Vol. 4 (1824 &c.); another edn. British Drama Illustrated, Vol. 11 (1864); reissued in Dick’s Standard Plays, No. 177 (London ?1875); F.L. Schroeder, Wie Man eine Hand umkehrt, oder flatterhafte Ehemann[?] [trans. of School for Wives], Hamburger Th., Bd. 3 (1776); Thespis, or a Critical Examination into the Merits of all the Principle Performers Belonging to Drury Lane Theatre [in verse] (1767), 8o.; also 2nd edn. with additions, viz Thespis, A Critical Examination ... Covent Gdn. Th., 2 books (1766-67), 4o; A Word to the Wise, com. 5 acts, with address to the public in defence of the play [MS ‘by the author’, BML catalogue note] (London 1770); new eds., 1773, 1775; another, Bell’s British Theatre, Vol. 30 (1797). [End.]

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False Delicacy (1768) is a sentimental comedy involving three couples, mediated by the sensible Mrs. Hartley (‘You people of refined sentiments are the most troublesome creatures in the world to deal with’) and satirising those with ‘too much sense to be wise, and too much delicacy to be happy’ (V.i.).

Samuel Johnson, on being asked if he wished an introduction to Hugh Kelly, ‘No Sir, I never desire to converse wtih a man who has written more than he has read.’ (Boswell’s Life of Dr. Johnson.)

Thomas Campbell (Survey), quotes someone as saying in London that Kelly had ‘diarrhoea of the tongue’.

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