The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.

II. The Early Drama, 1756–1860.

§ 5. Tyler’s Contrast.

In that year, dramatic performances were given by the American Company in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Annapolis. There was a more decided interest in things theatrical, but most important was the production in New York on I6 April, 1787, of The Contrast by Royall Tyler, the first American comedy to be produced by a professional company. As had been the case with Godfrey, the local company served as the inspiration for Tyler. The theme of the play is the contrast between simple native dignity as typified in Colonel Manly and imported foppery and follies represented by Dimple, Charlotte, and Letitia. The most important character, however, is that of Jonathan, the servant of Manly, who is the prototype of a long succession of stage Yankees. Tyler also wrote a comic opera in two acts, May Day in Town or New York in an Uproar, performed 18 May, 1787, in New York, and after his return to Boston produced a dramatic satire entitled A Georgia Spec, or Land in the Moon, aimed at the rage for speculating in the Georgia lands of the Yazoo Purchase. It was played in Boston and New York in 1797. 9    9

Note 9. For Tyler, see also Book I, Chap. IX, and Book II, Chaps. III and VI. [ back ]