The School For Scandal
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Part 1 out of 3
This etext was prepared by Gary R. Young, Mississauga, Canada.
Comments on the preparation of this E-Text:
The square brackets, i.e. [ ] are copied from the printed book,
without change, except thata closing bracket "]" has been added
to the stage directions.
For this E-Text version of the book, the footnotes have been
consolidated at the end of the play.
Numbering of the footnotes has been changed, and each footnote
is given a unique identity in the form .
CHANGES TO THE TEXT:
Character names have been expanded. For Example, SIR BENJAMIN was
THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
THE TEXT OF THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
The text of THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL in this edition is taken, by
Mr. Fraser Rae's generous permission, from his SHERIDAN'S PLAYS
NOW PRINTED AS HE WROTE THEM. In his Prefatory Notes (xxxvii),
Mr. Rae writes: "The manuscript of it [THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL]
in Sheridan's own handwriting is preserved at Frampton Court and
is now printed in this volume. This version differs in many
respects from that which is generally known, and I think it is
even better than that which has hitherto been read and acted.
As I have endeavoured to reproduce the works of Sheridan as he
wrote them, I may be told that he was a bad hand at punctuating
and very bad at spelling. . . . But Sheridan's shortcomings as a
speller have been exaggerated." Lest "Sheridan's shortcomings"
either in spelling or in punctuation should obscure the text,
I have, in this edition, inserted in brackets some explanatory
suggestions. It has seemed best, also, to adopt a uniform method
for indicating stage-directions and abbreviations of the names of
characters. There can be no gain to the reader in reproducing,
for example, Sheridan's different indications for the part of
Lady Sneerwell--LADY SNEERWELL, LADY SNEER., LADY SN., and LADY S.--
or his varying use of EXIT and EX., or his inconsistencies in
the use of italics in the stage-directions. Since, however,
Sheridan's biographers, from Moore to Fraser Rae, have shown that
no authorised or correct edition of THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL was
published in Sheridan's lifetime, there seems unusual justification
for reproducing the text of the play itself with absolute fidelity
to the original manuscript. Mr. Ridgway, who repeatedly sought to
obtain a copy corrected by the author, according to Moore's account
(LIFE OF SHERIDAN, I. p. 260), "was told by Mr. Sheridan, as an
excuse for keeping it back, that he had been nineteen years
endeavouring to satisfy himself with the style of The School for
Scandal, but had not yet succeeded." Mr. Rae (SHERIDAN, I. p. 332)
recorded his discovery of the manuscript of "two acts of The School
for Scandal prepared by Sheridan for publication," and hoped, before
his death, to publish this partial revision. Numberless unauthorized
changes in the play have been made for histrionic purposes, from
the first undated Dublin edition to that of Mr. Augustin Daly.
Current texts may usually be traced, directly or indirectly,
to the two-volume Murray edition of Sheridan's plays, in 1821.
Some of the changes from the original manuscript, such as the
blending of the parts of Miss Verjuice and Snake, are doubtless
effective for reasons of dramatic economy, but many of the "cuts"
are to be regretted from the reader's standpoint. The student
of English drama will prefer Sheridan's own text to editorial
emendations, however clever or effective for dramatic ends.
THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
ADDRESSED TO MRS. CREWE,
WITH THE COMEDY OF THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
BY R. B. SHERIDAN, ESQ.
Tell me, ye prim adepts in Scandal's school,
Who rail by precept, and detract by rule,
Lives there no character, so tried, so known,
So deck'd with grace, and so unlike your own,
That even you assist her fame to raise,
Approve by envy, and by silence praise!--
Attend!--a model shall attract your view--
Daughters of calumny, I summon you!
You shall decide if this a portrait prove,
Or fond creation of the Muse and Love.--
Attend, ye virgin critics, shrewd and sage,
Ye matron censors of this childish age,
Whose peering eye and wrinkled front declare
A fixt antipathy to young and fair;
By cunning, cautious; or by nature, cold,
In maiden madness, virulently bold!--
Attend! ye skilled to coin the precious tale,
Creating proof, where innuendos fail!
Whose practised memories, cruelly exact,
Omit no circumstance, except the fact!--
Attend, all ye who boast,--or old or young,--
The living libel of a slanderous tongue!
So shall my theme as far contrasted be,
As saints by fiends, or hymns by calumny.
Come, gentle Amoret (for 'neath that name,
In worthier verse is sung thy beauty's fame);
Come--for but thee who seeks the Muse? and while
Celestial blushes check thy conscious smile,
With timid grace, and hesitating eye,
The perfect model, which I boast, supply:--
Vain Muse! couldst thou the humblest sketch create
Of her, or slightest charm couldst imitate--
Could thy blest strain in kindred colours trace
The faintest wonder of her form and face--
Poets would study the immortal line,
And REYNOLDS own HIS art subdued by thine;
That art, which well might added lustre give
To Nature's best and Heaven's superlative:
On GRANBY'S cheek might bid new glories rise,
Or point a purer beam from DEVON'S eyes!
Hard is the task to shape that beauty's praise,
Whose judgment scorns the homage flattery pays!
But praising Amoret we cannot err,
No tongue o'ervalues Heaven, or flatters her!
Yet she, by Fate's perverseness--she alone
Would doubt our truth, nor deem such praise her own!
Adorning Fashion, unadorn'd by dress,
Simple from taste, and not from carelessness;
Discreet in gesture, in deportment mild,
Not stiff with prudence, nor uncouthly wild:
No state has AMORET! no studied mien;
She frowns no GODDESS, and she moves no QUEEN.
The softer charm that in her manner lies
Is framed to captivate, yet not surprise;
It justly suits th' expression of her face,--
'Tis less than dignity, and more than grace!
On her pure cheek the native hue is such,
That, form'd by Heav'n to be admired so much,
The hand divine, with a less partial care,
Might well have fix'd a fainter crimson there,
And bade the gentle inmate of her breast,--
Inshrined Modesty!--supply the rest.
But who the peril of her lips shall paint?
Strip them of smiles--still, still all words are faint!
But moving Love himself appears to teach
Their action, though denied to rule her speech;
And thou who seest her speak and dost not hear,
Mourn not her distant accents 'scape thine ear;
Viewing those lips, thou still may'st make pretence
To judge of what she says, and swear 'tis sense:
Cloth'd with such grace, with such expression fraught,
They move in meaning, and they pause in thought!
But dost thou farther watch, with charm'd surprise,
The mild irresolution of her eyes,
Curious to mark how frequent they repose,
In brief eclipse and momentary close--
Ah! seest thou not an ambush'd Cupid there,
Too tim'rous of his charge, with jealous care
Veils and unveils those beams of heav'nly light,
Too full, too fatal else, for mortal sight?
Nor yet, such pleasing vengeance fond to meet,
In pard'ning dimples hope a safe retreat.
What though her peaceful breast should ne'er allow
Subduing frowns to arm her altered brow,
By Love, I swear, and by his gentle wiles,
More fatal still the mercy of her smiles!
Thus lovely, thus adorn'd, possessing all
Of bright or fair that can to woman fall,
The height of vanity might well be thought
Prerogative in her, and Nature's fault.
Yet gentle AMORET, in mind supreme
As well as charms, rejects the vainer theme;
And, half mistrustful of her beauty's store,
She barbs with wit those darts too keen before:--
Read in all knowledge that her sex should reach,
Though GREVILLE, or the MUSE, should deign to teach,
Fond to improve, nor tim'rous to discern
How far it is a woman's grace to learn;
In MILLAR'S dialect she would not prove
Apollo's priestess, but Apollo's love,
Graced by those signs which truth delights to own,
The timid blush, and mild submitted tone:
Whate'er she says, though sense appear throughout,
Displays the tender hue of female doubt;
Deck'd with that charm, how lovely wit appears,
How graceful SCIENCE, when that robe she wears!
Such too her talents, and her bent of mind,
As speak a sprightly heart by thought refined:
A taste for mirth, by contemplation school'd,
A turn for ridicule, by candour ruled,
A scorn of folly, which she tries to hide;
An awe of talent, which she owns with pride!
Peace, idle Muse! no more thy strain prolong,
But yield a theme thy warmest praises wrong;
Just to her merit, though thou canst not raise
Thy feeble verse, behold th' acknowledged praise
Has spread conviction through the envious train,
And cast a fatal gloom o'er Scandal's reign!
And lo! each pallid hag, with blister'd tongue,
Mutters assent to all thy zeal has sung--
Owns all the colours just--the outline true;
Thee my inspirer, and my MODEL--CREWE!
SIR PETER TEAZLE Mr. King
SIR OLIVER SURFACE Mr. Yates
YOUNG SURFACE Mr. Palmer
CHARLES (his Brother) Mr. Smith
CRABTREE Mr. Parsons
SIR BENJAMIN BACKBITE Mr. Dodd
ROWLEY Mr. Aikin
CARELESS--and other companions to CHARLES
WRITTEN BY MR. GARRICK
A school for Scandal! tell me, I beseech you,
Needs there a school this modish art to teach you?
No need of lessons now, the knowing think;
We might as well be taught to eat and drink.
Caused by a dearth of scandal, should the vapours
Distress our fair ones--let them read the papers;
Their powerful mixtures such disorders hit;
Crave what you will--there's quantum sufficit.
"Lord!" cries my Lady Wormwood (who loves tattle,
And puts much salt and pepper in her prattle),
Just risen at noon, all night at cards when threshing
Strong tea and scandal--"Bless me, how refreshing!
Give me the papers, Lisp--how bold and free! [Sips.]
LAST NIGHT LORD L. [Sips] WAS CAUGHT WITH LADY D.
For aching heads what charming sal volatile! [Sips.]
IF MRS. B. WILL STILL CONTINUE FLIRTING,
WE HOPE SHE'LL draw, OR WE'LL undraw THE CURTAIN.
Fine satire, poz--in public all abuse it,
But, by ourselves [Sips], our praise we can't refuse it.
Now, Lisp, read you--there, at that dash and star:"
"Yes, ma'am--A CERTAIN LORD HAD BEST BEWARE,
WHO LIVES NOT TWENTY MILES FROM GROSVENOR SQUARE;
FOR, SHOULD HE LADY W. FIND WILLING,
WORMWOOD IS BITTER"----"Oh! that's me! the villain!
Throw it behind the fire, and never more
Let that vile paper come within my door."
Thus at our friends we laugh, who feel the dart;
To reach our feelings, we ourselves must smart.
Is our young bard so young, to think that he
Can stop the full spring-tide of calumny?
Knows he the world so little, and its trade?
Alas! the devil's sooner raised than laid.
So strong, so swift, the monster there's no gagging:
Cut Scandal's head off, still the tongue is wagging.
Proud of your smiles once lavishly bestow'd,
Again our young Don Quixote takes the road;
To show his gratitude he draws his pen,
And seeks his hydra, Scandal, in his den.
For your applause all perils he would through--
He'll fight--that's write--a cavalliero true,
Till every drop of blood--that's ink--is spilt for you.
SCENE I.--LADY SNEERWELL'S House
LADY SNEERWELL at her dressing table with LAPPET;
MISS VERJUICE drinking chocolate
LADY SNEERWELL. The Paragraphs you say were all inserted:
VERJUICE. They were Madam--and as I copied them myself in a feigned
Hand there can be no suspicion whence they came.
LADY SNEERWELL. Did you circulate the Report of Lady Brittle's
Intrigue with Captain Boastall?
VERJUICE. Madam by this Time Lady Brittle is the Talk of half the
Town--and I doubt not in a week the Men will toast her as a Demirep.
LADY SNEERWELL. What have you done as to the insinuation as to
a certain Baronet's Lady and a certain Cook.
VERJUICE. That is in as fine a Train as your Ladyship could wish.
I told the story yesterday to my own maid with directions to
communicate it directly to my Hairdresser. He I am informed
has a Brother who courts a Milliners' Prentice in Pallmall
whose mistress has a first cousin whose sister is Feme [Femme]
de Chambre to Mrs. Clackit--so that in the common course of Things
it must reach Mrs. Clackit's Ears within four-and-twenty hours
and then you know the Business is as good as done.
LADY SNEERWELL. Why truly Mrs. Clackit has a very pretty Talent--
a great deal of industry--yet--yes--been tolerably successful
in her way--To my knowledge she has been the cause of breaking off
six matches[,] of three sons being disinherited and four Daughters
being turned out of Doors. Of three several Elopements, as many
close confinements--nine separate maintenances and two Divorces.--
nay I have more than once traced her causing a Tete-a-Tete in the
Town and Country Magazine--when the Parties perhaps had never seen
each other's Faces before in the course of their Lives.
VERJUICE. She certainly has Talents.
LADY SNEERWELL. But her manner is gross.
VERJUICE. 'Tis very true. She generally designs well[,] has
a free tongue and a bold invention--but her colouring is too dark
and her outline often extravagant--She wants that delicacy of
Tint--and mellowness of sneer--which distinguish your Ladyship's
LADY SNEERWELL. Ah you are Partial Verjuice.
VERJUICE. Not in the least--everybody allows that Lady Sneerwell
can do more with a word or a Look than many can with the most
laboured Detail even when they happen to have a little truth
on their side to support it.
LADY SNEERWELL. Yes my dear Verjuice. I am no Hypocrite to deny
the satisfaction I reap from the Success of my Efforts. Wounded
myself, in the early part of my Life by the envenomed Tongue of
Slander I confess I have since known no Pleasure equal to the
reducing others to the Level of my own injured Reputation.
VERJUICE. Nothing can be more natural--But my dear Lady Sneerwell
There is one affair in which you have lately employed me, wherein,
I confess I am at a Loss to guess your motives.
LADY SNEERWELL. I conceive you mean with respect to my neighbour,
Sir Peter Teazle, and his Family--Lappet.--And has my conduct
in this matter really appeared to you so mysterious?
VERJUICE. Entirely so.
LADY SNEERWELL. [VERJUICE.?] An old Batchelor as Sir Peter was[,]
having taken a young wife from out of the Country--as Lady Teazle
is--are certainly fair subjects for a little mischievous raillery--
but here are two young men--to whom Sir Peter has acted as a kind
of Guardian since their Father's death, the eldest possessing
the most amiable Character and universally well spoken of[,]
the youngest the most dissipated and extravagant young Fellow
in the Kingdom, without Friends or caracter--the former one
an avowed admirer of yours and apparently your Favourite[,]
the latter attached to Maria Sir Peter's ward--and confessedly
beloved by her. Now on the face of these circumstances it is
utterly unaccountable to me why you a young Widow with no great
jointure--should not close with the passion of a man of such
character and expectations as Mr. Surface--and more so why you
should be so uncommonly earnest to destroy the mutual Attachment
subsisting between his Brother Charles and Maria.
LADY SNEERWELL. Then at once to unravel this mistery--I must
inform you that Love has no share whatever in the intercourse
between Mr. Surface and me.
LADY SNEERWELL. His real attachment is to Maria or her Fortune--
but finding in his Brother a favoured Rival, He has been obliged
to mask his Pretensions--and profit by my Assistance.
VERJUICE. Yet still I am more puzzled why you should interest
yourself in his success.
LADY SNEERWELL. Heavens! how dull you are! cannot you surmise
the weakness which I hitherto, thro' shame have concealed even
from you--must I confess that Charles--that Libertine, that
extravagant, that Bankrupt in Fortune and Reputation--that He
it is for whom I am thus anxious and malicious and to gain whom
I would sacrifice--everything----
VERJUICE. Now indeed--your conduct appears consistent and I
no longer wonder at your enmity to Maria, but how came you and
Surface so confidential?
LADY SNEERWELL. For our mutual interest--but I have found out
him a long time since[,] altho' He has contrived to deceive
everybody beside--I know him to be artful selfish and malicious--
while with Sir Peter, and indeed with all his acquaintance,
He passes for a youthful Miracle of Prudence--good sense
VERJUICE. Yes yes--I know Sir Peter vows He has not his equal
in England; and, above all, He praises him as a MAN OF SENTIMENT.
LADY SNEERWELL. True and with the assistance of his sentiments
and hypocrisy he has brought Sir Peter entirely in his interests
with respect to Maria and is now I believe attempting to flatter
Lady Teazle into the same good opinion towards him--while poor
Charles has no Friend in the House--though I fear he has a powerful
one in Maria's Heart, against whom we must direct our schemes.
SERVANT. Mr. Surface.
LADY SNEERWELL. Shew him up. He generally calls about this Time.
I don't wonder at People's giving him to me for a Lover.
SURFACE. My dear Lady Sneerwell, how do you do to-day--your most
LADY SNEERWELL. Miss Verjuice has just been arraigning me on our
mutual attachment now; but I have informed her of our real views
and the Purposes for which our Geniuses at present co-operate.
You know how useful she has been to us--and believe me the confidence
is not ill-placed.
SURFACE. Madam, it is impossible for me to suspect that a Lady of
Miss Verjuice's sensibility and discernment----
LADY SNEERWELL. Well--well--no compliments now--but tell me when
you saw your mistress or what is more material to me your Brother.
SURFACE. I have not seen either since I saw you--but I can inform
you that they are at present at Variance--some of your stories have
taken good effect on Maria.
LADY SNEERWELL. Ah! my dear Verjuice the merit of this belongs
to you. But do your Brother's Distresses encrease?
SURFACE. Every hour. I am told He had another execution in his
house yesterday--in short his Dissipation and extravagance exceed
anything I have ever heard of.
LADY SNEERWELL. Poor Charles!
SURFACE. True Madam--notwithstanding his Vices one can't help
feeling for him--ah poor Charles! I'm sure I wish it was in
my Power to be of any essential Service to him--for the man
who does not share in the Distresses of a Brother--even though
merited by his own misconduct--deserves----
LADY SNEERWELL. O Lud you are going to be moral, and forget
that you are among Friends.
SURFACE. Egad, that's true--I'll keep that sentiment till I see
Sir Peter. However it is certainly a charity to rescue Maria from
such a Libertine who--if He is to be reclaim'd, can be so only by a
Person of your Ladyship's superior accomplishments and understanding.
VERJUICE. 'Twould be a Hazardous experiment.
SURFACE. But--Madam--let me caution you to place no more confidence
in our Friend Snake the Libeller--I have lately detected him
in frequent conference with old Rowland [Rowley] who was formerly
my Father's Steward and has never been a friend of mine.
LADY SNEERWELL. I'm not disappointed in Snake, I never suspected
the fellow to have virtue enough to be faithful even to his own
Maria my dear--how do you do--what's the matter?
MARIA. O here is that disagreeable lover of mine, Sir Benjamin
Backbite, has just call'd at my guardian's with his odious
Uncle Crabtree--so I slipt out and ran hither to avoid them.
LADY SNEERWELL. Is that all?
VERJUICE. Lady Sneerwell--I'll go and write the Letter I mention'd
SURFACE. If my Brother Charles had been of the Party, madam,
perhaps you would not have been so much alarmed.
LADY SNEERWELL. Nay now--you are severe for I dare swear the Truth
of the matter is Maria heard YOU were here--but my dear--what has
Sir Benjamin done that you should avoid him so----
MARIA. Oh He has done nothing--but his conversation is a perpetual
Libel on all his Acquaintance.
SURFACE. Aye and the worst of it is there is no advantage in not
knowing Them, for He'll abuse a stranger just as soon as his best
Friend--and Crabtree is as bad.
LADY SNEERWELL. Nay but we should make allowance[--]Sir Benjamin
is a wit and a poet.
MARIA. For my Part--I own madam--wit loses its respect with me,
when I see it in company with malice.--What do you think,
SURFACE. Certainly, Madam, to smile at the jest which plants
a Thorn on another's Breast is to become a principal in the mischief.
LADY SNEERWELL. Pshaw--there's no possibility of being witty
without a little [ill] nature--the malice of a good thing
is the Barb that makes it stick.--What's your opinion, Mr. Surface?
SURFACE. Certainly madam--that conversation where the Spirit of
Raillery is suppressed will ever appear tedious and insipid--
MARIA. Well I'll not debate how far Scandal may be allowable--
but in a man I am sure it is always contemtable.--We have Pride,
envy, Rivalship, and a Thousand motives to depreciate each other--
but the male-slanderer must have the cowardice of a woman before
He can traduce one.
LADY SNEERWELL. I wish my Cousin Verjuice hadn't left us--she
should embrace you.
SURFACE. Ah! she's an old maid and is privileged of course.
Madam Mrs. Candour is below and if your Ladyship's at leisure will
leave her carriage.
LADY SNEERWELL. Beg her to walk in. Now, Maria[,] however here is
a Character to your Taste, for tho' Mrs. Candour is a little
talkative everybody allows her to be the best-natured and best sort
MARIA. Yes with a very gross affectation of good Nature and
Benevolence--she does more mischief than the Direct malice of
SURFACE. Efaith 'tis very true Lady Sneerwell--Whenever I hear
the current running again the characters of my Friends, I never
think them in such Danger as when Candour undertakes their Defence.
LADY SNEERWELL. Hush here she is----
Enter MRS. CANDOUR
MRS. CANDOUR. My dear Lady Sneerwell how have you been this Century.
I have never seen you tho' I have heard of you very often.--
Mr. Surface--the World says scandalous things of you--but indeed
it is no matter what the world says, for I think one hears nothing
else but scandal.
SURFACE. Just so, indeed, Ma'am.
MRS. CANDOUR. Ah Maria Child--what[!] is the whole affair off
between you and Charles? His extravagance; I presume--The Town
talks of nothing else----
MARIA. I am very sorry, Ma'am, the Town has so little to do.
MRS. CANDOUR. True, true, Child; but there's no stopping people's
Tongues. I own I was hurt to hear it--as I indeed was to learn
from the same quarter that your guardian, Sir Peter[,] and Lady
Teazle have not agreed lately so well as could be wish'd.
MARIA. 'Tis strangely impertinent for people to busy themselves so.
MRS. CANDOUR. Very true, Child; but what's to be done? People will
talk--there's no preventing it.--why it was but yesterday I was told
that Miss Gadabout had eloped with Sir Filagree Flirt. But, Lord!
there is no minding what one hears; tho' to be sure I had this from
very good authority.
MARIA. Such reports are highly scandalous.
MRS. CANDOUR. So they are Child--shameful! shameful! but the world
is so censorious no character escapes. Lord, now! who would have
suspected your friend, Miss Prim, of an indiscretion Yet such is the
ill-nature of people, that they say her unkle stopped her last week
just as she was stepping into a Postchaise with her Dancing-master.
MARIA. I'll answer for't there are no grounds for the Report.
MRS. CANDOUR. Oh, no foundation in the world I dare swear[;]
no more probably than for the story circulated last month,
of Mrs. Festino's affair with Colonel Cassino--tho' to be sure
that matter was never rightly clear'd up.
SURFACE. The license of invention some people take is monstrous
MARIA. 'Tis so but in my opinion, those who report such things
are equally culpable.
MRS. CANDOUR. To be sure they are[;] Tale Bearers are as bad as
the Tale makers--'tis an old observation and a very true one--but
what's to be done as I said before--how will you prevent People from
talking--to-day, Mrs. Clackitt assured me, Mr. and Mrs. Honeymoon
were at last become mere man and wife--like [the rest of their]
acquaintance--she likewise hinted that a certain widow in the next
street had got rid of her Dropsy and recovered her shape in a most
surprising manner--at the same [time] Miss Tattle, who was by
affirm'd, that Lord Boffalo had discover'd his Lady at a house of
no extraordinary Fame--and that Sir Harry Bouquet and Tom Saunter
were to measure swords on a similar Provocation. but--Lord! do you
think I would report these Things--No, no[!] Tale Bearers as I said
before are just as bad as the talemakers.
SURFACE. Ah! Mrs. Candour, if everybody had your Forbearance and
MRS. CANDOUR. I confess Mr. Surface I cannot bear to hear People
traduced behind their Backs[;] and when ugly circumstances come out
against our acquaintances I own I always love to think the best--by
the bye I hope 'tis not true that your Brother is absolutely ruin'd--
SURFACE. I am afraid his circumstances are very bad indeed, Ma'am--
MRS. CANDOUR. Ah! I heard so--but you must tell him to keep up
his Spirits--everybody almost is in the same way--Lord Spindle,
Sir Thomas Splint, Captain Quinze, and Mr. Nickit--all up, I hear,
within this week; so, if Charles is undone, He'll find half his
Acquaintance ruin'd too, and that, you know, is a consolation--
SURFACE. Doubtless, Ma'am--a very great one.
SERVANT. Mr. Crabtree and Sir Benjamin Backbite.
LADY SNEERWELL. Soh! Maria, you see your lover pursues you--
Positively you shan't escape.
Enter CRABTREE and SIR BENJAMIN BACKBITE
CRABTREE. Lady Sneerwell, I kiss your hand. Mrs. Candour I don't
believe you are acquainted with my Nephew Sir Benjamin Backbite--
Egad, Ma'am, He has a pretty wit--and is a pretty Poet too isn't He
SIR BENJAMIN. O fie, Uncle!
CRABTREE. Nay egad it's true--I back him at a Rebus or a Charade
against the best Rhymer in the Kingdom--has your Ladyship heard
the Epigram he wrote last week on Lady Frizzle's Feather catching
Fire--Do Benjamin repeat it--or the Charade you made last Night
extempore at Mrs. Drowzie's conversazione--Come now your first
is the Name of a Fish, your second a great naval commander--and
SIR BENJAMIN. Dear Uncle--now--prithee----
CRABTREE. Efaith, Ma'am--'twould surprise you to hear how ready
he is at all these Things.
LADY SNEERWELL. I wonder Sir Benjamin you never publish anything.
SIR BENJAMIN. To say truth, Ma'am, 'tis very vulgar to Print and
as my little Productions are mostly Satires and Lampoons I find
they circulate more by giving copies in confidence to the Friends
of the Parties--however I have some love-Elegies, which, when
favoured with this lady's smile I mean to give to the Public.
[Pointing to MARIA.]
CRABTREE. 'Fore Heaven, ma'am, they'll immortalize you--you'll
be handed down to Posterity, like Petrarch's Laura, or Waller's
SIR BENJAMIN. Yes Madam I think you will like them--when you shall
see in a beautiful Quarto Page how a neat rivulet of Text shall
meander thro' a meadow of margin--'fore Gad, they will be the most
elegant Things of their kind--
CRABTREE. But Ladies, have you heard the news?
MRS. CANDOUR. What, Sir, do you mean the Report of----
CRABTREE. No ma'am that's not it.--Miss Nicely is going to be
married to her own Footman.
MRS. CANDOUR. Impossible!
CRABTREE. Ask Sir Benjamin.
SIR BENJAMIN. 'Tis very true, Ma'am--everything is fixed and the
wedding Livery bespoke.
CRABTREE. Yes and they say there were pressing reasons for't.
MRS. CANDOUR. It cannot be--and I wonder any one should believe
such a story of so prudent a Lady as Miss Nicely.
SIR BENJAMIN. O Lud! ma'am, that's the very reason 'twas believed
at once. She has always been so cautious and so reserved, that
everybody was sure there was some reason for it at bottom.
LADY SNEERWELL. Yes a Tale of Scandal is as fatal to the Reputation
of a prudent Lady of her stamp as a Fever is generally to those
of the strongest Constitutions, but there is a sort of puny sickly
Reputation, that is always ailing yet will outlive the robuster
characters of a hundred Prudes.
SIR BENJAMIN. True Madam there are Valetudinarians in Reputation
as well as constitution--who being conscious of their weak Part,
avoid the least breath of air, and supply their want of Stamina
by care and circumspection--
MRS. CANDOUR. Well but this may be all mistake--You know,
Sir Benjamin very trifling circumstances often give rise to
the most injurious Tales.
CRABTREE. That they do I'll be sworn Ma'am--did you ever hear
how Miss Shepherd came to lose her Lover and her Character
last summer at Tunbridge--Sir Benjamin you remember it--
SIR BENJAMIN. O to be sure the most whimsical circumstance--
LADY SNEERWELL. How was it Pray--
CRABTREE. Why one evening at Mrs. Ponto's Assembly--the conversation
happened to turn on the difficulty of breeding Nova-Scotia Sheep
in this country--says a young Lady in company[, "]I have known
instances of it[--]for Miss Letitia Shepherd, a first cousin of mine,
had a Nova-Scotia Sheep that produced her Twins.["--"]What!["] cries
the old Dowager Lady Dundizzy (who you know is as deaf as a Post),
["]has Miss Letitia Shepherd had twins["]--This Mistake--as you may
imagine, threw the whole company into a fit of Laughing--However
'twas the next morning everywhere reported and in a few Days believed
by the whole Town, that Miss Letitia Shepherd had actually been
brought to Bed of a fine Boy and Girl--and in less than a week
there were People who could name the Father, and the Farm House
where the Babies were put out to Nurse.
LADY SNEERWELL. Strange indeed!
CRABTREE. Matter of Fact, I assure you--O Lud! Mr. Surface pray
is it true that your uncle Sir Oliver is coming home--
SURFACE. Not that I know of indeed Sir.
CRABTREE. He has been in the East Indies a long time--you can
scarcely remember him--I believe--sad comfort on his arrival
to hear how your Brother has gone on!
SURFACE. Charles has been imprudent Sir to be sure[;] but I hope
no Busy people have already prejudiced Sir Oliver against him--
He may reform--
SIR BENJAMIN. To be sure He may--for my Part I never believed him
to be so utterly void of Principle as People say--and tho'
he has lost all his Friends I am told nobody is better spoken of--
by the Jews.
CRABTREE. That's true egad nephew--if the Old Jewry was a Ward
I believe Charles would be an alderman--no man more popular there,
'fore Gad I hear He pays as many annuities as the Irish Tontine
and that whenever He's sick they have Prayers for the recovery
of his Health in the synagogue--
SIR BENJAMIN. Yet no man lives in greater Splendour:--they tell me
when He entertains his Friends--He can sit down to dinner with
a dozen of his own Securities, have a score Tradesmen waiting
in the Anti-Chamber, and an officer behind every guest's Chair.
SURFACE. This may be entertainment to you Gentlemen but you pay
very little regard to the Feelings of a Brother.
MARIA. Their malice is intolerable--Lady Sneerwell I must wish you
a good morning--I'm not very well.
MRS. CANDOUR. O dear she chang'd colour very much!
LADY SNEERWELL. Do Mrs. Candour follow her--she may want assistance.
MRS. CANDOUR. That I will with all my soul ma'am.--Poor dear Girl--
who knows--what her situation may be!
[Exit MRS. CANDOUR.]
LADY SNEERWELL. 'Twas nothing but that she could not bear to hear
Charles reflected on notwithstanding their difference.
SIR BENJAMIN. The young Lady's Penchant is obvious.
CRABTREE. But Benjamin--you mustn't give up the Pursuit for that--
follow her and put her into good humour--repeat her some of your
verses--come, I'll assist you--
SIR BENJAMIN. Mr. Surface I did not mean to hurt you--but depend
on't your Brother is utterly undone--
CRABTREE. O Lud! aye--undone--as ever man was--can't raise a guinea.
SIR BENJAMIN. And everything sold--I'm told--that was movable--
CRABTREE. I was at his house--not a thing left but some empty
Bottles that were overlooked and the Family Pictures, which
I believe are framed in the Wainscot.
SIR BENJAMIN. And I'm very sorry to hear also some bad stories
CRABTREE. O He has done many mean things--that's certain!
SIR BENJAMIN. But however as He is your Brother----
CRABTREE. We'll tell you all another opportunity.
LADY SNEERWELL. Ha! ha! ha! 'tis very hard for them to leave
a subject they have not quite run down.
SURFACE. And I believe the Abuse was no more acceptable to your
Ladyship than Maria.
LADY SNEERWELL. I doubt her Affections are farther engaged than
we imagin'd but the Family are to be here this Evening so you may
as well dine where you are and we shall have an opportunity of
observing farther--in the meantime, I'll go and plot Mischief
and you shall study Sentiments.
SCENE II.--SIR PETER'S House
Enter SIR PETER
SIR PETER. When an old Bachelor takes a young Wife--what is He
to expect--'Tis now six months since Lady Teazle made me the happiest
of men--and I have been the most miserable Dog ever since that ever
committed wedlock. We tift a little going to church--and came to
a Quarrel before the Bells had done ringing--I was more than once
nearly chok'd with gall during the Honeymoon--and had lost all comfort
in Life before my Friends had done wishing me Joy--yet I chose with
caution--a girl bred wholly in the country--who never knew luxury
beyond one silk gown--nor dissipation above the annual Gala of a
Race-Ball--Yet she now plays her Part in all the extravagant Fopperies
of the Fashion and the Town, with as ready a Grace as if she had never
seen a Bush nor a grass Plot out of Grosvenor-Square! I am sneered at
by my old acquaintance--paragraphed--in the news Papers--
She dissipates my Fortune, and contradicts all my Humours--
yet the worst of it is I doubt I love her or I should never bear
all this. However I'll never be weak enough to own it.
ROWLEY. Sir Peter, your servant:--how is 't with you Sir--
SIR PETER. Very bad--Master Rowley--very bad[.] I meet with nothing
but crosses and vexations--
ROWLEY. What can have happened to trouble you since yesterday?
SIR PETER. A good--question to a married man--
ROWLEY. Nay I'm sure your Lady Sir Peter can't be the cause of your
SIR PETER. Why has anybody told you she was dead[?]
ROWLEY. Come, come, Sir Peter, you love her, notwithstanding your
tempers do not exactly agree.
SIR PETER. But the Fault is entirely hers, Master Rowley--I am
myself, the sweetest temper'd man alive, and hate a teasing temper;
and so I tell her a hundred Times a day--
SIR PETER. Aye and what is very extraordinary in all our disputes
she is always in the wrong! But Lady Sneerwell, and the Set she meets
at her House, encourage the perverseness of her Disposition--then
to complete my vexations--Maria--my Ward--whom I ought to have
the Power of a Father over, is determined to turn Rebel too and
absolutely refuses the man whom I have long resolved on for her
husband--meaning I suppose, to bestow herself on his profligate
ROWLEY. You know Sir Peter I have always taken the Liberty to differ
with you on the subject of these two young Gentlemen--I only wish
you may not be deceived in your opinion of the elder. For Charles,
my life on't! He will retrieve his errors yet--their worthy Father,
once my honour'd master, was at his years nearly as wild a spark.
SIR PETER. You are wrong, Master Rowley--on their Father's Death
you know I acted as a kind of Guardian to them both--till their uncle
Sir Oliver's Eastern Bounty gave them an early independence. Of
course no person could have more opportunities of judging of their
Hearts--and I was never mistaken in my life. Joseph is indeed a model
for the young men of the Age--He is a man of Sentiment--and acts up
to the Sentiments he professes--but for the other[,] take my word
for't [if] he had any grain of Virtue by descent--he has dissipated it
with the rest of his inheritance. Ah! my old Friend, Sir Oliver will
be deeply mortified when he finds how Part of his Bounty has been
ROWLEY. I am sorry to find you so violent against the young man
because this may be the most critical Period of his Fortune.
I came hither with news that will surprise you.
SIR PETER. What! let me hear--
ROWLEY. Sir Oliver is arrived and at this moment in Town.
SIR PETER. How!--you astonish me--I thought you did not expect him
ROWLEY. I did not--but his Passage has been remarkably quick.
SIR PETER. Egad I shall rejoice to see my old Friend--'Tis sixteen
years since we met--We have had many a Day together--but does he still
enjoin us not to inform his Nephews of his Arrival?
ROWLEY. Most strictly--He means, before He makes it known to make
some trial of their Dispositions and we have already planned something
for the purpose.
SIR PETER. Ah there needs no art to discover their merits--however
he shall have his way--but pray does he know I am married!
ROWLEY. Yes and will soon wish you joy.
SIR PETER. You may tell him 'tis too late--ah Oliver will laugh
at me--we used to rail at matrimony together--but He has been steady
to his Text--well He must be at my house tho'--I'll instantly give
orders for his Reception--but Master Rowley--don't drop a word that
Lady Teazle and I ever disagree.
ROWLEY. By no means.
SIR PETER. For I should never be able to stand Noll's jokes; so I'd
have him think that we are a very happy couple.
ROWLEY. I understand you--but then you must be very careful not
to differ while He's in the House with you.
SIR PETER. Egad--and so we must--that's impossible. Ah! Master
Rowley when an old Batchelor marries a young wife--He deserves--
no the crime carries the Punishment along with it.
END OF THE FIRST ACT
SCENE I.--SIR PETER and LADY TEAZLE
SIR PETER. Lady Teazle--Lady Teazle I'll not bear it.
LADY TEAZLE. Sir Peter--Sir Peter you--may scold or smile, according
to your Humour[,] but I ought to have my own way in everything,
and what's more I will too--what! tho' I was educated in the country
I know very well that women of Fashion in London are accountable
to nobody after they are married.
SIR PETER. Very well! ma'am very well! so a husband is to have
no influence, no authority?
LADY TEAZLE. Authority! no, to be sure--if you wanted authority
over me, you should have adopted me and not married me[:] I am sure
you were old enough.
SIR PETER. Old enough--aye there it is--well--well--Lady Teazle,
tho' my life may be made unhappy by your Temper--I'll not be ruined
by your extravagance--
LADY TEAZLE. My extravagance! I'm sure I'm not more extravagant
than a woman of Fashion ought to be.
SIR PETER. No no Madam, you shall throw away no more sums on such
unmeaning Luxury--'Slife to spend as much to furnish your Dressing
Room with Flowers in winter as would suffice to turn the Pantheon
into a Greenhouse, and give a Fete Champetre at Christmas.
LADY TEAZLE. Lord! Sir Peter am I to blame because Flowers are dear
in cold weather? You should find fault with the Climate, and not
with me. For my Part I'm sure I wish it was spring all the year
round--and that Roses grew under one's Feet!
SIR PETER. Oons! Madam--if you had been born to those Fopperies
I shouldn't wonder at your talking thus;--but you forget what your
situation was when I married you--
LADY TEAZLE. No, no, I don't--'twas a very disagreeable one or
I should never nave married you.
SIR PETER. Yes, yes, madam, you were then in somewhat a humbler
Style--the daughter of a plain country Squire. Recollect Lady Teazle
when I saw you first--sitting at your tambour in a pretty figured
linen gown--with a Bunch of Keys at your side, and your apartment
hung round with Fruits in worsted, of your own working--
LADY TEAZLE. O horrible!--horrible!--don't put me in mind of it!
SIR PETER. Yes, yes Madam and your daily occupation to inspect
the Dairy, superintend the Poultry, make extracts from the Family
Receipt-book, and comb your aunt Deborah's Lap Dog.
LADY TEAZLE. Abominable!
SIR PETER. Yes Madam--and what were your evening amusements?
to draw Patterns for Ruffles, which you hadn't the materials to make--
play Pope Joan with the Curate--to read a sermon to your Aunt--
or be stuck down to an old Spinet to strum your father to sleep
after a Fox Chase.
LADY TEAZLE. Scandalous--Sir Peter not a word of it true--
SIR PETER. Yes, Madam--These were the recreations I took you from--
and now--no one more extravagantly in the Fashion--Every Fopery
adopted--a head-dress to o'er top Lady Pagoda with feathers pendant
horizontal and perpendicular--you forget[,] Lady Teazle--when a little
wired gauze with a few Beads made you a fly Cap not much bigger than
a blew-bottle, and your Hair was comb'd smooth over a Roll--
LADY TEAZLE. Shocking! horrible Roll!!
SIR PETER. But now--you must have your coach--Vis-a-vis, and three
powder'd Footmen before your Chair--and in the summer a pair of
white cobs to draw you to Kensington Gardens--no recollection when y
ou were content to ride double, behind the Butler, on a docked
LADY TEAZLE. Horrid!--I swear I never did.
SIR PETER. This, madam, was your situation--and what have I not done
for you? I have made you woman of Fashion of Fortune of Rank--
in short I have made you my wife.
LADY TEAZLE. Well then and there is but one thing more you can make
me to add to the obligation.
SIR PETER. What's that pray?
LADY TEAZLE. Your widow.--
SIR PETER. Thank you Madam--but don't flatter yourself for though
your ill-conduct may disturb my Peace it shall never break my Heart
I promise you--however I am equally obliged to you for the Hint.
LADY TEAZLE. Then why will you endeavour to make yourself so
disagreeable to me--and thwart me in every little elegant expense.
SIR PETER. 'Slife--Madam I pray, had you any of these elegant
expenses when you married me?
LADY TEAZLE. Lud Sir Peter would you have me be out of the Fashion?
SIR PETER. The Fashion indeed!--what had you to do with the Fashion
before you married me?
LADY TEAZLE. For my Part--I should think you would like to have
your wife thought a woman of Taste--
SIR PETER. Aye there again--Taste! Zounds Madam you had no Taste
when you married me--
LADY TEAZLE. That's very true indeed Sir Peter! after having married
you I should never pretend to Taste again I allow.
SIR PETER. So--so then--Madam--if these are your Sentiments pray how
came I to be honour'd with your Hand?
LADY TEAZLE. Shall I tell you the Truth?
SIR PETER. If it's not too great a Favour.
LADY TEAZLE. Why the Fact is I was tired of all those agreeable
Recreations which you have so good naturally [naturedly] Described--
and having a Spirit to spend and enjoy a Fortune--I determined
to marry the first rich man that would have me.
SIR PETER. A very honest confession--truly--but pray madam was there
no one else you might have tried to ensnare but me.
LADY TEAZLE. O lud--I drew my net at several but you were the only
one I could catch.
SIR PETER. This is plain dealing indeed--
LADY TEAZLE. But now Sir Peter if we have finish'd our daily Jangle
I presume I may go to my engagement at Lady Sneerwell's?
SIR PETER. Aye--there's another Precious circumstance--a charming
set of acquaintance--you have made there!
LADY TEAZLE. Nay Sir Peter they are People of Rank and Fortune--
and remarkably tenacious of reputation.
SIR PETER. Yes egad they are tenacious of Reputation with
a vengeance, for they don't chuse anybody should have a Character
but themselves! Such a crew! Ah! many a wretch has rid on hurdles
who has done less mischief than these utterers of forged Tales,
coiners of Scandal, and clippers of Reputation.
LADY TEAZLE. What would you restrain the freedom of speech?
SIR PETER. Aye they have made you just as bad [as] any one
of the Society.
LADY TEAZLE. Why--I believe I do bear a Part with a tolerable Grace--
But I vow I bear no malice against the People I abuse, when I say
an ill-natured thing, 'tis out of pure Good Humour--and I take it
for granted they deal exactly in the same manner with me,
but Sir Peter you know you promised to come to Lady Sneerwell's too.
SIR PETER. Well well I'll call in, just to look after my own
LADY TEAZLE. Then, indeed, you must make Haste after me, or you'll
be too late--so good bye to ye.
SIR PETER. So--I have gain'd much by my intended expostulation--
yet with what a charming air she contradicts every thing I say--
and how pleasingly she shows her contempt of my authority--Well
tho' I can't make her love me, there is certainly a great satisfaction
in quarrelling with her; and I think she never appears to such
advantage as when she is doing everything in her Power to plague me.
SCENE II.--At LADY SNEERWELL'S
LADY SNEERWELL, MRS. CANDOUR, CRABTREE, SIR BENJAMIN BACKBITE,
LADY SNEERWELL. Nay, positively, we will hear it.
SURFACE. Yes--yes the Epigram by all means.
SiR BENJAMIN. O plague on't unkle--'tis mere nonsense--
CRABTREE. No no; 'fore gad very clever for an extempore!
SIR BENJAMIN. But ladies you should be acquainted with
the circumstances. You must know that one day last week
as Lady Betty Curricle was taking the Dust in High Park,
in a sort of duodecimo Phaeton--she desired me to write
some verses on her Ponies--upon which I took out my Pocket-Book--
and in one moment produced--the following:--
'Sure never were seen two such beautiful Ponies;
Other Horses are Clowns--and these macaronies,
Nay to give 'em this Title, I'm sure isn't wrong,
Their Legs are so slim--and their Tails are so long.
CRABTREE. There Ladies--done in the smack of a whip and on Horseback
SURFACE. A very Phoebus, mounted--indeed Sir Benjamin.
SIR BENJAMIN. Oh dear Sir--Trifles--Trifles.
Enter LADY TEAZLE and MARIA
MRS. CANDOUR. I must have a Copy--
LADY SNEERWELL. Lady Teazle--I hope we shall see Sir Peter?
LADY TEAZLE. I believe He'll wait on your Ladyship presently.
LADY SNEERWELL. Maria my love you look grave. Come, you sit down
to Piquet with Mr. Surface.
MARIA. I take very little Pleasure in cards--however, I'll do
as you Please.
LADY TEAZLE. I am surprised Mr. Surface should sit down her--
I thought He would have embraced this opportunity of speaking
to me before Sir Peter came--[Aside.]
MRS. CANDOUR. Now, I'll die but you are so scandalous I'll forswear
LADY TEAZLE. What's the matter, Mrs. Candour?
MRS. CANDOUR. They'll not allow our friend Miss Vermillion
to be handsome.
LADY SNEERWELL. Oh, surely she is a pretty woman. . . .
[CRABTREE.] I am very glad you think so ma'am.
MRS. CANDOUR. She has a charming fresh Colour.
CRABTREE. Yes when it is fresh put on--
LADY TEAZLE. O fie! I'll swear her colour is natural--I have seen
it come and go--
CRABTREE. I dare swear you have, ma'am: it goes of a Night,
and comes again in the morning.
SIR BENJAMIN. True, uncle, it not only comes and goes but what's
more egad her maid can fetch and carry it--
MRS. CANDOUR. Ha! ha! ha! how I hate to hear you talk so!
But surely, now, her Sister, is or was very handsome.
CRABTREE. Who? Mrs. Stucco? O lud! she's six-and-fifty if she's
MRS. CANDOUR. Now positively you wrong her[;] fifty-two,
or fifty-three is the utmost--and I don't think she looks more.
SIR BENJAMIN. Ah! there's no judging by her looks, unless one was
to see her Face.
LADY SNEERWELL. Well--well--if she does take some pains to repair
the ravages of Time--you must allow she effects it with great
ingenuity--and surely that's better than the careless manner
in which the widow Ocre chaulks her wrinkles.
SIR BENJAMIN. Nay now--you are severe upon the widow--come--come,
it isn't that she paints so ill--but when she has finished her Face
she joins it on so badly to her Neck, that she looks like a mended
Statue, in which the Connoisseur sees at once that the Head's modern
tho' the Trunk's antique----
CRABTREE. Ha! ha! ha! well said, Nephew!
MRS. CANDOUR. Ha! ha! ha! Well, you make me laugh but I vow I hate
you for it--what do you think of Miss Simper?
SIR BENJAMIN. Why, she has very pretty Teeth.
LADY TEAZLE. Yes and on that account, when she is neither speaking
nor laughing (which very seldom happens)--she never absolutely shuts
her mouth, but leaves it always on a-Jar, as it were----
MRS. CANDOUR. How can you be so ill-natured!
LADY TEAZLE. Nay, I allow even that's better than the Pains Mrs. Prim
takes to conceal her losses in Front--she draws her mouth till
it resembles the aperture of a Poor's-Box, and all her words appear
to slide out edgewise.
LADY SNEERWELL. Very well Lady Teazle I see you can be a little
LADY TEAZLE. In defence of a Friend it is but justice, but here comes
Sir Peter to spoil our Pleasantry.
Enter SIR PETER
SIR PETER. Ladies, your obedient--Mercy on me--here is the whole set!
a character's dead at every word, I suppose.
MRS. CANDOUR. I am rejoiced you are come, Sir Peter--they have been
so censorious and Lady Teazle as bad as any one.
SIR PETER. That must be very distressing to you, Mrs. Candour I dare
MRS. CANDOUR. O they will allow good Qualities to nobody--not even
good nature to our Friend Mrs. Pursy.
LADY TEAZLE. What, the fat dowager who was at Mrs. Codrille's
[Quadrille's] last Night?
LADY SNEERWELL. Nay--her bulk is her misfortune and when she takes
such Pains to get rid of it you ought not to reflect on her.
MRS. CANDOUR. 'Tis very true, indeed.
LADY TEAZLE. Yes, I know she almost lives on acids and small whey--
laces herself by pulleys and often in the hottest noon of summer
you may see her on a little squat Pony, with her hair plaited up
behind like a Drummer's and puffing round the Ring on a full trot.
MRS. CANDOUR. I thank you Lady Teazle for defending her.
SIR PETER. Yes, a good Defence, truly!
MRS. CANDOUR. But for Sir Benjamin, He is as censorious as
CRABTREE. Yes and she is a curious Being to pretend to be
censorious--an awkward Gawky, without any one good Point
LADY SNEERWELL. Positively you shall not be so very severe.
Miss Sallow is a Relation of mine by marriage, and, as for
her Person great allowance is to be made--for, let me tell you
a woman labours under many disadvantages who tries to pass
for a girl at six-and-thirty.
MRS. CANDOUR. Tho', surely she is handsome still--and for the
weakness in her eyes considering how much she reads by candle-light
it is not to be wonder'd at.
LADY SNEERWELL. True and then as to her manner--upon my word
I think it is particularly graceful considering she never had the
least Education[:] for you know her Mother was a Welch milliner,
and her Father a sugar-Baker at Bristow.--
SIR BENJAMIN. Ah! you are both of you too good-natured!
SIR PETER. Yes, damned good-natured! Her own relation!
mercy on me! [Aside.]
MRS. CANDOUR. For my Part I own I cannot bear to hear a friend
SIR PETER. No, to be sure!
SIR BENJAMIN. Ah you are of a moral turn Mrs. Candour and can sit
for an hour to hear Lady Stucco talk sentiments.
LADY SNEERWELL. Nay I vow Lady Stucco is very well with the Dessert
after Dinner for she's just like the Spanish Fruit one cracks
for mottoes--made up of Paint and Proverb.
MRS. CANDOUR. Well, I never will join in ridiculing a Friend--
and so I constantly tell my cousin Ogle--and you all know what
pretensions she has to be critical in Beauty.
LADY TEAZLE. O to be sure she has herself the oddest countenance
that ever was seen--'tis a collection of Features from all the
different Countries of the globe.
SIR BENJAMIN. So she has indeed--an Irish Front----
CRABTREE. Caledonian Locks----
SIR BENJAMIN. Dutch Nose----
CRABTREE. Austrian Lips----
SIR BENJAMIN. Complexion of a Spaniard----
CRABTREE. And Teeth a la Chinoise----
SIR BENJAMIN. In short, her Face resembles a table d'hote at Spa--
where no two guests are of a nation----
CRABTREE. Or a Congress at the close of a general War--wherein all
the members even to her eyes appear to have a different interest
and her Nose and Chin are the only Parties likely to join issue.
MRS. CANDOUR. Ha! ha! ha!
SIR PETER. Mercy on my Life[!] a Person they dine with twice a week!
LADY SNEERWELL. Go--go--you are a couple of provoking Toads.
MRS. CANDOUR. Nay but I vow you shall not carry the Laugh off so--
for give me leave to say, that Mrs. Ogle----
SIR PETER. Madam--madam--I beg your Pardon--there's no stopping
these good Gentlemen's Tongues--but when I tell you Mrs. Candour
that the Lady they are abusing is a particular Friend of mine,
I hope you'll not take her Part.
LADY SNEERWELL. Ha! ha! ha! well said, Sir Peter--but you are
a cruel creature--too Phlegmatic yourself for a jest and too peevish
to allow wit in others.
SIR PETER. Ah Madam true wit is more nearly allow'd [allied?]
to good Nature than your Ladyship is aware of.
LADY SNEERWELL. True Sir Peter--I believe they are so near akin
that they can never be united.
SIR BENJAMIN. O rather Madam suppose them man and wife because
one seldom sees them together.
LADY TEAZLE. But Sir Peter is such an Enemy to Scandal I believe
He would have it put down by Parliament.
SIR PETER. 'Fore heaven! Madam, if they were to consider the
Sporting with Reputation of as much importance as poaching on manors--
and pass an Act for the Preservation of Fame--there are many would
thank them for the Bill.
LADY SNEERWELL. O Lud! Sir Peter would you deprive us of our
SIR PETER. Aye Madam--and then no person should be permitted to kill
characters or run down reputations, but qualified old Maids and
LADY SNEERWELL. Go, you monster--
MRS. CANDOUR. But sure you would not be quite so severe on those
who only report what they hear?
SIR PETER. Yes Madam, I would have Law Merchant for that too--
and in all cases of slander currency, whenever the Drawer of the Lie
was not to be found, the injured Party should have a right to come
on any of the indorsers.
CRABTREE. Well for my Part I believe there never was a Scandalous
Tale without some foundation.<3>
LADY SNEERWELL. Come Ladies shall we sit down to Cards in the next
Enter SERVANT, whispers SIR PETER
SIR PETER. I'll be with them directly.--
I'll get away unperceived.
LADY SNEERWELL. Sir Peter you are not leaving us?
SIR PETER. Your Ladyship must excuse me--I'm called away by
particular Business--but I leave my Character behind me--
SIR BENJAMIN. Well certainly Lady Teazle that lord of yours
is a strange being--I could tell you some stories of him would make
you laugh heartily if He wern't your Husband.
LADY TEAZLE. O pray don't mind that--come do let's hear 'em.
[join the rest of the Company going into the Next Room.]
SURFACE. Maria I see you have no satisfaction in this society.
MARIA. How is it possible I should? If to raise malicious smiles
at the infirmities or misfortunes of those who have never injured us
be the province of wit or Humour, Heaven grant me a double Portion
SURFACE. Yet they appear more ill-natured than they are--they have
no malice at heart--
MARIA. Then is their conduct still more contemptible[;] for in my
opinion--nothing could excuse the intemperance of their tongues
but a natural and ungovernable bitterness of Mind.
SURFACE. Undoubtedly Madam--and it has always been a sentiment
of mine--that to propagate a malicious Truth wantonly--is more
despicable than to falsify from Revenge, but can you Maria feel
thus [f]or others and be unkind to me alone--nay is hope to be denied
the tenderest Passion.--
MARIA. Why will you distress me by renewing this subject--
SURFACE. Ah! Maria! you would not treat me thus and oppose your
guardian's Sir Peter's wishes--but that I see that my Profligate
Brother is still a favour'd Rival.
MARIA. Ungenerously urged--but whatever my sentiments of that
unfortunate young man are, be assured I shall not feel more bound
to give him up because his Distresses have sunk him so low as
to deprive him of the regard even of a Brother.
SURFACE. Nay but Maria do not leave me with a Frown--by all that's
honest, I swear----Gad's Life here's Lady Teazle--you must not--
no you shall--for tho' I have the greatest Regard for Lady Teazle----
MARIA. Lady Teazle!
SURFACE. Yet were Sir Peter to suspect----
[Enter LADY TEAZLE, and comes forward]
LADY TEAZLE. What's this, Pray--do you take her for me!--Child you
are wanted in the next Room.--What's all this, pray--
SURFACE. O the most unlucky circumstance in Nature. Maria has
somehow suspected the tender concern I have for your happiness,
and threaten'd to acquaint Sir Peter with her suspicions--and I was
just endeavouring to reason with her when you came.
LADY TEAZLE. Indeed but you seem'd to adopt--a very tender mode
of reasoning--do you usually argue on your knees?
SURFACE. O she's a Child--and I thought a little Bombast----
but Lady Teazle when are you to give me your judgment on my Library
as you promised----
LADY TEAZLE. No--no I begin to think it would be imprudent--
and you know I admit you as a Lover no farther than Fashion requires.
SURFACE. True--a mere Platonic Cicisbeo, what every London wife
is entitled to.
LADY TEAZLE. Certainly one must not be out of the Fashion--however,
I have so much of my country Prejudices left--that--though Sir Peter's
ill humour may vex me ever so, it never shall provoke me to----
SURFACE. The only revenge in your Power--well I applaud your
LADY TEAZLE. Go--you are an insinuating Hypocrite--but we shall be
miss'd--let us join the company.
SURFACE. True, but we had best not return together.
LADY TEAZLE. Well don't stay--for Maria shan't come to hear
any more of your Reasoning, I promise you--
SURFACE. A curious Dilemma truly my Politics have run me into.
I wanted at first only to ingratiate myself with Lady Teazle that she
might not be my enemy with Maria--and I have I don't know how--
become her serious Lover, so that I stand a chance of Committing
a Crime I never meditated--and probably of losing Maria by the
Pursuit!--Sincerely I begin to wish I had never made such a Point
of gaining so very good a character, for it has led me into so many
curst Rogueries that I doubt I shall be exposed at last.
SCENE III.--At SIR PETER'S
--ROWLEY and SIR OLIVER--
SIR OLIVER. Ha! ha! ha! and so my old Friend is married, hey?--
a young wife out of the country!--ha! ha! that he should have stood
Bluff to old Bachelor so long and sink into a Husband at last!
ROWLEY. But you must not rally him on the subject Sir Oliver--'tis
a tender Point I assure you though He has been married only seven
SIR OLIVER. Ah then he has been just half a year on the stool
of Repentance--Poor Peter! But you say he has entirely given up
Charles--never sees him, hey?
ROWLEY. His Prejudice against him is astonishing--and I am sure
greatly increased by a jealousy of him with Lady Teazle--which
he has been industriously led into by a scandalous Society--
in the neighbourhood--who have contributed not a little to Charles's
ill name. Whereas the truth is[,] I believe[,] if the lady
is partial to either of them his Brother is the Favourite.
SIR OLIVER. Aye--I know--there are a set of malicious prating
prudent Gossips both male and Female, who murder characters to kill
time, and will rob a young Fellow of his good name before He has years
to know the value of it. . . but I am not to be prejudiced against
my nephew by such I promise you! No! no--if Charles has done nothing
false or mean, I shall compound for his extravagance.
ROWLEY. Then my life on't, you will reclaim him. Ah, Sir, it gives
me new vigour to find that your heart is not turned against him--
and that the son of my good old master has one friend however left--
SIR OLIVER. What! shall I forget Master Rowley--when I was at his
house myself--egad my Brother and I were neither of us very prudent
youths--and yet I believe you have not seen many better men than your
old master was[.]
ROWLEY. 'Tis this Reflection gives me assurance that Charles may yet
be a credit to his Family--but here comes Sir Peter----
SIR OLIVER. Egad so He does--mercy on me--He's greatly altered--
and seems to have a settled married look--one may read Husband
in his Face at this Distance.--
Enter SIR PETER
SIR PETER. Ha! Sir Oliver--my old Friend--welcome to England--
a thousand Times!
SIR OLIVER. Thank you--thank you--Sir Peter--and Efaith I am
as glad to find you well[,] believe me--
SIR PETER. Ah! 'tis a long time since we met--sixteen year I doubt
Sir Oliver--and many a cross accident in the Time--
SIR OLIVER. Aye I have had my share--but, what[!] I find you are
married--hey my old Boy--well--well it can't be help'd--and so I wish
you joy with all my heart--
SIR PETER. Thank you--thanks Sir Oliver.--Yes, I have entered into
the happy state but we'll not talk of that now.
SIR OLIVER. True true Sir Peter old Friends shouldn't begin
on grievances at first meeting. No, no--
ROWLEY. Take care pray Sir----
SIR OLIVER. Well--so one of my nephews I find is a wild Rogue--hey?
SIR PETER. Wild!--oh! my old Friend--I grieve for your disappointment
there--He's a lost young man indeed--however his Brother will make you
amends; Joseph is indeed what a youth should be--everybody in the
world speaks well of him--
SIR OLIVER. I am sorry to hear it--he has too good a character to be
an honest Fellow. Everybody speaks well of him! Psha! then He has
bow'd as low to Knaves and Fools as to the honest dignity of Virtue.
SIR PETER. What Sir Oliver do you blame him for not making Enemies?
SIR OLIVER. Yes--if He has merit enough to deserve them.
SIR PETER. Well--well--you'll be convinced when you know him--'tis
edification to hear him converse--he professes the noblest Sentiments.
SIR OLIVER. Ah plague on his Sentiments--if he salutes me with
a scrap sentence of morality in his mouth I shall be sick directly--
but however don't mistake me Sir Peter I don't mean to defend
Charles's Errors--but before I form my judgment of either of them,
I intend to make a trial of their Hearts--and my Friend Rowley
and I have planned something for the Purpose.
ROWLEY. And Sir Peter shall own he has been for once mistaken.
SIR PETER. My life on Joseph's Honour----
SIR OLIVER. Well come give us a bottle of good wine--and we'll
drink the Lads' Healths and tell you our scheme.
SIR PETER. Alons [Allons], then----
SIR OLIVER. But don't Sir Peter be so severe against your old
SIR PETER. 'Tis his Vices and Follies have made me his Enemy.--
ROWLEY. Come--come--Sir Peter consider how early He was left
to his own guidance.
SIR OLIVER. Odds my Life--I am not sorry that He has run out
of the course a little--for my Part, I hate to see dry Prudence
clinging to the green juices of youth--'tis like ivy round
a sapling and spoils the growth of the Tree.
END OF THE SECOND ACT
SCENE I.--At SIR PETER'S
SIR PETER, SIR OLIVER, and ROWLEY
SIR PETER. Well, then, we will see the Fellows first and have our
wine afterwards.--but how is this, Master Rowley--I don't see
the Jet of your scheme.
ROWLEY. Why Sir--this Mr. Stanley whom I was speaking of, is nearly
related to them by their mother. He was once a merchant in Dublin--
but has been ruined by a series of undeserved misfortunes--and now
lately coming over to solicit the assistance of his friends here--
has been flyng [flung] into prison by some of his Creditors--
where he is now with two helpless Boys.--
SIR OLIVER. Aye and a worthy Fellow too I remember him. But what
is this to lead to--?
ROWLEY. You shall hear--He has applied by letter both to Mr. Surface
and Charles--from the former he has received nothing but evasive
promises of future service, while Charles has done all that his
extravagance has left him power to do--and He is at this time
endeavouring to raise a sum of money--part of which, in the midst of
his own distresses, I know He intends for the service of poor Stanley.
SIR OLIVER. Ah! he is my Brother's Son.
SIR PETER. Well, but how is Sir Oliver personally to----
ROWLEY. Why Sir I will inform Charles and his Brother that Stanley
has obtain'd permission to apply in person to his Friends--and as they
have neither of them ever seen him[,] let Sir Oliver assume his
character--and he will have a fair opportunity of judging at least
of the Benevolence of their Dispositions.
SIR PETER. Pshaw! this will prove nothing--I make no doubt Charles
is Coxcomb and thoughtless enough to give money to poor relations
if he had it--
SIR OLIVER. Then He shall never want it--. I have brought
a few Rupees home with me Sir Peter--and I only want to be sure
of bestowing them rightly.--
ROWLEY. Then Sir believe me you will find in the youngest Brother
one who in the midst of Folly and dissipation--has still, as our
immortal Bard expresses it,--
"a Tear for Pity and a Hand open as the day for melting Charity."
SIR PETER. Pish! What signifies his having an open Hand or Purse
either when He has nothing left to give!--but if you talk of humane
Sentiments--Joseph is the man--Well, well, make the trial, if you
please. But where is the fellow whom you brought for Sir Oliver
to examine, relative to Charles's affairs?
ROWLEY. Below waiting his commands, and no one can give him better
intelligence--This, Sir Oliver, is a friendly Jew, who to do him
justice, has done everything in his power to bring your nephew to
a proper sense of his extravagance.
SIR PETER. Pray let us have him in.
ROWLEY. Desire Mr. Moses to walk upstairs.
[Calls to SERVANT.]
SIR PETER. But Pray why should you suppose he will speak the truth?
ROWLEY. Oh, I have convinced him that he has no chance of recovering
certain Sums advanced to Charles but through the bounty of Sir Oliver,
who He knows is arrived; so that you may depend on his Fidelity to his
interest. I have also another evidence in my Power, one Snake, whom
I shall shortly produce to remove some of YOUR Prejudices[,] Sir
Peter[,] relative to Charles and Lady Teazle.
SIR PETER. I have heard too much on that subject.
ROWLEY. Here comes the honest Israelite.
--This is Sir Oliver.
SIR OLIVER. Sir--I understand you have lately had great dealings
with my Nephew Charles.
MOSES. Yes Sir Oliver--I have done all I could for him, but He was
ruined before He came to me for Assistance.
SIR OLIVER. That was unlucky truly--for you have had no opportunity
of showing your Talents.
MOSES. None at all--I hadn't the Pleasure of knowing his Distresses
till he was some thousands worse than nothing, till it was impossible
to add to them.
SIR OLIVER. Unfortunate indeed! but I suppose you have done all
in your Power for him honest Moses?
MOSES. Yes he knows that--This very evening I was to have brought
him a gentleman from the city who does not know him and will
I believe advance some money.
SIR PETER. What[!] one Charles has never had money from before?
MOSES. Yes[--]Mr. Premium, of Crutched Friars.
SIR PETER. Egad, Sir Oliver a Thought strikes me!--Charles you say
does'nt know Mr. Premium?
MOSES. Not at all.
SIR PETER. Now then Sir Oliver you may have a better opportunity of
satisfying yourself than by an old romancing tale of a poor Relation--
go with my friend Moses and represent Mr. Premium and then I'll answer
for't you'll see your Nephew in all his glory.
SIR OLIVER. Egad I like this Idea better than the other, and I may
visit Joseph afterwards as old Stanley.
SIR PETER. True so you may.
ROWLEY. Well this is taking Charles rather at a disadvantage, to be
sure--however Moses--you understand Sir Peter and will be faithful----
MOSES. You may depend upon me--and this is near the Time I was
to have gone.
SIR OLIVER. I'll accompany you as soon as you please, Moses----
but hold--I have forgot one thing--how the plague shall I be able
to pass for a Jew?
MOSES. There's no need--the Principal is Christian.
SIR OLIVER. Is He--I'm very sorry to hear it--but then again--
an't I rather too smartly dressed to look like a money-Lender?
SIR PETER. Not at all; 'twould not be out of character, if you
went in your own carriage--would it, Moses!
MOSES. Not in the least.
SIR OLIVER. Well--but--how must I talk[?] there's certainly some
cant of usury and mode of treating that I ought to know.
SIR PETER. Oh, there's not much to learn--the great point as I
take it is to be exorbitant enough in your Demands hey Moses?
MOSES. Yes that's very great Point.
SIR OLIVER. I'll answer for't I'll not be wanting in that--I'll
ask him eight or ten per cent. on the loan--at least.
MOSES. You'll be found out directly--if you ask him no more than
that, you'll be discovered immediately.
SIR OLIVER. Hey!--what the Plague!--how much then?
MOSES. That depends upon the Circumstances--if he appears not
very anxious for the supply, you should require only forty or
fifty per cent.--but if you find him in great Distress, and want
the monies very bad--you may ask double.
SIR PETER. A good--[h]onest Trade you're learning, Sir Oliver--
SIR OLIVER. Truly, I think so--and not unprofitable--
MOSES. Then you know--you haven't the monies yourself, but are
forced to borrow them for him of a Friend.
SIR OLIVER. O I borrow it of a Friend do I?
MOSES. And your friend is an unconscion'd Dog--but you can't help it.
SIR OLIVER. My Friend's an unconscionable Dog, is he?
MOSES. Yes--and He himself hasn't the monies by him--but is forced
to sell stock--at a great loss--
SIR OLIVER. He is forced to sell stock is he--at a great loss,
is he--well that's very kind of him--
SIR PETER. Efaith, Sir Oliver--Mr. Premium I mean--you'll soon
be master of the Trade--but, Moses would have him inquire if the
borrower is a minor--
MOSES. O yes--
SIR PETER. And in that case his Conscience will direct him--
MOSES. To have the Bond in another Name to be sure.
SIR OLIVER. Well--well I shall be perfect--
SIR PETER. But hearkee wouldn't you have him also run out a little
against the annuity Bill--that would be in character I should think--
MOSES. Very much--
ROWLEY. And lament that a young man now must be at years
of discretion before He is suffered to ruin himself!
MOSES. Aye, great Pity!
SIR PETER. And abuse the Public for allowing merit to an act
whose only object is to snatch misfortune and imprudence from
the rapacious Relief of usury! and give the minor a chance of
inheriting his estate without being undone by coming into Possession.
SIR OLIVER. So--so--Moses shall give me further instructions
as we go together.
SIR PETER. You will not have much time[,] for your Nephew lives
SIR OLIVER. Oh Never--fear[:] my Tutor appears so able that tho'
Charles lived in the next street it must be my own Fault if I am
not a compleat Rogue before I turn the Corner--
[Exeunt SIR OLIVER and MOSES.]
SIR PETER. So--now I think Sir Oliver will be convinced--you shan't
follow them Rowley. You are partial and would have prepared Charles
for 'tother plot.
ROWLEY. No upon my word Sir Peter--
SIR PETER. Well, go bring me this Snake, and I'll hear what he has
to say presently. I see Maria, and want to speak with her.--
I should be glad to be convinced my suspicions of Lady Teazle and
Charles were unjust--I have never yet opened my mind on this subject
to my Friend Joseph. . . . I am determined. I will do it--He will
give me his opinion sincerely.--
So Child--has Mr. Surface returned with you--
MARIA. No Sir--He was engaged.
SIR PETER. Well--Maria--do you not reflect[,] the more you converse
with that amiable young man[,] what return his Partiality for you
MARIA. Indeed Sir Peter--your frequent importunity on this subject
distresses me extremely--you compell me to Declare that I know no man
who has ever paid me a particular Attention whom I would not prefer
to Mr. Surface--
SIR PETER. Soh! Here's Perverseness--no--no--Maria, 'tis Charles
only whom you would prefer--'tis evident his Vices and Follies have
won your Heart.
MARIA. This is unkind Sir--You know I have obey'd you in neither
seeing nor corresponding with him--I have heard enough to convince
me that He is unworthy my regard--Yet I cannot think it culpable--
if while my understanding severely condemns his Vices, my Heart
suggests some Pity for his Distresses.
SIR PETER. Well well pity him as much as you please, but give your
Heart and Hand to a worthier object.
MARIA. Never to his Brother!
SIR PETER. Go--perverse and obstinate! but take care, Madam--
you have never yet known what the authority of a Guardian is--
don't compel me to inform you of it.--
MARIA. I can only say, you shall not have just Reason--'tis true,
by my Father's will I am for a short period bound to regard you
as his substitute, but I must cease to think you so when you would
compel me to be miserable.
SIR PETER. Was ever man so crossed as I am[?] everything conspiring
to fret me! I had not been involved in matrimony a fortnight[,]
before her Father--a hale and hearty man, died on purpose, I believe--
for the Pleasure of plaguing me with the care of his Daughter . . .
but here comes my Helpmate!--She appears in great good humour----
how happy I should be if I could teaze her into loving me tho'
but a little----
Enter LADY TEAZLE
LADY TEAZLE. Lud! Sir Peter I hope you haven't been quarrelling with
Maria? It isn't using me well to be ill humour'd when I am not bye--!
SIR PETER. Ah! Lady Teazle you might have the Power to make me
good humour'd at all times--
LADY TEAZLE. I am sure--I wish I had--for I want you to be in a
charming sweet temper at this moment--do be good humour'd now--
and let me have two hundred Pounds will you?
SIR PETER. Two hundred Pounds! what an't I to be in a good humour
without paying for it--but speak to me thus--and Efaith there's
nothing I could refuse you. You shall have it--but seal me a bond
for the repayment.
LADY TEAZLE. O no--there--my Note of Hand will do as well--
SIR PETER. And you shall no longer reproach me with not giving you
an independent settlement--I shall shortly surprise you--and you'll
not call me ungenerous--but shall we always live thus--hey?
LADY TEAZLE. If you--please--I'm sure I don't care how soon we leave
off quarrelling provided you'll own you were tired first--
SIR PETER. Well--then let our future contest be who shall be most
LADY TEAZLE. I assure you Sir Peter Good Nature becomes you--
you look now as you did before we were married--when you used
to walk with me under the Elms, and tell me stories of what
a Gallant you were in your youth--and chuck me under the chin
you would--and ask me if I thought I could love an old Fellow
who would deny me nothing--didn't you?
SIR PETER. Yes--yes--and you were as kind and attentive----
LADY TEAZLE. Aye so I was--and would always take your Part, when
my acquaintance used to abuse you and turn you into ridicule--
SIR PETER. Indeed!
LADY TEAZLE. Aye--and when my cousin Sophy has called you a stiff
peevish old batchelor and laugh'd at me for thinking of marrying one
who might be my Father--I have always defended you--and said I didn't
think you so ugly by any means, and that you'd make a very good sort
of a husband--
SIR PETER. And you prophesied right--and we shall certainly now
be the happiest couple----
LADY TEAZLE. And never differ again.
SIR PETER. No never--tho' at the same time indeed--my dear Lady
Teazle--you must watch your Temper very narrowly--for in all our
little Quarrels--my dear--if you recollect my Love you always began
Back to Full Books