The Way of the World
Part 2 out of 3
[To her] LADY WISHFORT.
LADY. O dear Marwood, what shall I say for this rude forgetfulness?
But my dear friend is all goodness.
MRS. MAR. No apologies, dear madam. I have been very well
LADY. As I'm a person, I am in a very chaos to think I should so
forget myself. But I have such an olio of affairs, really I know
not what to do. [Calls.] Foible!--I expect my nephew Sir Wilfull
ev'ry moment too.--Why, Foible!--He means to travel for improvement.
MRS. MAR. Methinks Sir Wilfull should rather think of marrying than
travelling at his years. I hear he is turned of forty.
LADY. Oh, he's in less danger of being spoiled by his travels. I
am against my nephew's marrying too young. It will be time enough
when he comes back, and has acquired discretion to choose for
MRS. MAR. Methinks Mrs. Millamant and he would make a very fit
match. He may travel afterwards. 'Tis a thing very usual with
LADY. I promise you I have thought on't--and since 'tis your
judgment, I'll think on't again. I assure you I will; I value your
judgment extremely. On my word, I'll propose it.
[To them] FOIBLE.
LADY. Come, come, Foible--I had forgot my nephew will be here
before dinner--I must make haste.
FOIB. Mr. Witwoud and Mr. Petulant are come to dine with your
LADY. Oh dear, I can't appear till I am dressed. Dear Marwood,
shall I be free with you again, and beg you to entertain em? I'll
make all imaginable haste. Dear friend, excuse me.
MRS. MARWOOD, MRS. MILLAMANT, MINCING.
MILLA. Sure, never anything was so unbred as that odious man.
Marwood, your servant.
MRS. MAR. You have a colour; what's the matter?
MILLA. That horrid fellow Petulant has provoked me into a flame--I
have broke my fan--Mincing, lend me yours.--Is not all the powder
out of my hair?
MRS. MAR. No. What has he done?
MILLA. Nay, he has done nothing; he has only talked. Nay, he has
said nothing neither; but he has contradicted everything that has
been said. For my part, I thought Witwoud and he would have
MINC. I vow, mem, I thought once they would have fit.
MILLA. Well, 'tis a lamentable thing, I swear, that one has not the
liberty of choosing one's acquaintance as one does one's clothes.
MRS. MAR. If we had that liberty, we should be as weary of one set
of acquaintance, though never so good, as we are of one suit, though
never so fine. A fool and a doily stuff would now and then find
days of grace, and be worn for variety.
MILLA. I could consent to wear 'em, if they would wear alike; but
fools never wear out. They are such DRAP DE BERRI things! Without
one could give 'em to one's chambermaid after a day or two.
MRS. MAR. 'Twere better so indeed. Or what think you of the
playhouse? A fine gay glossy fool should be given there, like a new
masking habit, after the masquerade is over, and we have done with
the disguise. For a fool's visit is always a disguise, and never
admitted by a woman of wit, but to blind her affair with a lover of
sense. If you would but appear barefaced now, and own Mirabell, you
might as easily put off Petulant and Witwoud as your hood and scarf.
And indeed 'tis time, for the town has found it, the secret is grown
too big for the pretence. 'Tis like Mrs. Primly's great belly: she
may lace it down before, but it burnishes on her hips. Indeed,
Millamant, you can no more conceal it than my Lady Strammel can her
face, that goodly face, which in defiance of her Rhenish-wine tea
will not be comprehended in a mask.
MILLA. I'll take my death, Marwood, you are more censorious than a
decayed beauty, or a discarded toast:- Mincing, tell the men they
may come up. My aunt is not dressing here; their folly is less
provoking than your malice.
MRS. MILLAMANT, MRS. MARWOOD.
MILLA. The town has found it? What has it found? That Mirabell
loves me is no more a secret than it is a secret that you discovered
it to my aunt, or than the reason why you discovered it is a secret.
MRS. MAR. You are nettled.
MILLA. You're mistaken. Ridiculous!
MRS. MAR. Indeed, my dear, you'll tear another fan, if you don't
mitigate those violent airs.
MILLA. O silly! Ha, ha, ha! I could laugh immoderately. Poor
Mirabell! His constancy to me has quite destroyed his complaisance
for all the world beside. I swear I never enjoined it him to be so
coy. If I had the vanity to think he would obey me, I would command
him to show more gallantry: 'tis hardly well-bred to be so
particular on one hand and so insensible on the other. But I
despair to prevail, and so let him follow his own way. Ha, ha, ha!
Pardon me, dear creature, I must laugh; ha, ha, ha! Though I grant
you 'tis a little barbarous; ha, ha, ha!
MRS. MAR. What pity 'tis so much fine raillery, and delivered with
so significant gesture, should be so unhappily directed to miscarry.
MILLA. Heh? Dear creature, I ask your pardon. I swear I did not
MRS. MAR. Mr. Mirabell and you both may think it a thing
impossible, when I shall tell him by telling you -
MILLA. Oh dear, what? For it is the same thing, if I hear it. Ha,
MRS. MAR. That I detest him, hate him, madam.
MILLA. O madam, why, so do I. And yet the creature loves me, ha,
ha, ha! How can one forbear laughing to think of it? I am a sibyl
if I am not amazed to think what he can see in me. I'll take my
death, I think you are handsomer, and within a year or two as young.
If you could but stay for me, I should overtake you--but that cannot
be. Well, that thought makes me melancholic.--Now I'll be sad.
MRS. MAR. Your merry note may be changed sooner than you think.
MILLA. D'ye say so? Then I'm resolved I'll have a song to keep up
[To them] MINCING.
MINC. The gentlemen stay but to comb, madam, and will wait on you.
MILLA. Desire Mrs.--that is in the next room, to sing the song I
would have learnt yesterday. You shall hear it, madam. Not that
there's any great matter in it--but 'tis agreeable to my humour.
Set by Mr. John Eccles.
Love's but the frailty of the mind
When 'tis not with ambition joined;
A sickly flame, which if not fed expires,
And feeding, wastes in self-consuming fires.
'Tis not to wound a wanton boy
Or am'rous youth, that gives the joy;
But 'tis the glory to have pierced a swain
For whom inferior beauties sighed in vain.
Then I alone the conquest prize,
When I insult a rival's eyes;
If there's delight in love, 'tis when I see
That heart, which others bleed for, bleed for me.
[To them] PETULANT, WITWOUD.
MILLA. Is your animosity composed, gentlemen?
WIT. Raillery, raillery, madam; we have no animosity. We hit off a
little wit now and then, but no animosity. The falling out of wits
is like the falling out of lovers:- we agree in the main, like
treble and bass. Ha, Petulant?
PET. Ay, in the main. But when I have a humour to contradict -
WIT. Ay, when he has a humour to contradict, then I contradict too.
What, I know my cue. Then we contradict one another like two
battledores; for contradictions beget one another like Jews.
PET. If he says black's black--if I have a humour to say 'tis blue-
-let that pass--all's one for that. If I have a humour to prove it,
it must be granted.
WIT. Not positively must. But it may; it may.
PET. Yes, it positively must, upon proof positive.
WIT. Ay, upon proof positive it must; but upon proof presumptive it
only may. That's a logical distinction now, madam.
MRS. MAR. I perceive your debates are of importance, and very
PET. Importance is one thing and learning's another; but a debate's
a debate, that I assert.
WIT. Petulant's an enemy to learning; he relies altogether on his
PET. No, I'm no enemy to learning; it hurts not me.
MRS. MAR. That's a sign, indeed, it's no enemy to you.
PET. No, no, it's no enemy to anybody but them that have it.
MILLA. Well, an illiterate man's my aversion; I wonder at the
impudence of any illiterate man to offer to make love.
WIT. That I confess I wonder at, too.
MILLA. Ah, to marry an ignorant that can hardly read or write!
PET. Why should a man be any further from being married, though he
can't read, than he is from being hanged? The ordinary's paid for
setting the psalm, and the parish priest for reading the ceremony.
And for the rest which is to follow in both cases, a man may do it
without book. So all's one for that.
MILLA. D'ye hear the creature? Lord, here's company; I'll begone.
SIR WILFULL WITWOUD in a riding dress, MRS. MARWOOD, PETULANT,
WIT. In the name of Bartlemew and his Fair, what have we here?
MRS. MAR. 'Tis your brother, I fancy. Don't you know him?
WIT. Not I:- yes, I think it is he. I've almost forgot him; I have
not seen him since the revolution.
FOOT. Sir, my lady's dressing. Here's company, if you please to
walk in, in the meantime.
SIR WIL. Dressing! What, it's but morning here, I warrant, with
you in London; we should count it towards afternoon in our parts
down in Shropshire:- why, then, belike my aunt han't dined yet. Ha,
FOOT. Your aunt, sir?
SIR WIL. My aunt, sir? Yes my aunt, sir, and your lady, sir; your
lady is my aunt, sir. Why, what dost thou not know me, friend?
Why, then, send somebody hither that does. How long hast thou lived
with thy lady, fellow, ha?
FOOT. A week, sir; longer than anybody in the house, except my
SIR WIL. Why, then, belike thou dost not know thy lady, if thou
seest her. Ha, friend?
FOOT. Why, truly, sir, I cannot safely swear to her face in a
morning, before she is dressed. 'Tis like I may give a shrewd guess
at her by this time.
SIR WIL. Well, prithee try what thou canst do; if thou canst not
guess, enquire her out, dost hear, fellow? And tell her her nephew,
Sir Wilfull Witwoud, is in the house.
FOOT. I shall, sir.
SIR WIL. Hold ye, hear me, friend, a word with you in your ear:
prithee who are these gallants?
FOOT. Really, sir, I can't tell; here come so many here, 'tis hard
to know 'em all.
SIR WILFULL WITWOUD, PETULANT, WITWOUD, MRS. MARWOOD.
SIR WIL. Oons, this fellow knows less than a starling: I don't
think a knows his own name.
MRS. MAR. Mr. Witwoud, your brother is not behindhand in
forgetfulness. I fancy he has forgot you too.
WIT. I hope so. The devil take him that remembers first, I say.
SIR WIL. Save you, gentlemen and lady.
MRS. MAR. For shame, Mr. Witwoud; why won't you speak to him?--And
WIT. Petulant, speak.
PET. And you, sir.
SIR WIL. No offence, I hope? [Salutes MARWOOD.]
MRS. MAR. No, sure, sir.
WIT. This is a vile dog, I see that already. No offence? Ha, ha,
ha. To him, to him, Petulant, smoke him.
PET. It seems as if you had come a journey, sir; hem, hem.
[Surveying him round.]
SIR WIL. Very likely, sir, that it may seem so.
PET. No offence, I hope, sir?
WIT. Smoke the boots, the boots, Petulant, the boots; ha, ha, ha!
SIR WILL. Maybe not, sir; thereafter as 'tis meant, sir.
PET. Sir, I presume upon the information of your boots.
SIR WIL. Why, 'tis like you may, sir: if you are not satisfied
with the information of my boots, sir, if you will step to the
stable, you may enquire further of my horse, sir.
PET. Your horse, sir! Your horse is an ass, sir!
SIR WIL. Do you speak by way of offence, sir?
MRS. MAR. The gentleman's merry, that's all, sir. 'Slife, we shall
have a quarrel betwixt an horse and an ass, before they find one
another out.--You must not take anything amiss from your friends,
sir. You are among your friends here, though it--may be you don't
know it. If I am not mistaken, you are Sir Wilfull Witwoud?
SIR WIL. Right, lady; I am Sir Wilfull Witwoud, so I write myself;
no offence to anybody, I hope? and nephew to the Lady Wishfort of
MRS. MAR. Don't you know this gentleman, sir?
SIR WIL. Hum! What, sure 'tis not--yea by'r lady but 'tis--
'sheart, I know not whether 'tis or no. Yea, but 'tis, by the
Wrekin. Brother Antony! What, Tony, i'faith! What, dost thou not
know me? By'r lady, nor I thee, thou art so becravated and so
beperiwigged. 'Sheart, why dost not speak? Art thou o'erjoyed?
WIT. Odso, brother, is it you? Your servant, brother.
SIR WIL. Your servant? Why, yours, sir. Your servant again--
'sheart, and your friend and servant to that--and a--[puff] and a
flap-dragon for your service, sir, and a hare's foot and a hare's
scut for your service, sir, an you be so cold and so courtly!
WIT. No offence, I hope, brother?
SIR WIL. 'Sheart, sir, but there is, and much offence. A pox, is
this your inns o' court breeding, not to know your friends and your
relations, your elders, and your betters?
WIT. Why, brother Wilfull of Salop, you may be as short as a
Shrewsbury cake, if you please. But I tell you 'tis not modish to
know relations in town. You think you're in the country, where
great lubberly brothers slabber and kiss one another when they meet,
like a call of sergeants. 'Tis not the fashion here; 'tis not,
indeed, dear brother.
SIR WIL. The fashion's a fool and you're a fop, dear brother.
'Sheart, I've suspected this--by'r lady I conjectured you were a
fop, since you began to change the style of your letters, and write
in a scrap of paper gilt round the edges, no bigger than a subpoena.
I might expect this when you left off 'Honoured brother,' and
'Hoping you are in good health,' and so forth, to begin with a 'Rat
me, knight, I'm so sick of a last night's debauch.' Ods heart, and
then tell a familiar tale of a cock and a bull, and a whore and a
bottle, and so conclude. You could write news before you were out
of your time, when you lived with honest Pumple-Nose, the attorney
of Furnival's Inn. You could intreat to be remembered then to your
friends round the Wrekin. We could have Gazettes then, and Dawks's
Letter, and the Weekly Bill, till of late days.
PET. 'Slife, Witwoud, were you ever an attorney's clerk? Of the
family of the Furnivals? Ha, ha, ha!
WIT. Ay, ay, but that was but for a while. Not long, not long;
pshaw, I was not in my own power then. An orphan, and this fellow
was my guardian; ay, ay, I was glad to consent to that man to come
to London. He had the disposal of me then. If I had not agreed to
that, I might have been bound prentice to a feltmaker in Shrewsbury:
this fellow would have bound me to a maker of felts.
SIR WIL. 'Sheart, and better than to be bound to a maker of fops,
where, I suppose, you have served your time, and now you may set up
MRS. MAR. You intend to travel, sir, as I'm informed?
SIR WIL. Belike I may, madam. I may chance to sail upon the salt
seas, if my mind hold.
PET. And the wind serve.
SIR WIL. Serve or not serve, I shan't ask license of you, sir, nor
the weathercock your companion. I direct my discourse to the lady,
sir. 'Tis like my aunt may have told you, madam? Yes, I have
settled my concerns, I may say now, and am minded to see foreign
parts. If an how that the peace holds, whereby, that is, taxes
MRS. MAR. I thought you had designed for France at all adventures.
SIR WIL. I can't tell that; 'tis like I may, and 'tis like I may
not. I am somewhat dainty in making a resolution, because when I
make it I keep it. I don't stand shill I, shall I, then; if I
say't, I'll do't. But I have thoughts to tarry a small matter in
town, to learn somewhat of your lingo first, before I cross the
seas. I'd gladly have a spice of your French as they say, whereby
to hold discourse in foreign countries.
MRS. MAR. Here's an academy in town for that use.
SIR WIL. There is? 'Tis like there may.
MRS. MAR. No doubt you will return very much improved.
WIT. Yes, refined like a Dutch skipper from a whale-fishing.
[To them] LADY WISHFORT and FAINALL.
LADY. Nephew, you are welcome.
SIR WIL. Aunt, your servant.
FAIN. Sir Wilfull, your most faithful servant.
SIR WIL. Cousin Fainall, give me your hand.
LADY. Cousin Witwoud, your servant; Mr. Petulant, your servant.
Nephew, you are welcome again. Will you drink anything after your
journey, nephew, before you eat? Dinner's almost ready.
SIR WIL. I'm very well, I thank you, aunt. However, I thank you
for your courteous offer. 'Sheart, I was afraid you would have been
in the fashion too, and have remembered to have forgot your
relations. Here's your cousin Tony, belike, I mayn't call him
brother for fear of offence.
LADY. Oh, he's a rallier, nephew. My cousin's a wit: and your
great wits always rally their best friends to choose. When you have
been abroad, nephew, you'll understand raillery better. [FAINALL
and MRS. MARWOOD talk apart.]
SIR WIL. Why, then, let him hold his tongue in the meantime, and
rail when that day comes.
[To them] MINCING.
MINC. Mem, I come to acquaint your laship that dinner is impatient.
SIR WIL. Impatient? Why, then, belike it won't stay till I pull
off my boots. Sweetheart, can you help me to a pair of slippers?
My man's with his horses, I warrant.
LADY. Fie, fie, nephew, you would not pull off your boots here? Go
down into the hall:- dinner shall stay for you. My nephew's a
little unbred: you'll pardon him, madam. Gentlemen, will you walk?
MRS. MAR. I'll follow you, madam,--before Sir Wilfull is ready.
MRS. MARWOOD, FAINALL.
FAIN. Why, then, Foible's a bawd, an errant, rank match-making
bawd. And I, it seems, am a husband, a rank husband, and my wife a
very errant, rank wife,--all in the way of the world. 'Sdeath, to
be a cuckold by anticipation, a cuckold in embryo! Sure I was born
with budding antlers like a young satyr, or a citizen's child,
'sdeath, to be out-witted, to be out-jilted, out-matrimonied. If I
had kept my speed like a stag, 'twere somewhat, but to crawl after,
with my horns like a snail, and be outstripped by my wife--'tis
MRS. MAR. Then shake it off: you have often wished for an
opportunity to part, and now you have it. But first prevent their
plot:- the half of Millamant's fortune is too considerable to be
parted with to a foe, to Mirabell.
FAIN. Damn him, that had been mine--had you not made that fond
discovery. That had been forfeited, had they been married. My wife
had added lustre to my horns by that increase of fortune: I could
have worn 'em tipt with gold, though my forehead had been furnished
like a deputy-lieutenant's hall.
MRS. MAR. They may prove a cap of maintenance to you still, if you
can away with your wife. And she's no worse than when you had her:-
I dare swear she had given up her game before she was married.
FAIN. Hum! That may be -
MRS. MAR. You married her to keep you; and if you can contrive to
have her keep you better than you expected, why should you not keep
her longer than you intended?
FAIN. The means, the means?
MRS. MAR. Discover to my lady your wife's conduct; threaten to part
with her. My lady loves her, and will come to any composition to
save her reputation. Take the opportunity of breaking it just upon
the discovery of this imposture. My lady will be enraged beyond
bounds, and sacrifice niece, and fortune and all at that
conjuncture. And let me alone to keep her warm: if she should flag
in her part, I will not fail to prompt her.
FAIN. Faith, this has an appearance.
MRS. MAR. I'm sorry I hinted to my lady to endeavour a match
between Millamant and Sir Wilfull; that may be an obstacle.
FAIN. Oh, for that matter, leave me to manage him; I'll disable him
for that, he will drink like a Dane. After dinner I'll set his hand
MRS. MAR. Well, how do you stand affected towards your lady?
FAIN. Why, faith, I'm thinking of it. Let me see. I am married
already; so that's over. My wife has played the jade with me; well,
that's over too. I never loved her, or if I had, why that would
have been over too by this time. Jealous of her I cannot be, for I
am certain; so there's an end of jealousy. Weary of her I am and
shall be. No, there's no end of that; no, no, that were too much to
hope. Thus far concerning my repose. Now for my reputation: as to
my own, I married not for it; so that's out of the question. And as
to my part in my wife's--why, she had parted with hers before; so,
bringing none to me, she can take none from me: 'tis against all
rule of play that I should lose to one who has not wherewithal to
MRS. MAR. Besides you forget, marriage is honourable.
FAIN. Hum! Faith, and that's well thought on: marriage is
honourable, as you say; and if so, wherefore should cuckoldom be a
discredit, being derived from so honourable a root?
MRS. MAR. Nay, I know not; if the root be honourable, why not the
FAIN. So, so; why this point's clear. Well, how do we proceed?
MRS. MAR. I will contrive a letter which shall be delivered to my
lady at the time when that rascal who is to act Sir Rowland is with
her. It shall come as from an unknown hand--for the less I appear
to know of the truth the better I can play the incendiary. Besides,
I would not have Foible provoked if I could help it, because, you
know, she knows some passages. Nay, I expect all will come out.
But let the mine be sprung first, and then I care not if I am
FAIN. If the worst come to the worst, I'll turn my wife to grass.
I have already a deed of settlement of the best part of her estate,
which I wheedled out of her, and that you shall partake at least.
MRS. MAR. I hope you are convinced that I hate Mirabell now?
You'll be no more jealous?
FAIN. Jealous? No, by this kiss. Let husbands be jealous, but let
the lover still believe: or if he doubt, let it be only to endear
his pleasure, and prepare the joy that follows, when he proves his
mistress true. But let husbands' doubts convert to endless
jealousy; or if they have belief, let it corrupt to superstition and
blind credulity. I am single and will herd no more with 'em. True,
I wear the badge, but I'll disown the order. And since I take my
leave of 'em, I care not if I leave 'em a common motto to their
All husbands must or pain or shame endure;
The wise too jealous are, fools too secure.
ACT IV.--SCENE I.
LADY WISHFORT and FOIBLE.
LADY. Is Sir Rowland coming, say'st thou, Foible? And are things
FOIB. Yes, madam. I have put wax-lights in the sconces, and placed
the footmen in a row in the hall, in their best liveries, with the
coachman and postillion to fill up the equipage.
LADY. Have you pulvilled the coachman and postillion, that they may
not stink of the stable when Sir Rowland comes by?
FOIB. Yes, madam.
LADY. And are the dancers and the music ready, that he may be
entertained in all points with correspondence to his passion?
FOIB. All is ready, madam.
LADY. And--well--and how do I look, Foible?
FOIB. Most killing well, madam.
LADY. Well, and how shall I receive him? In what figure shall I
give his heart the first impression? There is a great deal in the
first impression. Shall I sit? No, I won't sit, I'll walk,--ay,
I'll walk from the door upon his entrance, and then turn full upon
him. No, that will be too sudden. I'll lie,--ay, I'll lie down.
I'll receive him in my little dressing-room; there's a couch--yes,
yes, I'll give the first impression on a couch. I won't lie
neither, but loll and lean upon one elbow, with one foot a little
dangling off, jogging in a thoughtful way. Yes; and then as soon as
he appears, start, ay, start and be surprised, and rise to meet him
in a pretty disorder. Yes; oh, nothing is more alluring than a
levee from a couch in some confusion. It shows the foot to
advantage, and furnishes with blushes and re-composing airs beyond
comparison. Hark! There's a coach.
FOIB. 'Tis he, madam.
LADY. Oh dear, has my nephew made his addresses to Millamant? I
FOIB. Sir Wilfull is set in to drinking, madam, in the parlour.
LADY. Ods my life, I'll send him to her. Call her down, Foible;
bring her hither. I'll send him as I go. When they are together,
then come to me, Foible, that I may not be too long alone with Sir
MRS. MILLAMANT, MRS. FAINALL, FOIBLE.
FOIB. Madam, I stayed here to tell your ladyship that Mr. Mirabell
has waited this half hour for an opportunity to talk with you;
though my lady's orders were to leave you and Sir Wilfull together.
Shall I tell Mr. Mirabell that you are at leisure?
MILLA. No. What would the dear man have? I am thoughtful and
would amuse myself; bid him come another time.
There never yet was woman made,
Nor shall, but to be cursed. [Repeating and walking about.]
MRS. FAIN. You are very fond of Sir John Suckling to-day,
Millamant, and the poets.
MILLA. He? Ay, and filthy verses. So I am.
FOIB. Sir Wilfull is coming, madam. Shall I send Mr. Mirabell
MILLA. Ay, if you please, Foible, send him away, or send him
hither, just as you will, dear Foible. I think I'll see him. Shall
I? Ay, let the wretch come.
Thyrsis, a youth of the inspired train. [Repeating]
Dear Fainall, entertain Sir Wilfull:- thou hast philosophy to
undergo a fool; thou art married and hast patience. I would confer
with my own thoughts.
MRS. FAIN. I am obliged to you that you would make me your proxy in
this affair, but I have business of my own.
[To them] SIR WILFULL.
MRS. FAIN. O Sir Wilfull, you are come at the critical instant.
There's your mistress up to the ears in love and contemplation;
pursue your point, now or never.
SIR WIL. Yes, my aunt will have it so. I would gladly have been
encouraged with a bottle or two, because I'm somewhat wary at first,
before I am acquainted. [This while MILLAMANT walks about repeating
to herself.] But I hope, after a time, I shall break my mind--that
is, upon further acquaintance.--So for the present, cousin, I'll
take my leave. If so be you'll be so kind to make my excuse, I'll
return to my company -
MRS. FAIN. Oh, fie, Sir Wilfull! What, you must not be daunted.
SIR WIL. Daunted? No, that's not it; it is not so much for that--
for if so be that I set on't I'll do't. But only for the present,
'tis sufficient till further acquaintance, that's all--your servant.
MRS. FAIN. Nay, I'll swear you shall never lose so favourable an
opportunity, if I can help it. I'll leave you together and lock the
SIR WILFULL, MILLAMANT.
SIR WIL. Nay, nay, cousin. I have forgot my gloves. What d'ye do?
'Sheart, a has locked the door indeed, I think.--Nay, cousin
Fainall, open the door. Pshaw, what a vixen trick is this? Nay,
now a has seen me too.--Cousin, I made bold to pass through as it
were--I think this door's enchanted.
I prithee spare me, gentle boy,
Press me no more for that slight toy.
SIR WIL. Anan? Cousin, your servant.
MILLA. That foolish trifle of a heart -
SIR WIL. Yes--your servant. No offence, I hope, cousin?
I swear it will not do its part,
Though thou dost thine, employ'st thy power and art.
Natural, easy Suckling!
SIR WIL. Anan? Suckling? No such suckling neither, cousin, nor
stripling: I thank heaven I'm no minor.
MILLA. Ah, rustic, ruder than Gothic.
SIR WIL. Well, well, I shall understand your lingo one of these
days, cousin; in the meanwhile I must answer in plain English.
MILLA. Have you any business with me, Sir Wilfull?
SIR WIL. Not at present, cousin. Yes, I made bold to see, to come
and know if that how you were disposed to fetch a walk this evening;
if so be that I might not be troublesome, I would have sought a walk
MILLA. A walk? What then?
SIR WIL. Nay, nothing. Only for the walk's sake, that's all.
MILLA. I nauseate walking: 'tis a country diversion; I loathe the
country and everything that relates to it.
SIR WIL. Indeed! Hah! Look ye, look ye, you do? Nay, 'tis like
you may. Here are choice of pastimes here in town, as plays and the
like, that must be confessed indeed -
MILLA. Ah, L'ETOURDI! I hate the town too.
SIR WIL. Dear heart, that's much. Hah! that you should hate 'em
both! Hah! 'tis like you may! There are some can't relish the
town, and others can't away with the country, 'tis like you may be
one of those, cousin.
MILLA. Ha, ha, ha! Yes, 'tis like I may. You have nothing further
to say to me?
SIR WIL. Not at present, cousin. 'Tis like when I have an
opportunity to be more private--I may break my mind in some measure-
-I conjecture you partly guess. However, that's as time shall try.
But spare to speak and spare to speed, as they say.
MILLA. If it is of no great importance, Sir Wilfull, you will
oblige me to leave me: I have just now a little business.
SIR WIL. Enough, enough, cousin. Yes, yes, all a case. When
you're disposed, when you're disposed. Now's as well as another
time; and another time as well as now. All's one for that. Yes,
yes; if your concerns call you, there's no haste: it will keep cold
as they say. Cousin, your servant. I think this door's locked.
MILLA. You may go this way, sir.
SIR WIL. Your servant; then with your leave I'll return to my
MILLA. Ay, ay; ha, ha, ha!
Like Phoebus sung the no less am'rous boy.
MRS. MILLAMANT, MIRABELL.
MIRA. Like Daphne she, as lovely and as coy.
Do you lock yourself up from me, to make my search more curious? Or
is this pretty artifice contrived, to signify that here the chase
must end, and my pursuit be crowned, for you can fly no further?
MILLA. Vanity! No--I'll fly and be followed to the last moment;
though I am upon the very verge of matrimony, I expect you should
solicit me as much as if I were wavering at the grate of a
monastery, with one foot over the threshold. I'll be solicited to
the very last; nay, and afterwards.
MIRA. What, after the last?
MILLA. Oh, I should think I was poor and had nothing to bestow if I
were reduced to an inglorious ease, and freed from the agreeable
fatigues of solicitation.
MIRA. But do not you know that when favours are conferred upon
instant and tedious solicitation, that they diminish in their value,
and that both the giver loses the grace, and the receiver lessens
MILLA. It may be in things of common application, but never, sure,
in love. Oh, I hate a lover that can dare to think he draws a
moment's air independent on the bounty of his mistress. There is
not so impudent a thing in nature as the saucy look of an assured
man confident of success: the pedantic arrogance of a very husband
has not so pragmatical an air. Ah, I'll never marry, unless I am
first made sure of my will and pleasure.
MIRA. Would you have 'em both before marriage? Or will you be
contented with the first now, and stay for the other till after
MILLA. Ah, don't be impertinent. My dear liberty, shall I leave
thee? My faithful solitude, my darling contemplation, must I bid
you then adieu? Ay-h, adieu. My morning thoughts, agreeable
wakings, indolent slumbers, all ye DOUCEURS, ye SOMMEILS DU MATIN,
adieu. I can't do't, 'tis more than impossible--positively,
Mirabell, I'll lie a-bed in a morning as long as I please.
MI RA. Then I'll get up in a morning as early as I please.
MILLA. Ah! Idle creature, get up when you will. And d'ye hear, I
won't be called names after I'm married; positively I won't be
MILLA. Ay, as wife, spouse, my dear, joy, jewel, love, sweet-heart,
and the rest of that nauseous cant, in which men and their wives are
so fulsomely familiar--I shall never bear that. Good Mirabell,
don't let us be familiar or fond, nor kiss before folks, like my
Lady Fadler and Sir Francis; nor go to Hyde Park together the first
Sunday in a new chariot, to provoke eyes and whispers, and then
never be seen there together again, as if we were proud of one
another the first week, and ashamed of one another ever after. Let
us never visit together, nor go to a play together, but let us be
very strange and well-bred. Let us be as strange as if we had been
married a great while, and as well-bred as if we were not married at
MIRA. Have you any more conditions to offer? Hitherto your demands
are pretty reasonable.
MILLA. Trifles; as liberty to pay and receive visits to and from
whom I please; to write and receive letters, without interrogatories
or wry faces on your part; to wear what I please, and choose
conversation with regard only to my own taste; to have no obligation
upon me to converse with wits that I don't like, because they are
your acquaintance, or to be intimate with fools, because they may be
your relations. Come to dinner when I please, dine in my dressing-
room when I'm out of humour, without giving a reason. To have my
closet inviolate; to be sole empress of my tea-table, which you must
never presume to approach without first asking leave. And lastly,
wherever I am, you shall always knock at the door before you come
in. These articles subscribed, if I continue to endure you a little
longer, I may by degrees dwindle into a wife.
MIRA. Your bill of fare is something advanced in this latter
account. Well, have I liberty to offer conditions:- that when you
are dwindled into a wife, I may not be beyond measure enlarged into
MILLA. You have free leave: propose your utmost, speak and spare
MIRA. I thank you. IMPRIMIS, then, I covenant that your
acquaintance be general; that you admit no sworn confidant or
intimate of your own sex; no she friend to screen her affairs under
your countenance, and tempt you to make trial of a mutual secrecy.
No decoy-duck to wheedle you a FOP-SCRAMBLING to the play in a mask,
then bring you home in a pretended fright, when you think you shall
be found out, and rail at me for missing the play, and disappointing
the frolic which you had to pick me up and prove my constancy.
MILLA. Detestable IMPRIMIS! I go to the play in a mask!
MIRA. ITEM, I article, that you continue to like your own face as
long as I shall, and while it passes current with me, that you
endeavour not to new coin it. To which end, together with all
vizards for the day, I prohibit all masks for the night, made of
oiled skins and I know not what--hog's bones, hare's gall, pig
water, and the marrow of a roasted cat. In short, I forbid all
commerce with the gentlewomen in what-d'ye-call-it court. ITEM, I
shut my doors against all bawds with baskets, and pennyworths of
muslin, china, fans, atlases, etc. ITEM, when you shall be breeding
MILLA. Ah, name it not!
MIRA. Which may be presumed, with a blessing on our endeavours -
MILLA. Odious endeavours!
MIRA. I denounce against all strait lacing, squeezing for a shape,
till you mould my boy's head like a sugar-loaf, and instead of a
man-child, make me father to a crooked billet. Lastly, to the
dominion of the tea-table I submit; but with proviso, that you
exceed not in your province, but restrain yourself to native and
simple tea-table drinks, as tea, chocolate, and coffee. As likewise
to genuine and authorised tea-table talk, such as mending of
fashions, spoiling reputations, railing at absent friends, and so
forth. But that on no account you encroach upon the men's
prerogative, and presume to drink healths, or toast fellows; for
prevention of which, I banish all foreign forces, all auxiliaries to
the tea-table, as orange-brandy, all aniseed, cinnamon, citron, and
Barbadoes waters, together with ratafia and the most noble spirit of
clary. But for cowslip-wine, poppy-water, and all dormitives, those
I allow. These provisos admitted, in other things I may prove a
tractable and complying husband.
MILLA. Oh, horrid provisos! Filthy strong waters! I toast
fellows, odious men! I hate your odious provisos.
MIRA. Then we're agreed. Shall I kiss your hand upon the contract?
And here comes one to be a witness to the sealing of the deed.
[To them] MRS. FAINALL.
MILLA. Fainall, what shall I do? Shall I have him? I think I must
MRS. FAIN. Ay, ay, take him, take him, what should you do?
MILLA. Well then--I'll take my death I'm in a horrid fright--
Fainall, I shall never say it. Well--I think--I'll endure you.
MRS. FAIN. Fie, fie, have him, and tell him so in plain terms: for
I am sure you have a mind to him.
MILLA. Are you? I think I have; and the horrid man looks as if he
thought so too. Well, you ridiculous thing you, I'll have you. I
won't be kissed, nor I won't be thanked.--Here, kiss my hand though,
so hold your tongue now; don't say a word.
MRS. FAIN. Mirabell, there's a necessity for your obedience: you
have neither time to talk nor stay. My mother is coming; and in my
conscience if she should see you, would fall into fits, and maybe
not recover time enough to return to Sir Rowland, who, as Foible
tells me, is in a fair way to succeed. Therefore spare your
ecstasies for another occasion, and slip down the back stairs, where
Foible waits to consult you.
MILLA. Ay, go, go. In the meantime I suppose you have said
something to please me.
MIRA. I am all obedience.
MRS. MILLAMANT, MRS. FAINALL.
MRS. FAIN. Yonder Sir Wilfull's drunk, and so noisy that my mother
has been forced to leave Sir Rowland to appease him; but he answers
her only with singing and drinking. What they may have done by this
time I know not, but Petulant and he were upon quarrelling as I came
MILLA. Well, if Mirabell should not make a good husband, I am a
lost thing: for I find I love him violently.
MRS. FAIN. So it seems; for you mind not what's said to you. If
you doubt him, you had best take up with Sir Wilfull.
MILLA. How can you name that superannuated lubber? foh!
[To them] WITWOUD from drinking.
MRS. FAIN. So, is the fray made up that you have left 'em?
WIT. Left 'em? I could stay no longer. I have laughed like ten
Christ'nings. I am tipsy with laughing--if I had stayed any longer
I should have burst,--I must have been let out and pieced in the
sides like an unsized camlet. Yes, yes, the fray is composed; my
lady came in like a NOLI PROSEQUI, and stopt the proceedings.
MILLA. What was the dispute?
WIT. That's the jest: there was no dispute. They could neither of
'em speak for rage; and so fell a sputt'ring at one another like two
[To them] PETULANT drunk.
WIT. Now, Petulant? All's over, all's well? Gad, my head begins
to whim it about. Why dost thou not speak? Thou art both as drunk
and as mute as a fish.
PET. Look you, Mrs. Millamant, if you can love me, dear Nymph, say
it, and that's the conclusion--pass on, or pass off--that's all.
WIT. Thou hast uttered volumes, folios, in less than decimo sexto,
my dear Lacedemonian. Sirrah, Petulant, thou art an epitomiser of
PET. Witwoud,--you are an annihilator of sense.
WIT. Thou art a retailer of phrases, and dost deal in remnants of
remnants, like a maker of pincushions; thou art in truth
(metaphorically speaking) a speaker of shorthand.
PET. Thou art (without a figure) just one half of an ass, and
Baldwin yonder, thy half-brother, is the rest. A Gemini of asses
split would make just four of you.
WIT. Thou dost bite, my dear mustard-seed; kiss me for that.
PET. Stand off--I'll kiss no more males--I have kissed your Twin
yonder in a humour of reconciliation till he [hiccup] rises upon my
stomach like a radish.
MILLA. Eh! filthy creature; what was the quarrel?
PET. There was no quarrel; there might have been a quarrel.
WIT. If there had been words enow between 'em to have expressed
provocation, they had gone together by the ears like a pair of
PET. You were the quarrel.
PET. If I have a humour to quarrel, I can make less matters
conclude premises. If you are not handsome, what then? If I have a
humour to prove it? If I shall have my reward, say so; if not,
fight for your face the next time yourself--I'll go sleep.
WIT. Do, wrap thyself up like a woodlouse, and dream revenge. And,
hear me, if thou canst learn to write by to-morrow morning, pen me a
challenge. I'll carry it for thee.
PET. Carry your mistress's monkey a spider; go flea dogs and read
romances. I'll go to bed to my maid.
MRS. FAIN. He's horridly drunk--how came you all in this pickle?
WIT. A plot, a plot, to get rid of the knight--your husband's
advice; but he sneaked off.
SIR WILFULL, drunk, LADY WISHFORT, WITWOUD, MRS. MILLAMANT, MRS.
LADY. Out upon't, out upon't, at years of discretion, and comport
yourself at this rantipole rate!
SIR WIL. No offence, aunt.
LADY. Offence? As I'm a person, I'm ashamed of you. Fogh! How
you stink of wine! D'ye think my niece will ever endure such a
Borachio? You're an absolute Borachio.
SIR WIL. Borachio?
LADY. At a time when you should commence an amour, and put your
best foot foremost -
SIR WIL. 'Sheart, an you grutch me your liquor, make a bill.--Give
me more drink, and take my purse. [Sings]:-
Prithee fill me the glass,
Till it laugh in my face,
With ale that is potent and mellow;
He that whines for a lass
Is an ignorant ass,
For a bumper has not its fellow.
But if you would have me marry my cousin, say the word, and I'll
do't. Wilfull will do't, that's the word. Wilfull will do't,
that's my crest,--my motto I have forgot.
LADY. My nephew's a little overtaken, cousin, but 'tis drinking
your health. O' my word, you are obliged to him -
SIR WIL. IN VINO VERITAS, aunt. If I drunk your health to-day,
cousin,--I am a Borachio.--But if you have a mind to be married, say
the word and send for the piper; Wilfull will do't. If not, dust it
away, and let's have t'other round. Tony--ods-heart, where's Tony?-
-Tony's an honest fellow, but he spits after a bumper, and that's a
We'll drink and we'll never ha' done, boys,
Put the glass then around with the sun, boys,
Let Apollo's example invite us;
For he's drunk every night,
And that makes him so bright,
That he's able next morning to light us.
The sun's a good pimple, an honest soaker, he has a cellar at your
antipodes. If I travel, aunt, I touch at your antipodes--your
antipodes are a good rascally sort of topsy-turvy fellows. If I had
a bumper I'd stand upon my head and drink a health to 'em. A match
or no match, cousin with the hard name; aunt, Wilfull will do't. If
she has her maidenhead let her look to 't; if she has not, let her
keep her own counsel in the meantime, and cry out at the nine
MILLA. Your pardon, madam, I can stay no longer. Sir Wilfull grows
very powerful. Egh! how he smells! I shall be overcome if I stay.
LADY WISHFORT, SIR WILFULL WITWOUD, MR. WITWOUD, FOIBLE.
LADY. Smells? He would poison a tallow-chandler and his family.
Beastly creature, I know not what to do with him. Travel, quotha;
ay, travel, travel, get thee gone, get thee but far enough, to the
Saracens, or the Tartars, or the Turks--for thou art not fit to live
in a Christian commonwealth, thou beastly pagan.
SIR WIL. Turks? No; no Turks, aunt. Your Turks are infidels, and
believe not in the grape. Your Mahometan, your Mussulman is a dry
stinkard. No offence, aunt. My map says that your Turk is not so
honest a man as your Christian--I cannot find by the map that your
Mufti is orthodox, whereby it is a plain case that orthodox is a
hard word, aunt, and [hiccup] Greek for claret. [Sings]:-
To drink is a Christian diversion,
Unknown to the Turk or the Persian.
Let Mahometan fools
Live by heathenish rules,
And be damned over tea-cups and coffee.
But let British lads sing,
Crown a health to the King,
And a fig for your Sultan and Sophy.
Ah, Tony! [FOIBLE whispers LADY W.]
LADY. Sir Rowland impatient? Good lack! what shall I do with this
beastly tumbril? Go lie down and sleep, you sot, or as I'm a
person, I'll have you bastinadoed with broomsticks. Call up the
wenches with broomsticks.
SIR WIL. Ahey! Wenches? Where are the wenches?
LADY. Dear Cousin Witwoud, get him away, and you will bind me to
you inviolably. I have an affair of moment that invades me with
some precipitation.--You will oblige me to all futurity.
WIT. Come, knight. Pox on him, I don't know what to say to him.
Will you go to a cock-match?
SIR WIL. With a wench, Tony? Is she a shake-bag, sirrah? Let me
bite your cheek for that.
WIT. Horrible! He has a breath like a bagpipe. Ay, ay; come, will
you march, my Salopian?
SIR WIL. Lead on, little Tony. I'll follow thee, my Anthony, my
Tantony. Sirrah, thou shalt be my Tantony, and I'll be thy pig.
And a fig for your Sultan and Sophy.
LADY. This will never do. It will never make a match,--at least
before he has been abroad.
LADY WISHFORT, WAITWELL disguised as for SIR ROWLAND.
LADY. Dear Sir Rowland, I am confounded with confusion at the
retrospection of my own rudeness,--I have more pardons to ask than
the pope distributes in the year of jubilee. But I hope where there
is likely to be so near an alliance, we may unbend the severity of
decorum, and dispense with a little ceremony.
WAIT. My impatience, madam, is the effect of my transport; and till
I have the possession of your adorable person, I am tantalised on
the rack, and do but hang, madam, on the tenter of expectation.
LADY. You have excess of gallantry, Sir Rowland, and press things
to a conclusion with a most prevailing vehemence. But a day or two
for decency of marriage -
WAIT. For decency of funeral, madam! The delay will break my
heart--or if that should fail, I shall be poisoned. My nephew will
get an inkling of my designs and poison me--and I would willingly
starve him before I die--I would gladly go out of the world with
that satisfaction. That would be some comfort to me, if I could but
live so long as to be revenged on that unnatural viper.
LADY. Is he so unnatural, say you? Truly I would contribute much
both to the saving of your life and the accomplishment of your
revenge. Not that I respect myself; though he has been a perfidious
wretch to me.
WAIT. Perfidious to you?
LADY. O Sir Rowland, the hours that he has died away at my feet,
the tears that he has shed, the oaths that he has sworn, the
palpitations that he has felt, the trances and the tremblings, the
ardours and the ecstasies, the kneelings and the risings, the heart-
heavings and the hand-gripings, the pangs and the pathetic regards
of his protesting eyes!--Oh, no memory can register.
WAIT. What, my rival? Is the rebel my rival? A dies.
LADY. No, don't kill him at once, Sir Rowland: starve him
gradually, inch by inch.
WAIT. I'll do't. In three weeks he shall be barefoot; in a month
out at knees with begging an alms; he shall starve upward and
upward, 'till he has nothing living but his head, and then go out in
a stink like a candle's end upon a save-all.
LADY. Well, Sir Rowland, you have the way,--you are no novice in
the labyrinth of love,--you have the clue. But as I am a person,
Sir Rowland, you must not attribute my yielding to any sinister
appetite or indigestion of widowhood; nor impute my complacency to
any lethargy of continence. I hope you do not think me prone to any
iteration of nuptials?
WAIT. Far be it from me -
LADY. If you do, I protest I must recede, or think that I have made
a prostitution of decorums, but in the vehemence of compassion, and
to save the life of a person of so much importance -
WAIT. I esteem it so -
LADY. Or else you wrong my condescension -
WAIT. I do not, I do not -
LADY. Indeed you do.
WAIT. I do not, fair shrine of virtue.
LADY. If you think the least scruple of causality was an ingredient
WAIT. Dear madam, no. You are all camphire and frankincense, all
chastity and odour.
LADY. Or that -
[To them] FOIBLE.
FOIB. Madam, the dancers are ready, and there's one with a letter,
who must deliver it into your own hands.
LADY. Sir Rowland, will you give me leave? Think favourably, judge
candidly, and conclude you have found a person who would suffer
racks in honour's cause, dear Sir Rowland, and will wait on you
WAIT. Fie, fie! What a slavery have I undergone; spouse, hast thou
any cordial? I want spirits.
FOIB. What a washy rogue art thou, to pant thus for a quarter of an
hour's lying and swearing to a fine lady?
WAIT. Oh, she is the antidote to desire. Spouse, thou wilt fare
the worse for't. I shall have no appetite to iteration of nuptials-
-this eight-and-forty hours. By this hand I'd rather be a chairman
in the dog-days than act Sir Rowland till this time to-morrow.
[To them] LADY with a letter.
LADY. Call in the dancers; Sir Rowland, we'll sit, if you please,
and see the entertainment. [Dance.] Now, with your permission, Sir
Rowland, I will peruse my letter. I would open it in your presence,
because I would not make you uneasy. If it should make you uneasy,
I would burn it--speak if it does--but you may see, the
superscription is like a woman's hand.
FOIB. By heaven! Mrs. Marwood's, I know it,--my heart aches--get
it from her! [To him.]
WAIT. A woman's hand? No madam, that's no woman's hand: I see
that already. That's somebody whose throat must be cut.
LADY. Nay, Sir Rowland, since you give me a proof of your passion
by your jealousy, I promise you I'll make a return by a frank
communication. You shall see it--we'll open it together. Look you
here. [Reads.] MADAM, THOUGH UNKNOWN TO YOU (look you there, 'tis
from nobody that I know.) I HAVE THAT HONOUR FOR YOUR CHARACTER,
THAT I THINK MYSELF OBLIGED TO LET YOU KNOW YOU ARE ABUSED. HE WHO
PRETENDS TO BE SIR ROWLAND IS A CHEAT AND A RASCAL. O heavens!
FOIB. Unfortunate; all's ruined.
WAIT. How, how, let me see, let me see. [Reading.] A RASCAL, AND
DISGUISED AND SUBORNED FOR THAT IMPOSTURE--O villainy! O villainy!--
BY THE CONTRIVANCE OF -
LADY. I shall faint, I shall die. Oh!
FOIB. Say 'tis your nephew's hand. Quickly, his plot, swear, swear
it! [To him.]
WAIT. Here's a villain! Madam, don't you perceive it? Don't you
LADY. Too well, too well. I have seen too much.
WAIT. I told you at first I knew the hand. A woman's hand? The
rascal writes a sort of a large hand: your Roman hand.--I saw there
was a throat to be cut presently. If he were my son, as he is my
nephew, I'd pistol him.
FOIB. O treachery! But are you sure, Sir Rowland, it is his
WAIT. Sure? Am I here? Do I live? Do I love this pearl of India?
I have twenty letters in my pocket from him in the same character.
FOIB. Oh, what luck it is, Sir Rowland, that you were present at
this juncture! This was the business that brought Mr. Mirabell
disguised to Madam Millamant this afternoon. I thought something
was contriving, when he stole by me and would have hid his face.
LADY. How, how? I heard the villain was in the house indeed; and
now I remember, my niece went away abruptly when Sir Wilfull was to
have made his addresses.
FOIB. Then, then, madam, Mr. Mirabell waited for her in her
chamber; but I would not tell your ladyship to discompose you when
you were to receive Sir Rowland.
WAIT. Enough, his date is short.
FOIB. No, good Sir Rowland, don't incur the law.
WAIT. Law? I care not for law. I can but die, and 'tis in a good
cause. My lady shall be satisfied of my truth and innocence, though
it cost me my life.
LADY. No, dear Sir Rowland, don't fight: if you should be killed I
must never show my face; or hanged,--oh, consider my reputation, Sir
Rowland. No, you shan't fight: I'll go in and examine my niece;
I'll make her confess. I conjure you, Sir Rowland, by all your love
not to fight.
WAIT. I am charmed, madam; I obey. But some proof you must let me
give you: I'll go for a black box, which contains the writings of
my whole estate, and deliver that into your hands.
LADY. Ay, dear Sir Rowland, that will be some comfort; bring the
WAIT. And may I presume to bring a contract to be signed this
night? May I hope so far?
LADY. Bring what you will; but come alive, pray come alive. Oh,
this is a happy discovery.
WAIT. Dead or alive I'll come--and married we will be in spite of
treachery; ay, and get an heir that shall defeat the last remaining
glimpse of hope in my abandoned nephew. Come, my buxom widow:
E'er long you shall substantial proof receive
That I'm an arrant knight -
FOIB. Or arrant knave.
ACT V.--SCENE I.
LADY WISHFORT and FOIBLE.
LADY. Out of my house, out of my house, thou viper, thou serpent
that I have fostered, thou bosom traitress that I raised from
nothing! Begone, begone, begone, go, go; that I took from washing
of old gauze and weaving of dead hair, with a bleak blue nose, over
a chafing-dish of starved embers, and dining behind a traver's rag,
in a shop no bigger than a bird-cage. Go, go, starve again, do, do!
FOIB. Dear madam, I'll beg pardon on my knees.
LADY. Away, out, out, go set up for yourself again, do; drive a
trade, do, with your threepennyworth of small ware, flaunting upon a
packthread, under a brandy-seller's bulk, or against a dead wall by
a balladmonger. Go, hang out an old frisoneer-gorget, with a yard
of yellow colberteen again, do; an old gnawed mask, two rows of
pins, and a child's fiddle; a glass necklace with the beads broken,
and a quilted night-cap with one ear. Go, go, drive a trade. These
were your commodities, you treacherous trull; this was the
merchandise you dealt in, when I took you into my house, placed you
next myself, and made you governant of my whole family. You have
forgot this, have you, now you have feathered your nest?
FOIB. No, no, dear madam. Do but hear me, have but a moment's
patience--I'll confess all. Mr. Mirabell seduced me; I am not the
first that he has wheedled with his dissembling tongue. Your
ladyship's own wisdom has been deluded by him; then how should I, a
poor ignorant, defend myself? O madam, if you knew but what he
promised me, and how he assured me your ladyship should come to no
damage, or else the wealth of the Indies should not have bribed me
to conspire against so good, so sweet, so kind a lady as you have
been to me.
LADY. No damage? What, to betray me, to marry me to a cast
serving-man; to make me a receptacle, an hospital for a decayed
pimp? No damage? O thou frontless impudence, more than a big-
FOIB. Pray do but hear me, madam; he could not marry your ladyship,
madam. No indeed, his marriage was to have been void in law; for he
was married to me first, to secure your ladyship. He could not have
bedded your ladyship, for if he had consummated with your ladyship,
he must have run the risk of the law, and been put upon his clergy.
Yes indeed, I enquired of the law in that case before I would meddle
LADY. What? Then I have been your property, have I? I have been
convenient to you, it seems, while you were catering for Mirabell; I
have been broker for you? What, have you made a passive bawd of me?
This exceeds all precedent. I am brought to fine uses, to become a
botcher of second-hand marriages between Abigails and Andrews! I'll
couple you. Yes, I'll baste you together, you and your Philander.
I'll Duke's Place you, as I'm a person. Your turtle is in custody
already. You shall coo in the same cage, if there be constable or
warrant in the parish.
FOIB. Oh, that ever I was born! Oh, that I was ever married! A
bride? Ay, I shall be a Bridewell bride. Oh!
MRS. FAINALL, FOIBLE.
MRS. FAIN. Poor Foible, what's the matter?
FOIB. O madam, my lady's gone for a constable; I shall be had to a
justice, and put to Bridewell to beat hemp. Poor Waitwell's gone to
MRS. FAIN. Have a good heart, Foible: Mirabell's gone to give
security for him. This is all Marwood's and my husband's doing.
FOIB. Yes, yes; I know it, madam: she was in my lady's closet, and
overheard all that you said to me before dinner. She sent the
letter to my lady, and that missing effect, Mr. Fainall laid this
plot to arrest Waitwell, when he pretended to go for the papers; and
in the meantime Mrs. Marwood declared all to my lady.
MRS. FAIN. Was there no mention made of me in the letter? My
mother does not suspect my being in the confederacy? I fancy
Marwood has not told her, though she has told my husband.
FOIB. Yes, madam; but my lady did not see that part. We stifled
the letter before she read so far. Has that mischievous devil told
Mr. Fainall of your ladyship then?
MRS. FAIN. Ay, all's out: my affair with Mirabell, everything
discovered. This is the last day of our living together; that's my
FOIB. Indeed, madam, and so 'tis a comfort, if you knew all. He
has been even with your ladyship; which I could have told you long
enough since, but I love to keep peace and quietness by my good
will. I had rather bring friends together than set 'em at distance.
But Mrs. Marwood and he are nearer related than ever their parents
MRS. FAIN. Say'st thou so, Foible? Canst thou prove this?
FOIB. I can take my oath of it, madam; so can Mrs. Mincing. We
have had many a fair word from Madam Marwood to conceal something
that passed in our chamber one evening when you were at Hyde Park,
and we were thought to have gone a-walking. But we went up
unawares--though we were sworn to secrecy too: Madam Marwood took a
book and swore us upon it: but it was but a book of poems. So long
as it was not a bible oath, we may break it with a safe conscience.
MRS. FAIN. This discovery is the most opportune thing I could wish.
[To them] MINCING.
MINC. My lady would speak with Mrs. Foible, mem. Mr. Mirabell is
with her; he has set your spouse at liberty, Mrs. Foible, and would
have you hide yourself in my lady's closet till my old lady's anger
is abated. Oh, my old lady is in a perilous passion at something
Mr. Fainall has said; he swears, and my old lady cries. There's a
fearful hurricane, I vow. He says, mem, how that he'll have my
lady's fortune made over to him, or he'll be divorced.
MRS. FAIN. Does your lady or Mirabell know that?
MINC. Yes mem; they have sent me to see if Sir Wilfull be sober,
and to bring him to them. My lady is resolved to have him, I think,
rather than lose such a vast sum as six thousand pound. Oh, come,
Mrs. Foible, I hear my old lady.
MRS. FAIN. Foible, you must tell Mincing that she must prepare to
vouch when I call her.
FOIB. Yes, yes, madam.
MINC. Oh, yes mem, I'll vouch anything for your ladyship's service,
be what it will.
MRS. FAINALL, LADY WISHFORT, MRS. MARWOOD.
LADY. O my dear friend, how can I enumerate the benefits that I
have received from your goodness? To you I owe the timely discovery
of the false vows of Mirabell; to you I owe the detection of the
impostor Sir Rowland. And now you are become an intercessor with my
son-in-law, to save the honour of my house and compound for the
frailties of my daughter. Well, friend, you are enough to reconcile
me to the bad world, or else I would retire to deserts and
solitudes, and feed harmless sheep by groves and purling streams.
Dear Marwood, let us leave the world, and retire by ourselves and be
MRS. MAR. Let us first dispatch the affair in hand, madam. We
shall have leisure to think of retirement afterwards. Here is one
who is concerned in the treaty.
LADY. O daughter, daughter, is it possible thou shouldst be my
child, bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh, and as I may say,
another me, and yet transgress the most minute particle of severe
virtue? Is it possible you should lean aside to iniquity, who have
been cast in the direct mould of virtue? I have not only been a
mould but a pattern for you, and a model for you, after you were
brought into the world.
MRS. FAIN. I don't understand your ladyship.
LADY. Not understand? Why, have you not been naught? Have you not
been sophisticated? Not understand? Here I am ruined to compound
for your caprices and your cuckoldoms. I must pawn my plate and my
jewels, and ruin my niece, and all little enough -
MRS. FAIN. I am wronged and abused, and so are you. 'Tis a false
accusation, as false as hell, as false as your friend there; ay, or
your friend's friend, my false husband.
MRS. MAR. My friend, Mrs. Fainall? Your husband my friend, what do
MRS. FAIN. I know what I mean, madam, and so do you; and so shall
the world at a time convenient.
MRS. MAR. I am sorry to see you so passionate, madam. More temper
would look more like innocence. But I have done. I am sorry my
zeal to serve your ladyship and family should admit of
misconstruction, or make me liable to affronts. You will pardon me,
madam, if I meddle no more with an affair in which I am not
LADY. O dear friend, I am so ashamed that you should meet with such
returns. You ought to ask pardon on your knees, ungrateful
creature; she deserves more from you than all your life can
accomplish. Oh, don't leave me destitute in this perplexity! No,
stick to me, my good genius.
MRS. FAIN. I tell you, madam, you're abused. Stick to you? Ay,
like a leech, to suck your best blood; she'll drop off when she's
full. Madam, you shan't pawn a bodkin, nor part with a brass
counter, in composition for me. I defy 'em all. Let 'em prove
their aspersions: I know my own innocence, and dare stand a trial.
LADY WISHFORT, MRS. MARWOOD.
LADY. Why, if she should be innocent, if she should be wronged
after all, ha? I don't know what to think, and I promise you, her
education has been unexceptionable. I may say it, for I chiefly
made it my own care to initiate her very infancy in the rudiments of
virtue, and to impress upon her tender years a young odium and
aversion to the very sight of men; ay, friend, she would ha'
shrieked if she had but seen a man till she was in her teens. As
I'm a person, 'tis true. She was never suffered to play with a male
child, though but in coats. Nay, her very babies were of the
feminine gender. Oh, she never looked a man in the face but her own
father or the chaplain, and him we made a shift to put upon her for
a woman, by the help of his long garments, and his sleek face, till
she was going in her fifteen.
MRS. MAR. 'Twas much she should be deceived so long.
LADY. I warrant you, or she would never have borne to have been
catechised by him, and have heard his long lectures against singing
and dancing and such debaucheries, and going to filthy plays, and
profane music meetings, where the lewd trebles squeak nothing but
bawdy, and the basses roar blasphemy. Oh, she would have swooned at
the sight or name of an obscene play-book--and can I think after all
this that my daughter can be naught? What, a whore? And thought it
excommunication to set her foot within the door of a playhouse. O
dear friend, I can't believe it. No, no; as she says, let him prove
it, let him prove it.
MRS. MAR. Prove it, madam? What, and have your name prostituted in
a public court; yours and your daughter's reputation worried at the
bar by a pack of bawling lawyers? To be ushered in with an OH YES
of scandal, and have your case opened by an old fumbling leacher in
a quoif like a man midwife; to bring your daughter's infamy to
light; to be a theme for legal punsters and quibblers by the
statute; and become a jest, against a rule of court, where there is
no precedent for a jest in any record, not even in Doomsday Book.
To discompose the gravity of the bench, and provoke naughty
interrogatories in more naughty law Latin; while the good judge,
tickled with the proceeding, simpers under a grey beard, and fidges
off and on his cushion as if he had swallowed cantharides, or sate
LADY. Oh, 'tis very hard!
MRS. MAR. And then to have my young revellers of the Temple take
notes, like prentices at a conventicle; and after talk it over again
in Commons, or before drawers in an eating-house.
LADY. Worse and worse.
MRS. MAR. Nay, this is nothing; if it would end here 'twere well.
But it must after this be consigned by the shorthand writers to the
public press; and from thence be transferred to the hands, nay, into
the throats and lungs, of hawkers, with voices more licentious than
the loud flounder-man's. And this you must hear till you are
stunned; nay, you must hear nothing else for some days.
LADY. Oh 'tis insupportable. No, no, dear friend, make it up, make
it up; ay, ay, I'll compound. I'll give up all, myself and my all,
my niece and her all, anything, everything, for composition.
MRS. MAR. Nay, madam, I advise nothing, I only lay before you, as a
friend, the inconveniences which perhaps you have overseen. Here
comes Mr. Fainall; if he will be satisfied to huddle up all in
silence, I shall be glad. You must think I would rather
congratulate than condole with you.
FAINALL, LADY WISHFORT, MRS. MARWOOD.
LADY. Ay, ay, I do not doubt it, dear Marwood. No, no, I do not
FAIN. Well, madam, I have suffered myself to be overcome by the
importunity of this lady, your friend, and am content you shall
enjoy your own proper estate during life, on condition you oblige
yourself never to marry, under such penalty as I think convenient.
LADY. Never to marry?
FAIN. No more Sir Rowlands,--the next imposture may not be so
MRS. MAR. That condition, I dare answer, my lady will consent to,
without difficulty; she has already but too much experienced the
perfidiousness of men. Besides, madam, when we retire to our
pastoral solitude, we shall bid adieu to all other thoughts.
LADY. Ay, that's true; but in case of necessity, as of health, or
some such emergency -
FAIN. Oh, if you are prescribed marriage, you shall be considered;
I will only reserve to myself the power to choose for you. If your
physic be wholesome, it matters not who is your apothecary. Next,
my wife shall settle on me the remainder of her fortune, not made
over already; and for her maintenance depend entirely on my
LADY. This is most inhumanly savage: exceeding the barbarity of a
FAIN. I learned it from his Czarish Majesty's retinue, in a winter
evening's conference over brandy and pepper, amongst other secrets
of matrimony and policy, as they are at present practised in the
northern hemisphere. But this must be agreed unto, and that
positively. Lastly, I will be endowed, in right of my wife, with
that six thousand pound, which is the moiety of Mrs. Millamant's
fortune in your possession, and which she has forfeited (as will
appear by the last will and testament of your deceased husband, Sir
Jonathan Wishfort) by her disobedience in contracting herself
against your consent or knowledge, and by refusing the offered match
with Sir Wilfull Witwoud, which you, like a careful aunt, had
provided for her.
LADY. My nephew was NON COMPOS, and could not make his addresses.
FAIN. I come to make demands--I'll hear no objections.
LADY. You will grant me time to consider?
FAIN. Yes, while the instrument is drawing, to which you must set
your hand till more sufficient deeds can be perfected: which I will
take care shall be done with all possible speed. In the meanwhile I
will go for the said instrument, and till my return you may balance
this matter in your own discretion.
LADY WISHFORT, MRS. MARWOOD.
LADY. This insolence is beyond all precedent, all parallel. Must I
be subject to this merciless villain?
MRS. MAR. 'Tis severe indeed, madam, that you should smart for your
LADY. 'Twas against my consent that she married this barbarian, but
she would have him, though her year was not out. Ah! her first
husband, my son Languish, would not have carried it thus. Well,
that was my choice, this is hers; she is matched now with a witness-
-I shall be mad, dear friend; is there no comfort for me? Must I
live to be confiscated at this rebel-rate? Here come two more of my
Egyptian plagues too.
[To them] MRS. MILLAMANT, SIR WILFULL.
SIR WIL. Aunt, your servant.
LADY. Out, caterpillar, call not me aunt; I know thee not.
SIR WIL. I confess I have been a little in disguise, as they say.
'Sheart! and I'm sorry for't. What would you have? I hope I
committed no offence, aunt--and if I did I am willing to make
satisfaction; and what can a man say fairer? If I have broke
anything I'll pay for't, an it cost a pound. And so let that
content for what's past, and make no more words. For what's to
come, to pleasure you I'm willing to marry my cousin. So, pray,
let's all be friends, she and I are agreed upon the matter before a
LADY. How's this, dear niece? Have I any comfort? Can this be
MILLA. I am content to be a sacrifice to your repose, madam, and to
convince you that I had no hand in the plot, as you were
misinformed. I have laid my commands on Mirabell to come in person,
and be a witness that I give my hand to this flower of knighthood;
and for the contract that passed between Mirabell and me, I have
obliged him to make a resignation of it in your ladyship's presence.
He is without and waits your leave for admittance.
LADY. Well, I'll swear I am something revived at this testimony of
your obedience; but I cannot admit that traitor,--I fear I cannot
fortify myself to support his appearance. He is as terrible to me
as a Gorgon: if I see him I swear I shall turn to stone, petrify
MILLA. If you disoblige him he may resent your refusal, and insist
upon the contract still. Then 'tis the last time he will be
offensive to you.
LADY. Are you sure it will be the last time? If I were sure of
that--shall I never see him again?
MILLA. Sir Wilfull, you and he are to travel together, are you not?
SIR WIL. 'Sheart, the gentleman's a civil gentleman, aunt, let him
come in; why, we are sworn brothers and fellow-travellers. We are
to be Pylades and Orestes, he and I. He is to be my interpreter in
foreign parts. He has been overseas once already; and with proviso
that I marry my cousin, will cross 'em once again, only to bear me
company. 'Sheart, I'll call him in,--an I set on't once, he shall
come in; and see who'll hinder him. [Goes to the door and hems.]
MRS. MAR. This is precious fooling, if it would pass; but I'll know
the bottom of it.
LADY. O dear Marwood, you are not going?
MRS. MAR. Not far, madam; I'll return immediately.
LADY WISHFORT, MRS. MILLAMANT, SIR WILFULL, MIRABELL.
SIR WIL. Look up, man, I'll stand by you; 'sbud, an she do frown,
she can't kill you. Besides--harkee, she dare not frown
desperately, because her face is none of her own. 'Sheart, an she
should, her forehead would wrinkle like the coat of a cream cheese;
but mum for that, fellow-traveller.
MIRA. If a deep sense of the many injuries I have offered to so
good a lady, with a sincere remorse and a hearty contrition, can but
obtain the least glance of compassion. I am too happy. Ah, madam,
there was a time--but let it be forgotten. I confess I have
deservedly forfeited the high place I once held, of sighing at your
feet; nay, kill me not by turning from me in disdain, I come not to
plead for favour. Nay, not for pardon: I am a suppliant only for
pity:- I am going where I never shall behold you more.
SIR WIL. How, fellow-traveller? You shall go by yourself then.
MIRA. Let me be pitied first, and afterwards forgotten. I ask no
SIR WIL. By'r lady, a very reasonable request, and will cost you
nothing, aunt. Come, come, forgive and forget, aunt. Why you must
an you are a Christian.
MIRA. Consider, madam; in reality you could not receive much
prejudice: it was an innocent device, though I confess it had a
face of guiltiness--it was at most an artifice which love contrived-
-and errors which love produces have ever been accounted venial. At
least think it is punishment enough that I have lost what in my
heart I hold most dear, that to your cruel indignation I have
offered up this beauty, and with her my peace and quiet; nay, all my
hopes of future comfort.
SIR WIL. An he does not move me, would I may never be o' the
quorum. An it were not as good a deed as to drink, to give her to
him again, I would I might never take shipping. Aunt, if you don't
forgive quickly, I shall melt, I can tell you that. My contract
went no farther than a little mouth-glue, and that's hardly dry; one
doleful sigh more from my fellow-traveller and 'tis dissolved.
LADY. Well, nephew, upon your account. Ah, he has a false
insinuating tongue. Well, sir, I will stifle my just resentment at
my nephew's request. I will endeavour what I can to forget, but on
proviso that you resign the contract with my niece immediately.
MIRA. It is in writing and with papers of concern; but I have sent
my servant for it, and will deliver it to you, with all
acknowledgments for your transcendent goodness.
LADY. Oh, he has witchcraft in his eyes and tongue; when I did not
see him I could have bribed a villain to his assassination; but his
appearance rakes the embers which have so long lain smothered in my
[To them] FAINALL, MRS. MARWOOD.
FAIN. Your date of deliberation, madam, is expired. Here is the
instrument; are you prepared to sign?
LADY. If I were prepared, I am not impowered. My niece exerts a
lawful claim, having matched herself by my direction to Sir Wilfull.
FAIN. That sham is too gross to pass on me, though 'tis imposed on
MILLA. Sir, I have given my consent.
MIRA. And, sir, I have resigned my pretensions.
SIR WIL. And, sir, I assert my right; and will maintain it in
defiance of you, sir, and of your instrument. 'Sheart, an you talk
of an instrument sir, I have an old fox by my thigh shall hack your
instrument of ram vellum to shreds, sir. It shall not be sufficient
for a Mittimus or a tailor's measure; therefore withdraw your
instrument, sir, or, by'r lady, I shall draw mine.
LADY. Hold, nephew, hold.
MILLA. Good Sir Wilfull, respite your valour.
FAIN. Indeed? Are you provided of your guard, with your single
beef-eater there? But I'm prepared for you, and insist upon my
first proposal. You shall submit your own estate to my management,
and absolutely make over my wife's to my sole use, as pursuant to
the purport and tenor of this other covenant. I suppose, madam,
your consent is not requisite in this case; nor, Mr. Mirabell, your
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