This "The Rivals: A Comedy" was written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in English language.
The Rivals: A Comedy
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Title: The Rivals
Author: Richard Brinsley
Release Date: March 6, 2008 [EBook #24761]
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Produced by Kent Cooper
The RIVALS A Comedy
By Richard Brinsley Sheridan
* * * * * * *
A preface to a play seems generally to be considered as a kind of closet-prologue, in
which--if his piece has been successful--the author solicits that indulgence from the reader which
he had before experienced from the audience: but as the scope and immediate object of a play
is to please a mixed assembly in _representation_ (whose judgment in the theatre at least is
decisive,) its degree of reputation is usually as determined as public, before it can be prepared
for the cooler tribunal of the study. Thus any farther solicitude on the part of the writer becomes
unnecessary at least, if not an intrusion: and if the piece has been condemned in the
performance, I fear an address to the closet, like an appeal to posterity, is constantly regarded as
the procrastination of a suit, from a consciousness of the weakness of the cause. From these
considerations, the following comedy would certainly have been submitted to the reader, without
any farther introduction than what it had in the representation, but that its success has probably
been founded on a circumstance which the author is informed has not before attended a
theatrical trial, and which consequently ought not to pass unnoticed.
I need scarcely add, that
the circumstance alluded to was the withdrawing of the piece, to remove those imperfections in
the first representation which were too obvious to escape reprehension, and too numerous to
admit of a hasty correction. There are few writers, I believe, who, even in the fullest
consciousness of error, do not wish to palliate the faults which they acknowledge; and, however
trifling the performance, to second their confession of its deficiencies, by whatever plea seems
least disgraceful to their ability. In the present instance, it cannot be said to amount either to
candour or modesty in me, to acknowledge an extreme inexperience and want of judgment on
matters, in which, without guidance from practice, or spur from success, a young man should
scarcely boast of being an adept. If it be said, that under such disadvantages no one should
attempt to write a play, I must beg leave to dissent from the position, while the first point of
experience that I have gained on the subject is, a knowledge of the candour and judgment with
which an impartial public distinguishes between the errors of inexperience and incapacity, and
the indulgence which it shows even to a disposition to remedy the defects of either.
unnecessary to enter into any further extenuation of what was thought exceptionable in this play,
but that it has been said, that the managers should have prevented some of the defects before
its appearance to the public--and in particular the uncommon length of the piece as represented
the first night. It were an ill return for the most liberal and gentlemanly conduct on their side, to
suffer any censure to rest where none was deserved. Hurry in writing has long been exploded as
an excuse for an author;--however, in the dramatic line, it may happen, that both an author and a
manager may wish to fill a chasm in the entertainment of the public with a hastiness not
altogether culpable. The season was advanced when I first put the play into Mr. Harris's hands: it
was at that time at least double the length of any acting comedy. I profited by his judgment and
experience in the curtailing of it--till, I believe, his feeling for the vanity of a young author got the
better of his desire for correctness, and he left many excrescences remaining, because he had
assisted in pruning so many more. Hence, though I was not uninformed that the acts were still
too long, I flattered myself that, after the first trial, I might with safer judgment proceed to remove
what should appear to have been most dissatisfactory. Many other errors there were, which
might in part have arisen from my being by no means conversant with plays in general, either in
reading or at the theatre. Yet I own that, in one respect, I did not regret my ignorance: for as my
first wish in attempting a play was to avoid every appearance of plagiary, I thought I should
stand a better chance of effecting this from being in a walk which I had not frequented, and
where, consequently, the progress of invention was less likely to be interrupted by starts of
recollection: for on subjects on which the mind has been much informed, invention is slow of
exerting itself. Faded ideas float in the fancy like half-forgotten dreams; and the imagination in its
fullest enjoyments becomes suspicious of its offspring, and doubts whether it has created or
With regard to some particular passages which on the first night's representation
seemed generally disliked, I confess, that if I felt any emotion of surprise at the disapprobation, it
was not that they were disapproved of, but that I had not before perceived that they deserved it.
As some part of the attack on the piece was begun too early to pass for the sentence of
_judgment_, which is ever tardy in condemning, it has been suggested to me, that much of the
disapprobation must have arisen from virulence of malice, rather than severity of criticism: but as
I was more apprehensive of there being just grounds to excite the latter than conscious of
having deserved the former, I continue not to believe that probable, which I am sure must have
been unprovoked. However, if it was so, and I could even mark the quarter from whence it came,
it would be ungenerous to retort: for no passion suffers more than malice from disappointment.
For my own part, I see no reason why the author of a play should not regard a first night's
audience as a candid and judicious friend attending, in behalf of the public, at his last rehearsal.
If he can dispense with flattery, he is sure at least of sincerity, and even though the annotation
be rude, he may rely upon the justness of the comment. Considered in this light, that audience,
whose _fiat_ is essential to the poet's claim, whether his object be fame or profit, has surely a
right to expect some deference to its opinion, from principles of politeness at least, if not from
As for the little puny critics, who scatter their peevish strictures in private circles, and
scribble at every author who has the eminence of being unconnected with them, as they are
usually spleen-swoln from a vain idea of increasing their consequence, there will always be
found a petulance and illiberality in their remarks, which should place them as far beneath the
notice of a gentleman, as their original dulness had sunk them from the level of the most
It is not without pleasure that I catch at an opportunity of justifying myself
from the charge of intending any national reflection in the character of Sir Lucius O'Trigger. If any
gentlemen opposed the piece from that idea, I thank them sincerely for their opposition; and if
the condemnation of this comedy (however misconceived the provocation) could have added
one spark to the decaying flame of national attachment to the country supposed to be reflected
on, I should have been happy in its fate, and might with truth have boasted, that it had done
more real service in its failure, than the successful morality of a thousand stage-novels will ever
It is usual, I believe, to thank the performers in a new play, for the exertion of their several
abilities. But where (as in this instance) their merit has been so striking and uncontroverted, as to
call for the warmest and truest applause from a number of judicious audiences, the poet's after-
praise comes like the feeble acclamation of a child to close the shouts of a multitude. The
conduct, however, of the principals in a theatre cannot be so apparent to the public. I think it
therefore but justice to declare, that from this theatre (the only one I can speak of from
experience) those writers who wish to try the dramatic line will meet with that candour and liberal
attention, which are generally allowed to be better calculated to lead genius into excellence, than
either the precepts of judgment, or the guidance of experience.
* * * * * * *
As originally acted at COVENT GARDEN THEATRE in 1775
Sir LUCIUS O'TRIGGER
Maid, Boy, Servants,
Time of action--Five hours.
* * * * * * *
PROLOGUE By the AUTHOR
SERJEANT-AT-LAW, and ATTORNEY following, and giving a paper.]
a vile cramp hand! I cannot see
Without my spectacles.
He means his fee.
Serjeant, good sir, try again.
The scrawl improves! [more] O come,
'tis pretty plain.
Hey! how's this? Dibble!--sure it cannot be!
A poet's brief! a poet and a fee!
Yes, sir! though you without reward, I know,
Would gladly plead the Muse's cause.
And if the fee offends, your wrath should fall
Dear Dibble, no offence at all.
Some sons of Phoebus in the courts we
And fifty sons of Phoebus in the Fleet!
Nor pleads he worse, who
with a decent sprig
Of bays adorns his legal waste of wig.
Full-bottom'd heroes thus,
on signs, unfurl
A leaf of laurel in a grove of curl!
Yet tell your client, that, in adverse days,
wig is warmer than a bush of bays.
Do you, then, sir, my client's place supply,
Profuse of robe, and prodigal of tie--
Do you, with all those blushing powers of face,
bashful hesitating grace,
Rise in the court, and flourish on the case.
practice then suppose--this brief will show it,--
Me, Serjeant Woodward,--counsel for the poet.
Used to the ground, I know 'tis hard to deal
With this dread court, from whence there's no
No tricking here, to blunt the edge of law,
Or, damn'd in equity, escape by flaw:
judgment given, your sentence must remain;
No writ of error lies--to Drury Lane:
Yet when so
kind you seem, 'tis past dispute
We gain some favour, if not costs of suit.
No spleen is here! I
see no hoarded fury;--
I think I never faced a milder jury!
Sad else our plight! where frowns are
A hiss the gallows, and a groan damnation!
But such the public candour, without
My client waives all right of challenge here.
No newsman from our session is dismiss'd,
wit nor critic we scratch off the list;
His faults can never hurt another's ease,
His crime, at worst,
a bad attempt to please:
Thus, all respecting, he appeals to all,
And by the general voice will
stand or fall.
* * * * * * *
Prologue By the AUTHOR
SPOKEN ON THE TENTH NIGHT, BY MRS.
Granted our cause, our suit and trial o'er,
The worthy serjeant need appear no more:
In pleasing I a different client choose,
He served the Poet--I would serve the Muse.
Like him, I'll
try to merit your applause,
A female counsel in a female's cause.
Look on this form--where
humour, quaint and sly,
Dimples the cheek, and points the beaming eye;
Where gay invention
seems to boast its wiles
In amorous hint, and half-triumphant smiles;
While her light mask or
covers satire's strokes,
Or hides the conscious blush her wit provokes.
Look on her well--does
she seem form'd to teach?
Should you expect to hear this lady preach?
Is grey experience
suited to her youth?
Do solemn sentiments become that mouth?
Bid her be grave, those lips
should rebel prove
To every theme that slanders mirth or love.
Yet, thus adorn'd with every
To charm the fancy and yet reach the heart--
Must we displace her? And instead
The goddess of the woful countenance--
The sentimental Muse!--Her emblems view,
The Pilgrim's Progress, and a sprig of rue!
View her--too chaste to look like flesh and blood--
Primly portray'd on emblematic wood!
There, fix'd in usurpation, should she stand,
the dagger from her sister's hand:
And having made her votaries weep a flood,
she'll end her comedies in blood--
Bid Harry Woodward break poor Dunstal's crown!
Quick, and knock Ned Shuter down;
While sad Barsanti, weeping o'er the scene,
herself--or poison Mrs. Green.
Such dire encroachments to prevent in time,
Demands the critic's
voice--the poet's rhyme.
Can our light scenes add strength to holy laws!
Such puny patronage
but hurts the cause:
Fair virtue scorns our feeble aid to ask;
And moral truth disdains the
For here their favourite stands, whose brow severe
And sad, claims youth's
respect, and pity's tear;
Who, when oppress'd by foes her worth creates,
Can point a poniard at
the guilt she hates.
* * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
street. [Enter THOMAS; he crosses the stage; FAG follows, looking after him.]
Thomas! sure 'tis he?--What! Thomas! Thomas!
THOMAS Hey!--Odd's life! Mr. Fag!--give us
your hand, my old fellow-servant.
FAG Excuse my glove, Thomas:--I'm devilish glad to see you,
my lad. Why, my prince of charioteers, you look as hearty!--but who the deuce thought of seeing
you in Bath?
THOMAS Sure, master, Madam Julia, Harry, Mrs. Kate, and the postillion, be all
THOMAS Ay, master thought another fit of the gout was coming to make
him a visit;--so he'd a mind to gi't the slip, and whip! we were all off at an hour's warning.
Ay, ay, hasty in every thing, or it would not be Sir Anthony Absolute!
THOMAS But tell us, Mr.
Fag, how does young master? Odd! Sir Anthony will stare to see the Captain here!
FAG I do not
serve Captain Absolute now.
THOMAS Why sure!
FAG At present I am employed by Ensign
THOMAS I doubt, Mr. Fag, you ha'n't changed for the better.
FAG I have not changed,
THOMAS No! Why didn't you say you had left young master?
FAG No.--Well, honest
Thomas, I must puzzle you no farther:--briefly then--Captain Absolute and Ensign Beverley are
one and the same person.
THOMAS The devil they are!
FAG So it is indeed, Thomas; and the
ensign half of my master being on guard at present--the captain has nothing to do with me.
THOMAS So, so!--What, this is some freak, I warrant!--Do tell us, Mr. Fag, the meaning o't--you
know I ha' trusted you.
FAG You'll be secret, Thomas?
THOMAS As a coach-horse.
then the cause of all this is--Love,--Love, Thomas, who (as you may get read to you) has been a
masquerader ever since the days of Jupiter.
THOMAS Ay, ay;--I guessed there was a lady in the
case:--but pray, why does your master pass only for ensign?--Now if he had shammed general
FAG Ah! Thomas, there lies the mystery o' the matter. Hark'ee, Thomas, my master is
in love with a lady of a very singular taste: a lady who likes him better as a half pay ensign than if
she knew he was son and heir to Sir Anthony Absolute, a baronet of three thousand a year.
THOMAS That is an odd taste indeed!--But has she got the stuff, Mr. Fag? Is she rich, hey?
Rich!--Why, I believe she owns half the stocks! Zounds! Thomas, she could pay the national
debt as easily as I could my washerwoman! She has a lapdog that eats out of gold,--she feeds
her parrot with small pearls,--and all her thread-papers are made of bank-notes!
Bravo, faith!--Odd! I warrant she has a set of thousands at least:--but does she draw kindly with
FAG As fond as pigeons.
THOMAS May one hear her name?
FAG Miss Lydia
Languish.--But there is an old tough aunt in the way; though, by-the-by, she has never seen my
master--for we got acquainted with miss while on a visit in Gloucestershire.
wish they were once harnessed together in matrimony.--But pray, Mr. Fag, what kind of a place
is this Bath?--I ha' heard a deal of it--here's a mort o' merrymaking, hey?
FAG Pretty well,
Thomas, pretty well--'tis a good lounge; in the morning we go to the pump-room (though neither
my master nor I drink the waters); after breakfast we saunter on the parades, or play a game at
billiards; at night we dance; but damn the place, I'm tired of it: their regular hours stupify me--not
a fiddle nor a card after eleven!--However, Mr. Faulkland's gentleman and I keep it up a little in
private parties;--I'll introduce you there, Thomas--you'll like him much.
THOMAS Sure I know Mr.
Du-Peigne--you know his master is to marry Madam Julia.
FAG I had forgot.--But, Thomas, you
must polish a little--indeed you must.--Here now--this wig!--What the devil do you do with a wig,
Thomas?--None of the London whips of any degree of _ton_ wear wigs now.
the pity! more's the pity! I say.--Odd's life! when I heard how the lawyers and doctors had took to
their own hair, I thought how 'twould go next:--odd rabbit it! when the fashion had got foot on the
bar, I guessed 'twould mount to the box!--but 'tis all out of character, believe me, Mr. Fag: and
look'ee, I'll never gi' up mine--the lawyers and doctors may do as they will.
FAG Well, Thomas,
we'll not quarrel about that.
THOMAS Why, bless you, the gentlemen of the professions ben't all
of a mind--for in our village now, thoff Jack Gauge, the exciseman, has ta'en to his carrots,
there's little Dick the farrier swears he'll never forsake his bob, though all the college should
appear with their own heads!
FAG Indeed! well said, Dick!--But hold--mark! mark! Thomas.
THOMAS Zooks! 'tis the captain.--Is that the Lady with him?
FAG No, no, that is Madam Lucy,
my master's mistress's maid. They lodge at that house--but I must after him to tell him the news.
THOMAS Odd! he's giving her money!--Well, Mr. Fag----
FAG Good-bye, Thomas. I have an
appointment in Gyde's porch this evening at eight; meet me there, and we'll make a little party.
* * * * * * *
Scene II.--A Dressing-room in Mrs. MALAPROP's Lodgings.
[LYDIA sitting on a sofa, with a book in her hand. Lucy, as just returned from a message.]
Indeed, ma'am, I traversed half the town in search of it: I don't believe there's a circulating library
in Bath I ha'n't been at.
LYDIA And could not you get _The Reward of Constancy_?
LYDIA Nor _The Fatal Connexion_?
LUCY No, indeed, ma'am.
LYDIA Nor _The
Mistakes of the Heart_?
LUCY Ma'am, as ill luck would have it, Mr. Bull said Miss Sukey Saunter
had just fetched it away.
LYDIA Heigh-ho!--Did you inquire for _The Delicate Distress_?
Or, _The Memoirs of Lady Woodford_? Yes, indeed, ma'am. I asked every where for it; and I
might have brought it from Mr. Frederick's, but Lady Slattern Lounger, who had just sent it home,
had so soiled and dog's-eared it, it wa'n't fit for a Christian to read.
LYDIA Heigh-ho!--Yes, I
always know when Lady Slattern has been before me. She has a most observing thumb; and, I
believe, cherishes her nails for the convenience of making marginal notes.--Well, child, what
have you brought me?
LUCY Oh! here, ma'am.--[Taking books from under her cloak, and from
her pockets.] This is _The Gordian Knot_,--and this _Peregrine Pickle_. Here are _The Tears of
Sensibility_, and _Humphrey Clinker_. This is _The Memoirs of a Lady of Quality, written by
herself_, and here the second volume of _The Sentimental Journey_.
are those books by the glass?
LUCY The great one is only _The Whole Duty of Man_, where I
press a few blonds, ma'am.
LYDIA Very well--give me the sal volatile.
LUCY Is it in a blue cover,
LYDIA My smelling-bottle, you simpleton!
LUCY Oh, the drops!--here, ma'am.
Hold!--here's some one coming--quick, see who it is.----
Surely I heard my cousin
LUCY Lud! ma'am, here is Miss Melville.
LYDIA Is it possible!----
LYDIA My dearest Julia, how delighted am I!--[Embrace.] How
unexpected was this happiness!
JULIA True, Lydia--and our pleasure is the greater.--But what
has been the matter?--you were denied to me at first!
LYDIA Ah, Julia, I have a thousand things
to tell you!--But first inform me what has conjured you to Bath?--Is Sir Anthony here?
is--we are arrived within this hour--and I suppose he will be here to wait on Mrs. Malaprop as
soon as he is dressed.
LYDIA Then before we are interrupted, let me impart to you some of my
distress!--I know your gentle nature will sympathize with me, though your prudence may
condemn me! My letters have informed you of my whole connection with Beverley; but I have
lost him, Julia! My aunt has discovered our intercourse by a note she intercepted, and has
confined me ever since! Yet, would you believe it? she has absolutely fallen in love with a tall
Irish baronet she met one night since we have been here, at Lady Macshuffle's rout.
LYDIA No, upon my word.--She really carries on a kind of correspondence with him,
under a feigned name though, till she chooses to be known to him:--but it is a Delia or a Celia, I
JULIA Then, surely, she is now more indulgent to her niece.
LYDIA Quite the
contrary. Since she has discovered her own frailty, she is become more suspicious of mine.
Then I must inform you of another plague!--That odious Acres is to be in Bath to-day; so that I
protest I shall be teased out of all spirits!
JULIA Come, come, Lydia, hope for the best--Sir
Anthony shall use his interest with Mrs. Malaprop.
LYDIA But you have not heard the worst.
Unfortunately I had quarrelled with my poor Beverley, just before my aunt made the discovery,
and I have not seen him since, to make it up.
JULIA What was his offence?
LYDIA Nothing at
all!--But, I don't know how it was, as often as we had been together, we had never had a quarrel,
and, somehow, I was afraid he would never give me an opportunity. So, last Thursday, I wrote a
letter to myself, to inform myself that Beverley was at that time paying his addresses to another
woman. I signed it _your friend unknown_, showed it to Beverley, charged him with his
falsehood, put myself in a violent passion, and vowed I'd never see him more.
JULIA And you let
him depart so, and have not seen him since?
LYDIA 'Twas the next day my aunt found the
matter out. I intended only to have teased him three days and a half, and now I've lost him for
JULIA If he is as deserving and sincere as you have represented him to me, he will never
give you up so. Yet consider, Lydia, you tell me he is but an ensign, and you have thirty
LYDIA But you know I lose most of my fortune if I marry without my aunt's
consent, till of age; and that is what I have determined to do, ever since I knew the penalty. Nor
could I love the man who would wish to wait a day for the alternative.
JULIA Nay, this is caprice!
LYDIA What, does Julia tax me with caprice?--I thought her lover Faulkland had inured her to it.
JULIA I do not love even his faults.
LYDIA But apropos--you have sent to him, I suppose?
Not yet, upon my word--nor has he the least idea of my being in Bath. Sir Anthony's resolution
was so sudden, I could not inform him of it.
LYDIA Well, Julia, you are your own mistress,
(though under the protection of Sir Anthony), yet have you, for this long year, been a slave to the
caprice, the whim, the jealousy of this ungrateful Faulkland, who will ever delay assuming the
right of a husband, while you suffer him to be equally imperious as a lover.
JULIA Nay, you are
wrong entirely. We were contracted before my father's death. That, and some consequent
embarrassments, have delayed what I know to be my Faulkland's most ardent wish. He is too
generous to trifle on such a point:--and for his character, you wrong him there, too. No, Lydia, he
is too proud, too noble to be jealous; if he is captious, 'tis without dissembling; if fretful, without
rudeness. Unused to the fopperies of love, he is negligent of the little duties expected from a
lover--but being unhackneyed in the passion, his affection is ardent and sincere; and as it
engrosses his whole soul, he expects every thought and emotion of his mistress to move in
unison with his. Yet, though his pride calls for this full return, his humility makes him undervalue
those qualities in him which would entitle him to it; and not feeling why he should be loved to the
degree he wishes, he still suspects that he is not loved enough. This temper, I must own, has
cost me many unhappy hours; but I have learned to think myself his debtor, for those
imperfections which arise from the ardour of his attachment.
LYDIA Well, I cannot blame you for
defending him. But tell me candidly, Julia, had he never saved your life, do you think you should
have been attached to him as you are?--Believe me, the rude blast that overset your boat was a
prosperous gale of love to him.
JULIA Gratitude may have strengthened my attachment to Mr.
Faulkland, but I loved him before he had preserved me; yet surely that alone were an obligation
LYDIA Obligation! why a water spaniel would have done as much!--Well, I should
never think of giving my heart to a man because he could swim.
JULIA Come, Lydia, you are too
LYDIA Nay, I do but jest.--What's here?
[Re-enter LUCY in a hurry.]
ma'am, here is Sir Anthony Absolute just come home with your aunt.
LYDIA They'll not come
here.--Lucy, do you watch.
JULIA Yet I must go. Sir Anthony does not know I am
here, and if we meet, he'll detain me, to show me the town. I'll take another opportunity of paying
my respects to Mrs. Malaprop, when she shall treat me, as long as she chooses, with her select
words so ingeniously misapplied, without being mispronounced.
LUCY O Lud!
ma'am, they are both coming up stairs.
LYDIA Well, I'll not detain you, coz.--Adieu, my dear
Julia. I'm sure you are in haste to send to Faulkland.--There--through my room you'll find another
JULIA Adieu! [Embraces LYDIA, and exit.]
LYDIA Here, my dear Lucy, hide these
books. Quick, quick!--Fling _Peregrine Pickle_ under the toilet--throw _Roderick Random_ into
the closet--put _The Innocent Adultery_ into _The Whole Duty of Man_--thrust _Lord Aimworth_
under the sofa--cram _Ovid_ behind the bolster--there--put _The Man of Feeling_ into your
pocket--so, so--now lay _Mrs. Chapone_ in sight, and leave _Fordyce's Sermons_ open on the
LUCY O burn it, ma'am! the hair-dresser has torn away as far as _Proper Pride_.
Never mind--open at _Sobriety_.--Fling me _Lord Chesterfields Letters_.--Now for 'em.
[Enter Mrs. MALAPROP, and Sir ANTHONY ABSOLUTE.]
Mrs. MALAPROP There, Sir
Anthony, there sits the deliberate simpleton who wants to disgrace her family, and lavish herself
on a fellow not worth a shilling.
LYDIA Madam, I thought you once----
Mrs. MALAPROP You
thought, miss! I don't know any business you have to think at all--thought does not become a
young woman. But the point we would request of you is, that you will promise to forget this
fellow--to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.
LYDIA Ah, madam! our memories are
independent of our wills. It is not so easy to forget.
Mrs. MALAPROP But I say it is, miss; there is
nothing on earth so easy as to forget, if a person chooses to set about it. I'm sure I have as much
forgot your poor dear uncle as if he had never existed--and I thought it my duty so to do; and let
me tell you, Lydia, these violent memories don't become a young woman.
Sir ANTHONY Why
sure she won't pretend to remember what she's ordered not!--ay, this comes of her reading!
LYDIA What crime, madam, have I committed, to be treated thus?
Mrs. MALAPROP Now don't
attempt to extirpate yourself from the matter; you know I have proof controvertible of it.--But tell
me, will you promise to do as you're bid? Will you take a husband of your friends' choosing?
LYDIA Madam, I must tell you plainly, that had I no preferment for any one else, the choice you
have made would be my aversion.
Mrs. MALAPROP What business have you, miss, with
preference and aversion? They don't become a young woman; and you ought to know, that as
both always wear off, 'tis safest in matrimony to begin with a little aversion. I am sure I hated
your poor dear uncle before marriage as if he'd been a blackamoor--and yet, miss, you are
sensible what a wife I made!--and when it pleased Heaven to release me from him, 'tis unknown
what tears I shed!--But suppose we were going to give you another choice, will you promise us
to give up this Beverley?
LYDIA Could I belie my thoughts so far as to give that promise, my
actions would certainly as far belie my words.
Mrs. MALAPROP Take yourself to your room.--
You are fit company for nothing but your own ill-humours.
LYDIA Willingly, ma'am--I cannot
change for the worse. [Exit.]
Mrs. MALAPROP There's a little intricate hussy for you!
ANTHONY It is not to be wondered at, ma'am,--all this is the natural consequence of teaching
girls to read. Had I a thousand daughters, by Heaven! I'd as soon have them taught the black art
as their alphabet!
Mrs. MALAPROP Nay, nay, Sir Anthony, you are an absolute misanthropy.
ANTHONY In my way hither, Mrs. Malaprop, I observed your niece's maid coming forth from a
circulating library!--She had a book in each hand--they were half-bound volumes, with marble
covers!--From that moment I guessed how full of duty I should see her mistress!
MALAPROP Those are vile places, indeed!
Sir ANTHONY Madam, a circulating library in a town
is as an evergreen tree of diabolical knowledge! It blossoms through the year!--And depend on it,
Mrs. Malaprop, that they who are so fond of handling the leaves, will long for the fruit at last.
Mrs. MALAPROP Fy, fy, Sir Anthony! you surely speak laconically.
Sir ANTHONY Why, Mrs.
Malaprop, in moderation now, what would you have a woman know?
Mrs. MALAPROP Observe
me, Sir Anthony. I would by no means wish a daughter of mine to be a progeny of learning; I
don't think so much learning becomes a young woman; for instance, I would never let her meddle
with Greek, or Hebrew, or algebra, or simony, or fluxions, or paradoxes, or such inflammatory
branches of learning--neither would it be necessary for her to handle any of your mathematical,
astronomical, diabolical instruments.--But, Sir Anthony, I would send her, at nine years old, to a
boarding-school, in order to learn a little ingenuity and artifice. Then, sir, she should have a
supercilious knowledge in accounts;--and as she grew up, I would have her instructed in
geometry, that she might know something of the contagious countries;--but above all, Sir
Anthony, she should be mistress of orthodoxy, that she might not mis-spell, and mis-pronounce
words so shamefully as girls usually do; and likewise that she might reprehend the true meaning
of what she is saying. This, Sir Anthony, is what I would have a woman know;--and I don't think
there is a superstitious article in it.
Sir ANTHONY Well, well, Mrs. Malaprop, I will dispute the
point no further with you; though I must confess, that you are a truly moderate and polite arguer,
for almost every third word you say is on my side of the question. But, Mrs. Malaprop, to the
more important point in debate--you say you have no objection to my proposal?
MALAPROP None, I assure you. I am under no positive engagement with Mr. Acres, and as
Lydia is so obstinate against him, perhaps your son may have better success.
Well, madam, I will write for the boy directly. He knows not a syllable of this yet, though I have
for some time had the proposal in my head. He is at present with his regiment.
We have never seen your son, Sir Anthony; but I hope no objection on his side.
Objection!--let him object if he dare!--No, no, Mrs. Malaprop, Jack knows that the least demur
puts me in a frenzy directly. My process was always very simple--in their younger days, 'twas
"Jack, do this";--if he demurred, I knocked him down--and if he grumbled at that, I always sent
him out of the room.
Mrs. MALAPROP Ay, and the properest way, o' my conscience!--nothing is
so conciliating to young people as severity.--Well, Sir Anthony, I shall give Mr. Acres his
discharge, and prepare Lydia to receive your son's invocations;--and I hope you will represent
her to the captain as an object not altogether illegible.
Sir ANTHONY Madam, I will handle the
subject prudently.--Well, I must leave you; and let me beg you, Mrs. Malaprop, to enforce this
matter roundly to the girl.--Take my advice--keep a tight hand: if she rejects this proposal, clap
her under lock and key; and if you were just to let the servants forget to bring her dinner for three
or four days, you can't conceive how she'd come about. [Exit.]
Mrs. MALAPROP Well, at any
rate, I shall be glad to get her from under my intuition. She has somehow discovered my
partiality for Sir Lucius O'Trigger--sure, Lucy can't have betrayed me!--No, the girl is such a
simpleton, I should have made her confess it.--Lucy!--Lucy!--[Calls.] Had she been one of your
artificial ones, I should never have trusted her.
LUCY Did you call, ma'am?
Mrs. MALAPROP Yes, girl.--Did you see Sir Lucius while you was out?
LUCY No, indeed,
ma'am, not a glimpse of him.
Mrs. MALAPROP You are sure, Lucy, that you never mentioned----
LUCY Oh gemini! I'd sooner cut my tongue out.
Mrs. MALAPROP Well, don't let your simplicity
be imposed on.
LUCY No, ma'am.
Mrs. MALAPROP So, come to me presently, and I'll give you
another letter to Sir Lucius; but mind, Lucy--if ever you betray what you are entrusted with
(unless it be other people's secrets to me), you forfeit my malevolence for ever; and your being a
simpleton shall be no excuse for your locality. [Exit.]
LUCY Ha! ha! ha!--So, my dear Simplicity,
let me give you a little respite.--[Altering her manner.] Let girls in my station be as fond as they
please of appearing expert, and knowing in their trusts; commend me to a mask of silliness, and
a pair of sharp eyes for my own interest under it!--Let me see to what account have I turned my
simplicity lately.--[Looks at a paper.] For _abetting Miss Lydia Languish in a design of running
away with an ensign!--in money, sundry times, twelve pound twelve; gowns, five; hats, ruffles,
caps, &c., &c., numberless!--From the said ensign, within this last month, six guineas and a
half_.--About a quarter's pay!--Item, _from Mrs. Malaprop, for betraying the young people to
her_--when I found matters were likely to be discovered--_two guineas, and a black paduasoy._--
Item, _from Mr. Acres, for carrying divers letters_--which I never delivered--_two guineas, and a
pair of buckles._--Item, _from Sir Lucius O'Trigger, three crowns, two gold pocket-pieces, and a
silver snuff-box!_--Well done, Simplicity!--Yet I was forced to make my Hibernian believe, that he
was corresponding, not with the aunt, but with the niece; for though not over rich, I found he had
too much pride and delicacy to sacrifice the feelings of a gentleman to the necessities of his
* * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
Scene I.--CAPTAIN ABSOLUTE's Lodgings.
[CAPTAIN ABSOLUTE and FAG.]
FAG Sir, while I was there Sir Anthony came in: I told him you
had sent me to inquire after his health, and to know if he was at leisure to see you.
And what did he say, on hearing I was at Bath?
FAG Sir, in my life I never saw an elderly
gentleman more astonished! He started back two or three paces, rapped out a dozen
interjectural oaths, and asked, what the devil had brought you here.
ABSOLUTE Well, sir, and
what did you say?
FAG Oh, I lied, sir--I forgot the precise lie; but you may depend on't, he got no
truth from me. Yet, with submission, for fear of blunders in future, I should be glad to fix what has
brought us to Bath; in order that we may lie a little consistently. Sir Anthony's servants were
curious, sir, very curious indeed.
ABSOLUTE You have said nothing to them?
FAG Oh, not a
word, sir,--not a word! Mr. Thomas, indeed, the coachman (whom I take to be the discreetest of
ABSOLUTE 'Sdeath!--you rascal! you have not trusted him!
FAG Oh, no, sir--no--no--
not a syllable, upon my veracity!--He was, indeed, a little inquisitive; but I was sly, sir--devilish
sly! My master (said I), honest Thomas (you know, sir, one says honest to one's inferiors,) is
come to Bath to recruit--Yes, sir, I said to recruit--and whether for men, money, or constitution,
you know, sir, is nothing to him, nor any one else.
ABSOLUTE Well, recruit will do--let it be so.
FAG Oh, sir, recruit will do surprisingly--indeed, to give the thing an air, I told Thomas, that your
honour had already enlisted five disbanded chairmen, seven minority waiters, and thirteen
ABSOLUTE You blockhead, never say more than is necessary.
FAG I beg
pardon, sir--I beg pardon--but, with submission, a lie is nothing unless one supports it. Sir,
whenever I draw on my invention for a good current lie, I always forge indorsements as well as
ABSOLUTE Well, take care you don't hurt your credit, by offering too much security.--Is
Mr. Faulkland returned?
FAG He is above, sir, changing his dress.
ABSOLUTE Can you tell
whether he has been informed of Sir Anthony and Miss Melville's arrival?
FAG I fancy not, sir; he
has seen no one since he came in but his gentleman, who was with him at Bristol.--I think, sir, I
hear Mr. Faulkland coming down----
ABSOLUTE Go, tell him I am here.
FAG Yes, sir.--[Going.] I
beg pardon, sir, but should Sir Anthony call, you will do me the favour to remember that we are
recruiting, if you please.
ABSOLUTE Well, well.
FAG And, in tenderness to my character, if your
honour could bring in the chairmen and waiters, I should esteem it as an obligation; for though I
never scruple a lie to serve my master, yet it hurts one's conscience to be found out. [Exit.]
ABSOLUTE Now for my whimsical friend--if he does not know that his mistress is here, I'll tease
him a little before I tell him----
Faulkland, you're welcome to Bath again;
you are punctual in your return.
FAULKLAND Yes; I had nothing to detain me, when I had
finished the business I went on. Well, what news since I left you? how stand matters between
you and Lydia?
ABSOLUTE Faith, much as they were; I have not seen her since our quarrel;
however, I expect to be recalled every hour.
FAULKLAND Why don't you persuade her to go off
with you at once?
ABSOLUTE What, and lose two-thirds of her fortune? you forget that, my
friend.--No, no, I could have brought her to that long ago.
FAULKLAND Nay then, you trifle too
long--if you are sure of her, propose to the aunt in your own character, and write to Sir Anthony
for his consent.
ABSOLUTE Softly, softly; for though I am convinced my little Lydia would elope
with me as Ensign Beverley, yet am I by no means certain that she would take me with the
impediment of our friends' consent, a regular humdrum wedding, and the reversion of a good
fortune on my side: no, no; I must prepare her gradually for the discovery, and make myself
necessary to her, before I risk it.--Well, but Faulkland, you'll dine with us to-day at the hotel?
FAULKLAND Indeed I cannot; I am not in spirits to be of such a party.
ABSOLUTE By heavens! I
shall forswear your company. You are the most teasing, captious, incorrigible lover!--Do love like
FAULKLAND I own I am unfit for company.
ABSOLUTE Am I not a lover; ay, and a
romantic one too? Yet do I carry every where with me such a confounded farrago of doubts,
fears, hopes, wishes, and all the flimsy furniture of a country miss's brain!
FAULKLAND Ah! Jack,
your heart and soul are not, like mine, fixed immutably on one only object. You throw for a large
stake, but losing, you could stake and throw again;--but I have set my sum of happiness on this
cast, and not to succeed, were to be stripped of all.
ABSOLUTE But, for heaven's sake! what
grounds for apprehension can your whimsical brain conjure up at present?