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THE PROVOKED HUSBAND.
SCENE 1.—Lord Townly's Apartment.--A splendid
LORD TOWNLY seated. Lord T. Why did I marry? Was it not evident, my plain rational scheme of life was impracticable with a woman of so different a way of thinking? Is there one article of it that she has not broke in upon? Yes--let me do her justice--her reputation. That, I have no reason to believe, is in question. But then, how long her profligate course of pleasure may make her able to keep it, is a shocking consideration ! and her presumption, while she keeps it, insupportable! for, on the pride of that single virtue, she seems to lay it down as a fundamental point, that the free indulgence of every other vice this fertile town affords, is the birthright prerogative of a woman of quality. Amazing! that a creature, so warm in the pursuit of her pleasures, should never cast one thought towards her happiness. Thus, while she admits of no lover, she thinks it a greater merit still, in her chastity, not to care for her husband; and, while she herself is solacing in one continual round of cards and good company, he, poor wretch, is left at large, to take care of his own contentment. 'Tis time, indeed, some care were taken, and speedily there shall be.—Yet let me not be rash. Perhaps this disappointment of my heart may make me too impatient: and some tempers, when reproached, grow more untractable. Here she comes : let me be calm awhile.
Enter LADY TOWNlY, R. Going out so soon after dinner, madam ?
Lady T. (R.) Lard ! my lord, what can I possibly do at home?
Lord T. (L. c.) What does my sister, Lady Grace, do at home?
Lady T. (R.c.) Why, that is to me amazing! Have you ever any pleasure at home?
Lard T. (c.) It might be in your power, madain, I confess, to make it a little more comfortable to me.
Lady' T. Comfortable! And so, my good lord, you would really have a woman of my rank and spirit stay at home to comfort her husband ! Lord, what notions of life some men have !
Lord T. Don't you think, madam, some ladies' notions are fully as extravagant ?
Lady T. Yes, my lord ; when the tame doves live cooped within the pen of your precepts, I do think them prodigious indeed !
Lord T. And when they fly wild about this town, madam, pray what must the world think of them then ?
Lady T. Oh, this world is not so ill bred as to quarrel with any woman for liking it.
Lord T. Nor am I, madam, a husband so well bred, as to bear my wife's being so fond of it: in short, the life you lead, madam-
Lady T. Is to me the pleasantest life in the world.
Lord T. I should not dispute your taste, madam, if a woman had a right to please nobody but herself.
Lady T. Why, whom would you have her please ?
Lady T. And don't you think a husband under the same obligation ?
Lord T. Certainly.
Lady T. Why then we are agreed, my lord; for, if I never go abroad till I am weary of being at home (which you know is the case), is it not equally reasonable, not to come home till one is weary of being abroad ?
Lord T. If this be your rule of life, madam, 'tis time to ask you one serious question.
Lady T. Don't let it be long in coming, then, for I am in haste.
Lord T. Madam, when I am serious, I expect a seri.
Lady T. Before I know the question ?
Lord T. Pshaw! Have I power, madam, to make you serious by entreaty?
Lady T. You have.
Lord T. And you promise to answer me sincerely ? Lady T. Sincerely.
Lord T. Now, then, recollect your thoughts, and tell me seriously why you married me.
Lady T. You insist upon truth, you say?
Lady T. Why, then, my lord, to give you at once'a proof of my obedience and sincerity-I think-I married to take off that restraint that lay upon my pleasures while I was a single woman.'
Lord T. How, madam! is any woman under less restraint after marriage than before it ?
Lady T. Oh, my lord, my lord ! they are quite different creatures! Wives have infinite liberties in life, that would be terrible in an unmarried woman to take.
Lord T. Name one.
Lady T. Fifty, if you please. To begin, then-in the morning—a married woman may have men at her toilet -invite them to dinner-appoint them a party in the stage-box, at the play-engross the conversation therecall them by their Christian names—talk louder than the players : from thence, jaunt into the city-take a frolicsome supper at an India House-perhaps, in her gaietè de cæur, toast a pretty fellow; then clatter again to this end of the town-break, with the morning, into an assembly-crowd to the hazard-table-throw a familiar levant upon some sharp lurching man of quality, and, if he demands his money, turn it off with a loud laugh, and cry, you'll owe it him, to vex him, ha! ha!
[Crosses to L. and returns to R. Lord T. Prodigious!
[Aside. Lady T. (R. c.) These now, my lord, are some few of the many modish amusements that distinguish the privilege of a wife from that of a single woman.
Lord T. Death, madam! what law has made these liberties less scandalous in a wife than in an unmarried woman ?
Lady T. Why the strongest law in the world, custom custom, time out of mind, my lord.
Lord T. Custom, madam, is the law of fools, but it shall never govern me.
Lady T. Nay, then, my lord, 'tis time for me to observe the laws of prudence. Lord T. I wish I could see an instance of it.
Lady T. You shall have one this moment, my lord ; for I think, when a man begins to lose his temper at home, if a woman has any prudence, wby, she'll go abroad till he comes to himself again. (Going, L.
Lord T. Hold, madam ; I am amazed you are not more uneasy at the life we lead. You don't want sense, and yet seem void of all humanity; for, with a blush Í say it. I think I have not wanted love.
Lady T. (L.) Oh, don't say that, my lord, if you suppose I have my senses.
Lord T. What is it I have done to you? What can you complain of ?
Lady T. Oh, nothing in the least! Tis true you have heard me say, I have owed my Lord Lurcher a hundred pounds these three weeks; but what then ? A husband is not liable to his wife's debts of honour, you know; and if a silly woman will be uneasy about money she can't be sued for, what's that to him ? As long as he loves her, to be sure, she can have nothing to complain of.
Lord T. By heaven, if my whole fortune, thrown into your lap, could make you delight in the cheerful duties of a wife, I should think myself a gainer by the purchase.
Lady T. That is, my lord, I might receive your whole estate, provided you were sure I would not spend a shilling of it.
Lord T. No, madam ; were I master of your heart, your pleasures would be mine ; but, different as they are, I'll feed even your follies to deserve it. Perhaps you may have some other trifling debts of honour abroad, that keep you out of humour at home at least, it shall not be my fault, if I have not more of your company. There, there's a bill of five hundred—and now, madam
Lady T. And now, my lord, down to the ground I Lord T. If it be no offence, madam
Lady T. Say what you please, my lord; I am in that harmony of spirits, it is impossible to put me out of humour.
Lord T. How long, in reason, then, do you think that sum ought to last you ?
Lady T. Oh, my dear, dear lord, now you have spoiled all again! How is it possible I should answer
for an event, that so utterly depends upon fortune! But, to show you that I am more inclined to get money than to throw it away, I have a strong prepossession, that, with this five hundred, I shall win five thousand.
Lord T. Madam, if you were to win ten thousand, it would be no satisfaction to me.
Lady T. Oh, the churl ! ten thousand! what! not so much as wish I might wip ten thousand !—Ten thousand ! Oh, the charming sum! what infinite pretty things might a woman of spirit do with ten thousand guineas ! O' my conscience, if she were a woman of true spiritche-she might lose them all again.
Lord T. And I had rather it should be so, madam, provided I could be sure, that were the last you would lose.
Lady T. Well, ny lord, to let you see I design to play all the good housewife I can, I am now going to a party at quadrille, only to trifle with a little of it, at poor two guineas a fish, with the Duchess of Quiteright.
[Exit, L. Lord T. (L.) Insensible creature ! neither reproaches nor indulgence, kindness nor severity, can wake her to the least reflection! Continual licence has lulled her into such a lethargy of care, that she speaks of her excesses with the same easy confidence, as if they were so many virtues. (c.) What a turn has her head taken! But how to cure it-take my friend's opinion. Manly will speak freely-my sister with tenderness, to both sides. They know my case-l'll talk with them.
Enter WILLIAMS, L. D. Wil. (L.) Mr. Manly, my lord, has sent to know if your lordship was at home.
Lord T. They did not deny me?
Lord T. Very well; step up to my sister, and say I desire to speak with her. Wil. Lady Grace is here, my lord. [Exit, L. D.
Enter LADY GRACE, R. Lord T. (L. c.) So, lady fair, what pretty weapon have you been killing your time with ? Lady G. (R. C.) A huge folio, that has almost killed I think I have half read my eyes out.