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Mar. Yes, sir, punch. A glass of warm punch after actual consultation upon what's for supper this moour journey will be comfortable. ment in the kitchen.
Enter SERVANT with a tankard.
This is Liberty-hall, you know.
Mar. So this fellow, in his Liberty-hall, will only let us have just what he pleases. [Aside to Hast. Hard. [Taking the cup.] I hope you'll find it to your mind. I have prepared it with my own hands, and I believe you'll own the ingredients are tolerable. Will you be so good as to pledge me, sir? Here, Mr Marlow, here is to our better acquaintance.
[Drinks, and gives the cup to Marlow. Mar. A very impudent fellow this; but he's a character, and I'll humour him a little. [Aside.] Sir, my service to you.
Hast. I see this fellow wants to give us his company, and forgets that he's an innkeeper before he has learned to be a gentleman. [Aside. Mar. From the excellence of your cup, my old friend, I suppose you have a good deal of business in this part of the country. Warm work now and then at elections, I suppose. [Gives the tankard to Hardcastle. Hard. No, sir; I have long given that work over. Since our betters have hit upon the expedient of electing each other, there's no business for us that sell ale. [Gives the tankard to Hastings. Hast. So, you have no turn for politics, I find. Hard. Not in the least. There was a time, indeed, I fretted myself about the mistakes of government, like other people; but finding myself every day grow more angry, and the government growing no better, I left it to mend itself. Since that, I no more trouble my head about who's in or who's out than I do about John Nokes or Tom Stiles. So my service to you.
Hast. So that, with eating above stairs and drinking below, with receiving your friends within and amusing them without, you lead a good, pleasant, bustling life of it.
Hard. I do stir about a good deal, that's certain. Half the differences of the parish are adjusted in this very parlour.
Mar. [After drinking.] And you have an argument in your cup, old gentleman, better than any in Westminster-hall.
Hard. Ay, young gentleman, that, and a little philosophy.
Mar. Well, this is the first time I ever heard of an innkeeper's philosophy. [Aside. Hast. So then, like an experienced general, you attack them on every quarter. If you find their reason manageable, you attack them with your philosophy; you find they have no reason, you attack them with this. Here's your health, my philosopher. [Drinks. Hard. Good, very good; thank you; ha! ha! Your generalship puts me in mind of Prince Eugene when he fought the Turks at the battle of Belgrade. You shall hear.
Mar. Instead of the battle of Belgrade, I think it's almost time to talk about supper. What has your philosophy got in the house for supper?
Hard. For supper, sir? Was ever such a request [Aside. Mar. Yes, sir; supper, sir; I begin to feel an appetite. I shall make devilish work to-night in the larder, I promise you.
to a man in his own house?
Hard. Such a brazen dog sure never my eyes beheld. [Aside.] Why really, sir, as for supper I can't well tell. My Dorothy and the cookmaid settle these things between them. I leave these kind of things entirely to them.
Mar. Then I beg they'll admit me as one of their privy-council. It's a way I have got. When I travel, I always choose to regulate my own supper. Let the cook be called. No offence I hope, sir.
Hard. O no, sir, none in the least: yet, I don't know how, our Bridget, the cookmaid, is not very communicative upon these occasions. Should we send for her, she might scold us all out of the house.
Hast. Let's see the list of the larder, then. I always match my appetite to my bill of fare. Mar. [To Hardcastle, who looks at them with surprise.] Sir, he's very right, and it's my way too.
Hard. Sir, you have a right to command here. Here, Roger, bring us the bill of fare for to-night's supper: I believe it's drawn out. Your manner, Mr Hastings, puts me in mind of my uncle, Colonel Wallop. It was a saying of his that no man was sure of his supper till he had eaten it.
[Servant brings in the bill of fare, and exit. Hast. All upon the high ropes! His uncle a colonel! We shall soon hear of his mother being a justice peace. [Aside.] But let's hear the bill of fare. Mar. [Perusing.] What's here? For the first course; for the second course; for the dessert. The devil, sir! Do you think we have brought down the whole Joiners' Company, or the Corporation of Bedford, to eat up such a supper? Two or three little things, clean and comfortable, will do. Hast. But let's hear it.
Mar. [Reading.] For the first course at the top, a pig and prune sauce.
Hard. And yet, gentlemen, to men that are hungry, pig, with prune sauce, is very good eating. Their impudence confounds me. [Aside.] Gentlemen, you are my guests, make what alterations you please. Is there any thing else you wish to retrench or alter, gentlemen ?
Mar. Item: a pork pie, a boiled rabbit and sausages, a florentine, a shaking-pudding, and a dish of tiff-taff-taffety cream.
Hast. Confound your made dishes! I shall be as much at a loss in this house as at a green and yellow dinner at the French ambassador's table. I'm for plain eating.
Hard. I'm sorry, gentlemen, that I have nothing you like; but if there be any thing you have a particular fancy to
Mar. Why, really, sir, your bill of fare is so exquisite, that any one part of it is full as good as another. Send us what you please. So much for supper: and now to see that our beds are aired, and properly
taken care of.
Two years after Goldsmith's dramatic triumph, a still greater in legitimate comedy arose in the person of that remarkable man, who survived down to our own day, RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. On Hard. Entirely. By the by, I believe they are in the 17th of January 1775, his play of The Rivals was
Mar. You do, do you?
brought out at Covent Garden. In this first effort of Sheridan (who was then in his twenty-fourth year), there is more humour than wit. He had copied some of his characters from Humphry Clinker,' as the testy but generous Captain Absolute, evidently borrowed from Matthew Bramble, and Mrs Malaprop, whose mistakes in words are the echoes of Mrs Winifred Jenkins's blunders. Some of these are farcical enough; but as Mr Moore observes (and no man has made more use of similes than himself), the luckiness of Mrs Malaprop's simile as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile'-will be acknowledged as long as there are writers to be run away with by the wilfulness of this truly headstrong species of composition. In the same year, St Patrick's Day and The Duenna were produced; the latter had a run of seventy-five nights! It certainly is greatly superior to The Beggar's Opera,' though not so general in its satire. In 1777, Sheridan had other two plays, The Trip to Scarborough and The School for Scandal. In plot, character, and incident, dialogue, humour, and wit, The School for Scandal' is acknowledged to surpass any comedy of modern times. It was carefully prepared by the author, who selected, arranged, and moulded his language with consummate taste, so as to form it into a transparent channel of his thoughts. Mr Moore, in his Life of Sheridan,' gives some amusing instances of the various forms which a witticism or pointed remark assumed before its final adoption. As in his first comedy Sheridan had taken hints from Smollett; in this, his last, he had recourse to Smollett's rival, or rather twin novelist, Fielding. The characters of Charles and Joseph Surface are evidently copies from those of Tom Jones and Blifil. Nor is the moral of the play an improvement on that of the novel. The careless extravagant rake is generous, warm-hearted, and fascinating; seriousness and gravity are rendered odious by being united to meanness and hypocrisy. The dramatic art of Sheridan is evinced in the ludicrous incidents and situations with which
Mrs D. I confess he is a favourite of mine, because every body else abuses him. Sneer. Very much to the credit of your charity, madam, if not of your judgment.
Dan. But, egad! he allows no merit to any author but himself; that's the truth on't, though he's my friend.
Sneer. Never. He is as envious as an old maid verging on the desperation of six-and-thirty; and then the insidious humility with which he seduces you to give a free opinion on any of his works, can be exceeded only by the petulant arrogance with which he is sure to reject your observations.
Dan. Very true, egad! though he's my friend. Sneer. Then his affected contempt of all newspaper | strictures; though, at the same time, he is the sorest man alive, and shrinks like scorched parchment from the fiery ordeal of true criticism: yet is he so covetous of popularity, that he had rather be abused than not mentioned at all.
Dan. There's no denying it; though he's my friend. Sheer. You have read the tragedy he has just finished, haven't you?
Dan. O yes; he sent it to me yesterday.
Sneer. Well, and you think it execrable, don't you! Dan. Why, between ourselves, egad! I must own though he's my friend-that it is one of the most -he's here!-[Aside]-finished and most admirable perform
Sir F. [Without] Mr Sneer with him, did you say?
Enter SIR FRETFUL PLAGIARY.
Dan. Ah, my dear friend! Egad! we were just speaking of your tragedy. Admirable, Sir Fretful,
Sneer. You never did anything beyond it, Sir Fretful; never in your life.
Sir F. You make me extremely happy; for, without a compliment, my dear Sneer, there isn't a man in the world whose judgment I value as I do yours; and Mr Dangle's.
Mrs D. They are only laughing at you, Sir Fretful; for it was but just now that
Mrs Dangle. My friend Sneer was rallying just now. Dan. Mrs Dangle!-Ah! Sir Fretful, you know He knows how she admires you, and
Sir F. O Lord! I am sure Mr Sneer has more A double-faced fel[Aside. Dan. Yes, yes; Sneer will jest, but a betterhumoured
taste and sincerity than to
Sir F. O! I know.
The School for Scandal' abounds: his genius shines forth in its witty dialogues. The entire comedy, says Moore, 'is an El Dorado of wit, where the precious metal is thrown about by all classes as carelessly as if they had not the least idea of its value. This fault is one not likely to be often committed! Some shorter pieces were afterwards written by Sheridan: The Camp, a musical opera, and The Critic, a witty afterpiece, in the manner of The Rehearsal.' The character of Sir Fretful Plagiary, intended, it is said, for Cumberland the dramatist, is one of the author's happiest efforts; and the schemes and contrivances of Puff the manager-such as making his theatrical clock strike four in a morning scene, to beget an awful atten- his friend. tion' in the audience, and to save a description of the rising sun, and a great deal about gilding the eastern hemisphere'-are a felicitous combination of humour and satire. The scene in which Sneer
mortifies the vanity of Sir Fretful, and Puff's description of his own mode of life by his proficiency in the art of puffing, are perhaps the best that Sheridan ever wrote.
Dan. He has a ready turn for ridicule; his wit costs him nothing.
Sir F. No, egad! or I should wonder how he came [Aside. Mrs D. Because his jest is always at the expense of
to the managers yet? or can I be of any service to Dan. But, Sir Fretful, have you sent your play
had sufficient recommendation with it. I thank you Sir F. No, no, I thank you; I believe the piece though. I sent it to the manager of Covent Garden theatre this morning.
Sneer. I should have thought now, that it might have been cast (as the actors call it) better at Drury Lane.
Sir F. O lud! no-never send a play there while I live. Hark ye!
[Whispers Sneer. Sneer. Writes himself! I know he does. Sir F. I say nothing-I take away from no man's merit-am hurt at no man's good fortune. I say nothing; but this I will say; through all my knowledge of life, I have observed that there is not a passion so strongly rooted in the human heart as envy!
Sneer. I believe you have reason for what you say, indeed.
Sir F. Besides, I can tell you, it is not always so safe to leave a play in the hands of those who write themselves.
Sneer. What! they may steal from them? eh, my dear Plagiary?
Sir F. Steal! to be sure they may; and, egad! serve your best thoughts as gipsies do stolen children, disfigure them to make 'em pass for their own. Sneer. But your present work is a sacrifice to Melpomene; and he, you know, never
Sir F. That's no security. A dexterous plagiarist may do anything. Why, sir, for aught I know he might take out some of the best things in my tragedy and put them into his own comedy.
Sneer. That might be done, I dare be sworn. Sir F. And then, if such a person gives you the least hint or assistance, he is devilish apt to take the merit of the whole.
Dan. If it succeeds.
Sir F. Ay! but with regard to this piece, I think I can hit that gentleman, for I can safely swear he never read it.
Sneer. I'll tell you how you may hurt him more. Sir F. How?
Sneer. Swear he wrote it.
Sir F. Plague on't now, Sneer; I shall take it ill. I believe you want to take away my character as an
Sneer. Then I am sure you ought to be very much obliged to me.
Sir F. Eh? sir!
Dan. O! you know he never means what he says. Sir F. Sincerely, then, you do like the piece? Sneer. Wonderfully!
Sir F. But, come now, there must be something that you think might be mended, eh? Mr Dangle, has nothing struck you?
Dan. Why, faith, it is but an ungracious thing for the most part to
Sir F. With most authors it is just so, indeed; they are in general strangely tenacious; but, for my part, I am never so well pleased as when a judicious critic points out any defect to me; for what is the purpose of showing a work to a friend if you don't mean to profit by his opinion?
Sneer. Very true. Why then, though I seriously admire the piece upon the whole, yet there is one small objection which, if you'll give me leave, I'll
Sir F. Sir, you can't oblige me more. Sneer. I think it wants incident. Sir F. Good God! you surprise me ! wants incident? Sneer. Yes; I own I think the incidents are too few. Sir F. Good God! Believe me, Mr Sneer, there is no person for whose judgment I have a more implicit deference; but I protest to you, Mr Sneer, I am only apprehensive that the incidents are too crowded. My dear Dangle, how does it strike you?
Dan. Really, I can't agree with my friend Sneer. I think the plot quite sufficient; and the four first acts by many degrees the best I ever read or saw in my life. If I might venture to suggest anything, it is that the interest rather falls off in the fifth.
Sir F. Rises, I believe you mean, sir.
Sir F. Yes, yes, you do, upon my soul; it certainly don't fall off, I assure you; no, no, it don't fall off. Dan. Now, Mrs Dangle, did'nt you say it struck you in the same light?
Mrs D. No, indeed, I did not. I did not see a fault in any part of the play from the beginning to the end.
Sir F. Upon my soul, the women are the best judges after all!
Mrs D. Or if I made any objection, I am sure it was to nothing in the piece; but that I was afraid it was, on the whole, a little too long.
Sir F. Pray, madam, do you speak as to duration of time; or do you mean that the story is tediously spun out?
Mrs D. O lud! no. I speak only with reference to the usual length of acting plays.
Sir F. Then I am very happy-very happy indeed; because the play is a short play, a remarkably short play. I should not venture to differ with a lady on a point of taste; but on these occasions the watch, you know, is the critic.
Mrs D. Then, I suppose, it must have been Mr Dangle's drawling manner of reading it to me. Sir F. O! if Mr Dangle read it, that's quite another affair; but I assure you, Mrs Dangle, the first evening you can spare me three hours and a half, I'll undertake to read you the whole from beginning to end, with the prologue and epilogue, and allow time for the music between the acts.
Mrs D. I hope to see it on the stage next. [Excit. Dan. Well, Sir Fretful, I wish you may be able to get rid as easily of the newspaper criticisms as you do of ours.
Sir F. The newspapers! sir, they are the most villanous, licentious, abominable, infernal-not that I ever read them; no, I make it a rule never to look into a newspaper.
Dan. You are quite right; for it certainly must hurt an author of delicate feelings to see the liberties they take.
Sir F. No; quite the contrary; their abuse is, in fact, the best panegyric; I like it of all things. An author's reputation is only in danger from their support.
Sneer. Why, that's true; and that attack, now, on you the other day
Sir F. What? where?
Dan. Ay! you mean in a paper of Thursday; it was completely ill-natured to be sure.
Sir F. O! so much the better; ha! ha! ha! I wouldn't have it otherwise.
Dan. Certainly, it is only to be laughed at, forSir F. You don't happen to recollect what the fellow said, do you?
Sneer. Pray, Dangle; Sir Fretful seems a little anxious
Sir F. O lud, no! anxious, not I, not the least-I but one may as well hear, you know. Dan. Sneer, do you recollect? Make out some[Aside. Sneer. I will. [To Dangle.] Yes, yes, I remember perfectly.
Sir F. Well, and pray now-not that it signifieswhat might the gentleman say?
Sneer. Why, he roundly asserts that you have not the slightest invention or original genius whatever, though you are the greatest traducer of all other authors living.
Sir F. Ha, ha, ha! very good!
Sneer. That as to comedy, you have not one idea of your own, he believes, even in your commonplace book, where stray jokes and pilfered witticisms are kept with as much method as the ledger of the lost and stolen office.
Sir F. Ha, ha, ha! very pleasant.
Sneer. Nay, that you are so unlucky as not to have the skill even to steal with taste; but that you glean from the refuse of obscure volumes, where more judicious plagiarists have been before you; so that the body of your work is a composition of dregs and sediments, like a bad tavern's worst wine.
Sir F. Ha, ha!
Sneer. In your more serious efforts, he says, your bombast would be less intolerable if the thoughts
were ever suited to the expressions; but the homeliness of the sentiment stares through the fantastic incumbrance of its fine language, like a clown in one of the new uniforms.
Sir F. Ha, ha!
Sneer. That your occasional tropes and flowers suit the general coarseness of your style, as tambour sprigs would a ground of linsey-woolsey; while your imitations of Shakspeare resemble the mimicry of Falstaff's page, and are about as near the standard of the original.
Sir F. Ha!
Sneer. In short, that even the finest passages you steal are of no service to you; for the poverty of your own language prevents their assimilating, so that they lie on the surface like lumps of marl on a barren moor, encumbering what it is not in their power to fertilize.
Sir F. [After great agitation.] Now, another person would be vexed at this.
Sneer. Oh! but I wouldn't have told you, only to divert you.
Sir F. I know it. I am diverted-ha, ha, ha! not the least invention! ha, ha, ha! very good, very good!
Sneer. Yes; no genius! ha, ha, ha!
Dan. A severe rogue, ha, ha, ha!-but you are quite right, Sir Fretful, never to read such nonsense. Sir F. To be sure; for if there is anything to one's praise, it is a foolish vanity to be gratified at it; and if it is abuse, why one is always sure to hear of it from some good-natured friend or other!
[The Anatomy of Character performed by
[From The School for Scandal."]
MARIA enters to LADY SNEERWELL and JOSEPH SURFACE.
Lady S. Maria, my dear, how do you do? What's the matter?
Maria. Oh! there is that disagreeable lover of mine, Sir Benjamin Backbite, has just called at my guardian's with his odious uncle, Crabtree; so I slipt out, and ran hither to avoid them.
Lady S. Is that all?
Joseph S. If my brother Charles had been of the party, madam, perhaps you would not have been so much alarmed.
Lady S. Nay, now you are severe; for I dare swear the truth of the matter is, Maria heard you were here. But, my dear, what has Sir Benjamin done that you should avoid him so?
Maria. Oh, he has done nothing-but 'tis for what he has said: his conversation is a perpetual libel on all his acquaintance.
Joseph S. Ay, and the worst of it is, there is no advantage in not knowing him-for he'll abuse a stranger just as soon as his best friend; and his uncle Crabtree's as bad.
Lady S. Nay, but we should make allowance. Sir Benjamin is a wit and a poet.
Maria. For my part, I own, madam, wit loses its respect with me when I see it in company with malice. What do you think, Mr Surface?
Joseph S. Certainly, madam; to smile at the jest which plants a thorn in another's breast is to become a principal in the mischief.
Lady S. Pshaw!-there's no possibility of being witty without a little ill nature: the malice of a good thing is the barb that makes it stick. What's your opinion, Mr Surface?
Joseph S. To be sure, madam; that conversation, where the spirit of raillery is suppressed, will ever appear tedious and insipid.
Maria. Well, I'll not debate how far scandal may
be allowable; but in a man, I am sure, it is always contemptible. We have pride, envy, rivalship, and a thousand little motives to depreciate each other; but the male slanderer must have the cowardice of a woman before he can traduce one.
Serv. Madam, Mrs Candour is below, and if your ladyship's at leisure, will leave her carriage.
Lady S. Beg her to walk in. [Exit Servant.] Now, Maria, however, here is a character to your taste; for though Mrs Candour is a little talkative, every body allows her to be the best natured and best sort of woman.
Maria. Yes-with a very gross affectation of good nature and benevolence, she does more mischief than the direct malice of old Crabtree.
Joseph S. I'faith that's true, Lady Sneerwell: whenever I hear the current running against the characters of my friends, I never think them in such danger as when Candour undertakes their defence. Lady S. Hush !-here she is!
Enter Mrs CANDOUR.
Mrs C. My dear Lady Sneerwell, how have you been this century? Mr Surface, what news do you hear?-though indeed it is no matter, for I think one hears nothing else but scandal.
Joseph S. Just so, indeed, ma'am.
Mrs C. Oh, Maria! child-what! is the whole affair off between you and Charles ? His extravagance, I presume-the town talks of nothing else. Maria. I am very sorry, ma'am, the town has so little to do.
Mrs C. True, true, child: but there's no stopping people's tongues. I own I was hurt to hear it, as I indeed was to learn, from the same quarter, that your guardian, Sir Peter and Lady Teazle, have not agreed lately as well as could be wished.
Maria. 'Tis strangely impertinent for people to busy themselves so.
Mrs C. Very true, child: but what's to be done? People will talk-there's no preventing it. Why, it was but yesterday I was told that Miss Gadabout had eloped with Sir Filligree Flirt. But there's no minding what one hears; though, to be sure, I had this from very good authority.
Maria. Such reports are highly scandalous.
Mrs C. So they are, child-shameful, shameful! But the world is so censorious, no character escapes. Well, now, who would have suspected your friend, Miss Prim, of an indiscretion? Yet such is the illnature of people that they say her uncle stopt her last week, just as she was stepping into the York mail with her dancing-master.
Maria. I'll answer for't there are no grounds for that report.
Mrs C. Ah, no foundation in the world, I dare swear; no more, probably, than for the story circulated last month of Mrs Festino's affair with Colonel Cassino; though, to be sure, that matter was never rightly cleared up.
Joseph S. The license of invention some people take is monstrous indeed.
Maria. Tis so-but, in my opinion, those who report such things are equally culpable.
Mrs C. To be sure they are; tale-bearers are as bad as the tale-makers-'tis an old observation, and a very true one: but what's to be done, as I said before? how will you prevent people from talking? To-day Mrs Clackitt assured me Mr and Mrs Honeymoon were at last become mere man and wife, like the rest of their acquaintance. No, no! tale-bearers, as I said before, are just as bad as the tale-makers. Joseph S. Ah! Mrs Candour, if every body had your forbearance and good-nature!
Mrs C. I confess, Mr Surface, I cannot bear to hear people attacked behind their backs; and when ugly circumstances come out against our acquaintance, I own I always love to think the best. By the by, I hope 'tis not true that your brother is absolutely ruined? Joseph S. I am afraid his circumstances are very bad indeed, ma'am.
Mrs C. Ah! I heard so-but you must tell him to keep up his spirits; everybody almost is in the same way-Lord Spindle, Sir Thomas Splint, and Mr Nickit -all up, I hear, within this week; so, if Charles is undone, he'll find half his acquaintance ruined too; and that, you know, is a consolation.
Joseph S. Doubtless, ma'am-a very great one.
Serv. Mr Crabtree and Sir Benjamin Backbite. [Exit Servant. Lady S. So, Maria, you see your lover pursues you; positively you shan't escape.
Enter CRABTREE and SIR BENJAMIN BACKBITE.
Crab. Lady Sneerwell, I kiss your hand. Mrs Candour, I don't believe you are acquainted with my nephew, Sir Benjamin Backbite? Egad! ma'am, he has a pretty wit, and is a pretty poet, too; isn't he, Lady Sneerwell?
Sir B. O fie, uncle!
Crab. Nay, egad, it's true; I back him at a rebus or a charade against the best rhymer in the kingdom. Has your ladyship heard the epigram he wrote last week on Lady Frizzle's feather catching fire? Do, Benjamin, repeat it, or the charade you made last night extempore at Mrs Drowzie's conversazione. Come now; your first is the name of a fish, your second a great naval commander, and
Sir B. Uncle, now-prithee
Crab. I'faith, ma'am, 'twould surprise you to hear how ready he is at these things.
Lady S. I wonder, Sir Benjamin, you never publish anything.
Sir B. To say truth, ma'am, 'tis very vulgar to print; and as my little productions are mostly satires and lampoons on particular people, I find they circulate more by giving copies in confidence to the friends of the parties. However, I have some love elegies, which, when favoured with this lady's smiles, I mean to give the public.
Crab. 'Fore heaven, ma'am, they'll immortalise you! you will be handed down to posterity, like Petrarch's Laura, or Waller's Sacharissa.
Sir B. Yes, madam, I think you will like them, when you shall see them on a beautiful quarto page, where a neat rivulet of text shall murmur through a meadow of margin. 'Fore gad they will be the most elegant things of their kind!
Črab. But, ladies, that's true-have you heard the news?
Mrs C. What, sir, do you mean the report ofCrab. No, ma'am, that's not it-Miss Nicely is going to be married to her own footman. Mrs C. Impossible!
Crab. Ask Sir Benjamin.
Sir B. "Tis very true, ma'am; everything is fixed, and the wedding liveries bespoke.
Crab. Yes; and they do say there were very pressing reasons for it.
Lady S. Why, I have heard something of this before. Mrs C. It can't be; and I wonder any one should believe such a story of so prudent a lady as Miss Nicely.
Sir B. O lud! ma'am, that's the very reason 'twas believed at once. She has always been so cautious and so reserved that everybody was sure there was some reason for it at bottom.
Mrs C. Why, to be sure, a tale of scandal is as fatal
to the credit of a prudent lady of her stamp as a fever is generally to those of the strongest constitutions. But there is a sort of puny sickly reputation that is always ailing, yet will outlive the robuster characters of a hundred prudes.
Sir B. True, madam, there are valetudinarians in reputation as well as constitution; who, being conscious of their weak part, avoid the least breath of air, and supply their want of stamina by care and circumspection.
Mrs C. Well, but this may be all a mistake. You know, Sir Benjamin, very trifling circumstances often give rise to the most injurious tales.
Crab. That they do, I'll be sworn, ma'am. O lud! Mr Surface, pray is it true that your uncle, Sir Oliver, is coming home?
Joseph S. Not that I know of, indeed, sir.
Crab. He has been in the East Indies a long time. You can scarcely remember him, I believe? Sad comfort whenever he returns, to hear how your brother has gone on.
Joseph S. Charles has been imprudent, sir, to be sure; but I hope no busy people have already prejudiced Sir Oliver against him. He may reform.
Sir B. To be sure he may; for my part I never believed him to be so utterly void of principle as people say; and though he has lost all his friends, I am told nobody is better spoken of by the Jews.
Crab. That's true, egad, nephew. If the Old Jewry was a ward, I believe Charles would be an alderman: no man more popular there! I hear he pays as many annuities as the Irish tontine; and that, whenever he is sick, they have prayers for the recovery of his health in all the synagogues.
Sir B. Yet no man lives in greater splendour. They tell me, when he entertains his friends, he will sit down to dinner with a dozen of his own securities; have a score of tradesmen waiting in the antechamber, and an officer behind every guest's chair
Joseph S. This may be entertainment to you, gentlemen; but you pay very little regard to the feelings of a brother.
Maria. Their malice is intolerable. Lady Sneerwell, I must wish you a good morning: I'm not very well. [Exit Maria. Mrs C. O dear! she changes colour very much. Lady S. Do, Mrs Candour, follow her: she may want your assistance.
Mrs C. That I will, with all my soul, ma'am. Poor dear girl, who knows what her situation may be! [Exit Mrs Candour.
Lady S. Twas nothing but that she could not bear to hear Charles reflected on, notwithstanding their difference.
Sir B. The young lady's penchant is obvious.
Crab. But, Benjamin, you must not give up the pursuit for that: follow her, and put her into good humour. Repeat her some of your own verses. Come, I'll assist you.
Sir B. Mr Surface, I did not mean to hurt you; but, depend on't, your brother is utterly undone.
Crab. O lud, ay! undone as ever man was. Can't raise a guinea!
Sir B. And every thing sold, I'm told, that was moveable.
Crab. I have seen one that was at his house. Not a thing left but some empty bottles that were overlooked, and the family pictures, which I believe are framed in the wainscots.
Sir B. And I'm very sorry, also, to hear some bad stories against him.
Crab. Oh! he has done many mean things, that's certain.
Sir B. But, however, as he is your brotherCrab. We'll tell you all another opportunity. [Exeunt Crabtree and Sir Benjamin.