페이지 이미지

LADY S. She certainly has talens, but her manner is gross.

SNAKE. , Tis very true.—She generally designs well, has a free tongue and a bold invention ; but her colouring is too dark , and her outlines often extravagant, She wants that delicacy of tint and mellowness of sneer, which distinguish your ladyships scandal.

Lady S. Ah ! You are partial; Snake.

Skake. Not in the least-every body allows that Lady Sneerwell can do more with a word or a look than many can with the most laboured detail, even when they happen to have a little truth on their side to support it.

Lady S. Yes, my dear Snake; and I am no hypocrite to deny the satisfaction I reap from the success of my efforts. [They rise.] Wounded myself in the early part of my life by the envenomed tongue of slander, I confess I have since known no pleasure equal to the reducing others to the level of my own reputation.

Snake. Nothing can be more natural. But, Lady Sneerwell, there is one affair in which you have lately employed

wherein, I confess, I am at a loss to guess your motiLADY S. I conceive you mean with respect to my neighbour, Sir Peter Teazle, and his family?

Snake. I do. Here are two young men, to whom Sir Peter has acted as a kind of guardian since their father's death; the eldest possessing the most amiable character, and universally well spoken of--ihe youngest, the most dissipated and extravagant young fellow in the kingdom , without friends or character : the former an avowed admirer of your ladyship’s, and apparently your favourite : the latter attached to Maria, Sir Peter's ward, and confessedly beloved by her. Now, on the face of these circumstances, it is utterly unaccountable to me, why you , the widow of a city knight , with a good jointure , should not close with the passion of a man of such character and expectations as Mr. Surface; and more so why you should be so uncommonly earnest in destroy the mutual attachment subsisting between his brother Charles and Maria.

me ,


LAEY S. Then at once to unravel this. mystery, I must inforın you , that love has no share whatever in ihe intercourse between Mr. Surface and me.


LADY S. His real attachment is to Maria, or her fortune. but finding in his brother a favoured rival, he has been obliged to mask his pretensions, and profit by my. assistance.

Snake. Yet still I am more puzzled why you should interest yourself in his success.

LADY S. Heavens ! how dull you are! Cannot you surmise the weakness which I bitherto, through shame, have concealed even from you ? Must I consess, that Charles , that libertine, that extravagant, that bankrupt in fortune and reputation, that he it is for whom I'm thus anxious and malicious, and to gain whom I would sacrifice every thing?

Snake. Now, indeed, your conduct appears consistent: but how came you and Mr. Surface so confidential ?

LADY S. For our mutual interest. I have found him out a long time since. I know him to be artful, selfish, and malicious-in short, a sentimental knave; while, with Sir Peter, and indeed with all his acquaintance, be passes for a youthful miracle of prudence, good sense, and benevolence.

Snake. Yes : yet Sir Peter vows he has not his equal in England and above all, he praises him as a man of sentiment.

Sady S. True--and with the assistance of his sentiment and hypocrisy, he has brought him entirely into his interest with regard to Maria; while poor Charles has no friend in the house , though, I fear, he has a powerful one in Maria's heart, against whom we must direct our schemes.

Enter SERVANT, L. SERV. Mr. Surface.

LADY S. [Crosses c.] Show him up. [Exit Servant , 1.] He generally calls abow this time. I don't wonder at pe ple giving him to me for a lover.

Enter Joseph SURFACE , L. Joseph S. (L.) My dear Lady Sneerwell, how do you do to day? M. Snake, your most obedient.

LADY S. (c.) Snake has just been rallying me on our mutual attachment; but I have informed him of our real views. You know how useful he has been lo us,

and, be. lieve ine, the confidence is not ill placed.

JOSEPI S. Madam, it is impossible for me to suspect a man of Mr. Snake's sensibility and discernment.

LADY S. Well, well, no compliments now; but tell me when you saw your mistress, Maria-or, what is more material to me, your brother.

JOSEPH S. I have not seen either since I left you ; but I can inform you that they never meet. Some of your stories have taken a good effect on Maria.

Lady S. Ah! iny dear Snake! the merit of this belongs to you : but do your brother's distresses increase ?

Joseph S. Every hour. I am told he has had another execution in the house yesterday. In short, his dissipation and extravagance exceed any thing I have ever heard of.

LADY S. Poor Charles !

Joseph S. True, madam; notwithstanding leis vices, one cannot help feeling for him. Poor Charles! I'm sure I wish it were in my power to be of any essential service to him; for.the man who does not feel for the distresses of a friend, even though merited by his own misconduct, de


LÁDY S. O Lud! you are going to be moral, and forget that you are among friends.

Joseph S. Egad, that's true! I'll keep that sentiment till I see Sir Peter ;-however, it is certainly a charity to. rescue Maria from such a libertine, who, if he is to be reclaimed, can be so only by one of your ladyship's superior accomplishments and understanding.

Snake. I believe, Lady Sneerwell, here's company coming : I'll go and copy the letter I mentioned to you.—M'. Surface, your most obedient.

Joseph S. [Crossing to Snake.] Sir, your very devoted. [Exit Snake] Lady Sneerwell, I am very sorry you have put any farther confidence in that fellow.

LADY S. (L.) Why so?

Joseph S. (R.) I have lately detected him in frequent. conference with old Rowley, who was formerly my father's steward, and has never, you know, been a friend of mine.

Lady S. And do you think he would betray us ?

Joseph S. Nothing more likely :-take my word for't, Lady Sneerwell, that fellow hasn't virtue enough to be. faithful even to his own villainy.--Ah! Maria!

Enter Maria, L. LADY S. (c.) Maria, my dear, how do you do?--What's the matler?

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. (R.) If my brother Charles had been of the parly, 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


should avoid him so?

Maria. Oh, he has done nothing-but 'lis 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 Benjainin is a wit and a poet.

Maria. For my parl, own, madam , wit loses its respect with me, when I see it in company with maliceWhat do you think, Mr. Surface? [Crosses to hiin.]

Joseru 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. (L.) 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. Sursace ?

Joseph S: (R.) To be sure , madam; that conversation, where the spirit of raillery is suppressed, will ever appear tedious and insipid.

Maria. (c.) 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, L.] Now, Maria , however, here is a character 10 your laste : for though Mrs. Candour is a little talkative, every body allows her to 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.

JOSEPu S. l’faith that's true, Lady Snecrwell : whenever I bear 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!

X Х Enter Mrs. CANDOUR, L. Mrs. Can. My dear Lady Sneerwell, how have you been this century?

- Mr. Surface, what news do you hear?though indeed it is no malter, for I think one hears nothing else but scandal.

JOSEPH $. (R.)Just so, indeed, ma'am.


« 이전계속 »