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WYCHERLEY has this merit, that he was first in the field of our best

school of comedy-writers. He virtually began the school of the Restoration comic dramatists, the so-called comedy of manners. True it is that had Molière not written comedies Wycherley would not have written as he did, and it must be admitted that Sir George Etheredge wrote plays as unconventionally natural so far as dialogue is concerned as Wycherley's; but Etheredge's comedies are altogether beneath notice as literature, while Wycherley is, and ever will be, a true English classic. If he transferred to our stage whole scenes from Molière, he did them into strong, nervous English, racy with mother wit. Wycherley was a man of the world who lived in and knew intimately the little world of Charles II.'s day. The talk of courtiers and court ladies was the talk that was most familiar to him; their sentiments were his, their grossness was his, and their morality was not repugnant to him. He brought their talk, sentiments, grossness, and morals before the footlights. Few men- even the ablest-can bear in mind, when they write for the stage, that the dramatic art is a thing apart from and beside the literary art; that the time-followed devices and artifices of men of letters are thrown away on actors and audiences-in short, that plays are not books. Wycherley was but following the example of a far greater master of the art than himself of Molière-when he transferred the language of daily life to the stage-adding the point and trenchant vigour which it seldom possesses in daily life. That he did all this, and struck the first note of what now passes in the world as true comedy, is Wycherley's claim to immortality. If we read his 'Plain Dealer' or his 'Country Wife' after reading the Merry Wives of Windsor,' the nearest to modern comedy of all Shakspere's plays, we shall appreciate Wycherley's service to the English drama.

WYCHERLEY

THE PLAIN DEALER

THE
HE scene passes between Olivia, Eliza (her cousin),
Lettice (her maid), and Mr. Novel and Lord Plausible,
her friends and visitors.

Olivia has won the affections of Manly, the Plain Dealer, a hater of falseness and frivolity, by her affectation of great down-rightness, sincerity, and strictness of conduct. She rails in public at the fashions and follies of the world, which she secretly loves and practises. She deceives Manly, privately marries his bosom friend, and attempts to steal his money, left in her care. Eventually Manly's eyes are opened, and Olivia's conduct is publicly exposed.

OLIVIA'S Lodgings.

Enter OLIVIA, ELIZA, and Lettice.

Olivia. Ah, cousin, what a world 'tis we live in! I am so weary of it.

Eliza. Truly, cousin, I can find no fault with it, but that we cannot always live in 't, for I can never be weary of it.

Olivia. Oh hideous! You cannot be in earnest, sure, when you say you like the filthy world.

Eliza. You cannot be in earnest, sure, when you say you dislike it.

Olivia. You are a very censorious creature, I find. Eliza. I must confess I think we women as often discover where we love by our railing, as men when they lie by their swearing. . . . But is it possible the world, which has such variety of charms for other women, can have none for you? Let's see-first, what d'ye think of dressing and fine clothes?

...

Olivia. Dressing! Fy, fy, 'tis my aversion. (To LETTICE.) But come hither, you dowdy; methinks you might have opened this toure better; O hideous! I cannot suffer it! D'ye see how 't sits?

Eliza. Well enough, cousin, if dressing be your aversion.

Olivia. 'Tis so; and for variety of rich clothes, they are more my aversion.

Lettice. Ay, 'tis because your ladyship wears 'em too long; for indeed a gown, like a gallant, grows one's aversion by having too much of it.

Olivia. Insatiable creature! I'll be sworn I have had this not above three days, cousin, and within this month have made some six more.

Eliza. Then your aversion to 'em is not altogether so great.

Olivia. Alas! 'tis for my woman only I wear 'em, cousin.

Lettice. If it be for me only, madam, pray do not wear 'em.

Eliza. But what d'ye think of visits-balls?

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Olivia. O, I detest 'em.

Eliza. Of plays?

Olivia. I abominate 'em ; filthy, hideous things.

Eliza. What say you to masquerading in the winter, and Hyde-park in the summer?

Olivia. Insipid pleasures I taste not.

Eliza. Indeed! But let's see-will nothing please you? what d' ye think of the court?

Olivia. How, the court! the court, cousin! my aversion, my aversion, my aversion of all aversions !

Eliza. How, the court! where

Olivia. Where sincerity is a quality as much out of fashion and as unprosperous as bashfulness: I could not laugh at a quibble, though it were a fat privycounsellor's; nor praise a lord's ill verses, though I were myself the subject; nor an old lady's young looks, though I were her woman; nor sit to a vain young smile-maker, though he flattered me. In short, I could not glout upon a man when he comes into a room, and laugh at him when he goes out I cannot rail at the absent to flatter the standers-by; I—

Eliza. Well, but railing now is so common, that 'tis no more malice, but the fashion; and the absent think they are no more the worse for being railed at, than the present think they 're the better for being flattered. And for the court

'11

Olivia. Nay, do not defend the court; for you make me rail at it like a trusting citizen's widow.

Eliza. Or like a Holborn lady, who could not get in to the last ball, or was out of countenance in the drawing-room the last Sunday of her appearance there. For none rail at the court but those who cannot get into it, or else who are ridiculous when they are there; and I shall suspect you were laughed at when you were last there, or would be a maid of honour.

Olivia. I a maid of honour! To be a maid of honour, were of all things yet my aversion.

Eliza. In what sense am I to understand you? But in fine, by the word aversion, I'm sure you dissemble; for I never knew woman yet used it who did not. Come, our tongues belie our hearts more than our pocket-glasses do our faces. But methinks we ought to leave off dissembling, since 'tis grown of no use to us; for all wise observers understand us now-a-days, as they do dreams, almanacs, and Dutch gazettes, by the contrary and a man no more believes a woman when she says she has an aversion for him, than when

Olivia. O hideous! Peace, cousin, or your discourse will be my aversion: and you may believe me.

Eliza. Yes; for if anything be a woman's aversion, 'tis plain dealing from another woman: and perhaps that 's your quarrel to the world; for that will talk.

Olivia. Talk? not of me sure; for what men do I converse with? what visits do I admit ?

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