Part 1 out of 3
MRS WARREN'S PROFESSION
by George Bernard Shaw
With The Author's Apology (1902)
THE AUTHOR'S APOLOGY
Mrs Warren's Profession has been performed at last, after a delay
of only eight years; and I have once more shared with Ibsen the
triumphant amusement of startling all but the strongest-headed of
the London theatre critics clean out of the practice of their
profession. No author who has ever known the exultation of
sending the Press into an hysterical tumult of protest, of moral
panic, of involuntary and frantic confession of sin, of a horror
of conscience in which the power of distinguishing between the
work of art on the stage and the real life of the spectator is
confused and overwhelmed, will ever care for the stereotyped
compliments which every successful farce or melodrama elicits
from the newspapers. Give me that critic who rushed from my play
to declare furiously that Sir George Crofts ought to be kicked.
What a triumph for the actor, thus to reduce a jaded London
journalist to the condition of the simple sailor in the Wapping
gallery, who shouts execrations at Iago and warnings to Othello
not to believe him! But dearer still than such simplicity is
that sense of the sudden earthquake shock to the foundations of
morality which sends a pallid crowd of critics into the street
shrieking that the pillars of society are cracking and the ruin
of the State is at hand. Even the Ibsen champions of ten years
ago remonstrate with me just as the veterans of those brave days
remonstrated with them. Mr Grein, the hardy iconoclast who first
launched my plays on the stage alongside Ghosts and The Wild
Duck, exclaimed that I have shattered his ideals. Actually his
ideals! What would Dr Relling say? And Mr William Archer
himself disowns me because I "cannot touch pitch without
wallowing in it". Truly my play must be more needed than I knew;
and yet I thought I knew how little the others know.
Do not suppose, however, that the consternation of the Press
reflects any consternation among the general public. Anybody can
upset the theatre critics, in a turn of the wrist, by
substituting for the romantic commonplaces of the stage the moral
commonplaces of the pulpit, platform, or the library. Play Mrs
Warren's Profession to an audience of clerical members of the
Christian Social Union and of women well experienced in Rescue,
Temperance, and Girls' Club work, and no moral panic will arise;
every man and woman present will know that as long as poverty
makes virtue hideous and the spare pocket-money of rich
bachelordom makes vice dazzling, their daily hand-to-hand fight
against prostitution with prayer and persuasion, shelters and
scanty alms, will be a losing one. There was a time when they
were able to urge that though "the white-lead factory where Anne
Jane was poisoned" may be a far more terrible place than Mrs
Warren's house, yet hell is still more dreadful. Nowadays they
no longer believe in hell; and the girls among whom they are
working know that they do not believe in it, and would laugh at
them if they did. So well have the rescuers learnt that Mrs
Warren's defence of herself and indictment of society is the
thing that most needs saying, that those who know me personally
reproach me, not for writing this play, but for wasting my
energies on "pleasant plays" for the amusement of frivolous
people, when I can build up such excellent stage sermons on their
own work. Mrs Warren's Profession is the one play of mine which
I could submit to a censorship without doubt of the result; only,
it must not be the censorship of the minor theatre critic, nor of
an innocent court official like the Lord Chamberlain's Examiner,
much less of people who consciously profit by Mrs Warren's
profession, or who personally make use of it, or who hold the
widely whispered view that it is an indispensable safety-valve
for the protection of domestic virtue, or, above all, who are
smitten with a sentimental affection for our fallen sister, and
would "take her up tenderly, lift her with care, fashioned so
slenderly, young, and SO fair." Nor am I prepared to accept the
verdict of the medical gentlemen who would compulsorily sanitate
and register Mrs Warren, whilst leaving Mrs Warren's patrons,
especially her military patrons, free to destroy her health and
anybody else's without fear of reprisals. But I should be quite
content to have my play judged by, say, a joint committee of the
Central Vigilance Society and the Salvation Army. And the
sterner moralists the members of the committee were, the better.
Some of the journalists I have shocked reason so unripely that
they will gather nothing from this but a confused notion that I
am accusing the National Vigilance Association and the Salvation
Army of complicity in my own scandalous immorality. It will seem
to them that people who would stand this play would stand
anything. They are quite mistaken. Such an audience as I have
described would be revolted by many of our fashionable plays.
They would leave the theatre convinced that the Plymouth Brother
who still regards the playhouse as one of the gates of hell is
perhaps the safest adviser on the subject of which he knows so
little. If I do not draw the same conclusion, it is not because
I am one of those who claim that art is exempt from moral
obligations, and deny that the writing or performance of a play
is a moral act, to be treated on exactly the same footing as
theft or murder if it produces equally mischievous consequences.
I am convinced that fine art is the subtlest, the most seductive,
the most effective instrument of moral propaganda in the world,
excepting only the example of personal conduct; and I waive even
this exception in favor of the art of the stage, because it works
by exhibiting examples of personal conduct made intelligible and
moving to crowds of unobservant, unreflecting people to whom real
life means nothing. I have pointed out again and again that the
influence of the theatre in England is growing so great that
whilst private conduct, religion, law, science, politics, and
morals are becoming more and more theatrical, the theatre itself
remains impervious to common sense, religion, science, politics,
and morals. That is why I fight the theatre, not with pamphlets
and sermons and treatises, but with plays; and so effective do I
find the dramatic method that I have no doubt I shall at last
persuade even London to take its conscience and its brains with
it when it goes to the theatre, instead of leaving them at home
with its prayer-book as it does at present. Consequently, I am
the last man in the world to deny that if the net effect of
performing Mrs Warren's Profession were an increase in the number
of persons entering that profession, its performance should be
dealt with accordingly.
Now let us consider how such recruiting can be encouraged by the
theatre. Nothing is easier. Let the King's Reader of Plays,
backed by the Press, make an unwritten but perfectly well
understood regulation that members of Mrs Warren's profession
shall be tolerated on the stage only when they are beautiful,
exquisitely dressed, and sumptuously lodged and fed; also that
they shall, at the end of the play, die of consumption to the
sympathetic tears of the whole audience, or step into the next
room to commit suicide, or at least be turned out by their
protectors and passed on to be "redeemed" by old and faithful
lovers who have adored them in spite of their levities.
Naturally, the poorer girls in the gallery will believe in the
beauty, in the exquisite dresses, and the luxurious living, and
will see that there is no real necessity for the consumption, the
suicide, or the ejectment: mere pious forms, all of them, to save
the Censor's face. Even if these purely official catastrophes
carried any conviction, the majority of English girls remain so
poor, so dependent, so well aware that the drudgeries of such
honest work as is within their reach are likely enough to lead
them eventually to lung disease, premature death, and domestic
desertion or brutality, that they would still see reason to
prefer the primrose path to the strait path of virtue, since
both, vice at worst and virtue at best, lead to the same end in
poverty and overwork. It is true that the Board School mistress
will tell you that only girls of a certain kind will reason in
this way. But alas! that certain kind turns out on inquiry to be
simply the pretty, dainty kind: that is, the only kind that gets
the chance of acting on such reasoning. Read the first report of
the Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes [Bluebook C
4402, 8d., 1889]; read the Report on Home Industries (sacred
word, Home!) issued by the Women's Industrial Council [Home
Industries of Women in London, 1897, 1s., 12 Buckingham Street,
W. C.]; and ask yourself whether, if the lot in life therein
described were your lot in life, you would not prefer the lot of
Cleopatra, of Theodora, of the Lady of the Camellias, of Mrs
Tanqueray, of Zaza, of Iris. If you can go deep enough into
things to be able to say no, how many ignorant half-starved girls
will believe you are speaking sincerely? To them the lot of Iris
is heavenly in comparison with their own. Yet our King, like his
predecessors, says to the dramatist, "Thus, and thus only, shall
you present Mrs Warren's profession on the stage, or you shall
starve. Witness Shaw, who told the untempting truth about it,
and whom We, by the Grace of God, accordingly disallow and
suppress, and do what in Us lies to silence." Fortunately, Shaw
cannot be silenced. "The harlot's cry from street to street" is
louder than the voices of all the kings. I am not dependent on
the theatre, and cannot be starved into making my play a standing
advertisement of the attractive side of Mrs Warren's business.
Here I must guard myself against a misunderstanding. It is not
the fault of their authors that the long string of wanton's
tragedies, from Antony and Cleopatra to Iris, are snares to poor
girls, and are objected to on that account by many earnest men
and women who consider Mrs Warren's Profession an excellent
sermon. Mr Pinero is in no way bound to suppress the fact that
his Iris is a person to be envied by millions of better women.
If he made his play false to life by inventing fictitious
disadvantages for her, he would be acting as unscrupulously as
any tract writer. If society chooses to provide for its Irises
better than for its working women, it must not expect honest
playwrights to manufacture spurious evidence to save its credit.
The mischief lies in the deliberate suppression of the other side
of the case: the refusal to allow Mrs Warren to expose the
drudgery and repulsiveness of plying for hire among coarse,
tedious drunkards; the determination not to let the Parisian girl
in Brieux's Les Avaries come on the stage and drive into people's
minds what her diseases mean for her and for themselves. All
that, says the King's Reader in effect, is horrifying, loathsome.
Precisely: what does he expect it to be? would he have us
represent it as beautiful and gratifying? The answer to this
question, I fear, must be a blunt Yes; for it seems impossible to
root out of an Englishman's mind the notion that vice is
delightful, and that abstention from it is privation. At all
events, as long as the tempting side of it is kept towards the
public, and softened by plenty of sentiment and sympathy, it is
welcomed by our Censor, whereas the slightest attempt to place it
in the light of the policeman's lantern or the Salvation Army
shelter is checkmated at once as not merely disgusting, but, if
you please, unnecessary.
Everybody will, I hope, admit that this state of things is
intolerable; that the subject of Mrs Warren's profession must be
either tapu altogether, or else exhibited with the warning side
as freely displayed as the tempting side. But many persons will
vote for a complete tapu, and an impartial sweep from the boards
of Mrs Warren and Gretchen and the rest; in short, for banishing
the sexual instincts from the stage altogether. Those who think
this impossible can hardly have considered the number and
importance of the subjects which are actually banished from the
stage. Many plays, among them Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, Coriolanus,
Julius Caesar, have no sex complications: the thread of their
action can be followed by children who could not understand a
single scene of Mrs Warren's Profession or Iris. None of our
plays rouse the sympathy of the audience by an exhibition of the
pains of maternity, as Chinese plays constantly do. Each nation
has its own particular set of tapus in addition to the common
human stock; and though each of these tapus limits the scope of
the dramatist, it does not make drama impossible. If the
Examiner were to refuse to license plays with female characters
in them, he would only be doing to the stage what our tribal
customs already do to the pulpit and the bar. I have myself
written a rather entertaining play with only one woman in it, and
she is quite heartwhole; and I could just as easily write a play
without a woman in it at all. I will even go so far as to
promise the Mr Redford my support if he will introduce this
limitation for part of the year, say during Lent, so as to make a
close season for that dullest of stock dramatic subjects,
adultery, and force our managers and authors to find out what all
great dramatists find out spontaneously: to wit, that people who
sacrifice every other consideration to love are as hopelessly
unheroic on the stage as lunatics or dipsomaniacs. Hector is the
world's hero; not Paris nor Antony.
But though I do not question the possibility of a drama in which
love should be as effectively ignored as cholera is at present,
there is not the slightest chance of that way out of the
difficulty being taken by the Mr Redford. If he attempted it
there would be a revolt in which he would be swept away in spite
of my singlehanded efforts to defend him. A complete tapu is
politically impossible. A complete toleration is equally
impossible to Mr Redford, because his occupation would be gone if
there were no tapu to enforce. He is therefore compelled to
maintain the present compromise of a partial tapu, applied, to
the best of his judgement, with a careful respect to persons and
to public opinion. And a very sensible English solution of the
difficulty, too, most readers will say. I should not dispute it
if dramatic poets really were what English public opinion
generally assumes them to be during their lifetime: that is, a
licentiously irregular group to be kept in order in a rough and
ready way by a magistrate who will stand no nonsense from them.
But I cannot admit that the class represented by Eschylus,
Sophocles, Aristophanes, Euripides, Shakespear, Goethe, Ibsen,
and Tolstoy, not to mention our own contemporary playwrights, is
as much in place in Mr Redford's office as a pickpocket is in Bow
Street. Further, it is not true that the Censorship, though it
certainly suppresses Ibsen and Tolstoy, and would suppress
Shakespear but for the absurd rule that a play once licensed is
always licensed (so that Wycherly is permitted and Shelley
prohibited), also suppresses unscrupulous playwrights. I
challenge Mr Redford to mention any extremity of sexual
misconduct which any manager in his senses would risk presenting
on the London stage that has not been presented under his license
and that of his predecessor. The compromise, in fact, works out
in practice in favor of loose plays as against earnest ones.
To carry conviction on this point, I will take the extreme course
of narrating the plots of two plays witnessed within the last ten
years by myself at London West End theatres, one licensed by the
late Queen Victoria's Reader of Plays, the other by the present
Reader to the King. Both plots conform to the strictest rules of
the period when La Dame aux Camellias was still a forbidden play,
and when The Second Mrs Tanqueray would have been tolerated only
on condition that she carefully explained to the audience that
when she met Captain Ardale she sinned "but in intention."
Play number one. A prince is compelled by his parents to marry
the daughter of a neighboring king, but loves another maiden.
The scene represents a hall in the king's palace at night. The
wedding has taken place that day; and the closed door of the
nuptial chamber is in view of the audience. Inside, the princess
awaits her bridegroom. A duenna is in attendance. The
bridegroom enters. His sole desire is to escape from a marriage
which is hateful to him. An idea strikes him. He will assault
the duenna, and get ignominiously expelled from the palace by his
indignant father-in-law. To his horror, when he proceeds to
carry out this stratagem, the duenna, far from raising an alarm,
is flattered, delighted, and compliant. The assaulter becomes
the assaulted. He flings her angrily to the ground, where she
remains placidly. He flies. The father enters; dismisses the
duenna; and listens at the keyhole of his daughter's nuptial
chamber, uttering various pleasantries, and declaring, with a
shiver, that a sound of kissing, which he supposes to proceed
from within, makes him feel young again.
In deprecation of the scandalized astonishment with which such a
story as this will be read, I can only say that it was not
presented on the stage until its propriety had been certified by
the chief officer of the Queen of England's household.
Story number two. A German officer finds himself in an inn with
a French lady who has wounded his national vanity. He resolves
to humble her by committing a rape upon her. He announces his
purpose. She remonstrates, implores, flies to the doors and
finds them locked, calls for help and finds none at hand, runs
screaming from side to side, and, after a harrowing scene, is
overpowered and faints. Nothing further being possible on the
stage without actual felony, the officer then relents and leaves
her. When she recovers, she believes that he has carried out his
threat; and during the rest of the play she is represented as
vainly vowing vengeance upon him, whilst she is really falling in
love with him under the influence of his imaginary crime against
her. Finally she consents to marry him; and the curtain falls on
This story was certified by the present King's Reader, acting for
the Lord Chamberlain, as void in its general tendency of
"anything immoral or otherwise improper for the stage." But let
nobody conclude therefore that Mr Redford is a monster, whose
policy it is to deprave the theatre. As a matter of fact, both
the above stories are strictly in order from the official point
of view. The incidents of sex which they contain, though carried
in both to the extreme point at which another step would be dealt
with, not by the King's Reader, but by the police, do not involve
adultery, nor any allusion to Mrs Warren's profession, nor to the
fact that the children of any polyandrous group will, when they
grow up, inevitably be confronted, as those of Mrs Warren's group
are in my play, with the insoluble problem of their own possible
consanguinity. In short, by depending wholly on the coarse
humors and the physical fascination of sex, they comply with all
the formulable requirements of the Censorship, whereas plays in
which these humors and fascinations are discarded, and the social
problems created by sex seriously faced and dealt with,
inevitably ignore the official formula and are suppressed. If
the old rule against the exhibition of illicit sex relations on
stage were revived, and the subject absolutely barred, the only
result would be that Antony and Cleopatra, Othello (because of
the Bianca episode), Troilus and Cressida, Henry IV, Measure for
Measure, Timon of Athens, La Dame aux Camellias, The Profligate,
The Second Mrs Tanqueray, The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith, The Gay
Lord Quex, Mrs Dane's Defence, and Iris would be swept from the
stage, and placed under the same ban as Tolstoy's Dominion of
Darkness and Mrs Warren's Profession, whilst such plays as the
two described above would have a monopoly of the theatre as far
as sexual interest is concerned.
What is more, the repulsiveness of the worst of the certified
plays would protect the Censorship against effective exposure and
criticism. Not long ago an American Review of high standing
asked me for an article on the Censorship of the English stage.
I replied that such an article would involve passages too
disagreeable for publication in a magazine for general family
reading. The editor persisted nevertheless; but not until he had
declared his readiness to face this, and had pledged himself to
insert the article unaltered (the particularity of the pledge
extending even to a specification of the exact number of words in
the article) did I consent to the proposal. What was the result?
The editor, confronted with the two stories given above, threw
his pledge to the winds, and, instead of returning the article,
printed it with the illustrative examples omitted, and nothing
left but the argument from political principles against the
Censorship. In doing this he fired my broadside after
withdrawing the cannon balls; for neither the Censor nor any
other Englishman, except perhaps Mr Leslie Stephen and a few
other veterans of the dwindling old guard of Benthamism, cares a
dump about political principle. The ordinary Briton thinks that
if every other Briton is not kept under some form of tutelage,
the more childish the better, he will abuse his freedom
viciously. As far as its principle is concerned, the Censorship
is the most popular institution in England; and the playwright
who criticizes it is slighted as a blackguard agitating for
impunity. Consequently nothing can really shake the confidence
of the public in the Lord Chamberlain's department except a
remorseless and unbowdlerized narration of the licentious
fictions which slip through its net, and are hallmarked by it
with the approval of the Throne. But since these narrations
cannot be made public without great difficulty, owing to the
obligation an editor is under not to deal unexpectedly with
matters that are not _virginibus puerisque_, the chances are
heavily in favor of the Censor escaping all remonstrance. With
the exception of such comments as I was able to make in my own
critical articles in The World and The Saturday Review when the
pieces I have described were first produced, and a few ignorant
protests by churchmen against much better plays which they
confessed they had not seen nor read, nothing has been said in
the press that could seriously disturb the easygoing notion that
the stage would be much worse than it admittedly is but for the
vigilance of the King's Reader. The truth is, that no manager
would dare produce on his own responsibility the pieces he can
now get royal certificates for at two guineas per piece.
I hasten to add that I believe these evils to be inherent in the
nature of all censorship, and not merely a consequence of the
form the institution takes in London. No doubt there is a
staggering absurdity in appointing an ordinary clerk to see that
the leaders of European literature do not corrupt the morals of
the nation, and to restrain Sir Henry Irving, as a rogue and a
vagabond, from presuming to impersonate Samson or David on the
stage, though any other sort of artist may daub these scriptural
figures on a signboard or carve them on a tombstone without
hindrance. If the General Medical Council, the Royal College of
Physicians, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Incorporated Law
Society, and Convocation were abolished, and their functions
handed over to the Mr Redford, the Concert of Europe would
presumably declare England mad, and treat her accordingly. Yet,
though neither medicine nor painting nor law nor the Church
moulds the character of the nation as potently as the theatre
does, nothing can come on the stage unless its dimensions admit
of its passing through Mr Redford's mind! Pray do not think that
I question Mr Redford's honesty. I am quite sure that he
sincerely thinks me a blackguard, and my play a grossly improper
one, because, like Tolstoy's Dominion of Darkness, it produces,
as they are both meant to produce, a very strong and very painful
impression of evil. I do not doubt for a moment that the rapine
play which I have described, and which he licensed, was quite
incapable in manuscript of producing any particular effect on his
mind at all, and that when he was once satisfied that the ill-
conducted hero was a German and not an English officer, he passed
the play without studying its moral tendencies. Even if he had
undertaken that study, there is no more reason to suppose that he
is a competent moralist than there is to suppose that I am a
competent mathematician. But truly it does not matter whether he
is a moralist or not. Let nobody dream for a moment that what is
wrong with the Censorship is the shortcoming of the gentleman who
happens at any moment to be acting as Censor. Replace him to-
morrow by an Academy of Letters and an Academy of Dramatic
Poetry, and the new and enlarged filter will still exclude
original and epoch-making work, whilst passing conventional, old-
fashioned, and vulgar work without question. The conclave which
compiles the index of the Roman Catholic Church is the most
august, ancient, learned, famous, and authoritative censorship in
Europe. Is it more enlightened, more liberal, more tolerant that
the comparatively infinitesimal office of the Lord Chamberlain?
On the contrary, it has reduced itself to a degree of absurdity
which makes a Catholic university a contradiction in terms. All
censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current
conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated
by challenging current concepts, and executed by supplanting
existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of
progress is the removal of censorships. There is the whole case
against censorships in a nutshell.
It will be asked whether theatrical managers are to be allowed to
produce what they like, without regard to the public interest.
But that is not the alternative. The managers of our London
music-halls are not subject to any censorship. They produce
their entertainments on their own responsibility, and have no
two-guinea certificates to plead if their houses are conducted
viciously. They know that if they lose their character, the
County Council will simply refuse to renew their license at the
end of the year; and nothing in the history of popular art is
more amazing than the improvement in music-halls that this simple
arrangement has produced within a few years. Place the theatres
on the same footing, and we shall promptly have a similar
revolution: a whole class of frankly blackguardly plays, in which
unscrupulous low comedians attract crowds to gaze at bevies of
girls who have nothing to exhibit but their prettiness, will
vanish like the obscene songs which were supposed to enliven the
squalid dulness, incredible to the younger generation, of the
music-halls fifteen years ago. On the other hand, plays which
treat sex questions as problems for thought instead of as
aphrodisiacs will be freely performed. Gentlemen of Mr Redford's
way of thinking will have plenty of opportunity of protesting
against them in Council; but the result will be that the Mr
Redford will find his natural level; Ibsen and Tolstoy theirs; so
no harm will be done.
This question of the Censorship reminds me that I have to
apologize to those who went to the recent performance of Mrs
Warren's Profession expecting to find it what I have just called
an aphrodisiac. That was not my fault; it was Mr Redford's.
After the specimens I have given of the tolerance of his
department, it was natural enough for thoughtless people to infer
that a play which overstepped his indulgence must be a very
exciting play indeed. Accordingly, I find one critic so explicit
as to the nature of his disappointment as to say candidly that
"such airy talk as there is upon the matter is utterly unworthy
of acceptance as being a representation of what people with blood
in them think or do on such occasions." Thus am I crushed
between the upper millstone of the Mr Redford, who thinks me a
libertine, and the nether popular critic, who thinks me a prude.
Critics of all grades and ages, middle-aged fathers of families
no less than ardent young enthusiasts, are equally indignant with
me. They revile me as lacking in passion, in feeling, in
manhood. Some of them even sum the matter up by denying me any
dramatic power: a melancholy betrayal of what dramatic power has
come to mean on our stage under the Censorship! Can I be
expected to refrain from laughing at the spectacle of a number of
respectable gentlemen lamenting because a playwright lures them
to the theatre by a promise to excite their senses in a very
special and sensational manner, and then, having successfully
trapped them in exceptional numbers, proceeds to ignore their
senses and ruthlessly improve their minds? But I protest again
that the lure was not mine. The play had been in print for four
years; and I have spared no pains to make known that my plays are
built to induce, not voluptuous reverie but intellectual
interest, not romantic rhapsody but humane concern. Accordingly,
I do not find those critics who are gifted with intellectual
appetite and political conscience complaining of want of dramatic
power. Rather do they protest, not altogether unjustly, against
a few relapses into staginess and caricature which betray the
young playwright and the old playgoer in this early work of mine.
As to the voluptuaries, I can assure them that the playwright,
whether he be myself or another, will always disappoint them.
The drama can do little to delight the senses: all the apparent
instances to the contrary are instances of the personal
fascination of the performers. The drama of pure feeling is no
longer in the hands of the playwright: it has been conquered by
the musician, after whose enchantments all the verbal arts seem
cold and tame. Romeo and Juliet with the loveliest Juliet is
dry, tedious, and rhetorical in comparison with Wagner's Tristan,
even though Isolde be both fourteen stone and forty, as she often
is in Germany. Indeed, it needed no Wagner to convince the
public of this. The voluptuous sentimentality of Gounod's Faust
and Bizet's Carmen has captured the common playgoer; and there
is, flatly, no future now for any drama without music except the
drama of thought. The attempt to produce a genus of opera
without music (and this absurdity is what our fashionable
theatres have been driving at for a long time without knowing it)
is far less hopeful than my own determination to accept problem
as the normal materiel of the drama.
That this determination will throw me into a long conflict with
our theatre critics, and with the few playgoers who go to the
theatre as often as the critics, I well know; but I am too well
equipped for the strife to be deterred by it, or to bear malice
towards the losing side. In trying to produce the sensuous
effects of opera, the fashionable drama has become so flaccid in
its sentimentality, and the intellect of its frequenters so
atrophied by disuse, that the reintroduction of problem, with its
remorseless logic and iron framework of fact, inevitably produces
at first an overwhelming impression of coldness and inhuman
rationalism. But this will soon pass away. When the
intellectual muscle and moral nerve of the critics has been
developed in the struggle with modern problem plays, the pettish
luxuriousness of the clever ones, and the sulky sense of
disadvantaged weakness in the sentimental ones, will clear away;
and it will be seen that only in the problem play is there any
real drama, because drama is no mere setting up of the camera to
nature: it is the presentation in parable of the conflict between
Man's will and his environment: in a word, of problem. The
vapidness of such drama as the pseudo-operatic plays contain lies
in the fact that in them animal passion, sentimentally diluted,
is shewn in conflict, not with real circumstances, but with a set
of conventions and assumptions half of which do not exist off the
stage, whilst the other half can either be evaded by a pretence
of compliance or defied with complete impunity by any reasonably
strong-minded person. Nobody can feel that such conventions are
really compulsory; and consequently nobody can believe in the
stage pathos that accepts them as an inexorable fate, or in the
genuineness of the people who indulge in such pathos. Sitting at
such plays, we do not believe: we make-believe. And the habit of
make-believe becomes at last so rooted that criticism of the
theatre insensibly ceases to be criticism at all, and becomes
more and more a chronicle of the fashionable enterprises of the
only realities left on the stage: that is, the performers in
their own persons. In this phase the playwright who attempts to
revive genuine drama produces the disagreeable impression of the
pedant who attempts to start a serious discussion at a
fashionable at-home. Later on, when he has driven the tea
services out and made the people who had come to use the theatre
as a drawing-room understand that it is they and not the
dramatist who are the intruders, he has to face the accusation
that his plays ignore human feeling, an illusion produced by that
very resistance of fact and law to human feeling which creates
drama. It is the _deus ex machina_ who, by suspending that
resistance, makes the fall of the curtain an immediate necessity,
since drama ends exactly where resistance ends. Yet the
introduction of this resistance produces so strong an impression
of heartlessness nowadays that a distinguished critic has summed
up the impression made on him by Mrs Warren's Profession, by
declaring that "the difference between the spirit of Tolstoy and
the spirit of Mr Shaw is the difference between the spirit of
Christ and the spirit of Euclid." But the epigram would be as
good if Tolstoy's name were put in place of mine and D'Annunzio's
in place of Tolstoy. At the same time I accept the enormous
compliment to my reasoning powers with sincere complacency; and I
promise my flatterer that when he is sufficiently accustomed to
and therefore undazzled by problem on the stage to be able to
attend to the familiar factor of humanity in it as well as to the
unfamiliar one of a real environment, he will both see and feel
that Mrs Warren's Profession is no mere theorem, but a play of
instincts and temperaments in conflict with each other and with a
flinty social problem that never yields an inch to mere
I go further than this. I declare that the real secret of the
cynicism and inhumanity of which shallower critics accuse me is
the unexpectedness with which my characters behave like human
beings, instead of conforming to the romantic logic of the stage.
The axioms and postulates of that dreary mimanthropometry are so
well known that it is almost impossible for its slaves to write
tolerable last acts to their plays, so conventionally do their
conclusions follow from their premises. Because I have thrown
this logic ruthlessly overboard, I am accused of ignoring, not
stage logic, but, of all things, human feeling. People with
completely theatrified imaginations tell me that no girl would
treat her mother as Vivie Warren does, meaning that no stage
heroine would in a popular sentimental play. They say this just
as they might say that no two straight lines would enclose a
space. They do not see how completely inverted their vision has
become even when I throw its preposterousness in their faces, as
I repeatedly do in this very play. Praed, the sentimental artist
(fool that I was not to make him a theatre critic instead of an
architect!) burlesques them by expecting all through the piece
that the feelings of others will be logically deducible from
their family relationships and from his "conventionally
unconventional" social code. The sarcasm is lost on the critics:
they, saturated with the same logic, only think him the sole
sensible person on the stage. Thus it comes about that the more
completely the dramatist is emancipated from the illusion that
men and women are primarily reasonable beings, and the more
powerfully he insists on the ruthless indifference of their great
dramatic antagonist, the external world, to their whims and
emotions, the surer he is to be denounced as blind to the very
distinction on which his whole work is built. Far from ignoring
idiosyncrasy, will, passion, impulse, whim, as factors in human
action, I have placed them so nakedly on the stage that the
elderly citizen, accustomed to see them clothed with the veil of
manufactured logic about duty, and to disguise even his own
impulses from himself in this way, finds the picture as unnatural
as Carlyle's suggested painting of parliament sitting without its
I now come to those critics who, intellectually baffled by the
problem in Mrs Warren's Profession, have made a virtue of running
away from it. I will illustrate their method by quotation from
Dickens, taken from the fifth chapter of Our Mutual Friend:
"Hem!" began Wegg. "This, Mr Boffin and Lady, is the first
chapter of the first wollume of the Decline and Fall off ---"
here he looked hard at the book, and stopped.
"What's the matter, Wegg?"
"Why, it comes into my mind, do you know, sir," said Wegg with an
air of insinuating frankness (having first again looked hard at
the book), that you made a little mistake this morning, which I
had meant to set you right in; only something put it out of my
head. I think you said Rooshan Empire, sir?"
"It is Rooshan; ain't it, Wegg?"
"No, sir. Roman. Roman."
"What's the difference, Wegg?"
"The difference, sir?" Mr Wegg was faltering and in danger of
breaking down, when a bright thought flashed upon him. "The
difference, sir? There you place me in a difficulty, Mr Boffin.
Suffice it to observe, that the difference is best postponed to
some other occasion when Mrs Boffin does not honor us with her
company. In Mrs Boffin's presence, sir, we had better drop it."
Mr Wegg thus came out of his disadvantage with quite a chivalrous
air, and not only that, but by dint of repeating with a manly
delicacy, "In Mrs Boffin's presence, sir, we had better drop it!"
turned the disadvantage on Boffin, who felt that he had committed
himself in a very painful manner.
I am willing to let Mr Wegg drop it on these terms, provided I am
allowed to mention here that Mrs Warren's Profession is a play
for women; that it was written for women; that it has been
performed and produced mainly through the determination of women
that it should be performed and produced; that the enthusiasm of
women made its first performance excitingly successful; and that
not one of these women had any inducement to support it except
their belief in the timeliness and the power of the lesson the
play teaches. Those who were "surprised to see ladies present"
were men; and when they proceeded to explain that the journals
they represented could not possibly demoralize the public by
describing such a play, their editors cruelly devoted the space
saved by their delicacy to an elaborate and respectful account of
the progress of a young lord's attempt to break the bank at Monte
Carlo. A few days sooner Mrs Warren would have been crowded out
of their papers by an exceptionally abominable police case. I do
not suggest that the police case should have been suppressed; but
neither do I believe that regard for public morality had anything
to do with their failure to grapple with the performance by the
Stage Society. And, after all, there was no need to fall back on
Silas Wegg's subterfuge. Several critics saved the faces of
their papers easily enough by the simple expedient of saying all
they had to say in the tone of a shocked governess lecturing a
naughty child. To them I might plead, in Mrs Warren's words,
"Well, it's only good manners to be ashamed, dearie;" but it
surprises me, recollecting as I do the effect produced by Miss
Fanny Brough's delivery of that line, that gentlemen who shivered
like violets in a zephyr as it swept through them, should so
completely miss the full width of its application as to go home
and straightway make a public exhibition of mock modesty.
My old Independent Theatre manager, Mr Grein, besides that
reproach to me for shattering his ideals, complains that Mrs
Warren is not wicked enough, and names several romancers who
would have clothed her black soul with all the terrors of
tragedy. I have no doubt they would; but if you please, my dear
Grein, that is just what I did not want to do. Nothing would
please our sanctimonious British public more than to throw the
whole guilt of Mrs Warren's profession on Mrs Warren herself.
Now the whole aim of my play is to throw that guilt on the
British public itself. You may remember that when you produced
my first play, Widowers' Houses, exactly the same
misunderstanding arose. When the virtuous young gentleman rose
up in wrath against the slum landlord, the slum landlord very
effectively shewed him that slums are the product, not of
individual Harpagons, but of the indifference of virtuous young
gentlemen to the condition of the city they live in, provided
they live at the west end of it on money earned by someone else's
labor. The notion that prostitution is created by the wickedness
of Mrs Warren is as silly as the notion--prevalent, nevertheless,
to some extent in Temperance circles--that drunkenness is created
by the wickedness of the publican. Mrs Warren is not a whit a
worse woman than the reputable daughter who cannot endure her.
Her indifference to the ultimate social consequences of her means
of making money, and her discovery of that means by the ordinary
method of taking the line of least resistance to getting it, are
too common in English society to call for any special remark.
Her vitality, her thrift, her energy, her outspokenness, her wise
care of her daughter, and the managing capacity which has enabled
her and her sister to climb from the fried fish shop down by the
Mint to the establishments of which she boasts, are all high
English social virtues. Her defence of herself is so
overwhelming that it provokes the St James Gazette to declare
that "the tendency of the play is wholly evil" because "it
contains one of the boldest and most specious defences of an
immoral life for poor women that has ever been penned." Happily
the St James Gazette here speaks in its haste. Mrs Warren's
defence of herself is not only bold and specious, but valid and
unanswerable. But it is no defence at all of the vice which she
organizes. It is no defence of an immoral life to say that the
alternative offered by society collectively to poor women is a
miserable life, starved, overworked, fetid, ailing, ugly. Though
it is quite natural and RIGHT for Mrs Warren to choose what is,
according to her lights, the least immoral alternative, it is
none the less infamous of society to offer such alternatives.
For the alternatives offered are not morality and immorality, but
two sorts of immorality. The man who cannot see that starvation,
overwork, dirt, and disease are as anti-social as prostitution--
that they are the vices and crimes of a nation, and not merely
its misfortunes--is (to put it as politely as possible) a
hopelessly Private Person.
The notion that Mrs Warren must be a fiend is only an example of
the violence and passion which the slightest reference to sex
arouses in undisciplined minds, and which makes it seem natural
for our lawgivers to punish silly and negligible indecencies with
a ferocity unknown in dealing with, for example, ruinous
financial swindling. Had my play been titled Mr Warren's
Profession, and Mr Warren been a bookmaker, nobody would have
expected me to make him a villain as well. Yet gambling is a
vice, and bookmaking an institution, for which there is
absolutely nothing to be said. The moral and economic evil done
by trying to get other people's money without working for it (and
this is the essence of gambling) is not only enormous but
uncompensated. There are no two sides to the question of
gambling, no circumstances which force us to tolerate it lest its
suppression lead to worse things, no consensus of opinion among
responsible classes, such as magistrates and military commanders,
that it is a necessity, no Athenian records of gambling made
splendid by the talents of its professors, no contention that
instead of violating morals it only violates a legal institution
which is in many respects oppressive and unnatural, no possible
plea that the instinct on which it is founded is a vital one.
Prostitution can confuse the issue with all these excuses:
gambling has none of them. Consequently, if Mrs Warren must
needs be a demon, a bookmaker must be a cacodemon. Well, does
anybody who knows the sporting world really believe that
bookmakers are worse than their neighbors? On the contrary, they
have to be a good deal better; for in that world nearly everybody
whose social rank does not exclude such an occupation would be a
bookmaker if he could; but the strength of character for handling
large sums of money and for strict settlements and unflinching
payment of losses is so rare that successful bookmakers are rare
too. It may seem that at least public spirit cannot be one of a
bookmaker's virtues; but I can testify from personal experience
that excellent public work is done with money subscribed by
bookmakers. It is true that there are abysses in bookmaking: for
example, welshing. Mr Grein hints that there are abysses in Mrs
Warren's profession also. So there are in every profession: the
error lies in supposing that every member of them sounds these
depths. I sit on a public body which prosecutes Mrs Warren
zealously; and I can assure Mr Grein that she is often leniently
dealt with because she has conducted her business "respectably"
and held herself above its vilest branches. The degrees in
infamy are as numerous and as scrupulously observed as the
degrees in the peerage: the moralist's notion that there are
depths at which the moral atmosphere ceases is as delusive as the
rich man's notion that there are no social jealousies or
snobberies among the very poor. No: had I drawn Mrs Warren as a
fiend in human form, the very people who now rebuke me for
flattering her would probably be the first to deride me for
deducing her character logically from occupation instead of
observing it accurately in society.
One critic is so enslaved by this sort of logic that he calls my
portraiture of the Reverend Samuel Gardner an attack on religion.
According to this view Subaltern Iago is an attack on the army,
Sir John Falstaff an attack on knighthood, and King Claudius an
attack on royalty. Here again the clamor for naturalness and
human feeling, raised by so many critics when they are confronted
by the real thing on the stage, is really a clamor for the most
mechanical and superficial sort of logic. The dramatic reason
for making the clergyman what Mrs Warren calls "an old stick-in-
the-mud," whose son, in spite of much capacity and charm, is a
cynically worthless member of society, is to set up a mordant
contrast between him and the woman of infamous profession, with
her well brought-up, straightforward, hardworking daughter. The
critics who have missed the contrast have doubtless observed
often enough that many clergymen are in the Church through no
genuine calling, but simply because, in circles which can command
preferment, it is the refuge of "the fool of the family"; and
that clergymen's sons are often conspicuous reactionists against
the restraints imposed on them in childhood by their father's
profession. These critics must know, too, from history if not
from experience, that women as unscrupulous as Mrs Warren have
distinguished themselves as administrators and rulers, both
commercially and politically. But both observation and knowledge
are left behind when journalists go to the theatre. Once in
their stalls, they assume that it is "natural" for clergymen to
be saintly, for soldiers to be heroic, for lawyers to be hard-
hearted, for sailors to be simple and generous, for doctors to
perform miracles with little bottles, and for Mrs Warren to be a
beast and a demon. All this is not only not natural, but not
dramatic. A man's profession only enters into the drama of his
life when it comes into conflict with his nature. The result of
this conflict is tragic in Mrs Warren's case, and comic in the
clergyman's case (at least we are savage enough to laugh at it);
but in both cases it is illogical, and in both cases natural. I
repeat, the critics who accuse me of sacrificing nature to logic
are so sophisticated by their profession that to them logic is
nature, and nature absurdity.
Many friendly critics are too little skilled in social questions
and moral discussions to be able to conceive that respectable
gentlemen like themselves, who would instantly call the police to
remove Mrs Warren if she ventured to canvass them personally,
could possibly be in any way responsible for her proceedings.
They remonstrate sincerely, asking me what good such painful
exposures can possibly do. They might as well ask what good Lord
Shaftesbury did by devoting his life to the exposure of evils (by
no means yet remedied) compared to which the worst things brought
into view or even into surmise by this play are trifles. The
good of mentioning them is that you make people so extremely
uncomfortable about them that they finally stop blaming "human
nature" for them, and begin to support measures for their reform.
Can anything be more absurd than the copy of The Echo which
contains a notice of the performance of my play? It is edited by
a gentleman who, having devoted his life to work of the
Shaftesbury type, exposes social evils and clamors for their
reform in every column except one; and that one is occupied by
the declaration of the paper's kindly theatre critic, that the
performance left him "wondering what useful purpose the play was
intended to serve." The balance has to be redressed by the more
fashionable papers, which usually combine capable art criticism
with West-End solecism on politics and sociology. It is very
noteworthy, however, on comparing the press explosion produced by
Mrs Warren's Profession in 1902 with that produced by Widowers'
Houses about ten years earlier, that whereas in 1892 the facts
were frantically denied and the persons of the drama flouted as
monsters of wickedness, in 1902 the facts are admitted and the
characters recognized, though it is suggested that this is
exactly why no gentleman should mention them in public. Only one
writer has ventured to imply this time that the poverty mentioned
by Mrs Warren has since been quietly relieved, and need not have
been dragged back to the footlights. I compliment him on his
splendid mendacity, in which he is unsupported, save by a little
plea in a theatrical paper which is innocent enough to think that
ten guineas a year with board and lodging is an impossibly low
wage for a barmaid. It goes on to cite Mr Charles Booth as
having testified that there are many laborers' wives who are
happy and contented on eighteen shillings a week. But I can go
further than that myself. I have seen an Oxford agricultural
laborer's wife looking cheerful on eight shillings a week; but
that does not console me for the fact that agriculture in England
is a ruined industry. If poverty does not matter as long as it
is contented, then crime does not matter as long as it is
unscrupulous. The truth is that it is only then that it does
matter most desperately. Many persons are more comfortable when
they are dirty than when they are clean; but that does not
recommend dirt as a national policy.
Here I must for the present break off my arduous work of
educating the Press. We shall resume our studies later on; but
just now I am tired of playing the preceptor; and the eager
thirst of my pupils for improvement does not console me for the
slowness of their progress. Besides, I must reserve space to
gratify my own vanity and do justice to the six artists who acted
my play, by placing on record the hitherto unchronicled success
of the first representation. It is not often that an author,
after a couple of hours of those rare alternations of excitement
and intensely attentive silence which only occur in the theatre
when actors and audience are reacting on one another to the
utmost, is able to step on the stage and apply the strong word
genius to the representation with the certainty of eliciting an
instant and overwhelming assent from the audience. That was my
good fortune on the afternoon of Sunday, the fifth of January
last. I was certainly extremely fortunate in my interpreters in
the enterprise, and that not alone in respect of their artistic
talent; for had it not been for their superhuman patience, their
imperturbable good humor and good fellowship, there could have
been no performance. The terror of the Censor's power gave us
trouble enough to break up any ordinary commercial enterprise.
Managers promised and even engaged their theatres to us after the
most explicit warnings that the play was unlicensed, and at the
last moment suddenly realized that Mr Redford had their
livelihoods in the hollow of his hand, and backed out. Over and
over again the date and place were fixed and the tickets printed,
only to be canceled, until at last the desperate and overworked
manager of the Stage Society could only laugh, as criminals
broken on the wheel used to laugh at the second stroke. We
rehearsed under great difficulties. Christmas pieces and plays
for the new year were being produced in all directions; and my
six actor colleagues were busy people, with engagements in these
pieces in addition to their current professional work every
night. On several raw winter days stages for rehearsal were
unattainable even by the most distinguished applicants; and we
shared corridors and saloons with them whilst the stage was given
over to children in training for Boxing night. At last we had to
rehearse at an hour at which no actor or actress has been out of
bed within the memory of man; and we sardonically congratulated
one another every morning on our rosy matutinal looks and the
improvement wrought by our early rising in our health and
characters. And all this, please observe, for a society without
treasury or commercial prestige, for a play which was being
denounced in advance as unmentionable, for an author without
influence at the fashionable theatres! I victoriously challenge
the West End managers to get as much done for interested motives,
if they can.
Three causes made the production the most notable that has fallen
to my lot. First, the veto of the Censor, which put the
supporters of the play on their mettle. Second, the chivalry of
the Stage Society, which, in spite of my urgent advice to the
contrary, and my demonstration of the difficulties, dangers, and
expenses the enterprise would cost, put my discouragements to
shame and resolved to give battle at all costs to the attempt of
the Censorship to suppress the play. Third, the artistic spirit
of the actors, who made the play their own and carried it through
triumphantly in spite of a series of disappointments and
annoyances much more trying to the dramatic temperament than mere
The acting, too, required courage and character as well as skill
and intelligence. The veto of the Censor introduced quite a
novel element of moral responsibility into the undertaking. And
the characters were very unusual on the English stage. The
younger heroine is, like her mother, an Englishwoman to the
backbone, and not, like the heroines of our fashionable drama, a
prima donna of Italian origin. Consequently she was sure to be
denounced as unnatural and undramatic by the critics. The most
vicious man in the play is not in the least a stage villain;
indeed, he regards his own moral character with the sincere
complacency of a hero of melodrama. The amiable devotee of
romance and beauty is shewn at an age which brings out the
futilization which these worships are apt to produce if they are
made the staple of life instead of the sauce. The attitude of
the clever young people to their elders is faithfully represented
as one of pitiless ridicule and unsympathetic criticism, and
forms a spectacle incredible to those who, when young, were not
cleverer than their nearest elders, and painful to those
sentimental parents who shrink from the cruelty of youth, which
pardons nothing because it knows nothing. In short, the
characters and their relations are of a kind that the routineer
critic has not yet learned to place; so that their
misunderstanding was a foregone conclusion. Nevertheless, there
was no hesitation behind the curtain. When it went up at last, a
stage much too small for the company was revealed to an
auditorium much too small for the audience. But the players,
though it was impossible for them to forget their own discomfort,
at once made the spectators forget theirs. It certainly was a
model audience, responsive from the first line to the last; and
it got no less than it deserved in return.
I grieve to add that the second performance, given for the
edification of the London Press and of those members of the Stage
Society who cannot attend the Sunday performances, was a less
inspiriting one than the first. A solid phalanx of theatre-weary
journalists in an afternoon humor, most of them committed to
irreconcilable disparagement of problem plays, and all of them
bound by etiquette to be as undemonstrative as possible, is not
exactly the sort of audience that rises at the performers and
cures them of the inevitable reaction after an excitingly
successful first night. The artist nature is a sensitive and
therefore a vindictive one; and masterful players have a way with
recalcitrant audiences of rubbing a play into them instead of
delighting them with it. I should describe the second
performance of Mrs Warren's Profession, especially as to its
earlier stages, as decidedly a rubbed-in one. The rubbing was no
doubt salutary; but it must have hurt some of the thinner skins.
The charm of the lighter passages fled; and the strong scenes,
though they again carried everything before them, yet discharged
that duty in a grim fashion, doing execution on the enemy rather
than moving them to repentance and confession. Still, to those
who had not seen the first performance, the effect was
sufficiently impressive; and they had the advantage of witnessing
a fresh development in Mrs Warren, who, artistically jealous, as
I took it, of the overwhelming effect of the end of the second
act on the previous day, threw herself into the fourth act in
quite a new way, and achieved the apparently impossible feat of
surpassing herself. The compliments paid to Miss Fanny Brough by
the critics, eulogistic as they are, are the compliments of men
three-fourths duped as Partridge was duped by Garrick. By much
of her acting they were so completely taken in that they did not
recognize it as acting at all. Indeed, none of the six players
quite escaped this consequence of their own thoroughness. There
was a distinct tendency among the less experienced critics to
complain of their sentiments and behavior. Naturally, the author
does not share that grievance.
PICCARD'S COTTAGE, JANUARY 1902.
[Mrs Warren's Profession was performed for the first time in the
theatre of the New Lyric Club, London, on the 5th and 6th January
1902, with Madge McIntosh as Vivie, Julius Knight as Praed, Fanny
Brough as Mrs Warren, Charles Goodhart as Crofts, Harley
Granville-Barker as Frank, and Cosmo Stuart as the Reverend
[Summer afternoon in a cottage garden on the eastern slope of a
hill a little south of Haslemere in Surrey. Looking up the hill,
the cottage is seen in the left hand corner of the garden, with
its thatched roof and porch, and a large latticed window to the
left of the porch. A paling completely shuts in the garden,
except for a gate on the right. The common rises uphill beyond
the paling to the sky line. Some folded canvas garden chairs are
leaning against the side bench in the porch. A lady's bicycle is
propped against the wall, under the window. A little to the
right of the porch a hammock is slung from two posts. A big
canvas umbrella, stuck in the ground, keeps the sun off the
hammock, in which a young lady is reading and making notes, her
head towards the cottage and her feet towards the gate. In front
of the hammock, and within reach of her hand, is a common kitchen
chair, with a pile of serious-looking books and a supply of
writing paper on it.]
[A gentleman walking on the common comes into sight from behind
the cottage. He is hardly past middle age, with something of the
artist about him, unconventionally but carefully dressed, and
clean-shaven except for a moustache, with an eager susceptible
face and very amiable and considerate manners. He has silky
black hair, with waves of grey and white in it. His eyebrows are
white, his moustache black. He seems not certain of his way. He
looks over the palings; takes stock of the place; and sees the
THE GENTLEMAN [taking off his hat] I beg your pardon. Can you
direct me to Hindhead View--Mrs Alison's?
THE YOUNG LADY [glancing up from her book] This is Mrs Alison's.
[She resumes her work].
THE GENTLEMAN. Indeed! Perhaps--may I ask are you Miss Vivie
THE YOUNG LADY [sharply, as she turns on her elbow to get a good
look at him] Yes.
THE GENTLEMAN [daunted and conciliatory] I'm afraid I appear
intrusive. My name is Praed. [Vivie at once throws her books
upon the chair, and gets out of the hammock]. Oh, pray don't let
me disturb you.
VIVIE [striding to the gate and opening it for him] Come in, Mr
Praed. [He comes in]. Glad to see you. [She proffers her hand
and takes his with a resolute and hearty grip. She is an
attractive specimen of the sensible, able, highly-educated young
middle-class Englishwoman. Age 22. Prompt, strong, confident,
self-possessed. Plain business-like dress, but not dowdy. She
wears a chatelaine at her belt, with a fountain pen and a paper
knife among its pendants].
PRAED. Very kind of you indeed, Miss Warren. [She shuts the gate
with a vigorous slam. He passes in to the middle of the garden,
exercising his fingers, which are slightly numbed by her
greeting]. Has your mother arrived?
VIVIE [quickly, evidently scenting aggression] Is she coming?
PRAED [surprised] Didn't you expect us?
PRAED. Now, goodness me, I hope Ive not mistaken the day. That
would be just like me, you know. Your mother arranged that she
was to come down from London and that I was to come over from
Horsham to be introduced to you.
VIVIE [not at all pleased] Did she? Hm! My mother has rather a
trick of taking me by surprise--to see how I behave myself while
she's away, I suppose. I fancy I shall take my mother very much
by surprise one of these days, if she makes arrangements that
concern me without consulting me beforehand. She hasnt come.
PRAED [embarrassed] I'm really very sorry.
VIVIE [throwing off her displeasure] It's not your fault, Mr
Praed, is it? And I'm very glad youve come. You are the only
one of my mother's friends I have ever asked her to bring to see
PRAED [relieved and delighted] Oh, now this is really very good
of you, Miss Warren!
VIVIE. Will you come indoors; or would you rather sit out here
PRAED. It will be nicer out here, dont you think?
VIVIE. Then I'll go and get you a chair. [She goes to the porch
for a garden chair].
PRAED [following her] Oh, pray, pray! Allow me. [He lays hands
on the chair].
VIVIE [letting him take it] Take care of your fingers; theyre
rather dodgy things, those chairs. [She goes across to the chair
with the books on it; pitches them into the hammock; and brings
the chair forward with one swing].
PRAED [who has just unfolded his chair] Oh, now d o let me take
that hard chair. I like hard chairs.
VIVIE. So do I. Sit down, Mr Praed. [This invitation she gives
with a genial peremptoriness, his anxiety to please her clearly
striking her as a sign of weakness of character on his part. But
he does not immediately obey].
PRAED. By the way, though, hadnt we better go to the station to
meet your mother?
VIVIE [coolly] Why? She knows the way.
PRAED [disconcerted] Er--I suppose she does [he sits down].
VIVIE. Do you know, you are just like what I expected. I hope
you are disposed to be friends with me.
PRAED [again beaming] Thank you, my d e a r Miss Warren; thank
you. Dear me! I'm so glad your mother hasnt spoilt you!
PRAED. Well, in making you too conventional. You know, my dear
Miss Warren, I am a born anarchist. I hate authority. It spoils
the relations between parent and child; even between mother and
daughter. Now I was always afraid that your mother would strain
her authority to make you very conventional. It's such a relief
to find that she hasnt.
VIVIE. Oh! have I been behaving unconventionally?
PRAED. Oh no: oh dear no. At least, not conventionally
unconventionally, you understand. [She nods and sits down. He
goes on, with a cordial outburst] But it was so charming of you
to say that you were disposed to be friends with me! You modern
young ladies are splendid: perfectly splendid!
VIVIE [dubiously] Eh? [watching him with dawning disappointment
as to the quality of his brains and character].
PRAED. When I was your age, young men and women were afraid of
each other: there was no good fellowship. Nothing real. Only
gallantry copied out of novels, and as vulgar and affected as it
could be. Maidenly reserve! gentlemanly chivalry! always saying
no when you meant yes! simple purgatory for shy and sincere
VIVIE. Yes, I imagine there must have been a frightful waste of
time. Especially women's time.
PRAED. Oh, waste of life, waste of everything. But things are
improving. Do you know, I have been in a positive state of
excitement about meeting you ever since your magnificent
achievements at Cambridge: a thing unheard of in my day. It was
perfectly splendid, your tieing with the third wrangler. Just
the right place, you know. The first wrangler is always a
dreamy, morbid fellow, in whom the thing is pushed to the length
of a disease.
VIVIE. It doesnt pay. I wouldnt do it again for the same money.
PRAED [aghast] The same money!
VIVIE. Yes. Fifty pounds. Perhaps you dont know how it was.
Mrs Latham, my tutor at Newnham, told my mother that I could
distinguish myself in the mathematical tripos if I went in for it
in earnest. The papers were full just then of Phillipa Summers
beating the senior wrangler. You remember about it, of course.
PRAED [shakes his head energetically] !!!
VIVIE. Well, anyhow, she did; and nothing would please my mother
but that I should do the same thing. I said flatly that it was
not worth my while to face the grind since I was not going in for
teaching; but I offered to try for fourth wrangler or thereabouts
for fifty pounds. She closed with me at that, after a little
grumbling; and I was better than my bargain. But I wouldnt do it
again for that. Two hundred pounds would have been nearer the
PRAED [much damped] Lord bless me! Thats a very practical way of
looking at it.
VIVIE. Did you expect to find me an unpractical person?
PRAED. But surely it's practical to consider not only the work
these honors cost, but also the culture they bring.
VIVIE. Culture! My dear Mr Praed: do you know what the
mathematical tripos means? It means grind, grind, grind for six
to eight hours a day at mathematics, and nothing but mathematics.
I'm supposed to know something about science; but I know nothing
except the mathematics it involves. I can make calculations for
engineers, electricians, insurance companies, and so on; but I
know next to nothing about engineering or electricity or
insurance. I dont even know arithmetic well. Outside
mathematics, lawn-tennis, eating, sleeping, cycling, and walking,
I'm a more ignorant barbarian than any woman could possibly be
who hadnt gone in for the tripos.
PRAED [revolted] What a monstrous, wicked, rascally system! I
knew it! I felt at once that it meant destroying all that makes
VIVIE. I dont object to it on that score in the least. I shall
turn it to very good account, I assure you.
PRAED. Pooh! In what way?
VIVIE. I shall set up chambers in the City, and work at
actuarial calculations and conveyancing. Under cover of that I
shall do some law, with one eye on the Stock Exchange all the
time. Ive come down here by myself to read law: not for a
holiday, as my mother imagines. I hate holidays.
PRAED. You make my blood run cold. Are you to have no romance,
no beauty in your life?
VIVIE. I dont care for either, I assure you.
PRAED. You cant mean that.
VIVIE. Oh yes I do. I like working and getting paid for it.
When I'm tired of working, I like a comfortable chair, a cigar, a
little whisky, and a novel with a good detective story in it.
PRAED [rising in a frenzy of repudiation] I dont believe it. I
am an artist; and I cant believe it: I refuse to believe it.
It's only that you havnt discovered yet what a wonderful world
art can open up to you.
VIVIE. Yes I have. Last May I spent six weeks in London with
Honoria Fraser. Mamma thought we were doing a round of
sightseeing together; but I was really at Honoria's chambers in
Chancery Lane every day, working away at actuarial calculations
for her, and helping her as well as a greenhorn could. In the
evenings we smoked and talked, and never dreamt of going out
except for exercise. And I never enjoyed myself more in my life.
I cleared all my expenses and got initiated into the business
without a fee in the bargain.
PRAED. But bless my heart and soul, Miss Warren, do you call
that discovering art?
VIVIE. Wait a bit. That wasnt the beginning. I went up to town
on an invitation from some artistic people in Fitzjohn's Avenue:
one of the girls was a Newnham chum. They took me to the
PRAED [approving] Ah!! [He sits down, much relieved].
VIVIE [continuing] --to the Opera--
PRAED [still more pleased] Good!
VIVIE. --and to a concert where the band played all the evening:
Beethoven and Wagner and so on. I wouldnt go through that
experience again for anything you could offer me. I held out for
civility's sake until the third day; and then I said, plump out,
that I couldnt stand any more of it, and went off to Chancery
Lane. N o w you know the sort of perfectly splendid modern young
lady I am. How do you think I shall get on with my mother?
PRAED [startled] Well, I hope--er--
VIVIE. It's not so much what you hope as what you believe, that
I want to know.
PRAED. Well, frankly, I am afraid your mother will be a little
disappointed. Not from any shortcoming on your part, you know: I
dont mean that. But you are so different from her ideal.
VIVIE. Her what?!
PRAED. Her ideal.
VIVIE. Do you mean her ideal of ME?
VIVIE. What on earth is it like?
PRAED. Well, you must have observed, Miss Warren, that people
who are dissatisfied with their own bringing-up generally think
that the world would be all right if everybody were to be brought
up quite differently. Now your mother's life has been--er--I
suppose you know--
VIVIE. Dont suppose anything, Mr Praed. I hardly know my
mother. Since I was a child I have lived in England, at school
or at college, or with people paid to take charge of me. I have
been boarded out all my life. My mother has lived in Brussels or
Vienna and never let me go to her. I only see her when she
visits England for a few days. I dont complain: it's been very
pleasant; for people have been very good to me; and there has
always been plenty of money to make things smooth. But dont
imagine I know anything about my mother. I know far less than
PRAED [very ill at ease] In that case-- [He stops, quite at a
loss. Then, with a forced attempt at gaiety] But what nonsense
we are talking! Of course you and your mother will get on
capitally. [He rises, and looks abroad at the view]. What a
charming little place you have here!
VIVIE [unmoved] Rather a violent change of subject, Mr Praed.
Why wont my mother's life bear being talked about?
PRAED. Oh, you mustnt say that. Isnt it natural that I should
have a certain delicacy in talking to my old friend's daughter
about her behind her back? You and she will have plenty of
opportunity of talking about it when she comes.
VIVIE. No: s h e wont talk about it either. [Rising] However, I
daresay you have good reasons for telling me nothing. Only, mind
this, Mr Praed, I expect there will be a battle royal when my
mother hears of my Chancery Lane project.
PRAED [ruefully] I'm afraid there will.
VIVIE. Well, I shall win because I want nothing but my fare to
London to start there to-morrow earning my own living by
devilling for Honoria. Besides, I have no mysteries to keep up;
and it seems she has. I shall use that advantage over her if
PRAED [greatly shocked] Oh no! No, pray. Youd not do such a
VIVIE. Then tell me why not.
PRAED. I really cannot. I appeal to your good feeling. [She
smiles at his sentimentality]. Besides, you may be too bold.
Your mother is not to be trifled with when she's angry.
VIVIE. You cant frighten me, Mr Praed. In that month at
Chancery Lane I had opportunities of taking the measure of one or
two women v e r y like my mother. You may back me to win. But
if I hit harder in my ignorance than I need, remember it is you
who refuse to enlighten me. Now, let us drop the subject. [She
takes her chair and replaces it near the hammock with the same
vigorous swing as before].
PRAED [taking a desperate resolution] One word, Miss Warren. I
had better tell you. It's very difficult; but--
[Mrs Warren and Sir George Crofts arrive at the gate. Mrs Warren
is between 40 and 50, formerly pretty, showily dressed in a
brilliant hat and a gay blouse fitting tightly over her bust and
flanked by fashionable sleeves. Rather spoilt and domineering,
and decidedly vulgar, but, on the whole, a genial and fairly
presentable old blackguard of a woman.]
[Crofts is a tall powerfully-built man of about 50, fashionably
dressed in the style of a young man. Nasal voice, reedier than
might be expected from his strong frame. Clean-shaven bulldog
jaws, large flat ears, and thick neck: gentlemanly combination of
the most brutal types of city man, sporting man, and man about
VIVIE. Here they are. [Coming to them as they enter the garden]
How do, mater? Mr Praed's been here this half hour, waiting for
MRS WARREN. Well, if youve been waiting, Praddy, it's your own
fault: I thought youd have had the gumption to know I was coming
by the 3.10 train. Vivie: put your hat on, dear: youll get
sunburnt. Oh, I forgot to introduce you. Sir George Crofts: my
[Crofts advances to Vivie with his most courtly manner. She
nods, but makes no motion to shake hands.]
CROFTS. May I shake hands with a young lady whom I have known by
reputation very long as the daughter of one of my oldest friends?
VIVIE [who has been looking him up and down sharply] If you like.
[She takes his tenderly proferred hand and gives it a squeeze
that makes him open his eyes; then turns away, and says to her
mother] Will you come in, or shall I get a couple more chairs?
[She goes into the porch for the chairs].
MRS WARREN. Well, George, what do you think of her?
CROFTS [ruefully] She has a powerful fist. Did you shake hands
with her, Praed?
PRAED. Yes: it will pass off presently.
CROFTS. I hope so. [Vivie reappears with two more chairs. He
hurries to her assistance]. Allow me.
MRS WARREN [patronizingly] Let Sir George help you with the
VIVIE [pitching them into his arms] Here you are. [She dusts her
hands and turns to Mrs Warren]. Youd like some tea, wouldnt you?
MRS WARREN [sitting in Praed's chair and fanning herself] I'm
dying for a drop to drink.
VIVIE. I'll see about it. [She goes into the cottage].
[Sir George has by this time managed to unfold a chair and plant
it by Mrs Warren, on her left. He throws the other on the grass
and sits down, looking dejected and rather foolish, with the
handle of his stick in his mouth. Praed, still very uneasy,
fidgets around the garden on their right.]
MRS WARREN [to Praed, looking at Crofts] Just look at him,
Praddy: he looks cheerful, dont he? He's been worrying my life
out these three years to have that little girl of mine shewn to
him; and now that Ive done it, he's quite out of countenance.
[Briskly] Come! sit up, George; and take your stick out of your
mouth. [Crofts sulkily obeys].
PRAED. I think, you know--if you dont mind my saying so--that we
had better get out of the habit of thinking of her as a little
girl. You see she has really distinguished herself; and I'm not
sure, from what I have seen of her, that she is not older than
any of us.
MRS WARREN [greatly amused] Only listen to him, George! Older
than any of us! Well she h a s been stuffing you nicely with her
PRAED. But young people are particularly sensitive about being
treated in that way.
MRS WARREN. Yes; and young people have to get all that nonsense
taken out of them, and good deal more besides. Dont you
interfere, Praddy: I know how to treat my own child as well as
you do. [Praed, with a grave shake of his head, walks up the
garden with his hands behind his back. Mrs Warren pretends to
laugh, but looks after him with perceptible concern. Then, she
whispers to Crofts] Whats the matter with him? What does he take
it like that for?
CROFTS [morosely] Youre afraid of Praed.
MRS WARREN. What! Me! Afraid of dear old Praddy! Why, a fly
wouldnt be afraid of him.
CROFTS. Y o u r e afraid of him.
MRS WARREN [angry] I'll trouble you to mind your own business,
and not try any of your sulks on me. I'm not afraid of y o u,
anyhow. If you cant make yourself agreeable, youd better go
home. [She gets up, and, turning her back on him, finds herself
face to face with Praed]. Come, Praddy, I know it was only your
tender-heartedness. Youre afraid I'll bully her.
PRAED. My dear Kitty: you think I'm offended. Dont imagine
that: pray dont. But you know I often notice things that escape
you; and though you never take my advice, you sometimes admit
afterwards that you ought to have taken it.
MRS WARREN. Well, what do you notice now?
PRAED. Only that Vivie is a grown woman. Pray, Kitty, treat her
with every respect.
MRS WARREN [with genuine amazement] Respect! Treat my own
daughter with respect! What next, pray!
VIVIE [appearing at the cottage door and calling to Mrs Warren]
Mother: will you come to my room before tea?
MRS WARREN. Yes, dearie. [She laughs indulgently at Praed's
gravity, and pats him on the cheek as she passes him on her way
to the porch]. Dont be cross, Praddy. [She follows Vivie into
CROFTS [furtively] I say, Praed.
CROFTS. I want to ask you a rather particular question.
PRAED. Certainly. [He takes Mrs Warren's chair and sits close
CROFTS. Thats right: they might hear us from the window. Look
here: did Kitty every tell you who that girl's father is?
CROFTS. Have you any suspicion of who it might be?
CROFTS [not believing him] I know, of course, that you perhaps
might feel bound not to tell if she had said anything to you.
But it's very awkward to be uncertain about it now that we shall
be meeting the girl every day. We dont exactly know how we ought
to feel towards her.
PRAED. What difference can that make? We take her on her own
merits. What does it matter who her father was?
CROFTS [suspiciously] Then you know who he was?
PRAED [with a touch of temper] I said no just now. Did you not
CROFTS. Look here, Praed. I ask you as a particular favor. If
you d o know [movement of protest from Praed] --I only say, if
you know, you might at least set my mind at rest about her. The
fact is, I fell attracted.
PRAED [sternly] What do you mean?
CROFTS. Oh, dont be alarmed: it's quite an innocent feeling.
Thats what puzzles me about it. Why, for all I know, _I_ might
be her father.
PRAED. You! Impossible!
CROFTS [catching him up cunningly] You know for certain that I'm
PRAED. I know nothing about it, I tell you, any more than you.
But really, Crofts--oh no, it's out of the question. Theres not
the least resemblance.
CROFTS. As to that, theres no resemblance between her and her
mother that I can see. I suppose she's not y o u r daughter, is
PRAED [rising indignantly] Really, Crofts--!
CROFTS. No offence, Praed. Quite allowable as between two men
of the world.
PRAED [recovering himself with an effort and speaking gently and
gravely] Now listen to me, my dear Crofts. [He sits down again].
I have nothing to do with that side of Mrs Warren's life, and
never had. She has never spoken to me about it; and of course I
have never spoken to her about it. Your delicacy will tell you
that a handsome woman needs some friends who are not--well, not
on that footing with her. The effect of her own beauty would
become a torment to her if she could not escape from it
occasionally. You are probably on much more confidential terms
with Kitty than I am. Surely you can ask her the question
CROFTS. I h a v e asked her, often enough. But she's so
determined to keep the child all to herself that she would deny
that it ever had a father if she could. [Rising] I'm thoroughly
uncomfortable about it, Praed.
PRAED [rising also] Well, as you are, at all events, old enough
to be her father, I dont mind agreeing that we both regard Miss
Vivie in a parental way, as a young girl who we are bound to
protect and help. What do you say?
CROFTS [aggressively] I'm no older than you, if you come to that.
PRAED. Yes you are, my dear fellow: you were born old. I was
born a boy: Ive never been able to feel the assurance of a grown-
up man in my life. [He folds his chair and carries it to the
MRS WARREN [calling from within the cottage] Prad-dee! George!
CROFTS [hastily] She's calling us. [He hurries in].
[Praed shakes his head bodingly, and is following Crofts when he
is hailed by a young gentleman who has just appeared on the
common, and is making for the gate. He is pleasant, pretty,
smartly dressed, cleverly good-for-nothing, not long turned 20,
with a charming voice and agreeably disrespectful manners. He
carries a light sporting magazine rifle.]
THE YOUNG GENTLEMAN. Hallo! Praed!
PRAED. Why, Frank Gardner! [Frank comes in and shakes hands
cordially]. What on earth are you doing here?
FRANK. Staying with my father.
PRAED. The Roman father?
FRANK. He's rector here. I'm living with my people this autumn
for the sake of economy. Things came to a crisis in July: the
Roman father had to pay my debts. He's stony broke in
consequence; and so am I. What are you up to in these parts? do
you know the people here?
PRAED. Yes: I'm spending the day with a Miss Warren.
FRANK [enthusiastically] What! Do you know Vivie? Isnt she a
jolly girl? I'm teaching her to shoot with this [putting down
the rifle]. I'm so glad she knows you: youre just the sort of
fellow she ought to know. [He smiles, and raises the charming
voice almost to a singing tone as he exclaims] It's e v e r so
jolly to find you here, Praed.
PRAED. I'm an old friend of her mother. Mrs Warren brought me
over to make her daughter's acquaintance.
FRANK. The mother! Is s h e here?
PRAED. Yes: inside, at tea.
MRS WARREN [calling from within] Prad-dee-ee-ee-eee! The tea-
cake'll be cold.
PRAED [calling] Yes, Mrs Warren. In a moment. Ive just met a
MRS WARREN. A what?
PRAED [louder] A friend.
MRS WARREN. Bring him in.
PRAED. All right. [To Frank] Will you accept the invitation?
FRANK [incredulous, but immensely amused] Is that Vivie's mother?
FRANK. By Jove! What a lark! Do you think she'll like me?
PRAED. Ive no doubt youll make yourself popular, as usual. Come
in and try [moving towards the house].
FRANK. Stop a bit. [Seriously] I want to take you into my
PRAED. Pray dont. It's only some fresh folly, like the barmaid
FRANK. It's ever so much more serious than that. You say youve
only just met Vivie for the first time?
FRANK [rhapsodically] Then you can have no idea what a girl she
is. Such character! Such sense! And her cleverness! Oh, my
eye, Praed, but I can tell you she is clever! And--need I add?--
she loves me.
CROFTS [putting his head out of the window] I say, Praed: what
are you about? Do come along. [He disappears].
FRANK. Hallo! Sort of chap that would take a prize at a dog
show, aint he? Who's he?
PRAED. Sir George Crofts, an old friend of Mrs Warren's. I
think we had better come in.
[On their way to the porch they are interrupted by a call from
the gate. Turning, they see an elderly clergyman looking over
THE CLERGYMAN [calling] Frank!
FRANK. Hallo! [To Praed] The Roman father. [To the clergyman]
Yes, gov'nor: all right: presently. [To Praed] Look here, Praed:
youd better go in to tea. I'll join you directly.
PRAED. Very good. [He goes into the cottage].
[The clergyman remains outside the gate, with his hands on the
top of it. The Rev. Samuel Gardner, a beneficed clergyman of the
Established Church, is over 50. Externally he is pretentious,
booming, noisy, important. Really he is that obsolescent
phenomenon the fool of the family dumped on the Church by his
father the patron, clamorously asserting himself as father and
clergyman without being able to command respect in either
REV. S. Well, sir. Who are your friends here, if I may ask?
FRANK. Oh, it's all right, gov'nor! Come in.
REV. S. No, sir; not until I know whose garden I am entering.
FRANK. It's all right. It's Miss Warren's.
REV. S. I have not seen her at church since she came.
FRANK. Of course not: she's a third wrangler. Ever so
intellectual. Took a higher degree than you did; so why should
she go to hear you preach?
REV. S. Dont be disrespectful, sir.
FRANK. Oh, it dont matter: nobody hears us. Come in. [He opens
the gate, unceremoniously pulling his father with it into the
garden]. I want to introduce you to her. Do you remember the
advice you gave me last July, gov'nor?
REV. S. [severely] Yes. I advised you to conquer your idleness
and flippancy, and to work your way into an honorable profession
and live on it and not upon me.
FRANK. No: thats what you thought of afterwards. What you
actually said was that since I had neither brains nor money, I'd
better turn my good looks to account by marrying someone with
both. Well, look here. Miss Warren has brains: you cant deny
REV. S. Brains are not everything.
FRANK. No, of course not: theres the money--
REV. S. [interrupting him austerely] I was not thinking of money,
sir. I was speaking of higher things. Social position, for
FRANK. I dont care a rap about that.
REV. S. But I do, sir.
FRANK. Well, nobody wants y o u to marry her. Anyhow, she has
what amounts to a high Cambridge degree; and she seems to have as
much money as she wants.
REV. S. [sinking into a feeble vein of humor] I greatly doubt
whether she has as much money as y o u will want.
FRANK. Oh, come: I havnt been so very extravagant. I live ever
so quietly; I dont drink; I dont bet much; and I never go
regularly to the razzle-dazzle as you did when you were my age.
REV. S. [booming hollowly] Silence, sir.
FRANK. Well, you told me yourself, when I was making every such
an ass of myself about the barmaid at Redhill, that you once
offered a woman fifty pounds for the letters you wrote to her
REV. S. [terrified] Sh-sh-sh, Frank, for Heaven's sake! [He
looks round apprehensively Seeing no one within earshot he
plucks up courage to boom again, but more subduedly]. You are
taking an ungentlemanly advantage of what I confided to you for
your own good, to save you from an error you would have repented
all your life long. Take warning by your father's follies, sir;
and dont make them an excuse for your own.
FRANK. Did you ever hear the story of the Duke of Wellington and
REV. S. No, sir; and I dont want to hear it.
FRANK. The old Iron Duke didnt throw away fifty pounds: not he.
He just wrote: "Dear Jenny: publish and be damned! Yours
affectionately, Wellington." Thats what you should have done.
REV. S. [piteously] Frank, my boy,: when I wrote those letters I
put myself into that woman's power. When I told you about them I
put myself, to some extent, I am sorry to say, in your power.
She refused my money with these words, which I shall never
forget. "Knowledge is power" she said; "and I never sell power."
Thats more than twenty years ago; and she has never made use of
her power or caused me a moment's uneasiness. You are behaving
worse to me than she did, Frank.
FRANK. Oh yes I dare say! Did you ever preach at her the way
you preach at me every day?
REV. S. [wounded almost to tears] I leave you, sir. You are
incorrigible. [He turns towards the gate].
FRANK [utterly unmoved] Tell them I shant be home to tea, will
you, gov'nor, like a good fellow? [He moves towards the cottage
door and is met by Praed and Vivie coming out].
VIVIE [to Frank] Is that your father, Frank? I do so want to
FRANK. Certainly. [Calling after his father] Gov'nor. Youre
wanted. [The parson turns at the gate, fumbling nervously at his
hat. Praed crosses the garden to the opposite side, beaming in
anticipation of civilities]. My father: Miss Warren.
VIVIE [going to the clergyman and shaking his hand] Very glad to
see you here, Mr Gardner. [Calling to the cottage] Mother: come
along: youre wanted.
[Mrs Warren appears on the threshold, and is immediately
transfixed, recognizing the clergyman.]
VIVIE [continuing] Let me introduce--
MRS WARREN [swooping on the Reverend Samuel] Why it's Sam
Gardner, gone into the Church! Well, I never! Dont you know us,
Sam? This is George Crofts, as large as life and twice as
natural. Dont you remember me?
REV. S. [very red] I really--er--
MRS WARREN. Of course you do. Why, I have a whole album of your
letters still: I came across them only the other day.
REV. S. [miserably confused] Miss Vavasour, I believe.
MRS WARREN [correcting him quickly in a loud whisper] Tch!
Nonsense! Mrs Warren: dont you see my daughter there?
[Inside the cottage after nightfall. Looking eastward from
within instead of westward from without, the latticed window,
with its curtains drawn, is now seen in the middle of the front
wall of the cottage, with the porch door to the left of it. In
the left-hand side wall is the door leading to the kitchen.
Farther back against the same wall is a dresser with a candle and
matches on it, and Frank's rifle standing beside them, with the
barrel resting in the plate-rack. In the centre a table stands
with a lighted lamp on it. Vivie's books and writing materials
are on a table to the right of the window, against the wall. The
fireplace is on the right, with a settle: there is no fire. Two
of the chairs are set right and left of the table.]
[The cottage door opens, shewing a fine starlit night without;
and Mrs Warren, her shoulders wrapped in a shawl borrowed from
Vivie, enters, followed by Frank, who throws his cap on the
window seat. She has had enough of walking, and gives a gasp of
relief as she unpins her hat; takes it off; sticks the pin
through the crown; and puts it on the table.]
MRS WARREN. O Lord! I dont know which is the worst of the
country, the walking or the sitting at home with nothing to do.
I could do with a whisky and soda now very well, if only they had
such a things in this place.
FRANK. Perhaps Vivie's got some.
MRS WARREN. Nonsense! What would a young girl like her be doing
with such things! Never mind: it dont matter. I wonder how she
passes her time here! I'd a good deal rather be in Vienna.
FRANK. Let me take you there. [He helps her to take off her
shawl, gallantly giving her shoulders a very perceptible squeeze
as he does so].
MRS WARREN. Ah! would you? I'm beginning to think youre a chip
of the old block.
FRANK. Like the gov'nor, eh? [He hangs the shawl on the nearest
chair, and sits down].
MRS WARREN. Never you mind. What do you know about such things?
Youre only a boy. [She goes to the hearth to be farther from
FRANK. Do come to Vienna with me? It'd be ever such larks.
MRS WARREN. No, thank you. Vienna is no place for you--at least
not until youre a little older. [She nods at him to emphasize
this piece of advice. He makes a mock-piteous face, belied by
his laughing eyes. She looks at him; then comes back to him].
Now, look here, little boy [taking his face in her hands and
turning it up to her]: I know you through and through by your
likeness to your father, better than you know yourself. Dont you
go taking any silly ideas into your head about me. Do you hear?
FRANK [gallantly wooing her with his voice] Cant help it, my dear
Mrs Warren: it runs in the family.
[She pretends to box his ears; then looks at the pretty laughing
upturned face of a moment, tempted. At last she kisses him, and
immediately turns away, out of patience with herself.]
MRS WARREN. There! I shouldnt have done that. I a m wicked.
Never you mind, my dear: it's only a motherly kiss. Go and make
love to Vivie.
FRANK. So I have.
MRS WARREN [turning on him with a sharp note of alarm in her
FRANK. Vivie and I are ever such chums.
MRS WARREN. What do you mean? Now see here: I wont have any
young scamp tampering with my little girl. Do you hear? I wont
FRANK [quite unabashed] My dear Mrs Warren: dont you be alarmed.
My intentions are honorable: ever so honorable; and your little
girl is jolly well able to take care of herself. She dont need
looking after half so much as her mother. She aint so handsome,
MRS WARREN [taken aback by his assurance] Well, you have got a
nice healthy two inches of cheek all over you. I dont know where
you got it. Not from your father, anyhow.
CROFTS [in the garden] The gipsies, I suppose?
REV. S. [replying] The broomsquires are far worse.
MRS WARREN [to Frank] S-sh! Remember! youve had your warning.
[Crofts and the Reverend Samuel Gardner come in from the garden,
the clergyman continuing his conversation as he enters.]
REV. S. The perjury at the Winchester assizes is deplorable.
MRS WARREN. Well? what became of you two? And wheres Praddy and
CROFTS [putting his hat on the settle and his stick in the
chimney corner] They went up the hill. We went to the village.
I wanted a drink. [He sits down on the settle, putting his legs
up along the seat].
MRS WARREN. Well, she oughtnt to go off like that without
telling me. [To Frank] Get your father a chair, Frank: where are
your manners? [Frank springs up and gracefully offers his father
his chair; then takes another from the wall and sits down at the
table, in the middle, with his father on his right and Mrs Warren
on his left]. George: where are you going to stay to-night? You
cant stay here. And whats Praddy going to do?
CROFTS. Gardner'll put me up.
MRS WARREN. Oh, no doubt youve taken care of yourself! But what
CROFTS. Dont know. I suppose he can sleep at the inn.
MRS WARREN. Havnt you room for him, Sam?
REV. S. Well--er--you see, as rector here, I am not free to do
as I like. Er--what is Mr Praed's social position?
MRS WARREN. Oh, he's all right: he's an architect. What an old
stick-in-the-mud you are, Sam!
FRANK. Yes, it's all right, gov'nor. He built that place down
in Wales for the Duke. Caernarvon Castle they call it. You must
have heard of it. [He winks with lightning smartness at Mrs
Warren, and regards his father blandly].
REV. S. Oh, in that case, of course we shall only be too happy.
I suppose he knows the Duke personally.
FRANK. Oh, ever so intimately! We can stick him in Georgina's
MRS WARREN. Well, thats settled. Now if those two would only