The Way of the World by William Congreve

Audire est operae pretium, prcedere recte Qui maechis non vultis.–HOR. Sat. i. 2, 37. – Metuat doti deprensa.–Ibid. TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE RALPH, EARL OF MOUNTAGUE, ETC. My Lord,–Whether the world will arraign me of vanity or not, that I have presumed to dedicate this comedy to your lordship, I am yet in doubt; though,
The Way of the World by William Congreve
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Audire est operae pretium, prcedere recte Qui maechis non vultis.–HOR. Sat. i. 2, 37. – Metuat doti deprensa.–Ibid.


My Lord,–Whether the world will arraign me of vanity or not, that I have presumed to dedicate this comedy to your lordship, I am yet in doubt; though, it may be, it is some degree of vanity even to doubt of it. One who has at any time had the honour of your lordship’s conversation, cannot be supposed to think very meanly of that which he would prefer to your perusal. Yet it were to incur the imputation of too much sufficiency to pretend to such a merit as might abide the test of your lordship’s censure.

Whatever value may be wanting to this play while yet it is mine, will be sufficiently made up to it when it is once become your lordship’s; and it is my security, that I cannot have overrated it more by my dedication than your lordship will dignify it by your patronage.

That it succeeded on the stage was almost beyond my expectation; for but little of it was prepared for that general taste which seems now to be predominant in the palates of our audience.

Those characters which are meant to be ridiculed in most of our comedies are of fools so gross, that in my humble opinion they should rather disturb than divert the well-natured and reflecting part of an audience; they are rather objects of charity than contempt, and instead of moving our mirth, they ought very often to excite our compassion.

This reflection moved me to design some characters which should appear ridiculous not so much through a natural folly (which is incorrigible, and therefore not proper for the stage) as through an affected wit: a wit which, at the same time that it is affected, is also false. As there is some difficulty in the formation of a character of this nature, so there is some hazard which attends the progress of its success upon the stage: for many come to a play so overcharged with criticism, that they very often let fly their censure, when through their rashness they have mistaken their aim. This I had occasion lately to observe: for this play had been acted two or three days before some of these hasty judges could find the leisure to distinguish betwixt the character of a Witwoud and a Truewit.

I must beg your lordship’s pardon for this digression from the true course of this epistle; but that it may not seem altogether impertinent, I beg that I may plead the occasion of it, in part of that excuse of which I stand in need, for recommending this comedy to your protection. It is only by the countenance of your lordship, and the FEW so qualified, that such who write with care and pains can hope to be distinguished: for the prostituted name of poet promiscuously levels all that bear it.

Terence, the most correct writer in the world, had a Scipio and a Lelius, if not to assist him, at least to support him in his reputation. And notwithstanding his extraordinary merit, it may be their countenance was not more than necessary.

The purity of his style, the delicacy of his turns, and the justness of his characters, were all of them beauties which the greater part of his audience were incapable of tasting. Some of the coarsest strokes of Plautus, so severely censured by Horace, were more likely to affect the multitude; such, who come with expectation to laugh at the last act of a play, and are better entertained with two or three unseasonable jests than with the artful solution of the fable.

As Terence excelled in his performances, so had he great advantages to encourage his undertakings, for he built most on the foundations of Menander: his plots were generally modelled, and his characters ready drawn to his hand. He copied Menander; and Menander had no less light in the formation of his characters from the observations of Theophrastus, of whom he was a disciple; and Theophrastus, it is known, was not only the disciple, but the immediate successor of Aristotle, the first and greatest judge of poetry. These were great models to design by; and the further advantage which Terence possessed towards giving his plays the due ornaments of purity of style, and justness of manners, was not less considerable from the freedom of conversation which was permitted him with Lelius and Scipio, two of the greatest and most polite men of his age. And, indeed, the privilege of such a conversation is the only certain means of attaining to the perfection of dialogue.

If it has happened in any part of this comedy that I have gained a turn of style or expression more correct, or at least more corrigible, than in those which I have formerly written, I must, with equal pride and gratitude, ascribe it to the honour of your lordship’s admitting me into your conversation, and that of a society where everybody else was so well worthy of you, in your retirement last summer from the town: for it was immediately after, that this comedy was written. If I have failed in my performance, it is only to be regretted, where there were so many not inferior either to a Scipio or a Lelius, that there should be one wanting equal in capacity to a Terence.

If I am not mistaken, poetry is almost the only art which has not yet laid claim to your lordship’s patronage. Architecture and painting, to the great honour of our country, have flourished under your influence and protection. In the meantime, poetry, the eldest sister of all arts, and parent of most, seems to have resigned her birthright, by having neglected to pay her duty to your lordship, and by permitting others of a later extraction to prepossess that place in your esteem, to which none can pretend a better title. Poetry, in its nature, is sacred to the good and great: the relation between them is reciprocal, and they are ever propitious to it. It is the privilege of poetry to address them, and it is their prerogative alone to give it protection.

This received maxim is a general apology for all writers who consecrate their labours to great men: but I could wish, at this time, that this address were exempted from the common pretence of all dedications; and that as I can distinguish your lordship even among the most deserving, so this offering might become remarkable by some particular instance of respect, which should assure your lordship that I am, with all due sense of your extreme worthiness and humanity, my lord, your lordship’s most obedient and most obliged humble servant,


PROLOGUE–Spoken by Mr. Betterton.

Of those few fools, who with ill stars are curst, Sure scribbling fools, called poets, fare the worst: For they’re a sort of fools which fortune makes, And, after she has made ’em fools, forsakes. With Nature’s oafs ’tis quite a diff’rent case, For Fortune favours all her idiot race.
In her own nest the cuckoo eggs we find, O’er which she broods to hatch the changeling kind: No portion for her own she has to spare, So much she dotes on her adopted care.

Poets are bubbles, by the town drawn in, Suffered at first some trifling stakes to win: But what unequal hazards do they run!
Each time they write they venture all they’ve won: The Squire that’s buttered still, is sure to be undone. This author, heretofore, has found your favour, But pleads no merit from his past behaviour. To build on that might prove a vain presumption, Should grants to poets made admit resumption, And in Parnassus he must lose his seat,
If that be found a forfeited estate.

He owns, with toil he wrought the following scenes, But if they’re naught ne’er spare him for his pains: Damn him the more; have no commiseration For dulness on mature deliberation.
He swears he’ll not resent one hissed-off scene, Nor, like those peevish wits, his play maintain, Who, to assert their sense, your taste arraign. Some plot we think he has, and some new thought; Some humour too, no farce–but that’s a fault. Satire, he thinks, you ought not to expect; For so reformed a town who dares correct? To please, this time, has been his sole pretence, He’ll not instruct, lest it should give offence. Should he by chance a knave or fool expose, That hurts none here, sure here are none of those. In short, our play shall (with your leave to show it) Give you one instance of a passive poet, Who to your judgments yields all resignation: So save or damn, after your own discretion.



FAINALL, in love with Mrs. Marwood,–Mr. Betterton MIRABELL, in love with Mrs. Millamant,–Mr. Verbruggen WITWOUD, follower of Mrs. Millamant,–Mr. Bowen PETULANT, follower of Mrs. Millamant,–Mr. Bowman SIR WILFULL WITWOUD, half brother to Witwoud, and nephew to Lady Wishfort,–Mr. Underhill
WAITWELL, servant to Mirabell,–Mr. Bright


LADY WISHFORT, enemy to Mirabell, for having falsely pretended love to her,–Mrs. Leigh
MRS. MILLAMANT, a fine lady, niece to Lady Wishfort, and loves Mirabell,–Mrs. Bracegirdle
MRS. MARWOOD, friend to Mr. Fainall, and likes Mirabell,–Mrs. Barry MRS. FAINALL, daughter to Lady Wishfort, and wife to Fainall, formerly friend to Mirabell,–Mrs. Bowman FOIBLE, woman to Lady Wishfort,–Mrs. Willis MINCING, woman to Mrs. Millamant,–Mrs. Prince DANCERS, FOOTMEN, ATTENDANTS.

SCENE: London.

The time equal to that of the presentation.


A Chocolate-house.

MIRABELL and FAINALL rising from cards. BETTY waiting.

MIRA. You are a fortunate man, Mr. Fainall.

FAIN. Have we done?

MIRA. What you please. I’ll play on to entertain you.

FAIN. No, I’ll give you your revenge another time, when you are not so indifferent; you are thinking of something else now, and play too negligently: the coldness of a losing gamester lessens the pleasure of the winner. I’d no more play with a man that slighted his ill fortune than I’d make love to a woman who undervalued the loss of her reputation.

MIRA. You have a taste extremely delicate, and are for refining on your pleasures.

FAIN. Prithee, why so reserved? Something has put you out of humour.

MIRA. Not at all: I happen to be grave to-day, and you are gay; that’s all.

FAIN. Confess, Millamant and you quarrelled last night, after I left you; my fair cousin has some humours that would tempt the patience of a Stoic. What, some coxcomb came in, and was well received by her, while you were by?

MIRA. Witwoud and Petulant, and what was worse, her aunt, your wife’s mother, my evil genius–or to sum up all in her own name, my old Lady Wishfort came in.

FAIN. Oh, there it is then: she has a lasting passion for you, and with reason.–What, then my wife was there?

MIRA. Yes, and Mrs. Marwood and three or four more, whom I never saw before; seeing me, they all put on their grave faces, whispered one another, then complained aloud of the vapours, and after fell into a profound silence.

FAIN. They had a mind to be rid of you.

MIRA. For which reason I resolved not to stir. At last the good old lady broke through her painful taciturnity with an invective against long visits. I would not have understood her, but Millamant joining in the argument, I rose and with a constrained smile told her, I thought nothing was so easy as to know when a visit began to be troublesome; she reddened and I withdrew, without expecting her reply.

FAIN. You were to blame to resent what she spoke only in compliance with her aunt.

MIRA. She is more mistress of herself than to be under the necessity of such a resignation.

FAIN. What? though half her fortune depends upon her marrying with my lady’s approbation?

MIRA. I was then in such a humour, that I should have been better pleased if she had been less discreet.

FAIN. Now I remember, I wonder not they were weary of you; last night was one of their cabal-nights: they have ’em three times a week and meet by turns at one another’s apartments, where they come together like the coroner’s inquest, to sit upon the murdered reputations of the week. You and I are excluded, and it was once proposed that all the male sex should be excepted; but somebody moved that to avoid scandal there might be one man of the community, upon which motion Witwoud and Petulant were enrolled members.

MIRA. And who may have been the foundress of this sect? My Lady Wishfort, I warrant, who publishes her detestation of mankind, and full of the vigour of fifty-five, declares for a friend and ratafia; and let posterity shift for itself, she’ll breed no more.

FAIN. The discovery of your sham addresses to her, to conceal your love to her niece, has provoked this separation. Had you dissembled better, things might have continued in the state of nature.

MIRA. I did as much as man could, with any reasonable conscience; I proceeded to the very last act of flattery with her, and was guilty of a song in her commendation. Nay, I got a friend to put her into a lampoon, and compliment her with the imputation of an affair with a young fellow, which I carried so far, that I told her the malicious town took notice that she was grown fat of a sudden; and when she lay in of a dropsy, persuaded her she was reported to be in labour. The devil’s in’t, if an old woman is to be flattered further, unless a man should endeavour downright personally to debauch her: and that my virtue forbade me. But for the discovery of this amour, I am indebted to your friend, or your wife’s friend, Mrs. Marwood.

FAIN. What should provoke her to be your enemy, unless she has made you advances which you have slighted? Women do not easily forgive omissions of that nature.

MIRA. She was always civil to me, till of late. I confess I am not one of those coxcombs who are apt to interpret a woman’s good manners to her prejudice, and think that she who does not refuse ’em everything can refuse ’em nothing.

FAIN. You are a gallant man, Mirabell; and though you may have cruelty enough not to satisfy a lady’s longing, you have too much generosity not to be tender of her honour. Yet you speak with an indifference which seems to be affected, and confesses you are conscious of a negligence.

MIRA. You pursue the argument with a distrust that seems to be unaffected, and confesses you are conscious of a concern for which the lady is more indebted to you than is your wife.

FAIN. Fie, fie, friend, if you grow censorious I must leave you:- I’ll look upon the gamesters in the next room.

MIRA. Who are they?

FAIN. Petulant and Witwoud.–Bring me some chocolate.

MIRA. Betty, what says your clock?

BET. Turned of the last canonical hour, sir.

MIRA. How pertinently the jade answers me! Ha! almost one a’ clock! [Looking on his watch.] Oh, y’are come!



MIRA. Well, is the grand affair over? You have been something tedious.

SERV. Sir, there’s such coupling at Pancras that they stand behind one another, as ’twere in a country-dance. Ours was the last couple to lead up; and no hopes appearing of dispatch, besides, the parson growing hoarse, we were afraid his lungs would have failed before it came to our turn; so we drove round to Duke’s Place, and there they were riveted in a trice.

MIRA. So, so; you are sure they are married?

SERV. Married and bedded, sir; I am witness.

MIRA. Have you the certificate?

SERV. Here it is, sir.

MIRA. Has the tailor brought Waitwell’s clothes home, and the new liveries?

SERV. Yes, sir.

MIRA. That’s well. Do you go home again, d’ye hear, and adjourn the consummation till farther order; bid Waitwell shake his ears, and Dame Partlet rustle up her feathers, and meet me at one a’ clock by Rosamond’s pond, that I may see her before she returns to her lady. And, as you tender your ears, be secret.



FAIN. Joy of your success, Mirabell; you look pleased.

MIRA. Ay; I have been engaged in a matter of some sort of mirth, which is not yet ripe for discovery. I am glad this is not a cabal- night. I wonder, Fainall, that you who are married, and of consequence should be discreet, will suffer your wife to be of such a party.

FAIN. Faith, I am not jealous. Besides, most who are engaged are women and relations; and for the men, they are of a kind too contemptible to give scandal.

MIRA. I am of another opinion: the greater the coxcomb, always the more the scandal; for a woman who is not a fool can have but one reason for associating with a man who is one.

FAIN. Are you jealous as often as you see Witwoud entertained by Millamant?

MIRA. Of her understanding I am, if not of her person.

FAIN. You do her wrong; for, to give her her due, she has wit.

MIRA. She has beauty enough to make any man think so, and complaisance enough not to contradict him who shall tell her so.

FAIN. For a passionate lover methinks you are a man somewhat too discerning in the failings of your mistress.

MIRA. And for a discerning man somewhat too passionate a lover, for I like her with all her faults; nay, like her for her faults. Her follies are so natural, or so artful, that they become her, and those affectations which in another woman would be odious serve but to make her more agreeable. I’ll tell thee, Fainall, she once used me with that insolence that in revenge I took her to pieces, sifted her, and separated her failings: I studied ’em and got ’em by rote. The catalogue was so large that I was not without hopes, one day or other, to hate her heartily. To which end I so used myself to think of ’em, that at length, contrary to my design and expectation, they gave me every hour less and less disturbance, till in a few days it became habitual to me to remember ’em without being displeased. They are now grown as familiar to me as my own frailties, and in all probability in a little time longer I shall like ’em as well.

FAIN. Marry her, marry her; be half as well acquainted with her charms as you are with her defects, and, my life on’t, you are your own man again.

MIRA. Say you so?

FAIN. Ay, ay; I have experience. I have a wife, and so forth.


[To them] MESSENGER.

MESS. Is one Squire Witwoud here?

BET. Yes; what’s your business?

MESS. I have a letter for him, from his brother Sir Wilfull, which I am charged to deliver into his own hands.

BET. He’s in the next room, friend. That way.



MIRA. What, is the chief of that noble family in town, Sir Wilfull Witwoud?

FAIN. He is expected to-day. Do you know him?

MIRA. I have seen him; he promises to be an extraordinary person. I think you have the honour to be related to him.

FAIN. Yes; he is half-brother to this Witwoud by a former wife, who was sister to my Lady Wishfort, my wife’s mother. If you marry Millamant, you must call cousins too.

MIRA. I had rather be his relation than his acquaintance.

FAIN. He comes to town in order to equip himself for travel.

MIRA. For travel! Why the man that I mean is above forty.

FAIN. No matter for that; ’tis for the honour of England that all Europe should know we have blockheads of all ages.

MIRA. I wonder there is not an act of parliament to save the credit of the nation and prohibit the exportation of fools.

FAIN. By no means, ’tis better as ’tis; ’tis better to trade with a little loss, than to be quite eaten up with being overstocked.

MIRA. Pray, are the follies of this knight-errant and those of the squire, his brother, anything related?

FAIN. Not at all: Witwoud grows by the knight like a medlar grafted on a crab. One will melt in your mouth and t’other set your teeth on edge; one is all pulp and the other all core.

MIRA. So one will be rotten before he be ripe, and the other will be rotten without ever being ripe at all.

FAIN. Sir Wilfull is an odd mixture of bashfulness and obstinacy. But when he’s drunk, he’s as loving as the monster in The Tempest, and much after the same manner. To give bother his due, he has something of good-nature, and does not always want wit.

MIRA. Not always: but as often as his memory fails him and his commonplace of comparisons. He is a fool with a good memory and some few scraps of other folks’ wit. He is one whose conversation can never be approved, yet it is now and then to be endured. He has indeed one good quality: he is not exceptious, for he so passionately affects the reputation of understanding raillery that he will construe an affront into a jest, and call downright rudeness and ill language satire and fire.

FAIN. If you have a mind to finish his picture, you have an opportunity to do it at full length. Behold the original.


[To them] WITWOUD.

WIT. Afford me your compassion, my dears; pity me, Fainall, Mirabell, pity me.

MIRA. I do from my soul.

FAIN. Why, what’s the matter?

WIT. No letters for me, Betty?

BET. Did not a messenger bring you one but now, sir?

WIT. Ay; but no other?

BET. No, sir.

WIT. That’s hard, that’s very hard. A messenger, a mule, a beast of burden, he has brought me a letter from the fool my brother, as heavy as a panegyric in a funeral sermon, or a copy of commendatory verses from one poet to another. And what’s worse, ’tis as sure a forerunner of the author as an epistle dedicatory.

MIRA. A fool, and your brother, Witwoud?

WIT. Ay, ay, my half-brother. My half-brother he is, no nearer, upon honour.

MIRA. Then ’tis possible he may be but half a fool.

WIT. Good, good, Mirabell, LE DROLE! Good, good, hang him, don’t let’s talk of him.–Fainall, how does your lady? Gad, I say anything in the world to get this fellow out of my head. I beg pardon that I should ask a man of pleasure and the town a question at once so foreign and domestic. But I talk like an old maid at a marriage, I don’t know what I say: but she’s the best woman in the world.

FAIN. ‘Tis well you don’t know what you say, or else your commendation would go near to make me either vain or jealous.

WIT. No man in town lives well with a wife but Fainall. Your judgment, Mirabell?

MIRA. You had better step and ask his wife, if you would be credibly informed.

WIT. Mirabell!


WIT. My dear, I ask ten thousand pardons. Gad, I have forgot what I was going to say to you.

MIRA. I thank you heartily, heartily.

WIT. No, but prithee excuse me:- my memory is such a memory.

MIRA. Have a care of such apologies, Witwoud; for I never knew a fool but he affected to complain either of the spleen or his memory.

FAIN. What have you done with Petulant?

WIT. He’s reckoning his money; my money it was: I have no luck to- day.

FAIN. You may allow him to win of you at play, for you are sure to be too hard for him at repartee: since you monopolise the wit that is between you, the fortune must be his of course.

MIRA. I don’t find that Petulant confesses the superiority of wit to be your talent, Witwoud.

WIT. Come, come, you are malicious now, and would breed debates. Petulant’s my friend, and a very honest fellow, and a very pretty fellow, and has a smattering–faith and troth, a pretty deal of an odd sort of a small wit: nay, I’ll do him justice. I’m his friend, I won’t wrong him. And if he had any judgment in the world, he would not be altogether contemptible. Come, come, don’t detract from the merits of my friend.

FAIN. You don’t take your friend to be over-nicely bred?

WIT. No, no, hang him, the rogue has no manners at all, that I must own; no more breeding than a bum-baily, that I grant you:- ’tis pity; the fellow has fire and life.

MIRA. What, courage?

WIT. Hum, faith, I don’t know as to that, I can’t say as to that. Yes, faith, in a controversy he’ll contradict anybody.

MIRA. Though ’twere a man whom he feared or a woman whom he loved.

WIT. Well, well, he does not always think before he speaks. We have all our failings; you are too hard upon him, you are, faith. Let me excuse him,–I can defend most of his faults, except one or two; one he has, that’s the truth on’t,–if he were my brother I could not acquit him–that indeed I could wish were otherwise.

MIRA. Ay, marry, what’s that, Witwoud?

WIT. Oh, pardon me. Expose the infirmities of my friend? No, my dear, excuse me there.

FAIN. What, I warrant he’s unsincere, or ’tis some such trifle.

WIT. No, no; what if he be? ‘Tis no matter for that, his wit will excuse that. A wit should no more be sincere than a woman constant: one argues a decay of parts, as t’other of beauty.

MIRA. Maybe you think him too positive?

WIT. No, no; his being positive is an incentive to argument, and keeps up conversation.

FAIN. Too illiterate?

WIT. That? That’s his happiness. His want of learning gives him the more opportunities to show his natural parts.

MIRA. He wants words?

WIT. Ay; but I like him for that now: for his want of words gives me the pleasure very often to explain his meaning.

FAIN. He’s impudent?

WIT. No that’s not it.

MIRA. Vain?

WIT. No.

MIRA. What, he speaks unseasonable truths sometimes, because he has not wit enough to invent an evasion?

WIT. Truths? Ha, ha, ha! No, no, since you will have it, I mean he never speaks truth at all, that’s all. He will lie like a chambermaid, or a woman of quality’s porter. Now that is a fault.


[To them] COACHMAN.

COACH. Is Master Petulant here, mistress?

BET. Yes.

COACH. Three gentlewomen in a coach would speak with him.

FAIN. O brave Petulant! Three!

BET. I’ll tell him.

COACH. You must bring two dishes of chocolate and a glass of cinnamon water.



WIT. That should be for two fasting strumpets, and a bawd troubled with wind. Now you may know what the three are.

MIRA. You are very free with your friend’s acquaintance.

WIT. Ay, ay; friendship without freedom is as dull as love without enjoyment or wine without toasting: but to tell you a secret, these are trulls whom he allows coach-hire, and something more by the week, to call on him once a day at public places.

MIRA. How!

WIT. You shall see he won’t go to ’em because there’s no more company here to take notice of him. Why, this is nothing to what he used to do:- before he found out this way, I have known him call for himself –

FAIN. Call for himself? What dost thou mean?

WIT. Mean? Why he would slip you out of this chocolate-house, just when you had been talking to him. As soon as your back was turned– whip he was gone; then trip to his lodging, clap on a hood and scarf and a mask, slap into a hackney-coach, and drive hither to the door again in a trice; where he would send in for himself; that I mean, call for himself, wait for himself, nay, and what’s more, not finding himself, sometimes leave a letter for himself.

MIRA. I confess this is something extraordinary. I believe he waits for himself now, he is so long a coming; oh, I ask his pardon.



BET. Sir, the coach stays.

PET. Well, well, I come. ‘Sbud, a man had as good be a professed midwife as a professed whoremaster, at this rate; to be knocked up and raised at all hours, and in all places. Pox on ’em, I won’t come. D’ye hear, tell ’em I won’t come. Let ’em snivel and cry their hearts out.

FAIN. You are very cruel, Petulant.

PET. All’s one, let it pass. I have a humour to be cruel.

MIRA. I hope they are not persons of condition that you use at this rate.

PET. Condition? Condition’s a dried fig, if I am not in humour. By this hand, if they were your–a–a–your what-d’ee-call-’ems themselves, they must wait or rub off, if I want appetite.

MIRA. What-d’ee-call-’ems! What are they, Witwoud?

WIT. Empresses, my dear. By your what-d’ee-call-’ems he means Sultana Queens.

PET. Ay, Roxolanas.

MIRA. Cry you mercy.

FAIN. Witwoud says they are –

PET. What does he say th’are?

WIT. I? Fine ladies, I say.

PET. Pass on, Witwoud. Harkee, by this light, his relations–two co-heiresses his cousins, and an old aunt, who loves cater-wauling better than a conventicle.

WIT. Ha, ha, ha! I had a mind to see how the rogue would come off. Ha, ha, ha! Gad, I can’t be angry with him, if he had said they were my mother and my sisters.


WIT. No; the rogue’s wit and readiness of invention charm me, dear Petulant.

BET. They are gone, sir, in great anger.

PET. Enough, let ’em trundle. Anger helps complexion, saves paint.

FAIN. This continence is all dissembled; this is in order to have something to brag of the next time he makes court to Millamant, and swear he has abandoned the whole sex for her sake.

MIRA. Have you not left off your impudent pretensions there yet? I shall cut your throat, sometime or other, Petulant, about that business.

PET. Ay, ay, let that pass. There are other throats to be cut.

MIRA. Meaning mine, sir?

PET. Not I–I mean nobody–I know nothing. But there are uncles and nephews in the world–and they may be rivals. What then? All’s one for that.

MIRA. How? Harkee, Petulant, come hither. Explain, or I shall call your interpreter.

PET. Explain? I know nothing. Why, you have an uncle, have you not, lately come to town, and lodges by my Lady Wishfort’s?

MIRA. True.

PET. Why, that’s enough. You and he are not friends; and if he should marry and have a child, yon may be disinherited, ha!

MIRA. Where hast thou stumbled upon all this truth?

PET. All’s one for that; why, then, say I know something.

MIRA. Come, thou art an honest fellow, Petulant, and shalt make love to my mistress, thou shalt, faith. What hast thou heard of my uncle?

PET. I? Nothing, I. If throats are to be cut, let swords clash. Snug’s the word; I shrug and am silent.

MIRA. Oh, raillery, raillery! Come, I know thou art in the women’s secrets. What, you’re a cabalist; I know you stayed at Millamant’s last night after I went. Was there any mention made of my uncle or me? Tell me; if thou hadst but good nature equal to thy wit, Petulant, Tony Witwoud, who is now thy competitor in fame, would show as dim by thee as a dead whiting’s eye by a pearl of orient; he would no more be seen by thee than Mercury is by the sun: come, I’m sure thou wo’t tell me.

PET. If I do, will you grant me common sense, then, for the future?

MIRA. Faith, I’ll do what I can for thee, and I’ll pray that heav’n may grant it thee in the meantime.

PET. Well, harkee.

FAIN. Petulant and you both will find Mirabell as warm a rival as a lover.

WIT. Pshaw, pshaw, that she laughs at Petulant is plain. And for my part, but that it is almost a fashion to admire her, I should– harkee–to tell you a secret, but let it go no further between friends, I shall never break my heart for her.

FAIN. How?

WIT. She’s handsome; but she’s a sort of an uncertain woman.

FAIN. I thought you had died for her.

WIT. Umh–no –

FAIN. She has wit.

WIT. ‘Tis what she will hardly allow anybody else. Now, demme, I should hate that, if she were as handsome as Cleopatra. Mirabell is not so sure of her as he thinks for.

FAIN. Why do you think so?

WIT. We stayed pretty late there last night, and heard something of an uncle to Mirabell, who is lately come to town, and is between him and the best part of his estate. Mirabell and he are at some distance, as my Lady Wishfort has been told; and you know she hates Mirabell worse than a quaker hates a parrot, or than a fishmonger hates a hard frost. Whether this uncle has seen Mrs. Millamant or not, I cannot say; but there were items of such a treaty being in embryo; and if it should come to life, poor Mirabell would be in some sort unfortunately fobbed, i’faith.

FAIN. ‘Tis impossible Millamant should hearken to it.

WIT. Faith, my dear, I can’t tell; she’s a woman and a kind of a humorist.

MIRA. And this is the sum of what you could collect last night?

PET. The quintessence. Maybe Witwoud knows more; he stayed longer. Besides, they never mind him; they say anything before him.

MIRA. I thought you had been the greatest favourite.

PET. Ay, tete-e-tete; but not in public, because I make remarks.

MIRA. You do?

PET. Ay, ay, pox, I’m malicious, man. Now he’s soft, you know, they are not in awe of him. The fellow’s well bred, he’s what you call a–what d’ye-call-’em–a fine gentleman, but he’s silly withal.

MIRA. I thank you, I know as much as my curiosity requires. Fainall, are you for the Mall?

FAIN. Ay, I’ll take a turn before dinner.

WIT. Ay, we’ll all walk in the park; the ladies talked of being there.

MIRA. I thought you were obliged to watch for your brother Sir Wilfull’s arrival.

WIT. No, no, he comes to his aunt’s, my Lady Wishfort; pox on him, I shall be troubled with him too; what shall I do with the fool?

PET. Beg him for his estate, that I may beg you afterwards, and so have but one trouble with you both.

WIT. O rare Petulant, thou art as quick as fire in a frosty morning; thou shalt to the Mall with us, and we’ll be very severe.

PET. Enough; I’m in a humour to be severe.

MIRA. Are you? Pray then walk by yourselves. Let not us be accessory to your putting the ladies out of countenance with your senseless ribaldry, which you roar out aloud as often as they pass by you, and when you have made a handsome woman blush, then you think you have been severe.

PET. What, what? Then let ’em either show their innocence by not understanding what they hear, or else show their discretion by not hearing what they would not be thought to understand.

MIRA. But hast not thou then sense enough to know that thou ought’st to be most ashamed thyself when thou hast put another out of countenance?

PET. Not I, by this hand: I always take blushing either for a sign of guilt or ill-breeding.

MIRA. I confess you ought to think so. You are in the right, that you may plead the error of your judgment in defence of your practice.

Where modesty’s ill manners, ’tis but fit That impudence and malice pass for wit.


St. James’s Park.


MRS. FAIN. Ay, ay, dear Marwood, if we will be happy, we must find the means in ourselves, and among ourselves. Men are ever in extremes; either doting or averse. While they are lovers, if they have fire and sense, their jealousies are insupportable: and when they cease to love (we ought to think at least) they loathe, they look upon us with horror and distaste, they meet us like the ghosts of what we were, and as from such, fly from us.

MRS. MAR. True, ’tis an unhappy circumstance of life that love should ever die before us, and that the man so often should outlive the lover. But say what you will, ’tis better to be left than never to have been loved. To pass our youth in dull indifference, to refuse the sweets of life because they once must leave us, is as preposterous as to wish to have been born old, because we one day must be old. For my part, my youth may wear and waste, but it shall never rust in my possession.

MRS. FAIN. Then it seems you dissemble an aversion to mankind only in compliance to my mother’s humour.

MRS. MAR. Certainly. To be free, I have no taste of those insipid dry discourses with which our sex of force must entertain themselves apart from men. We may affect endearments to each other, profess eternal friendships, and seem to dote like lovers; but ’tis not in our natures long to persevere. Love will resume his empire in our breasts, and every heart, or soon or late, receive and readmit him as its lawful tyrant.

MRS. FAIN. Bless me, how have I been deceived! Why, you profess a libertine.

MRS. MAR. You see my friendship by my freedom. Come, be as sincere, acknowledge that your sentiments agree with mine.

MRS. FAIN. Never.

MRS. MAR. You hate mankind?

MRS. FAIN. Heartily, inveterately.

MRS. MAR. Your husband?

MRS. FAIN. Most transcendently; ay, though I say it, meritoriously.

MRS. MAR. Give me your hand upon it.

MRS. FAIN. There.

MRS. MAR. I join with you; what I have said has been to try you.

MRS. FAIN. Is it possible? Dost thou hate those vipers, men?

MRS. MAR. I have done hating ’em, and am now come to despise ’em; the next thing I have to do is eternally to forget ’em.

MRS. FAIN. There spoke the spirit of an Amazon, a Penthesilea.

MRS. MAR. And yet I am thinking sometimes to carry my aversion further.


MRS. MAR. Faith, by marrying; if I could but find one that loved me very well, and would be throughly sensible of ill usage, I think I should do myself the violence of undergoing the ceremony.

MRS. FAIN. You would not make him a cuckold?

MRS. MAR. No; but I’d make him believe I did, and that’s as bad.

MRS. FAIN. Why had not you as good do it?

MRS. MAR. Oh, if he should ever discover it, he would then know the worst, and be out of his pain; but I would have him ever to continue upon the rack of fear and jealousy.

MRS. FAIN. Ingenious mischief! Would thou wert married to Mirabell.

MRS. MAR. Would I were.

MRS. FAIN. You change colour.

MRS. MAR. Because I hate him.

MRS. FAIN. So do I; but I can hear him named. But what reason have you to hate him in particular?

MRS. MAR. I never loved him; he is, and always was, insufferably proud.

MRS. FAIN. By the reason you give for your aversion, one would think it dissembled; for you have laid a fault to his charge, of which his enemies must acquit him.

MRS. MAR. Oh, then it seems you are one of his favourable enemies. Methinks you look a little pale, and now you flush again.

MRS. FAIN. Do I? I think I am a little sick o’ the sudden.

MRS. MAR. What ails you?

MRS. FAIN. My husband. Don’t you see him? He turned short upon me unawares, and has almost overcome me.



MRS. MAR. Ha, ha, ha! he comes opportunely for you.

MRS. FAIN. For you, for he has brought Mirabell with him.

FAIN. My dear.

MRS. FAIN. My soul.

FAIN. You don’t look well to-day, child.

MRS. FAIN. D’ye think so?

MIRA. He is the only man that does, madam.

MRS. FAIN. The only man that would tell me so at least, and the only man from whom I could hear it without mortification.

FAIN. Oh, my dear, I am satisfied of your tenderness; I know you cannot resent anything from me; especially what is an effect of my concern.

MRS. FAIN. Mr. Mirabell, my mother interrupted you in a pleasant relation last night: I would fain hear it out.

MIRA. The persons concerned in that affair have yet a tolerable reputation. I am afraid Mr. Fainall will be censorious.

MRS. FAIN. He has a humour more prevailing than his curiosity, and will willingly dispense with the hearing of one scandalous story, to avoid giving an occasion to make another by being seen to walk with his wife. This way, Mr. Mirabell, and I dare promise you will oblige us both.



FAIN. Excellent creature! Well, sure, if I should live to be rid of my wife, I should be a miserable man.


FAIN. For having only that one hope, the accomplishment of it of consequence must put an end to all my hopes, and what a wretch is he who must survive his hopes! Nothing remains when that day comes but to sit down and weep like Alexander when he wanted other worlds to conquer.

MRS. MAR. Will you not follow ’em?

FAIN. Faith, I think not,

MRS. MAR. Pray let us; I have a reason.

FAIN. You are not jealous?

MRS. MAR. Of whom?

FAIN. Of Mirabell.

MRS. MAR. If I am, is it inconsistent with my love to you that I am tender of your honour?

FAIN. You would intimate then, as if there were a fellow-feeling between my wife and him?

MRS. MAR. I think she does not hate him to that degree she would be thought.

FAIN. But he, I fear, is too insensible.

MRS. MAR. It may be you are deceived.

FAIN. It may be so. I do not now begin to apprehend it.

MRS. MAR. What?

FAIN. That I have been deceived, madam, and you are false.

MRS. MAR. That I am false? What mean you?

FAIN. To let you know I see through all your little arts.–Come, you both love him, and both have equally dissembled your aversion. Your mutual jealousies of one another have made you clash till you have both struck fire. I have seen the warm confession red’ning on your cheeks, and sparkling from your eyes.

MRS. MAR. You do me wrong.

FAIN. I do not. ‘Twas for my ease to oversee and wilfully neglect the gross advances made him by my wife, that by permitting her to be engaged, I might continue unsuspected in my pleasures, and take you oftener to my arms in full security. But could you think, because the nodding husband would not wake, that e’er the watchful lover slept?

MRS. MAR. And wherewithal can you reproach me?

FAIN. With infidelity, with loving another, with love of Mirabell.

MRS. MAR. ‘Tis false. I challenge you to show an instance that can confirm your groundless accusation. I hate him.

FAIN. And wherefore do you hate him? He is insensible, and your resentment follows his neglect. An instance? The injuries you have done him are a proof: your interposing in his love. What cause had you to make discoveries of his pretended passion? To undeceive the credulous aunt, and be the officious obstacle of his match with Millamant?

MRS. MAR. My obligations to my lady urged me: I had professed a friendship to her, and could not see her easy nature so abused by that dissembler.

FAIN. What, was it conscience then? Professed a friendship! Oh, the pious friendships of the female sex!

MRS. MAR. More tender, more sincere, and more enduring, than all the vain and empty vows of men, whether professing love to us or mutual faith to one another.

FAIN. Ha, ha, ha! you are my wife’s friend too.

MRS. MAR. Shame and ingratitude! Do you reproach me? You, you upbraid me? Have I been false to her, through strict fidelity to you, and sacrificed my friendship to keep my love inviolate? And have you the baseness to charge me with the guilt, unmindful of the merit? To you it should be meritorious that I have been vicious. And do you reflect that guilt upon me which should lie buried in your bosom?

FAIN. You misinterpret my reproof. I meant but to remind you of the slight account you once could make of strictest ties when set in competition with your love to me.

MRS. MAR. ‘Tis false, you urged it with deliberate malice. ‘Twas spoke in scorn, and I never will forgive it.

FAIN. Your guilt, not your resentment, begets your rage. If yet you loved, you could forgive a jealousy: but you are stung to find you are discovered.

MRS. MAR. It shall be all discovered. You too shall be discovered; be sure you shall. I can but be exposed. If I do it myself I shall prevent your baseness.

FAIN. Why, what will you do?

MRS. MAR. Disclose it to your wife; own what has past between us.

FAIN. Frenzy!

MRS. MAR. By all my wrongs I’ll do’t. I’ll publish to the world the injuries you have done me, both in my fame and fortune: with both I trusted you, you bankrupt in honour, as indigent of wealth.

FAIN. Your fame I have preserved. Your fortune has been bestowed as the prodigality of your love would have it, in pleasures which we both have shared. Yet, had not you been false I had e’er this repaid it. ‘Tis true–had you permitted Mirabell with Millamant to have stolen their marriage, my lady had been incensed beyond all means of reconcilement: Millamant had forfeited the moiety of her fortune, which then would have descended to my wife. And wherefore did I marry but to make lawful prize of a rich widow’s wealth, and squander it on love and you?

MRS. MAR. Deceit and frivolous pretence!

FAIN. Death, am I not married? What’s pretence? Am I not imprisoned, fettered? Have I not a wife? Nay, a wife that was a widow, a young widow, a handsome widow, and would be again a widow, but that I have a heart of proof, and something of a constitution to bustle through the ways of wedlock and this world. Will you yet be reconciled to truth and me?

MRS. MAR. Impossible. Truth and you are inconsistent.–I hate you, and shall for ever.

FAIN. For loving you?

MRS. MAR. I loathe the name of love after such usage; and next to the guilt with which you would asperse me, I scorn you most. Farewell.

FAIN. Nay, we must not part thus.

MRS. MAR. Let me go.

FAIN. Come, I’m sorry.

MRS. MAR. I care not. Let me go. Break my hands, do–I’d leave ’em to get loose.

FAIN. I would not hurt you for the world. Have I no other hold to keep you here?

MRS. MAR. Well, I have deserved it all.

FAIN. You know I love you.

MRS. MAR. Poor dissembling! Oh, that–well, it is not yet –

FAIN. What? What is it not? What is it not yet? It is not yet too late –

MRS. MAR. No, it is not yet too late–I have that comfort.

FAIN. It is, to love another.

MRS. MAR. But not to loathe, detest, abhor mankind, myself, and the whole treacherous world.

FAIN. Nay, this is extravagance. Come, I ask your pardon. No tears–I was to blame, I could not love you and be easy in my doubts. Pray forbear–I believe you; I’m convinced I’ve done you wrong; and any way, every way will make amends: I’ll hate my wife yet more, damn her, I’ll part with her, rob her of all she’s worth, and we’ll retire somewhere, anywhere, to another world; I’ll marry thee–be pacified.–‘Sdeath, they come: hide your face, your tears. You have a mask: wear it a moment. This way, this way: be persuaded.



MRS. FAIN. They are here yet.

MIRA. They are turning into the other walk.

MRS. FAIN. While I only hated my husband, I could bear to see him; but since I have despised him, he’s too offensive.

MIRA. Oh, you should hate with prudence.

MRS. FAIN. Yes, for I have loved with indiscretion.

MIRA. You should have just so much disgust for your husband as may be sufficient to make you relish your lover.

MRS. FAIN. You have been the cause that I have loved without bounds, and would you set limits to that aversion of which you have been the occasion? Why did you make me marry this man?

MIRA. Why do we daily commit disagreeable and dangerous actions? To save that idol, reputation. If the familiarities of our loves had produced that consequence of which you were apprehensive, where could you have fixed a father’s name with credit but on a husband? I knew Fainall to be a man lavish of his morals, an interested and professing friend, a false and a designing lover, yet one whose wit and outward fair behaviour have gained a reputation with the town, enough to make that woman stand excused who has suffered herself to be won by his addresses. A better man ought not to have been sacrificed to the occasion; a worse had not answered to the purpose. When you are weary of him you know your remedy.

MRS. FAIN. I ought to stand in some degree of credit with you, Mirabell.

MIRA. In justice to you, I have made you privy to my whole design, and put it in your power to ruin or advance my fortune.

MRS. FAIN. Whom have you instructed to represent your pretended uncle?

MIRA. Waitwell, my servant.

MRS. FAIN. He is an humble servant to Foible, my mother’s woman, and may win her to your interest.

MIRA. Care is taken for that. She is won and worn by this time. They were married this morning.


MIRA. Waitwell and Foible. I would not tempt my servant to betray me by trusting him too far. If your mother, in hopes to ruin me, should consent to marry my pretended uncle, he might, like Mosca in the FOX, stand upon terms; so I made him sure beforehand.

MRS. FAIN. So, if my poor mother is caught in a contract, you will discover the imposture betimes, and release her by producing a certificate of her gallant’s former marriage.

MIRA. Yes, upon condition that she consent to my marriage with her niece, and surrender the moiety of her fortune in her possession.

MRS. FAIN. She talked last night of endeavouring at a match between Millamant and your uncle.

MIRA. That was by Foible’s direction and my instruction, that she might seem to carry it more privately.

MRS. FAIN. Well, I have an opinion of your success, for I believe my lady will do anything to get an husband; and when she has this, which you have provided for her, I suppose she will submit to anything to get rid of him.

MIRA. Yes, I think the good lady would marry anything that resembled a man, though ’twere no more than what a butler could pinch out of a napkin.

MRS. FAIN. Female frailty! We must all come to it, if we live to be old, and feel the craving of a false appetite when the true is decayed.

MIRA. An old woman’s appetite is depraved like that of a girl. ‘Tis the green-sickness of a second childhood, and, like the faint offer of a latter spring, serves but to usher in the fall, and withers in an affected bloom.

MRS. FAIN. Here’s your mistress.



MIRA. Here she comes, i’faith, full sail, with her fan spread and streamers out, and a shoal of fools for tenders.–Ha, no, I cry her mercy.

MRS. FAIN. I see but one poor empty sculler, and he tows her woman after him.

MIRA. You seem to be unattended, madam. You used to have the BEAU MONDE throng after you, and a flock of gay fine perukes hovering round you.

WIT. Like moths about a candle. I had like to have lost my comparison for want of breath.

MILLA. Oh, I have denied myself airs to-day. I have walked as fast through the crowd –

WIT. As a favourite just disgraced, and with as few followers.

MILLA. Dear Mr. Witwoud, truce with your similitudes, for I am as sick of ’em –

WIT. As a physician of a good air. I cannot help it, madam, though ’tis against myself.

MILLA. Yet again! Mincing, stand between me and his wit.

WIT. Do, Mrs. Mincing, like a screen before a great fire. I confess I do blaze to-day; I am too bright.

MRS. FAIN. But, dear Millamant, why were you so long?

MILLA. Long! Lord, have I not made violent haste? I have asked every living thing I met for you; I have enquired after you, as after a new fashion.

WIT. Madam, truce with your similitudes.–No, you met her husband, and did not ask him for her.

MIRA. By your leave, Witwoud, that were like enquiring after an old fashion to ask a husband for his wife.

WIT. Hum, a hit, a hit, a palpable hit; I confess it.

MRS. FAIN. You were dressed before I came abroad.

MILLA. Ay, that’s true. Oh, but then I had–Mincing, what had I? Why was I so long?

MINC. O mem, your laship stayed to peruse a packet of letters.

MILLA. Oh, ay, letters–I had letters–I am persecuted with letters–I hate letters. Nobody knows how to write letters; and yet one has ’em, one does not know why. They serve one to pin up one’s hair.

WIT. Is that the way? Pray, madam, do you pin up your hair with all your letters? I find I must keep copies.

MILLA. Only with those in verse, Mr. Witwoud. I never pin up my hair with prose. I think I tried once, Mincing.

MINC. O mem, I shall never forget it.

MILLA. Ay, poor Mincing tift and tift all the morning.

MINC. Till I had the cramp in my fingers, I’ll vow, mem. And all to no purpose. But when your laship pins it up with poetry, it fits so pleasant the next day as anything, and is so pure and so crips.

WIT. Indeed, so crips?

MINC. You’re such a critic, Mr. Witwoud.

MILLA. Mirabell, did you take exceptions last night? Oh, ay, and went away. Now I think on’t I’m angry–no, now I think on’t I’m pleased:- for I believe I gave you some pain.

MIRA. Does that please you?

MILLA. Infinitely; I love to give pain.

MIRA. You would affect a cruelty which is not in your nature; your true vanity is in the power of pleasing.

MILLA. Oh, I ask your pardon for that. One’s cruelty is one’s power, and when one parts with one’s cruelty one parts with one’s power, and when one has parted with that, I fancy one’s old and ugly.

MIRA. Ay, ay; suffer your cruelty to ruin the object of your power, to destroy your lover–and then how vain, how lost a thing you’ll be! Nay, ’tis true; you are no longer handsome when you’ve lost your lover: your beauty dies upon the instant. For beauty is the lover’s gift: ’tis he bestows your charms:- your glass is all a cheat. The ugly and the old, whom the looking-glass mortifies, yet after commendation can be flattered by it, and discover beauties in it: for that reflects our praises rather than your face.

MILLA. Oh, the vanity of these men! Fainall, d’ye hear him? If they did not commend us, we were not handsome! Now you must know they could not commend one if one was not handsome. Beauty the lover’s gift! Lord, what is a lover, that it can give? Why, one makes lovers as fast as one pleases, and they live as long as one pleases, and they die as soon as one pleases; and then, if one pleases, one makes more.

WIT. Very pretty. Why, you make no more of making of lovers, madam, than of making so many card-matches.

MILLA. One no more owes one’s beauty to a lover than one’s wit to an echo. They can but reflect what we look and say: vain empty things if we are silent or unseen, and want a being.

MIRA. Yet, to those two vain empty things, you owe two the greatest pleasures of your life.

MILLA. How so?

MIRA. To your lover you owe the pleasure of hearing yourselves praised, and to an echo the pleasure of hearing yourselves talk.

WIT. But I know a lady that loves talking so incessantly, she won’t give an echo fair play; she has that everlasting rotation of tongue that an echo must wait till she dies before it can catch her last words.

MILLA. Oh, fiction; Fainall, let us leave these men.

MIRA. Draw off Witwoud. [Aside to MRS. FAINALL.]

MRS. FAIN. Immediately; I have a word or two for Mr. Witwoud.



MIRA. I would beg a little private audience too. You had the tyranny to deny me last night, though you knew I came to impart a secret to you that concerned my love.

MILLA. You saw I was engaged.

MIRA. Unkind! You had the leisure to entertain a herd of fools: things who visit you from their excessive idleness, bestowing on your easiness that time which is the incumbrance of their lives. How can you find delight in such society? It is impossible they should admire you; they are not capable; or, if they were, it should be to you as a mortification: for, sure, to please a fool is some degree of folly.

MILLA. I please myself.–Besides, sometimes to converse with fools is for my health.

MIRA. Your health! Is there a worse disease than the conversation of fools?

MILLA. Yes, the vapours; fools are physic for it, next to assafoetida.

MIRA. You are not in a course of fools?

MILLA. Mirabell, if you persist in this offensive freedom you’ll displease me. I think I must resolve after all not to have you:- we shan’t agree.

MIRA. Not in our physic, it may be.

MILLA. And yet our distemper in all likelihood will be the same; for we shall be sick of one another. I shan’t endure to be reprimanded nor instructed; ’tis so dull to act always by advice, and so tedious to be told of one’s faults, I can’t bear it. Well, I won’t have you, Mirabell–I’m resolved–I think–you may go–ha, ha, ha! What would you give that you could help loving me?

MIRA. I would give something that you did not know I could not help it.

MILLA. Come, don’t look grave then. Well, what do you say to me?

MIRA. I say that a man may as soon make a friend by his wit, or a fortune by his honesty, as win a woman with plain-dealing and sincerity.

MILLA. Sententious Mirabell! Prithee don’t look with that violent and inflexible wise face, like Solomon at the dividing of the child in an old tapestry hanging!

MIRA. You are merry, madam, but I would persuade you for a moment to be serious.

MILLA. What, with that face? No, if you keep your countenance, ’tis impossible I should hold mine. Well, after all, there is something very moving in a lovesick face. Ha, ha, ha! Well I won’t laugh; don’t be peevish. Heigho! Now I’ll be melancholy, as melancholy as a watch-light. Well, Mirabell, if ever you will win me, woo me now.–Nay, if you are so tedious, fare you well: I see they are walking away.

MIRA. Can you not find in the variety of your disposition one moment –

MILLA. To hear you tell me Foible’s married, and your plot like to speed? No.

MIRA. But how you came to know it –

MILLA. Without the help of the devil, you can’t imagine; unless she should tell me herself. Which of the two it may have been, I will leave you to consider; and when you have done thinking of that, think of me.



MIRA. I have something more.–Gone! Think of you? To think of a whirlwind, though ’twere in a whirlwind, were a case of more steady contemplation, a very tranquillity of mind and mansion. A fellow that lives in a windmill has not a more whimsical dwelling than the heart of a man that is lodged in a woman. There is no point of the compass to which they cannot turn, and by which they are not turned, and by one as well as another; for motion, not method, is their occupation. To know this, and yet continue to be in love, is to be made wise from the dictates of reason, and yet persevere to play the fool by the force of instinct.–Oh, here come my pair of turtles. What, billing so sweetly? Is not Valentine’s day over with you yet?



MIRA. Sirrah, Waitwell, why, sure, you think you were married for your own recreation and not for my conveniency.

WAIT. Your pardon, sir. With submission, we have indeed been solacing in lawful delights; but still with an eye to business, sir. I have instructed her as well as I could. If she can take your directions as readily as my instructions, sir, your affairs are in a prosperous way.

MIRA. Give you joy, Mrs. Foible.

FOIB. O–las, sir, I’m so ashamed.–I’m afraid my lady has been in a thousand inquietudes for me. But I protest, sir, I made as much haste as I could.

WAIT. That she did indeed, sir. It was my fault that she did not make more.

MIRA. That I believe.

FOIB. But I told my lady as you instructed me, sir, that I had a prospect of seeing Sir Rowland, your uncle, and that I would put her ladyship’s picture in my pocket to show him, which I’ll be sure to say has made him so enamoured of her beauty, that he burns with impatience to lie at her ladyship’s feet and worship the original.

MIRA. Excellent Foible! Matrimony has made you eloquent in love.

WAIT. I think she has profited, sir. I think so.

FOIB. You have seen Madam Millamant, sir?

MIRA. Yes.

FOIB. I told her, sir, because I did not know that you might find an opportunity; she had so much company last night.

MIRA. Your diligence will merit more. In the meantime–[gives money]

FOIB. O dear sir, your humble servant.

WAIT. Spouse –

MIRA. Stand off, sir, not a penny. Go on and prosper, Foible. The lease shall be made good and the farm stocked, if we succeed.

FOIB. I don’t question your generosity, sir, and you need not doubt of success. If you have no more commands, sir, I’ll be gone; I’m sure my lady is at her toilet, and can’t dress till I come. Oh dear, I’m sure that [looking out] was Mrs. Marwood that went by in a mask; if she has seen me with you I m sure she’ll tell my lady. I’ll make haste home and prevent her. Your servant, Sir.–B’w’y, Waitwell.



WAIT. Sir Rowland, if you please. The jade’s so pert upon her preferment she forgets herself.

MIRA. Come, sir, will you endeavour to forget yourself–and transform into Sir Rowland?

WAIT. Why, sir, it will be impossible I should remember myself. Married, knighted, and attended all in one day! ‘Tis enough to make any man forget himself. The difficulty will be how to recover my acquaintance and familiarity with my former self, and fall from my transformation to a reformation into Waitwell. Nay, I shan’t be quite the same Waitwell neither–for now I remember me, I’m married, and can’t be my own man again.

Ay, there’s my grief; that’s the sad change of life: To lose my title, and yet keep my wife.


A room in Lady Wishfort’s house.

LADY WISHFORT at her toilet, PEG waiting.

LADY. Merciful! No news of Foible yet?

PEG. No, madam.

LADY. I have no more patience. If I have not fretted myself till I am pale again, there’s no veracity in me. Fetch me the red–the red, do you hear, sweetheart? An errant ash colour, as I’m a person. Look you how this wench stirs! Why dost thou not fetch me a little red? Didst thou not hear me, Mopus?

PEG. The red ratafia, does your ladyship mean, or the cherry brandy?

LADY. Ratafia, fool? No, fool. Not the ratafia, fool–grant me patience!–I mean the Spanish paper, idiot; complexion, darling. Paint, paint, paint, dost thou understand that, changeling, dangling thy hands like bobbins before thee? Why dost thou not stir, puppet? Thou wooden thing upon wires!

PEG. Lord, madam, your ladyship is so impatient.–I cannot come at the paint, madam: Mrs. Foible has locked it up, and carried the key with her.

LADY. A pox take you both.–Fetch me the cherry brandy then.



I’m as pale and as faint, I look like Mrs. Qualmsick, the curate’s wife, that’s always breeding. Wench, come, come, wench, what art thou doing? Sipping? Tasting? Save thee, dost thou not know the bottle?


LADY WISHFORT, PEG with a bottle and china cup.

PEG. Madam, I was looking for a cup.

LADY. A cup, save thee, and what a cup hast thou brought! Dost thou take me for a fairy, to drink out of an acorn? Why didst thou not bring thy thimble? Hast thou ne’er a brass thimble clinking in thy pocket with a bit of nutmeg? I warrant thee. Come, fill, fill. So, again. See who that is. [One knocks.] Set down the bottle first. Here, here, under the table:- what, wouldst thou go with the bottle in thy hand like a tapster? As I’m a person, this wench has lived in an inn upon the road, before she came to me, like Maritornes the Asturian in Don Quixote. No Foible yet?

PEG. No, madam; Mrs. Marwood.

LADY. Oh, Marwood: let her come in. Come in, good Marwood.


[To them] MRS MARWOOD.

MRS. MAR. I’m surprised to find your ladyship in DESHABILLE at this time of day.

LADY. Foible’s a lost thing; has been abroad since morning, and never heard of since.

MRS. MAR. I saw her but now, as I came masked through the park, in conference with Mirabell.

LADY. With Mirabell? You call my blood into my face with mentioning that traitor. She durst not have the confidence. I sent her to negotiate an affair, in which if I’m detected I’m undone. If that wheedling villain has wrought upon Foible to detect me, I’m ruined. O my dear friend, I’m a wretch of wretches if I’m detected.

MRS. MAR. O madam, you cannot suspect Mrs. Foible’s integrity.

LADY. Oh, he carries poison in his tongue that would corrupt integrity itself. If she has given him an opportunity, she has as good as put her integrity into his hands. Ah, dear Marwood, what’s integrity to an opportunity? Hark! I hear her. Dear friend, retire into my closet, that I may examine her with more freedom– you’ll pardon me, dear friend, I can make bold with you–there are books over the chimney–Quarles and Pryn, and the SHORT VIEW OF THE STAGE, with Bunyan’s works to entertain you.–Go, you thing, and send her in. [To PEG.]



LADY. O Foible, where hast thou been? What hast thou been doing?

FOIB. Madam, I have seen the party.

LADY. But what hast thou done?

FOIB. Nay, ’tis your ladyship has done, and are to do; I have only promised. But a man so enamoured–so transported! Well, if worshipping of pictures be a sin–poor Sir Rowland, I say.

LADY. The miniature has been counted like. But hast thou not betrayed me, Foible? Hast thou not detected me to that faithless Mirabell? What hast thou to do with him in the park? Answer me, has he got nothing out of thee?

FOIB. So, the devil has been beforehand with me; what shall I say?- -Alas, madam, could I help it, if I met that confident thing? Was I in fault? If you had heard how he used me, and all upon your ladyship’s account, I’m sure you would not suspect my fidelity. Nay, if that had been the worst I could have borne: but he had a fling at your ladyship too, and then I could not hold; but, i’faith I gave him his own.

LADY. Me? What did the filthy fellow say?

FOIB. O madam, ’tis a shame to say what he said, with his taunts and his fleers, tossing up his nose. Humh, says he, what, you are a-hatching some plot, says he, you are so early abroad, or catering, says he, ferreting for some disbanded officer, I warrant. Half pay is but thin subsistence, says he. Well, what pension does your lady propose? Let me see, says he, what, she must come down pretty deep now, she’s superannuated, says he, and –

LADY. Ods my life, I’ll have him–I’ll have him murdered. I’ll have him poisoned. Where does he eat? I’ll marry a drawer to have him poisoned in his wine. I’ll send for Robin from Locket’s– immediately.

FOIB. Poison him? Poisoning’s too good for him. Starve him, madam, starve him; marry Sir Rowland, and get him disinherited. Oh, you would bless yourself to hear what he said.

LADY. A villain; superannuated?

FOIB. Humh, says he, I hear you are laying designs against me too, says he, and Mrs. Millamant is to marry my uncle (he does not suspect a word of your ladyship); but, says he, I’ll fit you for that, I warrant you, says he, I’ll hamper you for that, says he, you and your old frippery too, says he, I’ll handle you –

LADY. Audacious villain! Handle me? Would he durst? Frippery? Old frippery? Was there ever such a foul-mouthed fellow? I’ll be married to-morrow, I’ll be contracted to-night.

FOIB. The sooner the better, madam.

LADY. Will Sir Rowland be here, say’st thou? When, Foible?

FOIB. Incontinently, madam. No new sheriff’s wife expects the return of her husband after knighthood with that impatience in which Sir Rowland burns for the dear hour of kissing your ladyship’s hand after dinner.

LADY. Frippery? Superannuated frippery? I’ll frippery the villain; I’ll reduce him to frippery and rags, a tatterdemalion!–I hope to see him hung with tatters, like a Long Lane pent-house, or a gibbet thief. A slander-mouthed railer! I warrant the spendthrift prodigal’s in debt as much as the million lottery, or the whole court upon a birthday. I’ll spoil his credit with his tailor. Yes, he shall have my niece with her fortune, he shall.

FOIB. He? I hope to see him lodge in Ludgate first, and angle into Blackfriars for brass farthings with an old mitten.

LADY. Ay, dear Foible; thank thee for that, dear Foible. He has put me out of all patience. I shall never recompose my features to receive Sir Rowland with any economy of face. This wretch has fretted me that I am absolutely decayed. Look, Foible.

FOIB. Your ladyship has frowned a little too rashly, indeed, madam. There are some cracks discernible in the white vernish.

LADY. Let me see the glass. Cracks, say’st thou? Why, I am arrantly flayed: I look like an old peeled wall. Thou must repair me, Foible, before Sir Rowland comes, or I shall never keep up to my picture.

FOIB. I warrant you, madam: a little art once made your picture like you, and now a little of the same art must make you like your picture. Your picture must sit for you, madam.

LADY. But art thou sure Sir Rowland will not fail to come? Or will a not fail when he does come? Will he be importunate, Foible, and push? For if he should not be importunate I shall never break decorums. I shall die with confusion if I am forced to advance–oh no, I can never advance; I shall swoon if he should expect advances. No, I hope Sir Rowland is better bred than to put a lady to the necessity of breaking her forms. I won’t be too coy neither–I won’t give him despair. But a little disdain is not amiss; a little scorn is alluring.

FOIB. A little scorn becomes your ladyship.

LADY. Yes, but tenderness becomes me best–a sort of a dyingness. You see that picture has a sort of a–ha, Foible? A swimmingness in the eyes. Yes, I’ll look so. My niece affects it; but she wants features. Is Sir Rowland handsome? Let my toilet be removed–I’ll dress above. I’ll receive Sir Rowland here. Is he handsome? Don’t answer me. I won’t know; I’ll be surprised. I’ll be taken by surprise.

FOIB. By storm, madam. Sir Rowland’s a brisk man.

LADY. Is he? Oh, then, he’ll importune, if he’s a brisk man. I shall save decorums if Sir Rowland importunes. I have a mortal terror at the apprehension of offending against decorums. Oh, I’m glad he’s a brisk man. Let my things be removed, good Foible.



MRS. FAIN. O Foible, I have been in a fright, lest I should come too late. That devil, Marwood, saw you in the park with Mirabell, and I’m afraid will discover it to my lady.

FOIB. Discover what, madam?

MRS. FAIN. Nay, nay, put not on that strange face. I am privy to the whole design, and know that Waitwell, to whom thou wert this morning married, is to personate Mirabell’s uncle, and, as such winning my lady, to involve her in those difficulties from which Mirabell only must release her, by his making his conditions to have my cousin and her fortune left to her own disposal.

FOIB. O dear madam, I beg your pardon. It was not my confidence in your ladyship that was deficient; but I thought the former good correspondence between your ladyship and Mr. Mirabell might have hindered his communicating this secret.

MRS. FAIN. Dear Foible, forget that.

FOIB. O dear madam, Mr. Mirabell is such a sweet winning gentleman. But your ladyship is the pattern of generosity. Sweet lady, to be so good! Mr. Mirabell cannot choose but be grateful. I find your ladyship has his heart still. Now, madam, I can safely tell your ladyship our success: Mrs. Marwood had told my lady, but I warrant I managed myself. I turned it all for the better. I told my lady that Mr. Mirabell railed at her. I laid horrid things to his charge, I’ll vow; and my lady is so incensed that she’ll be contracted to Sir Rowland to-night, she says; I warrant I worked her up that he may have her for asking for, as they say of a Welsh maidenhead.

MRS. FAIN. O rare Foible!

FOIB. Madam, I beg your ladyship to acquaint Mr. Mirabell of his success. I would be seen as little as possible to speak to him– besides, I believe Madam Marwood watches me. She has a month’s mind; but I know Mr. Mirabell can’t abide her. [Calls.] John, remove my lady’s toilet. Madam, your servant. My lady is so impatient, I fear she’ll come for me, if I stay.

MRS. FAIN. I’ll go with you up the back stairs, lest I should meet her.



MRS. MAR. Indeed, Mrs. Engine, is it thus with you? Are you become a go-between of this importance? Yes, I shall watch you. Why this wench is the PASSE-PARTOUT, a very master-key to everybody’s strong box. My friend Fainall, have you carried it so swimmingly? I thought there was something in it; but it seems it’s over with you. Your loathing is not from a want of appetite then, but from a surfeit. Else you could never be so cool to fall from a principal to be an assistant, to procure for him! A pattern of generosity, that I confess. Well, Mr. Fainall, you have met with your match.–O man, man! Woman, woman! The devil’s an ass: if I were a painter, I would draw him like an idiot, a driveller with a bib and bells. Man should have his head and horns, and woman the rest of him. Poor, simple fiend! ‘Madam Marwood has a month’s mind, but he can’t abide her.’ ‘Twere better for him you had not been his confessor in that affair, without you could have kept his counsel closer. I shall not prove another pattern of generosity; he has not obliged me to that with those excesses of himself, and now I’ll have none of him. Here comes the good lady, panting ripe, with a heart full of hope, and a head full of care, like any chymist upon the day of projection.