Act II.

A drawing room at Lady Smatter’s.
Lady Smatter & Cecilia.
Lady Smatter. Yes, yes, this song is certainly Mr. Dabler’s, I am not to be deceived in his style. What say you, my dear Miss Stanley, don’t you think I have found him out?
Cecilia. Indeed, I am too little acquainted with his poems to be able to judge.
Lady Smatter. Your indifference surprises me! For my part, I am never at rest till I have discovered the authors of every thing that comes out; &, indeed, I commonly hit upon them in a moment. I declare I sometimes wonder at myself when I think how lucky I am in my guesses.
Cecilia. Your Ladyship devotes so much time to these researches, that it would be strange if they were unsuccessful.
Lady Smatter. Yes, I do indeed devote my time to them; I own it without blushing, for how, as a certain author says, can time be better employed than in cultivating intellectual accomplishments? And I am often surprised, my dear Miss Stanley, that a young lady of your good sense should not be more warmly engaged in the same pursuit.
Cecilia. My pursuits, whatever they may be, are too unimportant to deserve being made public.
Lady Smatter. Well, to be sure, we are all born with sentiments of our own, as I read in a book I can’t just now recollect the name of, so I ought not to wonder that yours & mine do not coincide; for, I declare, if my pursuits were not made public I should not have any at all, for where can be the pleasure of reading books & studying authors if one is not to have the credit of talking of them?
Cecilia. Your Ladyship’s desire of celebrity is too well known for your motives to be doubted.
Lady Smatter. Well, but, my dear Miss Stanley, I have been thinking for some time past of your becoming a member of our Esprit Party: Shall I put up your name?
Cecilia. By no means; my ambition aspires not at an honour for which I feel myself so little qualified.
Lady Smatter. Nay, but you are too modest; you can’t suppose how much you may profit by coming among us. I’ll tell you some of our regulations. The principal persons of our party are authors & critics; the authors always bring us something new of their own, & the critics regale us with manuscript notes upon something old.
Cecilia. And in what class is your Ladyship?
Lady Smatter. O, I am among the critics. I love criticism passionately, though it is really laborious work, for it obliges one to read with a vast deal of attention. I declare I am sometimes so immensely fatigued with the toil of studying for faults & objections that I am ready to fling all my books behind the fire.
Cecilia. And what authors have you chiefly criticized?
Lady Smatter. Pope & Shakespeare. I have found more errors in those than in any other.
Cecilia. I hope, however, for the sake of readers less fastidious, your Ladyship has also left them some beauties.
Lady Smatter. O yes. I have not cut them up regularly through; indeed, I have not, yet, read above half their works, so how they will fare as I go on, I can’t determine. O, here’s Beaufort.
Enter Beaufort.
Beaufort. Your Ladyship’s most obedient.
Cecilia. Mr. Beaufort, I am quite ashamed to see you! Yet the disappointment I occasioned you was as involuntary on my part as it could possibly be disagreeable on yours. Your brother, I hope, prevented your waiting long?
Beaufort. That you meant he should is sufficient reparation for my loss of time; but what must be the disappointment that an apology from you would not soften?
Lady Smatter. [Reading.] O lovely, charming, beauteous maid,— I wish this song was not so difficult to get by heart,— but I am always beginning one line for another. After all, study is a most fatiguing thing! O how little does the world suspect, when we are figuring in all the brilliancy of conversation, the private hardships, & secret labours of a belle esprit!
Enter a Servant.
Servant. Mr. Codger, my lady.
Enter Mr. Codger.
Lady Smatter. Mr. Codger, your servant. I hope I see you well?
Codger. Your Ladyship’s most humble. Not so well, indeed, as I could wish, yet, perhaps, better than I deserve to be.
Lady Smatter. How is my friend Jack?
Codger. I can’t directly say, madam; I have not seen him these two hours, & poor Jack is but a harum-scarum young man; many things may have happened to him in the space of two hours.
Lady Smatter. And what, my good sir, can you apprehend?
Codger. To enumerate all the casualties I apprehend might, perhaps, be tedious, I will, therefore, only mention the heads. In the first place, he may be thrown from his horse; in the second place, he may be run over while on foot; in the third place
Lady Smatter. O pray place him no more in situations so horrible. Have you heard lately from our friends in the north?
Codger. Not very lately, madam: the last letter I received was dated the 16th of February, & that, you know, madam, was five weeks last Thursday.
Lady Smatter. I hope you had good news?
Codger. Why, madam, yes; at least, none bad. My sister Deborah acquainted me with many curious little pieces of history that have happened in her neighbourhood: would it be agreeable to your Ladyship to hear them?
Lady Smatter. O no, I would not take up so much of your time.
Codger. I cannot, madam, employ my time more agreeably. Let me see,— in the first place no, that was not first,— let me recollect!
Beaufort. Pray, sir, was any mention made of Tom?
Codger. Yes; but don’t be impatient; I shall speak of him in his turn.
Beaufort. I beg your pardon, sir, but I enquired from hearing he was not well.
Codger. I shall explain whence that report arose in a few minutes; in the mean time, I must beg you not to interrupt me, for I am trying to arrange a chain of anecdotes for the satisfaction of Lady Smatter.
Lady Smatter. Bless me, Mr. Codger, I did not mean to give you so much trouble.
Codger. It will be no trouble in the world, if your Ladyship will, for a while, forbear speaking to me, though the loss upon the occasion will be all mine.
[He retires to the side scene.
Lady Smatter. What a formal old fogrum the man grows! Beaufort, have you seen this song?
Beaufort. I believe not, madam.
Lady Smatter. O, it’s the prettiest thing! But I don’t think you have a true taste for poetry; I never observed you to be enraptured, lost in ecstasy, or hurried as it were out of yourself, when I have been reading to you. But my enthusiasm for poetry may, perhaps, carry me too far; come now, my dear Miss Stanley, be sincere with me, don’t you think I indulge this propensity too much?
Cecilia. I should be sorry to have your Ladyship suppose me quite insensible to the elegance of literary pursuits, though I neither claim any title, nor profess any ability to judge of them.
Lady Smatter. O you’ll do very well in a few years. But, as you observe, I own I think there is something rather elegant in a taste for these sort of amusements: otherwise, indeed, I should not have taken so much pains to acquire it, for, to confess the truth, I had from nature quite an aversion to reading,— I remember the time when the very sight of a book was disgustful to me!
Codger. [Coming forward.] I believe, madam, I can now satisfy your enquiries.
Lady Smatter. What enquiries?
Codger. Those your Ladyship made in relation to my letter from our friends in Yorkshire. In the first place, my sister Deborah writes me word that the new barn which, you may remember, was begun last summer, is pretty nearly finished. And here, in my pocket book, I have gotten the dimensions of it. It is 15 feet by
Lady Smatter. O, for heaven’s sake, Mr. Codger, don’t trouble yourself to be so circumstantial.
Codger. The trouble, madam, is inconsiderable, or, if it were otherwise, for the information of your Ladyship I would most readily go through with it. It is 15 feet by 30. And pray does your Ladyship remember the old dog kennel at the parsonage house?
Lady Smatter. No, sir; I never look at dog kennels.
Codger. Well, madam, my sister Deborah writes me word
Enter Servant.
Servant. Mr. Dabler, my lady.
Enter Mr. Dabler.
Lady Smatter. Mr. Dabler, you are the man in the world I most wished to see.
Dabler. Your Ladyship is beneficence itself!
Lady Smatter. A visit from you, Mr. Dabler, is the greatest of favours, since your time is not only precious to yourself, but to the world.
Dabler. It is, indeed, precious to myself, madam, when I devote it to the service of your Ladyship. Miss Stanley, may I hope you are as well as you look? If so, your health must indeed be in a state of perfection; if not, never before did sickness wear so fair a mask.
Lady Smaller. Tis a thousand pities, Mr. Dabler, to throw away such poetical thoughts & imagery in common conversation.
Dabler. Why, ma’am, the truth is, something a little out of the usual path is expected from a man whom the world has been pleased to style a poet;— though I protest I never knew why!
Lady Smaller. How true is it that modesty, as Pope, or Swift, I forget which, has it, is the constant attendant upon merit!
Dabler. If merit, madam, were but the constant attendant upon modesty, then, indeed, I might hope to attain no little share! Faith, I’ll set that down. [He takes out his tablets.]
Codger. And so, madam, my sister Deborah writes me word
Lady Smaller. O dear, Mr. Codger, I merely wanted to know if all our friends were well.
Codger. Nay, if your Ladyship does not want to hear about the dog kennel
Lady Smaller. Not in the least! I hate kennels, & dogs too.
Codger. As you please, madam! [Aside.] She has given me the trouble of ten minutes recollection, & now she won’t hear me!
Lady Smaller. Mr. Dabler, I believe I’ve had the pleasure of seeing something of yours this morning.
Dabler. Of mine? You alarm me beyond measure!
Lady Smaller. Nay, nay, ’tis in print, so don’t be frightened.
Dabler. Your Ladyship relieves me: but, really, people are so little delicate in taking copies of my foolish manuscripts that I protest I go into no house without the fear of meeting something of my own. But what may it be?
Lady Smatter. Why I’ll repeat it.
O sweetest, softest, gentlest maid
Dabler. No, ma’am, no;— you mistake,—
O lovely, beauteous, charming maid,—
is it not so?
Lady Smatter. Yes, yes, that’s it. O what a vile memory is mine! After all my studying to make such a mistake! I declare I forget as fast as I learn. I shall begin to fancy myself a wit by & by.
Dabler. Then will your Ladyship for the first time be the last to learn something. [Aside.] ’Gad, I’ll put that into an epigram!
Lady Smatter. I was reading, the other day, that the memory of a poet should be short, that his works may be original.
Dabler. Heavens, madam, where did you meet with that?
Lady Smatter. I can’t exactly say, but either in Pope or Swift.
Dabler. O curse it, how unlucky!
Lady Smatter. Why so?
Dabler. Why, madam, ’tis my own thought! I’ve just finished an epigram upon that very subject! I protest I shall grow more and more sick of books every day, for I can never look into any, but I’m sure of popping upon something of my own.
Lady Smatter. Well but, dear sir, pray let’s hear your epigram.
Dabler. Why,— if your Ladyship insists upon it — [Reads.]
Ye gentle Gods, O hear me plead,
And kindly grant this little loan;
Make me forget whate’er I read
That what I write may be my own.
Lady Smatter. O charming! Very clever indeed.
Beaufort. But pray, sir, if such is your wish, why should you read at all?
Dabler. Why, sir, one must read; one’s reputation requires it; for it would be cruelly confusing to be asked after such or such an author, & never to have looked into him. especially to a person who passes for having some little knowledge in these matters.
Beaufort. [Aside.] What a shallow coxcomb!
Lady Smatter. You must positively let me have a copy of that epigram, Mr. Dabler. Don’t you think it charming, Mr. Codger?
Codger. Madam, I never take any thing in at first hearing; if Mr. Dabler will let me have it in my own hand, I will give your Ladyship my opinion of it, after I have read it over two or three times.
Dabler. Sir, it is much at your service; but I must insist upon it that you don’t get it by heart.
Codger. Bless me, sir, I should not do that in half a year! I have no turn for such sort of things.
Lady Smatter. I know not in what Mr. Dabler most excels, epigrams, sonnets, odes or elegies.
Dabler. Dear ma’am, mere nonsense! But I believe your Ladyship forgets my little lampoons?
Lady Smatter. O no, that I never can! There you are indeed perfect.
Dabler. Your Ladyship far over-rates my poor abilities;— my writings are mere trifles, & I believe the world would be never the worse if they were all committed to the flames.
Beaufort. [Aside.] I would I could try the experiment!
Lady Smatter. Your talents are really universal.
Dabler. O ma’am, you quite overpower me! But now you are pleased to mention the word universal,— did your Ladyship ever meet with my little attempt in the epic way?
Lady Smatter. O no, you sly creature! But I shall now suspect you of every thing.
Dabler. Your Ladyship is but too partial. I have, indeed, some little facility in stringing rhymes, but I should suppose there’s nothing very extraordinary in that: everybody, I believe, has some little talent,— mine happens to be for poetry, but it’s all a chance! Nobody can choose for himself, & really, to be candid, I don’t know if some other things are not of equal consequence.
Lady Smarter. There, Mr. Dabler, I must indeed differ from you! What in the universe can be put in competition with poetry?
Dabler. Your Ladyship’s enthusiasm for the fine arts
Enter a Servant.
Servant. Mrs. Sapient, madam.
Lady Smatter. Lord, how tiresome! She’ll talk us to death!
Enter Mrs. Sapient.
Dear Mrs. Sapient, this is vastly good of you!
Dabler. Your arrival, madam, is particularly critical at this time, for we are engaged in a literary controversy; & to whom can we so properly apply to enlighten our doubts by the sun beams of her counsel, as to Mrs. Sapient?
Lady Smatter. What a sweet speech! [Aside.] I wonder how he could make it to that stupid woman!
Mrs. Sapient. You do me too much honour, sir. But what is the subject I have been so unfortunate as to interrupt? For though I shall be ashamed to offer my sentiments before such a company as this, I yet have rather a peculiar way of thinking upon this subject.
Dabler. As how, ma’am?
Mrs. Sapient. Why, sir, it seems to me that a proper degree of courage is preferable to a superfluous excess of modesty.
Dabler. Excellent! Extremely right, madam. The present question is upon poetry. We were considering whether, impartially speaking, some other things are not of equal importance?
Mrs. Sapient. I am unwilling, sir, to decide upon so delicate a point; yet, were I to offer my humble opinion, it would be, that though to me nothing is more delightful than poetry, I yet fancy there may be other things of greater utility in common life.
Dabler. Pray, Mr. Codger, what is your opinion?
Codger. Sir, I am so intently employed in considering this epigram, that I cannot, just now, maturely weigh your question; & indeed, sir, to acknowledge the truth, I could have excused your interrupting me.
Dabler. Sir, you do my foolish epigram much honour. [Aside.] That man has twice the sense one would suppose from his look. I’ll show him my new sonnet.
Mrs. Sapient. How much was I surprised, Mr. Beaufort, at seeing Mr. Censor this morning in a milliner’s shop!
Cecilia. I rejoice to hear you had such a companion; & yet, perhaps, I ought rather to regret it, since the sting of his raillery might but inflame your disappointment & vexation.
Beaufort. The sting of a professed satirist only proves poisonous to fresh subjects; those who have often felt it are merely tickled by the wound.
Dabler. [Aside.] How the deuce shall I introduce the sonnet? [To the company.] Pray, ladies & gentlemen, you who so often visit the muses, is there any thing new in the poetical way?
Lady Smatter. Who, Mr. Dabler, can so properly answer that question as you,— you, to whom all their haunts are open?
Dabler. O dear ma’am, such compositions as mine are the merest baubles in the world! I dare say there are people who would even be ashamed to set their names to them.
Beaufort. [Aside.] I hope there is but one person who would not!
Mrs. Sapient. How much more amiable in my eyes is genius when joined with diffidence than with conceit!
Codger. [Returning the epigram.] Sir, I give you my thanks: & I think, sir, your wish is somewhat uncommon.
Dabler. I am much pleased, sir, that you approve of it. [Aside.] This man does not want understanding, with all his formality. He’ll be prodigiously struck with my sonnet.
Mrs. Sapient. What, is that something new of Mr. Dabler’s? Surely, sir, you must write night & day.
Dabler. O dear no, ma’am, for I compose with a facility that is really surprising, yet, sometimes, to be sure, I have been pretty hard worked; in the charade season I protest I hardly slept a wink! I spent whole days in looking over dictionaries for words of double meaning: & really I made some not amiss. But ’twas too easy; I soon grew sick of it. Yet I never quite gave it up till, accidentally, I heard a house maid say to a scullion, “My first is yourself; my second holds good cheer; & my third is my own office;”—&, ’Gad, the word was scrub-bing!
Codger. With respect, sir, to that point concerning which you consulted me, I am inclined to think
Dabler. Sir!
Codger. You were speaking to me, sir, respecting the utility of poetry; I am inclined to think
Dabler. O, apropos, now I think of it, I have a little sonnet here that is quite pat to the subject, &—
Codger. What subject, good sir?
Dabler. What subject?— why this subject, you know.
Codger. As yet, sir, we are talking of no subject; I was going
Dabler. Well but ha! ha!— it puts me so in mind of this little sonnet we were speaking of, that
Codger. But, sir, you have not heard what I was going to say.—
Dabler. True, sir, true;— I’ll put the poem away for the present,— unless, indeed, you very much wish to see it?
Codger. Another time will do as well, sir. I don’t rightly comprehend what I read before company.
Dabler. Dear sir, such trifles as these are hardly worth your serious study; however, if you’ll promise not to take a copy, I think I’ll venture to trust you with the manuscript,— but you must be sure not to show it a single soul,—& pray take great care of it.
Codger. Good sir, I don’t mean to take it at all.
Dabler. Sir!
Codger. I have no time for reading; & I hold that these sort of things only turn one’s head from matters of more importance.
Dabler. O very well, sir,— if you don’t want to see it — [Aside.] What a tasteless old dolt! Curse me if I shall hardly be civil to him when I meet him next!
Codger. Notwithstanding which, sir, if I should find an odd hour or two in the course of the winter, I will let you know, & you may send it to me.
Dabler. Dear sir, you do me a vast favour! [Aside.] The fellow’s a perfect driveller!
Lady Smatter. I declare, Mr. Codger, had we known you were so indifferent to the charms of poetry, we should never have admitted you of our party.
Codger. Madam, I was only moved to enter it in order to oblige your Ladyship; but I shall hardly attend it above once more,— or twice at the utmost.
Enter Jack.
Jack. [To Lady Smatter.] Ma’am, your servant. Where’s Miss Stanley? I’m so out of breath I can hardly speak. Miss Stanley, I’m come on purpose to tell you some news.
Cecilia. It ought to be of some importance by your haste.
Beaufort. Not a whit the more for that! His haste indicates nothing, for it accompanies him in everything.
Jack. Nay, if you won’t hear me at once, I’m gone!
Codger. And pray, son Jack, whither may you be going?
Jack. Lord, sir, to an hundred places at least. I shall be all over the town in less than half an hour.
Codger. Nevertheless it is well known you have no manner of business over any part of it. I am much afraid, son Jack, you will be a blockhead all your life.
Lady Smatter. For shame, Mr. Codger! Jack, you were voted into our Esprit Party last meeting; & if you come tonight, you will be admitted.
Jack. I’ll come with the greatest pleasure, ma’am, if I can but get away from Will. Scamper, but we are upon a frolic tonight, so it’s ten to one if I can make off.
Mrs. Sapient. If I might take the liberty, sir, to offer my advice upon this occasion, I should say that useful friends were more improving than frivolous companions, for, in my opinion, it is pity to waste time.
Jack. Why, ma’am, that’s just my way of thinking! I like to be always getting forward, always doing something. Why, I am going now as far as Fleet Street, to a print shop, where I left Tom Whiffle. I met him in my way from Cornhill, & promised to be back with him in half an hour.
Beaufort. Cornhill? You said you were going to Hyde Park.
Jack. Yes, but I met Kit Filligree, & he hauled me into the City. But, now you put me in mind of it, I believe I had best run there first, & see who’s waiting.
Beaufort. But what, in the mean time, is to become of Tom Whiffle?
Jack. O, hang him, he can wait.
Codger. In truth, son Jack, you scandalize me! I have even apprehensions for your head; you appear to me to be non compos mentis.
Beaufort. Tis pity, Jack, you cannot change situations with a running footman.
Jack. Ay, ay, good folks, I know you all love to cut me up, so pray amuse yourselves your own way,— only don’t expect me to stay & hear you.
Codger. Son Jack, return. Pray answer me to the following question.
Jack. Dear sir, pray be quick, for I’m in a horrid hurry.
Codger. A little more patience, son, would become you better; you should consider that you are but a boy, & that I am your father.
Jack. Yes, sir, I do. Was that all, sir?
Codger. All? Why, I have said nothing.
Jack. Very true, sir.
Codger. You ought, also, to keep it constantly in your head that I am not merely older, but wiser than yourself.
Jack. Yes, sir. [Aside.] Demme, though, if I believe that!
Codger. You would do well, also, to remember, that such haste to quit my presence, looks as if you took no pleasure in my company.
Jack. It does so, sir. [Aside.] Plague take it, I shan’t get away this age.
Codger. Son Jack, I insist upon your minding what I say.
Jack. I will, sir.
Codger. Why, you are running away without hearing my question.
Jack. [Aside.] O dem it, I shall never get off! [To Codger.] Pray, sir, what is it?
Codger. Don’t speak so quick, Jack, there’s no understanding a word you say. One would think you supposed I was going to take the trouble of asking a question that was not of sufficient importance to deserve an answer.
Jack. True, sir: but do pray be so good to make haste.
Codger. Son, once again, don’t put yourself in such a fury; you hurry me so, you have almost made me forget what I wanted to ask you; let me see,— O, now I recollect; pray do you know if the fish was sent home before you came out?
Jack. Lord no, sir, I know nothing of the matter! [Aside.] How plaguey tiresome! To keep me all this time for such a question as that.
Codger. Son Jack, you know nothing! I am concerned to say it, but you know nothing!
Lady Smatter. Don’t judge him hastily. Mr. Dabler, you seem lost in thought.
Dabler. Do I, ma’am? I protest I did not know it.
Lady Smatter. O you are a sly creature! Planning some poem, I dare say.
Jack. I’ll e’en take French leave.
Cecilia. [Following him.] You are destined to be tormented this morning, for I cannot suffer you to escape till we come to an explanation: you said you had news for me?
Jack. O ay, true; I’ll tell you what it was. While I was upon ’Change this morning but hold, I believe I’d best tell Lady Smatter first.
Cecilia. Why so?
Jack. Because perhaps you’ll be frightened.
Cecilia. Frightened? At what?
Jack. Why it’s very bad news.
Cecilia. Good God, what can this mean?
Beaufort. Nothing, I dare be sworn.
Jack. Very well, brother! I wish you may think it nothing when you’ve heard it.
Cecilia. Don’t keep me in suspense, I beseech you.
Beaufort. Jack, what is it you mean by alarming Miss Stanley thus?
Jack. Plague take it, I wish I had not spoke at all! I shall have him fly into another passion!
Cecilia. Why will you not explain yourself?
Jack. Why, ma’am, if you please, I’ll call on you in the afternoon.
Cecilia. No, no, you do but increase my apprehensions by this delay.
Beaufort. Upon my honour, Jack, this is insufferable!
Jack. Why Lord, brother, don’t be so angry.
Lady Smatter. Nay, now Jack, you are really provoking.
Mrs. Sapient. Why yes, I must needs own I am, myself, of opinion that it is rather disagreeable to wait long for bad news.
Codger. In truth, Jack, you are no better than a booby.
Jack. Well, if you will have it, you will! But I tell you before hand you won’t like it. You know Stipend, the banker?
Cecilia. Good heaven, know him? Yes,— what of him?
Jack. Why now, upon my word, I’d rather not speak.
Cecilia. You sicken me with apprehension!
Jack. Well,— had you much money in his hands?
Cecilia. Every thing I am worth in the world!
Jack. Had you, faith?
Cecilia. You terrify me to death!— what would you say?
Beaufort. No matter what,— Jack, I could murder you!
Jack. There, now, I said how it would be! Now would not any body suppose the man broke through my fault?
Cecilia. Broke?— O heaven, I am ruined!
Beaufort. No, my dearest Cecilia, your safety is wrapt in mine, &, to my heart’s last sigh, they shall be inseparable.
Lady Smatter. Broke?— what can this mean?
Mrs. Sapient. Broke? Who is broke? I am quite alarmed.
Codger. In truth, this has the appearance of a serious business.
Cecilia. Mr. Beaufort, let me pass I can stand this no longer.
Beaufort. Allow me to conduct you to your own room; this torrent will else over-power you. Jack, wait till I return.
He leads Cecilia out.
Jack. No, no, brother, you’ll excuse me there!— I’ve stayed too long already.
Lady Smatter. Hold, Jack. I have ten thousand questions to ask you. Explain to me what all this means. It is of the utmost consequence I should know immediately.
Mrs. Sapient. I, too, am greatly terrified: I know not but I may be myself concerned in this transaction; & really the thought of losing one’s money is extremely serious, for, as far as I have seen of the world, there’s no living without it.
Codger. In truth, son Jack, you have put us all into tribulation.
Mrs. Sapient. What, sir, did you say was the banker’s name?
Jack. [Aside.] Lord, how they worry me! [To Lady Smatter.] Stipend, ma’am.
Mrs. Sapient. Stipend? I protest he has concerns with half my acquaintance! Lady Smatter, I am in the utmost consternation at this intelligence; I think one hears some bad news or other every day,— half the people one knows are ruined! I wish your Ladyship good morning, upon my word, in my opinion, a bankruptcy is no pleasant thing!
Lady Smatter. Pray, Jack, satisfy me more clearly how this affair stands; tell me all you know of it?
Jack. [Aside.] Lord, I shan’t get away till midnight! [To Lady Smatter.] Why, ma’am, the man’s broke, that’s all.
Lady Smatter. But how? Is there no prospect his affairs may be made up?
Jack. None; they say upon ’Change there won’t be a shilling in the pound.
Lady Smatter. What an unexpected blow! Poor Miss Stanley!
Dabler. ‘Tis a shocking circumstance indeed. [Aside.] I think it will make a pretty good elegy, though!
Lady Smatter. I can’t think what the poor girl will do! For here is an end of our marrying her!
Dabler. Tis very hard upon her indeed. [Aside.] ’Twill be the most pathetic thing I ever wrote! [To Lady Smatter.] Ma’am, your Ladyship’s most obedient. [Aside.] I’ll to work while the subject is warm,— nobody will read it with dry eyes!
Lady Smaller. I have the greatest regard in the world for Miss Stanley,— nobody can esteem her more; but I can’t think of letting Beaufort marry without money.
Codger. Pray, madam, how came Miss Stanley to have such very large concerns with Mr. Stipend?
Lady Smaller. Why he was not only her banker, but her guardian, & her whole fortune was in his hands. She is a pretty sort of girl,— I am really grieved for her.
Jack. Lord, here’s my brother! I wish I could make off.
Re-enter Beaufort.
Beaufort. Stay, sir! One word, & you will be most welcome to go. Whence had you the intelligence you so humanely communicated to Miss Stanley?
Jack. I had it upon ’Change. Every body was talking of it.
Beaufort. Enough. I have no desire to detain you any longer.
Jack. Why now, brother, perhaps you think I am not sorry for Miss Stanley, because of my coming in such a hurry? But I do assure you it was out of mere good nature, for I made a point of running all the way, for fear she should hear it from a stranger.
Beaufort. I desire you will leave me: my mind is occupied with other matters than attending to your defence.
Jack. Very well, brother. Plague take it, I wish I had gone to Hyde Park at once!
Codger. In truth, son Beaufort, I must confess Jack has been somewhat abrupt; but, nevertheless, I must hint to you that, when I am by, I think you might as well refer the due reproof to be given by me. Jack is not everybody’s son, although he be mine.
Beaufort. I am sorry I have offended you, sir, but
Codger. Madam, as your house seems in some little perturbation, I hope you will excuse the shortness of my visit if I take leave now. Your Ladyship’s most humble servant. Jack is a good lad at the bottom, although he be somewhat wanting in solidity.
Beaufort. At length, thank heaven, the house is cleared. O madam, will you not go to Miss Stanley? I have left her in an agony of mind which I had no ability to mitigate.
Lady Smatter. Poor thing! I am really in great pain for her.
Beaufort. Your Ladyship alone has power to soothe her,— a power which, I hope, you will instantly exert.
Lady Smatter. I will go to her presently or send for her here.
Beaufort. Surely your Ladyship will go to her?— at such a time as this, the smallest failure in respect
Lady Smatter. As to that, Beaufort,— but I am thinking what the poor girl had best do; I really don’t know what to advise.
Beaufort. If I may be honoured with your powerful intercession, I hope to prevail with her to be mine immediately.
Lady Smatter. Pho, pho, don’t talk so idly.
Beaufort. Madam!
Lady Smatter. Be quiet a few minutes, & let me consider what can be done.
Beaufort. But, while we are both absent, what may not the sweet sufferer imagine?
Lady Smatter. Suppose we get her into the country?— yet I know not what she can do when she is there; she can’t live on green trees.
Beaufort. What does your Ladyship mean?
Lady Smatter. Nothing is so difficult as disposing of a poor girl of fashion.
Beaufort. Madam!
Lady Smatter. She has been brought up to nothing,— if she can make a cap, ’tis as much as she can do,—&, in such a case, when a girl is reduced to a penny, what is to be done?
Beaufort. Good heaven, madam, will Miss Stanley ever be reduced to a penny while I live in affluence?
Lady Smatter. Beaufort,— to cut the matter short, you must give her up.
Beaufort. Give her up?
Lady Smatter. Certainly; you can never suppose I shall consent to your marrying a girl who has lost all her fortune. While the match seemed suitable to your expectations, & to my intentions towards you, I readily countenanced it, but now, it is quite a different thing,— all is changed, and
Beaufort. No, madam, no, all is not changed, for the heart of Beaufort is unalterable! I loved Miss Stanley in prosperity,— in adversity, I adore her! I solicited her favour when she was surrounded by my rivals, & I will still supplicate it, though she should be deserted by all the world besides. Her distress shall increase my tenderness, her poverty shall redouble my respect, & her misfortunes shall render her more dear to me than ever!
Lady Smatter. Beaufort, you offend me extremely. I have as high notions of sentiment & delicacy as you can have, for the study of the fine arts, as Pope justly says, greatly enlarges the mind; but, for all that, if you would still have me regard you as a son, you must pay me the obedience due to a mother, & never suppose I adopted you to marry you to a beggar.
Beaufort. A beggar?— Indignation chokes me!— I must leave you, madam,— the submission I pay you as a nephew, & the obedience I owe you as an adopted son, will else both give way to feelings I know not how to stifle!
Lady Smatter. This is really an unfortunate affair. I am quite distressed how to act, for the eyes of all the world will be upon me! I will see the girl, however, & give her a hint about Beaufort;— William!
Enter a Servant.
Tell Miss Stanley I beg to speak to her.
[Exit Servant.
I protest I wish she was fairly out of the house! I never cordially liked her,— she has not a grain of taste, & her compliments are so cold, one has no pleasure in receiving them,— she is a most insipid thing! I shan’t be sorry to have done with her.
Enter Cecilia.
Miss Stanley, my dear, your servant.
Cecilia. Oh madam!
Lady Smatter. Take courage; don’t be so downcast,— a noble mind, as I was reading the other day, is always superior to misfortune.
Cecilia. Alas, madam, in the first moments of sorrow & disappointment, Philosophy & Rhetoric offer their aid in vain! Affliction may, indeed, be alleviated, but it must first be felt.
Lady Smatter. I did not expect, Miss Stanley, you would have disputed this point with me; I thought, after so long studying matters of this sort, I might be allowed to be a better judge than a young person who has not studied them at all.
Cecilia. Good heaven, madam, are you offended?
Lady Smatter. Whether I am or not, we’ll not talk of it now; it would be illiberal to take offence at a person in distress.
Cecilia. Madam!
Lady Smatter. Do you think Jack may have been misinformed?
Cecilia. Alas no! I have just received this melancholy confirmation of his intelligence. [Gives Lady Smatter a letter.]
Lady Smatter. Upon my word ’tis a sad thing! A sad stroke upon my word! However, you have good friends, & such as, I dare say, will take care of you.
Cecilia. Take care of me, madam?
Lady Smatter. Yes, my dear, I will for one. And you should consider how much harder such a blow would have been to many other poor girls, who have not your resources.
Cecilia. My resources? I don’t understand you.
Lady Smatter. Nay, my dear, I only mean to comfort you, & to assure you of my continued regard; & if you can think of any thing in which I can serve you, I am quite at your command; nobody can wish you better. My house, too, shall always be open to you. I should scorn to desert you because you are in distress. A mind, indeed, cultivated & informed, as Shakespeare has it, will ever be above a mean action.
Cecilia. I am quite confounded!
Lady Smatter. In short, my dear, you will find me quite at your disposal, & as much your friend as in the sunshine of your prosperity:— but as to Beaufort
Cecilia. Hold, madam! I now begin to understand your Ladyship perfectly.
Lady Smatter. Don’t be hasty, my dear. I say as to Beaufort, he is but a young man, & young men, you know, are mighty apt to be rash; but when they have no independence, & are of no profession, they should be very cautious how they disoblige their friends. Besides, it always happens that, when they are drawn in to their own ruin, they involve
Cecilia. No more, I beseech you, madam! I know not how to brook such terms, or to endure such indignity. I shall leave your Ladyship’s house instantly, nor, while any other will receive me, shall I re-enter it! Pardon me, madam, but I am yet young in the school of adversity, & my spirit is not yet tamed down to that abject submission to unmerited mortifications which time & long suffering can alone render supportable.
Lady Smatter. You quite surprise me, my dear! I can’t imagine what you mean. However, when your mind is more composed, I beg you will follow me to my own room. Till then, I will leave you to your meditations, for, as Swift has well said, ’tis vain to reason with a person in a passion.
Cecilia. Follow you? No, no, I will converse with you no more, cruel, unfeeling woman! I will quit your inhospitable roof, I will seek shelter alas where?— without fortune, destitute of friends, ruined in circumstances, yet proud of heart,— where can the poor Cecilia seek shelter, peace or protection? Oh Beaufort! ’tis thine alone to console me; thy sympathy shall soften my calamities, & thy fidelity shall instruct me to support them. Yet fly I must!— Insult ought not to be borne, & those who twice risk, the third time deserve it.
End of Act the Second.