A library at Lady Smatter’s.
Lady Smatter, Mrs. Sapient, Dabler
and Codger, seated at a round table
covered with books.
Lady Smatter. Now before we begin our
literary subjects, allow me to remind you of the rule established at
our last meeting, that every one is to speak his real sentiments, &
no flattery is to taint our discussions.
Lady Smatter. This is
the smallest assembly we have had yet; some or other of our members
fail us every time.
Dabler. But where such
luminaries are seen as Lady Smatter & Mrs. Sapient, all other could
only appear to be eclipsed.
Lady Smatter. What have
you brought to regale us with tonight, Mr. Dabler?
Dabler. Me? Dear ma’am,
Lady Smatter. Oh
Mrs. Sapient. Surely you
cannot have been so cruel? For, in my opinion, to give pain causelessly
is rather disobliging.
Dabler. Dear ladies, you
know you may command me; but, I protest, I don’t think I have any thing
worth your hearing.
Lady Smatter. Let us
judge for ourselves. Bless me, Mr. Codger, how insensible you are! Why
do you not join in our entreaties?
Codger. For what, madam?
Lady Smatter. For a
poem, to be sure.
Codger. Madam, I
understood Mr. Dabler he had nothing worth your hearing.
Lady Smatter. But surely
you did not believe him?
Codger. I knew no
reason, madam, to doubt him.
Lady Smatter. O you
Goth! Come, dear Mr. Dabler, produce something at once, if only to
has but to speak. [Takes a paper from his
pocket book, & reads.
On a Certain Party of Beaux Esprits.
Learning, here, doth pitch her tent,
Science, here, her seeds doth scatter;
Learning, in form of Sapient,
Science, in guise of heav’nly Smatter.
Lady Smatter. O
charming! Beautiful lines indeed.
Mrs. Sapient. Elegant
& poignant to a degree!
Lady Smatter. What do you
think, Mr. Codger, of this poem? [Whispering
him.] To be sure, the compliment to Mrs. Sapient is
preposterously overstrained, but, otherwise, nothing can be more
Mrs. Sapient. Mr. Dabler
has, indeed, the happiest turn in the world at easy elegance. Why, Mr.
Codger, you don’t speak a word? [Whispering him.]
Pray, between friends, what say you to the notion of making Lady
Smatter represent Science? Don’t you think he has been rather
unskillful in his choice?
Codger. Why, madam, you
give me no time to think at all.
to other matters. I have a little observation to offer upon a line of
Pope; he says,
Most Women have no character at all;
Now I should be glad to know, if this was true in the time of Pope, why
people should complain so much of the depravity of the present age?
Dabler. Your Ladyship
has asked a question that might perplex a Solomon.
Mrs. Sapient. It is,
indeed, surprisingly ingenious.
Dabler. Yes, & it
reminds me of a little foolish thing which I composed some time ago.
Lady Smatter. O pray let
us hear it.
The lovely Iris, young & fair,
Possess’d each charm of Face & air
That with the Cyprian might compare;
So sweet her Face, so soft her mind,
So mild she speaks,— she looks so kind,—
To hear — might melt!— to see,— might blind!
Lady Smatter & Mrs. Sapient. [Together.]
O elegant! Enchanting! Delicious!
O delightful! Pathetic! Delicate!
Lady Smatter. Why Mr.
Codger, have you no soul? Is it possible you can be unmoved by such
poetry as this?
Codger. I was
considering, madam, what might be the allusion to which Mr. Dabler
referred, when he said he was reminded of this little foolish thing, as
he was pleased to call it himself.
I should like to toss that old fellow in a blanket!
Codger. Now, sir, be so
good as to gratify me by relating what may be the connection between
your song, & the fore-going conversation?
Sir, I only meant to read it to the ladies.
Lady Smatter. I’m sure
you did us great honour. Mrs. Sapient, the next proposition is yours.
Mrs. Sapient. Pray, did
your Ladyship ever read Dryden?
Lady Smatter. Dryden? O
yes!— but I don’t just now recollect him;— let’s see, what has he writ?
Dabler. Cymon &
Lady Smatter. O ay, so
he did; & really for the time of day I think it’s mighty pretty.
Dabler. Why yes, it’s
well enough; but it would not do now.
Mrs. Sapient. Pray what
does your Ladyship think of the Spectator?
Lady Smatter. O, I like
it vastly. I’ve just read it.
Lady Smatter.] In regard,
madam, to those verses of Mr. Dabler, the chief fault I have to find
with them, is —
Dabler. Why, sir, we are
upon another subject now! [Aside.] What
an old curmudgeon! He has been pondering all this time only to find
Mrs. Sapient. For my
part, I have always thought that the best papers in the Spectator
are those of Addison.
Lady Smatter. Very
Dabler. Charmingly said!
Exactly my own opinion.
Mrs. Sapient. Nay, I may
be mistaken; I only offer it as my private sentiment.
Dabler. I can but wish,
madam, that poor Addison had lived to hear such praise.
Lady Smatter. Next to
Mr. Dabler, my favourite poets are Pope & Swift.
Mrs. Sapient. Well,
after all, I must confess I think there are as many pretty things in
old Shakespeare as in anybody.
Lady Smatter. Yes, but
he is too common; everybody can speak well of Shakespeare!
Dabler. I vow I am quite
sick of his name.
Madam, to the
best of my apprehension, I conceive your Ladyship hath totally mistaken
that line of Pope which says
Most women have no character at all.
Lady Smatter. Mistaken?
How so, sir? This is curious enough! [Aside to Dabler.] I begin to think the poor
creature is superannuated.
Dabler. So do I, ma’am;
I have observed it for some time.
Codger. By no character,
madam, he only means —
Lady Smatter. A bad
character, to be sure!
Codger. There, madam,
lieth your Ladyship’s mistake; he means, I say —
Lady Smatter. O dear
sir, don’t trouble yourself to tell me his meaning;— I dare say I shall
be able to make it out.
Mrs. Sapient. [Aside to Dabler.]
How irritable is her temper!
Dabler. O, intolerably!
Codger. Your Ladyship,
madam, will not hear me. I was going —
Lady Smatter. If you
please, sir, we’ll drop the subject, for I rather fancy you will give
me no very new information concerning it,— do you think he will, Mr.
Codger. Mr. Dabler,
Madam, is not a competent judge of the case, as —
Not a judge, sir? Not a judge of poetry?
Codger. Not in the
present circumstance, sir, because, as I was going to say —
Dabler. Nay then, sir,
I’m sure I’m a judge of nothing!
Codger. That may be,
sir, but is not to the present purpose; I was going —
Dabler. Suppose, sir, we
refer to the ladies? Pray, now, ladies, which do you think the
most adequate judge of poetry, Mr. Codger, or your humble servant?
Speak sincerely, for I hate flattery.
Mrs. Sapient. I would by
no means be so ill bred as to determine for Mr. Dabler in the presence
of Mr. Codger, because I have always thought that a preference
of one person implies less approbation of another; yet —
Codger. Pray, madam, let
me speak; the reason, I say —
Mrs. Sapient. Yet the
well-known skill of Mr. Dabler in this delightful art —
Codger. Madam, this
interruption is somewhat injudicious, since it prevents my explaining —
Mrs. Sapient. [Rising.] Injudicious, sir? I am sorry,
indeed, if I have merited such an accusation: there is nothing I have
more scrupulously endeavoured to avoid, for, in my opinion, to
be injudicious is no mark of an extraordinary understanding.
Lady Smatter. [Aside to Dabler.]
How soon she’s hurt!
Dabler. O most
Codger. Madam, you will
never hear me out; you prevent my explaining the reason, I say, why Mr.
Dabler cannot decide upon Lady Smatter’s error in judgement —
Lady Smatter. [Rising.] Error in judgement? Really
this is very diverting!
Codger. I say, madam —
Lady Smatter. Nay, sir,
’tis no great matter; & yet, I must confess, it’s rather a hard
case that, after so many years of intense study, & most laborious
reading, I am not allowed to criticize a silly line of Pope.
Dabler. And if I, who,
from infancy have devoted all my time to the practice of poetry, am now
thought to know nothing of the matter,— I should be glad to be informed
who has a better title?
Mrs. Sapient. And if I,
who, during my whole life, have made propriety my peculiar study, am
now found to be deficient in it,— I must really take the liberty to
observe that I must have thrown away a great deal of time to very
Lady Smatter. And as to
this line of Pope —
Enter a Servant.
Servant. Mr. Censor, my lady, begs to speak
to your Ladyship for only two minutes upon business of consequence.
Dabler. Censor? Suppose
we admit him?— [Aside.] ’Twill be an
admirable opportunity to show him my epigram.
Lady Smatter. Admit him?
What, to ask his opinion of Mr. Codger’s critical annotations?
Codger. My doubt, madam,
is, if you will give him time to speak it.
Lady Smatter. Well, is
it agreeable to ye all that Mr. Censor should have admittance? I know
it is contrary to rule, yet, as he is one of the wits, & therefore
ought to be among us, suppose we indulge him?
Codger. Madam, I vote
to Lady Smatter.] I see
he’s afraid of him,— let’s have him by all means.
Lady Smatter. Without
doubt. Pray, Mr. Codger, why are you against it?
Codger. Because, madam,
there are already so many talkers that I cannot be heard myself.
to Lady Smatter.] You see
how it is?
Lady Smatter. Yes, &
enjoy it of all things. Desire Mr. Censor to walk up stairs. [Exit Servant.]
To be sure this is rather a deviation from the maxims of the society,
but great minds, as a favourite author of mine observes, are above
being governed by common prejudices.
Codger. I am thinking,
Lady Smatter. Mr. Censor, your entrance is
most critically fortunate; give me leave to present you to our society.
Censor. I expected to
have seen your Ladyship alone.
Lady Smatter. Yes, but I
have obtained a dispensation for your admittance to our Esprit Party.
But let us not waste our time in common conversation. You must know we
are at present discussing a very knotty point, & I should be glad
of your opinion upon the merits of the cause.
Dabler. Yes; & as
soon as that is decided, I have a little choice piece of literature to
communicate to you which I think you will allow to be tolerable.
Mrs. Sapient. And I,
too, sir, must take the liberty to appeal to your judgement concerning —
Censor. Ay, ay, speak
all at a time, & then one hearing may do.
Lady Smatter. Mr.
Censor, when a point of the last importance is in agitation, such
levity as this —
Censor. Why, madam, the
business which brings me hither —
Dabler. Business? O name
not the word in this region of fancy & felicity.
Mrs. Sapient. That’s
finely said, Mr. Dabler, & corroborates with an opinion of mine
which I have long formed,— that business & fancy should be regarded
as two things.
Censor. Ay, madam, &
with one of mine which I hold to be equally singular.
Mrs. Sapient. What is
Censor. That London
& Paris should be regarded as two places.
Mrs. Sapient. Pshaw!
Lady Smatter.] I say,
madam, I am thinking —
Censor. Then, sir, you
are most worthily employed; & this good company desire nothing less
than to impede the progress of your thoughts, by troubling you to
Dabler. Very true;
suppose, therefore, we change the subject. O, apropos, have you seen
the new verses that run about?
Censor. No. [Turning to Lady Smatter.]
Give me leave, madam, to acquaint you with the motive of my present
not be such a Goth as to interrupt our literary discussions?—
must positively have your sentiments upon an argument I have just had
with Mr. Codger upon this line of Pope:
Most women —
Censor. Hold, madam; I
am no Quixote, & therefore encounter not danger where there is no
prospect of reward; nor shall I, till I emulate the fate of Orpheus,
ever argue about women — in their presence.
Dabler. Ha, Ha! Mighty
well said. But I was going to tell you, Mr. Censor, that if you have
any desire to look at those verses I was speaking of, I believe I have
a copy of them in my pocket. Let’s see,— yes, here they are; how lucky
that I should happen to have them about me! [Gives
them to Censor.] [Aside.] I think they will surprise him.
That passion which we strongest feel
We all agree to disapprove;
Yet feebly, feebly we conceal —
Sir, you read without any spirit,—
Yet feebly,— feebly we conceal
You should drop your voice at the second feebly, or you lose all the
] It puts me in a fever
to hear such fine lines murdered.
We all are bound slaves to self love.
Why, you give it neither emphasis nor
expression! You read as if you were asleep.
That passion which —
Censor. O no more, no
more of it. Pray, who is the author?
Dabler. Why, really I — I
don’t absolutely know,— but, by what I have heard, I should take it to
be somebody very — very clever.
Censor. You should?
Dabler. Yes: &,
indeed, to own the truth, I have heard it whispered that it is a
posthumous work of — of — O, of Gay,— ay, of Gay.
Censor. Of Gay?
Dabler. Yes; found in a
little corner of his private bureau.
Censor. And pray who has
the impudence to make such an assertion?
Dabler. Who?— o, as to
that, really I don’t know who in particular,— but I assure you not
me,— though, by the way, do you really think it very bad?
beyond abuse. Are you not of the same opinion?
as to that
I can’t exactly say,—
that is, I have hardly read it.— [Aside.
] What a crabbed fellow! There is not
an ounce of taste in his whole composition. Curse me, if I was Nature,
if I should not blush to have made him. Hold, my tablets! A good
thought that! I’ll turn it into a lampoon, & drop it at
[Walks aside & writes in
Lady Smatter.] I have seen
Miss Stanley, madam, &—
Lady Smatter. Did you
find her at Mrs. Voluble’s?
Censor. Yes. [They whisper.]
Mrs. Sapient. [Listening. Aside.] So, so, she’s at
Mrs. Voluble’s!— there must certainly be some design upon Dabler.
Censor. But hear me,
madam. I have something to communicate to you which —
Lady Smatter. Not now, I
can attend to nothing now. These evenings, sir, which I devote to the
fine arts, must not be contaminated with common affairs.
Mrs. Sapient. [Aside.] I shan’t rest till I have
dived into this matter. [To Lady Smatter.] I am much chagrined,
madam, at the disagreeable necessity I am under of breaking abruptly
from this learned & ingenious assembly, but I am called hence by an
appointment which I cannot give up without extreme rudeness; & I
must confess I should be rather sorry to be guilty of that, as I have
long been of opinion that a breach of good manners — is no great sign of
I am quite
sorry to lose you so soon.
What a tiresome creature! How glad I am she’s gone!
the rebuff I have just met with, madam, I must say I cannot help
thinking that —
Censor. Do you mean,
sir, to satirize the whole company, that you thus repeatedly profess
thinking among those who have no other aim than talking?
Codger. Sir, when a man
has been pondering upon a subject for a considerable time, &
assorting his ideas in order to explain himself, it is an exceedingly
uncivil thing to interrupt him.
Lady Smatter. Mr.
Dabler, what are you writing?
Dabler. Only a little
memorandum, ma’am, about business; nothing more.
I find I can never get in two words at a time.
Jack. Ma’am, your Ladyship’s most obedient.
Lady Smatter. Why did
not you come sooner, Jack?— we are just broke up.
Jack. I could not help
it, upon my word. I came away now just as my tea was poured out at the
coffee house, because I would not stay to drink it.
I’m glad Jack’s come; I think, at least, I shall make him listen to me.
Jack. I have been in
such a hurry the whole day, that I have never known what I have been
about. I believe I have been to sixteen places since dinner. You good
folks who sit here talking by the hour together, must lead strange dull
lives; I wonder you don’t lose the use of your limbs.
Codger. Son Jack, when
you have finished your speech, please to hear one of mine.
Jack. I hope it won’t be
a long one, sir.
Codger. Why do you hope
that, son, before you know how well it may entertain you?
Jack. Lord, sir, I never
think of being entertained with speeches.
Codger. What, Jack, not
with your own father’s?
Jack. Lord no, sir.
Codger. No, sir? And
pray, sir, why?
Jack. Because I’m always
tired before they’re half done.
Codger. Son Jack, ’tis
these loose companions that you keep that teach you all this
profligacy. Tired of hearing me speak! One would think the poor lad was
Jack. So this is your
Club Room, where you all meet to talk?
Censor. Yes; & the
principal maxim of the learned members is that no one shall listen to
what is said by his neighbour.
Lady Smatter. Fie, Mr.
Censor, I’m sure we’re all attention —
Censor. Yes, to seize
the next opportunity of speaking.
Lady Swatter. Never mind
what Mr Censor says, Jack, for you know he is a professed Stoic.
Censor. Stoic? Pray,
what does your Ladyship mean?
Lady Smatter. Well,
well, Cynic, then, if you like it better.
Censor. You hold, then,
that their signification is the same?
Lady Smatter. Mercy, Mr.
Censor, do you expect me to define the exact meaning of every word I
make use of?
Censor. No, madam, not
unless I could limit your Ladyship’s language to the contents of a
Lady Smatter. O horrid!
Did you ever hear any thing so splenetic? Mr. Dabler, what are you
writing? Suppose, in compliment to our new member, you were to indulge
us with a few lines?
Dabler. Does your
Ladyship mean an extempore?
Lady Smatter. The thing
in the world I should like best.
Dabler. Really, ma’am, I
wish for nothing upon earth so much as the honour of your Ladyship’s
commands,— but as to an extempore — the amazing difficulty,— the genius
requisite,— the masterly freedom,— the — the — the things of that sort it
requires make me half afraid of so bold an undertaking.
Censor. Sir, your
exordium is of sufficient length.
I shall but
collect my thoughts, & be ready in a moment. In the mean time, I
beg I may not interrupt the conversation; it will be no manner of
disturbance to me to hear you all talking; we poets, ma’am, can easily
detach ourselves from the company.
Censor. I should be glad
if your Ladyship would inform me what time, according to the
established regulations of your society, you allow for the study of
Lady Smatter. I think we
have no fixed rule; some are quick, & some are slow,—’tis just as
What unconscious absurdity!
While they are speaking, Dabler
privately looks at a paper, which he accidentally drops instead of
putting in his pocket.
I hope I have not detained you long?
Lady Smatter. Is it
possible you can be ready so soon?
O dear yes,
ma’am; these little things are done in a moment; they cost us
In one sole point agree we all,
Both rich & poor, & saint & sinner,
Proud or humble, short or tall,—
And that’s — a taste for a good dinner.
Lady Smatter. O
charming! I never heard any thing so satirical in my life.
Censor. And so, sir, you
composed these lines just now?
Dabler. This very
Censor. It seems, then,
you can favour your friends whenever they call upon you?
Dabler. O yes, sir, with
the utmost pleasure.
Censor. I should be
obliged to you, then, sir, for something more.
Sir, you do me
honour. I will but take an instant for consideration, & endeavour
to obey you. [Aside.
] So, so!—
I should bring him round at last!
Censor. Stay, sir. As
you make these verses with so much facility, you can have no objection,
I presume, to my choosing you a subject?
Censor. And then with
firmer courage your friends may counter-act the skepticism of the
envious, & boldly affirm that they are your own, & unstudied.
Dabler. Really, sir, as
to that, I can’t say I very much mind what those sort of people say; we
authors, sir, are so much inured to illiberal attacks, that we regard
them as nothing,— mere marks, sir, of celebrity, & hear them without
the least emotion.
Censor. You are averse,
then, to my proposal?
Dabler. O dear no,
sir!— not at all,— not in the least, I assure you, sir! [Aside.] I wish he was in the deserts of Libya
with all my Heart!
Censor. The readiness of
your compliance, sir, proves the promptness of your wit. I shall name a
subject which, I believe, you will find no difficulty to dilate
Self-sufficiency,— don’t you understand me?
Dabler. Really, sir, in
regard to that, I don’t exactly know whether I do or not, but I assure
you if you imagine that I am self-sufficient, you are most prodigiously
mistaken; I defy any body to charge me with that, for though I have
written so many things that have pleased every body else, I have always
made it a rule to keep my own opinion to myself. Even Mr. Codger must,
in this point, do me justice. Will you not, sir?
Codger. Sir, I shall say
nothing. [Folds his arms, and leans upon the
Censor. Well, sir, I
will give you another subject, then, for of this, I must own, you might
long since have been weary. I will not affront you by naming so
hackneyed a theme as Love, but give us, if you please, a spirited
couplet upon War.
War?— hum — let’s see,— upon War,— ay,— but hold! Don’t you think, sir, that
War is rather a disagreeable subject where there are ladies? For myself
I can certainly have no objection, but, I must confess, I am rather in
doubt whether it will be quite polite to Lady Smatter.
Jack. Why Lord, Mr.
Dabler, a man might ride ten times round Hyde Park before you are ready
Dabler. Sir, you don’t
know what you talk of; things of this importance are not to be settled
Censor. Mr. Dabler, I
will give you an opportunity of taking your revenge; let your verses be
upon the use & abuse of time, & address them, if you please, to
Jack. Ay, with all my
heart. He may address what he will to me, so as he will not keep me
long to hear him.
Dabler. Time, did you
say?— the use & the abuse of time?— ay, very good, a very good
subject,— Time?— yes, a very good idea, indeed!— the use & the abuse
of time,— [Pauses.] But pray, sir, pray,
Mr. Censor, let me speak a word to you; are you not of opinion — now
don’t imagine this is any objection of mine, no, I like the
subject of all things,— it is just what I wished,— but don’t you think
that poor Mr. Codger, here, may think it is meant as a sneer at him?
Censor. How so, sir?
Dabler. Why, sir, on
account of his being so slow. And really, notwithstanding his old
fashioned ways, one would not wish to affront him, poor man, for he
means no harm. Besides, sir, his age!— consider that; we ought all to
make allowances for the infirmities of age. I’m sure I do,— poor
Censor. Well, sir, I
shall name but one subject more, & to that if you object, you must
give me leave to draw my own inference from your backwardness, & to
report it accordingly.
Dabler. Sir, I shall be
very — I shall be extremely — that is, sir, I shall be quite at your
service. [Aside.] What a malignant
Censor. What say you,
sir, to an epigram on slander?
Dabler. On slander?
Censor. Yes, sir; what
objection can you devise to that?
Dabler. An illiberal
subject, sir! A most illiberal subject,— I will have nothing to do with
Censor. The best way to
manifest your contempt will be to satirize it.
Dabler. Why, as you
say,— there’s something in that;— satirize it?— ay, satirize slander,— ha!
Ha! A good hit enough!
Censor. Then, sir, you
will favour us without further delay.
Sir, I should be
extremely happy to obey you,—
nothing could give me greater pleasure,
only that just now I am so particularly pressed for time, that I am
obliged to run away. Lady Smatter, I have the honour to wish your
Ladyship good night.
him.] Fair play, fair play! You shan’t go till you have
made the verses; or, if you do, I swear I’ll run after you.
Dabler. Upon my word,
Censor. Prithee, Jack,
don’t detain him. [Affecting to whisper.]
This anecdote, you know, will tell as well without the verses as with
That fellow is a mere compound of spite & envy.
Lady Smatter. Come, Mr.
Dabler, I see you relent.
Dabler. Why,— hem!— if — if
your Ladyship insists — pray, Mr. Censor, what is this same subject you
have been talking of?
Censor. O, sir, ’tis no
matter; if you are so much hurried, why should you stay? We are all
pretty well convinced of the alacrity of your wit already.
Dabler. Slander, I think
it was?— but suppose, sir, for slander we substitute fashion?— I have a
notion I could do something upon fashion.
Censor. Probably, sir,
you have done something upon fashion; entertain us, therefore, upon the
given subject, or else be a better nomenclator to your verses than to
call them extemporary.
Dabler. Well, sir,
well!— [Aside & walking away.] A
Jack. Pray has your
Ladyship heard the queer story about the Miss Sippets?
Lady Smatter. No; what
Jack. Why, I heard it
just now at Mrs. Gabble’s. Sir Harry Frisk, you know, last winter paid
his addresses to the eldest sister, but this winter, to make what
variety he could without quitting the family, he deserted to the
youngest; & this morning they were to have been married.
Lady Smatter. Well,
& were they not?
Jack. Upon my word I
Lady Smatter. Don’t
know? What do you mean?
Jack. Why I had not time
Lady Smatter. Pho,
prithee, Jack, don’t be so ridiculous.
his hand before his eyes, & walking about.] Not one
thought,— not one thought to save me from ruin!
Censor. Why, Mr. Codger,
what are you about? Is it not rather melancholy to sit by yourself at
the table, & not join at all in the conversation?
his head.] Perhaps, sir, I may conceive myself to be
Lady Smatter. Nay, nay,
prithee, my good friend, don’t be so captious.
Codger. Madam I presume,
at least, I have as good a right to be affronted as another man; for
which reason —
Upon my word, if you all keep talking so incessantly, it is not
possible for a man to know what he is about.
I have not
spoken before for this half hour, & yet I am as good as bid to hold
[Leans again on the table.
Jack. O but, ma’am, I
forgot to tell your Ladyship the very best part of the story; the poor
eldest sister was quite driven to despair, so last night, to avoid, at
least, dancing bare-foot at her sister’s wedding, she made an
appointment with a young haberdasher in the neighbourhood to set off
Lady Smatter. Well?
Jack. Well, & when
she got into the post chaise, instead of her new lover, the young
haberdasher, who do you think was waiting to receive her?
Lady Smatter. Nay, nay,
tell me at once.
Jack. But who do you
Lady Smatter. Pho, pho,
don’t be so tiresome. Who was it?
Jack. Why, that I am not
Lady Smatter. Not
Jack. No, for I had not
time to stay till Mrs. Gabble came to the name.
Lady Smatter. How
raising his head.] Madam, if I might be allowed,— or,
rather, to speak more properly, if I could get time to give my opinion
of this matter, I should say —
Lady Smatter. My good
friend, we should all be extremely happy to hear you, if you were not
so long in coming to the point;— that’s all the fault we find with you;
is it not, Jack?
Jack. To be sure, ma’am.
Why sometimes, do you know, I have made a journey to Bath & back
again, while he has been considering whether his next wig should be a
bob, or a full-bottom.
Codger. Son Jack, this
is very unseemly discourse, & I desire —
Lady Smatter. Nay, pray
don’t scold him. Jack, when shall you hear any more of Miss Sippet’s
Jack. Why, ma’am, either
to-morrow or Friday, I don’t know which.
& reclining as before.] I verily believe they’d
rather hear Jack than me!
Jack. Why Lord, Mr.
Dabler, I believe you are dreaming. Will you never be ready?
Dabler. Sir, this is
really unconscionable! I was just upon the point of finishing,—&
now you have put it all out of my head!
Censor. Well, Mr.
Dabler, we release you, now, from all further trouble, since you have
sufficiently satisfied us that your extemporary verses are upon a new
Dabler. O, sir, as to
that, making verses is no sort of trouble to me, I assure you,— however,
if you don’t choose to hear these which I have been composing —
Lady Smatter. O but I
do, so pray —
Jack. Pho, pho, he has
not got them ready.
Dabler. You are
mistaken, sir, these are quite ready,— entirely finished,—& lodged
here; [Pointing to his head.] but as Mr
Censor. Nay, if they are
ready, you may as well repeat them.
Dabler. No, sir, no,
since you declined hearing them at first, I am above compelling you to
hear them at all. Lady Smatter, the next time I have the honour of
seeing your Ladyship, I shall be proud to have your opinion of them.
Censor. Poor wretch!
“Glad of a quarrel strait he shuts the door,”— what’s this? [Picks up the paper dropt by Dabler.]
So! So! So!—
Beaufort. [To Lady Smatter.] Pardon me, madam,
if I interrupt you, I am come but for a moment. [Apart
to Censor.] Censor, have you no
heart? Are you totally divested of humanity?
Censor. Why, what’s the
Beaufort. The matter?
You have kept me on the rack,— you have wantonly tortured me with the
most intolerable suspense that the mind of man is capable of enduring.
Where is Cecilia?— have you given her my message?— have you brought me
any answer?— why am I kept in ignorance of every thing I wish or desire
Censor. Is your harangue
Beaufort. No, sir, it is
hardly begun! This unfeeling propensity to raillery upon occasions of
serious distress, is cruel, is unjustifiable, is insupportable. No man
could practice it, whose heart was not hardened against pity,
friendship, sorrow,—& every kind, every endearing tie by which the
bonds of society are united.
Censor. At least, my
good friend, object not to raillery in me, till you learn to check
railing in yourself. I would fain know by what law or what title you
gentlemen of the sighing tribe assume the exclusive privilege of
appropriating all severities of speech to yourselves.
Lady Smatter. Beaufort,
your behaviour involves me in the utmost confusion. After an education
such as I have bestowed upon you, this weak anxiety about mere private
affairs is unpardonable;— especially in the presence of people of
Beaufort. I waited,
madam, till Mrs. Sapient and Mr. Dabler were gone,— had I waited longer,
patience must have degenerated into insensibility. From your Ladyship
& from Mr. Codger, my anxiety has some claim to indulgence, since
its cause is but too well known to you both.
Not a word of me! I’ll e’en sneak away before he finds me out.
Codger. Son Jack, please
Jack. Sir, I can’t; my
Codger. Son, if I
conceive aright, your time, properly speaking, ought to be mine.
Jack. Lord, sir, only
look at my watch; it’s just 8 o’clock, & I promised Billy Skip to
call on him before seven to go to the play.
Codger. Son Jack, it is
by no means a dutiful principle you are proceeding upon, to be fonder
of the company of Billy Skip than of your own father.
Beaufort. For mercy’s
sake, sir, debate this point some other time. Censor, why will you thus
deny me all information?
Codger. So it is
continually! Whenever I speak you are all sure to be in a hurry! Jack,
come hither & sit by me; you may hear me, I think, if nobody else
will. Sit down, I say.
Jack. Lord, sir —
Sit down when I
bid you, & listen to what I am going to tell you.
seat himself at the table, & talks to him.
Lady Smatter. Beaufort,
let me speak to Mr. Censor. What have you done, sir, about this poor
girl? Did you give her my message?
Censor. She had too much
sense, too much spirit, too much dignity to hear it.
Lady Smatter. Indeed?
Censor. Yes; &
therefore I should propose —
Lady Smatter. Sir, I
must beg you not to interfere in this transaction; it is not that I
mean to doubt either your knowledge or your learning, far from it,— but
nevertheless I must presume that I am myself as competent a judge of
the matter as you can be, since I have reason to believe — you’ll excuse
me, sir,— that I have read as many books as you have.
Beaufort. O those
eternal books! What, madam, in the name of reason, & of common
sense, can books have to do in such an affair as this?
you mean to depreciate books? To doubt their general utility, &
universal influence? Beaufort, I shall blush to own you for my pupil!
Blush to recollect the fruitless efforts with which I have laboured, as
Shakespeare finely says,
To teach the young idea how to shoot.—
Shakespeare?— then what a thief was Thompson!
Lady Smatter. Thompson?
O, ay, true, now I recollect, so it was.
Censor. Nay, madam, it
little matters which, since both, you know, were authors.
Censor! Is this a time to divert yourself with satirical dryness?
Defer, I conjure you, these useless, idle, ludicrous disquisitions,
&, for a few moments, suffer affairs of real interest &
importance to be heard & understood.
Lady Smarter. Beaufort,
you expose yourself more & more every word you utter; disquisitions
which relate to books & authors ought never to be deferred.
Authors, sir, are the noblest of human beings, & books —
Beaufort. Would to
heaven there were not one in the world!
Lady Smatter. O
Beaufort. Once again,
madam, I entreat, I conjure —
I will not
hear a word more. Wish there was not a book in the world? Monstrous,
shocking, & horrible! Beaufort, you are a lost wretch! I tremble
for your intellects; & if you do not speedily conquer this
degenerate passion, I shall abandon you without remorse to that
ignorance & depravity to which I see you are plunging.
vain, ostentatious woman! Go, then, & leave me to that independence
which not all your smiles could make me cease to regret! Censor, I am
weary of this contention; what is life, if the present must continually
be sacrificed to the future? I will fly to Cecilia, & I will tear
myself from her no more. If, without her, I can receive no happiness,
why, with her, should I be apprehensive of misery?
Censor. Know you not,
Beaufort, that if you sap the foundation of a structure, ’tis madness
to expect the sides & the top will stand self-supported? Is not
security from want the basis of all happiness? & if you undermine
that, do you not lose all possibility of enjoyment? Will the presence
of Cecilia soften the hardships of penury? Will her smiles teach you to
forget the pangs of famine? Will her society make you insensible to the
severities of an houseless winter?
Beaufort. Well, well,
tell me where I can find her, & she shall direct my future conduct
Censor. I have a scheme
upon Lady Smatter to communicate to you, which, I think, has some
chance of succeeding.
Beaufort. Till I have
seen Cecilia, I can attend to nothing; once more, tell me where she is.
Censor. Where-ever she
is, she has more wisdom than her lover, for she charged me to command
Beaufort. My absence?
Censor. Nay, nay, I mean
not seriously to suppose the girl is wise enough to wish it; however,
if she pretends to desire it, you have a sufficient excuse for
Beaufort. I don’t
understand you.— Is Cecilia offended?
Censor. Yes, & most
marvelously, for neither herself nor her neighbours know why.
I will not
stay another minute!—
I will find other methods to discover her abode.
Beaufort, be less absurd. My scheme upon Lady Smatter —
I will not
hear it! I disdain Lady Smatter, & her future smiles or displeasure
shall be equally indifferent to me. Too long, already, have I been
governed by motives & views which level me with her narrow-minded
self; it is time to shake off the yoke,—
assert the freedom to which I
was born,—& dare to be poor, that I may learn to be happy!
Censor. Shall this noble
fellow be suffered to ruin himself? No! The world has too few like him.
Jack, a word with you,— Jack, I say!— are you asleep, man?
Codger. Asleep? Surely
Censor. If you’re awake,
Why, what’s the matter?
Censor. Wake, man, wake
& I’ll tell you.
Codger. How, asleep?
Pray, Son Jack, what’s the reason of your going to sleep when I’m
talking to you?
Jack. Why, sir, I have
so little time for sleep, that I thought I might as well take the
Codger. Son Jack, son
Jack, you are verily an ignoramus!
Censor. Come hither,
Jack. I have something to propose to you —
Codger. Sir, I have not
yet done with him myself. Whereabouts was I, son, when you fell asleep?
Jack. Why there, sir,
where you are now.
Codger. Son, you are
always answering like a blockhead; I mean whereabouts was I in my
Jack. What story, sir?
Codger. How? Did not you
hear my story about your aunt Deborah’s poultry?
Jack. Lord, no, sir!
Codger. Not hear it? Why
what were you thinking of?
Jack. Me, sir? Why how
many places I’ve got to go to to-night.
Codger. This is the most
indecorous behaviour I ever saw. You don’t deserve ever to hear me tell
a story again. Pray, Mr. Censor, did you hear it?
Codger. Well, then, as
it’s a very good story, I think I’ll e’en take the trouble to tell it
once more. You must know, then, my sister Deborah, this silly lad’s
Censor. Mr. Codger, I am
too much engaged to hear you now,— I have business that calls me away.
Codger. This is always
the case! I don’t think I ever spoke to three persons in my life that
did not make some pretence for leaving me before I had done!
Censor. Jack, are you
willing to serve your brother?
Jack. That I am! I would
ride to York to see what’s o’clock for him.
Censor. I will put you
in a way to assist him with less trouble, though upon a matter of at
least equal importance. You, too, Mr. Codger, have, I believe, a good
regard for him?
Codger. Sir, I shall beg
leave to decline making any answer.
Censor. Why so, sir?
Codger. Because, sir, I
never intend to utter a word more in this room; but, on the contrary,
it is my intention to abandon the Club from this time forward.
Censor. But is that any
reason why you should not answer me?
Sir, I shall
quit the place directly; for I think it an extremely hard thing to be
made speak when one has nothing to say, & hold one’s tongue when
one has got a speech ready.
Is he gone?
Huzzah! I was never so tired in my life.
Censor. Hold! I have
something to say to you.
Jack. Can’t possibly
stay to hear you.
Censor. Prithee, Jack,
how many duels do you fight in a year?
Jack. Me? Lord, not one.
Censor. How many times,
then, do you beg pardon to escape a caning?
Jack. A caning?
Censor. Yes; or do you
imagine the very wildness & inattention by which you offend, are
competent to make your apology?
Lord, Mr. Censor,
you are never easy but when you are asking some queer question! But I
don’t much mind you. You odd sort of people, who do nothing all day but
muz yourselves with thinking, are always coming out with these sort of
trimmers; however, I know you so well, that they make no impression on
Censor. Through what a
multiplicity of channels does folly glide! Its streams, alternately
turgid, calm, rapid & lazy, take their several directions from the
peculiarities of the minds whence they spring,— frequently varying in
their courses,— but ever similar in their shallowness!
End of Act the Fourth.