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SiR PETER TEAZLE.
Ladies, Guests, &c. &c.
ACT I. SCENE I. - LADY SNEERWELL'S House. Toilette table;
two arm chairs; four small chairs. LADY SNEERWELL discovered finishing her toilet at the dressing table; SNAKE drinking chocolate at table.
L. SNEERW. The paragraphs, you say, Mr. Snake, were all inserted ?
SNAKE. They were, madam; and as I copied them myself in a feigned hand, there can be no suspicion whence they came.
L. SNEERW. Did you circulate the report of Lady Brittle's intrigue with Captain Boastall ?
SNAKE. That 's in as fine a train as your ladyship could wish. In the common course of things, I think it must reach Mrs. Clackett's ears within four and twenty hours; and then, you know, the business is as good as done.
L. SNEERW. Why, truly, Mrs. Clackett has a very pretty talent, and a great deal of industry.
SNAKE. True, madam, and has been tolerably successful in her day. To my knowledge she has been the cause of six matches 1 being broken off, and three sons disinherited; of four forced elopements, and as many.close confinements; nine separate maintenances, and two divorces. Nay, I have more than once traced her causing a tête-à-tête in the Town and Country Magazine, when the parties, perhaps, had never seen each other's face before in the course of their lives.
L. SNEERW. She certainly has talents, but her manner
SNAKE. 'T is very true. She generally designs well, has a free tongue, and a bold invention; but her colouring is too dark, and her outlines often extravagant. She wants that delicacy of tint, and mellowness 2 of sneer, which distinguishes your ladyship's scandal.
L. SNEERW. You are partial, Snake.
SNAKE. Not in the least-every body allows that Lady Sneerwell can do more with a word or a look than many can with the most laboured detail, even when they happen to have a little truth on their side to support it. (they rise)
1. Matches, engagements to be married.
2. Expressions borrowed from painting
School for Scandal.
LADY SNEERWELL. Yes, my dear Snake; and I am no hypocrite to deny the satisfaction I reap from the success of my efforts. Wounded myself in the earty part of my life by the envenomed tongue of slander, I confess I have since known no pleasure equal to the reducing others to the level of my own injured reputation.
SNAKE. Nothing can be more natural. But, Lady Sneerwell, there is one affair in which you have lately employed me, wherein, I confess, I am at a loss to guess your motives.
L. SNEERW. I conceive you mean with respect to my neighbour, Sir Peter Teazle, and his family? Then at once to unravel this mystery, I must inform you, that love has no share whatever in the intercourse between Mr. Surface and me.
L. SNEERW. His real attachment is to Maria, or her fortune; but finding in his brother a favoured rival, he has been obliged to mask his pretensions, and profit by my assistance.
SNAKE. Yet still I am more puzzled why you should interest yourself in his success.
L. SNEERW. How dull you are! Cannot you surmise the weakness which I hitherto, through shame, have concealed even from you? Must I confess, that Charles, that libertine, that extravagant, that bankrupt in fortune and reputation, that he it is for whom I 'm thus anxious and malicious, and to gain whom I would sacrifice every thing?
SNAKE. Now, indeed, your conduct appears consistent ; but how came you and Mr. Surface so confidential ?
L. SNEERW. For our mutual interest. I have found him out a long time since. I know him to be artful, selfish, and malicious—in short, a sentimental knave; while, with Sir Peter, and indeed with all his acquaintance, he passes for a youthful miracle of prudence, good sense, and benevolence
. SNAKE. Yes; yet Sir Peter vows he has not his equal in England—and above all, he praises him as a man of sentiment.
L. SNEERW. True—and with the assistance of his sentiment and hypocrisy, he has brought Sir Peter entirely into his interest with regard to Maria; while poor Charles has no friend in the house, though, I fear, he has a powerful one in Maria's heart, against whom we must direct our schemes.
1. i. e. I am not such a hypocrite as to deny.
(Exit Servant. He generally calls about this time. – I don't wonder at people giving him to me for a lover. Enter JOSEPH SURFACE, preceded by Servant, who exits
immediately. JOSEPH. My dear Lady Sneerwell, how do you do today? Mr. Snake, your most obedient.
L. SNEERW. Snake has just been rallying me on our mutual attachment; but I have informed him of our real views. You know how useful he has been to us, and believe me, the confidence is not ill-placed.
Jos. Madam, it is impossible for me to suspect a man of Mr. Snake's sensibility and discernment. L. SNEERW. Well, well
, no compliments now; but tell me when you saw your mistress, Maria--or, what is more material to me, your
brother. Jos. I have not seen either since I left you; but I can inform
you that they never meet. Some of your stories have taken a good effect on Maria.
L. SNEERW. Ah! my dear Snake! the merit of this belongs to you; but do your brother's distresses increase?
Jos. Every hour. I am told he has had another execution in the house yesterday. In short, his dissipation and extravagance exceed anything I have ever heard of.
L. SNEERW. Poor Charles!
Jos. True, madam; notwithstanding his vices, one can't help feeling for him. Poor Charles! I 'm sure I wish it was in my power to be of any essential service to him; for the man who does not share in the distresses of a brother, even though merited by his own misconduct, deserves
L. SNEERW. Ở Lud!! you are going to be moral, and forget that you are among friends.
Jos. Egad, 2 that 's true! - I 'll keep that sentiment till I see Sir Peter; — however, it certainly is a charity to rescue Maria from such a libertine, who, if he is to be reclaimed,
1. O Lud! a corruption of O Lord! 2. Egad, the diminutive of the
hoath by God!
can be so only by, a person of your ladyship's superior accomplishments and understanding.
SNAKE. I believe, Lady Sneerwell, here 's company coming: I 'll go and copy the letter I mentioned to you. Mr. Surface, your most obedient.
JOSEPH. (shakes hands with SNAKE) Sir, your very devoted.
[Excit SNAKE. Lady Sneerwell, I am sorry you have put any farther confidence in that fellow.
LADY SNEERWELL. Why so?
Jos. I have lately detected him in frequent conference with old Rowley, who was formerly my father's steward, and has never, you know, been a friend of mine.
L. SNEERW. And do you think he would betray us?
Jos. Nothing more likely; take my word for it, Lady Sneerwell, that fellow has n't virtue enough to be faithful even to his own villainy. 1 Enter Maria, preceded by Servant, who exits immediately.
Jos. Ah! Maria!
L. SNEERW. Maria, my dear, how do you do? What 's the matter? MARIA. Oh! there is that disagreeable lover of mine,
Sir Benjamin Backbite, has just called at my guàrdian's, with his odious uncle, Crabtree; so I slipt 2 out, and ran hither to avoid them.
L. SNEERW. Is that all?
Jos. If my brother Charles had been of the party, madam, perhaps you would not have been so much alarmed.
L. SNEERW. Nay, now you are severe; for I dare swear that the truth of the matter is, Maria heard you were here. But, my dear, what has Sir Benjamin done, that you would avoid him so?
MARIA. Oh, he has done nothing—but 't is for what he has said; his conversation is a perpetual libel on all his acquaintance.
Jos. Ay, and the worst of it is, there is no advantage
1. Now usually written villany. pronunciation, thus becoming irre
2. The past tenses of many verbs / gular verbs; but which are now were formerly contracted in their more properly written as regular orthography, as they are now in /verbs: slipped.