Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816). The School for Scandal.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
Sir Pet.When an old bachelor marries a young wife, what is he to expect? ’Tis now six months since Lady Teazle made me the happiest of men—and I have been the most miserable dog ever since! We tiffed a little going to church, and fairly quarrelled before the bell had done ringing. I was more than once nearly choked with gall during the honeymoon, and had lost all comfort in life before my friends had done wishing me joy. Yet I chose with caution—a girl bred wholly in the country, who never knew luxury beyond one silk gown, nor dissipation above the annual gala of a race ball. Yet she now plays her part in all the extravagant fopperies of fashion and the town, with as ready a grace as if she never had seen a bush or a grass-plot out of Grosvenor Square! I am sneered at by all my acquaintance, and paragraphed in the newspapers. She dissipates my fortune, and contradicts all my humours; yet the worst of it is, I doubt I love her, or I should never bear all this. However, I’ll never be weak enough to own it.
Row.Oh! Sir Peter, your servant: how is it with you, sir?
Sir Pet.Very bad, Master Rowley, very bad. I meet with nothing but crosses and vexations.
Row.What can have happened since yesterday?
Sir Pet.A good question to a married man!
Sir Pet.Why, has any body told you she was dead?
Row.Come, come, Sir Peter, you love her, notwithstanding your tempers don’t exactly agree.
Sir Pet.But the fault is entirely hers, Master Rowley. I am, myself, the sweetest-tempered man alive, and hate a teasing temper; and so I tell her a hundred times a day.
Sir Pet.Ay; and what is very extraordinary, in all our disputes she is always in the wrong! But Lady Sneerwell, and the set she meets at her house, encourage the perverseness of her disposition. Then, to complete my vexation, Maria, my ward, whom I ought to have the power of a father over, is determined to turn rebel too, and absolutely refuses the man whom I have long resolved on for her husband; meaning, I suppose, to bestow herself on his profligate brother.
Row.You know, Sir Peter, I have always taken the liberty to differ with you on the subject of these two young gentlemen. I only wish you may not be deceived in your opinion of the elder. For Charles, my life on’t! he will retrieve his errors yet. Their worthy father, once my honoured master, was, at his years, nearly as wild a spark; yet, when he died, he did not leave a more benevolent heart to lament his loss.
Sir Pet.You are wrong, Master Rowley. On their father’s death, you know, I acted as a kind of guardian to them both, till their uncle Sir Oliver’s liberality gave them an early independence. Of course, no person could have more opportunities of judging of their hearts, and I was never mistaken in my life. Joseph is indeed a model for the young men of the age. He is a man of sentiment, and acts up to the sentiments he professes; but for the other, take my word for’t, if he had any grain of virtue by descent, he has dissipated it with the rest of his inheritance. Ah! my old friend, Sir Oliver, will be deeply mortified when he finds how part of his bounty has been misapplied.
Row.I am sorry to find you so violent against the young man, because this may be the most critical period of his fortune. I came hither with news that will surprise you.
Row.Sir Oliver is arrived, and at this moment in town.
Sir Pet.How! you astonish me! I thought you did not expect him this month.
Row.I did not: but his passage has been remarkably quick.
Sir Pet.Egad, I shall rejoice to see my old friend. ’Tis sixteen years since we met. We have had many a day together:—but does he still enjoin us not to inform his nephews of his arrival?
Row.Most strictly. He means, before it is known, to make some trial of their dispositions.
Sir Pet.Ah! there needs no art to discover their merits—however, he shall have his way, but, pray, does he know I am married?
Row.Yes, and will soon wish you joy.
Sir Pet.What, as we drink health to a friend in a consumption! Ah! Oliver will laugh at me. We used to rail at matrimony together, but he has been steady to his text. Well, he must be soon at my house, though—I’ll instantly give orders for his reception. But, Master Rowley, don’t drop a word that Lady Teazle and I ever disagree.
Row.By no means.
Sir Pet.For I should never be able to stand Noll’s jokes; so I’ll have him think, Lord forgive me! that we are a very happy couple.
Row.I understand you:—but then you must be very careful not to differ while he is in the house with you.
Sir Pet.Egad, and so we must—and that’s impossible. Ah! Master Rowley, when an old bachelor marries a young wife, he deserves—no—the crime carries its punishment along with it.