Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816). The School for Scandal.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
A Room in Sir P
Sir Pet.Lady Teazle, Lady Teazle, I’ll not bear it!
Lady Teaz.Sir Peter, Sir Peter you may bear it or not, as you please; but I ought to have my own way in everything, and, what’s more, I will too. What! though I was educated in the country, I know very well that women of fashion in London are accountable to nobody after they are married.
Lady Teaz.Authority! No, to be sure: if you wanted authority over me, you should have adopted me, and not married me: I’m sure you were old enough.
Sir Pet.Old enough!—ay, there it is. Well, well, Lady Teazle, though my life may be made unhappy by your temper, I’ll not be ruined by your extravagance!
Lady Teaz.My extravagance! I’m sure I’m not more extravagant than a woman of fashion ought to be.
Sir Pet.No, no, madam, you shall throw away no more sums on such unmeaning luxury. ’Slife! to spend as much to furnish your dressing-room with flowers in winter as would suffice to turn the Pantheon into a greenhouse, and give a fête champêtre at Christmas.
Lady Teaz.And am I to blame, Sir Peter, because flowers are dear in cold weather? You should find fault with the climate, and not with me. For my part, I’m sure I wish it was spring all the year round, and that roses grew under our feet!
Sir Pet.Oons! madam—if you had been born to this, I shouldn’t wonder at you talking thus; but you forget what your situation was when I married you.
Lady Teaz.No, no, I don’t; ’twas a very disagreeable one, or I should never have married you.
Sir Pet.Yes, yes, madam, you were then in somewhat a humbler style—the daughter of a plain country squire. Recollect, Lady Teazle, when I saw you first sitting at your tambour, in a pretty figured linen gown, with a bunch of keys at your side, your hair combed smooth over a roll, and your apartment hung round with fruits in worsted, of your own working.
Lady Teaz.Oh, yes! I remember it very well, and a curious life I led. My daily occupation to inspect the dairy, superintend the poultry, make extracts from the family receipt-book, and comb my aunt Deborah’s lapdog.
Sir Pet.Yes, yes, ma’am, ’twas so indeed.
Lady Teaz.And then you know, my evening amusements! To draw patterns for ruffles, which I had not materials to make up; to play Pope Joan with the curate; to read a sermon to my aunt; or to
Sir Pet.I am glad you have so good a memory. Yes, madam, these were the recreations I took you from! but now you must have your coach—vis-à-vis—and three powdered footmen before your chair; and, in the summer, a pair of white cats to draw you to Kensington Gardens. No recollection, I suppose, when you were content to ride double, behind the butler, on a docked coach-horse.
Lady Teaz.No—I swear I never did that: I deny the butler and the coach-horse.
Sir Pet.This, madam, was your situation; and what have I done for you? I have made you a woman of fashion, of fortune, of rank—in short, I have made you my wife.
Lady Teaz.Well, then, and there is but one thing more you can make me to add to the obligation, this is—
Sir Pet.My widow, I suppose?
Lady Teaz.Hem! hem!
Sir Pet.I thank you, madam—but don’t flatter yourself, for, though your ill conduct may disturb my peace of mind, it shall never break my heart, I promise you: however, I am equally obliged to you for the hint.
Lady Teaz.Then why will you endeavour to make yourself so disagreeable to me, and thwart me in every little elegant expense?
Sir Pet.’Slife, madam, I say, had you any of these little elegant expenses when you married me?
Lady Teaz.Lud, Sir Peter! would you have me be out of the fashion?
Sir Pet.The fashion, indeed! what had you to do with the fashion before you married me?
Lady Teaz.For my part, I should think you would like to have your wife thought a woman of taste.
Sir Pet.Ay—there again—taste! Zounds! madam, you had no taste when you married me!
Lady Teaz.That’s very true, indeed, Sit Peter! and, after having married you, I should never pretend to taste again, I allow. But now, Sir Peter, since we have finished our daily jangle, I presume I may go to my engagement at Lady Sneerwell’s.
Lady Teaz.Nay, Sir Peter, they are all people of rank and fortune, and remarkably tenacious of reputation.
Sir Pet.Yes, egad, they are tenacious of reputation with a vengeance; for they don’t choose anybody should have a character but themselves! Such a crew! Ah! many a wretch has rid on a hurdle who has done less mischief than these utterers of forged tales, coiners of scandal, and clippers of reputation.
Lady Teaz.What, would you restrain the freedom of speech?
Sir Pet.Ah! they have made you just as bad as any one of the society.
Lady Teaz.Why, I believe I do bear a part with a miserable grace.
Sir Pet.Grace indeed!
Lady Teaz.But I vow I bear no malice against the people I abuse: when I say an ill-natured thing, ’tis out of pure good humour; and I take it for granted they deal exactly in the same manner with me. But, Sir Peter, you know you promised to come to Lady Sneerwell’s too.
Sir Pet.Well, well, I’ll call in, just to look after my own character.
Lady Teaz.Then, indeed, you must make haste after me, or you’ll be too late. So goodbye to ye.[Exit.
Sir Pet.So—I have gained much by my intended expostulation! Yet with what a charming air she contradicts every thing I say, and how pleasantly she shows her contempt for my authority! Well, though I can’t make her love me, there is great satisfaction in quarrelling with her; and I think she never appears to such advantage as when she is doing every thing in her power to plague me.[Exit.