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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Matrimonial Felicity
By Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816)
 
From the ‘School for Scandal

Scene: A room in Sir Peter Teazle’s house.  Enter Sir Peter Teazle.

SIR PETER—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 tift a little going to church, and fairly quarreled before the bells 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 humors; 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.  1
Enter Rowley
  Rowley—Oh! Sir Peter, your servant: how is it with you, sir?
  2
  Sir Peter—Very bad, Master Rowley, very bad. I meet with nothing but crosses and vexations.  3
  Rowley—What can have happened since yesterday?  4
  Sir Peter—A good question to a married man!  5
  Rowley—Nay, I’m sure, Sir Peter, your lady can’t be the cause of your uneasiness.  6
  Sir Peter—Why, has anybody told you she was dead?  7
  Rowley—Come, come, Sir Peter, you love her, notwithstanding your tempers don’t exactly agree.  8
  Sir Peter—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.  9
  Rowley—Indeed!  10
  Sir Peter—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.  11
  Rowley—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 honored 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.  12
  Sir Peter—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.  13
  Rowley—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.  14
  Sir Peter—What! let me hear.  15
  Rowley—Sir Oliver is arrived, and at this moment in town.  16
  Sir Peter—How? you astonish me! I thought you did not expect him this month.  17
  Rowley—I did not; but his passage has been remarkably quick.  18
  Sir Peter—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?  19
  Rowley—Most strictly. He means, before it is known, to make some trial of their dispositions.  20
  Sir Peter—Ah! there needs no art to discover their merits—however, he shall have his way; but pray, does he know I am married?  21
  Rowley—Yes, and will soon wish you joy.  22
  Sir Peter—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.  23
  Rowley—By no means.  24
  Sir Peter—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.  25
  Rowley—I understand you; but then you must be very careful not to differ while he is in the house with you.  26
  Sir Peter—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.  [Exeunt.]  27
 
Scene: A room in Sir Peter Teazle’s house.  Enter Sir Peter and Lady Teazle.
  Sir Peter—Lady Teazle, Lady Teazle, I’ll not bear it.
  28
  Lady Teazle—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.  29
  Sir Peter—Very well, ma’am, very well: so a husband is to have no influence, no authority?  30
  Lady Teazle—Authority! No, to be sure. If you wanted authority over me, you should have adopted me, and not married me: I am sure you were old enough.  31
  Sir Peter—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!  32
  Lady Teazle—My extravagance! I’m sure I’m not more extravagant than a woman of fashion ought to be.  33
  Sir Peter—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.  34
  Lady Teazle—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.  35
  Sir Peter—Oons! madam, if you had been born to this, I shouldn’t wonder at your talking thus; but you forget what your situation was when I married you.  36
  Lady Teazle—No, no, I don’t: ’twas a very disagreeable one, or I should never have married you.  37
  Sir Peter—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.  38
  Lady Teazle—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.  39
  Sir Peter—Yes, yes, ma’am, ’twas so indeed.  40
  Lady Teazle—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 be stuck down to an old spinet to strum my father to sleep after a fox-chase.  41
  Sir Peter—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.  42
  Lady Teazle—No—I swear I never did that: I deny the butler and the coach-horse.  43
  Sir Peter—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.  44
  Lady Teazle—Well then, and there is but one thing more you can make me to add to the obligation; that is—  45
  Sir Peter—My widow, I suppose?  46
  Lady Teazle—Hem! hem!  47
  Sir Peter—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.  48
  Lady Teazle—Then why will you endeavor to make yourself so disagreeable to me, and thwart me in every little elegant expense?  49
  Sir Peter—’Slife, madam, I say, had you any of these little elegant expenses when you married me?  50
  Lady Teazle—Lud, Sir Peter! would you have me be out of the fashion?  51
  Sir Peter—The fashion, indeed! what had you to do with the fashion before you married me?  52
  Lady Teazle—For my part, I should think you would like to have your wife thought a woman of taste.  53
  Sir Peter—Ay—there again—taste! Zounds! madam, you had no taste when you married me!  54
  Lady Teazle—That’s very true, indeed, Sir 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.  55
  Sir Peter—Ay, there’s another precious circumstance,—a charming set of acquaintance you have made there!  56
  Lady Teazle—Nay, Sir Peter, they are all people of rank and fortune, and remarkably tenacious of reputation.  57
  Sir Peter—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.  58
  Lady Teazle—What, would you restrain the freedom of speech?  59
  Sir Peter—Ah! they have made you just as bad as any one of the society.  60
  Lady Teazle—Why, I believe I do bear a part with a tolerable grace.  61
  Sir Peter—Grace, indeed!  62
  Lady Teazle—But I vow I bear no malice against the people I abuse: when I say an ill-natured thing, ’tis out of pure good-humor; 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.  63
  Sir Peter—Well, well, I’ll call in, just to look after my own character.  64
  Lady Teazle—Then indeed you must make haste after me, or you’ll be too late. So good-by to ye.  [Exit.]  65
  Sir Peter—So—I have gained much by my intended expostulation! Yet with what a charming air she contradicts everything 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 quarreling with her; and I think she never appears to such advantage as when she is doing everything in her power to plague me.  [Exit.]  66
 
 
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