The School for Scandal, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Act II

SCENE I. — Sir Peter and Lady Teazle

Sir Peter. Lady Teazle — Lady Teazle I’ll not bear it.

Lady Teazle. Sir Peter — Sir Peter you — may scold or smile, according to your Humour[,] but I ought to have my own way in everything, and what’s more I will too — what! tho’ I was educated in the country I know very well that women of Fashion in London are accountable to nobody after they are married.

Sir Peter. Very well! ma’am very well! so a husband is to have no influence, no authority?

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.

Sir Peter. Old enough — aye there it is — well — well — Lady Teazle, tho’ my life may be made unhappy by your Temper — I’ll not be ruined by your extravagance —

Lady Teazle. My extravagance! I’m sure I’m not more extravagant than a woman of Fashion ought to be.

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 Fete Champetre at Christmas.

Lady Teazle. Lord! Sir Peter am I to blame 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 one’s Feet!

Sir Peter. Oons! Madam — if you had been born to those Fopperies I shouldn’t wonder at your talking thus; — but you forget what your situation was when I married you —

Lady Teazle. No, no, I don’t — ’twas a very disagreeable one or I should never nave married you.

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, and your apartment hung round with Fruits in worsted, of your own working —

Lady Teazle. O horrible! — horrible! — don’t put me in mind of it!

Sir Peter. Yes, yes Madam and your daily occupation to inspect the Dairy, superintend the Poultry, make extracts from the Family Receipt-book, and comb your aunt Deborah’s Lap Dog.

Lady Teazle. Abominable!

Sir Peter. Yes Madam — and what were your evening amusements? to draw Patterns for Ruffles, which you hadn’t the materials to make — play Pope Joan with the Curate — to read a sermon to your Aunt — or be stuck down to an old Spinet to strum your father to sleep after a Fox Chase.

Lady Teazle. Scandalous — Sir Peter not a word of it true —

Sir Peter. Yes, Madam — These were the recreations I took you from — and now — no one more extravagantly in the Fashion — Every Fopery adopted — a head-dress to o’er top Lady Pagoda with feathers pendant horizontal and perpendicular — you forget[,] Lady Teazle — when a little wired gauze with a few Beads made you a fly Cap not much bigger than a blew-bottle, and your Hair was comb’d smooth over a Roll —

Lady Teazle. Shocking! horrible Roll!!

Sir Peter. But now — you must have your coach — Vis-a-vis, and three powder’d Footmen before your Chair — and in the summer a pair of white cobs to draw you to Kensington Gardens — no recollection when y ou were content to ride double, behind the Butler, on a docked Coach–Horse?

Lady Teazle. Horrid! — I swear I never did.

Sir Peter. This, madam, was your situation — and what have I not done for you? I have made you woman of Fashion of Fortune of Rank — in short I have made you my wife.

Lady Teazle. Well then and there is but one thing more you can make me to add to the obligation.

Sir Peter. What’s that pray?

Lady Teazle. Your widow. —

Sir Peter. Thank you Madam — but don’t flatter yourself for though your ill-conduct may disturb my Peace it shall never break my Heart I promise you — however I am equally obliged to you for the Hint.

Lady Teazle. Then why will you endeavour to make yourself so disagreeable to me — and thwart me in every little elegant expense.

Sir Peter. ‘Slife — Madam I pray, had you any of these elegant expenses when you married me?

Lady Teazle. Lud Sir Peter would you have me be out of the Fashion?

Sir Peter. The Fashion indeed! — what had you to do with the Fashion before you married me?

Lady Teazle. For my Part — I should think you would like to have your wife thought a woman of Taste —

Sir Peter. Aye there again — Taste! Zounds Madam you had no Taste when you married me —

Lady Teazle. That’s very true indeed Sir Peter! after having married you I should never pretend to Taste again I allow.

Sir Peter. So — so then — Madam — if these are your Sentiments pray how came I to be honour’d with your Hand?

Lady Teazle. Shall I tell you the Truth?

Sir Peter. If it’s not too great a Favour.

Lady Teazle. Why the Fact is I was tired of all those agreeable Recreations which you have so good naturally [naturedly] Described — and having a Spirit to spend and enjoy a Fortune — I determined to marry the first rich man that would have me.

Sir Peter. A very honest confession — truly — but pray madam was there no one else you might have tried to ensnare but me.

Lady Teazle. O lud — I drew my net at several but you were the only one I could catch.

Sir Peter. This is plain dealing indeed —

Lady Teazle. But now Sir Peter if we have finish’d our daily Jangle I presume I may go to my engagement at Lady Sneerwell’s?

Sir Peter. Aye — there’s another Precious circumstance — a charming set of acquaintance — you have made there!

Lady Teazle. Nay Sir Peter they are People of Rank and Fortune — and remarkably tenacious of reputation.

Sir Peter. Yes egad they are tenacious of Reputation with a vengeance, for they don’t chuse anybody should have a Character but themselves! Such a crew! Ah! many a wretch has rid on hurdles who has done less mischief than these utterers of forged Tales, coiners of Scandal, and clippers of Reputation.

Lady Teazle. What would you restrain the freedom of speech?

Sir Peter. Aye they have made you just as bad [as] any one of the Society.

Lady Teazle. Why — I believe I do bear a Part with a tolerable Grace — 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 Peter. Well well I’ll call in, just to look after my own character.

Lady Teazle. Then, indeed, you must make Haste after me, or you’ll be too late — so good bye to ye.

Sir Peter. So — I have gain’d much by my intended expostulation — yet with what a charming air she contradicts every thing I say — and how pleasingly she shows her contempt of my authority — Well tho’ I can’t make her love me, there is certainly a great satisfaction in quarrelling with her; and I think she never appears to such advantage as when she is doing everything in her Power to plague me.


SCENE II. — At Lady Sneerwell’s

Lady Sneerwell, Mrs. Candour, Crabtree, Sir Benjamin Backbite, and Surface

Lady Sneerwell. Nay, positively, we will hear it.

Surface. Yes — yes the Epigram by all means.

Sir Benjamin. O plague on’t unkle — ’tis mere nonsense —

Crabtree. No no; ‘fore gad very clever for an extempore!

Sir Benjamin. But ladies you should be acquainted with the circumstances. You must know that one day last week as Lady Betty Curricle was taking the Dust in High Park, in a sort of duodecimo Phaeton — she desired me to write some verses on her Ponies — upon which I took out my Pocket–Book — and in one moment produced — the following:—

‘Sure never were seen two such beautiful Ponies;

Other Horses are Clowns — and these macaronies,

Nay to give ’em this Title, I’m sure isn’t wrong,

Their Legs are so slim — and their Tails are so long.

Crabtree. There Ladies — done in the smack of a whip and on Horseback too.

Surface. A very Phoebus, mounted — indeed Sir Benjamin.

Sir Benjamin. Oh dear Sir — Trifles — Trifles.

Enter Lady Teazle and Maria

Mrs. Candour. I must have a Copy —

Lady Sneerwell. Lady Teazle — I hope we shall see Sir Peter?

Lady Teazle. I believe He’ll wait on your Ladyship presently.

Lady Sneerwell. Maria my love you look grave. Come, you sit down to Piquet with Mr. Surface.

Maria. I take very little Pleasure in cards — however, I’ll do as you Please.

Lady Teazle. I am surprised Mr. Surface should sit down her — I thought He would have embraced this opportunity of speaking to me before Sir Peter came — [Aside.]

Mrs. Candour. Now, I’ll die but you are so scandalous I’ll forswear your society.

Lady Teazle. What’s the matter, Mrs. Candour?

Mrs. Candour. They’ll not allow our friend Miss Vermillion to be handsome.

Lady Sneerwell. Oh, surely she is a pretty woman . . . .

[Crabtree.] I am very glad you think so ma’am.

Mrs. Candour. She has a charming fresh Colour.

Crabtree. Yes when it is fresh put on —

Lady Teazle. O fie! I’ll swear her colour is natural — I have seen it come and go —

Crabtree. I dare swear you have, ma’am: it goes of a Night, and comes again in the morning.

Sir Benjamin. True, uncle, it not only comes and goes but what’s more egad her maid can fetch and carry it —

Mrs. Candour. Ha! ha! ha! how I hate to hear you talk so! But surely, now, her Sister, is or was very handsome.

Crabtree. Who? Mrs. Stucco? O lud! she’s six-and-fifty if she’s an hour!

Mrs. Candour. Now positively you wrong her[;] fifty-two, or fifty-three is the utmost — and I don’t think she looks more.

Sir Benjamin. Ah! there’s no judging by her looks, unless one was to see her Face.

Lady Sneerwell. Well — well — if she does take some pains to repair the ravages of Time — you must allow she effects it with great ingenuity — and surely that’s better than the careless manner in which the widow Ocre chaulks her wrinkles.

Sir Benjamin. Nay now — you are severe upon the widow — come — come, it isn’t that she paints so ill — but when she has finished her Face she joins it on so badly to her Neck, that she looks like a mended Statue, in which the Connoisseur sees at once that the Head’s modern tho’ the Trunk’s antique —

Crabtree. Ha! ha! ha! well said, Nephew!

Mrs. Candour. Ha! ha! ha! Well, you make me laugh but I vow I hate you for it — what do you think of Miss Simper?

Sir Benjamin. Why, she has very pretty Teeth.

Lady Teazle. Yes and on that account, when she is neither speaking nor laughing (which very seldom happens) — she never absolutely shuts her mouth, but leaves it always on a-Jar, as it were —

Mrs. Candour. How can you be so ill-natured!

Lady Teazle. Nay, I allow even that’s better than the Pains Mrs. Prim takes to conceal her losses in Front — she draws her mouth till it resembles the aperture of a Poor’s-Box, and all her words appear to slide out edgewise.

Lady Sneerwell. Very well Lady Teazle I see you can be a little severe.

Lady Teazle. In defence of a Friend it is but justice, but here comes Sir Peter to spoil our Pleasantry.

Enter Sir Peter

Sir Peter. Ladies, your obedient — Mercy on me — here is the whole set! a character’s dead at every word, I suppose.

Mrs. Candour. I am rejoiced you are come, Sir Peter — they have been so censorious and Lady Teazle as bad as any one.

Sir Peter. That must be very distressing to you, Mrs. Candour I dare swear.

Mrs. Candour. O they will allow good Qualities to nobody — not even good nature to our Friend Mrs. Pursy.

Lady Teazle. What, the fat dowager who was at Mrs. Codrille’s [Quadrille’s] last Night?

Lady Sneerwell. Nay — her bulk is her misfortune and when she takes such Pains to get rid of it you ought not to reflect on her.

Mrs. Candour. ’Tis very true, indeed.

Lady Teazle. Yes, I know she almost lives on acids and small whey — laces herself by pulleys and often in the hottest noon of summer you may see her on a little squat Pony, with her hair plaited up behind like a Drummer’s and puffing round the Ring on a full trot.

Mrs. Candour. I thank you Lady Teazle for defending her.

Sir Peter. Yes, a good Defence, truly!

Mrs. Candour. But for Sir Benjamin, He is as censorious as Miss Sallow.

Crabtree. Yes and she is a curious Being to pretend to be censorious — an awkward Gawky, without any one good Point under Heaven!

Lady Sneerwell. Positively you shall not be so very severe. Miss Sallow is a Relation of mine by marriage, and, as for her Person great allowance is to be made — for, let me tell you a woman labours under many disadvantages who tries to pass for a girl at six-and-thirty.

Mrs. Candour. Tho’, surely she is handsome still — and for the weakness in her eyes considering how much she reads by candle-light it is not to be wonder’d at.

Lady Sneerwell. True and then as to her manner — upon my word I think it is particularly graceful considering she never had the least Education[:] for you know her Mother was a Welch milliner, and her Father a sugar-Baker at Bristow. —

Sir Benjamin. Ah! you are both of you too good-natured!

Sir Peter. Yes, damned good-natured! Her own relation! mercy on me! [Aside.]

Mrs. Candour. For my Part I own I cannot bear to hear a friend ill-spoken of?

Sir Peter. No, to be sure!

Sir Benjamin. Ah you are of a moral turn Mrs. Candour and can sit for an hour to hear Lady Stucco talk sentiments.

Lady Sneerwell. Nay I vow Lady Stucco is very well with the Dessert after Dinner for she’s just like the Spanish Fruit one cracks for mottoes — made up of Paint and Proverb.

Mrs. Candour. Well, I never will join in ridiculing a Friend — and so I constantly tell my cousin Ogle — and you all know what pretensions she has to be critical in Beauty.

Lady Teazle. O to be sure she has herself the oddest countenance that ever was seen — ’tis a collection of Features from all the different Countries of the globe.

Sir Benjamin. So she has indeed — an Irish Front —

Crabtree. Caledonian Locks —

Sir Benjamin. Dutch Nose —

Crabtree. Austrian Lips —

Sir Benjamin. Complexion of a Spaniard —

Crabtree. And Teeth a la Chinoise —

Sir Benjamin. In short, her Face resembles a table d’hote at Spa — where no two guests are of a nation —

Crabtree. Or a Congress at the close of a general War — wherein all the members even to her eyes appear to have a different interest and her Nose and Chin are the only Parties likely to join issue.

Mrs. Candour. Ha! ha! ha!

Sir Peter. Mercy on my Life[!] a Person they dine with twice a week! [Aside.]

Lady Sneerwell. Go — go — you are a couple of provoking Toads.

Mrs. Candour. Nay but I vow you shall not carry the Laugh off so — for give me leave to say, that Mrs. Ogle —

Sir Peter. Madam — madam — I beg your Pardon — there’s no stopping these good Gentlemen’s Tongues — but when I tell you Mrs. Candour that the Lady they are abusing is a particular Friend of mine, I hope you’ll not take her Part.

Lady Sneerwell. Ha! ha! ha! well said, Sir Peter — but you are a cruel creature — too Phlegmatic yourself for a jest and too peevish to allow wit in others.

Sir Peter. Ah Madam true wit is more nearly allow’d [allied?] to good Nature than your Ladyship is aware of.

Lady Sneerwell. True Sir Peter — I believe they are so near akin that they can never be united.

Sir Benjamin. O rather Madam suppose them man and wife because one seldom sees them together.

Lady Teazle. But Sir Peter is such an Enemy to Scandal I believe He would have it put down by Parliament.

Sir Peter. ‘Fore heaven! Madam, if they were to consider the Sporting with Reputation of as much importance as poaching on manors — and pass an Act for the Preservation of Fame — there are many would thank them for the Bill.

Lady Sneerwell. O Lud! Sir Peter would you deprive us of our Privileges —

Sir Peter. Aye Madam — and then no person should be permitted to kill characters or run down reputations, but qualified old Maids and disappointed Widows. —

Lady Sneerwell. Go, you monster —

Mrs. Candour. But sure you would not be quite so severe on those who only report what they hear?

Sir Peter. Yes Madam, I would have Law Merchant for that too — and in all cases of slander currency, whenever the Drawer of the Lie was not to be found, the injured Party should have a right to come on any of the indorsers.

Crabtree. Well for my Part I believe there never was a Scandalous Tale without some foundation.3

Lady Sneerwell. Come Ladies shall we sit down to Cards in the next Room?

Enter Servant, whispers Sir Peter

Sir Peter. I’ll be with them directly. —

[Exit Servant.]

I’ll get away unperceived.

Lady Sneerwell. Sir Peter you are not leaving us?

Sir Peter. Your Ladyship must excuse me — I’m called away by particular Business — but I leave my Character behind me —


Sir Benjamin. Well certainly Lady Teazle that lord of yours is a strange being — I could tell you some stories of him would make you laugh heartily if He wern’t your Husband.

Lady Teazle. O pray don’t mind that — come do let’s hear ’em.

[join the rest of the Company going into the Next Room.]

Surface. Maria I see you have no satisfaction in this society.

Maria. How is it possible I should? If to raise malicious smiles at the infirmities or misfortunes of those who have never injured us be the province of wit or Humour, Heaven grant me a double Portion of Dullness —

Surface. Yet they appear more ill-natured than they are — they have no malice at heart —

Maria. Then is their conduct still more contemptible[;] for in my opinion — nothing could excuse the intemperance of their tongues but a natural and ungovernable bitterness of Mind.

Surface. Undoubtedly Madam — and it has always been a sentiment of mine — that to propagate a malicious Truth wantonly — is more despicable than to falsify from Revenge, but can you Maria feel thus [f]or others and be unkind to me alone — nay is hope to be denied the tenderest Passion. —

Maria. Why will you distress me by renewing this subject —

Surface. Ah! Maria! you would not treat me thus and oppose your guardian’s Sir Peter’s wishes — but that I see that my Profligate Brother is still a favour’d Rival.

Maria. Ungenerously urged — but whatever my sentiments of that unfortunate young man are, be assured I shall not feel more bound to give him up because his Distresses have sunk him so low as to deprive him of the regard even of a Brother.

Surface. Nay but Maria do not leave me with a Frown — by all that’s honest, I swear — Gad’s Life here’s Lady Teazle — you must not — no you shall — for tho’ I have the greatest Regard for Lady Teazle —

Maria. Lady Teazle!

Surface. Yet were Sir Peter to suspect —

[Enter Lady Teazle, and comes forward]

Lady Teazle. What’s this, Pray — do you take her for me! — Child you are wanted in the next Room. — What’s all this, pray —

Surface. O the most unlucky circumstance in Nature. Maria has somehow suspected the tender concern I have for your happiness, and threaten’d to acquaint Sir Peter with her suspicions — and I was just endeavouring to reason with her when you came.

Lady Teazle. Indeed but you seem’d to adopt — a very tender mode of reasoning — do you usually argue on your knees?

Surface. O she’s a Child — and I thought a little Bombast — but Lady Teazle when are you to give me your judgment on my Library as you promised —

Lady Teazle. No — no I begin to think it would be imprudent — and you know I admit you as a Lover no farther than Fashion requires.

Surface. True — a mere Platonic Cicisbeo, what every London wife is entitled to.

Lady Teazle. Certainly one must not be out of the Fashion — however, I have so much of my country Prejudices left — that — though Sir Peter’s ill humour may vex me ever so, it never shall provoke me to —

Surface. The only revenge in your Power — well I applaud your moderation.

Lady Teazle. Go — you are an insinuating Hypocrite — but we shall be miss’d — let us join the company.

Surface. True, but we had best not return together.

Lady Teazle. Well don’t stay — for Maria shan’t come to hear any more of your Reasoning, I promise you —


Surface. A curious Dilemma truly my Politics have run me into. I wanted at first only to ingratiate myself with Lady Teazle that she might not be my enemy with Maria — and I have I don’t know how — become her serious Lover, so that I stand a chance of Committing a Crime I never meditated — and probably of losing Maria by the Pursuit! — Sincerely I begin to wish I had never made such a Point of gaining so very good a character, for it has led me into so many curst Rogueries that I doubt I shall be exposed at last.


SCENE III. — At Sir Peter’s

Rowley and Sir Oliver —

Sir Oliver. Ha! ha! ha! and so my old Friend is married, hey? — a young wife out of the country! — ha! ha! that he should have stood Bluff to old Bachelor so long and sink into a Husband at last!

Rowley. But you must not rally him on the subject Sir Oliver — ’tis a tender Point I assure you though He has been married only seven months.

Sir Oliver. Ah then he has been just half a year on the stool of Repentance — Poor Peter! But you say he has entirely given up Charles — never sees him, hey?

Rowley. His Prejudice against him is astonishing — and I am sure greatly increased by a jealousy of him with Lady Teazle — which he has been industriously led into by a scandalous Society — in the neighbourhood — who have contributed not a little to Charles’s ill name. Whereas the truth is[,] I believe[,] if the lady is partial to either of them his Brother is the Favourite.

Sir Oliver. Aye — I know — there are a set of malicious prating prudent Gossips both male and Female, who murder characters to kill time, and will rob a young Fellow of his good name before He has years to know the value of it . . . but I am not to be prejudiced against my nephew by such I promise you! No! no — if Charles has done nothing false or mean, I shall compound for his extravagance.

Rowley. Then my life on’t, you will reclaim him. Ah, Sir, it gives me new vigour to find that your heart is not turned against him — and that the son of my good old master has one friend however left —

Sir Oliver. What! shall I forget Master Rowley — when I was at his house myself — egad my Brother and I were neither of us very prudent youths — and yet I believe you have not seen many better men than your old master was[.]

Rowley. ’Tis this Reflection gives me assurance that Charles may yet be a credit to his Family — but here comes Sir Peter —

Sir Oliver. Egad so He does — mercy on me — He’s greatly altered — and seems to have a settled married look — one may read Husband in his Face at this Distance. —

Enter Sir Peter

Sir Peter. Ha! Sir Oliver — my old Friend — welcome to England — a thousand Times!

Sir Oliver. Thank you — thank you — Sir Peter — and Efaith I am as glad to find you well[,] believe me —

Sir Peter. Ah! ’tis a long time since we met — sixteen year I doubt Sir Oliver — and many a cross accident in the Time —

Sir Oliver. Aye I have had my share — but, what[!] I find you are married — hey my old Boy — well — well it can’t be help’d — and so I wish you joy with all my heart —

Sir Peter. Thank you — thanks Sir Oliver. — Yes, I have entered into the happy state but we’ll not talk of that now.

Sir Oliver. True true Sir Peter old Friends shouldn’t begin on grievances at first meeting. No, no —

Rowley. Take care pray Sir —

Sir Oliver. Well — so one of my nephews I find is a wild Rogue — hey?

Sir Peter. Wild! — oh! my old Friend — I grieve for your disappointment there — He’s a lost young man indeed — however his Brother will make you amends; Joseph is indeed what a youth should be — everybody in the world speaks well of him —

Sir Oliver. I am sorry to hear it — he has too good a character to be an honest Fellow. Everybody speaks well of him! Psha! then He has bow’d as low to Knaves and Fools as to the honest dignity of Virtue.

Sir Peter. What Sir Oliver do you blame him for not making Enemies?

Sir Oliver. Yes — if He has merit enough to deserve them.

Sir Peter. Well — well — you’ll be convinced when you know him — ’tis edification to hear him converse — he professes the noblest Sentiments.

Sir Oliver. Ah plague on his Sentiments — if he salutes me with a scrap sentence of morality in his mouth I shall be sick directly — but however don’t mistake me Sir Peter I don’t mean to defend Charles’s Errors — but before I form my judgment of either of them, I intend to make a trial of their Hearts — and my Friend Rowley and I have planned something for the Purpose.

Rowley. And Sir Peter shall own he has been for once mistaken.

Sir Peter. My life on Joseph’s Honour —

Sir Oliver. Well come give us a bottle of good wine — and we’ll drink the Lads’ Healths and tell you our scheme.

Sir Peter. Alons [Allons], then —

Sir Oliver. But don’t Sir Peter be so severe against your old Friend’s son.

Sir Peter. ’Tis his Vices and Follies have made me his Enemy. —

Rowley. Come — come — Sir Peter consider how early He was left to his own guidance.

Sir Oliver. Odds my Life — I am not sorry that He has run out of the course a little — for my Part, I hate to see dry Prudence clinging to the green juices of youth — ’tis like ivy round a sapling and spoils the growth of the Tree.


3 The story in Act I. Scene I., told by Crabtree about Miss Letitia Piper, is repeated here, the speaker being Sir Peter:

SIR PETER. O nine out of ten malicious inventions are founded
on some ridiculous misrepresentation — Mrs. Candour you remember
how poor Miss Shepherd lost her Lover and her Character one
Summer at Tunbridge.

MRS. C. To be sure that was a very ridiculous affair.

CRABTREE. Pray tell us Sir Peter how it was.

SIR P. Why madam — [The story follows.]

MRS. C. Ha ha strange indeed —

SIR P. Matter of Fact I assure you. . . .

LADY T. As sure as can be — Sir Peter will grow scandalous
himself — if you encourage him to tell stories.

[Fraser Rae’s footnote — Ed.]

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59