The School for Scandal, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The Text of the School for Scandal

The text of THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL in this edition is taken, by Mr. Fraser Rae’s generous permission, from his SHERIDAN’S PLAYS NOW PRINTED AS HE WROTE THEM. In his Prefatory Notes (xxxvii), Mr. Rae writes: “The manuscript of it [THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL] in Sheridan’s own handwriting is preserved at Frampton Court and is now printed in this volume. This version differs in many respects from that which is generally known, and I think it is even better than that which has hitherto been read and acted. As I have endeavoured to reproduce the works of Sheridan as he wrote them, I may be told that he was a bad hand at punctuating and very bad at spelling. . . . But Sheridan’s shortcomings as a speller have been exaggerated.” Lest “Sheridan’s shortcomings” either in spelling or in punctuation should obscure the text, I have, in this edition, inserted in brackets some explanatory suggestions. It has seemed best, also, to adopt a uniform method for indicating stage-directions and abbreviations of the names of characters. There can be no gain to the reader in reproducing, for example, Sheridan’s different indications for the part of Lady Sneerwell — LADY SNEERWELL, LADY SNEER., LADY SN., and LADY S. — or his varying use of EXIT and EX., or his inconsistencies in the use of italics in the stage-directions. Since, however, Sheridan’s biographers, from Moore to Fraser Rae, have shown that no authorised or correct edition of THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL was published in Sheridan’s lifetime, there seems unusual justification for reproducing the text of the play itself with absolute fidelity to the original manuscript. Mr. Ridgway, who repeatedly sought to obtain a copy corrected by the author, according to Moore’s account (LIFE OF SHERIDAN, I. p. 260), “was told by Mr. Sheridan, as an excuse for keeping it back, that he had been nineteen years endeavouring to satisfy himself with the style of The School for Scandal, but had not yet succeeded.” Mr. Rae (SHERIDAN, I. p. 332) recorded his discovery of the manuscript of “two acts of The School for Scandal prepared by Sheridan for publication,” and hoped, before his death, to publish this partial revision. Numberless unauthorized changes in the play have been made for histrionic purposes, from the first undated Dublin edition to that of Mr. Augustin Daly. Current texts may usually be traced, directly or indirectly, to the two-volume Murray edition of Sheridan’s plays, in 1821. Some of the changes from the original manuscript, such as the blending of the parts of Miss Verjuice and Snake, are doubtless effective for reasons of dramatic economy, but many of the “cuts” are to be regretted from the reader’s standpoint. The student of English drama will prefer Sheridan’s own text to editorial emendations, however clever or effective for dramatic ends.

Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54