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Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816). The School for Scandal.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Scene III

Act Fifth

The Library of JOSEPH SURFACE’S House


Lady Sneer.Impossible! Will not Sir Peter immediately be reconciled to Charles, and of course no longer oppose his union with Maria? The thought is distraction to me.

Jos. Surf.Can passion furnish a Remedy?

Lady Sneer.No, nor cunning either. Oh, I was a fool, an idiot, to league with such a blunderer!

Jos. Surf.Sure, Lady Sneerwell, I am the greatest sufferer; yet you see I bear the accident with calmness.

Lady Sneer.Because the disappointment doesn’t reach your heart; your interest only attached you to Maria. Had you felt for her what I have for that ungrateful libertine, neither your temper nor hypocrisy could prevent your showing the sharpness of your vexation.

Jos. Surf.But why should you reproaches fall on me for this disappointment?

Lady Sneer.Are you not the cause of it? Had you not a sufficient field for your roguery in imposing upon Sir Peter, and supplanting your brother, but you must endeavour to seduce his wife? I hate such an avarice of crimes; ’tis an unfair monopoly, and never prospers.

Jos. Surf.Well, I admit I have been to blame. I confess I deviated from the direct road of wrong, but I don’t think we’re so totally defeated neither.

Lady Sneer.No!

Jos. Surf.You tell me you have made a trial of Snake since we met, and that you still believe him faithful to us?

Lady Sneer.This, indeed, might have assisted.

Jos. Surf.Come, come; it is not too late yet.—[Knocking at the door.] But hark! this is probably my uncle, Sir Oliver: retire to that room; we’ll consult farther when he is gone.

Lady Sneer.Well, but if he should find you out too?

Jos. Surf.Oh, I have no fear of that. Sir Peter will hold his tongue for his own credit’s sake—and you may depend on it I shall soon discover Sir Oliver’s weak side!

Lady Sneer.I have no diffidence of your abilities: only be constant to one roguery at a time.

Jos. Surf.I will, I will!—[Exit LADY SNEERWELL.] So! ’tis confounded hard, after such bad fortune, to be baited by one’s confederate in evil. Well, at all events, my character is so much better than Charles’, that I certainly—hey!—what—this is not Sir Oliver, but old Stanley again. Plague on’t that he should return to tease me just now! I shall have Sir Oliver come and find him here—and—


Gad’s life, Mr. Stanley, why have you come back to plague me at this time? You must not stay now, upon my word.

Sir Oliv.Sir, I hear your uncle Oliver is expected here, and though he has been so penurious to you, I’ll try what he’ll do for me.

Jos. Surf.Sir, ’tis impossible for you to stay now, so I must beg—Come any other time, and I promise you, you shall be assisted.

Sir Oliv.No: Sir Oliver and I must be acquainted

Jos. Surf.Zounds, sir! then I insist on your quitting the room directly.

Sir Oliv.Nay, sir—

Jos. Surf.Sir, I insist on’t—Here, William! show this gentleman out. Since you compel me, sir, not one moment—this is such insolence.[Going to push him out.


Chas. Surf.Heyday! what’s the matter now? What the devil, have you got hold of my little broker here? Zounds, brother, don’t hurt little Premium. What’s the matter, my little fellow?

Jos. Surf.So! he has been with you too, has he?

Chas. Surf.To be sure, he has. Why, he’s as honest a little—But sure, Joseph, you have not been borrowing money too, have you?

Jos. Surf.Borrowing! no! But, brother, you know we expect Sir Oliver here every—

Chas. Surf.O Gad, that’s true! Noll mustn’t find the little broker here, to be sure.

Jos. Surf.Yet Mr. Stanley insists—

Chas. Surf.Stanley! why his name’s Premium.

Jos. Surf.No, sir, Stanley.

Chas. Surf.No, no, Premium.

Jos. Surf.Well, no matter which—but—

Chas. Surf.Ay, ay, Stanley or Premium, ’tis the same thing, as you say; for I suppose he goes by half a hundred names, besides A. B. at the coffee-house.[Knocking.

Jos. Surf.’Sdeath! here’s Sir Oliver at the door.—Now I beg, Mr. Stanley—

Chas. Surf.Ay, ay, and I beg, Mr. Premium—

Sir Oliv.Gentlemen—

Jos. Surf.Sir, by Heaven you shall go!

Chas. Surf.Ay, out with him, certainly!

Sir Oliv.This violence—

Jos. Surf.Sir, ’tis your own fault.

Chas. Surf.Out with him, to be sure.[Both forcing SIR OLIVER out.


Sir Pet.My old friend, Sir Oliver—hey! What in the name of wonder—here are dutiful nephews—assault their uncle at a first visit!

Lady Teaz.Indeed, Sir Oliver, ’twas well we came in to rescue you.

Row.Truly it was; for I perceive, Sir Oliver, the character of old Stanley was no protection to you.

Sir Oliv.Nor of Premium either: the necessities of the former could not extort a shilling from that benevolent gentleman; and with the other I stood a chance of faring worse than my ancestors, and being knocked down without being bid for.

Jos. Surf.Charles!

Chas. Surf.Joseph!

Jos. Surf.’Tis now complete!

Chas. Surf.Very.

Sir Oliv.Sir Peter, my friend, and Rowley too—look on that elder nephew of mine, You know what he has already received from my bounty; and you also know how gladly I would have regarded half my fortune as held in trust for him: judge then my disappointment in discovering him to be destitute of truth, charity, and gratitude!

Sir Pet.Sir Oliver, I should be more surprised at this declaration, if I had not myself found him to be mean, treacherous, and hypocritical.

Lady Teaz.And if the gentleman pleads not guilty to these, pray let him call me to his character.

Sir Pet.Then, I believe, we need add no more: if he knows himself, he will consider it as the most perfect punishment, that he is known to the world.

Chas. Surf.If they talk this way to Honesty, what will they say to me, by and by?[Aside.[SIR PETER, LADY TEAZLE, and MARIA retire.

Sir Oliv.As for that prodigal, his brother, there—

Chas. Surf.Ay, now comes my turn: the damned family pictures will ruin me![Aside.

Jos. Surf.Sir Oliver—uncle, will you honour me with a hearing?

Chas. Surf.Now, if Joseph would make one of his long speeches I might recollect myself a little.[Aside.

Sir Oliv.[To JOSEPH SURFACE.] I suppose you would undertake to justify yourself?

Jos. Surf.I trust I could.

Sir Oliv.[To CHARLES SURFACE.] Well, sir!—and you could justify yourself too, I suppose?

Chas. Surf.Not that I know of, Sir Oliver.

Sir Oliv.What!—Little Premium has been let too much into the secret, I suppose?

Chas. Surf.True, sir; but they were family secrets, and should not be mentioned again, you know.

Row.Come, Sir Oliver, I know you cannot speak of Charles’ follies with anger.

Sir Oliv.Odd’s heart, no more I can; nor with gravity either. Sir Peter, do you know the rogue bargained with me for all his ancestors; sold me judges and generals by the foot, and maiden aunts as cheap as broken china.

Chas. Surf.To be sure, Sir Oliver, I did make a little free with the family canvas, that’s the truth on’t. My ancestors may rise in judgment against me, there’s no denying it; but believe me sincere when I tell you—and upon my soul I would not say so if I was not—that if I do not appear mortified at the exposure of my follies, it is because I feel at this moment the warmest satisfaction in seeing you, my liberal benefactor.

Sir Oliv.Charles, I believe you, Give me your hand again: the ill-looking little fellow over the settee has made your peace.

Chas. Surf.Then, sir, my gratitude to the original is still increased.

Lady Teaz.[Advancing.] Yet, I believe, Sir Oliver, here is one Charles is still more anxious to be reconciled to.[Pointing to MARIA.

Sir Oliv.Oh, I have heard of his attachment there; and, with the young lady’s pardon, if I construe right—that blush—

Sir Pet.Well, child, speak your sentiments!

Mar.Sir, I have little to say, but that I shall rejoice to hear that he is happy; for me, whatever claim I had to his attention, I willingly resign to one who has a better title.

Chas. Surf.How, Maria!

Sir Pet.Heyday! what’s the mystery now? While he appeared an incorrigible rake, you would give your hand to no one else; and now that he is likely to reform I’ll warrant you won’t have him!

Mar.His own heart and Lady Sneerwell know the cause.

Chas. Surf.Lady Sneerwell!

Jos. Surf.Brother, it is with great concern I am obliged to speak on this point, but my regard to justice compels me, and Lady Sneerwell’s injuries can no longer be concealed.[Opens the door.


Sir Pet.So! another French milliner! Egad, he has one in every room in the house, I suppose!

Lady Sneer.Ungrateful Charles! Well may you be surprised, and feel for the indelicate situation your perfidy has forced me into.

Chas. Surf.Pray, uncle, is this another plot of yours? For, as I have life, I don’t understand it.

Jos. Surf.I believe, sir, there is but the evidence of one person more necessary to make it extremely clear.

Sir Pet.And that person, I imagine, is Mr. Snake.—Rowley, you were perfectly right to bring him with us, and pray let him appear.

Row.Walk in, Mr. Snake.


I thought his testimony might be wanted: however, it happens unluckily, that he comes to confront Lady Sneerwell, not to support her.

Lady Sneer.A villain! Treacherous to me at last! Speak, fellow, have you too conspired against me?

Snake.I beg your ladyship ten thousand pardons: you paid me extremely liberally for the lie in question; but I unfortunately have been offered double to speak the truth.

Sir Pet.Plot and counter-plot, egad! I wish your ladyship joy of your negotiation.

Lady Sneer.The torments of shame and disappointment on you all![Going.

Lady Teaz.Hold, Lady Sneerwell—before you go, let me thank you for the trouble you and that gentleman have taken, in writing letters from me to Charles, and answering them yourself; and let me also request you to make my respects to the scandalous college of which you are president, and inform them that Lady Teazle, licentiate, begs leave to return the diploma they granted her, as she leaves off practice, and kills characters no longer.

Lady Sneer.You too, madam!—provoking—insolent! May your husband live these fifty years![Exit.

Sir Pet.Oons! what a fury!

Lady Teaz.A malicious creature, indeed!

Sir Pet.What! not for her last wish?

Lady Teaz.Oh, no!

Sir Oliv.Well, sir, and what have you to say now?

Jos. Surf.Sir. I am so confounded, to find that Lady Sneerwell could be guilty of suborning Mr. Snake in this manner, to impose on us all, that I know not what to say: however, lest her revengeful spirit should prompt her to injure my brother, I had certainly better follow her directly. For the man who attempts to—[Exit.

Sir Pet.Moral to the last!

Sir Oliv.Ay, and marry her, Joseph, if you can. Oil and vinegar!—egad you’ll do very well together.

Row.I believe we have no more occasion for Mr. Snake at present?

Snake.Before I go, I beg pardon once for all, for whatever uneasiness I have been the humble instrument of causing to the parties present.

Sir Pet.Well, well, you have made atonement by a good deed at last.

Snake.But I must request of the company, that it shall never be known.

Sir Pet.Hey! what the plague! are you ashamed of having done a right thing once in your life?

Snake.Ah, sir, consider—I live by the badness of my character; and, if it were once known that I had been betrayed into an honest action, I should lose every friend I have in the world.

Sir Oliv.Well, well—we’ll not traduce you by saying any thing in your praise, never fear.[Exit SNAKE.

Sir Pet.There’s a precious rogue!

Lady Teaz.See, Sir Oliver, there needs no persuasion now to reconcile your nephew and Maria,

Sir Oliv.Ay, ay, that’s as it should be, and, egad, we’ll have the wedding to-morrow morning.

Chas. Surf.Thank you, dear uncle.

Sir Pet.What, you rogue! don’t you ask the girls consent first?

Chas. Surf.Oh, I have done that a long time—a minute ago—and she has looked yes.

Mar.For shame, Charles!—I protest, Sir Peter, there has not been a word—

Sir Oliv.Well, then, the fewer the better; may your love for each other never know abatement.

Sir Pet.And may you live as happily together as Lady Teazle and I intend to do!

Chas. Surf.Rowley, my old friend, I am sure you congratulate me; and I suspect that I owe you much.

Sir Oliv.You do, indeed, Charles.

Sir Pet.Ay, honest Rowley always said you would reform.

Chas. Surf.Why, as to reforming, Sir Peter, I’ll make no promises, and that I take to be a proof that I intend to set about it. But here shall be my monitor—my gentle guide.—Ah! can I leave the virtuous path those eyes illumine? Though thou, dear maid, shouldst waive thy beauty’s sway, Thou still must rule, because I will obey: An humble fugitive from Folly view, No sanctuary near but Love and you:[To the Audience. You can, indeed, each anxious fear remove, For even Scandal dies, if you approve.[Exeunt omnes.