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

Scene I

Act Fourth

A Picture Room in CHARLES SURFACE’S House


Chas. Surf.Walk in, gentlement, pray walk in;—here they are, the family of the Surfaces, up to the Conquest.

Sir Oliv.And, in my opinion, a goodly collection.

Chas. Surf.Ay, ay, these are done in the true spirit of portrait-painting; no volontière grace or expression. Not like the works of your modern Raphaels, who give you the strongest resemblance, yet contrive to make your portrait independent of you; so that you may sink the original and not hurt the picture. No no; the merit of these is the inveterate likeness—all stiff and awkward as the originals, and like nothing in human nature besides.

Sir Oliv.Ah! we shall never see such figures of men again.

Chas. Surf.I hope not. Well, you see, Master Premium, what a domestic character I am; here I sit of an evening surrounded by my family. But come, get to your pulpit, Mr. Auctioneer; here’s an old gouty chair of my grandfather’s will answer the purpose.

Care.Ay, ay, this will do. But, Charles, I haven’t a hammers: and what’s an auctioneer without his hammer?

Chas. Surf.Egad, that’s true. What parchment have we here? Oh, our genealogy in full.[Taking pedigree down.] Here Careless, you shall have no common bit of mahogany, here’s the family tree for you, you rogue! This shall be your hammer, and now you may knock down my ancestors with their own pedigree.

Sir Oliv.What an unnatural rogue!—an ex post facto parricide![Aside.

Care.Yes, yes, here’s a list of your generation indeed; faith, Charles, this is the most convenient thing you could have found for the business, for ’twill not only serve as a hammer, but a catalogue into the bargain. Come, begin—A-going, a-going, a-going!

Chas. Surf.Bravo, Careless! Well, here’s my great-uncle, Sir Richard Raveline, a marvellous good general in his day, I assure you. He served in all the Duke of Marlborough’s wars, and got that cut over his eye at the battle of Malplaquet. What say you, Mr. Premium? look at him—there’s a hero! not cut out of his feathers, as your modern clipped captains are, but enveloped in wig and regimentals, as a general should be. What do you bid?

Sir Oliv.[Aside to MOSES.] Bid him speak.

Mos.Mr. Premium would have you speak.

Chas. Surf.Why, then, he shall have him for ten pounds, and I’m sure that’s not dear for a staff-officer.

Sir Oliv.[Aside.] Heaven deliver me! his famous uncle Richard for ten pounds!—[Aloud.] Very well, sir, I take him at that.

Chas. Surf.Careless, knock down my uncle Richard.—Here, now, is a maiden sister of his, my great-aunt Deborah, done by Kneller, in his best manner and esteemed a very formidable likeness. There she is, you see, a shepherdess feeding her flock. You shall have her for five pounds ten—the sheep are worth the money.

Sir Oliv.[Aside.] Ah! poor Deborah! a woman who set such a value on herself!—[Aloud.] Five pounds ten—she’s mine.

Chas. Surf.Knock down my aunt Deborah! Here, now, are two that were a sort of cousins of theirs.—You see, Moses, these pictures were done some time ago, when beaux wore wigs, and the ladies their own hair.

Sir Oliv.Yes, truly, head-dresses appear to have been a little lower in those days.

Chas. Surf.Well, take that couple for the same.

Mos.’Tis a good bargain.

Chas. Surf.Careless!—This, now, is a grandfather of my mother’s, a learned judge, well known on the western circuit.—What do you rate him at, Moses?

Mos.Four guineas.

Chas. Surf.Four guineas! Gad’s life, you don’t bid me the price of his wig.—Mr. Premium, you have more respect for the woolsack; do let us knock his lordship down at fifteen.

Sir Oliv.By all means.


Chas. Surf.And there are two brothers of his, William and Walter Blunt, Esquires, both members of parliament, and noted speakers; and, what’s very extraordinary, I believe, this is the first time they were ever bought or sold.

Sir Oliv.That is very extraordinary, indeed! I’ll take them at your own price, for the honour of parliament.

Care.Well said, little Premium! I’ll knock them down at forty.

Chas. Surf.Here’s a jolly fellow—I don’t know what relation, but he was mayor of Norwich: take him at eight pounds.

Sir Oliv.No, no; six pounds will do for the mayor.

Chas. Surf.Come, make it guineas, and I’ll throw you the two aldermen there into the bargain.

Sir Oliv.They’re mine.

Chas. Surf.Careless, knock down the mayor and aldermen. But, plague on’t! we shall be all day retailing in this manner; do let us deal wholesale: what say you, little Premium? Give me three hundred pounds for the rest of the family in the lump.

Care.Ay, ay, that will be the best way.

Sir Oliv.Well, well, any thing to accommodate you; they are mine. But there is one portrait which you have always passed over.

Care.What, that ill-looking little fellow over the settee!Sir Oliv. Yes, sir, I mean that; though I don’t think him so ill-looking a little fellow, by any means.

Chas. Surf.What, that? Oh; that’s my uncle Oliver! ’twas done before he went to India.

Care.Your uncle Oliver! Gad, then you’ll never be friends, Charles. That, now, to me, is as stern a looking rogue as ever I saw; an unforgiving eye, and a damned disinheriting countenance! an inveterate knave, depend on’t. Don’t you think so, little Premium?

Sir Oliv.Upon my soul, sir, I do not; I think it is as honest a looking face as any in the room, dead or alive. But I suppose uncle Oliver goes with the rest of the lumber?

Chas. Surf.No, hang it! I’ll not part with poor Noll. The old fellow has been very good to me, and, egad, I’ll keep his picture while I’ve a room to put it in.

Sir Oliv.[Aside.] The rogue’s my nephew after all!—[Aloud.] But, sir, I have somehow taken a fancy to that picture.

Chas. Surf.I’m sorry for’t, for you certainly will not have it. Oons, haven’t you got enough of them?

Sir Oliv.[Aside.] I forgive him every thing!—[Aloud.] But, sir, when I take a whim in my head, I don’t value money. I’ll give you as much for that as for all the rest.

Chas. Surf.Don’t tease me, master broker; I tell you I’ll not part with it, and there’s an end of it.

Sir Oliv.[Aside.] How like his father the dog is!—[Aloud.] Well, well, I have done.—[Aside.] I did not perceive it before, but I think I never saw such a striking resemblance.—[Aloud.] Here is a draft for your sum.

Chas. Surf.Why, ’tis for eight hundred pounds!

Sir Oliv.You will not let Sir Oliver go?

Chas. Surf.Zounds! no! I tell you, once more.

Sir Oliv.Then never mind the difference, we’ll balance that another time. But give me your hand on the bargain; you are an honest fellow, Charles—I beg pardon, sir, for being so free.—Come, Moses.

Chas. Surf.Egad, this is a whimsical old fellow!—But hark’ee, Premium, you’ll prepare lodgings for these gentlemen.

Sir Oliv.Yes, yes, I’ll send for them in a day or two.

Chas. Surf.But hold; do now send a genteel conveyance for them, for, I assure you, they were most of them used to ride in their own carriages.

Sir Oliv.I will, I will—for all but Oliver.

Chas. Surf.Ay, all but the little nabob.

Sir Oliv.You’re fixed on that?

Chas. Surf.Peremptorily.

Sir Oliv.[Aside.] A dear extravagant rogue!—[Aloud.] Good day!—Come, Moses.—[Aside.] Let me hear now who dares call him profligate.[Exit with MOSES.

Care.Why, this is the oddest genius of the sort I ever met with!

Chas. Surf.Egad, he’s the prince of brokers, I think. I wonder how the devil Moses got acquainted with so honest a fellow.—Ha! here’s Rowley.—Do, Careless, say I’ll join the company in a few moments.

Care.I will—but don’t let that old blockhead persuade you to squander any of that money on old musty debts, or any such non-sense; for tradesmen, Charles, are the most exorbitant fellows.

Chas. Surf.Very true, and paying them is only encouraging them.

Care.Nothing else.

Chas. Surf.Ay, ay, never fear.—[Exit CARELESS.] So! this was an odd old fellow, indeed. Let me see, two-thirds of these five hundred and thirty odd pounds are mine by right. ’Fore heaven! I find one’s ancestors are more valuable relations than I took them for!—Ladies and gentlemen, your most obedient and very grateful servant.[Bows ceremoniously to the pictures.


Ha! old Rowley! egad, you are just come in time to take leave of your old acquaintance.

Row.Yes, I heard they were a-going. But I wonder you can have such spirits under so many distresses.

Chas. Surf.Why, there’s the point! my distresses are so many, that I can’t afford to part with my spirits; but I shall be rich and splenetic, all in good time. However, I suppose you are surprised that I am not more sorrowful at parting with so many near relations; to be sure, ’tis very affecting, but you see they never move a muscle, so why should I?

Row.There’s no making you serious a moment.

Chas. Surf.Yes, faith, I am so now. Here, my honest Rowley, here, get me this changed directly, and take a hundred pounds of it immediately to old Stanley.

Row.A hundred pounds! Consider only—

Chas. Surf.Gad’s life, don’t talk about it! poor Stanley’s wants are pressing, and, if you don’t make haste, we shall have some one call that has a better right to the money.

Row.Ah! there’s the point! I never will cease dunning you with the old proverb—

Chas. Surf.Be just before you’re generous.—Why, so I would if I could; but Justice is an old, hobbling beldame, and I can’t get her to keep pace with Generosity, for the soul of me.

Row.Yet, Charles, believe me, one hour’s reflection—

Chas. Surf.Ay, ay, it’s very true; but, hark’ee, Rowley, while I have, by Heaven I’ll give; so, damn your economy! and now for hazard.