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

Scene III

Act Third

Another Room in the same

CHARLES SURFACE, SIR HARRY BUMPER, CARELESS, and Gentlemen, discovered drinking

Chas. Surf.’Fore heaven, ’tis true!—there’s the great degeneracy of the age. Many of our acquaintance have taste, spirit, and politeness; but, plaque on ’t, they won’t drink.

Care.It is so, indeed, Charles! they give into all the substantial luxuries of the table, and abstain from nothing but wine and wit. Oh, certainly society suffers by it intolerably! for now, instead of the social spirit of raillery that used to mantle over a glass of bright Burgundy, their conversation is become just like the Spa-water they drink, which has all the pertness and flatulency of champagne, without its spirit or flavour.

1 Gent.But what are they to do who love play better than wine?

Care.True! there’s Sir Harry diets himself for gaming, and is now under a hazard regimen.

Chas. Surf.Then he’ll have the worst of it. What! you wouldn’t train a horse for the course by keeping him from corn? For my part, egad, I am never so successful as when I am a little merry: let me throw on a bottle of champagne, and I never lose.

All.Hey, what?

Care.At least I never feel my losses, which is exactly the same thing.

2 Gent.Ay, that I believe.

Chas. Surf.And then, what man can pretend to be a believer in love, who is an abjurer of wine? ’Tis the test by which the lover knows his own heart. Fill a dozen bumpers to a dozen beauties, and she that floats at the top is the maid that has bewitched you.

Care.Now then, Charles, be honest, and give us your real favourite.

Chas. Surf.Why, I have withheld her only in compassion to you. If I toast her, you must give a round of her peers, which is impossible—on earth.

Care.Oh! then we’ll find some canonised vestals or heathen goddesses that will do, I warrant.

Chas. Surf.Here, then, bumpers, you rogues! bumpers! Maria! Maria!—

Sir Har.Maria who?

Chas. Surf.Oh, damn the surname!—’tis too formal to be registered in Love’s calendar—Maria!


Chas. Surf.But now, Sir Harry, beware, we must have beauty superlative.

Care.Nay, never study, Sir Harry: we’ll stand to the toast, though your mistress should want an eye, and you know you have a song will excuse you.

Sir Har.Egad, so I have! and I’ll give him the song instead of the lady.[Sings.

  • Here’s to the maiden of bashful fifteen;
  • Here’s to the widow of fifty;
  • Here’s to the flaunting extravagant quean,
  • And here’s to the housewife that’s thrifty.
  • Chorus. Let the toast pass,—
  • Drink to the lass,
  • I’ll warrant she’ll prove an excuse for the glass.
  • Here’s to the charmer whose dimples we prize;
  • Now to the maid who has none, sir:
  • Here’s to the girl with a pair of blue eyes,
  • And here’s to the nymph with but one, sir.
  • Chorus. Let the toast pass, &c.
  • Here’s to the maid with a bosom of snow:
  • Now to her that’s as brown as a berry:
  • Here’s to the wife with a face full of woe,
  • And now to the damsel that’s merry.
  • Chorus. Let the toast pass, &c.
  • For let ’em be clumsy, or let ’em be slim,
  • Young or ancient, I care not a feather;
  • So fill a pint bumper quite up to the brim,
  • So fill up your glasses, nay, fill to the brim,
  • And let us e’en toast them together.
  • Chorus. Let the toast pass, &c.
  • All.Bravo! bravo!

    Enter TRIP, and whispers CHARLES SURFACE

    Chas. Surf.Gentlemen, you must excuse me a little.—Careless, take the chair, will you?

    Care.Nay, pr’ythee, Charles, what now? This is one of your peerless beauties, I suppose, has dropped in by chance?

    Chas. Surf.No, faith! To tell you the truth, ’tis a Jew and a broker, who are come by appointment.

    Care.Oh, damn it! let’s have the Jew in.

    1 Gent.Ay, and the broker too, by all means.

    2 Gent.Yes, yes, the Jew and the broker.

    Chas. Surf.Egad, with all my heart!—Trip, bid the gentlemen walk in—[Exit TRIP.] Though there’s one of them a stranger, I can tell you.

    Care.Charles, let us give them some generous Burgundy, and perhaps they’ll grow conscientious.

    Chas. Surf.Oh, hang ’em, no! wine does but draw forth a man’s natural qualities; and to make them drink would only be to whet their knavery.

    Re-enter TRIP, with SIR OLIVER SURFACE and MOSES

    Chas. Surf.So, honest Moses; walk in, pray, Mr. Premium—that’s the gentleman’s name, isn’t it, Moses?

    Mos.Yes, sir.

    Chas. Surf.Set chairs, Trip.—Sit down, Mr. Premium.—Glasses, Trip.—[TRIP gives chairs and glasses, and exit.] Sit down, Moses.—Come, Mr. Premium, I’ll give you a sentiment; here’s Success to usury!—Moses, fill the gentleman a bumper.

    Mos.Success to usury![Drinks.

    Care.Right, Moses—usury is prudence and industry, and deserves to succeed.

    Sir Oliv.Then here’s—All the success it deserves![Drinks.

    Care.No, no, that won’t do! Mr. Premium, you have demurred at the toast, and must drink it in a pint bumper.

    1 Gent.A pint bumper, at least.

    Mos.Oh, pray, sir, consider—Mr. Premium’s a gentleman.

    Care.And therefore loves good wine.

    2 Gent.Give Moses a quart glass—this is mutiny, and a high contempt for the chair.

    Care.Here, now for ’t! I’ll see justice done to the last drop of my bottle.

    Sir Oliv.Nay, pray, gentlemen—I did not expect this usage.

    Chas. Surf.No, hang it, you shan’t; Mr. Premium’s a stranger.

    Sir Oliv.Odd! I wish I was well out of their company.[Aside.

    Care.Plague on ’em then! if they won’t drink, we’ll not sit down with them. Come, Harry, the dice are in the next room.—Charles, you’ll join us when you have finished your business with the gentlemen?

    Chas. Surf.I will! I will!—[Exeunt SIR HARRY BUMPER and GENTLEMEN; CARELESS following.] Careless!

    Care.[Returning.] Well!

    Chas. Surf.Perhaps I may want you.

    Care.Oh, you know I am always ready: word, note, or bond, ’tis all the same to me.[Exit.

    Mos.Sir, this is Mr. Premium, a gentleman of the strictest honour and secrecy; and always performs what he undertakes. Mr. Premium, this is—

    Chas. Surf.Psha! have done. Sir, my friend Moses is a very honest fellow, but a little slow at expression: he’ll be an hour giving us our titles. Mr. Premium, the plain state of the matter is this: I am an extravagant young fellow who wants to borrow money; you I take to be a prudent old fellow, who have got money to lend. I am block-head enough to give fifty per cent, sooner than not have it; and you, I presume, are rogue enough to take a hundred if you can get it. Now, sir, you see we are acquainted at once, and may proceed to business without further ceremony.

    Sir Oliv.Exceeding frank, upon my word. I see, sir, you are not a man of many compliments.

    Chas. Surf.Oh, no sir! plain dealing in business I always think best.

    Sir Oliv.Sir, I like you better for it. However, you are mistaken in one thing; I have no money to lend, but I believe I could procure some of a friend; but then he’s an unconscionable dog. Isn’t he, Moses? And must sell stock to accommodate you. Mustn’t he, Moses?

    Mos.Yes, indeed! You know I always speak the truth, and scorn to tell a lie!

    Chas. Surf.Right. People that speak truth generally do. But these are trifles, Mr. Premium. What! I know money isn’t to be bought without paying for ’t!

    Sir Oliv.Well, but what security could you give! You have no land, I suppose?

    Chas. Surf.Not a mole-hill, nor a twig, but what’s in the boughpots out of the window!

    Sir Oliv.Nor any stock, I presume?

    Chas. Surf.Nothing but live stock—and that’s only a few pointers and ponies. But pray, Mr. Premium, are you acquainted at all with any of my connexions?

    Sir Oliv.Why, to say truth, I am.

    Chas. Surf.Then you must know that I have a devilish rich uncle in the East Indies, Sir Oliver Surface, from whom I have the greatest expectations?

    Sir Oliv.That you have a wealthy uncle, I have heard; but how your expectations will turn out is more, I believe, than you can tell.

    Chas. Surf.Oh, no!—there can be no doubt. They tell me I’m a prodigious favourite, and that he talks of leaving me every thing.

    Sir Oliv.Indeed! this is the first I’ve heard of it.

    Chas. Surf.Yes, yes, ’tis just so. Moses knows ’tis true; don’t you, Moses?

    Mos.Oh, yes! I’ll swear to’t.

    Sir Oliv.Egad, they’ll persuade me presently I’m at Bengal.[Aside.

    Chas. Surf.Now I propose, Mr. Premium, if it’s agreeable to you, a post-obit on Sir Oliver’s life: though at the same time the old fellow has been so liberal to me, that I give you my word, I should be very sorry to hear that any thing had happened to him.

    Sir Oliv.Not more than I should, I assure you. But the bond you mention happens to be just the worst security you could offer me—for I might live to a hundred and never see the principal.

    Chas. Surf.Oh, yes, you would! the moment Sir Oliver dies, you know, you would come on me for the money.

    Sir Oliv.Then I believe I should be the most unwelcome dun you ever had in your life.

    Chas. Surf.What! I suppose you’re afraid that Sir Oliver is too good a life?

    Sir Oliv.No, indeed I am not; though I have heard he is as hale and healthy as any man of his years in Christendom.

    Chas. Surf.There again, now, you are misinformed. No, no, the climate has hurt him considerably, poor uncle Oliver. Yes, yes, he breaks apace, I’m told—and is so much altered lately that his nearest relations would not know him.

    Sir Oliv.No! Ha! ha! ha! so much altered lately that his nearest relations would not know him! Ha! ha! ha! egad—ha! ha! ha!

    Chas. Surf.Ha! ha!—you’re glad to hear that, little Premium?

    Sir Oliv.No, no, I’m not.

    Chas. Surf.Yes, yes, your are—ha! ha! ha!—you know that mends our chance.

    Sir Oliv.But I’m told Sir Oliver is coming over; nay, some say he is actually arrived.

    Chas. Surf.Psha! sure I must know better than you whether he’s come or not. No, no, rely on’t he’s at this moment at Calcutta. Isn’t he, Moses?

    Mos.Oh, yes, certainly.

    Sir Oliv.Very true, as you say, you must know better than I, though I have it from pretty good authority. Haven’t I, Moses?

    Mos.Yes, most undoubted!

    Sir Oliv.But, sir, as I understand you want a few hundreds immediately, is there nothing you could dispose of?

    Chas. Surf.How do you mean?

    Sir Oliv.For instance, now, I have heard that your father left behind him a great quantity of massy old plate.

    Chas. Surf.O Lud! that’s gone long ago. Moses can tell you how better than I can.

    Sir Oliv.[Aside.] Good lack! all the family race-cups and corporation-bowls!—[Aloud.] Then it was also supposed that his library was one of the most valuable and compact.

    Chas. Surf.Yes, yes, so it was—vastly too much so for a private gentleman. For any part, I was always of a communicative disposition, so I thought it a shame to keep so much knowledge to myself.

    Sir Oliv.[Aside.] Mercy upon me! learning that had run in the family like an heirloom!—[Aloud.] Pray, what are become of the books?

    Chas. Surf.You must inquire of the auctioneer, Master Premium, for I don’t believe even Moses can direct you.

    Mos.I know nothing of books.

    Sir Oliv.So, so, nothing of the family property left, I suppose?

    Chas. Surf.Not much, indeed; unless you have a mind to the family pictures. I have got a room full of ancestors above; and if you have a taste for old paintings, egad, you shall have ’em a bargain!

    Sir Oliv.Hey! what the devil! sure, you wouldn’t sell your forefathers, would you?

    Chas. Surf.Every man of them, to the best bidder.

    Sir Oliv.What! your great-uncles and aunts?

    Chas. Surf.Ay, and my great-grandfathers and grandmothers too.

    Sir Oliv.[Aside.] Now I give him up!—[Aloud.] What the plague, have you no bowels for your own kindred? Odd’s life! do you take me for Shylock in the play, that you would raise money of me on your own flesh and blood?

    Chas. Surf.Nay, my little broker, don’t be angry: what need you care, if you have your moneys’ worth?

    Sir Oliv.Well, I’ll be the purchaser: I think I can dispose of the family canvas.—[Aside.] Oh, I’ll never forgive him this! never!

    Re-enter CARELESS

    Care.Come, Charles, what keeps you?

    Chas. Surf.I can’t come yet. I’faith, we are going to have a sale above stairs; here’s little Premium will buy all my ancestors!

    Care.Oh, burn your ancestors!

    Chas. Surf.No, he may do that afterwards, if he pleases. Stay, Careless, we want you: egad, you shall be auctioneer—so come along with us.

    Care.Oh, have with you, if that’s the case. I can handle a hammer as well as a dice-box! Going! going!

    Sir Oliv.Oh, the profligates![Aside.

    Chas. Surf.Come, Moses, you shall be appraiser, if we want one. Gad’s life, little Premium, you don’t seem to like the business?

    Sir Oliv.Oh yes, I do, vastly! Ha! ha! ha! yes, yes, I think it a rare joke to sell one’s family by auction—ha!-ha![Aside.] Oh, the prodigal!

    Chas. Surf.To be sure! when a man wants money, where the plague should be get assistance, if he can’t make free with his own relations!

    Sir Oliv.I’ll never forgive him; never! never![Exeunt.