Aphra Behn.

The Works of Aphra Behn, Volume III online

. (page 1 of 30)
Online LibraryAphra BehnThe Works of Aphra Behn, Volume III → online text (page 1 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by Louise Hope, Wendy Bertsch and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at

[Transcriber's Note:

This e-text comes in two forms: Latin-1 and ASCII-7. Use the one that
works best on your text reader. In the Latin-1 version, French words
like "étude" have accents and "æ" is a single letter. If you see any
garbage in this paragraph and can't get it to display properly, use the
ASCII-7 or rock-bottom version. All necessary text will still be there;
it just won't be as pretty.

In the printed book, all notes were grouped at the end of the volume
as "Notes on the Text" and "Notes: Critical and Explanatory". For this
e-text, notes have been placed after their respective plays. The Notes
as printed give only page and line numbers; act-and-scene designations
shown between +marks+ were added by the transcriber. Labels such as
"Scene IIa" refer to points where the scene description changes without
a new scene number.

The critical notes include a few cross-references to other volumes of
the Complete Works. Where appropriate, these texts are quoted after each
play's Notes, before the Errata. The "N.E.D." of the Notes is now
generally known as the OED.

Except in the Errata lists, all brackets are in the original.

Typographic note: In the printed book, all references to plays give the
Act in lower-case Roman numerals and the Scene in small capital Roman
numerals; the two look identical except for the dots over the i's. For
this plain-text version, the conventional "IV.iv" sequence was used




Edited by


Sir Patient Fancy
The Amorous Prince - The Widow Ranter
The Younger Brother

[Illustration: (Publisher's Device)]



Sir Patient Fancy 1
The Amorous Prince 117
The Widow Ranter 215
The Younger Brother; Or, The Amorous Jilt 311
Notes 401


[Transcriber's Note:

Entrances and bracketed stage directions were printed in _italics_,
with proper names in roman type. The overall _italic_ markup has been
omitted for readability.]


Sir Patient Fancy, a hypochondriacal old alderman, has taken a second
wife, Lucia, a young and beautiful woman who, although feigning great
affection and the strictest conjugal fidelity, intrigues with a gallant,
Charles Wittmore, the only obstacle to their having long since married
being mutual poverty. However, the jealousy and uxoriousness of the
doting husband give the lovers few opportunities; on one occasion,
indeed, as Lady Fancy is entertaining Wittmore in the garden they are
surprised by Sir Patient, and she is obliged to pass her visitor off
under the name of Fainlove as a suitor to her step-daughter, Isabella,
in which rôle he is accepted by Sir Patient. But Isabella has betrothed
herself to Lodwick, a son of the pedantic Lady Knowell: whilst Lucretia
Knowell loves Leander, the alderman's nephew, in spite of the fact that
she is promised by her mother to Sir Credulous Easy, a bumpkinly knight
from Devonshire. Lodwick, who is a close friend of Leander, has been
previously known to Sir Credulous, and resolving to trick and befool the
coxcomb warmly welcomes him on his arrival in town. He persuades him, in
fine, to give a ridiculous serenade, or, rather, a hideous hubbub, of
noisy instruments under his mistress' window. A little before this Lady
Knowell with a party of friends has visited Sir Patient, who is her next
neighbour, and the loud laughter, talking, singing and foppery so enrage
the precise old valetudinarian that he resolves to leave London
immediately for his country house, a circumstance which would be fatal
to his wife's amours. Wittmore and she, however, persuade him that he is
very ill, and on being shown his face in a looking-glass that magnifies
instead of in his ordinary mirror, he imagines that he is suddenly
swollen and puffed with disease, and so is led lamenting to bed, leaving
the coast clear for the nonce. Isabella, however, has made an
assignation with Lodwick at the same time that her stepmother eagerly
awaits her own gallant, and in the dark young Knowell is by mistake
escorted to Lucia's chamber, whilst Wittmore encountering Isabella, and
thinking her Lady Fancy, proceeds to act so amorously that the error is
soon discovered and the girl flies from his ardour. In her hurry,
however, she rushes blundering into Lucia's bedchamber, where she finds
Knowell. It is just at this moment that Sir Credulous Easy's deafening
fanfare re-echoes in the street, and Sir Patient, awakened and
half-stunned by the pandemonium, is led grouty and bawling into his
wife's room, where he discovers Knowell, whom Lucia has all this time
taken for Wittmore; but her obvious confusion and dismay thereon are
such that Sir Patient does not suspect the real happenings, which she
glozes over with a tale concerning Isabella. Meantime the serenaders are
dispersed and routed by a band of the alderman's servants and clerks.
Sir Credulous courting Lucretia, who loathes him, meets Knowell bringing
a tale of a jealous rival able to poison at a distance by means of some
strangely subtle venom, upon which the Devonshire knight conceals
himself in a basket, hoping to be conveyed away to his old uncle in
Essex, whereas he is merely transported next door. Sir Patient, who
surprises his lady writing a love-letter, which she turns off by
appending Isabella's name thereto, is so overwhelmed with her seeming
affection and care for his family that he presents her with eight
thousand pounds in gold and silver, and resolves to marry his daughter
to Fainlove (Wittmore) without any further delay. But whilst he is gone
down to prayers and Lucia is entertaining her lover, the old nurse
informs him that his little daughter Fanny has long been privy to an
intrigue between Knowell and Isabella, whereupon, in great perturbation,
he rushes upstairs again to consult with his wife, who hurries Wittmore
under the bed. Sir Patient, however, warmed with cordials which he
quaffs to revive his drooping spirits, does not offer to quit the
chamber, but lies down on the bed, and the gallant is only enabled to
slip out unobserved after several accidents each of which nearly betrays
his presence. Upon the marriage morning Isabella in a private interview
rejects her pseudo-suitor with scorn and contumely, whereat Knowell, who
has of intent been listening, reveals to her that it is his friend
Wittmore and no real lover who is seemingly courting her, and with his
help, whilst Sir Patient is occupied with a consultation of doctors
(amongst whom Sir Credulous appears disguised as a learned member of the
faculty), Isabella and Knowell are securely married. Lady Knowell, who
has feigned a liking for Leander, generously gives him to Lucretia, Sir
Patient's attention being still engrossed by the physicians who assemble
in great force. Soon after, at Leander's instigation, in order to test
his wife, Sir Patient feigns to be dead of a sudden apoplexy, and for a
few moments, whilst others are present, Lucia laments him with many
plaints and tears, but immediately changes when she is left alone with
Wittmore. The lovers' plans, however, are overheard by the husband, who
promptly confronts his wife with her duplicity. Amazed and confounded
indeed, he forgives Leander and his daughter for marrying contrary to
his former wishes; and when Lucia coolly announces her intention to play
the hypocrite and puritan no more, but simply to enjoy herself with the
moneys he has settled on her without let or proviso, he humorously
declares he will for his part also drop the prig and canter, and turn
town gallant and spark.


In spite of Mrs. Behn's placid assertion in her address 'To the Reader'
that she has only taken 'but a very bare hint' from a foreign source,
_Le Malade Imaginaire_, the critics who cried out that _Sir Patient
Fancy_ 'was made out of at least four French plays' are patently right.
Sir Patient is, of course, Argan throughout and in detail; moreover, in
the scene where the old alderman feigns death, there is very copious and
obvious borrowing from Act III of _Le Malade Imaginaire_. Some of the
doctors' lingo also comes from the third and final interlude of
Molière's comedy, whilst the idea of the medical consultation is
pilfered from _L'Amour Médecin_, Act II, ii. Sir Credulous Easy is
Monsieur de Porceaugnac, but his first entrance is taken wholesale from
Brome's _The Damoiselle; or, The New Ordinary_ (8vo, 1653), Act II, i,
where Amphilus and Trebasco discourse exactly as do Curry and his
master. The pedantic Lady Knowell is a mixture of Philaminte and Bélise
from _Les Femmes Savantes_. The circumstance in Act IV, ii, when Lucia,
to deceive her husband, appends Isabella's name to the love-letter she
has herself just written, had already been used by Wycherley at the
commencement of Act V of that masterpiece of comedy, _The Country Wife_
(4to, 1675, produced in 1672), where Mrs. Pinchwife, by writing 'your
slighted Alithea' as the subscription of a letter, completely befools
her churlish spouse.

Molière's comedies, which were so largely conveyed in _Sir Patient
Fancy_, have been a gold mine for many of our dramatists. From _Le
Malade Imaginaire_ Miller took his _Mother-in-Law; or, The Doctor the
Disease_, produced at the Haymarket, 12 February, 1734, and Isaac
Bickerstaffe, _Dr. Last in his Chariot_, produced at the same theatre 25
August, 1769. In this farce Bickerstaffe further introduces the famous
consultation scene from _L'Amour Médecin_, a play which had been made
use of by Lacy, _The Dumb Lady; or, The Farrier made a Physician_
(1672); by Owen Swiney, _The Quacks; or, Love's the Physician_, produced
at Drury Lane, 18 March, 1705; by Miller, _Art and Nature_, produced at
the same theatre 16 February, 1738; and in an anonymous one act piece,
which is little more than a bare translation under the title _Love is
the Doctor_, performed once only at Lincoln's Inn Fields, 4 April, 1734.

_Monsieur de Pourceaugnac_ supplied Ravenscroft with material no less
than three times. In _Mamamouchi; or, The Citizen turn'd Gentleman_,
acted early in 1672, we have Sir Simon Softhead, who is Pourceaugnac in
detail; in _The Careless Lovers_, produced at the Duke's House in 1673,
and again in _The Canterbury Guests; or, A Bargain Broken_, played at
the Theatre Royal in 1694, we have _in extenso_ Act II, Scenes viii, ix,
x, of the French comedy. Crowne's Sir Mannerley Shallow (_The Country
Wit_, 1675) comes from the same source. _Squire Trelooby_, produced at
Lincoln's Inn Fields, 20 March, 1704, and revived as _The Cornish
Squire_ at Drury Lane, 3 January, 1734, is ascribed to Vanbrugh,
Congreve, and Walsh; but this, as well as a farce produced at Dublin in
1720 by Charles Shadwell and entitled _The Plotting Lovers; or, The
Dismal Squire_, cannot claim to be anything but translations. Miller's
_Mother-in-Law_, again, includes much of _Monsieur de Pourceaugnac_; and
Thomas Sheridan's _Captain O'Blunder; or, The Brave Irishman_, produced
at Goodman's Fields, 31 January, 1746, is a poor adaptation. Mrs.
Parsons abbreviated Molière to _The Intrigues of a Morning_, played at
Covent Garden, 18 April, 1792, a jejune effort. _Les Femmes Savantes_
was rather racily transformed by Thomas Wright into _The Female
Virtuosoes_, and produced at Drury Lane in 1693. It was revived as _No
Fools like Wits_ at Lincoln's Inn Fields, 10 January, 1721, to
anticipate Cibber's _The Refusal; or, The Ladies' Philosophy_, which had
a run of six nights. Miller, in his _The Man of Taste_, once more had
resource to Molière. His play was produced at Drury Lane, 6 March, 1735.
It has no value.

Of all these borrowers Mrs. Behn is infinitely the best. _Sir Patient
Fancy_ is, indeed, an excellent comedy, and had she used more leisure
might have been improved to become quite first rate. Perhaps she
plagiarized so largely owing to the haste with which her play was
written and staged, but yet everything she touched has been invested
with an irresistible humour. A glaring example of her hurry remains in
the fact that the 'precise clerk' of Sir Patient has a double
nomenclature. In Act III he appears as Abel; in Act IV, iii, he is
referred to as Bartholomew, and under this last name has an exit marked
in Act V. This character is only on the stage twice and is given but
some three or four lines to speak. Obviously, when writing her fourth
act, Aphra forgot she had already christened him.


_Sir Patient Fancy_ was produced at the Duke's Theatre, Dorset Garden,
in January, 1678, with an exceptionally strong cast which included both
Betterton and his wife. It met with the great success it fully deserved.
The critics, indeed, were not slow to detect Mrs. Behn's plagiarisms,
but the only real opposition was negligible disapproval of a modest
clique, who a few years later vainly tried to damn _The Lucky Chance_.
After the death of the two famous comedians Antony Leigh and James Nokes
in December, 1692, _Sir Patient Fancy_, owing to the inability of
succeeding actors to sustain the two rôles, Sir Patient and Sir
Credulous, which had been created by this gifted pair, completely
dropped out of the repertory of the theatre. It was not singular in its
fate, for Cibber expressly tells us that D'Urfey's excellent comedy _The
Fond Husband_, and Crowne's satirical _City Politics_, 'lived only by
the extraordinary performance of Nokes and Leigh.'


I Printed this Play with all the impatient haste one ought to do, who
would be vindicated from the most unjust and silly aspersion, Woman
could invent to cast on Woman; and which only my being a Woman has
procured me; _That it was Baudy_, the least and most Excusable fault in
the Men writers, to whose Plays they all crowd, as if they came to no
other end than to hear what they condemn in this: _but from a Woman it
was unnaturall_: but how so Cruell an unkindness came into their
imaginations I can by no means guess; unless by those whose Lovers by
long absence, or those whom Age or Ugliness have rendered a little
distant from those things they would fain imagin here - But if such as
these durst profane their Chast ears with hearing it over again, or
taking it into their serious Consideration in their Cabinets; they would
find nothing that the most innocent Virgins can have cause to blush at:
but confess with me that no Play either Ancient or Modern has less of
that Bug-bear Bawdry in it. Others to show their breeding (as _Bays_
sayes) cryed it was made out of at least four _French_ Plays, when I had
but a very bare hint from one, the _Malad Imagenere_, which was given me
translated by a Gentleman infinitely to advantage; but how much of the
_French_ is in this, I leave to those who do indeed understand it and
have seen it at the Court. The play had no other Misfortune but that of
coming out for a Womans: had it been owned by a Man, though the most
Dull Unthinking Rascally Scribler in Town, it had been a most admirable
Play. Nor does it's loss of Fame with the Ladies do it much hurt, though
they ought to have had good Nature and justice enough to have attributed
all its faults to the Authours unhappiness, who is forced to write for
Bread and not ashamed to owne it, and consequently ought to write to
please (if she can) an Age which has given severall proofs it was by
this way of writing to be obliged, though it is a way too cheap for men
of wit to pursue who write for Glory, and a way which even I despise as
much below me.



Spoken by Mr. _Betterton_.

We write not now, as th' antient Poets writ,
For your Applause of Nature, Sense and Wit;
But, like good Tradesmen, what's in fashion vent,
And cozen you, to give ye all content.
True Comedy, writ even in _Dryden's_ Style,
Will hardly raise your Humours to a Smile.
Long did his Sovereign Muse the Scepter sway,
And long with Joy you did true Homage pay:
But now, like happy States, luxurious grown,
The Monarch Wit unjustly you dethrone,
And a Tyrannick Commonwealth prefer,
Where each small Wit starts up and claims his share;
And all those Laurels are in pieces torn,
Which did e'er while one sacred Head adorn.
Nay, even the Women now pretend to reign;
Defend us from a Poet _Joan_ again!
That Congregation's in a hopeful way
To Heaven, where the Lay-Sisters teach and pray.
Oh the great Blessing of a little Wit!
I've seen an elevated Poet sit,
And hear the Audience laugh and clap, yet say,
Gad after all, 'tis a damn'd silly Play:
He unconcern'd, cries only - Is it so?
No matter, these unwitty things will do,
When your fine fustian useless Eloquence
Serves but to chime asleep a drousy Audience.
Who at the vast expence of Wit would treat,
That might so cheaply please the Appetite?
Such homely Fare you're like to find to night:
Our Author
Knows better how to juggle than to write:
Alas! a Poet's good for nothing now,
Unless he have the knack of conjuring too;
For 'tis beyond all natural Sense to guess
How their strange Miracles are brought to pass.
Your Presto Jack be gone, and come again,
With all the Hocus Art of Legerdemain;
Your dancing Tester, Nut-meg, and your Cups,
Out-does your Heroes and your amorous Fops.
And if this chance to please you, by that rule,
He that writes Wit is much the greater Fool.



Sir _Patient Fancy_, an old rich Alderman,
and one that fancies himself always sick, Mr. _Anthony Leigh_.
_Leander Fancy_, his Nephew,
in love with _Lucretia_, Mr. _Crosby_.
_Wittmore_, Gallant to the Lady _Fancy_,
a wild young Fellow of a small Fortune, Mr. _Betterton_.
_Lodwick Knowell_, Son to the Lady
_Knowell_, in love with _Isabella_, Mr. _Smith_.
Sir _Credulous Easy_, a foolish _Devonshire_
Knight, design'd to marry _Lucretia_, Mr. _Nokes_.
_Curry_, his Groom, Mr. _Richards_.
_Roger_, Footman to the Lady _Fancy_.
_Abel (Bartholomew)_,
Clerk to Sir _Patient Fancy_.
_Brunswick_, a friend to _Lodwick Knowell_.
Monsieur _Turboon_, a French Doctor.
A Fat Doctor.
An Amsterdam Doctor.
A Leyden Doctor.
Page to the Lady _Knowell_.

Guests, Six Servants to Sir _Patient_, Ballad-Singers
and Serenaders.


The Lady _Fancy_, Young Wife
to Sir _Patient_, Mrs. _Currer_.
The Lady _Knowell_, an affected learned
Woman, Mother to _Lodwick_ and _Lucretia_, Mrs. _Gwin_.
_Lucretia_, Daughter to the L. _Knowell_, Mrs. _Price_.
_Isabella_, Daughter to Sir _Patient Fancy_, Mrs. _Betterton_.
_Fanny_, a Child of seven Years old,
Daughter to Sir _Patient Fancy_.
_Maundy_, the Lady _Fancy's_ Woman, Mrs. _Gibbs_.
_Betty_, Waiting-woman to _Isabella_.
_Antic_, Waiting-woman to _Lucretia_.

SCENE _London_, in two Houses.


SCENE I. A Room in Lady _Knowell's_ House.

Enter _Lucretia_ with _Isabella_.

_Isab._ 'Tis much I owe to Fortune, my dear _Lucretia_, for being so
kind to make us Neighbours, where with Ease we may continually exchange
our Souls and Thoughts without the attendance of a Coach, and those
other little Formalities that make a Business of a Visit; it looks so
like a Journey, I hate it.

_Lucr._ Attendance is that Curse to Greatness that confines the Soul,
and spoils good Humour; we are free whilst thus alone, and can laugh at
the abominable Fopperies of this Town.

_Isab._ And lament the numberless Impertinences wherewith they
continually plague all young Women of Quality.

_Lucr._ Yet these are the precious things our grave Parents still chuse
out to make us happy with, and all for a filthy Jointure, the undeniable
argument for our Slavery to Fools.

_Isab._ Custom is unkind to our Sex, not to allow us free Choice; but we
above all Creatures must be forced to endure the formal Recommendations
of a Parent, and the more insupportable Addresses of an odious Fop;
whilst the Obedient Daughter stands - thus - with her Hands pinn'd before
her, a set Look, few Words, and a Mein that cries - Come marry me: out

_Lucr._ I perceive then, whatever your Father designs, you are resolv'd
to love your own way.

_Isab._ Thou mayst lay thy Maidenhead upon't, and be sure of the
Misfortune to win.

_Lucr._ My Brother _Lodwick's_ like to be a happy Man then.

_Isab._ Faith, my dear _Lodwick_ or no body in my heart, and I hope thou
art as well resolv'd for my Cousin _Leander_.

_Lucr._ Here's my Hand upon't, I am; yet there's something sticks upon
my stomach, which you must know.

_Isab._ Spare the Relation, for I have observ'd of late your Mother to
have order'd her Eyes with some softness, her Mouth endeavouring to
sweeten it self into Smiles and Dimples, as if she meant to recal
Fifteen again, and gave it all to _Leander_, for at him she throws her

_Lucr._ Is't possible thou should'st have perceived it already?

_Isab._ Long since.

_Lucr._ And now I begin to love him, 'twould vex me to see my Mother
marry him - well, I shall never call him Father.

_Isab._ He'll take care to give himself a better Title.

_Lucr._ This _Devonshire_ Knight too, who is recommended to my Mother as
a fit Husband for me, I shall be so tormented with - My Brother swears
he's the pertest, most unsufferable Fool he ever saw; when he was at my
Uncle's last Summer, he made all his Diversion.

_Isab._ Prithee let him make ours now, for of all Fops your Country Fop
is the most tolerable Animal; those of the Town are the most unmanagable
Beasts in Nature.

_Lucr._ And are the most noisy, keeping Fops.

_Isab._ Keeping begins to be as ridiculous as Matrimony, and is a
greater Imposition upon the Liberty of Man; the Insolence and Expence of
their Mistresses has almost tir'd out all but the Old and Doting part of
Mankind: The rest begin to know their value, and set a price upon a good
Shape, a tolerable Face and Mein: - and some there are who have made
excellent Bargains for themselves that way, and will flatter ye and jilt
ye an Antiquated Lady as artfully as the most experienc'd Miss of 'em

_Lucr._ Lord, Lord! what will this World come to? - but this Mother of
mine - _Isabella_.

_Isab._ Is discreet and virtuous enough, a little too affected, as being
the most learned of her Sex.

_Lucr._ Methinks to be read in the Arts, as they call 'em, is the
peculiar Province of the other Sex.

_Isab._ Indeed the Men would have us think so, and boast their Learning
and Languages; but if they can find any of our Sex fuller of Words, and
to so little purpose as some of their Gownmen, I'll be content to change
my Petticoats for Pantaloons, and go to a Grammar-school.

_Lucr._ Oh, they're the greatest Babelards in Nature.

_Isab._ They call us easy and fond, and charge us with all weakness; but
look into their Actions of Love, State or War, their roughest business,
and you shall find 'em sway'd by some who have the luck to find their
Foibles; witness my Father, a Man reasonable enough, till drawn away by
doting Love and Religion: what a Monster my young Mother makes of him!
flatter'd him first into Matrimony, and now into what sort of Fool or
Beast she pleases to make him.

_Lucr._ I wonder she does not turn him to Christianity; methinks a
Conventicle should ill agree with her Humour.

_Isab._ Oh, she finds it the only way to secure her from his Suspicion,
which if she do not e'er long give him cause for, I am mistaken in her
Humour. -

Enter L. _Knowell_ and _Leander_.

But see your Mother and my Cousin _Leander_, who seems, poor man, under
some great Consternation, for he looks as gravely as a Lay-Elder
conducting his Spouse from a Sermon.

L. _Kno._ Oh, fy upon't. See, Mr. _Fancy_, where your Cousin and my
_Lucretia_ are idling: _Dii boni_, what an insupportable loss of time's

Online LibraryAphra BehnThe Works of Aphra Behn, Volume III → online text (page 1 of 30)