British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

By George Henry Nettleton; Arthur Eillicot Case | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

SPOKEN BY MRS. OLDFIELD1

Ye modest matrons all, ye virtuous wives,
Who lead with horrid husbands decent lives,

You who, for all you are in such a taking
To see your spouses drinking, gaming, raking,
Yet make a conscience still of cuckold-making;
5

What can we say your pardon to obtain?
This matter here was proved against poor Jane:
She never once denied it, but in short,
Whimpered, and cried, 'Sweet sir -- I'm sorry for't.'

'Twas well she met a kind, good-natured soul, 10
We are not all so easy to control. I fancy one might find in this good town
Some would ha' told the gentleman his own;
Have answered smart, 'To what do you pretend,
Blockhead?-- As if I mustn't see a friend! 15
Tell me of hackney-coaches-- jaunts to th' City! Where should I buy my china? -- Faith, I'll fit ye! --'
Our wife was of a milder, meeker spirit:
You! -- lords and masters!- was not that some merit?
Don't you allow it to be virtuous bearing, 20
When we submit thus to your domineering? Well, peace be with her; she did wrong most surely,
But so do many more who look demurely:
Nor should our mourning madam weep alone,
There are more ways of wickedness than one. 25
If the reforming stage should fall to shaming Ill-nature, pride, hypocrisy, and gaming,
The poets frequently might move compassion,
And with she-tragedies o'errun the nation.
Then judge the fair offender, with good nature; 30
And let your fellow-feeling curb your satire. What if our neighbors have some little failing;
Must we needs fall to damning and to railing?

For her excuse, too, be it understood,
That if the woman was not quite so good,
Her lover was a king; she, flesh and blood.
35

And since she has dearly paid the sinful score,
Be kind at last, and pity poor Jane Shore.

____________________
1
In the part of Jane Shore.

-530-

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