BY RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN
[LADY SNEERWELL'S house.]
LADY SNEERWELL at the dressing-table -- SNAKE drinking chocolate.
LADY SNEER. The paragraphs, you say, Mr. Snake, were all inserted?
SNAKE. They were, madam, and as I copied them myself in a feigned hand, there can be no suspicion whence they came. 5
LADY SNEER. Did you circulate the reports of Lady Brittle's intrigue with Captain Boastall?
SNAKE. That is in as fine a train as your ladyship could wish, -- in the common course of things, I think it must reach Mrs. Clackit's ears within 10 four-and-twenty hours; and then, you know, the business is as good as done.
LADY SNEER. Why, truly, Mrs. Clackit has a very pretty talent, and a great deal of industry.
SNAKE. True, madam, and has been tolerably 15 successful in her day: -- to my knowledge, she has been the cause of six matches being broken off, and three sons being disinherited, of four forced elopemerits, as many dose confinements, nine separate maintenances, and two divorces; -- nay, I have 20 more than once traced her causing a "Tête-à-Tête" in the Town and Country Magazine,1 when the parties perhaps had never seen each other's faces before in the course of their lives.
LADY SNEER. She certainly has talents, but 25 her manner is gross.
SNAKE. 'Tis very true, -- she generally designs well, has a free tongue, and a bold invention; but her coloring is too dark, and her outline often extravagant. She wants that delicacy of hint, and mel-30lowness of sneer, which distinguish your ladyship's scandal.
LADY SNEER. Ah! you are partial, Snake.
SNAKE. Not in the least; everybody allows that Lady Sneerwell can do more with a word or a look35 than many can with the most labored detail, even when they happen to have a little truth on their side to support it.
LADY SNEER. Yes, my dear Snake; and I am no hypocrite to deny the satisfaction I reap from the 40 success of my efforts. Wounded myself, in the early part of my life, by the envenomed tongue of slander, I confess I have since known no pleasure equal to the reducing others to the level of my own injured reputation. 45
SNAKE. Nothing can be more natural. But, Lady Sneerwell, there is one affair in which you have lately employed me, wherein, I confess, I am at a loss to guess your motives.
LADY SNEER. I conceive you mean with re 50 spect to my neighbor, Sir Peter Teazle, and his family?
SNAKE. I do; here are two young men, to whom Sir Peter has acted as a kind of guardian since their father's death; the elder possessing the most 55 amiable character, and universally well spoken of; the youngest, the most dissipated and extravagant young fellow in the kingdom, without friends or character, -- the former an avowed admirer of your ladyship, and apparently your favorite; the latter at 60 tached to Maria, Sir Peter's ward, and confessedly beloved by her. Now, on the face of these circumstances, it is utterly unaccountable to me, why you, the widow of a city knight, with a good jointure, should not dose with the passion of a man of 65 such character and expectations as Mr. Surface; and more so why you should be so uncommonly earnest to destroy the mutual attachment subsisting between his brother Charles and Maria.
LADY SNEER. Then, at once to unravel this 70 mystery, I must inform you that love has no share whatever in the intercourse between Mr. Surface and me.
LADY SNEER. His real attachment is to Maria, 75____________________