Item of the Day: The Relapse: or, Virtue in Danger (1777)

Full Title: The Relapse: or, Virtue in Danger. A Comedy. As written by Sir John Vanbrugh. Distinguishing also the Variations of the Theatre, as performed at the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden. Regulated from the Prompt Book. By Permission of the Managers, by Mr. Wild, Prompter. London: Printed for John Bell, near Exeter-Exchange, in the Strand, MDCCLXXVII. [1777]*


TO go about to excuse half the defects this abortive brat is come into the world with, would be to provoke the town with a long useless preface, when it is, I doubt, sufficiently soured already by a tedious play.

I do therefore (with the humility of a repenting sinner) confess, it wants every thing — but length; and in that, I hope, the severest critic will be pleased to acknowledge I have not been wanting. But my modesty will sure atone for every thing, when the world shall know it is so great, I am even to this day insensible of those two shining  graces in the play, (which some part of the town is pleased to compliment me with) blasphemy and bawdy.

For my part, I cannot find them out: if there were any obscene expressions upon the stage, here they are in the print; for I have dealt fairly, I have not sunk a syllable, that could (though by racking of mysteries) be ranged under that head; and yet I believe with a steddy (sic) faith, there is not one woman of a real reputation in town, but when she has read it impartially over in her closet, will find it so innocent, she will think it no affront to her prayer-book, to lay it upon the same shelf. So to them (with all manner of deference) I entirely refer my cause; and I am confident they will justify me against those pretenders to good manners, who at the same time have so little respect for the ladies, they would extract a bawdy jest from an ejaculation, to put them out of countenance. But I expect to have these well-bred persons always my enemies, since I am sure I shall never write any thing lewd enough to make them my friends.

As for the saints (your thorough-paced ones, I mean, with skrewed faces and wry mouths) I despair of them; for they are friends to nobody: they love nothing but their altars and themselves; they have too much zeal to have any charity; they make debauchees in piety, as sinners do in wine; and are as quarrelsome in their religion, as other people are in their drink: so I hope nobody will mind what they say. But if any man (with flat plod shoes, a little band, greasy hair, and a dirty face, who is wiser than I, at the expence of being forty years older) happens to be offended at a story of a cock and a bull, and a priest and a bull-dog, I beg his pardon with all my heart; which, I hope, I shall obtain, by eating my words, and making this public recantations. I do therefore, for his satisfaction, acknowledge I lied, when I said, they never quit their hold; for in that little time I have lived in the world, I thank God I have seen them forced to it more than once; but next time I will speak with more caution and truth, and only say, they have very good teeth.

If I have offended any honest gentleman of the town, whose friendship or good word is woth the having, I am very sorry for it; I hope they will correct me as gently as they can, when they consider I have had no other design, in running a very great risk, than to divert (if possible) some part of their spleens, in spite of their wives and their taxes.

One word more about the bawdy, and I have done. I won the first night this thing was acted, some indecencies had like to have happened; but it was not my fault.

The fine gentleman of the play, drinking his mistress’s health in Nants brandy, from six in the morning to the time he waddled on upon the stage in the evening, had toasted himself up to such a pitch of vigour, I confess I once gave Amanda for gone, and am since (with all due respect to Mrs. Rogers) very sorry she escaped for I am confident a certain lady (let no one take it to herself that is handsome) who highly blames the play, for the barrenness of the conclusion, would then have allowed it a very natural close.


 *Found In: Bell’s British Theatre, Consisting of the most esteemed English Plays. Volume the Eleventh. Being the Fifth Volume of Comedies. Containing: The Refusal, by Colley Cibber. The Way of the World, by W. Congreve. Amphitryon, altered from Dryden by Dr. Hawkesworth. The Drummer, by Mr. Addison. The Relapse, by Sir John Vanbrugh. London: Printed for John Bell, near Exeter Exchange, in the Strand, MDCCLXXVII. [1777]


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Filed under 1770's, Culture, Drama, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Theater

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