Scene I.Lady Sneerwells Dressing-room.
Lady Sneerwell discovered at her toilet; 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.
Lady Sneer. Did you circulate the report of Lady Brittles intrigue with Captain Boastall?
Snake. Thats in as fine a train as your ladyship could wish. In the common course of things, I think it must reach Mrs. Clackitts ears within four-and-twenty hours; and then, you know, the business is as good as done.
Lady Sneer. Why, truly, Mrs. Clackitt has a very pretty talent, and a great deal of industry.
Snake. True, madam, and has been tolerably 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 elopements, and as many close confinements; nine separate maintenances, and two divorces. Nay, I have more than once traced her causing a tête-à-tête in the Town and Country Magazine, when the parties, perhaps, had never seen each others face before in the course of their lives.
Lady Sneer. She certainly has talents, but her manner is gross.
Snake. Tis very true. She generally designs well, has a free tongue and a bold invention; but her colouring is too dark, and her outlines often extravagant. She wants that delicacy of tint, and mellowness of sneer, which distinguish your ladyships scandal.
Lady Sneer. You are partial, Snake.
Snake. Not in the least; everybody allows that Lady Sneerwell can do more with a word or look than many can with the most laboured 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 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 reputation.
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 respect to my neighbour, 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 fathers death; the eldest possessing the most amiable character, and universally well spoken ofthe 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 favourite; the latter attached to Maria, Sir Peters 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 close with the passion of a man of 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 mystery, I must inform you that love has no share whatever in the intercourse between Mr. Surface and me.
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