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Mel. You seem thoughtful, Cynthia.
Cyn. I am thinking, tho' marriage makes man and wife one flesh, it leaves them ftill two fools, and they become more conspicuous by setting off one another.
Mel. That's only when two fools meet, and their follies are opposed.
Cyn. Nay, I have known two evits meet, and by the opposition of their wit, render themselves as ridiculous
as fools. 'Tis an odd game we are going to play at; swhat think you of drawing Aakes, and giving over in time?
Mel. No, bang it, that's not endeavouring to win, because it is possible we may lose-&c. &c.
This scene, which proceeds throughout in the fame strain, seems to confirm Dr. Johnson's remark, that Congreve formed a peculiar idea of comic excellence, which he supposed to confift in gay remarks and unexpected answers that his scenes exhibit not much of humour, imagery or passion ; his personages are a kind of intellectual gladiators ; every sentence is to ward or strike; the contest of fmartness is never intermitted; and his wit is a meteor playing to and fro with alternate corufcations.
There is but one more interview between Cynthia and Mellafont, which is the opening of the fourth act, and this is of so flat and infipid a fort, as to be with reason omitted in representation: I think therefore it may be justly obVOL. III.
served, served, that this match, for the prevention of which artifices of fo virulent and diabolical a nature are practised by Lady Touchwood and The Double Dealer, is not pressed upon the feelings of the spectators in so interesting a manner, as it should and might have been,
Having remarked upon the object of the plot, I shall next consider the intrigue; and for this purpose we must methodically trace the conduct of Lady Touchwood, who is the poet's chief engine, and that of her under-agent Maskwell.
The scene lies in Lord Touchwood's house, but whether in town or country does not appear. Sir Paul Pliant, his lady and daughter, are naturally brought thither, upon the day preceding Cynthia's marriage, to adjust the settlement: Lord and Lady Froth, Careless and Brisk, are visiteșs on the occasion; Mellafont and Malkwell are inmates : This disposition is as happy
can be devised. The incident related by Mellafont to Careless, of the attempt upon him unade by Lady. Touchwood, artfully prepares us to expect every thing that revenge and passion can suggest for frustrating his happiness; and it is judicious to represent Mellafont incredulous as to the criminality of Maskwell's intercourse with Lady Touchwood; for if he had believed it upon Careless’s suggestion, it would have made his
blindness to the character of Mafkwell not only weak, (which in fact it is) but unnatural and even guilty.
Maskwell in the first act makes general promises to Lady Touchwood that he will defeat Mellafont's match-You shall polless and ruin him too. The lady presses him to explain particulars; he opens no other resource but that of pofseffing Lady Pliant with an idea that Mellafont is fond of her-She must be thoroughly persuaded that Mellafont loves her.-So shallow a contrivance as this cannot escape the lady's penetration, and the naturally answers, I don't see what you can propose from so trifling a design; for her, first conversing with Mellafont will convince her of the contrary.--In fact, the author's good sense was well aware how weak this expedient is, and it seems applied to no other purpose than as an incident to help on the underplot, by bringing forward the comic effect of Lady Pliant's character, and that of Sir Paul: Maskwell himself is so fairly gravelled by the obfervation, that he confesses he does not depend upon it; but he observes that it will prepare fomething else, and gain him leisure to lay a fronger plot; if I gain a little time, says he, I shall not want contrivance.
In the second act this design upon Lady Pliant is played off, and Maskwell in an interview with Mellafont avows the plot, and says-to tell you the truth, I encouraged it for your diversion. He proceeds to fay, that in order to gain the confidence of Lady Touchwood, he had pretended to have been long secretly in love with Cynthia ; that thereby he had drawn forth the secrets of her heart, and that if he accomplished her designs, she had engaged to put Cynthia with all her fortune into his power : He then discloses by soliloquy that his motive for double dealing was founded in his passion for Cynthia, and observes that the name of rival cuts all ties afunder and is a general acquittance. This proceeding is in nature and is good comedy, The third act
with a scene between Lord and Lady Touchwood, which is admirably conceived and executed with great spirit; I question if there is any thing of the author fuperior to this dialogue. The design of alarming the jealousy and résentment of Lord Touchwood now appears to have originated with the lady, although Maskwell was privy to it, and ready for a cue to come in and confirm all, had there been occasion ; he proposes to her to say that he was privy to Mellafont's design, but that he used his ut moft endeavours to diffuade him from it; and on the credit, he thinks to I
establish by this proof of his honour and honesty, he grounds another plot, which he keeps as his ultimate and most secret resource, that of cheating her [Lady Touchwood) as well as the reft. He now reveals to Mellafont a criminal asignation with Lady Touchwood in her chamber at eight, and proposes to him to come and furprize them together, and then, says he, it will be hard if you cannot bring her to any conditions.
This appears to me to be a very dangerous experiment, and scarce within the bounds of nature and probability. If Maskwell, under cover of the proposal, had in view nothing more than the introduction of Mellafont into Lady Touchwood's bedchamber, there to put them together, and then to bring Lord Touchwood fecretly upon them in the moment of their interview, his contrivance could not have been better laid for the purpose of confirming the impression, which that lord had received against his nephew; in which Maskwell had nothing more to do than to apprise the lady of his design, and the of course could have managed the interview to the purposes of the plot, and effectually have compleated the ruin of Mellafont: This, it should seem, would have answered his object compleatly, for he would have risen upon the ruin of Mellafont, poffeffed himself of Lord Touchwood's