The Country Wife

1675 literary work by William Wycherley

The Country Wife is an English Restoration comedy of manners from 1675 by William Wycherley.

Quotes from the play edit

  • Your Women of honour, as you
    call 'em, are only chary of their reputations, not their persons, / and 'tis scandal they would avoid, not men.
    • Mr. Horner, I.i.167–169
  • A mistress should be like a little country retreat near
    the town, not to dwell in constantly, but only for a night
    and away; to taste the town the better when a man returns.
    • Mr. Dorilant, I.i.218–219
  • Methinks wit is more necessary than beauty,
    and I think no young woman ugly that has it, and no handsome / woman agreeable without it.
    • Mr. Horner, I.i.425–427
  • Women, as you say, are like
    soldiers made constant and loyal by good pay, rather than
    by oaths and covenants, therefore I'd advise my friends to
    keep rather than marry;
    • Mr. Horner, I.1.464–467
  • 'Tis my maxim, he's a fool that marries; but he's a greater that does not marry a fool.
    • I.1.420.
  • A beauty masked, like the sun in eclipse,
    Gathers together more gazers than if it shined out.
    • Alithea, III.i.

  • [Mr. Pinchwife tells Mrs. Pinchwife of the pleasures of the town]
Mr. Pinchwife: But were you not talking
of plays, and players, when I came in? you are her encourager
in such discourses.
Mrs. Pinchwife: No indeed, Dear, she chide me just now for liking
the player men.
Mr. Pin.: Nay, if she be so innocent as to own to me her liking
them, there is no hurt in't —
Come my poor rogue, but thou lik'st none better than me?
Mrs. Pin.: Yes indeed, but I do, the Player Men are finer
Mr. Pin.: But you love none better than me?
Mrs. Pin.: You are mine own Dear Bud, and I know you,
I hate a stranger.
Mr. Pin.: Ay, my Dear, you must love me only, and not
be like the naughty town women, who only hate their husbands,
and love every man else, love plays, visits, fine coaches,
fine clothes, fiddles, balls, treats, and so lead a wicked
Mrs. Pin.: Nay, if to enjoy all these things be a town-life,
London is not so bad a place, Dear.
Mr. Pin.: How! If you love me, you must hate London.
Alithea: The fool has forbid me discovering to her the pleasures
of the town, and he is now setting her agog upon
them himself.
Mrs. Pin.: But, Husband, do the town-women love the
player men too?
Mr. Pin.: Yes, I warrant you.
Mrs. Pin.: Ay, I warrant you.
Mr. Pin.: Why, you do not, I hope?
Mrs. Pin.: No, no Bud; but why have we no player-men
in the country?
  • II.i.67–96

  • [The penknife scene]
Mr. Pinchwife: Come begin — Sir —
Mrs. Pinchwife: Shan't I say, "Dear Sir"? You know one says always
something more than bare "Sir".
Mr. Pin.: Write as I bid you, or I will write "whore" with
this penknife in your face.
Mrs. Pin.: Nay good Bud — Sir —
[She writes.]
Mr. Pin.: Though I suffer'd last night your nauseous, loath'd
kisses and embraces — Write
Mrs. Pin.: Nay, why should I say so, you know I told you,
he had a sweet breath.
Mr. Pin.: Write.
Mrs. Pin.: Let me but put out, loath'd.
Mr. Pin.: Write I say.
Mrs. Pin.: Well then.
Mr. Pin.: Let's see what have you writ?
Though I suffer'd last night your kisses and embraces —
[Takes the paper, and reads.]
Thou impudent creature, where is nauseous and loath'd?
Mrs. Pin.: I can't abide to write such filthy words.
Mr. Pin.: Once more write as I'd have you, and question it
not, or I will spoil thy writing with this, I will stab out those
eyes that cause my mischief.
[Holds up the penknife.]
Mrs. Pin.: O Lord, I will.
  • IV.ii.92–114

  • [The china scene – The husband of Lady Fidget and the grandmother of Mrs. Squeamish are listening front stage and nodding in approval, failing to pick up the double entendre which is obvious to the audience.]
Mrs. Squeamish: I can't find 'em — Oh are you here, Grandmother,
I followed you must know my Lady Fidget hither, 'tis
the prettiest lodging, and I have been staring on the prettiest
Enter Lady Fidget with a piece of china in her hand, and Horner following.
Lady Fidget: And I have been toyling and moyling, for the
pretty'st piece of china, my Dear.
Mr. Horner: Nay she has been too hard for me do what I could.
Squeam.: Oh Lord I'll have some china too, good Mr. Horner,
don't think to give other people china, and me none,
come in with me too.
Hor.: Upon my honour I have none left now.
Squeam.: Nay, nay I have known you deny your china
before now, but you shan't put me off so, come —
Hor.: This Lady had the last there.
La. Fid.: Yes indeed Madam, to my certain knowledge he
has no more left.
Squeam.: O but it may be he may have some you could not
La. Fid.: What d'y think if he had had any left, I would
not have had it too, for we women of quality never think we
have china enough.
Hor.: Do not take it ill, I cannot make china for you all,
but I will have a Rol-waggon for you too, another time.
Squeam.: Thank you dear Toad.
[To Horn, aside.]
La Fid.: What do you mean by that promise?
Hor.: Alas she has an innocent, literal
[Apart to Lady Fidget.]
  • IV.iii.183–207

  • [The ladies' drinking scene ¬– The "brimmer" is a drinking cup passing from hand to hand.]
Lady Fidget: Now Ladies, supposing we had drank each of us
our two bottles, let us speak the truth of our hearts.
Mrs. Dainty Fidget and Mrs. Squeamish: Agreed.
La. Fid.: By this brimmer, for truth is nowhere else to be / found,
Not in thy heart false man.
[Aside to Hor.]
Mr. Horner: You have found me a true man I'm
[Aside to Lady Fid.]
La. Fid.: Not every way —
[Aside to Hor.]
But let us sit and be Merry.
Lady Fidget sings.
Why should our damnd Tyrants oblige us to live,
On the pittance of Pleasure which they only give.
   We must not rejoice,
   With Wine and with noise.
In vain we must wake in a dull bed alone.
Whilst to our warm Rival the Bottle, they're gone.
   Then lay aside charms,
   And take up these arms.

'Tis Wine only gives 'em their Courage and Wit,
Because we live sober to men we submit.
   If for Beauties you'd pass.
   Take a lick of the Glass.
'Twill mend your complexions, and when they are gone,
The best red we have is the red of the Grape.
   Then Sisters lay't on.
   And dam a good shape.

Dayn.: Dear Brimmer, well in token of our openness and
plain dealing, let us throw our masques over our heads.
Hor.: So 'twill come to the glasses anon.
Squeam.: Lovely Brimmer, let me enjoy him first.
La. Fid.: No, I never part with a gallant, till I've tried / him. Dear Brimmer that mak'st our husbands short
Dayn.: And our bashful gallants bold.
Squeam.: And for want of a gallant, the butler lovely in our
eyes, drink eunuch.
La. Fid.: Drink thou representative of a husband, damn a
Dayn.: And as it were a husband, an old keeper.
Squeam.: And an old grandmother.
Hor.: And an English bawd, and a French surgeon.
  • V.iv.19–55

  • [Squeamish, Dainty, and Lady Fidget have realized that that Horner is the secret lover of them all.]
Mrs. Squeamish: Did you not tell me, 'twas for my sake only, you
reported yourself no man?
[Aside to Horner.]
Mrs. Dainty Fidget: Oh wretch! Did you not swear to me, 'twas for my
love, and honour, you passed for that thing you
[Aside to Horner.]
'Mr. Horner': So, so.
Lady Fidget: Come, speak Ladies, this is my false villain.
Squeam.: And mine too.
Dayn.: And mine.
Hor.: Well then, you are all three my false rogues too,
and there's an end on't.
La. Fid.: Well then, there's no remedy, sister sharers, let
us not fall out, but have a care of our honour; though we
get no presents, no jewels of him, we are savers of our honour,
the jewel of most value and use, which shines yet to
the world unsuspected, though it be counterfeit.
Hor.: Nay, and is e'en as good, as if it were true, provided
the world think so; for honour, like beauty now,
only depends on the opinion of others.
  • V.iv.159–176

Quotes about the play edit

"The only thing original about Wycherley, the only thing which he could furnish from his own mind in inexhaustible abundance, was profligacy. It is curious to observe how everything that he touched, however pure and noble, took in an instant the colour of his own mind. Compare the Ecole des Femmes [Molière's School For Wives] with the Country Wife. Agnes [in the School For Wives] is a simple and amiable girl, whose heart is indeed full of love, but of love sanctioned by honour, morality, and religion. Her natural talents are great. They have been hidden, and, as it might appear, destroyed by an education elaborately bad. But they are called forth into full energy by a virtuous passion. Her lover, while he adores her beauty, is too honest a man to abuse the confiding tenderness of a creature so charming and inexperienced. Wycherley takes this plot into his hands; and forthwith this sweet and graceful courtship becomes a licentious intrigue of the lowest and least sentimental kind, between an impudent London rake and the idiot wife of a country squire. We will not go into details. In truth, Wycherley's indecency is protected against the critics as a skunk is protected against the hunters. It is safe, because it is too filthy to handle and too noisome even to approach." (Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1841)

Context: A famous and extreme outburst of Victorian distaste for Wycherley, in a review of Leigh Hunt's edition of Wycherley and other comic dramatists of the Restoration.

"When the play concludes with no poetical justice that makes Horner really impotent, leaving him instead still potent and still on the make, the audience laughs at its own expense: the women of quality nervously because they have been misogynistically slandered; the men of quality nervously because at some level they recognize that class solidarity is just a pleasing fiction" (Canfield, p. 128).

References edit

External links edit

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