Collection No. 43: The Eccentric Lover, by Richard Cumberland

Publication Details | Synopsis | Secondary Commentary |Varieties & Dialects | Other

Publication details

Author: Cumberland, Richard
Author dates: 1732-1811
Title: The Eccentric Lover
First played: 1798
First published: 1813, in The Posthumous Dramatick Works of the Late Richard Cumberland. In two volumes. London: Printed for G. and W. Nicol ... by W. Bulmer [etc.] 2 v.
C18th availability: Not available

Modern availability: Available from LION (1997)

Genre: Comedy

Character types: Nautical

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Sir Francis realizes that he is in love with Eleanor. After a series of unfortunate meetings, they agree to marry. Other seafaring characters also find marital happiness.

Act I.
John Seagrave meets Tom Transit; the former is looking for Sir Francis Delroy. Sir Francis refuses to marry, reports Transit. Seagrave admits he is in love with the Widow Blandy. He is surprised by this lady, who taps him on the shoulder. Seagrave wants to marry her, but the Widow’s husband has not been dead a year; she fears that she will lose his pension. Seagrave tells her that Admiral Delroy (Sir Francis’ uncle) will not allow her to lose the pension, as her husband died fighting next to him. Sir Francis tells his uncle that he will not marry under any circumstances. When the Admiral asks him about potential choices for an heir, Sir Francis recommends bestowing his fortune on his ward, Eleanor. Seagrave arrives with the Widow Blandy. The Admiral tells Sir Francis to treat Eleanor with reverence appropriate to her rank and station; Sir Francis says privately that she is “angl[ing] for [him] with a naked hook”. Despite this, Sir Francis is stunned by Eleanor’s beauty. They quarrel. The Admiral asks John Seagrave for help in choosing a wife. He gives John the Widow Blandy’s pension. Gangrene, a humourist, enters; he has not come to visit the gouty Admiral, but Peter Crowfoot’s wife, who has been newly widowed. Crowfoot made her no provisions, so Gangrene plans to give her whatever money he has of Crowfoot’s.

Act II.
Fidelia Crowfoot, Eleanor and Constantia (the Widow Brahmin) discuss their dinner party; everyone but Fidelia was nearly silent. Eleanor and Fidelia go for a walk, leaving Constantia, who is quickly accosted by Fenton. Although she refuses to hear any sort of love talk, they flirt. Sir Harry Netterville and Sir Francis discuss Eleanor; Sir Harry is aghast at Sir Francis’ apparent insensibility to her charms. Sir Harry asks Sir Francis if he can court Eleanor without turning his former friend into a rival. Sir Francis continues to mask his answers. Eleanor enters; Sir Francis tells her that a lover awaits her. He accuses of “angling” for Sir Harry throughout dinner. Eleanor is upset, saying that “the hand that strikes, is that which once was sacrific'd to save” her, referring to a time when Sir Francis broke his arm saving her life. Sir Harry returns, and Eleanor requests a word with him. Gangrene enters and criticizes Sir Francis, saying that he tries to act the part of a cynic without having the requisite experience, and that all his actions are motivated by self-conceit and pride. A very alive Peter Crowfoot arrives from London. The Admiral and Gangrene report that they have not told Fidelia that he is dead. Crowfoot regrets this, as he wants to “bathe himself in the tears of his wife”. Gangrene tells the story of his own wife, who ran off with a Portuguese sailor and died; Gangrene killed the man in revenge.

Act III.
Constantia tells Fenton that she must mourn her dead husband for a year, and that she will leave Fidelia immediately so that they cannot meet again. Fenton leaves her with the Admiral, who tells her he wants to talk to her about Fenton. Constantia tells the Admiral that Fenton should not automatically perceive a lady’s anger as a rebuff. The Widow Blandy arrives. She tells the Admiral that John Seagrove has been courting her, but that he is too old for her to take as a husband. The Admiral agrees to prevent the match. Alone, the Widow Blandy says that “Tom Transit is the man”.  Crowfoot asks Fidelia how long she would live after he died; when she says ten days, he is furious, as he planned to leave everything to her. Gabriel enters; Crowfoot confides that he plans to pretend to be dead to test Fidelia. Dr Crisis is brought in, and Crowfoot instructs him to tell Fidelia that he is dying. Dr Crisis reveals in an aside that Fidelia also has a plan, however. The Admiral tells Eleanor that he would like her to marry Sir Francis, but that Sir Harry would be a good alternative if Sir Francis continues to ignore her. Sir Francis arrives and tells Eleanor that he loves her but that she should waive his suit because he is a vile creature, and to take Sir Harry Netterville. A servant announces Sir Harry’s arrival. Eleanor says that she will not marry the perfect Sir Harry, but would prefer to be matched with someone whose imperfect character complements her own. However, she does not agree to marriage with Sir Francis.

Act IV.
Transit announces that Sir Harry has come to visit Sir Francis. Stung by Eleanor’s rejection, Sir Harry accuses Sir Francis of causing this change of heart. They are about to duel, but a letter arrives in time from Eleanor absolving Sir Francis of any involvement in the decision-making and denying that he is Sir Harry’s rival. The men forgive each other, and Sir Harry renounces all interest in Eleanor. Fenton tells Sir Francis that he is unsure about what to do about the widow; Sir Francis encourages him to continue his suit. Gangrene enters, and Sir Francis angrily accuses him of deceiving him: Eleanor has said that he is not a rival for her affections. Gangrene points out that it was Sir Francis who had denied being a rival. Gangrene goads Sir Francis into going to Eleanor to tell her that he loves her. Constantia tells Fidelia that she plans to depart. Dr. Crisis emerges from Crowfoot’s chamber to report that Fidelia’s husband is about to die. He flirts with her. Fidelia tells Gabriel that she intends to prepare the entire house for a funeral party; the expense will no doubt revive Crowfoot. Ostrich, the undertaker, goes to measure Crowfoot for his coffin; an enraged (and living) Crowfoot emerges from the sickroom. Ostrich demands to be paid for the funeral ceremony.

Act V.
Crowfoot apologizes for his conduct to Fidelia, and they are resolved to live happily hereafter. After much pleading, Fenton is permitted to depart clandestinely with Constantia. Sir Francis is still too proud to admit he loves Eleanor, but asks for her pardon and her hand; she says that she will not acquiesce until he has been sufficiently humbled. Tormented, Sir Francis asks Fenton how he bore Constantia’s caprices (“humbly, submissively”, he replies ) and requests that Sir Harry find a pretext to kill him to prevent his marriage to the “enchantress”. Sir Harry denies him this favour and wishes him the best with Eleanor before departing. Gangrene calls the human race “apes and idiots”; Sir Francis admits to having been both. Fidelia and Crowfoot arrive and ask the Admiral to attend their funeral party. The Admiral approves of Fenton and Constantia’s match. Finally able to overcome his pride, Sir Francis tells Eleanor he loves her. She responds in kind, and agrees to marry him. The Admiral is delighted.

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Secondary commentary


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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

No consistent dialect, although the Admiral and the other sailors often use a nautical vocabulary. The characters make occasional grammatical errors (no discernable patterns, however). Peter Crowfoot’s dialect transition within the excerpted passage (from love-talk to dysphemism to poetry) is notable.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Tom Transit
a. Sample of dialect
[page 65]
Sea. Ah, Scapegrace, is it you? Where is your master; where's the gay Sir Francis?

Tran. Ecco lo!

                                         [Pointing to the house.

Sea. So you're come back at last---
Tran. Ecco mi!
b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: “Ecco lo!”; “Ecco mi!”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: servant
e. Consistency of representation: this scene only

Variety: Admiral Delroy
a. Sample of dialect
[page 75]
Come, come, don't play the misanthrope with me, that know you. Where have you been buried this many a day? Why haven't I seen you during my long confinement in the gout?
[page 107]
Where is this rhodomontading romantic fellow?---Oh, very well! Harkye, you Sir what's your name, how long am I to be kept on the look out till your smoke clears up? Luff up, my lad, and steer steady, or if I don't fire into you, I'm a Dutchman.
[page 129]
What shall I say? Share in an old man's joy, who having steer'd his weather-beaten bark through storms and perils to the haven's mouth, found, as he thought, a shoal that barr'd his entrance, and gave himself for lost, even in the sight of the asylum he had struggled for. Now 'tis revers'd; the vessel of my hope mounts o'er the waves, and, wafted through the surf by favouring gales, brings up and anchors---(if your hearts are with me, candid spectators) in repose and comfort.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “me, that know you”
b.3 Vocabulary: “rhodomontading”; Nautical: “look out”; “smoke clears up”; “Luff up”; “steer steady”; “fire into you”; “Dutchman” ; “steer’d his weather-beaten bark through storms and perils to the haven’s mouth”; “a shoal”; “vessel”; “waves”; “wafted through the surf by favouring gales”; “anchors”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: a nautical man (not highly educated though: cf. conversation on reason near the beginning of Act I).
e. Consistency of representation: mostly consistent

Variety: Constantia
a. Sample of dialect
[page 89]
Twelve months are sacred to a widow's sorrow; it is a sabbath she must set apart, if not for conscience, for example's sake. Oh, you false friend, you have broke faith with me.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “you have broke”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: a sailor’s widow
e. Consistency of representation: only this example

Variety: The Widow Blandy
a. Sample of dialect
[page 91]
I'm glad 'twas at a distance, good your honour; for somehow, I can't rightly see the way how we should come together. John is an honest man---I don't gainsay it; but then, what's that, if John is always ailing? And then his wound is cruelly against him, aching and throbbing

[Page 92 ]

so at every shift of wind or weather---so that I really think John stands in more need of a nurse than a wife---I do in very conscience.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “I can’t … see the way how we should” (?);“I do in [my?] very conscience”
b.3 Vocabulary: “gainsay”;
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: a sailor’s widow
e. Consistency of representation: sentence structure slightly odd, but mostly StE

Variety: Peter Crowfoot
a. Sample of dialect
[page 92]
Peter. Fidelia, my darling, dost thou love me?

Fid. Why do you ask that question? What puts it into your head just now?

Peter. I don't know---unless it is the example of your friend, the disconsolate widow Brahmin. How she mourns for her husband! Would my Fidelia mourn as deeply and as sincerely for me?

Fid. Quite as deeply, and at least as sincerely.

Peter. She's a living monument of woe---

Fid. Yes, and likely to live---She has bore up six months to an end; she'll hardly die of sorrow now.

[Page 93 ]

Peter. And pray how long would you bear up, if I were to go off?

Fid. 'Tis hard to say what we can do till we are tried---

Peter. That's true; but who can tell how soon you may be tried? I am not young, and no man is immortal---For aught I know, I may be now a-going---Man is a fleeting shadow---a wither'd shrub---a drooping ozier---

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “dost thou” (archaic); “a-going”
b.3 Vocabulary: “if I were to go off” (sudden dysphemism); “ozier”?
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: a sailor who hopes to test his wife’s love by pretending to die
e. Consistency of representation: inconsistent even within this passage! Crowfoot begins with archaic language (typical of ‘love-making’) but changes to dysphemisms (“if I were to go off”) and then to poetry (“Man is a fleeting shadow…”).

Variety: Sir Francis
a. Sample of dialect
[page 100]
Sir F.
She's mad if she don't take him.
b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “she don’t”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: nobleman
e. Consistency of representation: just this instance (he is angry, which may have something to do with it)

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects


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Other points of interest


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©2009 Arden Hegele