Collection No. 62: A Trip to Calais, by Samuel Foote

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

Publication details

Author: Foote, Samuel
Author dates: 1720 - 1777
Title: A Trip to Calais (later, The Capuchin)

First played: 1776
First published: 1778, by T. Sherlock, for T. Cadell. 141p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1778):

Modern availability: Available from LION (1996):

Genre / subgenre: Comedy

Trend(s): Contemporary Satire ; Gender

Character types: French; Innkeeper; Business / Trades; Cockney; Irish; Nautical; Educated Female

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Jenny Minnikin and Dick Drugget elope to France, followed closely by the Minnikin parents, Jenny's suitor Codling, and her aunt Mrs. Clack. To escape the family, Jenny temporarily enters a nunnery. Later, they meet Lady Kitty Crocodile, who encourages Jenny to be bigamous. Lady Kitty's servant Miss Lydell marries her worthy lover Colonel Crosby.

Act I.
Dick Drugget and Jenny Minnikin are eloping in France (parody of Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Elizabeth Linley). They must find a priest to marry them, and ask Tromfort, the French innkeeper, where one might be found. We learn that Jenny’s father is a London pin-maker, and that he intends to choose her husband, while Dick is his assistant. Jenny once ran off with her dancing-master. Tromfort recommends a doctor to marry them, but he is absent. A boat arrives from Dover, and Dick departs to see if it is Jenny’s father. Tromfort flirts with Jenny. The family has arrived; to prevent the lovers’ separation, Tromfort will place Jenny in a Catholic convent, while Dick will wait in Boulogne or Dunkirk. Jenny departs with La Jeunesse, Tromfort’s wife. Jenny’s father’s preferred suitor, Kit Codling, arrives with Jenny’s parents and Jenny’s aunt Mrs Clack, a social-climbing mantua-maker. The family comments on French gentility. Two neighbours from London, Mr. Gingham and Luke Lapelle, enter, and they discuss their experiences in France. In order to be fashionable, Luke travels with his wife, but calls her his mistress.

Act II.
The Minnikins and Mrs. Clack are astounded by Jenny’s sudden ambition to become a nun. Codling tries to speak with her, but is rebuffed by the nuns. Father O’Donnovan, an Irish capuchin in the town, seems sympathetic initially, but refuses to remove Jenny from the convent until the Minnikins bribe him. O’Donnovan tells stories to the gullible Minnikins of Englishmen who have evaded the law and have come to France. The most infamous is the Lady Kitty Crocodile, who has come to France after her husband’s death. O’Donnovan leaves.  Jenny and the Abbess debate the former’s taking the veil: Jenny wishes to return to the world, but the Abbess urges her to accept Christ as her spouse. Upon realizing that Jenny will bring no fortune to the convent, however, the Abbess quickly abandons her argument. Mr. and Mrs. Minnikin (and Codling, hidden) come to the Abbey’s grate to speak with Jenny. The Abbess counsels Jenny to pretend that she is waiting for divine revelation before she can make a decision about whether to stay in the convent. The Abbess tells Jenny’s parents that Jenny has chosen to marry St. Francis. Believing St. Francis is a real suitor, and furious at Jenny’s treachery, Mr. and Mrs. Minnikin depart, calling the Abbess a bawd. The Minnikins depart to visit Lady Crocodile. Miss Lydell and Miss Hetty are in deep debate at Kitty Crocodile’s. Lady Crocodile enters, and dismisses Hetty in a fit of rage. She accuses Miss Lydell, a maid in waiting, of flirting with many foreign acquaintances. Colonel Crosby enters, and finds Miss Lydell in tears. Hetty announces the Minnikin’s and Mrs. Clack’s arrival.

Act III.
Hetty and Colonel Crosby talk; Crosby is in love with Miss Lydell. Mrs. Clack, formerly Lady Crocodile’s mantua-maker, arrives to find this august lady in deepest mourning. They discuss Sir John, Lady Crocodile’s deceased husband, and she faints when Mrs. Clack suggests taking another husband. When Lady Crocodile has been revived, Mrs. Clack asks for her help in removing Jenny from the convent; Lady Crocodile claims her hands are tied because of her personal friendship with the Pope. After they exit the room, Colonel Crosby emerges from a hiding place, calling Lady Crocodile an “Ephesian Matron”, and expressing his intentions to pursue Miss Lydell to her friend Hetty. Jenny arrives at her parents’ apartment, surrounded by guards. Lady Crocodile arrives, but Minnikin’s account of the story is consistently interrupted by Luke Lapelle. Lady Crocodile speaks to Jenny alone; the latter confesses that the convent is just part of the plot to avoid marriage to Codling. Lady Kitty recommends marrying both Dick Drugget and Kit Codling. Jenny is excited by the prospect. Colonel Crosby and Miss Lydell appear and announce their intentions to return to England. Hetty has the last word: Jenny and Lady Crocodile are well matched, and Miss Lydell need feel no regret on leaving Jenny entrapped by the “galling yoke of a capricious and whimsical tyrant!”

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Secondary commentary

A) Dircks, Phyllis T. ‘Foote, Samuel (bap. 1721, d. 1777)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 26 May 2008.
"Foote's next play, originally titled The Siege of Calais, was an overt attack on Elizabeth Chudleigh, duchess of Kingston, an influential figure who was currently facing trial on charges of bigamy. Foote dramatized Chudleigh as Lady Crocodile, but the lord chamberlain rejected his play during the summer of 1775. The feud between Foote and the duchess heated up as Foote first threatened to publish the play, then rejected a bribe from her, and later claimed he had lost £3000 by the work's suppression."

B) Howard, Douglas. ‘Samuel Foote: January, 1721-October 21, 1777.’ Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 89: Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Dramatists, Third Series. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by Paula R. Backscheider, University of Rochester. The Gale Group, 1989. LiteratureResourceCenter. 26 May 2008.

"The first part of A Trip to Calais is actually about a clandestine marriage, and it is based on the elopement of R. B. Sheridan and Elizabeth Linley, the latter of whom Foote had already portrayed in The Maid of Bath. Their marriage had been the subject of public comment, but it never reached the scandalous proportions of Foote's second object of satire, Elizabeth Chudleigh. A maid of honor to the Princess of Wales, Elizabeth was secretly married to Augustus John Hervey. When she later became mistress to Evelyn Pierrepont, the second duke of Kingston, she conspired with him to have her marriage to Hervey invalidated so that she might marry the aging duke and thus become the duchess of Kingston. The scheme was a temporary success, and the new duchess lived securely until the duke's death in 1773. Soon after, however, a disgruntled relative of the duke sought to reopen the question of Chudleigh's marriage to Hervey as a means of challenging the duke's will, which had left nearly the entire estate to the duchess. The effort resulted in the duchess's flight to Calais where she prepared her case before being tried in England for bigamy. The duchess was awaiting trial when she learned that Foote was planning to caricature her as Lady Kitty Crocodile in his new play. She managed to keep the play from being licensed, and a highly publicized dispute between her and Foote lasted through the summer of 1775. The duchess was finally convicted of bigamy in April 1776 and stripped of her title, but she had managed to reclaim her title as countess of Bristol and thus escaped punishment."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Various Franglais dialects represented: Tromfort’s English accent (represented by Foote’s orthography) and Luke Lapelle’s affected Franglais are the most apparent. The Minnikin family and their friends frequently use non-standard grammar (be’st, his’n, they be, who … be and thou). Father O’Donnovan has an Irish accent. Jenny Minnikin has been taught French for five years at boarding school (apparently with no great success), the suggested sophistication of which contrasts with her non-standard English expressions like ben’t.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Jenny’s boarding-school French
a. Sample of dialect
[page 3]

Jenny. Peace, Dicky! how is it possible they should know what you want?--- Maison! seignior de Terre!
Dick. Who? what?
Jenny. Seignior de Terre is as much as to say Landlord in English.

Jenny. Monsieur, nos sommes Anglois, & nous avons grand occasion d'un pretre!
Tromf. A quoi faire?
Jenny. Faire? pour nous joindre lui & moi ensemble, I think.
Dick. That is marriage, she and me; You understand me, Mounseer?

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: Franglais: "pour nous joindre lui & moi ensemble, I think"
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: parody of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's wife Elizabeth Linley; an English schoolgirl eloping in France
e. Consistency of representation: this scene only

Variety: Tromfort’s English
a. Sample of dialect
[page 17]
Ver vell.
[Exit La Jeunesse.]
--- Apres tout Messieurs l' Anglois , all de Englis people, be ver great fool, to come here, spend dere money, in search after vat dey never will find! to shange dere roasta beef and pudding, for our rotten ragout; see de comedy, de play, dey don't comprehend; talk vid de people dey don't understand; tant mieux ! so much de better! In ver few year, I shut up my hotel, set up my coach, my carosse, and call myself monsieur le marquis de Guinea, in compliment to Messieurs l'Anglois ; ver pritt title, by gar! ha, ha, ha!

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: "de Englis people, be ver great fool"
b.3 Vocabulary: Franglais: "tant mieux! so much de better!"
c. Nationality: French
d. Character profile: French innkeeper
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Luke Lapelle’s Franglais
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 26]
Their horses, their chevauxes , as the French call them, are not quite so nimble as our'n; but then, to make amends, like the French, I courier the post, without stopping; unless, perhaps, to take a slight repas of a bit of jambun , or a hamlet.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: uses French terms deliberately (“like the French”) to show his sophistication; this is in keeping with his character
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: Englishman travelling in France; calls his wife "mademoiselle" to pretend that she is his mistress so that the Frenchmen do not flirt with her
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: The Minnikin/Clack family
a. Sample of dialect
[page 18]

Codl. I can tell you, madam Minnikin, exact to a minute; because why, I have promis'd neighbour Index, the printer, to make obserwations on all the strange things that I see, that he may print them next time, 'long with his Six Weeks Tour to the Continent. Let's see; here is my Journal:
"June the 10th, embarked at seven in the morning, at Dover, aboard the Mercury, vind South and by East; nine o'clock, vind weer a little to the Vest; shell'd half a bushel of peas; eleven o'clock, vind ditto, eat ditto; twelve and half, pluck'd

[Page 19 ]

a couple of fowls; very odd to see how the vind blew the feathers about; nota bene , feathers will swim in the salt sea."
Min. Vast curus observations, indeed!
Mrs. Min. Nay, I always said, son Codling had a good head of his own. Why, Matthew Minnikin, if he goes on but as he begun, I don't know but his'n may be as useful as many of the Voyages that have been printed of late.
Min. Ay, Margery, if he could but get some strange beastesses, or carry home a foreign savage or two, for a show.
Mrs. Min. But go on, son Codling, I beg!
Codl. "Two o'clock, road beginning to be consumedly rough, was so much jolted, that I could not write any more."
Mrs. Min. Write? I'm sure I was not able to stand; so they popp'd me into a hole in the wall, I think they call'd it a cabin ; Lord bless us, 'twas more liker a coffin!

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “his’n”; “beastesses”; “more liker”
b.3 Vocabulary: “obserwations”; “vind weer” (Cockney?); “curus”
c. Nationality: English (Cockney)
d. Character profiles: Cockney pin-makers; Jenny's parents
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: O’Donnovan
a. Sample of dialect
[page 36]

O'Don. Pace, woman! What is it better than sacredness, to break into a convent, and take any cratur out by compulsion?
Mrs. Min. But, Sir---
O'Don. I tell you, even to force a young woman from thence, that is willing to lave it, is one of the biggest robberies that can be committed.
Mrs. Min. My dear---
O'Don. And, to extenuate the matter, here is a dutiful poor young body, that flies from her parents, and takes refuge in the arms of the church---
Mrs. Min. Hear me a word, reverend Sir!
O'Don. We shall see what the Commandant will say to this business! Take my word for it, my friends, you will be all saaz'd in an instant, and locked up in prison aboard the gallies for the rest of your lives.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: “pace” (peace); “cratur” (creature); “lave” (leave); “saaz’d” (seized); gallies (gallows?)
c. Nationality: Irish
d. Character profile: Irish-Catholic priest in France (eponymous Capuchin of the later version)
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Nautical
a. Sample of dialect:

[page 1]
Harkee , messmate! look about! you had better bring-to in this creek: Here you will find the best moorings. The Hotel d'Angleterre they calls it in French; but you'll find the names of things plaguily transmogrified all along this coast.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “they calls it”
b.3 Vocabulary: “plaguily transmogrified” – surprisingly good vocabulary vs. “harkee”, “bring-to”, “messmate” typical of sailors
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: English sailor
e. Consistency of representation: consistent to this scene

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects

[page 1]
Harkee , messmate! look about! you had better bring-to in this creek: Here you will find the best moorings. The Hotel d'Angleterre they calls it in French; but you'll find the names of things plaguily transmogrified all along this coast.
[page 2]
(Dick). But, plague on't! I can't parley Francee ; tho' I understand a few words here and there.

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Other points of interest

Earlier version is “A Trip to Calais”; later (censored) version is “The Capuchin”.

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©2009 Arden Hegele