Collection No.1: Thomas and Sally, by Isaac Bickerstaff

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

Publication details

Author: Bickerstaff, Isaac
Author dates: 1733-1808(?)
Title: Thomas and Sally

First played: 1760
First published: 1761, for G. Kearsly and J. Coote. 26 p.
C18th availability: Available in Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library (1770)
lib pam 00048
Author listed: Thomas Augustine Arne

Available from ECCO (1770)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1994)
Genre: Interlude

Trend(s): Dialect

Character Types: Nautical

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A sailor returns from the sea to save his lover from the advances of a lusty country squire.

Act I.
A squire extols the joys of the hunt. Spinning in her cottage, Sally sings mournfully about her lover who has gone to sea. Dorcas comes in and tells her to not waste her time crying, and that her lover Thomas has undoubtedly impregnated someone at every port. Sally is angry, as Dorcas has said this just as Tom’s ship is expected. Dorcas encourages Sally to pursue the squire, who also loves her. Alone, Dorcas sings about the flirtations of her youth and about old age. Sally meets the squire in the forest; he tells her of his love. She refuses him, saying that she already has a suitor of a more appropriate rank to herself. The squire proposes that she become his mistress, but she repels him.

Act II.
Thomas and the sailors sing about their trade and the glory of England. The squire consults Dorcas for advice on seducing Sally: Dorcas recommends not waiting for her consent to an amorous encounter. The squire accosts Sally and offers to carry her milk pail; after she refuses his advances he tries to force himself upon her. Thomas appears just in time, and calls the squire a pirate. Beaten, the squire leaves. Sally joyfully tells Thomas that he will no longer have to go to sea; Thomas disagrees, saying he will return to sea “as long as mighty George has foes.” They agree to get married. Together, they tell the audience that British youths who protect their country are rewarded with British maidens.

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Secondary commentary

A) Rudolph, Valerie C.‘Isaac John Bickerstaff: September 26, 1733-1808’. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 89: Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Dramatists, Third Series. Edited by Paula R. Backscheider, University of Rochester. The Gale Group, 1989. LiteratureResourceCenter. 23 May 2008.
 "A brief "musical entertainment," Thomas and Sally, first brought Bickerstaff the acclaim of London audiences. It opened at Covent Garden on 28 November 1760. Bickerstaff claimed that his text existed chiefly for the purpose of Arne's music. This two-act entertainment resembles a nineteenth-century melodrama. The virtuous Sally, a country lass pining for her beloved Thomas, who is away at sea, is accosted by the local squire, who first tries flattery, then force, to have his way with her. Thomas returns just in time; the squire is driven off; and the happy couple is united. Clichés, both structural and verbal, abound. Vice is equated with riches; virtue with poverty. Fortune is changeable; love remains. Thomas uses nautical language, such as referring to the squire as a "pirate." Lines like "I'd work my fingers to the bone" trivialize the dialogue. Patriotic songs glorify England, and Thomas's concluding observation is that British patriotism will be rewarded by British women."

B) Gänzl, Kurt. ‘Bickerstaff, Isaac John (b. 1733, d. after 1808)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford Dictionary of National Biograhpy. 23 May 2008.

"[While] still in uniform, he found his first success as a theatre writer when his little comic opera Thomas and Sally (music by Thomas Arne), an ingenuous piece about an English tar and his true-blue girl, was produced by John Beard at Covent Garden."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Thomas, a member of the British navy, uses nautical terms.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Thomas’ nautical language
a. Sample of dialect:
[Page 22]
What's this I see? may I believe my eyes?
A pirate just about to board my prize!
'Tis well I this way chanc'd my course to steer:
Sal! what's the matter?


'SQUIRE. 'Sdeath! who's here?
Fellow, begone, or---

THOMAS. Learn your phrase to mend:
Do you sheer off, or else I'll make you, friend.
Let go the wench, I claim her for my share,
And now lay hands upon her---if you dare.

[Page 23 ]

Saucy rascal, this intrusion
You shall answer to your cost;
Bully'd, scandaliz'd, confusion!
All my schemes and wishes crost.

THOMAS. Hark you, Master, keep your distance,
'Sblood, take notice what I say;
There's the channel, no resistance,
Tack about, and bear away.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: Nautical/piratical: “a pirate” “board” “prize”, “course”, “steer”, “sheer off”, “I claim her”, “channel”, “Tack about and bear away”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: a sailor in the British Navy
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects


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Other points of interest


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©2008 Arden Hegele