Collection No.3: The Maid of the Mill, by Isaac Bickerstaff

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

Publication details

Author: Bickerstaff, Isaac
Author dates: 1733-1808(?)
Title: The Maid of the Mill

First played: 1765
First published: 1765. for J. Newbery; R Baldwin; T Caslon. 75p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1765)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1996)

Genre / subgenre: Comic Opera

Trend(s): Nationality; Dialect

Character Types: Educated Female; Country; Irish

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Lord Aimworth breaks his engagement to the rich Theodosia to marry the well-educated but impoverished Patty, to the latter's fiancé's consternation. Theodosia marries her lover Mervin.

Prologue: describes how Richardson's Pamela has been translated and adapted by European writers.
Act I.
Mill-workers sing about the pleasures of rural life. Ralph quarrels with his father Fairfield, refusing to do any more work that day. He is jealous of his sister Patty (the "Pamela" character), who has been brought up like a lady and is not required to work hard. Patty has returned to her family after Lady Aimworth's death. Lord Aimworth will arrive today with Sir Harry Sycamore’s family; rumour has it that he is likely to marry Sir Harry’s daughter, who has a fortune of thirty thousand pounds. Patty is put out by this news. Fairfield suggests that Patty marry Giles, who is a good countryman of their own class. Fairfield and Giles agree on the match, but they wait for Lord Aimworth’s permission. Giles goes to propose marriage to Patty, but she refuses to open the door to him. Patty is in love with Lord Aimworth. Sir Harry and his daughter Theodosia converse. Theodosia is angry abot her own arranged marriage to Lord Aimworth, as she loves Mr. Mervin. Lady Sycamore enters; she is pleased with the Aimworth family’s jewels. Theodosia’s father will support her in her match to Mr. Mervin, but her mother refuses to let her marry him. Giles comes to ask Lord Aimworth’s permission to marry Patty. Lord Aimworth suggests that perhaps Patty has been too well educated to marry a farmer. Giles departs feeling that Lord Aimworth has granted him permission to marry Patty, but this is not clear. Lord Aimworth is in love with Patty himself, but cannot marry her because she is a miller’s daughter. Fanny (a gypsy), Ralph and Mr. Mervin enter. Mr. Mervin is upset by Theodosia’s unexpected rejection of his suit. Ralph has been keeping gypsies in the barn for a month because he is in love with Fanny, to his father’s ongoing wrath. Mr. Mervin asks Ralph to find him a costume so that he can go to Lord Aimworth’s in disguise to see Theodosia. Giles encourages Patty to go to see Lord Aimworth herself in thanks. Fanny, Ralph, Giles and Patty sing about the pains and pleasures of love.

Act II.
Lord Aimworth tries to read, but cannot concentrate because he is thinking about Patty. Patty enters. Lord Aimworth is surprised at her rustic dress, and asks her whether she really feels as though Giles is her equal. Lord Aimworth is resolved to banish Giles from his estate out of jealousy, but thinks that Patty is really in love with Giles, and reluctantly consents to the match. Giles enters; Patty tries to end their engagement kindly, but he does not understand, and she eventually says “I don’t like you.” Patty and Theodosia attend a dance. Fanny offers to tell Theodosia’s fortune; she gives her a paper from Mr. Mervin saying that he is nearby. Mervin appears, to Theodosia’s delight. The gypsies accost Sir Harry and Lady Sycamore in an attempt to let Mervin speak with Theodosia. This plan fails. Theodosia will walk to the miller’s with her father and Lord Aimworth; Mervin is to meet her there and elope with her. Mervin gives Fanny a guinea and tells her that she shall have twenty such guineas if she does his bidding in the plan to rescue Theodosia. Fanny tells Ralph that she will reject his proposal of marriage if he continues to make her wait; she is now rich enough that she does not need him anymore. Ralph vows vengeance on Mervin for causing him to lose Fanny. Fairfield and Giles discuss Patty’s decision: Giles has taken it well, and Fairfield regrets not being able to give him half his land. Lord Aimworth arrives and gives Fairfield a thousand pounds for Patty’s dowry. Fairfield reveals that Patty is no longer engaged. Aimworth and Patty meet: Aimworth eventually confesses his love for her, after she admits that his kindness has made her unhappy. Patty checks his avowal, reminding him that their marriage cannot occur because it would dishonour his late mother’s memory. Theodosia’s father thinks she has run off with a gypsy, but, safely returned, she says that he was only showing her the canal for half an hour.

Act III.
Theodosia has gone; news has reached the family that a gentleman has disguised himself as a gypsy and is intending to elope with her. Fairfield tells Aimworth that the country folk (especially Farmer Giles) suspect that his large gift to Patty is a reward for loose behaviour when she lived in his house. Aimworth says that because he has denied Patty a husband, he will get her a less squeamish one from his own household. Ralph and Fanny fight: she pleads with him to take her back, but he is angry and says he will turn the gypsies off their land. Theodosia, visiting with Patty, forces Giles to apologize for slandering her. Mervin and Theodosia meet at the appointed place; Theodosia disguises herself with clothes Mervin has brought. Fairfield and Giles approach, and Fairfield recognizes Theodosia. A letter arrives from Lord Aimworth for Mr. Mervin: Aimworth is aware of their love affair and urges them to return to his home so that all may be settled in their favour. Giles also goes up to the castle, having heard that Patty is to marry one of the servants. Lord Aimworth proposes marriage to Patty, to everyone’s astonishment. The Sycamores and Mervin enter and Aimworth tells them that he will marry Patty, not Theodosia. Lord Aimworth offers to build a house for Fairfield and to buy Ralph a colonelship. He also offers to let Giles live rent-free on his land for the next year. Sir Harry consents to Theodosia’s marriage to Mervin in the final song.

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Secondary commentary

A) 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.

"The Maid of the Mill (1765, music composed and arranged by Samuel Arnold) was advertised by Bickerstaff and Beard as a musical version of a very well-known novel: it was ‘based on Richardson's Pamela’. This was also a major success, and like its predecessor it went on to be played throughout the English-speaking world for more than a century following its first production."

B) 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.
"The Maid of the Mill is an adaptation of Samuel Richardson's novel Pamela (1740). In Richardson's work Pamela, a servant girl, is pursued by her employer, Squire B----. Despite many trials, Pamela preserves her virtue, and Squire B---- finally marries her. In Bickerstaff's opera, Patty, a miller's daughter (Pamela), has been educated above her station by the late Lady Aimworth. Lord Aimworth, her son (Squire B----), is in love with Patty but engaged to marry Theodosia, a fortune. Patty, in turn, is engaged to Farmer Giles (Parson Williams). Theodosia is in love with Mr. Mervin. The proper lovers are united at the conclusion, and barriers of social class and parental tyranny are transcended by humility, good sense, and wit. Theodosia is the most spirited character; Patty the most passive. Together they show that both action and patience are necessary in the love game. Farmer Giles, who believes gossip about Patty's relationship to Lord Aimworth, acts impatiently, and loses both Patty and her father's estate."

C) Synder, E.D. “The Wild Irish: A Study of Some English Satires against the Irish, Scots, and Welsh.” Modern Philology 17, 12 (1920): 687.

"Another is Isaac Bickerstaff’s The Maid of the Mill, with Ralph speaking Irish brogue more or less broad according to the mood of the author" (687).

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Regional/class dialect to begin with; lots of thou (but also you for contrast). The Giles character who loses everything has concord errors (I has). Ralph, an English miller’s son and Patty’s brother, occasionally speaks in Irish brogue, perhaps to distinguish him from his sister as a rude member of the lower class. Patty, the Pamela character, speaks in Standard English: her education has placed her on a similar intellectual level to Theodosia, whom she nonetheless addresses as “Madam” because of their continued difference in social rank.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Ralph’s inconsistent Irish brogue
a. Sample of dialect
[page 2: Brogue]
Ay Feyther, whether or not; there's no fear but you'll find enow for a body to do.

What dost mutter? is't not a strange plague that thou can'st never go about any thing with a good will; murrain take it what's come o'er the boy? so then thou wilt not set a hand to what I have desired thee?

Why don't you speak to Suster Pat to do something then? I thought when she come home to us after my old lady's death, she was to have been of some use in the house; but instead of that, she sits there all day, reading outlandish books, dressed like a fine madumasel, and the never a word you says to she.

[page 41: Brogue]
Well, but suppose I don't please; I tell you Fan you're a fool, and want to quarrel with your bread and butter; I have had anger enow from feyther already, upon you're account, and you want me to come by more; as I said, if you have patience, mayhap things may fall out, and mayhap not.

[page 58: closer to Standard English]
Well, and now you may go and wait at the fore door, if you like it; but I forewarn you and your gang, not to keep lurking about our mill any longer, for if you do, I'll send the constable after you, and have you every mother's skin clapt in the county gaol; you are such a pack of thieves, one can't hang so much as a rag to dry for you; it was but the other day that a couple of them came into our kitchen to beg a handful of dirty flour to make them cakes, and before the wench could turn about, they had whipped off three brass candlesticks and a potlid.

b.1 Orthography: “Ay” “feyther”, “enow”, “you’re”, “Suster”; “madumasel”
b.2 Grammar: “the never a word you says to she”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: Irish? (Brogue)
d. Character profile: brother to Patty (Pamela character)
e. Consistency of representation: inconsistent

Variety: Fairfield and Giles
a. Sample of dialect
[Page 6]
Fairf. Farmer, give us thy hand; nobody doubts thy good will to me and my girl; and you may take

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my word I would rather give her to thee than another; for I am main certain thou wilt make her a good husband.

Giles. Thanks to your kind opinion, master Fairfield; if such be my hap I hope there will be no cause of complaint.

Fairf. And I promise thee my daughter will make thee a choice wife.---But there is one thing to be considered.---Thou know'st, friend Giles, that I, and all belongs to me, have great obligations to lord Aimworth's family; Patty, in particular, would be one of the most ungrateful wretches this day breathing, if she was to do the smallest thing contrary to their consent  and approbation.---I need not tell thee what she owes them.

Giles. Nay, nay, 'tis well enough known to all the country, she was the old lady's darling.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “Thanks to your kind opinion”; “cause of complaint” (vs. Thanks for, cause for)
b.3 Vocabulary: Fairfield inconsistently uses “thee/thou” [“you may take my word I would rather give her to thee than another”], while Giles uses “you”; “I am main certain”; “my hap”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profiles: rural folk
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Patty and Theodosia (educated women)
a. Sample of dialect:
[Page 32]

'Tis a very uncommon declaration to be made by a fine lady, Madam; but certainly, however the artful delicacies of high life may dazzle and surprise, nature has particular attractions, even in a cottage, her most

[Page 33 ]

unadorned state; which seldom fails to affect us, tho' we can scarce give a reason for it.

But you know, Patty, I was always a distracted admirer of the country; no damsel in romance was ever fonder of groves and purling streams: had I been born in the days of Arcadia, with my present propensity, instead of being a fine lady, as you call me, I should certainly have kept a flock of sheep.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: elevated tone (romantic language applied to the pastoral)
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profiles: Theodosia is the daughter of a peer (with some lower-class blood from a few generations before), and Patty is a miller’s daughter who has been educated by the nobility. They speak to one another with the same quality of language, but Patty addresses Theodosia as “Madam”, while the latter calls her simply “Patty”.
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