Collection No. 13: The Jealous Wife, by George Colman the Elder

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

Publication details

Author: Colman, George (the Elder)
Author dates: 1732-1794
Title: The Jealous Wife

First played: 1761
First published: 1761, for J. Newbery ... T. Becket, and Company ... T. Davies [etc.] 109p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1761)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1996)

Genre: Comedy

Trend(s): Popularity

Character types: Irish; Nautical; Servant; Country; Sophisticated; French

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Oakly escapes the oppression of his wife with the Major's help; Harriet Russet does not succomb to Lord Trinket's seduction, and marries Charles Oakly.

Advertisement: parts of the play taken from Fielding’s Tom Jones
Act I.
Mrs. Oakly intercepts a letter destined for her husband. He denies any philandering. The letter’s contents suggest that Henry Russet’s daughter has eloped with Charles Oakly, Oakly’s nephew. Major Oakly and Charles arrive and Oakly warns the latter about the consequences of his affair. Charles denies having eloped with Harriet Russet and goes to see the letter, still kept by Mrs. Oakly. Oakly laments at how he is under his wife’s thumb. Major Oakly tells Oakly that he has never been dominated by a woman; Oakly says that that is why he remains a bachelor. The Major urges Oakly to do as he likes for a month in an effort to reform his wife. Charles emerges to say that Harriet has run off to avoid an unwanted marriage with Sir Harry Beagle. Charles regrets not having behaved well at a country party; Harriet would have run off to join him had he not shocked her with his wildness. Harriet has undoubtedly gone to Lady Freelove’s. The Major warns Charles about this lady’s character, saying that she has often ruined ladies’ reputations. The three men try to leave, but Mrs. Oakly detains her husband, who quickly forgets his resolution to do as he likes. The Major tells Charles to bring Harriet to his house once she has been rescued.

Act II.
Sir Harry Beagle discusses horses with his groom, Tom. He meets with Henry Russet to discuss Harriet’s disappearance. Sir Harry tries to sell Russet a horse, to Russet’s fury – he thinks that Sir Harry should be more concerned with Harriet’s whereabouts. Sir Harry recommends putting an advertisement in the paper describing Harriet: “her Marks, her Age, her Height, and where She stray’d from” as he “recover’d a bay Mare once by that Method”. Russet is outraged and plans to depart with the intention of blowing Charles’ brains out. Tom informs them that Harriet has gone to Soho, where both Charles and Lady Freelove live. They set off. Mrs. Oakly believes Harriet to be in love with her husband, not with Charles, but decides to hide her suspicions and go along with what she believes to be their grand deception. Oakly describes the young woman in glowing terms, and Mrs. Oakly says that they should do all they can to help Charles in his courtship. Oakly suggests that they offer Harriet a place to stay; shocked by her husband’s insolence at bringing his ‘mistress’ home, Mrs. Oakly erupts and accuses him of unfaithfulness. Oakly is nonplussed by her mood swing. Lady Freelove plans to arrange a match between Harriet and Lord Trinket. Harriet says that she is not in love with him, and that he takes too many liberties; Lady Freelove scoffs at her prudishness. Trinket arrives, praising Harriet for her beauty, but saying that she would be ‘divine’ if she were to adopt the affectations of the ‘Bon Ton’.  Trinket tells the ladies that he has heard that Harriet’s father and supposed fiancé are in London. Sir Harry Beagle arrives below; Lady Freelove is obligated to see him, but ensures that their meeting is private by telling the others that she is expecting prudish old ladies. Trinket makes an advance on Harriet when Lady Freelove has left the room; they struggle, but Trinket assures her that her “Yelping will signify nothing”. Charles enters, hearing Harriet’s cries for help, and draws on Trinket. They fight; Harriet runs out screaming and takes a chaise away from the house. Lady Freelove and Sir Harry enter and stop the fight. Trinket leaves. Charles and Lady Freelove spar verbally, and Charles leaves.

Act III.
Lady Freelove complains to Lord Trinket about the liberties he has tried to take; their plan seems spoilt, and things can only be repaired if Trinket goes directly to Russet and proposes marriage to Harriet. Captain O’Cutter, an “Irish Sailor-Man” for whom Lady Freelove once secured a post, arrives to visit her. Trinket suggests that he might be useful to their plans. Trinket asks O’Cutter to press Harriet’s father and her lovers into ship-board service, which he agrees to do. Mrs. Oakly arrives, to their surprise. Realizing that Mrs. Oakly is jealous and suspects her husband of being in an affair with Harriet, Lady Freelove suggests that Charles Oakly was only a go-between for a much stronger and more passionate affair between Harriet and an unknown person. Alone, Trinket reveals that he intends to ravish Harriet without marrying her afterwards. Harriet goes to the Oakly household. Oakly is uneasy about her presence, aware that his wife is jealous. He offers to engage some private lodgings elsewhere for her until her marriage to Charles is settled. Unfortunately, this proposal is overheard by Mrs. Oakly, who believes her husband to be arranging accommodation for his mistress. She bursts in furiously and falsely accuses Oakly of adultery. Oakly insists that Harriet will stay in the house. Harriet’s father’s voice is heard below, causing Harriet to faint away. Both Russet and Mrs. Oakly turn on Oakly, and Russet “demand[s] Satisfaction”, challenging him to a duel. A drunken Charles enters and sees Harriet; her father takes her away before he can embrace her.

Act IV.
Mrs. Oakly accuses the Major of being her greatest enemy for having goaded her husband to behave in so unpleasant a manner. She banishes him from the house. Charles enters and discusses the previous night’s scene with the Major. Charles curses himself for having been drunk. O’Cutter enters with a challenge from Trinket. After he leaves, Charles rejoices: O’Cutter has given him a letter containing Harriet’s whereabouts by mistake!  At her father’s urging, Harriet continues to receive Sir Harry Beagle’s addresses, but, to his surprise, refuses his offer of matrimony. Sir Harry does not accept the refusal and goes to speak with her father. Russet enters and orders Harriet to accept him; he goes for a parson to conclude the match instantly. Harriet is morose. Charles enters, dressed in a frock. He apologizes for his drunkenness of the night before. Charles offers to take her away, but Harriet refuses to leave, saying that his conduct has proved his untrustworthiness and that she would be safer to remain with her father. A flustered chambermaid enters to report that Sir Harry and Russet have been captured and indentured into the navy. Trinket enters to kidnap Harriet, as was his plan, but Charles threatens him by wildly waving a pair of pistols. Harriet and Charles flee.

Act V.
Lady Freelove and Lord Trinket chastise O’Cutter for his mistake. Lady Freelove tells Trinket to free Russet and Sir Harry, telling them that the plan to get them out of the way and to make off with Harriet was Oakly’s. Lady Freelove will go to see the Oaklys, where Russet will certainly go once he has been released, and will convince him that Harriet should marry Trinket; however, if matters have taken a different course (i.e. Harriet and Charles are married), she will change sides and will offer Harriet her congratulations. Mrs. Oakly asks Mr. Paris, Oakly’s French valet, about her husband’s whereabouts. He cannot answer her questions; nor can the other servants. In a fit of rage, Mrs. Oakly says that if he returns she will ignore him for three days. In fact, Oakly is below with Charles, Harriet and the Major. Upon hearing that Mrs. Oakly refuses to come downstairs, Oakly contemplates going to visit her, but the Major urges him to invite her to entertain their company. Oakly goes to hide in his study to see how his wife takes this news. Russet, Sir Harry and Trinket enter. Russet refuses to hear any explanations and insists that Harriet will marry Sir Harry. This gentleman reveals that he has exchanged the right to marry her for Trinket’s horse. Charles produces the letter ordering the kidnapping; Russet reads it and sees the situation for what it really is. He gives Charles and Harriet permission to marry. Sir Harry leaves quickly to secure the horse before Trinket goes back on his word. Lady Freelove arrives. She pretends to support Charles and Harriet’s marriage, but Charles reveals her involvement in the plot by quoting the salutation of the letter. Russet is appalled that he has been used so poorly. Lady Freelove wishes all parties joy and departs. Mrs. Oakly comes downstairs, having resolved to leave the house. She and Oakly fight but he stands his ground even when she throws herself into a fit. Harriet finally takes pity on her and explains that she has only loved Charles. Mrs. Oakly finally realizes what has happened and is devastated to have apparently lost her husband’s love. They are reconciled, and the Major gloats over his success.

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Secondary commentary

A) Baldwin, Olive, and Thelma Wilson. ‘Colman, George, the elder (bap. 1732, d. 1794)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 May 2008.

"Garrick helped Colman to prune his comedy The Jealous Wife, which was premièred at Drury Lane on 12 February with the leading roles played by Hannah Pritchard, Kitty Clive, and Garrick himself. Hopkins, the company's prompter, noted that it ‘met with greater applause than anything since the Suspicious Husband’ (Stone, 843) and the Gentleman's Magazine (1st ser., 31, 1761, 54) found it a comedy with ‘few equals, and no superior’. It held the stage for the rest of the century and beyond."

B) Sondergard, Sid. ‘George Colman, the Elder: April 15, 1732-August 14, 1794’. 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. 26 May 2008.

"Colman's main piece, The Jealous Wife, opened to great success on 12 February. Acknowledging the popularity of sentimental comedy, Colman has Mrs. Oakly's tearful recognition in act 5 reconcile her to her husband; yet the play's opening scene challenges the formula with a marked reversal, as Oakly informs his brother the major of the domestic chaos caused by his wife's jealousy: "Her Love for Me hath confined Me to my House, like a State Prisoner, without the Liberty of seeing my Friends, or the Use of Pen, Ink, and Paper; while my Love for Her has made such a Fool of me, that I have never had the Spirit to contradict Her." Meanwhile, the romantic subplot between Oakly's ward, Charles, and Harriot reflects a nostalgia for Restoration comedy stylistics. The published drama included a fervent apology to Pulteney for "having written a Play entirely without your Knowledge" and for presently attempting "to vindicate one Act of Presumption with another"; Colman adroitly shifts focus to the earl, however, observing that his practice of keeping company with certain "wicked Wits" has obviously not compromised his honor-nor has his nephew's work in the theater."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects: A great deal of language variation among stock characters (Bon Ton fop, Irish sailor, country squire, French valet, and chambermaid). The Oaklys, a middle-class English family, have occasional grammar mistakes.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Sir Harry
a.Sample of dialect:
[page 21]
Sir Harry , Solus.

Let me see---Out of the famous Tantwivy by White Stockings: White Stockings his Dam, full Sister to the Proserpine Filly , and his Sire---Pox on't, how unlucky it is, that this damn'd Accident shou'd happen in the New-market Week!---Ten to one I lose my Match with Lord Choakjade , by not riding myself, and I shall have no Opportunity to hedge my Bets neither---What a damned Piece of Work have I made on't!---I have knocked up poor Snip , shall lose my Match, and as to Harriot , [75]  why, the Odds are that I lose my Match there too---A skittish young Tit! If I once get Her tight in hand, I'll make Her wince for it.--- Her Estate joined to my own, I wou'd have the finest Stud, and noblest Kennel in the whole Country ---But here comes her Father, puffing and blowing, like a broken-winded Horse up Hill.
[page 24]

Sir H.
Soho! Hark forward! Wind 'em and cross 'em! Hark forward! Yoics! Yoics!

[page 77]
Sir Har.
I tell You, its unpossible.


b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “no Opportunity to hedge my Bets neither”
b.3 Vocabulary: “Pox on’t”; “unpossible”; equestrian vocabulary: “lose my match”; “skittish”; “get Her tight in hand”; “Stud”;  “puffing and blowing, like a broken-winded Horse up Hill”; “Wind ‘em and cross ‘em! Hard forward! Yoics! Yoics!”;
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: country squire more interested in horses than in his fiancée
e. Consistency of representation: very consistent

Variety: Oakly
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 28]

Was You? my Love! That is very good of You. Why, to be sure, We must endeavour to assist him. Let Me see! how can We manage it? Gad! I have hit it. The luckiest Thought! And it will be of great Service to Charles.
b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “Was You?”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: Middle-class man
e. Consistency of representation: no consistent errors

Variety: Lord Trinket
a. Sample of dialect:
L. Trink.
Why a Father is in these Cases the Pis-aller I must confess. 'Pon Honour, Lady Freelove , I can scarce believe this obstinate Girl a Relation of Yours. Such narrow Notions! I'll swear, there is less Trouble in getting ten Women of the Prémiere Volée , than in conquering the Scruples of a silly Girl in that Stile of Life.
b.1 Orthography: “’Pon”
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: French: “Pis-aller”; “Premiere Volee”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: a foppish dandy of the Bon Ton; no moral scruples
e. Consistency of representation: very consistent; his French jargon identifies him as the writer of an incriminating letter

Variety: Captain O’Cutter (Irish sailor)
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 46]
'O Cut.
Quite out of my Element, indeed my Lady! I got it in an Engagement by Land. A Day or two ago I spied tree stout Fellows, belonging to a Marchant-man. They made down Wapping . I immadiately gave my Lads the signal to chase, and We bore down right upon Them. They tacked, and lay to. We gave Them a tundering Broadside, which They resaved like Men; and one of Them made use of small Arms, which carried off the weathermost Corner of Ned Gage's Hat; so I immediately stood in with Him, and raked Him, but resaved a Wound on my starboard Eye, from the Stock of the Pistol. However, We took

[page 47 ]

Them all, and They now lie under the Hatches, with Fifty more, a-board a Tender off the Tower .

b.1 Orthography: Irish accent: “tree” (three); “Marchant” (merchant); “immadiately” (immediately); “tundering” (thundering)
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: nautical: “tacked, and lay to”; “Broadside”; “weathermost”; “starboard Eye”; “under the Hatches”; “a-board”
c. Nationality: Irish
d. Character profile: “He is the best Creature to laugh at in Nature. He is a perfect Sea-Monster, and always looks and talks as if He was upon Deck.”
e. Consistency of representation: very consistent

Variety: Major Oakly and Mrs. Oakly
a. Sample of dialect
[page 67]
Ay, indeed: And You are the more oblig'd to me.---Come, come, Sister, its Time You shou'd [25]  reflect a little. My Brother is become a publick Jest; and by-and-by, if this foolish Affair gets Wind, the whole Family will be the Subject of Town-talk.

Mrs. Oak.
And well it may, when You take so much Pains to expose us.---The little Disquiets and Uneasinesses of other Families are kept secret; but here Quarrels are fomented, and afterwards industriously made publick---And You, Sir, You have done all this---You are my greatest Enemy.

[page 69]
To come in so opportunely at the Tail of an Adventure!---Was not your Mistress mighty glad to see You? You was very fond of Her, I dare say.


b.1 Orthography:
b.2 Grammar: “is become”; “so much Pains”; “you was”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: Middle-class
e. Consistency of representation: no consistent errors

Variety: Chambermaid
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 83]

O Law, Ma'am!---Such a terrible Accident!---As sure as I am here, there's a Press-Gang has seized the two Gemmin, and is carrying them away; thof so be one an 'em says as how He's a Knight and Baronight, and that t'other's a 'Squire and a Housekeeper.

b.1 Orthography: “Gemmin”; “thof”; “t’other’s”
b.2 Grammar: “there’s a Press-Gang has seized”; “thof so be one an ‘em says as how”
b.3 Vocabulary: interjection: “O Law, Ma’am!”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: chambermaid (low-class English)
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Mr. Paris (French valet)
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 90]

Ah, Madame! Je n'en scai rien . I know noting of it.

Mrs. Oak.
Nobody knows any Thing. Why did not You tell Me He was going out?

I dress Him--- Je ne m'en soucie pas du plus --- He go where He will---I have no Bisness wis it.
b.1 Orthography: “noting” (nothing); “Bisness” (Business); “wis” (with)
b.2 Grammar: “He go where He will”
b.3 Vocabulary: French phrases (« Je n’en scai rien » ; « Je ne m’en soucie pas du plus »)
c. Nationality: French
d. Character profile: French valet
e. Consistency of representation : consistent

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects

English and French:

[page 75]

Sir Har.
Your Servant, Miss!---What! Not speak!---Bashful mayhap---Why then I will.---Look'ye, Miss, I am a Man of few Words. ---What signifies Hagling? It looks just like a Dealer.---What d'ye think of Me for an Husband? ---I am a tight young Fellow---sound wind and

[page 76 ]

Limb---free from all natural Blemishes---Rum all over, dammee.

Sir, I don't understand You. Speak English , and I'll give You an Answer.

Sir Har.
English ! Why so I do---and good plain English too.---What d'ye think of Me for an Husband?---That's English ---e'nt it?--- [325]  I know none of your French Lingo, none of your Parlyvoos , not I.---What d'ye think of Me for an Husband? The 'Squire says You shall marry Me.


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Other points of interest

The Bon Ton:

L. Trink.
Totally opposite, Madam. The chief Aim of the Bon Ton is to render Persons of Family different from the Vulgar, for whom indeed Nature serves very well. For this Reason it has, at various Times, been ungenteel to see, to hear, to walk, to be in good Health, and to have twenty other horrible Perfections of Nature. Nature indeed may do very well sometimes. It made You, for Instance, and it then made something very lovely, and if You wou'd suffer Us of Quality to give You the Ton , You wou'd be absolutely divine: But now---Me---Madam---Me---Nature never made such a Thing as Me.

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©2008 Arden Hegele