Collection No. 29: The Summer's Tale, by Richard Cumberland

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

Publication details

Author: Cumberland, Richard
Author dates: 1732-1811
Title: The Summer’s Tale

First played: 1765
First published: 1765, for J. Dodsley ... W. Johnston ... and J. Walter [etc.] 76 p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1765)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1997)

Genre: Comic Opera

Character types: Country; Servant

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Clara (Amelia) has run away from home; she avoids Sir Anthony Withers' advances and marries his son Frederick. Maria marries Bellafont, who gains the title of "Lord Lovington" from his aged uncle, whose intentions to court Maria were cut short by an untimely death.

Act I.
Bellafont chases Maria around the garden, trying to woo her; he is slightly impaired by his “corpulence.” Maria refuses to give up her freedom despites Bellafont’s entreaties. Seeing her father approach, Maria decamps hastily. Sir Anthony Withers, her father, sits down to meditate, but is interrupted by Bellafont, who tries to ask for Maria’s hand. Sir Anthony refuses to hear his suit, as Bellafont’s old uncle Lord Lovington is also Maria’s suitor. Bellafont pretends that he has come on his uncle’s behalf, and runs off to report that Sir Anthony has deemed his suit acceptable. Sir Anthony spies on Clara, a visitor, and Henry, a farmer’s son. Clara is living with Farmer Greygoose as she recovers from a fall from a horse. After Henry leaves, Clara tells Sir Anthony that she plans to leave today; Sir Anthony (who loves her) is devastated. Maria admits to her spinster friend Olivia that she loves Bellafont; Olivia is sympathetic about the problem of Sir Anthony. Olivia reveals that Maria’s brother has fallen in love with Amelia Hartley, who has married another man. As Olivia leaves, Clara enters and asks to speak with her. Clara reveals that she is actually Amelia, and that she feigned the fall from her horse in order to conceal herself in these parts. Amelia hopes to meet Frederick Withers, Maria’s brother, whom she loves and of whom her father disapproves, to confirm that he reciprocates her feeling. Henry is in love with Amelia (as Clara) and suspects that Sir Anthony also loves her. When Amelia tells him that she will no longer be living with his family, he cries, but they part as friends. Maria tells her brother Frederick that she has been condemned to marry Lord Lovington, a “man of threescore” (age 60) whom her father has never seen. Maria plans to run away rather than marry the old man, to Frederick’s approbation. Frederick describes Lovington’s nephew Bellafont in glowing terms; the description contributes to her growing love.

Act II.
Bellafont intends to impersonate Maria at the meeting with his uncle. His servant Ferdinand recommends that he run away with her directly, offering him advice as “a Soldier, a Politician, a Lawyer, and a Christian” to this effect. Shifter, a lawyer, enters; he thinks Bellafont wants to borrow money, but is reassured by Ferdinand who says that Bellafont has £30. Shifter agrees (for a price) to announce Bellafont as Lord Lovington. Amelia disguises and masks herself for her meeting with Frederick. Frederick confesses that he loved Amelia Hartley, but believes that she has been married. Amelia says that she will meet him between nine and ten o’clock to give him some news which will be of interest to him. Henry appears; he has listened to the entire conversation. Amelia admits to him that she is of high birth and has assumed the persona of a country wench so as to go into hiding. Peter, a servant, reports to Sir Anthony that he thinks Clara (Amelia) has drowned herself. Sir Anthony gives orders for the pond to be dragged. Maria enters; her father criticizes her for not liking the match he has arranged for her. Bellafont (as Lord Lovington) arrives. Sir Anthony is appalled by his strange manners, but agrees to let him visit with Maria. She recognizes him as Bellafont, but pretends he is Lovington, and tells him that Bellafont must withdraw his suit if she is to marry his uncle.

Act III.
Pleased that Frederick still loves Amelia, Olivia tells the latter that she has a plan to reunite them by the evening. Bellafont and Maria are resolved to see each other no longer. Maria is toying with Bellafont, but the latter believes that she has really ended their friendship. He tells Ferdinand that he intends to see her once more (as Lord Lovington), to get her to consent to marriage with him, and then to reveal his real identity and to mock her. Frederick expresses his hopes that Maria will marry Bellafont. A letter arrives for Frederick from George Hartley, Amelia’s brother, explaining that the lady has run away from home and has not been married to Lord Wealthy after all. A postscript tells him that Lord Lovington has died in a fit upon hearing that his son was killed in a “drunken frolick” in Naples, leaving Bellafont as the heir to the title and the fortune,. Lord Lovington (Bellafont) meets with Maria to discuss how they will manage their anticipated marriage; Maria calmly reveals that she knows who he is and tells him to continue with the “pretty diverting kind of Dialogue”. Maria agrees to marry him “without a Doit” (he is still unaware of his new prosperity). Sir Anthony and Frederick enter, and the couple (Bellafont still as Lord Lovington) says that they have reached a mutually satisfactory agreement. Maria tells her father that Lord Lovington is really Bellafont, to the latter’s consternation. Frederick laughingly gives him the letter, and Sir Anthony agrees to the match. Sir Anthony wants to find Amelia so that the second match (with Frederick) can be concluded. They find her with some peasants, who worry that she has bewitched their livestock. Sir Anthony asks the masked woman what her profession is; she replies that she is an astrologer. She sees Frederick, unmasks herself, and embraces him. Sir Anthony withdraws his suit of ‘Clara’ and allows his son to marry her; she is also Bellafont’s cousin. The family is pleased with both matches and joins the “Harvest Folks in their Sport”.

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Secondary commentary

A) Sherbo, Arthur.  ‘Cumberland, Richard (1732–1811)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 26 May 2008.

"Cumberland's entry upon the stage began with the somewhat successful musical drama The Summer's Tale, produced at Covent Garden on 6 December 1765."

B) Joseph J. Keenan Jr., ‘Richard Cumberland: February 19, 1732-May 7, 1811’. 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.

"Despite its being elaborately overplotted, The Summer's Tale shows Cumberland's comic ability to blend the moral and the laughable. The complex love plot is replete with sententious statements to the effect that true love and virtue are the only basis for marriage. To this moral seriousness Cumberland added his first sympathetic portrait of a character usually the subject of national or ethnic prejudice: his first noble Irishman, Paddy. Paddy, who had resigned his faith to bear arms for England, robs lawyer Shifter of money Shifter had bilked out of the honest Bellafont. Bellafont pronounces Paddy's blessing in sweeping terms of the Irish character: "To trace actions apparently good from dishonourable motives is no uncommon thing; but it is the peculiarity of his nation to commit the wildest extravagancies upon principles of the most exalted magnanimity." The pointing of morals in stilted language, the championing of the downtrodden, and the worldly rewarding of the noble hearted are the hallmarks of Cumberland's sentimentality, but there is much of The Summer's Tale that is very funny: good satire of lawyers in the person of the disreputable Shifter and some rather bitter satire of the government's mistreatment of soldiers during peacetime, but the greatest fun lies in the character of Sir Anthony, who sees all events in light of the good reading they will make in his diary. This blend of the serious and the humorous is what Cumberland found in Greek new comedy, and it is what he brought to the late eighteenth-century stage."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Most of the upper-class characters speak in StE. The sole exceptions are Bellafont, who inconsistently uses “thou” / “you”, and Sir Anthony, whose interjections are unusual. The lower-class characters speak with more dialect variation: Henry, a farmer, speaks well but imperfectly (“arguefy”); Peter, a servant, speaks with an accent (“sartan”) and archaic grammar (“betaken herself”); and a peasant uses the vocabulary of his profession (“Horses”, “Cows” etc) and has some unusual speech patterns.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Bellafont
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 3]

Stay, I beseech thee, Maria, if it is only 'till I can tell thee, that in Spite of all this cruel Indifference I am destined to adore thee.

All this is extremely well; but to be serious for a Moment.---Allow me to ask you what reasonable hope you can have that my Father will ever approve of your Pretensions? and without his Consent, I am apt to believe I shall never be desperate enough to listen to your Addresses.

Why then, Maria, seriously I have no one Reason for hoping, but that I never in my Life cou'd despond; nor have I any Excuse for the Folly of persevering in my Addresses, except that I love you,

[page 4 ]

and have naturally a Passion for all extravagant Attempts. A Soldier of Fortune, the needy Son of a younger Brother, however noble his Extraction, can as ill expect to succeed with a Father of Sir Antony Withers's sort, as think of aspiring to a Lady of Maria's Merit and Beauty.---To delineate myself to you in one Word; my Family is noble; my Profession  more so; if I was not a Man of Honour I shou'd not be the Descendent of my Father, and if I was a Coward I cou'd not be a Briton.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: inconsistent “thee” / “you” use; (“Stay, I beseech thee” vs. “except that I love you”)
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: upper-class suitor to Maria; later Lord Lovington
e. Consistency of representation: inconsistent

Variety: Sir Anthony
a. Sample of dialect
[page 12]
Marry Heaven forbid it! You wou'd not leave us, Clara; you must not---Stay, stay!---I have something to say to you---Odslids! what am I going to do? ---Why I was thinking---Gadsbud! sure I am running mad.
b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: “Odslids!”; “Gadsbud!” (unusual interjections)
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: a nobleman
e. Consistency of representation: this scene only

Variety: Henry (farmer)
a. Sample of dialect
[page 23]
It does indeed---and not that only, but your leaving us, Mrs. Clara. I know it won't arguefy what such a simple Clown as I am can say to a Person of your Breeding---but I beseech you to tell me, wherein Father or Mother, or I have offended you! If any thing's amiss, that they can remedy, they'll be proud to do it, I'll vouch for them---and as for me, if I be in Fault, I ask your Pardon heartily on my Knees.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “arguefy”; “be in Fault” (vs. “at fault”)
b.3 Vocabulary: “beseech”; “wherein”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: a well-spoken farmer’s son
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Peter (servant)
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 43]
No, your Honour, not I: 'tis sarten sure she have left the Farmer's, that's one Thing; but where she has betaken herself, that's another Thing. For my Part I have been at a power of Places in quest of her, up and down, all over the Village, quite from Dame Treacle's Shop at the further End of it, to Parson Sneak's House here by the Church.

Was ever Accident so cross! every thing in so fair a Posture for Success: the Wind in my favourite Corner, South-west, due as it can blow. Scisson's Barometer a full Degree on the Rise since Morning, and my Pulse at least ten Thumps in a Minute by a Stop-Watch quicker than it was at our last Interview; I shou'd certainly have retriev'd that Misadventure.---I cannot conceive, Peter, where this provoking Wench has conceal'd herself.

Sure I was never so nonplush'd before; and yet I think under Favour, your Worship, I can give a guess where she is.

b.1 Orthography: “sarten” (certain); “nonplush’d” (nonplussed)
b.2 Grammar: “she have”; “betaken herself” (archaic);
b.3 Vocabulary: “a power of Places”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: servant
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Peasant
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 72]

Yes, and please your Worship, we have a strange Story to tell you: But things have gone very cross with us all this Harvest through; a Power of mildew'd Grain--- Farmer Chaff's Horses are in a Manner eat up with the Botts, one and all---and Master Grubb's Cows are sorely pester'd with the Tail-worm; so that we are fit to think, please your Worship, that the poor Beasties are Hag-ridden, as it were.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “Horses are…eat up”; “But things have gone very cross”
b.3 Vocabulary: “and please your Worship”; “things have gone very cross” (unusual idiom); Farming language: “harvest, mildew’d grain, horses, cows”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: peasant
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects


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Other points of interest

The version on LION is not the same as the version described in the secondary commentary; there is no Irishman and the subplot with Shifter is reduced to asking him to make a false introduction.

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©2008 Arden Hegele