Collection No. 33: The Note of Hand, by Richard Cumberland

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

Publication details

Author: Cumberland, Richard
Author dates: 1732-1811
Title: The Note of Hand

First played: 1774
First published: 1774, for T. Becket [etc.] 48p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1774)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1997)

Genre: Comedy / Farce

Trend(s): Nationality

Character types: Irish; Class-Crossing

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MacCormuck arrives from Ireland to warn his landlord Rivers that his estate is in trouble. Rivers has lost his money when gambling with Sutherland, secretly his uncle. Sunderland arranges for Rivers to marry the widowed Mrs. Cheveley, whom Rivers loves.

Act I.
Sunderland finds Rivers sleeping off an overnight gambling session; Rivers starts and wakes up, recalling that Sunderland has won the deeds to most of his Irish estates. Sunderland urges Rivers not to break up his estates, but to give him a post-obit for his rich Nabob uncle, who will probably make Rivers his heir. Rivers refuses to do so. Sunderland suggests that Rivers marry a rich woman to pay off his debts; Mrs. Cheveley, a suitable woman for this purpose, has sent Rivers a note via Sunderland. Revell, an MP, bets on the horse-races; he is advised by Tom Epping, his horse-master. Rivers leaves. Epping discusses the pedigrees of various horses, and assures Revell that the consumptive jockey has almost come down to seven stone. Issachar, a stockbroker, advises Revell to take the political climate into consideration when making investments. Francis, the innkeeper, says that he would not recognize Sapling, a clerk, who has dressed extremely well in order to pretend to be a gentleman. Sapling regrets not being able to bring Fanny Slattern to Newmarket; unfortunately, she broke her collarbone after being thrown from a carriage on their last romantic outing. Sapling is just settling down to the quiet and comfort of his room at the inn when O’Connor MacCormuck barges in. This Irish gentleman intends to stay at the inn for a lengthy duration; he brings news of Rivers’ declining fortunes in Ireland. MacCormuck is resolved to stay in Sapling’s chamber, to the latter’s infuriation.  Sunderland reveals to Mrs. Cheveley that he is Rivers’ uncle, but that Rivers does not know this. Rivers has proved that he has good morals, so Sunderland encourages Mrs. Cheveley to pursue matrimony with him. A servant announces Rivers, and Sunderland departs. Rivers does not reveal what is troubling him and departs sadly, to Mrs. Cheveley’s satisfaction.

Act II.
MacCormuck tells his inn-mates that none of them is allowed to insult his country. Dipp and Spavin, two professional gamblers, intend to cheat him out of his money, but he will have none of it and draws his sword. MacCormuck gives the money he has won to Francis, the innkeeper. Sapling comes in; the gamblers have cheated him out of his entire savings, and he cannot pay for his room. MacCormuck tells him to use more violence when dealing with such cheats, and offers to get Sapling’s money back for him after he has told Rivers about his financial misfortunes. Sapling returns to Pippin Alley, having failed to ape a gentleman. Mrs. Cheveley gives Sunderland a note for Rivers that says that she intends to give her heart, her hand and her fortune to the recipient on sight. Sunderland is delighted with this romantic fancy. Upon hearing that Rivers plans to return to Ireland to prevent more gaming debts, Revell urges him to make gambling his profession and to use his financier, Issachar, to produce money out of thin air. Sunderland arrives; Rivers announces that he is determined to leave. Sunderland gives Rivers Mrs. Cheveley’s note and leaves hastily. Rivers hears MacCormuck fighting with a waiter. MacCormuck enters and tells Rivers that he seeks Mr. Rivers, who is rumoured to be wasting his fortune in dissipations. Rivers does not reveal himself until MacCormuck tells him a story of Rivers’ childhood. MacCormuck informs Rivers that he is unimpressed with England, and that Rivers’ tenants have torn down his Irish castle. Rivers tells MacCormuck that he intends to return to Ireland immediately. MacCormuck gives Revell Rivers’ bill (from Mrs. Cheveley, but no one knows it yet) in exchange for fifty guineas. Revell proceeds immediately to Mrs. Cheveley’s; this lady tells him that the bill was originally intended for Rivers, not himself. Rivers arrives and asks for the bill to be returned; Mrs. Cheveley does not agree to a private audience with Rivers, who has to shamefacedly explain the bill’s passing from his hands in front of Revell. MacCormuck enters to apologize for his part in the affair. Mrs. Cheveley and Rivers profess their love for one another. Sunderland reveals himself to be Rivers’ uncle, to Revell’s amusement. Rivers tells MacCormuck that he can live on his estate for free for life, and that his Irish tenants will no longer be impoverished to pay for gambling and racing debts.

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Secondary commentary

A) 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.
"Then, in 1774, he produced The Note of Hand , his first effort at farce. In it he employs once more his noble-hearted Irishman, this time named MacCormuck-an upstanding young man who will not tolerate affectation or cheating, and one who is outspoken in his grievance about England's treatment of Ireland. MacCormuck is Cumberland's Irishman who not only works toward dashing the prejudice against his nation, but who brings an element of political satire to the play. Overall, The Note of Hand is an attack against gambling and other frivolities that distract members of Parliament (Revell) from their duties and obligations. While the play contains some sententiousness regarding gambling, it is mostly a piece of comic situation and character, even making a satiric comment on plays like The Brothers when Revell accuses Rivers, after a particularly sententious speech, of being "as dull as a sentimental comedy." Although The Note of Hand shows some genuine comedic skill in Cumberland, it is too short to sustain a weighty moral message against gambling, and it becomes a rather unhappy blend of platitude and comic character."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Sapling, a clerk pretending to be a nobleman, speaks in sentence fragments. MacCormuck, Rivers’ Irish tenant, speaks in a dialect. Revell, an MP turned gamester, uses “thee” and “thou” when offering to do a favour for his friend.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Sapling
a. Sample of dialect
[page 9]
Hackney Writer, poh! I only amuse myself now and then, as other young gentlemen do, with copying a skin of parchment, nothing more: but what d'ye think o'me, Francis; am I the thing? do I look knowing, hey, boy?

Deep, deep!

That's well; that's well---d'ye like my nab? had it of 'Squire Revell's hatter: smoke the spurs, Francis; honest Moore of Poland-street---studied Darnley's prints for a Turf-Macaroni---was two hours tying my neckloth with the true Tyburn knot.

b.1 Orthography: “d’ye”; “o’me”
b.2 Grammar: a string of sentence fragments
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: clerk pretending to be a nobleman
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: O’Connor MacCormuck
a. Sample of dialect
[page 13 ]

I've a small little bit of a lease, d'ye observe me, under one Mr. Rivers, of Castle-Rivers, who I'm told is in this place gambling up and down, so I wou'd fain have him fill it up, d'ye see; and in the meantime I'd let him into the secret a little how his affairs stand, or I shou'd rather say tumble down, in the county of Antrim.---Oh, there's been precious doings with the Hearts of Steel; blood and 'oons, man alive, 'twou'd make all your bowels quake in your body only to hear of it.

b.1 Orthography: “’twou’d”
b.2 Grammar: “…let him in to the secret a little how his affairs stand”
b.3 Vocabulary: “d’ye see” (repetition); “blood and ‘oons”
c. Nationality: Irish
d. Character profile: Irishman (tenant on Rivers’ estate)
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Revell
a. Sample of dialect
[page 29]

I tell thee, Frank, thou art a fellow whom I love, I know not why, but there's a grace, a facility in thy nature which mightily becomes thee: be content; I'll do thee a service, I would not render any other man living.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “thee”, “thou”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: MP who spends his time gambling
e. Consistency of representation: this instance only (uses “you” elsewhere)

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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