Collection No. 38: The Box-Lobby Challenge, by Richard Cumberland

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

Publication details

Author: Cumberland, Richard
Author dates: 1732-1811
Title: The Box-Lobby Challenge

First played: 1794
First published: 1794, for J. Debrett [etc.] 61 p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1794)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1994)

Genre: Comedy

Trend(s): Class; Contemporary Satire; Gender

Character types: Professional Female; Business / Trades; Country

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Jack Crochet, a printer's son, seduces the elderly and rich Diana Grampus by pretending to be a brilliant Cambridge scholar in his role as tutor to her boorish but kindly nephew Squire Robert. Captain Waterland wins Diana Grampus' neice Laetitia's hand, while his brother George Waterland marries Lady Jane Danvers.

Act I.
Crochet, a printer, reads works he has published himself. With his wife Theodosia, he discusses their son Jack, who has been well-educated but who leads a life of dissipation. Fulsome, who has just published a treatise on education, enters the shop. Fulsome does not have the dedication to his work; it is in the hands of Diana Grampus, who is too old to be called ‘Miss’, but has never been married. Fulsome has recommended that Jack Crochet serve as a travelling tutor to Diana Grampus’ nephew, Squire Robert, during his Grand Tour. Fulsome told Diana that Jack was the top student at Cambridge; she fully believes in this lie. Crochet likes this proposal better after Theodosia suggests that John would be more likely to meet a wealthy woman in Europe. Jack wakes up; he has been involved in a brawl and has stolen another man’s clothes. Theodosia tells him of the plan to send him to Europe. Jack plans to seduce Diana Grampus. Jack is thrilled to learn that his father was once in the pillory. Lindamara, a novelist and his lover, enters, and they quarrel. Lindamara plans to go to Diana Grampus for a dedication; Jack tells her that he will marry Diana, to Lindamara’s distress. Joe brings Sir Toby Grumpus’ wig and suit to a hairdresser for fixing. Squire Robert enters, and Joe encourages him to dress less like a countryman for his meeting with Diana. Sir Toby, Robert’s father, enters and dresses; he criticizes his son for playing the French horn and hunting instead of becoming more cosmopolitan. Sir Toby tells his son that he will be sent to Europe to experience culture. Robert hopes to do some big game hunting while on Tour. They go to visit Diana.

Act II.
George Waterland, “on the point of marrying the finest woman in England”, Lady Jane Danvers, is indisposed and only reluctantly lets Capt. Waterland, his brother, visit him. George is jealous that all other men sing Lady Jane’s praises while he, as an invalid, is good for nothing. Lady Jane arrives, and George sends a message that he cannot accompany her to Hyde Park. She enters the sick-room. George reveals that he is unhappy because he believes his brother to have fought in Lady Jane’s defense at the theatre the night before; however, Lady Jane reveals that the lady in question was Laetitia Rayner. Laetitia, who is Diana Grampus’ niece, tells her aunt of the events of the previous night; Diana Grampus is less than convinced of Captain Waterland’s gallantry, and forbids Laetitia from calling on Lady Jane Danvers in case she meets the Lady’s future brother-in-law again. Sir Toby and Robert arrive, and Diana describes Robert’s Grand Tour. Fulsome and Jack Crochet call on Diana. Jack maintains his false academic qualifications admirably. A gentleman arrives to talk with Mr. Fulsome: it is Captain Waterland, who fought at the theatre with the person who dropped the ticket with Fulsome’s name on it (Jack). Laetita descends and joyfully greets Captain Waterland. She instructs him to adopt another identity so that she can continue to meet him.

Act III.
Lady Jane receives a letter from Laetitia: she has identified Jack Crochet as the gentleman who offended them at the play, and says that Waterland can gain entry to her aunt’s house by acting as a fencing-master; Jack is trying to engage one for Robert. Jack meets his parents in the street and pretends that he is not related to them in order to keep up appearances. He tells his father to print his journal describing the Grand Tour, which he has already half completed. Captain Waterland appears and accosts him; annoyed at his son, Crochet confirms that it was Jack who fought with Waterland at the theatre. In order to prevent another fight, Jack agrees to introduce Waterland as a fencing-master. Diana encourages Robert to exercise his mental faculties and to keep away from “naughty women.” Robert tells Diana that his father thinks she is an angel. Jack enters; Diana asks him if he has ever been in love. Laetitia asks the men to go to fight with the fencing-master. Jack demonstrates to Diana how he claims Robert treats women; Diana accepts his covert advances. Jack tells her he is an imposter: he has only undertaken to tutor Robert in order to meet her. Diana is thrilled, particularly when Jack describes his traumatic past. He asks her if he can procure a marriage license. They retire into the library. Captain Waterland talks with Laetitia while Robert practices hitting his own coat; Robert criticizes them for talking too much of love. Surprisingly attuned to the clandestine affairs, Robert tells Laetitia that Diana hopes that they will get married, and that he could never abide living in the city; he is also aware of the chemistry between Jack and Diana. Jack enters to tell the lovers that it is likely that Diana will soon consent to Waterland and Laetitia’s marriage; he urges Waterland to leave the house and to present himself again shortly.

Act IV.
Waterland returns to Lady Jane Danvers and George to report that he has met with success at Diana Grumpus’ house. Lady Jane and Waterland tease George for his jealousy. Laetitia arrives. With Lady Jane’s approval, Waterland tells Laetitia that he loves her. Laetitia says that the newly romanced Diana will likely accept the prospect of their marriage. Diana gives Jack the deeds to their marriage; annoyed that she has given him a measly four hundred pounds a year after her death, he reveals his true character to her; however, it is too late to undo the agreement. Sir Toby enters; he has discovered Jack Crochet’s real identity. Diana is appalled that her father-in-law has been pilloried; however, when Sir Toby says that it would be extremely convenient for her to die before the marriage is consummated (leaving the property to his son), she says she is resolved to marry Jack to spite the family. Robert says that he knew the match would take place long before. Jack goes to his parents to tell them the news of his engagement. He insults Fulsome, who plans to go directly to Di Grampus to expose him. Thrilled, Theodosia tells Lindamara of Jack’s marriage, to Jack’s consternation.

Act V.
Jack meets Robert; the latter says that he will continue to be Jack’s friend. Jack gives Robert the bond. Fulsome has gone to Diana to tell her about the Crochets.  Jack retorts that Fulsome, who gave Diana a false recommendation of Jack’s character, is more of a liar, and calls him to a duel. Fulsome is sent out of the house on Robert’s orders. Lindamara emerges from a tete-a-tete with Diana; she has told him of Jack’s use of her. Jack reveals that if the engagement is broken Diana will give him ten thousand pounds; Lindamara is subdued. Sir Toby tells Jack that he is a clever fellow and a little printer’s blood would do the family no harm. Jack meets Diana; he says that he will forfeit marriage with her as he is below her. Diana says that she will gather the informers against his character together so that he can parry their criticisms. Laetitia consents to marry Captain Waterland. George, Captain Waterland, Lady Jane and Laetitia proceed to Diana Grampus’ house. Diana tries to lay out the pros and cons of marrying Jack, but is flummoxed when he appears. Diana presides over Jack’s ‘trial’. He confesses to not being educated and to being a printer’s son. Old Crochet is summoned to testify: he reveals that Lindamara has run off with Fulsome. Jack says that he encouraged Diana to allow Laetitia to marry the man of her choice, and that he will not enforce the prenuptial agreement providing him with ten thousand pounds. The company urges Jack and Diana to marry, which they agree to do.

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Secondary commentary

A) Keenan, Joseph J.,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.
"[A] very pleasant play that ran twelve nights at the Haymarket in 1794. It is most remarkable for its excellent delineation of low-class characters, the Crochets. Its satire good-naturedly scoffs at the old lady who thinks she is still a beauty, at the country bumpkin who thinks the Grand Tour a big game safari, at the hack poet, and at the lady novelist. All of this laughter-and there is a lot-is balanced by the good sense of Caption Waterland, whose love for the beautiful and virtuous Laetitia is delicately, but not sentimentally, handled. The Box-Lobby Challenge, like The Choleric Man, is a rollicking good comedy-filled with incident and humor, but Cumberland was now committed to his serious comedies."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

The Crochets (lower-class family) speak in relatively StE, as do the Waterlands, Laetitia and Lady Jane. Lindamara, a female novelist, speaks in novel-like prose; a hairdresser swears and uses unusual expressions; Sir Toby mixes up “thou” and “you” (even saying “you may’st”!) and uses strong language; his son Robert has some strong interjections.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Lindamara
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 7]
I filch from none; my phrases are original, my scenes are Nature's self, my stile Pactolus rolling over golden sands. Here is my manuscript; a novel, picturesque, descriptive.---Salvator, Claude, Poussin, Vernet, may blush to see themselves out done: My sun, moon, stars; my mountains, hills, vales, rivers, lakes; my woods, heaths rocks and ruins, are not dawbings upon canvas, but all embroidered upon cloth of gold.

b.1 Orthography: “dawbings” (related to “daub”)
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: Authors: “Pactolus”; “Salvator, Claude, Poussin, Vernet”; elevated tone and poetic enumeration (“mountains, hills, vales” etc).
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: a lady novelist; her speech is as ornate (and contrived!) as her writing
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Hairdresser
a. Sample of dialect
[page 9]
Dam'mee! if I woud'nt as soon comb out the tower lyons, as this rum gig of a caxen.

Rum gig of a caxen! what's that?

Hair dresser.
Why 'tis a second edition of Sir Cloudesly [25]  Shovel in the tombs. Your master will look for all the world like King Charles in the oak with his bush at his back, brother Brush.

Brother Brush! that's not my name; my name is Joe Thresher; I have lived by that name and none other in Sir Toby Grampus's service these thirty years come next Lammas.

Very right, very right! the thresher you know naturally follows the whale; and which now is of the longest standing in the family, you, or that damn'd old quiz of a coat you are dusting?

b.1 Orthography: “lyons” (lions)
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: swearing: “Dam’mee!”: ‘damn’d”; unusual expressions: “rum gig of a caxen”; “damn’d old quiz of a coat”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: a hair-dresser who refuses to dress a nobleman’s wig (uncharacteristic: usually such an upwardly-mobile professional would cater to a nobleman’s wishes!)
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Sir Toby Grampus
a. Sample of dialect
[page 12]
Sir Toby.
Boy, thou shalt see every thing, and that you

[page 13 ]

may'st do nothing at second hand and by halves, I will have thee go to the very head of the Nile, and drink of the spring that waters the whole realm of Pharoah.

Sir Toby.
Married to your son of a bitch of a bear-leader.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: inconsistent use of “thou” and “you”, even mixing up constructions (i.e. “you may’st”)
b.3 Vocabulary: “son of a bitch” (unusually foul; the only instance of the expression in any play in this collection)
c. Nationality: English (country)
d. Character profile: an unfashionable, ill-read country gentleman
e. Consistency of representation: consistent (swears frequently)

Variety: Squire Robert Grampus
a. Sample of dialect
[page 50]

Fire and faggot! brother traveller, what a blaze have you lighted up in this house; there's old Di in such another taking---Zukers, how she does fume! A steam engine is a fool to her. Never trust me if I coud'nt have tugg'd that Fulsome by the ears, for the spiteful pains the thief took to put you out of favour with her: but keep a good heart, my brave fellow; and remember when I have said the word, I have said it: I have given you my hand once, and here it is again: I am your friend,---blow hot, blow cold, I never budge; one and the same for ever, that's my mark.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: Interjections: “Fire and faggot!”; “Zukers!”; “old Di” (irreverent)
c. Nationality: English (country)
d. Character profile: son of Sir Toby Grampus; another ill-read (but good-hearted) country gentleman
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects

On grammar:
Theodosia: Why didn't you give him some grammar-school learning?
Crotchet:  What good had that done him? Learning only cramps the genius, and grammar does but cripple the stile: Give me an author of a free clear mind. Why isn't he up in his cock-lost now with pen an ink? There's fresh air that would help his fancy. There he might court the muses and the graces.

Country English:

Sir Toby.
Damnable bad news for some of us---a famous kettle of fish you have made of it, sister Di, with this Jack Crotchet as they call him.---He a proper person to be pilot to a Grampus; zooks! he is not fit to be the porter of a Scuttlefish.

What are you talking of? What are you bawling about? You make me mad, you turn my brain to hear your uncouth, unintelligible jargon. Speak English, if you've any thing to tell me, and let me understand you.

Sir Toby.
Shou'd you understand me better then if I was to speak Welch? What the plague and the pestilence to boot! I must talk such language as I have. What is it you would be at? Am I not going to tell, if you had but patience?

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Other points of interest

Lady Jane.
But was it a hit, a palpable hit, as Ostrick says? If so, I pronounce that the Lord Hamlet shall win.

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©2008 Arden Hegele