Collection No. 40: First Love, by Richard Cumberland

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

Publication details

Author: Cumberland, Richard
Author dates: 1732-1811
Title: First Love

First played: 1795
First published: 1795, for C. Dilly [etc.] 78 p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1795)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1997)

Genre: Comedy

Character types: Nautical; French; Class-Crossing; Innkeeper

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Frederick Mowbray is reunited with his old flame, Lady Ruby. Sabina Rosny, the French noblewoman in exile that he is protecting, reveals that she is married to Lord Sensitive, who has rejected her. This couple is also reunited, with Lord Sensitive renouncing any affection for Lady Ruby. Sir Miles Mowbray believes that his daughter and her husband Wrangle are very much in love, but they quarrel constantly.

Act I.
Frederick Mowbray has just returned to England; his younger brother David, newly enlisted in the navy, recognizes him. Frederick requests that David refrain from mentioning his arrival to their father. Their sister has just been married to Wrangle; David reports that the couple is already quarrelling. Frederick’s former beloved, Clara Middleton, has just been widowed by her husband Lord Ruby. David encourages Frederick to pursue a match with her, but Frederick refuses to do so. He has brought a girl from Padua to be secretly married to in England. The brothers go to secure lodgings for Frederick’s fiancée. The Wrangles fight because Mrs. Wrangle wants her husband to pay for a box at the opera for her. Lady Ruby is shown in. The two ladies discuss jealousy as a desirable quality for a husband. Lady Ruby has just had a talk with Lord Sensitive, whose attempts at courtship she has spurned. Lord Sensitive arrives; in a fit of spite, Mrs. Wrangle shows him up. Lady Ruby questions the insecure Lord Sensitive about his trip to Padua of the previous summer. Mrs. Wrangle leaves the two alone; Lord Sensitive confirms that he was involved with Sabina Rosny, a French expatriate whose parents were guillotined in the Revolution, in Padua, but that he has long since forgotten the attachment. Lord Sensitive accuses her of being informed by Frederick Mowbray, but Lady Ruby denies this. Lord Sensitive leaves then returns again, but Mrs. Wrangle’s newfound presence forces him to cut off the latter part of his confession. The two ladies plan to meet at the opera.

Act II.
Miss Kate and her brother Billy Bustler discuss the roast goose they are to have for Michaelmas. David arrives to ask the brother and sister if Frederick’s fiancée can stay with them; they are initially put off by the story, but agree to let her stay. Mrs. Wrangle has not gone to the opera after all; the new coach was wrecked and she was driven home with the notorious philanderer Colonel Doricourt. Sir Miles Mowbray enters to find the couple quarrelling, but thinks they are still in love; he congratulates himself on having so successfully arranged their marriage. Sir Miles confides that he intends to reason Frederick into marrying Lady Ruby (of whom he did not approve before she was married to Lord Ruby). Lady Ruby asks a waiting-woman whether Sabina Rosny was described as having a good character by Lord Sensitive’s servant; the waiting-woman confirms this. Lord Sensitive arrives to visit Lady Ruby; he asks her if she has ever overcome her first romantic attachment. She does not give him a satisfactory answer. Sir Miles Mowbray arrives to speak with Lady Ruby; he encourages her to consider Frederick a potential partner for matrimony, but she tells him that she recognizes the financial motive behind his change of heart.

Act III.
Frederick and Sabina discuss their marriage; Sabina urges Frederick to go back on his word, as he pledged it only when he was very sick. Sabina tells him that she does not want his father to ruin him because of an engagement of which he would rather not be a part. Frederick vehemently denies this. Lady Ruby enters and is surprised to learn the other woman’s surname. She offers her a place in her own home, which Sabina gratefully accepts. Sabina urges Frederick to refrain from talking to his father until she has had time to relate her history to Lady Ruby. The latter tells Frederick to be careful when talking to his father, and that she wishes to speak to him afterwards. Frederick confesses in a soliloquy that the sight of Lady Ruby has revived his former passion but that he cannot abandon his life’s preserver. David tells him to marry an Englishwoman, and says that if their father cuts Frederick off, bestowing their fortune on David, the latter will ensure that his older brother be given the bulk of the estate. Robin, a servant, announces Wrangle, who has come to tell his father-in-law that he is unhappily married. Wrangle tells his father-in-law that the match is not working well; Sir Miles urges Wrangle to pretend that nothing is wrong to his wife, and particularly to refrain from confiding in her that he has mentioned their difficulties. Frederick arrives at his father’s, to universal joy. However, when his father encourages him to marry Lady Ruby for her money, Frederick refuses, causing a family quarrel.

Act IV.
Sabina tells Lady Ruby that the news of her marriage to Lord Ruby caused Frederick’s brain-fever, and that he is desperately in love with her. Sabina was secretly married in Padua to another Englishman, who later abandoned her; Lady Ruby correctly guesses that it was Lord Sensitive. This gentleman arrives at the house. Lady Ruby subtly informs him that she utterly condemns his actions. Lord Sensitive promises to quit England within three days. Lady Ruby makes him promise to return to her house before then. David meets with Billy Bustler, who found a locket in Sabina’s vacated room from “her husband”. David denies knowing anything about Sabina’s being a “bad woman”, and is resolved to clear his brother’s name of any association with her. Frederick enters, but cannot proceed because David blocks his path. He tells David that he will not marry Sabina, to David’s relief. They go to see their sister. The Wrangles fight again, but are interrupted by Frederick and David’s arrival. The two young men decide to go to Lady Ruby’s but wait to see what will happen when Sir Miles arrives to see the disastrous match he has wrought. They confess that they cannot get along. Sir Miles leaves them to enjoy their marital harmony. After his departure, the Wrangles reconcile and walk off hand in hand.

Act V.
David delivers Sabina’s locket to Lady Ruby. Sabina is very glad to receive it, but hopes that Frederick does not yet know about her marriage to Lord Sensitive. Frederick arrives and Sabina tells him that she must relate her full history to him. Frederick and Lady Ruby are reconciled to one another. David and Lady Ruby go into the next room while Frederick and Sabina talk. Frederick forgives Sabina for her deception; she does not tell him that her husband is Lord Sensitive, but Lady Ruby says so upon entering into the room. Frederick is astonished. They all agree to make Lord Sensitive uphold his honour. Lord Sensitive is announced. He says that he will make good on his marriage to Sabina, and it was not his intention to abandon her. Sabina is summoned to the room; they are reconciled to one another and Lord Sensitive promises to atone for his misdeed. The Wrangles try to tell Sir Miles that they are reconciled, but he refuses to hear them out, saying that their “fondlings make [him] sick, and [their] feuds make [him] sad”; he will no longer be a go-between in their relationship. Sir Miles apologizes to Frederick for having tried to guide him away from Caroline before she was Lady Ruby, and for having tried to force him to marry her once she had been wealthily widowed. Frederick pardons him. Sabina, Lord Sensitive, and Lady Ruby arrive. The truth emerges: Frederick wrote Lady Ruby many letters, but his father intercepted and destroyed them. Sir Miles concludes that First Love is a “faithful guide” and that the parent who diverts it must accept the responsibility for all unwanted consequences.

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Secondary commentary


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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

David Mowbray, a naval officer, speaks with nautical terminology throughout the play. Sabina, a Frenchwoman whose parents were guillotined, has learned English from Frederick Mowbray; she seems to have mastered it nearly perfectly. There are a few grammatical errors (particularly from lower-class characters).

Varieties / dialects

Variety: David Mowbray
a. Sample of dialect
[page 1]
Aye, aye, Sir!---But we'll talk of that by-and-by. How are you in the first place? How fares it with you, my hearty? where are you come from? what sort of a cruize have you had in t'other country? Have you fallen in with father?

[page 2 ]

No, nor do I wish him to know of my arrival as yet.

Be it so, be it so! Mum's the word for that.---Are you come home full or empty? Egad, you'll find father cling plaguily by the claws, damn'd close in the lockers: if you are bare of the ready, I've plenty.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “where are you come from?”
b.3 Vocabulary: Nautical (quasi-piratical): “Aye, aye, Sir”; “my hearty”; “cruize”; “close in to the lockers”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: well-born naval officer
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Mrs. Wrangle
a. Sample of dialect
[page 11]
Mrs. W.
Now I won't send him away, for I perceive she's jealous---Provoking creature! how vexatiously well drest she is!
---Shew my Lord Sensitive up.
b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: “vexatiously” (vexingly)
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: Sir Miles’ daughter
e. Consistency of representation: mostly StE, aside from this neologism

Variety: Lady Ruby
a. Sample of dialect
[page 12]
Lady R.
You are not quite out of your guess; they were just then upon a ramble.---I think, my lord, you was last summer in Italy---
b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “you was”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: upwardly mobile character; Lady Ruby proves to be much more attractive to her lover Frederick’s father after she has been wealthily widowed
e. Consistency of representation: this instance only

Variety: Kate Bustler
a. Sample of dialect
[page 17]
Why then you must have two gooses, for no one shall cut it up but myself. There's a boil'd leg of corn'd pork for your carving; I hope you call that a bottom dish---with a pease-pudding on one side, and a bowl of apple-sauce on the other.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “two gooses”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: lower-class; innkeeper
e. Consistency of representation: mostly StE

Variety: Sir Miles Mowbray
a. Sample of dialect
[page 23]
Sir Miles.
Do you hear that, Lyddy? By my soul, Wrangle, tho' I say it to my daughter's face, (and she's a good girl, I confess) thou art enough to spoil any wife in England.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: inconsistent use of “you” / “thou”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: nobleman
e. Consistency of representation: inconsistent

Variety: Robin (servant)
a. Sample of dialect
[page 41]
I humble beg your pardon, Mr. Wrangle, I did not see you.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “I humble beg” (adverb)
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: servant
e. Consistency of representation: consistent (in his one scene)

Variety: Sabina
a. Sample of dialect
[page 49]
Ah! yes indeed; it was your marriage broke his heart, his brain; he was a dying, a distracted man.
[page 50]
---You are magicienne.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “it was…broke”; “his heart, his brain”; “a dying, a distracted”
b.3 Vocabulary: “magicienne” (French)
c. Nationality: French expatriate
d. Character profile: a French expatriate, she has learned to speak mostly Standard English from Frederick Mowbray (but when excited, speaks in French, as we see here)
e. Consistency of representation: inconsistent: mostly StE, but some erroneous constructions

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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