Collection No. 46: Amelia, by Richard Cumberland

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

Publication details

Author: Cumberland, Richard
Author dates: 1732-1811
Title: Amelia

First played: 1768
First published: 1768, for J. Dodsley and W. Johnston. 30 p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1768)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1997)

Genre: Comic Opera

Character types: Country; Class-Crossing

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Sir Anthony Withers tries to seduce Clara (really Amelia, who has run away to escape an unwanted marriage). Frederick Withers, Amelia's lover, returns; after Amelia pretends to be a madwoman, they are united.

Act I.
Clara and Henry are in the garden. They hear Sir Anthony Withers approach; Clara charges Henry with taking her cloak and pattens to the garden house, where they will reconvene later. Henry says that he is not afraid of the old man and that he can think of no better thing than to serve Clara. She realizes he loves her, but she cannot reciprocate because she loves another man. Sir Anthony Withers accosts her and asks if she will be his friend; she says he is too old and she would prefer his son Frederick. Sir Anthony offers to escort her to the village along the shadiest paths, but Clara refuses to go with him. The maidservant Patty is looking for Clara, as she has some good news to report: Frederick is to return home at any moment. Clara confesses to Patty that she loves Frederick, that she is really Amelia Hartley, daughter of Sir William Hartley, and that she has fled Frederick to test his love. Amelia intends to pretend to be insane in the presence of the Withers family. Patty admits she loves Henry. Henry is stirred by strange new passions. Amelia enters and tells him that she intends to leave his family that day; Henry begs to know how they have offended her, but she denies any such thing. They sing a parting duet.

Act II.
Amelia and Patty have arranged for Amelia to be dressed strangely and masked. Frederick approaches the masked lady and offers her assistance; Amelia pretends to be insane but her reason is given away by her statement that her lover has abandoned her. Frederick tells her that they are alike, because he has had to forsake the “fairest of [her] sex”. Realizing that his listener is similar to Amelia in many ways, Frederick tries to tear off her mask, but she refuses him until he tells her the name of his beloved (her own). Amelia tells him that she will meet him between nine and ten to tell him something that will please him. After Frederick leaves, Henry emerges to announce that he has overheard their conversation and wants to protect Amelia from the nobleman’s advances. Amelia tells him that she is not mad, and reveals her identity as a noblewoman. Patty tries to comfort Henry, and tells him that if she were as beautiful and clever as “Mrs. Clara”, would bestow these virtues on him, but he calls her a child. Sir Anthony tells Frederick to forget Amelia Hartley. Peter, a countryman, tells Sir Anthony that he knows that ‘Clara’ is mad because of her long talks about her love for ‘his lordship’. A terrified Sir Anthony meets ‘Clara’ in the garden. Frederick rescues him when he cries for help. She pretends to tell their fortunes, telling Frederick that his love is reciprocated and Sir Anthony that he loves in vain. She unmasks herself and runs into Frederick’s arms. Henry pledges allegiance to the couple. Patty runs in to ask them to join the Harvest Folk in their sport.

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Secondary commentary


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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Henry, a countryman, speaks with a few grammar errors. Amelia, a highborn lady disguised as a simple country lass and as a madwoman, uses “thee” / “thou” with the country folk. 

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Clara (really Amelia)
a. Sample of dialect
[page 1]
Do, good Henry, take my Cloak and Pattens, and wait for me at the Garden Gate: We shall, very likely, meet the old Knight again in our Way to the House; and I know he won't be pleased with seeing thee in the Garden.

[page 6]
No, no, you'll be rude, I know you will: Mercy upon me, how you look! Why they told me you was a grave, sober Justice o'Peace: Does Justice stare in that Manner? I'm sure you've some evil Design in your Head---Nay, keep your Distance---I'll go back again; I wish I had never come near your Garden, that's what I do.

[page 9]
O'my Conscience, pretty one, I think thou would'st, and without Scruple I shall own to thee that I love Young Withers, love him to Distraction.

b.1 Orthography: “Justice o’Peace”; “O’my” (contractions of ‘of’ and ‘on’)
b.2 Grammar: “thee”; “you was”; “I wish…that’s what I do” (unusual); “thou”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: noble lady impersonating a country girl and a madwoman
e. Consistency of representation: “thee” / “thou” use inconsistent

Variety: Henry
a. Sample of dialect
[page 20]
Lackaday, how shou'd I fail knowing you? Don't be angry with me, but I have followed you most Part of the Day, yet feared to accost you till now, that I see you have been in Discourse with the young Squire: Fine Folks I know have sometimes foul Thoughts; and in so lone a Place as this is, I was fearful he might offer at some Rudeness; if that had been the Case, I wou'd have been your Defender; nay I was about to come forth when he attempted to unmask you, for, great as he is, I shou'd not stand by and see you wrong'd by any one.

[page 21 ]

This honest Creature's Affection to me is distressing.

How sorry am I to see you thus! What a piteous Change have a few Hours brought about! Is a Mind like your's so soon overthrown? Better be born a Clown like me without Wit or Understanding to lose, than be learned to no better Purpose than this.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “so lone a Place” (vs. lonely); “he might offer at some Rudeness”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English (country)
d. Character profile: a low-born countryman
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects


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Other points of interest

A shortened musical adaptation of A Summer’s Tale (1765); much of the dialogue is lifted directly from the original.

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©2008 Arden Hegele