Collection No. 53: The Minor, by Samuel Foote

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

Publication details

Author: Foote, Samuel
Author dates: 1720 - 1777
Title: The Minor

First played: 1760
First published: 1760, for J. Coote, G. Kearsly, and T. Davies. 91p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1760):

Modern availability: Available from LION (1996):

Genre: Comedy

Trend(s): Contemporary Satire

Character types: German

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Secondary commentary

A) Dircks, Phyllis T. ‘Foote, Samuel (bap. 1721, d. 1777)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 26 May 2008.

"An uncompromising satire on George Whitefield and the Methodists, The Minor was both a theatrical and personal success for Foote, who played three roles—those of Shift, Smirk, and Mother Cole. As a virulent paper war of letters, essays, and tracts, both for and against the Methodists, flooded London, Garrick's interest was aroused, and the play, with excisions…opened at Drury Lane on 22 November 1760."

B) Howard, Douglas. ‘Samuel Foote: January, 1721-October 21, 1777.’ Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 89: Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Dramatists, Third Series. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by Paula R. Backscheider, University of Rochester. The Gale Group, 1989. LiteratureResourceCenter. 26 May 2008.

"The Minor is an interesting example of Foote's gifts and limitations as a playwright. Like The Author, it is held together by an unremarkable plot involving a profligate though good-hearted son and his reclamation through the efforts of a disguised father. To this main plot, Foote added the two ingredients that usually accounted for his theatrical successes. First, he chose an object of satire that would create immediate controversy, in this case the well-known Methodist preacher George Whitefield. Second, he provided a vehicle for his own imitative skills, in this case the parts of Mother Cole and Shift. Though Foote does not bring Whitefield, alias Mr. Squintum, onstage, he does allow Shift to imitate him in the epilogue. Further jabs at the itinerant preacher are taken in the part of Mother Cole, whose portrait Foote drew in the likeness of a notorious London bawd, Mother Jennie Douglas. Foote's Mother Cole is an enthusiastic convert to Methodism and constant espouser of Whitefield's pieties. In addition to delighting audiences with his transvestism and mimicry, Foote fueled the controversy caused by the play in a paper war with defenders of Methodism."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Sir William puts on a fake German accent.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Sir William disguised as a German baron
7a. Sample of dialect

[Page 35 ]
Sir WILLIAM. Why dere was monsieur le chevalier, when I first enter, dree or four damn'd queer people; ah, ah, drought I, by gad I guess your business. Dere was one fat big woman's, dat I know long time: le valet de chambre was tell me dat she came from a grand merchand; by your leave, stick to your shop; or, if you must have de pretty girl, dere is de play-hous, dat do very well for you; but for de opera, pardoner, by gar dat is meat for your master.

b.1 Orthography: dere; dree; drought; datl
b.2 Grammar: when I first enter; fat big woman's (woman);was tell me dat
b.3 Vocabulary: monsieur le chevalier; le valet de chambre (French); by gar/by gad (inconsistent)
c. Nationality: English (pretends to be German)
d. Character profile: English nobleman pretending to be a German
e. Consistency of representation: inconsistent within the speech (by gar/by gad), with his persona as a German (he uses mostly French), and with his character throughout the rest of the play

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects

On speakers of Scottish and Irish English:

[page 6]

Give us then a national portrait: a Scotchman or an Irishman.
If you mean merely the dialect of the two countries, I can't think it either a subject of satyr or humour; it is an accidental unhappiness, for which a man is no more accountable, than the colour of his hair. Now affectation I take to be the true comic object. If, indeed, a north Briton, struck with a scheme of reformation, should advance from the banks of the Tweed, to teach the English the true pronunciation of their own language, he would, I think, merit your laughter: nor would a Dublin mechanic, who, from heading the Liberty boys in a skirmish on Ormond Quay, should think he had a right to prescribe military laws

[page 7 ]

to the first commander in Europe, be a less ridiculous object.

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Other points of interest


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©2008 Arden Hegele