Collection No. 56: The Trial of Samuel Foote, Esq., for a Libel on Peter Paragraph, by Samuel Foote

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

Publication details

Author: Foote, Samuel
Author dates: 1720 - 1777
Title: The Trial of Samuel Foote

First played: 1763
First published: 1795, for Tate Wilkinson, by Wilson, Spence, and Mawman [etc.]. 4v.
C18th availability:
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, in Tate Wilkinson’s The Wandering Patentee, or A History of the Yorkshire Theatres.
Call number: B-12 00476.

Modern availability: Available from LION (1996):

Genre: Comedy / Farce

Trend(s): Dialect; Contemporary Satire; Popularity

Character types: Legal; Irish; Orator

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Foote is put on trial for his libellous behaviour in The Orators.

Foote is being tried for libel on Peter Paragraph (a parody of George Faulkener, the printer he satirized in The Orators). Demur opens with his accusation against Foote: he is to be indicted for “forgery”. The Judge agrees that Foote must be prevented from “treading on other people’s toes”. A witness, Dermot O’Dirty, is taken into the street to be beaten. Quirk, Foote’s attorney, asks that the trial be delayed due to lack of witness, but the judge refuses. Quirk then charges Peter Paragraph for libel against himself, as he printed The Orators (a play containing a parody of himself). The court is adjourned, except for Foote and Quirk. Foote speaks for the first time: he has been counseled to drop charges against Peter, but has “thrown some couplets together”, which he recites. His poem parodies his disagreement with Paragraph, changing the setting from Ireland to Greece to capitalize on Foote’s nickname as “the English Aristophanes.”

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Secondary commentary


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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

The members of the courtroom, particularly Demur, use the ‘legal’ jargon that Foote parodied in The Orators. However, Demur’s language contains Irish figures of speech, demonstrating that the action is taking place in Dublin.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Demur’s legal speech (plus some Irish)
a. Sample of dialect:

[page 253]

My Lord, I am Counsel against this Mr. Foote, and a pretty sort of a parson this Fot is every inch of him.---
---You may say that---whee, hee, hee,
[as a deep cough]
---but I should be glad to know what kind of right now this Fot has to be any body at all but himself; indeed, my Lord, I look upon it that he may be indicted for forgery, whee---hee, hee.
---Every body knows that it is forgery to take off a man's hand; and why not as bad to take off a man's leg; besides, my Lord, it concerns yourself---yourself, for, God willing, I don't despair in a little time of seeing your Lordship on the stage. A pretty sort of a business this, that your Lordship is to be taken off the bench, there where you are sitting, without your knowing any thing at all at all of the matter, and all the while that, to your thinking, you are passing sentence here in the four courts, you may, for what you can tell, be hearing causes in the Haymarket.---So that, Gentlemen of the Jury, if you have a mind to keep yourselves to yourselves,
[page 254 ]
and not to suffer any body else to be you but yourselves, and your Lordship does not choose to be in London whilst you are living in Dublin, you will find the prisoner Fot guilty.

b.1 Orthography: initially, the accused is “Mr. Foote”, but is called “Fot” subsequently
b.2 Grammar: run-on sentences
b.3 Vocabulary: written bodily sounds: coughs, wheezing; Irish expressions
c. Nationality: Irish; Footnote says that yourself---yourself and at all at all are “A mode of expression peculiar to the Irish; as, "I don't mind it faith, at all at all."”
d. Character profile: Irish lawyer
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects


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Other points of interest

A later version of The Orators; Peter Paragraph’s charge of libel against himself is based in truth, as George Faulkener, parodied by Foote in The Orators, printed the latter play.

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©2008 Arden Hegele