Collection No. 57: The Mayor of Garratt, by Samuel Foote

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

Publication details

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

First played: 1763
First published: 1769? Printed for Paul Vaillant. 56 p.

C18th availability: Second edition (1769) available from ECCO:

Modern availability: Not available.

Genre / subgenre: Comedy

Trend(s): Dialect; Contemporary Satire; Popularity

Character types: Military; Cockney; Classical

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Sneak learns to manage his wife, and is named deputy mayor at the end of the play's electoral process.

Act I.
Lint, a doctor, arrives to see Sir Jacob; it is the day of the election in Garratt, and Lint is prepared to deal with the injuries to result from the anticipated rioting. They debate quack medicine. The argument escalates, and Sir Jacob turns Lint out of the house. Major Sturgeon arrives. The Major describes a battle, and discusses the merits of various companies with Sir Jacob. However, he had hoped to visit with Sir Jacob’s two married daughters. The Major is to act as magistrate for the election of the new mayor; he and Sir Jacob expect many oaths from the townspeople today. Roger, a servant, enters, and announces that the people outside are suggesting a candidate for the position of mayor. Sturgeon leaves, to Sir Jacob’s comment that “the fish is got out of his element.” He returns with Mrs. Sneak, one of Sir Jacob’s daughters, and her husband, who promptly leaves again. Mrs. Sneak expresses her displeasure with Sneak, calling him “Meek! a Mushroom! a Milk-Fop!” Sir Jacob leaves, and Mrs. Sneak and the Major flirt. Sneak returns just as the Major begins to kiss Mrs. Sneak’s hand. She leaves; Sneak and the Major discuss her merits. Bruin and his wife (Mrs. Sneak’s sister) enter. The Major quickly leaves to “attend to the lady [Mrs. Sneak] instantly”, with Sneak’s encouragement. Mrs. Bruin is thoroughly dominated by her husband; she exits at his orders, and Sneak expresses his envy at Bruin’s control, as Mrs. Sneak allows him only two shillings a week for his own pocket-money. Bruin agrees to help Sneak beat Mrs. Sneak, but she calls for him, causing Sneak loses his will; he comments “what a sad life do I lead”.

Act II.
The mob gathers under the window. Sir Jacob suggests that the common people in the mob have the potential to be great orators: “you will meet with materials to make a Sylla, a Cicero, a Solon, or a Caesar”. All exit. The mob enters, with Heel-Tap at their head. Heel-Tap presides over the election, as various candidates’ proposals are read aloud. Sneak goes after the Major and Mrs. Sneak, who have disappeared again. One candidate, Matthew Mug, presents his arguments for how to improve the town, but Heel-Tap refuses a bribe and denounces him.  Sir Jacob’s family returns; he chastises Bruin for his harsh treatment of his wife. Sneak rushes in, having discovered that the Major and Mrs. Sneak are in the locked summer-house. Heel-Tap enters, and announces that Sneak has been elected mayor. Mrs. Sneak enters, and Sneak stands up to her, announcing that he will begin to live his life as he chooses: “if some folks go into gardens with Majors, mayhap other people will go into garrets with maids.” She abuses Sneak, but he and Bruin have the upper hand. The Major enters. Bruin makes Mrs. Sneak cry and fights with the Major; Sneak capitulates to his wife’s sobs.  Mrs Sneak demands that another person be elected mayor. Sir Jacob suggests that Heel-Tap act as the “Locum tenens” (deputy).

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Secondary commentary

A) 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 play treats an historical event, a mock election held periodically in the hamlet of Garratt in Surrey. Its satire on political corruption, military incompetence, and wedded misery produced an enduring and accessible play. There are satiric portraits of Thomas Pelham-Holles, duke of Newcastle and Thomas Sheridan, among others, but the strokes of satire are generally broader, as when Crispin Heel-Tap commands the electorate to proceed "with all the decency and confusion usual upon these occasions." Originally presented as an afterpiece to The Minor, Foote's The Mayor of Garratt opened on 20 June 1763 to great acclaim. It was acted twenty-four consecutive times, ended the season with a total of thirty-six performances, and went on to become Foote's most popular play."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Most characters speak standard English. The Major uses mispronounced foreign (Latin and French) terms. Sneak has a Cockney accent; he reverses w and v (“vife”, “Wenus”); while Mrs. Sneak uses double negatives (p.15).

Varieties / dialects

Variety: The Major’s foreign terminology
a. Sample of dialect
[page 12]
Major. We would a taught him what a Briton can do, who is fighting pro arvis and focus.
Sir Jacob. Pray now, Major, which do you look upon as the best disciplined troops, the London regiments, or the Middlesex militia?
Major. Why, Sir Jacob, it does not become me to say; but lack-a-day, they have not seen any service – Holiday soldiers! Why I don’t believe, unless upon a lord-mayor’s day, and that mere matter of accident, that they were ever wet to the skin in their lives.
Sir Jacob.  Indeed!
Major. No! soldiers for the sun-shine, Cockneys; they have not the appearance, the air, the freedom, the Jenny sequi that – Oh, could you but see me salute: You have never a spontoon in the house?

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “we would a taught him”
b.3 Vocabulary: French : “Jenny sequi” = je ne sais quoi ; Latin : « pro arvis and focus »
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: soldier acting as magistrate for the election
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: The Sneaks’ socially marked dialect
a. Sample of dialect:

[page 15]

Mrs. Sneak. Dear Major, I demand a million of pardons. I have given you a profusion of trouble; but my husband is such a goose-cap, that I can’t get no good from him at home or abroad.

[page 21]

Major. A Venus!
Sneak. Yes, werry like Wenus – Mayhap you have known her for some time?
Major. Long.
Sneak. Belike, before she was married?
Major. I did, Master Sneak.
Sneak. Ay, when she was a wirgin. I thought you was an old acquaintance, by your kissing her hand; fo’ we ben’t quite so familiar as that – But then, indeed, we han’t been married a year.

b.1 Orthography : Cockney:  werry, Wenus, wirgin
b.2 Grammar: you was, we ben’t (vs. we are not); Mrs. Sneak “I can’t get no good”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. English (Cockney)
d. Character profiles: Sneak is a Cockney; his wife has married below her own social rank (as Sir Jacob's daughter)
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

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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