Collection No. 71: The True-Born Irishman, by Charles Macklin

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

Publication details

Author: Macklin, Charles
Author dates: 1699? - 1797
Title: The True-Born Irishman

First played: 1762
First published: 1762; 1783.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1762: published by R. Lewis. 7p).

Modern availability: Available from LION (1997: originally published in 1783, by The Booksellers. 60p.)

Genre: Comedy

Trend(s): Nationality; Class; Gender; Dialect; Contemporary Satire; Popularity

Character types: Irish; Classical; Sophisticated

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Mrs. Diggerty has become obsessed with English customs to the point of changing her name, to the infuriation of her husband O'Dogherty. Her lover Count Mushroom is exposed as a philanderer, and Mrs. Diggerty renounces her English ways and returns to her husband.

Act I.
John brings Mr. O’Dogherty an invitation to a party for Mrs. O’Dogherty from Mrs. Mulrooney. Counsellor Hamilton, O’Dogherty’s brother-in-law, is shown in. O’Dogherty explains that his wife is in a greater “pickle” than an “inhabitant in Swift’s hospital for Lunatics”: having traveled to see a coronation, she has been overcome by the fashions of England and has changed her name to Mrs. Diggerty. Further, an English friend of Mrs. Diggerty has suggested that her husband could buy a title if he becomes more English by changing his name to Diggerty as well. Mr. O’Dogherty is not interested; he has sat on the county senate before, and is convinced that a courtier and an Irish patriot are fundamentally alike. Further, Mrs. Diggerty is enamoured with Count Mushroom, the Oxford-educated son of an English pawnbroker. Count Mushroom and Mr. O’Dogherty are managing some leases; to conclude the disagreement between them, O’Dogherty has been writing to the count in his wife’s name – ‘she’ has agreed to let him be the ‘occasional lord of her matrimonial manor’ in exchange for her choosing the price for the leases. Mushroom arrives, and fawns over Counsellor Hamilton. They discuss the Irish people’s character and the differences between Irish and English cuisine. Mushroom leaves quickly to have a word with Mrs. Diggerty. The latter’s servant Katty enters to tell Mr. O’Dogherty – to his rage -- that her mistress has lost some money at cards and that she intends to borrow from Mushroom until she can cover her debts. O’Dugherty gives the money to Katty to pay off the debts, but instructs her to not reveal that it was he who provided the money. Mrs. Diggerty enters, greeting her brother with many malapropisms and with her fake English accent. Mrs. Diggerty explains how women in England have a “jenny-see-quee” not to be found in Ireland; O’Dogherty surreptitiously mocks her. Mrs. Diggerty suggests that the dogs in Ireland speak in brogue, and proceeds to discuss the coronation she attended. Mushroom recites a poem he has written to praise Mrs. Diggerty’s dancing at court. Mrs. Diggerty is persuaded to sing a song by Arne (a current composer). Mushroom praises her, while O’Dogherty leaves quickly to arrange the leases.  Mrs. Diggerty invites her brother, Counsellor Hamilton, to her private party that evening. He tells the audience that she will be “pinched to the quick” at the party.

Act II.
Mr. O’Dogherty and Mrs. Diggerty argue: O’Dogherty is not interested in buying a peerage, while Mrs. Diggerty wants him to buy one to advance herself socially, claiming she can’t bear the sound of her own name. Mrs. Diggerty also pleads with O’Dougherty to buy her a set of long-tailed horses. O’Dogherty comforts her and says she ‘shall be a lady’, but in an aside comments ‘by the blood of the O’Doghertys, a broken-back’d lady’. He leaves, and Mrs. Diggerty’s friends, Lady Kinnegad, Major Gamble, Lady Bab Frightful, Mrs. Jolly, Mr. Fitzmungrel (very drunk), and Mrs. Gazette, arrive. They go into another room to gamble. O’Dogherty and Katty listen to Hamilton’s condemnation of Mrs. Diggerty’s activities: she must not only be innocent, but must appear so too. Mushroom has not yet arrived. Hamilton tells Mrs. Diggerty of Mushroom’s correspondence with Mr. O’Dogherty, and reprimands Mrs. Diggerty for the behaviour that was responsible for encouraging Mushroom. Mrs. Diggerty cries with remorse, and O’Dogherty enters the room; they are reconciled, provided that Mrs. Diggerty fires the French cook and begins to speak Irish English again. Finally, she must call her husband O’Dogherty again. Katty enters to announce Mushroom’s arrival. All of Mrs. Diggerty’s friends hide themselves in the next room. Mushroom enters, dressed in women’s clothes.  Thinking he is alone, he unflatteringly describes each of the women in attendance. Mrs. Diggerty arrives, and they go into her chamber, only to hear O’Dogherty demanding to see her. Mrs. Diggerty flees; Katty instructs Mushroom to pretend to be Mrs. Diggerty. O’Dogherty enters and is surprised by the room’s darkness. Mr. O’Dogherty describes how he is jealous of Mushroom and plans to shoot him if he takes any more liberties with his wife; Mushroom is terrified and pretends to be shaking with fever. The servants are summoned to go for doctors: ‘Mrs. Diggerty’ is to be bled and blistered to cure her illness. Mushroom asks for Katty, who comes in; he pleads with her to help him escape. Katty suggests that he consent to being locked up in a trunk and carried out, to which he agrees. The servants turn the trunk upside down, and begin to carry it upstairs, but O’Dogherty emerges and stops them. Mushroom reveals himself. O’Dogherty orders the servants to carry Mushroom to a ball where he will be publicly ridiculed. Each of the ladies whom he has offended insults him, and Lady Bab Frightful throws snuff in his face. Mushroom is carried off, and O’Dogherty encourages the guests to enjoy themselves, for then they can be made the objects of farces.

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Secondary commentary

A) Schwartz, Richard B. ‘Charles Macklin: May, 1699-July 11, 1797’. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 89: Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Dramatists, Third Series. Edited by Paula R. Backscheider, University of Rochester. The Gale Group, 1989. LiteratureResourceCenter. 28 May 2008.

"Anglophilia was rampant in eighteenth century Dublin society, and it provoked Macklin to write The True-Born Irishman , which opened at the Crow Street Theatre in Dublin on 14 May 1762. In this play a wife, Mrs. O'Dougherty, is taught a lesson by her husband. The wife has fallen prey to the craze for things English to the point of having changed the family name to Diggerty. She travels to London for the coronation of George III, and she consorts with the members of Dublin Society who have, through political favors, sold their dignity for a title. In addition, she has fallen under the spell of one Count Mushroom, a "coxcomb" stirring up trouble in numerous marriages in Dublin. With a little help from a family member and a consenting servant, Mr. O'Dougherty makes his wife see the error of her ways. She in turn helps her husband to humiliate Count Mushroom in front of all the people whom he has so viciously slandered. The humor comes from situations and character and also from the inappropriate use of what Mrs. Diggerty considers to be sophisticated language. This play pointedly underlines the implicit prevalence of Irish self-hatred that was perpetuated for years in the person of the stage Irishman, a phenomenon in which Macklin was personally involved, and yet able to utilize for the purpose of entertainment as well as social commentary. Macklin's play was a smashing success in Dublin because of its timeliness and topicality. However, attempts to revive the success in London a few seasons later under the title of The Irish Fine Lady were disastrous. Macklin's associates had warned him that the success of the play was based on a confluence of geographic and topical opportunities."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

O'Dogherty alludes to classical literature, Mushroom uses romantic language liberally, and Mrs. Diggerty tries to speak like an Englishwoman.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: O’Dogherty’s allusions to classical literature
a. Sample of dialect
[page 12]

You must know, brother, there is an English coxcomb in this town just arrived among us, who thinks every woman that sees him is in love with him, and this spark, like another Paris of Troy, has taken it into his head to make a Helen of my wife, and a poor cuckoldy Menelaus of me.

Ha, ha, ha! Pray who is the spark?

Why the name of this cuckold-maker is Mushroom, but from his conceit and impertinence, the women and jokers of this town have dignified him with the title of Count Mushroom. Sir, he is the son of a pawn-broker in London, who having a mind to make a gentleman of his son, sent him to the university

[page 13 ]

of Oxford; where, by mixing in the follies and vices of irregular youth, he got into a most sanguine friendship with young Lord Old-Castle, who you know has a large estate in this country, and of whose ancestors mine have held long and profitable leases, which are now near expiring---in [250]  short, sir, this same Count Mushroom and my Lord became the Pylades and Orestes of the age, and so very fond was my Lord of him, that out of sheer friendship to the Count, he got his sister with child.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: Paris, Helen, Menelaus, Pylades, Orestes
c. Nationality: Irish
d. Character profile: a patriotic middle-class Irishman
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Mushroom’s romantic language (even in business dealings!)
a. Sample of dialect
Mush. My compliments, Mrs. Katty, to your lady, I will be with her in the twinkling of a

[page 15 ]

star, or in less time than a single glance of her own immortal beauty can pass to the centre of an amorous heart.

O'Dogh. Orra now did you ever hear such cursed nonsense.
Enter Mushroom .
Mush. My dear Diggerty, I kiss your hands. I am come on purpose---I beg ten thousand pardons---I understood you were alone---you are busy I presume.
O'Dogh. Indeed, Count, we are not. This gentleman is a relation---my wife's brother--- counsellor Hamilton, whom you have so often heard me talk of, and with whom I desire you will be acquainted.
Mush. Sir, I feel a superlative happiness in being known to you, I have long expected and long wished for it with a lover's appetite; therefore without waiting for the dull avocation of experience, or the pedantic forms of ceremony, I beg you will honour me with a niche in your esteem, and register me in the select catalogue of your most constant and most ardent friends and admirers.

[page 27]
Bravo! bravissimo! carissimo! novellissimo! transcendissimo! and every superlativissimo in the sublime region of excellentissimo!

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: "I kiss your hands"; "I beg ten thousnad pardons"; "I feel a superlative happiness"; "a lover's appetite"; "most constant...most ardent"
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: Oxford-educated --
[page 12]
Sir, he is the son of a pawn-broker in London, who having a mind to make a gentleman of his son, sent him to the university
[page 13 ]
of Oxford.
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Mrs Diggerty’s “Englished” speech
a. Sample of dialect
Mrs. Dig. Brother, I am veestly glad to see you.
Coun. Welcome from England, sister.
Mrs. Dig. I am imminsely obligated to you, brother.
Coun. I hope it answered your expectation, sister.
Mrs. Dig. Transcendantly.
Coun. I am glad it pleased you.
Mrs. Dig. Ravishingly.
Coun. Indeed!
Mrs. Dig. Beyond all degrees of compirison.

[page 21 ]

O'Dogh. O yes---beyond all degrees of compirison.
Mrs. Dig. Veest! imminse! extatic! I never knew life before---every thing there is high, tip top, the grand monde, the bun tun---and quite teesty.

b.1 Orthography: reflecting English pronunciation: “immensely”, “compirison”, “imminse”; but some is incorrect – “bun tun” for “bon ton”
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: malapropisms: “obligated” for “obliged”; words like “transcendently”, “ravishingly” (mis)used to achieve an effect of sophistication; French words: “grand monde”, “bon ton”; unknown words: veestly, teesty (tasty?)
c. Nationality: Irish (but wants to be English)
d. Character profile: Irish woman with English tastes
e. Consistency of representation: consistent until the final scenes

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects

Mrs. O'Dogherty has brought over "a new language":

[page 8 ]

Sir, it is called the Irish Fine Lady's delirium, or the London vertigo; if you were to hear her when the fit is upon her---oh, she is as mad---the devil a thing in this poor country but what gives her the spleen, and the vapours--- then such a phrenzy of admiration for every thing in England---and, among the rest of her madness, she has brought over a new language with her.

What do you mean by a new language?

Why a new kind of a London English, that's no more like our Irish English, than a coxcomb's fine gilded chariot like a Glassmanogue noddy.---Why what name do you think she went by when she was in England?

Mistakes with French pronunciation:

[page 17]
O yes, brother, we eat all our fish in this here country too noo---too noo a great deal. Now, I fancy, Count, we should keep

[page 18 ]

our fish before we dress it, as you keep your venison, till it has got the hot gout.

Ha, ha, ha!---the hot gout---ha, ha, ha!---Oh, I shall expire---my dear Diggerty, I honour your hot gout---but your French is a little en Irlandois---en Provence---haut gout is the word.


O'Dogherty is through with London English:

[page 46]
O'Dogh. And as to yourself, my dear Nancy, I hope I shall never have any more of your London English; none of your this here's, your that there's, your winegars, your weals, your vindors, your toastesses, and your stone postesses; but let me have our own good plain, old Irish English, which I insist upon is better than all the English English that ever coquets and cox-combs brought into the land. …

Ogh, that's right, Nancy---O'Dogherty for ever---O'Dogherty!---there's a sound for you---why they have not such a name in all England as O'Dogherty---nor as any of our fine sounding Milesian names---what are your Jones and your Stones, your Rice and your Price, your Heads and your Foots, and Hands and your Wills, and Hills and Mills, and Sands, and a parcel of little pimping names that a man would not pick out of the street, compared to the O'Donovans, O'Callaghans, O'Sullivans, O'Brallaghans, O'Shaghnesses, O'Flahertys, O'Gallaghers, and O'Doghertys,

[Page 47 ]

---Ogh, they have courage in the very sound of them, for they come out of the mouth like a storm; and are as old and as stout as the oak at the bottom of the bog of Allen, which was there before the flood---and though they have been dispossessed by upstarts and foreigners, buddoughs and sassanoughs, yet I hope they will flourish in the Island of Saints, while grass grows or water runs.


[page 48]
[575]  Ogh, leave him to me---by the honour of the whole Irish nation I will make him remember the name of Diggerty, as sensibly as ever his school-master did hic, hæc, hoc, genitivo hujus---an impudent rascal! make a cuckold of an Irishman---what, take our own trade out of our hands---and a branch of business we value ourselves so much upon too---why, sure that and the Linen Manufacture are the only free trade we have.---O, here the company come.

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Other points of interest


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©2008 Arden Hegele