Collection No. 72: The True-Born Scotsman, by Charles Macklin

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

Publication details

Author: Macklin, Charles
Author dates: 1699? - 1797
Title: The True-Born Scotsman (alt. title, The Man of the World)

First played: 1764
First published: 1786, in Dublin. 72p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1786)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1996)

Genre: Comedy

Trend(s): Nationality; Gender; Popularity

Character types: Scottish

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The amoral Sir Pertinax Macsycophant intends his son Charles Egerton to marry Lady Rodolpha for her property; however, neither Charles nor Rodolpha is interested: Charles loves Constantia, while Rodolpha loves his banished brother Sandy. However, Constantia is suspected of being pregnant; it becomes clear that she is not when the "sweetheart" turns out to be her own father, who has returned from India with a great fortune. The couples are happily married.

Act I.
Sir Pertinax Macsycophant’s servants discuss Miss Constantia’s likely pregnancy; Betty suspects she knows who the father is. Macsycophant has ordered dinner to be prepared for a party, as he intends to marry his son Charles to Lady Rodolpha that very evening. Some letters arrive, one of which is for “Charles Egerton, Esq.”; Macsycophant’s son has been ordered by Parliament to take his mother’s maiden name as his surname. John, the gardener, is asked to deliver a letter to Miss Constantia, whom he loves. After he leaves, Betty reveals that she hates Constantia and wishes she were out of the family, for then the male servants might pay her some attention; she is resolved to tell the Doctor of Constantia’s suspected pregnancy. Charles enters in a great passion, followed by his tutor Sidney. Charles is angry at Sidney for refusing to marry him to Constantia against his father’s wishes. Instead, Sir Pertinax wants to marry Charles to Lord Lumbercourt’s daughter Lady Rodolpha to gratify his own ambition. They discuss Lady Rodolpha: born in England, she has been lived in Scotland since birth because of a Scotch grandmother. Charles thinks she is vain and foolish; Sidney agrees, but suggests that Charles will really like her when she speaks to him seriously. Charles departs to ask Constantia to marry him. Sidney confesses that he too loves Constantia, but did not know the full scope of his emotion until Charles had expressed his desire to marry her. Betty rushes in, and ‘reluctantly’ tells Sidney that she thinks Constantia is pregnant, and that someone should be told because she has just seen Charles crying and kissing her hand. Betty leaves, and Sidney says that he does not believe her story. Charles and Constantia summon Sidney, but he refuses to go – he cannot marry Charles to Constantia against Sir Pertinax’s will, and wishes that Charles’ mother was present.

Act II.
Charles and Constantia wait in vain for Sidney. Charles had secretly conveyed some jewels to Constantia, which he now admits to having given her. Constantia expresses doubt about their marriage: she was taken in as an orphan by Charles’ mother, and feels guilty about repaying her kindness by marrying her son, who is socially above her. Lady Macsycophant arrives, and tells Charles not to cross his father, who is in a foul mood. Sir Pertinax arrives, and criticizes Charles for not attending the levee. Goaded, Charles states that he wishes that Ireland, England and Scotland be more unified; Sir Pertinax accuses him of not being a true Scot. Sir Pertinax has banished another of his sons for following a similar doctrine. Sir Pertinax argues for Charles’ marriage to Lady Rodolpha, as it is an excellent alliance both socially and financially. Lady Rodolpha arrives, and Sir Pertinax sends Charles to flatter her. Lord Lumbercourt enters; he is pleased to see Sir Pertinax. Lord Lumbercourt was sued by his upholsterer Mahogany and arranged to have him beaten. However, because of the suit, Lord Lumbercourt has lost his chaise and a house he has furnished for his mistress. A servant announces that the hard-drinking militia-men Captains Toper and Hardbottle wish to join them for dinner. Lord Lumbercourt and Sir Pertinax join Lady Rodolpha and Charles. The latter two flirt together, and Lady Rodolpha describes her trip to Bath. Sir Pertinax finds Lady Rodolpha’s vulgarity appealing, but Charles is silent. Captains Toper and Hardbottle arrive.

Act III.
Sir Pertinax criticizes Charles’ behaviour at dinner: when toasting Lord Lumbercourt, Charles looked as though he was taking medicine against his will. Sir Pertinax says that the best time to settle a business deal is when a man is drunk, and that Charles has failed him by refusing to drink. Sir Pertinax then describes how he has made his money: in youth, he married a deeply religious, rich woman, whom he buried two weeks later. He then ran away with Charles’ mother from her boarding school, and curried political favour by ‘chang[ing his] character entirely.’ He chastises Charles for not yet making matrimonial arrangements with Lady Rodolpha. Lord Lumbercourt enters and asks Charles why he has not yet offered his suit to Lady Rodolpha. Charles leaves, presumably to do so immediately. Lady Rodolpha enters, Sir Pertinax tells her the marriage is to take place that very evening, and he and Lord Lumbercourt leave Charles and Lady Rodolpha alone.  Both are very ill at ease, and make comments to the audience rather than to each other. Lady Rodolpha tries to make things easier by asking Charles to indulge her with some “preleemeenaries”: he has never given her any sign that he loves her. When he does not begin immediately, she pretends that they are characters in a romance. To her surprise, Charles admits that he does not love her and cannot marry her as a result. Initially taken aback, Lady Rodolpha recovers quickly and asks Charles to never marry her, no matter the degree of pressure from his father. He promises he never will. Lady Rodolpha then reveals that she is in love with Charles’ banished brother Sandy. Charles and Lady Rodolpha agree to work together to change their fathers’ minds.

Act IV.
Sir Pertinax enters with Counsellor Plausible; a problem has arisen between Sir Pertinax and Lord Lumbercourt in the elections of the boroughs, and, after a bribe, Counsellor Plausible agrees to act in Sir Pertinax’s interests in his dealings with Lord Lumbercourt.  The latter arrives with Serjeant Eitherside, and the lawyers retire to discuss the treaty. They re-enter, and the differences are settled in Pertinax’s favour. Sir Pertinax summons Charles; he has received a letter detailing Sandy’s involvement in Northern politics, of which he heartily disapproves. In order to maintain peace with his father, Sir Pertinax says, Charles must support his political cause. Charles refuses to act against his conscience; Sir Pertinax replies “Ye have been bit by some mad whig or other”. Charles then tells his father that he cannot marry Lady Rodolpha, and that he loves Constantia. Sir Pertinax is distraught.

Act V.
Betty confides to Sir Pertinax that Sidney loves Constantia, and she offers to give Sir Pertinax more information about Constantia’s nameless sweetheart. Sir Pertinax summons Sidney, and offers him Constantia’s hand; Sidney refuses without giving a reason. Sir Pertinax urges Sidney to arrange for Charles to go to bed with Constantia. Sidney is appalled. Sir Pertinax accuses Sidney of corrupting Charles’ morals, and Sidney leaves. Sir Pertinax plans to send Constantia to the highlands of Scotland the next morning. Betty returns to say that Constantia is pregnant by a mysterious suitor. They intercept and read a letter that Constantia has asked John to post. John is also carrying a packet, which he does not allow to fall into Sir Pertinax’s hands. The letter reveals that Constantia is indeed in love. Satisfied, Sir Pertinax summons his wife and son. Charles reads the letter aloud – Constantia is to meet the letter’s recipient in the dark walk. Sir Pertinax wants to marry Charles to Lady Rodolpha, but a mysterious gentleman arrives, interrupting his preparations. Lady Rodolpha wishes to speak to Lady Macsycophant, but Sir Pertinax prevents the meeting. The mysterious gentleman, Melville, proves to be Constantia’s long-lost father from India. Melville believes that Charles has seduced Constantia with the jewels, which he produces; Charles believes Melville is Constantia’s lover; all is resolved, and Charles and Constantia can now be married. Lady Rodolpha has told Lady Macsycophant of her love for Sandy, which is revealed to Sir Pertinax. He orders Lady Macsycophant to live with her children. Melville feels responsible for Sir Pertinax’s conduct, but Charles assures him that it is not his fault, and that the fault lies in Sir Pertinax’s nature.

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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.

"The last play Macklin was to write began under the title The True-Born Scotsman , a three-act piece which first appeared at the Crow Street Theatre on 10 July 1764. The revised five-act version became the most successful of Macklin's works. The Man of the World was first performed in 1781 (the year of his daughter's death). In this play Macklin immortalized himself by portraying the morally repugnant incarnation of greed, Sir Pertinax Macsycophant, a character he played well into his eighties. Like Sir Archy Macsarcasm in Love à la Mode, Macsycophant was another nonsympathetic Scotsman. The play deals with the philosophical differences regarding love, marriage, and politics between a young man, Charles Egerton, and his father, Macsycophant. Unwilling to settle for an arranged marriage that will secure political territories (votes) for his father, the son challenges the father's wishes and desires to marry for love. As his name implies, Macsycophant is prepared to do anything to ingratiate himself and curry favor, political or otherwise. He is repulsed by the thought of moral rectitude and, for this, is estranged from his children, who symbolize the promise of a new philosophy of work, love, and marriage. Again, the play's success relies not only on well-contrived plot twists, but also on painstaking details of characterization… The play was initially confiscated by the lord chamberlain for being slanderously offensive, but Macklin fought with persistence to have his only copy handed back over to him. In his arguments, he wrote that the "business of the stage was to correct vice and laugh at folly" and that the play was "in support of virtue, morality, decency, and the laws of the land."
The Man of the World synthesizes all of Macklin's finest traits as a mature writer. He is at his most lyrical in the voices of the young, and at his most incriminating in his depiction of the vices of the play's elder statesmen. There are the formulaic devices expected--the main jealously conniving against another woman, a number of men in love with the same woman, the problem of mistaken identity, and, as in many of Macklin's works, a set of morally repugnant characters offering preposterous points of view with no clue that others might find fault with them. The conclusion of The Man of the World leaves the family unhappy and unreconciled, but the young lovers do have a vision for the future."

B) Shaughnessy, Robert. ‘Macklin , Charles (1699?–1797)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 28 May 2008.

"Macklin's playwriting efforts finally won critical and commercial acclaim with the comedy The Man of the World, first performed (under the title The True Born Scotchman) at Smock Alley on 10 July 1764… Having judiciously toned down the ferocious anti-Scots polemic and biting topicality, Macklin found success for a play which would remain popular well into the next century."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Charles speaks Standard English, demonstrating his clear morals. Sir Pertinax’s dialect is marked with a strong Scottish accent; like his distorted speech, his morals are also distorted. Lady Rodolpha, the woman Sir Pertinax wants Charles to marry, also speaks with a Scottish accent, but her language contains many French words, showing her education

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Lady Rodolpha’s dialect
a. Sample of dialect
L. Rodol. Traith is it my Lord; and upon honour, I am determined it never shall be changed by my consent,

[page 28 ]

ha! ha! ha!---weel, I vow, vive la bagatelle, would be a most brilliant motto for the chariot of a belle of fashion---what say you till my fancy, Lady Mac Sycophant?
L. Mac. It would have novelty at least to recommend it, Madam.
L. Rodol. Which of aw chairms is the most delightful that can accompany wit, taste, love, or [500]  friendship: for novelty I take to be the true je-ne scaisquoi of all worldly bliss.---Cousin Egerton, should not you wish to have a wife with vive la bagatelle, upon her chariot?

[page 28]
L. Rodol. O yes, there was a very great mob, indeed ---but vary little company:---aw canaille---except our ain party---the place was quite crooded with your little purse prood mechanics, an odd kind of queer luocking animals, that hai started intul untill fortune, fra lottery tickets, rich prizes at sea, gambling at Change-alley, and sic caprices of fortune---and awa [550]  the aw crood till the Bath.

b.1 Orthography: denotes a Scottish accent: “traith”, “weel”, “aw”, “chairms”
b.2 Grammar: “what say you till my fancy”
b.3 Vocabulary: Scottish dialect interspersed with French: “vive la bagatelle”, “belle”, “je-ne-scaisquoi”
c. Nationality: Scottish
d. Character profile: “From the dotage of an old, formal, obstinate, stiff, rich, Scotch Grandmother; who, upon a promise of leaving this Grandchild all her fortune, which is very considerable, wou'd have the Girl sent to her to Scotland, when she was but a year old; and there has she been bred up ever since, with this old Lady, in all the vanity, and unlimited indulgence, that fondness and admiration could bestow on a spoiled Child, a fancied Beauty! and a pretended Wit!”
e. Consistency of representation: fairly consistent

Variety: Sir Pertinax’s dialect
a. Sample of dialect:
Sir Pert.
Now, Sir, where do ye think I ganged to luock for this woman we the filler? Nai till court--- nai till play-houses, nor assemblies---nai, Sir, I ganged till the kirk---till the anabaptist, eendependant, bradleonian, muckletonian meetings---till the morning and evening service of churches and chapples of ease--- and till the midnight, melting, conciliating love-feasts of the methodists---and there, at last, Sir, I fell upon an old, rich, sower, slighted, antiquated, musty maiden. She was as tall as a grenadier, and so thin that she luocked ha! ha! ha! she luocked---just like a skeleton in a surgeon's glass-case---Now, Sir, this meeserable object, was releegiously angry wi herself, and aw the world---and had nai comfort but in a supernatural, vicious, and enthusiastic delirums; ha! ha! ha! Sir, she was mad---ass mad as a bedlamite.

b.1 Orthography: “nai”, “luock”, “sower”, “meeserable”, “releegiously”, “aw”, “delirums”, “ass” (for ‘as’), “till” (for ‘to’)
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary:  Northern: “ganged”, “kirk”; “muckletonian”??
c. Nationality: Scottish
d. Character profile: amoral Scottish lord
e. Consistency of representation: very consistent

Variety: Charles Egerton’s speech (Standard English)
a. Sample of dialect
[page 54]
Only show me how I may serve my country, and my life is hers; were I qualified to lead her armies, to steer her fleets, and deal her honest vengeance on her insulting foes, or could my eloquence pull down a state Leviathan, mighty with the plunder of his country, black with the treasons of her disgrace, and send his infamy down to a free posterity, as a monumental terror to corrupt ambition, I would be foremost in such service, and act it with the unremitting ardour of a Roman spirit.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: "hers" for country (patriotic)
c. Nationality: Scottish / English
d. Character profile: Macsycophant's Anglicized son
e. Consistency of representation: very consistent; although Egerton is a Scot and the son of Macsycophant, which should naturally result in his also having a Scottish accent, the quality of his speech and his lack of accent suggest his greater moral fortitude

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects

Lord Lumbercourt does not understand Standard English:
[page 29 ]
Lord Lum. Hey day, hey day! what the devil are ye both about, with your highest heavens, your air balloons, your sublimity, and your nonsensical jargon:--- You seem to me, to be playing at riddle my riddle my ree---tell me what my nonsense shall be; it is all downright jargon, upon honour, I do not understand a single thought of all you have both uttered.

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Other points of interest


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©2008 Arden Hegele