Collection No. 75: The Way to Keep Him, by Arthur Murphy

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

Publication details

Author: Murphy, Arthur
Author dates: 1727-1805
Title: The Way to Keep Him

First played: 1760
First published: 1760, for P. Valliant [etc.] 82 p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1761)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1997)

Genre: Comedy

Trend(s): Popularity

Character types: Servant

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See "Secondary commentary".

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Secondary commentary

A) Bode, Robert F. ‘Arthur Murphy: December 27, 1727-June 18, 1805.’ 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. 29 May 2008.

"The Way to Keep Him, a comedy, retained its popularity a great deal longer than the play with which it was originally performed. During the year following its first performance as an afterpiece, Murphy expanded the play into a five-act version which, after some disagreements between Murphy and Garrick, was first performed at Drury Lane on 10 January 1761. The three-act version of the play has as its main source a contemporary French play, which Murphy acknowledges in the advertisement to the printed version, and in fact it owes a great deal to that source. However, the five-act version is virtually a reworking of the original idea, with the addition of several characters. The five-act version involves the movement toward happiness in their married state of two couples, the Lovemores and Sir Bashful and Lady Constant. Mrs. Lovemore has allowed herself to become dull, so her husband pursues other women. Sir Bashful loves his wife but thinks it unfashionable to reveal it, so he treats her badly and quarrels with her continually. The plot develops around Lovemore's and his friend Sir Brilliant Fashion's pursuit of the widow Bellmour, Sir Brilliant's pursuit of Mrs. Lovemore, and Lovemore's pursuit of Lady Constant, the latter complicated by her husband's reliance on Lovemore for advice about how to treat his wife. All of this is further complicated by the use of disguise and the misdirection of letters and gifts. The men of the play rely heavily on trickery and deceit to accomplish their ends, whereas the women by being straightforward and honest remain one step ahead of them. They play concludes with Mrs. Lovemore's having enlivened her behavior to the point that she now interests her husband and with Sir Bashful's confession of his true affection for his wife. The philandering of Lovemore and various other elements of the plot are reminiscent of Restoration comedy. However, there are some sentimental elements as well, for the wives here truly love their husbands, and, as Lovemore himself points out in admitting his wrongdoing, his wife's behavior after their marriage is at least a partial cause of his pursuit of other women. The five-act version was an immediate success and was performed regularly over the next thirty years, continually attracting the best actors and actresses of the time. Contemporary critics had special praise for the characterization, and modern critics consider the play to be one of Murphy's two best comedies and the equal of Sheridan's The Rivals (1775)."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Muslin, Mrs. Lovemore’s waiting-woman, uses strong language (and occasionally poor grammar) to reinforce the vehemence of her message.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Muslin
a. Sample of dialect
[page 9]
But, dear Ma'am, that's waiting for dead Men's Shoes,---Incline him to do you Justice!---What signifies expecting and expecting.---Give me a Bird in the Hand.--- Lard, Ma'am, to be for ever pining and grieving!---Dear Heart!---If all the Women in London , in your Case, were to sit down and die of the Spleen, what would become of all the public Places?---They might turn Vaux-Hall to a Hop-Garden, make a Brewhouse of Ranelagh , and let both the Playhouses to a Methodist Preacher. We should not have the Racketting with 'em we have now.---" John , let the Horses be put to.--- John , go to my Lady Trumpabout 's, and invite her to a small Party of twenty or thirty Card-Tables.--- John , run to my Lady Cat-Gut , and let her Ladyship know I'll wait on her to the new Opera.--- John , run as fast as ever you can, with my Compliments to Mr. Varney , and tell him I shall take it as the greatest Favour on Earth, if he will let me have a Side-Box for the new Play.---No Excuse tell him." ---They whisk about the Town, and rantipole it with as unconcerned Looks, and as florid Outsides, as if they were treated at
[page 10]
home like so many Goddesses, tho' every Body knows Possession has ungoddessed them all long ago, and their Husbands care no more for them,---no by Jingo, no more than they do for their Husbands.---
[page 10]
A Brass Thimble for Love, if it is not answer'd by Love.---What the Deuce is here to do?---Shall I go and fix my Heart upon a Man, that shall despise me for that very Reason, and, "Ay," says he, "poor  Fool, I see she loves me,---The Woman's well enough, only she has one inconvenient Circumstance about her: I'm married to her, and Marriage is the Devil."--- And then, when he's going a roguing, smiles impudently in your Face, and, "My Dear, divert yourself, I'm just going to kill half an Hour at the Chocolate-House, or to peep in at the Play; your Servant, my Dear, your Servant."---Fye upon 'em!---I know 'em all.---Give me a Husband that will enlarge the Circle of my innocent Pleasures:---But a Husband now a days, Ma'am, is no such a thing.---A Husband now,---as I hope for Mercy, is nothing at all but a Scare-Crow, to shew you the Fruit, but touch it if you dare.---A Husband---the Devil take 'em

[page 11 ]

all---Lord forgive one for swearing---is nothing at all but a Bug-Bear, a Snap-Dragon; a Husband, Ma'am, is---

b.1 Orthography: “Lard, Ma’am” ; “’Fye upon ‘em!”
b.2 Grammar: “a roguing”; “a Husband that will”
b.3 Vocabulary: “rantipole”; “ungoddessed”; “by Jingo”; “the Devil take ‘em” (swearing)
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: waiting-woman to Mrs. Lovemore
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