Collection No. 76: The Citizen, by Arthur Murphy

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

Publication details

Author: Murphy, Arthur
Author dates: 1727-1805
Title: The Citizen

First played: 1761
First published: 1763, for G. Kearsly [etc.] 40 p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1763)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1997)

Genre: Farce

Trend(s): Dialect; Contemporary Satire; Popularity

Character types: Country; Class-Crossing; Educated Female

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Maria and Beaufort are in love, although Maria does not admit it to Beaufort. To repel her corrupt suitor George Philpot, Maria pretends to be simpleminded then brilliant and witty. The Philpots are revealed to be cheating businessmen and frequenters of brothels. Young Wilding marries Sally Philpot, who will bring him a large dowry. Maria and Beaufort are united.

Dedication to Miss Elliot (an actress who debuted in The Citizen as Maria)

Act I.
Young Wilding mocks his friend Beaufort, who loves his sister Maria. Young Wilding sends his servant Will with compliments to Maria from Beaufort. Beaufort and Young Wilding discuss the latter’s upcoming nuptials: he is to marry Miss Sally Philpot, whom he does not love, but who is extremely rich. Beaufort laments the fact that Maria is to be married to Miss Sally’s brother. Wilding recommends that he elope with Maria to prevent a match to a man to whom she is averse. A giddy Maria enters and teases Beaufort. Wilding asks her whether she has yet met her fiancé; she will meet him later that day. She offers an unflattering description of Old Philpot. Wilding tells her that she can eliminate George Philpot’s interest by acting foolish; she agrees to do so. Old Philpot enters with Quilldrive and Dapper. Quilldrive reveals that Old Philpot has a “liquorish tooth” and secret lusts. George Philpot arrives to see his father. Quilldrive is under no illusions about the family, describing himself as “drudging for the old man, and pimping for the young one.” He predicts financial ruin once George inherits the estate. Dapper enters, and George tells him of his poor monetary straits. Dapper says that relief will come soon, as he has insured a ship loaded with junk on George’s behalf; news that the ship has been scuttled will arrive within a few days. George says that he had rather be a citizen than a lord, for he can spend other people’s money without living off his own estate. Old Philpot enters; he and George recite financial proverbs to each other. George tells a story of a neighbour whose Greek and Latin proved to be of no financial use to him. Old Philpot loans George some money; he asks him to pay back extra because the stocks are under par, but later reveals that he has just cheated his son. He also confesses to a late-night meeting with a “bale of goods” named Corinna. Sir Jasper Wilding and Maria arrive to pay a call on the Philpots. After a short session with Old Philpot and Sir Jasper, Maria and George are left alone. George gives Maria a ticket to a play, but she pretends not to know what a ticket is. Pretending to believe that he has offended her virtue, Maria bursts into tears when George says that he took her for a “virtuoso”. George asks Maria if she loves him; she answers “Yes” to every query. He says he will break off the engagement because she is a simpleton.

Act II.
Old Philpot arrives at Corinna’s apartment. He pays her in ‘light guineas’, and their amorous encounter is about to begin, when George Philpot is heard on the stairs. His father hides himself. George tells Corinna that he has deceived his old father. The latter is enraged but manages to keep himself hidden. Young Wilding arrives and fights with George over Corinna. Old Philpot’s watch chimes under the table and he is revealed. Corinna runs out of the room. A laughing Wilding leaves when he realizes that the embarrassed Philpots are related. Beautfort, dressed as Quagmire (a lawyer), meets with Sir Jasper Wilding. The Philpots arrive with the intention of laying down the money for George’s wedding to Maria (provided George can see her again to reassure himself that she is not a ‘natural’). Young Wilding enters and the two Philpots are shocked. Young Wilding cannot keep himself from laughing, and whispers the story to his father. Maria enters and is left with George; he is stupefied by her wit and the transformation she has undergone since their earlier interview. Maria leaves him with a warning that if he doesn’t marry her, she will find another husband. George tells Sir Jasper that she is a very extraordinary girl and that he wants nothing to do with her. Upon hearing that George has rejected Maria, Old Philpot offers her his hand. Maria says that she cannot accept, as she is contracted to marry Beaufort. “Quagmire” throws open his gown and says that he is Beaufort, and that Sir Jasper has signed the deeds allowing them to be married. Sir Jasper praises her cleverness, although he has been taken by surprise. Old Philpot is furious that he will not get Maria’s dowry but must give Sally’s to the Wildings; he gives Young Wilding his chiming watch, saying that he will never “go intriguing with a family watch again”.  George says he will overturn the carriage on the way to Old Philpot’s home. When praised by Young Wilding and Beaufort, Maria says that she has acted beautifully to win not Beaufort’s, but the audience’s heart.

Epilogue: George and Old Philpot repent.

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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 third new play supplied by Murphy, the three-act version of The Citizen, was performed on the same bill with The Old Maid. Murphy revised the play into a two-act version the following year by removing several scenes; this version was then printed. The source for this play is again a contemporary French play, but Murphy has so recast what he borrowed that it would be more accurate to describe The Citizen as original. In the two-act version Old Philpot, a businessman of the City and a miser, and Sir Jasper Wilding, a country squire, each having a son and a daughter, have arranged for the marriage of their children to each other. However, Sir Jasper's daughter Maria, who is in love with another man, Beaufort, first convinces young George Philpot that she is simpleminded and then later in the play so dazzles him with a display of her wit that she effectively discourages him from agreeing to marry her. Meanwhile, Beaufort tricks her father into giving consent for his marriage to Maria. In the course of the play George is exposed for living a double life as both a citizen and a man-about-town, and his father is exposed for his lust as well as his miserliness. Howard H. Dunbar describes the two-act version as "unquestionably one of the most successful plays of the last half of the century," often chosen by actors and actresses for their benefit nights. The contemporary critical reception, as with Murphy's other two new plays presented during this summer, was somewhat mixed."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

George Philpot’s bad character is underscored by his bad language. Sir Jasper Wilding, a country nobleman, speaks with a rural accent. His daughter Maria presents most of the play’s language variation in her guises as a mimic (of her father), a simpleton and a wit.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Maria’s impression of her father
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 6]

But when he comes to town, I wish he would do as other gentlemen do here---I am almost asham'd of him---But he comes to me this morning--- "Hoic! hoic! our Moll---Where is the sly puss--- Tally ho!"---Did you want me, papa?---Come hither, Moll, I'll gee you a husband, my girl; one that has mettle enow---he'll take cover, I warrant un--- Blood to the bone.

b.1 Orthography: “enow”
b.2 Grammar: “I’ll gee you”; “I warrant un”
b.3 Vocabulary: Hunting: “Hoic! hoic!”; “Tally ho!”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: Maria is a brilliant wit (as seen elsewhere)
e. Consistency of representation: this speech only; likely, “gee” is a misspelling of “zee”  (see) characteristic of her father’s speech (see below)

Variety: George Philpot
a. Sample of dialect
[page 9]
G. Phil.
Well done; I'll give you a choice gelding to carry you to Dulwich of a Sunday---Damnation!--- up all night---stripped of nine hundred pounds---pretty well for one night!---Picqued, repicqued, slamm'd, and capotted every deal!---Old Dry-beard shall pay all ---is forty-seven good? no---fifty good? no!---no, no, no---to the end of the chapter---Cruel luck!---Damn me, it's life tho'---this is life---'sdeath! I hear him coming
[runs off and peeps]
---no, all's safe---I must not be caught in these cloaths, Quilldrive---

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: Swearing: “Damnation!”, “Damn me!”, “’sdeath!”; “Old Dry-beard” (his father); “Picqued, repicqued, slamm’d and capotted” (card terms: “pique” = spades)
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: Old Philpot's evil, dissipated son
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Sir Jasper Wilding
a. Sample of dialect
[page 16]

Sir Jasp.
Master Philpot, I be glad to zee ye, I am indeed---

Old Phil.
The like compliment to you, Sir Jasper, ---Miss Maria, I kiss your fair hand---

Sir, your most obedient---

Sir Jasp.
Ay, ay, I ha brought un to zee you--- There's my girl---I ben't asham'd of my girl---

b.1 Orthography: “zee” (see)
b.2 Grammar:  “I be glad”; “I ha brought un”; “I ben’t”
b.3 Vocabulary: “Ay, ay”
c. Nationality: English (country)
d. Character profile: a country gentleman
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Maria as a wit
a. Sample of dialect
[page 34]
You seem surpriz'd, Sir---but this is my way---I read, Sir, and then I apply---I have read every thing; Suckling, Waller, Milton, Dryden, Landsdown, Gay, Prior, Swift, Addison, Pope, Young, Thompson---

G. Phil.
Hey! the devil---what a clack is here!

                                         [He walks a-cross the stage.

Maria. [Following him eagerly.]
Shakespear, Fletcher, Otway, Southern, Rowe, Congreve, Wicherly, Farquhar, Cibber, Vanbrugh, Steel, in short every body; and I find them all wit, fire, vivacity, spirit, genius, taste, imagination, raillery, humour, character, and sentiment---Well done, Miss Notable! you have play'd your part like a young actress in high favour with the town.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: spontaneously lists 23 prominent British writers and their works’ qualities (“wit, fire, vivacity, spirit, genius, taste, imagination, raillery, humour, character, and sentiment”)
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: Maria has just returned from boarding school; it is likely that she has read the authors listed
e. Consistency of representation: inconsistent: this scene showcases Maria’s brilliant wit, which is not apparent in the scene in which she acts as a simpleton

Variety: Maria as a simpleton
a. Sample of dialect
[page 20]
Maria. [In a passion, choaking her Tears and sobbing.]
Sir, I am come of as virtuous people as any in England ---My family was always remarkable for virtue--- My mamma
[bursts out]
was as good a woman as ever was born, and my aunt Bridget
was a virtuous woman too---And there's my sister Sophy makes as good and as virtuous a wife as any at all---And so, Sir, don't call me a virtuoso---I won't be brought here to be treated in this manner, I won't---I won't--- I won't.

                                         [Cries bitterly.
b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “I am come of”
b.3 Vocabulary: pretends that she does not understand “virtuoso” (thinks it is an assault on her virtue)
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: the brilliant and witty Maria pretends to be a simpleton so that George Philpot loses interest in her
e. Consistency of representation: inconsistent; this scene only

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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