Collection No. 81: The Register Office, by Joseph Reed

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

Publication details

Author: Reed, Joseph
Author dates: 1723-1787
Title: The Register Office

First played: 1761
First published: 1761, for T. Davies. 47p.
  
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1761)
http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/ECCO?dd=0&locID=utoronto_main&d1=1234602500&srchtp=b&c=57&SU=All&d2=1&docNum=CW3316872878&b0=the+register+office+&h2=1&vrsn=1.0&b1=KE&d6=1&ste=10&dc=tiPG&stp=Author&d4=0.33&n=10&d5=d6

Modern availability: Available from LION (1996)
http://lion.chadwyck.com/toc.do?action=new&divLevel=0&mapping=toc&area=Drama&id=Z000114715&forward=tocMarc&DurUrl=Yes

Genre: Comedy / Farce

Trend(s): Contemporary Satire; Popularity

Character types: French; Business / Trades; Country; Irish; Malaprop; Educated Male; Classical; Class-Crossing; Scottish

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Synopsis

Harwood wants to marry his housekeeper Maria, who has quit; to find her, he goes to a Register Office with his friend Frankly, and they overhear many pleas for employment and for employees, including those of a notorious madam. Maria arrives; she has been denied a fortune by her uncle, who is forced to give it up to her. Harwood fights a man who took liberties with her, and they agree to be married.

Act I.
Harwood and Frankly meet in ‘a genteel apartment.’ Harwood bemoans the loss of his housekeeper. After his wife’s death, Harwood tried to make his housekeeper his mistress, but she refused. However, he attempted to force the matter the previous week, and Maria quitted the house instantly. He is now trying to find her to marry her. Frankly recommends he put in a notice at a local Register Office, a useful public institution developed by Fielding, but in the play directed by a corrupted man who uses the office to maintain ‘the good old Trade of Pimping.’ Harwood and Frankly go to the Register Office to overhear the amusing dealings taking place therein. Jack Williams, Harwood and Frankly’s schoolmate, and a clerk in the Register Office, comments that avarice is the manager’s leading principle. Harwood and Frankly arrive. Williams hides the two men in his room as Mr. Gulwell, the manager, enters. Williams tells Gulwell he looks forward to quitting, while Gulwell says that there is no more avarice and chicanery in working at the Register Office than in any other profession. A Frenchman arrives to look for a profession as a master of languages at a school; however, his real profession is that of a hair-and-corn cutter. The Frenchman pretends to not understand Gulwell’s request for a deposit, but ends up paying it anyway. Margery, a woman from Yorkshire, enters, looking for a housekeeper’s position. She has been harassed by the squire for whom she worked before. Gulwell finds her a place with a farmer in Buckinghamshire. An Irishman (Patrick O’Carrol) arrives; he has left the service of his master in Ireland because the latter would not allow him to yoke mules by their tails instead of their heads. Gulwell wants to send him to America. Gulwell tells the Irishman that they must be related – Gulwell has relatives also named O’Carrol.  O’Carrol sings a song in joy, and plans to return the next day. Gulwell tells Williams that he will arrange to have O’Carrol indentured onto a plantation. Lady Wrinkle enters; she has dismissed her footman for his improper advances upon her, and is looking for a new servant, preferably an Irishman. Gulwell recommends Arthur Mackilwayne, who is from a good but decayed family. Lady Wrinkle objects outright: servants must not be from good families because it upsets the household’s social hierarchy. Lady Wrinkle plans to return later; Gulwell laments the servant’s losing his place because he had loaned him five hundred pounds. Lady Vixen sends her servant to inform Gulwell that his mistress wants to speak with Gulwell across the street.

Act II.
Frankly has left the Office; Harwood hides himself before Gulwell returns. Captain Le Brush enters to speak with Gulwell. Le Brush, a university-educated man given to malapropisms, wants to separate from his wife to marry his fifteen-year-old niece. Gulwell promises to help arrange this. A madam, Mrs. Snarewell, arrives in her chair. She is a newly-converted Methodist. Her rheumatism has kept her up all night; she has been attended by the Methodist minister. Fifty young girls responded to her advertisement in the morning, but she has come too late to speak with them; she is in trouble because she has promised a virgin to  Mr. Zorobabel Habakuk for this evening. She has given all her money to Mr. Watchlight, the Methodist minister, for the improvement of the church, disinheriting her own daughters. Mrs. Snarewell sings a hymn Watchlight has written for her, drinks gin from a bottle, and leaves. A Scotchman comes in; originally from a good family, he has become a porter and was mugged. He is well-educated and seeks a high place in the government. Lord Brilliant enters. His capricious wife has fired their housekeeper, and he is looking for a new one. Gulwell says that he has already promised a good housekeeper to a barrister, but when Lord Brilliant says that he will pay double what the barrister has, Gulwell advises him to wait as the girl will be along shortly. Harwood’s former housekeeper Maria comes in, and Lord Brilliant is taken aback by her great beauty. Gulwell’s friend Harry Trickit arrives; Lord Brilliant and Maria step into the next room to arrange employment. Trickit’s niece plans to file a Bill of Chancery against him for having written a false will denying her an inheritance. Maria screams from the next room: Brilliant has tried to take liberties! Harwood rushes in and saves her. Maria is Trickit’s aforementioned niece. Harwood tries to fight Brilliant, who is too cowardly to draw. Harwood excuses Trickit and promises not to press charges against him provided he return Maria’s inheritance. Harwood orders Gulwell, who is also implicated in the creation of the false will, to stop managing the Register Office and to cease all connections with Mother Snarewell. The Scotchman, Frenchman and Irishman all return and wreak vengeance on Gulwell for having deceived them about where he intended to send them for employment. Harwood asks Maria to marry him; she accepts. The play concludes:

And were I not fully convinced of the great Service, arising to the Community, from the Institution and proper Management of a Register-Office , I should be apt to conclude, from the Trick, Villainy, and Chicanery I have seen practised within this Hour, that none but a Fool or a Knave would ever set foot within it's Walls.

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Secondary commentary

A) Eckersley, L. Lynnette. ‘Reed, Joseph (1723–1787)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 29 May 2008. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/23273

"In the case of The Register Office, produced at Drury Lane on 23 April 1761, the plot of the play derived from Fielding's political effort to organize an employment office for the City of London that would establish a list of people and qualifications which would be available to prospective employers. The farce juxtaposes the inherent value of such a system with the corruptibility of the individual by relating the tale of the master of the office who abuses the system with false advertising and register ‘stuffing’, but who ultimately pays a price for his deceitful actions. Although the pointed humour of the piece led to Reed having altercations with the censor, the initial production of The Register Office piqued the interest of the public, and the play quickly became a standard theatrical afterpiece, as it was ‘appended to many a main piece after 1761’ (Van Lennep, 4.78)…In addition to the scandalous political content of The Register Office, inferences of plagiarism dogged the whole production, and the character of Mrs Snarewell in particular, and clearly contributed to the intrigue surrounding the play. The said Mrs Snarewell appeared to bear many similarities to Mrs Cole of Samuel Foote's piece The Minor; indeed, the ‘coincidences’ were so numerous and profound that Reed actually attached a repudiation of the charge of plagiarism on the grounds that Foote was in possession of the original manuscript of The Register Office a full two years before the staging of The Minor because Reed had submitted the drama to Foote with the hope of acquiring his support for a production. None the less, when the play was revived at Drury Lane on 12 February 1768, Reed introduced a new character, Mrs Doggerel, in an apparent attempt to ease the association with Foote."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Many clients of the Register Office are different nationalities (French, Scottish, Irish). Captain Le Brush is a gentleman who has been a servant and who has a university education (not that it seems to help much).

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Frenchman
a. Sample of dialect:
French.
Sire, me be tell dat dere be de grand

[page 8 ]

Nombre of des Academies Françoise in Londres , an me vould be glad to be employer as un Maitre de Langues. Me speak a de Frens vid de vrai Prononciation; an you see beside ma Connoissance in de Langue Angloise be not de most inconsiderable.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “me be tell”; “me vould be glad”; “me speak”
b.3 Vocabulary: French
c. Nationality: French
d. Character profile: A hair-and-corn cutter:  "Me dit indeed sometime, pour passer le Temps, amuser my sel vid curl a de Air, and cut a de Corn of mine Comrades of Qualité of bot Sex"
e. Consistency of representation: consistent; the Frenchman pretends to not understand English when he is required to pay a deposit

Variety : Margery (Yorkshire)
a. Sample of dialect:
Mar.
Ay, I'll uphode ye have I, ever sin I was neen Year ald---Nay, makins, I'd a God's-penny at Stowslah Market, aboun hofe a Year afore at I was neen---An as good a Servant I've been, thof I say't mysel, as ever came within a pair o Deers--- I can Milk, Kurn, Fother, Bake, Brew, Sheer, [350]  Winder, Card, Spin, Knit, Sew, and do every Thing at belangs to a Husbandman, as weel as ony Lass, at ever ware Clog-Sheen: An as to my Karecter, I defy ony Body, gentle or simple, to say Black's my Nail.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English (country)
d. Character profile: “I'se Yorkshire , by my truly!---I was bred an bworn at Little Yatton , aside Roseberry Topping” ; “I knaw nought o Speldering ---I'se nea Schollard.”
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Irishman
a. Sample of dialect
Irish.
My dear Honey, I am com'd to shee, if you have Commiserashon enough in your Bowelsh to a poor Irishman , to get him a Plaish.


Gul.
What sort of a Place are you fit for?


Irish.
Upon my Shalwashon, Joy, d'ye see, I am fit for any Plaish alive! I have Strength and Bonesh enough in this Carcash of mine, to do all the Work in the World.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: Irish
d. Character profile: Illiterate: “Yes, upon my Conscience, that I can very well!---My Mark, Honey; that's all---But that's Nothing, my dear; I could get any Body to write for me, if they did but know how.”
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Captain Le Brush
a. Sample of dialect
Capt.
You must know, Sir, I am an Ensign in a new-rais'd Ridgmen , to which Post I was advanced through the Interest of my very Good Friend and Acquaintance, Lord Pliant , whom I had the Honour to serve many Years in the Capacity of a Valet de Chambre---But, Sir, tho' formerly a Servant, I am a Gentleman born, and have had the Honour of a University Iddication .


Gul.
Sir, I make no Dispute of it: you have the Appearance of a Man of Consequence---May I crave your Name and Family?


Capt.
My Name, Sir, is Le Brush ---I am commonly called Brush ; but le Brush is the Name my Family was ariginally , nay even so lately as Harry the Eight , known by: a Name, Sir, given by Way of Distinction to one of my Aunt-Sisters , that was General under All-afraid the Great, for so victoriously sweeping away hole Armies of the Enemy [50]  ---Our Family had all their Estate confisticated in the Broils between the Yorkshire and Lancashire Line, so that their Predecessors have been a little out of Repair to the present Time, and the Name regenerated into plain Brush .

--
[page 24]
Capt.
Then serously as a Friend, I would dissuade you to look out damn'd sharp, or upon my Soul you'll catch a Tartar! For I have not met with any Body, that was fit to hold the Candle to me in Poetry, for a long Serus of Time---But, Sir, as I am in haste, we had better refer the Dispute at present---any other Time I am at your Service for a Confab of a few Hours---I shall run thro' my Business with as brief Prolixity as possible---At a Country Town, where I was Recruiting, I had the good Fortune to pick up a maiden Lady, pretty well stricken in Years, with a Fortune of three thousand Pounds in the Stocks. Now, Sir, as the Interest of the Money, and my present Pay will scarce be sufficient to maintain me---for you know, Sir, a Soldier and a Gentleman is anonymous Characters, and a Man in my Office must live up to

[page 25 ]

his Dignity---I say, Sir, as the Interest of Money is damn'd low, I have a Desire to purchase a Cornacy or a Company of Foot, that I may be better able to live like a Gentleman.
--
[page 26]
Capt.
Truth, Sir, is to be sure a most amable Thing, and what every Gentleman ought to make Use of. As Mr. --- what's his Name?---One of the old Roman Philosophers there--- Pythogorus , I believe---Ay Squire Pythogorus it was---used to say, Sockratas is my Friend, Pluto is my Friend, but Truth is more my Friend. So say I, Lord Pliant is my Friend, Lady Pliant is my Friend, but Truth is more my Friend---And tho' some Persons will affirm that Truth ought not to be spoken at all Times; yet no Philosopher, nor no body else, would ever venture to affirm, but that Truth ought to be spoken at sometimes---which being granted---I say, Sir, which being granted, it must follow---necessarily follow, Sir---that tho' Truth ought not to be spoken at all Times, Occasions, and Seasons; yet seasonable Truths may be occasionally spoken at all Times---But this, Sir, is the very Profundity of Logic, and consequently out of the Reach of every Capacity, wherefore I shall descend into the Spear of Commonsense to be the better understood.

b.1 Orthography: “Iddication” (education), ariginally, hole (whole)
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: Aunt-Sisters, confisticated; malapropisms: “dissuade”, “confab”, “anonymous”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: "tho' formerly a Servant, I am a Gentleman born, and have had the Honour of a University Iddication… I was taught to read and write free-gratis for nothing at a Charity School, and attended Lord Pliant to the University, where you know there is many Opportunities for a Man of Talons to improve himself….[My favourite studies were] Logic and Poetry, the only two Studies fit for a Gentleman; as the first will teach you to cheat the Devil, and the last to charm the Ladies"
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Scotchman
a. Sample of dialect
[page 33]
Scotch.
Gin ye be the Maister o' this Office, my Buzziness wi' ye is to spear at ye, gif ye can be o' ony Service till a peur distressit Gentleman?


Gul.
Sir, I should be glad to do a Gentleman in Distress any Service in my Power; especially one of your Country. I have a Veneration for the very Name of a Scotchman ---My Father was one.


Scotch.
Troth, ye speak verra meikle like a Gentleman, an seem to hae a proper Sense o' National Honour---A'm glad that A've been sae sonsy, as to fa' into sic Hands---Ye maun ken that my Family is as auncient as ony i' a' Scotland ; and that by diract lineal Deshent, I sprang frae the great Jamy Macintosh , who was a Preevy-Counsellor to King Sandy the Second.

b.1 Orthography: Scots accent: “Maister” “Buzziness” “peur” “distressit” etc.
b.2 Grammar: “Gin ye be”
b.3 Vocabulary “to spear”? “verra meikle” “maun ken”
c. Nationality: Scottish
d. Character profile: well-educated: “may ken by my Elocution, A'm a Man o' nae sma' Lair”;

Gul. Then you understand Latin?
Scotch. Latin! Hout awa, Man! hout awa, ye daft Gowk! Do ye jeer abody'---a Scotchman , an no unnerstan Latin? ha! ha! ha! A verra gud Joke a-truly!--- Unnerstan Latin , quo' he!---Why we speak it better, nor ony o' his Majesty's Subjects, an wi' the genuine original Pronunciation too---I'se gie ye a Speecimen frae that wutty Chiel Maister Ovid .
Parve, nec invidio, sine me, Liber, ibis in urbem,
    Hei mihi, quod Domino non licet ire tuo!
Now ken ye, Man, whether I unnerstan Latin , or no?

e. Consistency of representation: consistent

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects

Gul. Then you understand Latin?
Scotch. Latin! Hout awa, Man! hout awa, ye daft Gowk! Do ye jeer abody'---a Scotchman , an no unnerstan Latin? ha! ha! ha! A verra gud Joke a-truly!--- Unnerstan Latin , quo' he!---Why we speak it better, nor ony o' his Majesty's Subjects, an wi' the genuine original Pronunciation too---I'se gie ye a Speecimen frae that wutty Chiel Maister Ovid .
Parve, nec invidio, sine me, Liber, ibis in urbem,
    Hei mihi, quod Domino non licet ire tuo!
Now ken ye, Man, whether I unnerstan Latin , or no?

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Other points of interest

Comments on teaching, women’s boarding schools:
Gul.
Then I dare venture to say, that in less than a dozen Years you will be rich enough to return to your native Country, and marry a Princess of the Blood---How in the Name of Wonder could you think of being a pitiful Teacher of French for a Livelihood, when you are possessed of Talents, superior to all the Learning in the World? [ie hair and corn cutting]

French.
Me vill tell you, Monsieur---It be not more as dix---leven---douze---tirteen---ay tirteen Year, since mon Cousin com'd over to l'Angleterre to teash a de Frens in de Boarding-Ecole---Vell, he dit engager de Affection of de Angloise Lady, sa belle Ecoliere, runn'd avay vid her, and so begar he getted de Vife, vid not less as von hunder tousan Livres---Now, as mon Cousin could marrier de Lady, vid so much of de l'Argent, vy may not me ope to do de same?

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©2008 Arden Hegele