Collection No. 87: The Camp, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

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

Publication details

Author: Sheridan, Richard Brinsley
Author dates: 1751-1816
Title: The Camp

First played: 1778
First published: 1795
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1795)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1997)

Genre: Entertainment

Trend(s): Nationality; Contemporary Satire; Popularity

Character types: Irish; French; Military; Class-Crossing; Professional Female

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This play examines life in a military camp as British characters fear a French invasion. O'Daub, a painter, is mistaken for a spy, Nancy is dressed as a soldier to be with her lover, and Sir Harry Bouquet explains the effects of military jargon on a civilian population.

Description of costumes and stage directions.
Act I.
Robin and his father and mother drive their cart into a slough and their chickens escape. Their neighbours help them recover the chickens. Nell enters and criticizes them for cheating the soldiers. Mr. Grinder, Robin’s father, threatens to tell Mr. Gage, their MP, about her behaviour. Nell replies that Gage has bought his votes and is a crook. Gage enters and tries to placate her by giving her a pound of tea; she throws it away. Gage says he will arrest anyone who remains to listen to her. O’Daub, an Irishman, enters; he has been instructed to “take the camp” to Drury Lane. Mr. Boulard arrives to give O’Daub something to eat. Although O’Daub is not sure about Boulard’s loyalties, the latter assures him that he will always side with the strongest army. Gage tells O’Daub about his occupation, which is to furnish the regiment with supplies; instead of hair-powder, he provided them not with the usual substitute of “flower”, but with lime. This ruse worked only until it rained. However, Gage is newly employed to provide barbers to a company of grenadiers. Two countrymen watch a sergeant and his drummers, who sing a song about the greatness of Caesar. After a little persuasion, the countrymen enlist and they sing a trio. Nell enters, and the Sergeant leaves her with the “lad from Suffolk”, who is really her friend Nancy Granger in disguise. Nancy has dressed as a man and enlisted to rejoin her lover William. She asks Nell anxiously about his whereabouts and his faithfulness; Nell teases her, but assures her that he has been true to her. Nell encourages the sergeant to befriend the “lad from Suffolk”.

Act II.
Nell tells Corporal William that she will soon be able to give him news of Nancy. O’Daub takes notes on the workings of the camp. The sergeant and the countrymen arrest him for espionage: the “P.S.” (Prompter’s Side) and “O.P.” (Opposite Prompter) are interpreted as Pretender’s Son and Old Pretender. They carry him off to hang him. Lady Sash, Lady Plume and Lady Gorget meet Sir Harry Bouquet. Sir Harry regales the ladies with tales of the military’s effects on civilians. Nell introduces Nancy to the ladies, who promise to protect her and William. Nell finds William and summons him to an audience with the ladies, who request that he take the young soldier under his wing. William is reluctant to do so as he seems undersized, but is thrilled to discover that ‘he’ is really Nancy. The Sergeant arrives with a note from O’Daub asking Lady Sash to confirm his identity, which she does. The company sings a patriotic song.

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Secondary commentary

A) Jeffares, A. Norman. ‘Sheridan, Richard Brinsley (1751–1816)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 29 May 2008.

"The Camp, satirizing military manners and current events, staged on 30 October 1779, ran for fifty-seven performances."

B) Auburn, Mark S. ‘Richard Brinsley Sheridan: 1751-July 7, 1816.’ 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 Camp exploited fears of a French invasion consequent upon that nation's recognizing the American rebels as the legitimate government of England's North American colonies. Home guards had mobilized, fashionable ladies joined them in their safe camps, and stories could be told. David Garrick had discovered one Philip De Loutherbourg, a scene painter and stage designer of great talent, and Sheridan used that talent to popular effect, particularly in this pastiche on military mobilization."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

O’Daub (an Irishman) and Boulard (a Frenchman) speak in dialects. The countrymen use poor grammar, while Nancy (a girl dressed as a soldier) speaks in StE aside from one grammatical error.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: O’Daub (Irishman)
a. Sample of dialect
[page 14]
Ah, my little Gage! to be sure, I'm not in luck. I will not want an interpreter to show me the views about here; and, by my shoul, I'll force you to accept my offer.

b.1 Orthography: “shoul”
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: Irish
d. Character profile: Irish painter
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Mr. Boulard
a. Sample of dialect
[page 15]
Parblue, Monsieur Gage, I must look to you, for, by gar, I have got nothing in de house to eat.

b.1 Orthography: “by gar”; “in de house”
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: Parblue (parbleu); monsieur
c. Nationality: French
d. Character profile: French turncoat
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Countrymen
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 17]

Second C.
Why it's main jolly, to be sure, and all that so fair. Now, if I were to list, I should like hugely to belong to a regiment of horse, and here is one of the grandest troop com'd lately. I seed two of the officers, mighty delicate-looking gentlemen---they were dressed quite different from the others---their jackets, indeed, are pretty much the same, but they wear a sort of petticoat, as 'twere, with a large hat and feather, and a

[page 18 ]

mortal sight of hair. I suppose, now, they are some of your outlandish troops---your foreign Hessians, or such like?

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “one of the grandest troop com’d lately”; “I seed”; “dressed quite different”
b.3 Vocabulary: colloquial idioms: “I should like hugely”; “pretty much the same”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profiles: potential recruits
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Nancy Granger (disguised as a soldier)
a. Sample of dialect
[page 20]

It is her, my dear Nelly, who kisses you now with the truest sense of gratitude for your former kindness and friendship.

My dear girl.---Odso! I must take care of my reputation. But what in the name of fancy brings you here, and in this dress, child?

How can you ask me that question, Nelly? You are no stranger to the love William and I have for each other. A few days would have united us for ever, had not cruel fate separated us. The regiment being ordered to march immediately, no resource was then left, but my flying from my father's house. I procured a dress from one of our neighbour's sons; and that love, which induced me to forsake my sex, still supports me under every affliction. Fortunately, on my way, I met the serjeant, and, after some entreaty, was enlisted and equipped as you see. What think you, Nell? does not my dress become me?

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “it is her”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: a woman dressed as a soldier; her well-spoken tale contrasts with “it is her” of her first statement
e. Consistency of representation: mostly StE

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects

The effects of military terminology on civilians:
Sir H.
Universal, indeed; and the ridicule of it is, to see how this madness has infected the whole road from Maidstone to London. The camp jargon is as current all the way as bad silver; the very postilions that drive you talk of their cavalry, and refuse to charge on a trot up the hill; the turnpikes seem converted into redoubts, and the dogs demanded the countersign of my servants instead of the tickets; then, when I got to Maidstone, I found the very waiters had got a smattering of tactics---for, inquiring what I could have for dinner, a cursed drilled waiter, after reviewing his bill of fare with the air of a field marshal, proposed an advanced party of soup and bouille, to be followed by the main body of ham and chickens, flanked by a fricasee, with sallads in the intervals, and corps de reserve of sweetmeats, and whip'd syllabubs to form a hollow square in the centre.

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Other points of interest


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©2008 Arden Hegele