Collection No. 89: The Brave-Hearted Irishman, by Thomas Sheridan

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

Publication details

Author: Sheridan, Thomas
Author dates: 1719-1788
Title: The Brave-Hearted Irishman

First played: 1742
First published: 1754
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1754)

Modern availability: Not available.

Genre: Comedy

Character types: Irish; French; Class-Crossing

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Captain O'Blunder, an Irishman, arrives in London to court Lucy. Cheatwell tricks O'Blunder, but the latter forgives him at the play's conclusion. O'Blunder is said to have killed another of Lucy's suitors, Monsieur Ragou, but he remains alive at the end of the play. Lucy's father Tradewell learns that he is broke, but O'Blunder offers to provide for them and says he will take Lucy in marriage without a dowry.

Lucy and Betty converse about love and marriage. Not an heiress, Betty can marry whomever she likes, but Lucy must abide by her parents’ decisions. Cheatwell, one of Lucy’s suitors, enters to announce that Captain O’Blunder has arrived in town; he is a lover of Lucy’s whom she has never met. The Irishman is described: he is over six feet tall and carries a sword and an oaken cudgel. Lucy would like to see him. Cheatwell wants to put him off London to such an extent that he would not wish to return for at least seven years. O’Blunder enters, angry at his friend for keeping a ‘goon’. He faces a mob, which laughs at him; Cheatwell’s friend Sconce appears in time to deliver him. Cheatwell enters and asks O’Blunder about his passage to London and his business there. Sensing danger, O’Blunder says that his business in London is to be sent off to Virginia to fight the French; however, he lets down his guard when Cheatwell pretends to be his cousin.  Sconce returns with Monsieur Ragou, who is O’Blunder’s rival for Lucy’s affections. Lacking in courage, Monsieur Ragou reluctantly intends to fight O’Blunder, whom he believes to be a coward also. Ragou provokes O’Blunder by telling him he smells of potatoes. O’Blunder kills Ragou. Cheatwell tells him that is against the law to kill a man in London, but that he will bail him out. They leave. Sconce and Ragou remain; Ragou has only feigned death, as he is too scared to continue fighting. Cheatwell takes O’Blunder to his house, and takes his weapons away. Two doctors enter to treat him for madness: they ask him questions about his diet and his habits. The doctors discuss which methods of treatment to use, and whether to consult Galen or Hippocrates. O’Blunder thinks each method of treatment is some kind of foreign cuisine. Some keepers enter with chains to contain him, but O’Blunder knocks them down and sends the doctors scurrying. In the street, the sergeant looks for O’Blunder, and asks Sconce where he has gone. O’Blunder appears and reports what has happened at his ‘cousin’s’ house. He proceeds to find his clothing, which has been shipped there, in preparation for seeing his mistress. Cheatwell apologizes to the doctors for having orchestrated the scene; they pronounce O’Blunder the worst case of madness they have seen in their careers. Sconce enters to report O’Blunder’s plans to Cheatwell, and to repeat a rumour that Lucy’s father Tradewell is broke. Cheatwell instantly relinquishes his place as Lucy’s suitor to O’Blunder, for “’twas Lucy’s purse, and not her beauty, that [he] courted.” Tradewell tells Lucy that her French suitor is a mere hair-dresser or dancing-master, that Cheatwell is not worth sixpence, and that her Irish suitor is the most worthwhile. Ragou enters and begins to explain how he will keep Lucy as a gentlewoman. The Captain arrives, interrupting Ragou; he sees him and is astonished as Ragou is supposed to be dead. Tradewell gets a letter saying that he is ruined. Captain O’Blunder gallantly says that he will take Lucy without a dowry, and that he will share his estates with Tradewell. Cheatwell enters and tells O’Blunder that he may keep Lucy, as Cheatwell has no money of his own. O’Blunder gives him £500, some land, and Betty the maid’s hand in marriage. O’Blunder concludes with a song about the Irish:
            Of all the husbands living, the Irishman’s the best,
            With my fal, lal, &c.
            No nation on the globe like him can stand the test,
            With my fal, lal, &c.
            The English they are drones, as plainly you may see;
            But we’re all brisk and airy, and lively as a bee.
            With my fal, lal, &c.

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Secondary commentary

A) Kelly, Linda A. Richard Brinsley Sheridan. London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1997.

"His only play, The Brave Irishman, a rollicking farce written while he was still at Trinity, was produced at Smock Alley a few weeks after his debut; its blustering hero, Captain O’Blunder (a near relation of his son’s Sir Lucius O’Trigger), was an immediate favourite with Dublin audiences."

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

Captain O'Blunder speaks with an Irish accent and vocabulary, while Monsieur Ragou is French.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Captain O’Blunder (Irishman)
a. Sample of dialect:

[page 2]
Sconce. A great huge back and shoulders – wears a great long-sword, which he calls his sweetlips.
Lucy. I hear the Irish are naturally brave.
Sconce. And carries a large oaken cudgel, which he calls his shillela.
[page 3]
Capt. Upon my shoul, this London is a pretty sort of a plaash enough. And so you tells me, Chergeant, that Terence McGloodtery keeps a goon.
Serj. Yes, sir.
Capt. Monomundioul! but when I go back to Ireland, if I catches any of these spalpeen brats keeping a goon, to destroy the gentleman’s creation, but I will have ‘em shot stone-dead first, and phipt thorrow the regiment afterwards.

b.1 Orthography: “shoul”, “plaash”, “Chergeant” “phipt” (whipped), “thorrow”
b.2 Grammar: “you tells me”; “if I catches…but I will”
b.3 Vocabulary: spalpeen??. Monomundioul
c. Nationality: Irish
d. Character profile: Irish military man (Lucy's suitor)
e. Consistency of representation: very consistent

Variety:  Monsieur Ragou (Frenchman)
a. Sample of dialect
[page 7]
Mons. Etez vous bien assure, are you well assur’d, mon ami, dat he be de grand coward – Eh bien – Vel ten – I will have his blood – My heart go pit a pat, [aside] Je n’ai pas le courage, I have not de good courage.
b.1 Orthography: "dat"; "vel ten"
b.2 Grammar: "he be"; "my heart go"; "I have not de good courage"
b.3 Vocabulary: French: "etez vous bien assure"; "mon ami"; "eh bien"
c. Nationality: French
d. Character profile: a hair-dresser or dancing-master who has reinvented himself as a gentleman in England
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects

A pun on "brogue":

[page 4]
Sconce. An Irishman! Sure I should not suspect that; you have not the least bit of brogue about you.
Capt. Brogue! No, my dear; I always wear shoes, only now and then when I have boots on.

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Other points of interest


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©2008 Arden Hegele