Act III - Act III, Scene III


ANG. You can't accuse me of inconstancy; I never told you that I loved you.

VAL. But I can accuse you of uncertainty, for not telling me whether you did or not.

ANG. You mistake indifference for uncertainty; I never had concern enough to ask myself the question.

SCAN. Nor good-nature enough to answer him that did ask you; I'll say that for you, madam.

ANG. What, are you setting up for good-nature?

SCAN. Only for the affectation of it, as the women do for illnature.

ANG. Persuade your friend that it is all affectation.

SCAN. I shall receive no benefit from the opinion; for I know no effectual difference between continued affectation and reality.

TATT. [coming up]. Scandal, are you in private discourse? Anything of secrecy? [Aside to SCANDAL.]

SCAN. Yes, but I dare trust you; we were talking of Angelica's love to Valentine. You won't speak of it.

TATT. No, no, not a syllable. I know that's a secret, for it's whispered everywhere.

SCAN. Ha, ha, ha!

ANG. What is, Mr Tattle? I heard you say something was whispered everywhere.

SCAN. Your love of Valentine.

ANG. How!

TATT. No, madam, his love for your ladyship. Gad take me, I beg your pardon,--for I never heard a word of your ladyship's passion till this instant.

ANG. My passion! And who told you of my passion, pray sir?

SCAN. Why, is the devil in you? Did not I tell it you for a secret?

TATT. Gadso; but I thought she might have been trusted with her own affairs.

SCAN. Is that your discretion? Trust a woman with herself?

TATT. You say true, I beg your pardon. I'll bring all off. It was impossible, madam, for me to imagine that a person of your ladyship's wit and gallantry could have so long received the passionate addresses of the accomplished Valentine, and yet remain insensible; therefore you will pardon me, if, from a just weight of his merit, with your ladyship's good judgment, I formed the balance of a reciprocal affection.

VAL. O the devil, what damned costive poet has given thee this lesson of fustian to get by rote?

ANG. I dare swear you wrong him, it is his own. And Mr Tattle only judges of the success of others, from the effects of his own merit. For certainly Mr Tattle was never denied anything in his life.

TATT. O Lord! Yes, indeed, madam, several times.

ANG. I swear I don't think 'tis possible.

TATT. Yes, I vow and swear I have; Lord, madam, I'm the most unfortunate man in the world, and the most cruelly used by the ladies.

ANG. Nay, now you're ungrateful.

TATT. No, I hope not, 'tis as much ingratitude to own some favours as to conceal others.

VAL. There, now it's out.

ANG. I don't understand you now. I thought you had never asked anything but what a lady might modestly grant, and you confess.

SCAN. So faith, your business is done here; now you may go brag somewhere else.

TATT. Brag! O heavens! Why, did I name anybody?

ANG. No; I suppose that is not in your power; but you would if you could, no doubt on't.

TATT. Not in my power, madam! What, does your ladyship mean that I have no woman's reputation in my power?

SCAN. 'Oons, why, you won't own it, will you? [Aside.]

TATT. Faith, madam, you're in the right; no more I have, as I hope to be saved; I never had it in my power to say anything to a lady's prejudice in my life. For as I was telling you, madam, I have been the most unsuccessful creature living, in things of that nature; and never had the good fortune to be trusted once with a lady's secret, not once.

ANG. No?

VAL. Not once, I dare answer for him.

SCAN. And I'll answer for him; for I'm sure if he had, he would have told me; I find, madam, you don't know Mr Tattle.

TATT. No indeed, madam, you don't know me at all, I find. For sure my intimate friends would have known -

ANG. Then it seems you would have told, if you had been trusted.

TATT. O pox, Scandal, that was too far put. Never have told particulars, madam. Perhaps I might have talked as of a third person; or have introduced an amour of my own, in conversation, by way of novel; but never have explained particulars.

ANG. But whence comes the reputation of Mr Tattle's secrecy, if he was never trusted?

SCAN. Why, thence it arises--the thing is proverbially spoken; but may be applied to him--as if we should say in general terms, he only is secret who never was trusted; a satirical proverb upon our sex. There's another upon yours--as she is chaste, who was never asked the question. That's all.

VAL. A couple of very civil proverbs, truly. 'Tis hard to tell whether the lady or Mr Tattle be the more obliged to you. For you found her virtue upon the backwardness of the men; and his secrecy upon the mistrust of the women.

TATT. Gad, it's very true, madam, I think we are obliged to acquit ourselves. And for my part--but your ladyship is to speak first.

ANG. Am I? Well, I freely confess I have resisted a great deal of temptation.

TATT. And i'Gad, I have given some temptation that has not been resisted.

VAL. Good.

ANG. I cite Valentine here, to declare to the court, how fruitless he has found his endeavours, and to confess all his solicitations and my denials.

VAL. I am ready to plead not guilty for you; and guilty for myself.

SCAN. So, why this is fair, here's demonstration with a witness.

TATT. Well, my witnesses are not present. But I confess I have had favours from persons. But as the favours are numberless, so the persons are nameless.

SCAN. Pooh, this proves nothing.

TATT. No? I can show letters, lockets, pictures, and rings; and if there be occasion for witnesses, I can summon the maids at the chocolate-houses, all the porters at Pall Mall and Covent Garden, the door-keepers at the Playhouse, the drawers at Locket's, Pontack's, the Rummer, Spring Garden, my own landlady and valet de chambre; all who shall make oath that I receive more letters than the Secretary's office, and that I have more vizor-masks to enquire for me, than ever went to see the Hermaphrodite, or the Naked Prince. And it is notorious that in a country church once, an enquiry being made who I was, it was answered, I was the famous Tattle, who had ruined so many women.

VAL. It was there, I suppose, you got the nickname of the Great Turk.

TATT. True; I was called Turk-Tattle all over the parish. The next Sunday all the old women kept their daughters at home, and the parson had not half his congregation. He would have brought me into the spiritual court, but I was revenged upon him, for he had a handsome daughter whom I initiated into the science. But I repented it afterwards, for it was talked of in town. And a lady of quality that shall be nameless, in a raging fit of jealousy, came down in her coach and six horses, and exposed herself upon my account; Gad, I was sorry for it with all my heart. You know whom I mean--you know where we raffled -

SCAN. Mum, Tattle.

VAL. 'Sdeath, are not you ashamed?

ANG. O barbarous! I never heard so insolent a piece of vanity. Fie, Mr Tattle; I'll swear I could not have believed it. Is this your secrecy?

TATT. Gadso, the heat of my story carried me beyond my discretion, as the heat of the lady's passion hurried her beyond her reputation. But I hope you don't know whom I mean; for there was a great many ladies raffled. Pox on't, now could I bite off my tongue.

SCAN. No, don't; for then you'll tell us no more. Come, I'll recommend a song to you upon the hint of my two proverbs, and I see one in the next room that will sing it. [Goes to the door.]

TATT. For heaven's sake, if you do guess, say nothing; Gad, I'm very unfortunate.

SCAN. Pray sing the first song in the last new play.


Set by Mr John Eccles.


A nymph and a swain to Apollo once prayed,
The swain had been jilted, the nymph been betrayed:
Their intent was to try if his oracle knew
E'er a nymph that was chaste, or a swain that was true.


Apollo was mute, and had like t'have been posed,
But sagely at length he this secret disclosed:
He alone won't betray in whom none will confide,
And the nymph may be chaste that has never been tried.