The Old Bachelor "We Never Are But By Ourselves Betrayed"

William Congreve

"We Never Are But By Ourselves Betrayed"

Context: Heartwell is a surly bachelor who has fallen in love with Silvia, Vainlove's castoff mistress. It is Heartwell who is the title character of the comedy. Poor Silvia, however, is still in love with Vainlove, even though he has deserted her for Araminta, who also loves him. Lucy, Silvia's maid, is a down-to-earth creature who recommends that her mistress, despite her passion for Vainlove, hurry to marry Heartwell while she can; as Lucy herself puts it to Silvia, "Strike Heartwell home, before the bait's worn off the hook. Age will come." What bothers Silvia most is Vainlove's indifference, for he cannot even be bothered long enough to read the letter she has sent him. Overcome by jealousy, Silvia wishes vengeance on Vainlove; her maid suggests that to separate Vainlove from Araminta all Silvia need do is persuade Vainlove, a fickle man, that Araminta really loves him. As they talk about what course to take, Heartwell comes in sight, apparently to visit Silvia. Lucy advises her mistress to receive him amiably; the couplet at the end of her speech indicates the end of the scene.

. . . Hold, I'm mistaken or that's Heartwell who stands talking at the corner–'tis he. Go, get you in, madam, receive him pleasantly, dress up your face in innocence and smiles, and dissemble the very want of dissimulation.–You know what will take him.
'Tis as hard to counterfeit love as it is to conceal it; but I'll do my weak endeavour, though I fear I have no art.
Hang art, madam! and trust to nature for dissembling.
Man was by nature woman's cully made;
We never are but by ourselves betrayed.