"Lady Bountiful"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Farquhar's play is a romantic comedy, with satirical intent being secondary. In his Prologue for this play, the author says that satire is "the Business of the Stage" during times of strife or when society is corrupted by sloth, but that in his time, the reign of Queen Anne, there is no need for satire except to point out fools, who grow, like weeds, in the best cultivated fields. At the beginning of the play the romance is introduced; two young gentlemen, Aimwell and Archer, are looking for wealthy young women to marry. The two aptly named suitors come to Litchfield in their search for wealth and love, with Archer disguised as Aimwell's servant. They stop at an inn owned by Will Bonniface, who tells them how his wife died because she drank some whiskey instead of their own good ale. In telling about his wife the innkeeper mentions Lady Bountiful, the rich and charitable gentlewoman of the locality, who gives of her time and money to help the sick. When asked by Aimwell to tell more about this good woman, Will Bonniface replies:

. . . My Lady Bountyful is one of the best of Women: Her last Husband Sir Charles Bountyful left her worth a Thousand Pounds a Year; and I believe she lays out one half on't in charitable Uses for the Good of her Neighbors; she cures Rheumatisms, Ruptures, and broken Shins in Men, Green Sickness, Obstructions, and Fits of the Mother in Women;–The King's-Evil, Chin-Cough, and Chilblains in Children; in short, she has cured more People in and about Litchfield within Ten Years than the Doctors have kill'd in Twenty; and that's a bold Word.