"No Time Like The Present"
Context: Mrs. Manley had an unhappy life. Her mother died when Mary was quite young, and her father paid little attention to her beyond leaving her £200 in his will when he died in 1688. At an early age she was drawn into a false marriage with her cousin, John Manley, at a time when his first wife was still alive. But Mary signed the name "Mrs Manley" to the poems, novels, and plays she wrote during the rest of her life. Her first writing took the form of poetry which, with her witty conversation, gave her a better reputation than did her way of living, which was rather dissolute. She was mistress of an alderman at the time of her death, and in feuds with most of the literary figures of her world. Her Secret Memoirs of Several Persons of Quality of Both Sexes (1709) was full of slander, especially of the Whigs, and was one reason for her brief term in prison. Swift described her at the age of forty as "very homely and very fat." In the Preface to her Lost Lover, or The Jealous Husband, written after the play's unsuccessful initial performance, she says that she wrote the comedy to pass the tedious hours in the country, and acknowledges her little experience in writing plays. "I am convinced that writing for the stage is not very proper for a woman," she confesses, and thanks the critics for "damning her so suddenly," rather than encouraging her by flattery. However, she cannot stop, she says, because she has a tragedy in rehearsal. Indeed her Royal Mischief, performed at Lincoln's Inn Field with Betterton in the lead, got a better reception than the Lost Lover at the Theatre Royal, in Drury Lane, with the Cibbers in the chief roles. The names of most of the characters are typical of their bearers, except for Smyrna, the jealous Turkey Merchant, and Olivia, forced to marry him by her covetous family. As for the others, Sir Rustick Good-Heart is, according to the prompt book "an ill-bred country gentleman." His son, Wilmore, has a gay young friend, Wildman. Lady Young-Love is "an old conceited lady," with a daughter Marina, in love with Wilmore. Also appearing is an affected poetess, Orinda. There are the usual courtships at cross purposes. Lady Young-Love tries to force young Wilmore to marry her. He is willing to play along as a device to see Marina. Elderly Sir Rustick also has his eyes on Marina. But since this is a comedy, the proper lovers get paired off at the final curtain. In Act IV, at Lady Young-Love's house, in London, she and Wilmore are talking when in walks Sir Amorous Courtall, always swearing by his life.
LADY YOUNG-LOVEWhere's Sir Rustick, that he has not honoured us with his company?WILMOREI left him taking a Grace-Cup with your Ladyship's Chaplain. Mr. Priest-Craft will be too hard for him, they are so used to their Sanctified Wine that they can swallow a large share of our unhallowed juice of the grape. Be pleased to know my friend, Sir Amorous Courtall. (Exit after Marina.)LADY YOUNG-LOVEAs such I must ever value and esteem him.SIR AMOROUSYour Ladyship's most Obedient Servant; let me expire if ever I saw anything so taking as your Ladyship's Civility.LADY YOUNG-LOVELard, Sir Amorous! Do you consider who's in the Company? These young Ladies will have reason to Quarrel at your Judgment, or rather, I shou'd be displeased at your insincerity.SIR AMOROUSLet me expire, Madam, if ever I saw anything so engaging as your Air. O that Dress, that Dress, Madam. The Devil take me if the Drawing Room in all its Birth-night finery, can show us any thing equal to it.LADY YOUNG-LOVEI wish I had but as good a Title to the rest of your Commendations. But time was, when they might have passed upon me with less injustice.SIR AMOROUSBe-gad, Madam, no time like the present: The Sun is not in his glory till he is mounted to the Meridian, let me die; if I can imagine yourself cou'd ever exceed yourself.