"A Gay Deceiver"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The dramas of a hundred fifty years ago sound artificial to modern readers, and their plots are even more exaggerated. Yet they must have appealed to their contemporaries. The dramatist George Colman (or Coleman) was a successful manager of one of London's most popular theaters, the Haymarket, and some of England's most memorable actors of his time performed there. Of course, Love Laughs at Locksmiths is a farce, and farces are supposed to move so fast that spectators have no time to judge their logical development or lack of it. In this play, Lydia, an orphan, has been entrusted to the care of the sister of Vigil, an artist. Vigil maintains guard over her. Yet Frederick Beldare, Captain of Grenadiers, has seen her portrait and has fallen in love. He smuggles a letter to her. The captain's servant, Risk, hearing that Solomon Lob, nephew of Vigil's servant, is coming to London to visit his uncle, schemes to take his place and get into Vigil's house. In the course of the farcical action, Risk interpolates a song about a Captain bold of Halifax who deceived a certain Miss Bailey. Thereupon, she hanged herself. As a ghost, she came back to haunt her betrayer. To exorcise her, he gave her a pound note so that she could secure for herself proper burial. The song has nothing to do with the action of the play. Risk's Captain has honorable intentions in his schemes to get word of his love to Lydia. The second stanza of the song goes:

One night, betimes, he went to rest,
For he had caught a fever;
Says he: "I am a handsome man,
But I'm a gay deceiver."
His candle, just at twelve o'clock,
Began to burn quite palely;
A ghost stepp'd up to his bed-side,
And said, "Behold Miss Bailey!
Oh! Miss Bailey!
Unfortunate Miss Bailey!"