A Trip To Scarborough: Historical Notes

A Trip To Scarborough, as noted in Background, draws inspiration from three plays and three playwrights which preceded it. To supplement the Background material, this page presents a short biography of the three writers (Colley Cibber, John Vanbrugh and R.B. Sheridan) as well as a short synopsis for each of their relevant plays.

Colley Cibber: A Biography

Born on 6 November 1671, Colley Cibber was a notorious figure in 17th century theatre as actor, playwright, theatre manager and poet laureate. His theatrical achievements have largely been tarnished by the ridicule and animosity he attracted during his life.
Cibber joined the acting company at the Drury Lane Theatre, London, in 1690 but made little initial impression as an actor. In 1696, he wrote his first play,
Love’s Last Shift, or The Fool In Fashion, which transformed his fortunes. This was an immensely popular play and although largely forgotten now, it is regarded as the father of Sentimental Comedy, which was a reaction to the perception of Restoration Drama as being vulgar and immoral.
Cibber would go on to write more than 25 plays with
She Wou'd and She Wou'd Not (1702) and The Careless Husband (1704) being the most notable. Cibber generally acted in his plays and he became famed for his comic portrayals of fops such as Sir Novelty Fashion in Love’s Last Shift and Lord Foppington in Vanbrugh’s sequel The Relapse.
From 1710 to 1733, he was part of the triumvirate of managers which ran Drury Lane and was appointed the Poet Laureate in 1730. The latter position attracted considerable animosity due to it being seen as a political appointment and led to much ridicule and satire from writers such as Alexander Pope. This combined with his vanity and rudeness did not help his standing in society nor his legacy.
In 1740, Cibber published An apology for the life of Colley Cibber, comedian... with a historical view of the stage during his own time. Although this again attracted elements of ridicule, it stands as a valuable historical document of the age offering an extensive and insightful view into the theatre and actors of the period.
He died on 11th of December 1757 and while little known today, Cibber was undoubtedly a popular actor of his generation and whatever his shortcomings, his plays were very popular with audiences of the time.

Love’s Last Shift: A Synopsis

A virtuous wife, Amanda, is driven to perform a last ‘shift’ (trick) on her rakish husband in a bid to reform his character. Her husband Loveless returns after a decade and does not recognise the wife he believes to be dead, having spent the years indulging in drink and debauchery. Amanda pretends to be a high-class prostitute and manages to attract Loveless into her house where she gives him an unforgettable night
The next morning she confesses her true identity and he, impressed by her faithfulness, renounces his ways and becomes a reformed character following a masque celebrating the state of marriage

The play also features the supporting character of Sir Novelty Fashion (played by Cibber), who is a comic narcissist fop constantly flirting with women, but ultimately far more interested in himself. This character along with Amanada and Loveless would be carried over in John Vanbrugh’s satirical sequel to the play, The Relapse.

John Vanbrugh: A Biography

John Vanbrugh was born on 24 January 1664, the son of a sugar refiner. Little is known about his childhood other than his family moved to Chester in 1667 following the Great Fire, possibly to escape the Plague.
He became an officer with the Earl of Huntingdon’s regiment in 1686 and was imprisoned in Calais in 1690 on charges of spying. Whilst imprisoned in considerable luxury, he wrote his first play
The Provok’d Wife.
Released in 1693, he embarked on a career as an architect - despite having no formal training - and would be credited with creating the English Baroque style and was responsible for designing Blenheim Castle and Castle Howard.
He also continued writing and his first success was in 1696 with
The Relapse, or Virtue In Danger, an ironic sequel to his friend Colley Cibber’s play Love’s Last Shift staged earlier that year.
In 1697,
The Provok’d Wife was revised for production and was another popular hit, although his bawdy action drew the ire of moralists such as Jeremy Collier. He was knighted in 1714, but his career as a playwright never again reached the popularity of his first two plays and architecture increasingly dominated his life.
He died on 26 March, 1726, in Greenwich and in his estate was found an unfinished work
A Journey To London. Colley Cibber, friend and admirer Vanbrugh, completed the play and produced it as The Provok’d Husband in 1728.

The Relapse: A Synopsis

The Relapse has two quite distinct plots which only come into contact twice and have little bearing on each other.
The first plot continues Love’s Last Shift with Loveless reformed and reunited with Amanda. He goes to London, where he meets and falls for Berinthia, who it turns out is Amanda’s cousin who has been invited to stay with the couple. Berinthia’s former lover, Worthy, persuades Berinthia to help him seduce Amanda while she pursues Loveless, in the hope this will persuade Amanda of her husband’s infidelity and lead her to Worthy’s arms. Berinthia is seduced by Loveless but Amanda is virtuous and does not believe Loveless will betray her again. Berinthia eventually persuades Amanda of Loveless’s infidelity and Amanda returns home where Worthy professes his love. Her reaction to this makes him realize how virtuous she is and he promises to reform himself in order to be with her.
The second plot sees the destitute Young Fashion and his servant Lory seeking help from Fashion’s older brother (Novelty from Love’s Last Shift) who has bought himself the title Lord Foppington. Foppington’s interests are purely narcissistic though and he will not help Fashion, who chances upon his brother’s lawyer, Coupler. He explains Foppington is to marry Hoyden Clumsey, a wealthy heiress. Coupler believes Foppington intends to swindle him out of the fee for arranging the marriage and persuades Fashion to impersonate his brother, marry Hoyden in secret and then pay Coupler. Both men thus profiting from the scheme.
Fashion marries Hoyden, who is equally ambitious and not looking for love, but freedom from her staid life. Foppington arrives soon after and is arrested as an imposter, while Fashion escapes to London. Foppington manages to persuade Sir Tunbelly of his identity and takes Hoyden back to London to be married. Fashion interrupts the ceremony with evidence of the prior marriage and reclaims Hoyden. Foppington concedes and Hoyden and Fashion celebrate their marriage of convenience - Fashion gaining wealth, Hoyden the freedom she desires.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan: A Biography

Richard Brinsley Sheridan was born in Ireland in 1751 but made his name in England. His father, Thomas, was an actor, teacher of elocution and author of popular farce. His mother, Frances, was a successful novelist and dramatist. When he was eight, Sheridan was brought to England and he never returned to Ireland. In September 1770 he moved, with his father, to Bath, the fashionable centre of the day. Many years later he claimed to have "danced with all the women there, written sonnets and verse in praise of them, satires and lampoons upon others" and became "the established wit and fashion of the place". In 1773 he married his first wife, Elizabeth Linley, following two duels with another of her suitors.
Having made the decision to become a writer - his father wished him to study law - he presented three of his plays -
The Rivals, St Patrick’s Day and The Duenna at the Covent Garden Theatre in 1775.
In 1776 he bought a share in the Drury Lane Theatre and became the Principal Manager. His first production there, staged in 1777, was
A Trip to Scarborough. His most famous play, The School For Scandal, opened several months later.
1780 marked a change of direction in his career, when he was elected to Parliament as MP for Stafford. Two years later he became Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and in 1783 Secretary to the Treasury. Elizabeth, his wife died in 1792.
He opened the re-built Drury Lane Theatre in April 1794. In 1795 he married Esther Oaks, daughter of the Dean of Winchester. He became the MP for Westminster in 1807.
His beloved Drury Lane Theatre was destroyed by fire in 1809 and he was ousted from the control of the theatre that took its place. The same year he also lost his seat in the Commons and was arrested for debt. His last few years were rather miserable. When he died in 1816 the public suddenly realised what it had lost. He was given an elaborate funeral and buried at Westminster Abbey, in Poets Corner.

A Trip To Scarborough: Synopsis

A Trip To Scarborough basically retains the plot of Vanbrugh’s The Relapse (see above), although it expunges the play of its more bawdy elements and attempts to reconcile the divergent plotlines.
The major alterations involve Berinthia and her ex-lover, Townley (formerly Worthy in The Relapse). She is not complicit in urging Townley to seduce Amanda and seduces Loveless herself in a bid to punish Townley and make him jealous. Berinthia and Loveless’s affair is not revealed to Amanda, instead they are interrupted in a moonlit garden and hide in the bushes. They hear the virtuous Amanda reject Townley and are shamed into giving up their affair.
Meanwhile in the other plotline, Foppington is shown to be less than a gentleman but is far shrewder, and at the climax, refuses to marry Hoyden who has made him appear ridiculous.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.