The Recruiting Officer

The Recruiting Officer
by George Farquhar



Instead of the mercenary expectations that attend addresses of this nature, I humbly beg, that this may be received as an acknowledgment for the favours you have already conferred. I have transgressed the rules of dedication in offering you anything in that style, without first asking your leave: but the entertainment I found in Shropshire commands me to be grateful, and that's all I intend.

Twas my good fortune to be ordered some time ago into the place which is made the scene of this comedy; I was a perfect stranger to everything in Salop, but its character of loyalty, the number of its inhabitants, the alacrity of the gentlemen in recruiting the army, with their generous and hospitable reception of strangers. This character I found so amply verified in every particular, that you made recruiting, which is the greatest fatigue upon earth to others, to be the greatest pleasure in the world to me.

The kingdom cannot show better bodies of men, better inclinations for the service, more generosity, more good understanding, nor more politeness, than is to be found at the foot of the Wrekin. Some little turns of humour that I met with almost within the shade of that famous hill, gave the rise to this comedy; and people were apprehensive that, by the example of some others, I would make the town merry at the expense of the country-gentlemen. But they forgot that I was to write a comedy, not a libel; and that whilst I held to nature, no person of any character in your country could suffer by being exposed. I have drawn the justice and the clown in their puris naturalibus: the one an apprehensive, sturdy, brave blockhead; and the other a worthy, honest, generous gentleman, hearty in his country's cause, and of as good an understanding as I could give him, which I must confess is far short of his own.

I humbly beg leave to interline a word or two of the adventures of the Recruiting Officer upon the stage. Mr. Rich, who commands the company for which those recruits were raised, has desired me to acquit him before the world of a charge which he thinks lies heavy upon him, for acting this play on Mr. Durfey's third night.

Be it known unto all men by these presents, that it was my act and deed, or rather Mr. Durfey's ; for he would play his third night against the first of mine. He brought down a huge flight of frightful birds upon me; when (Heaven knows!) I had not a feathered fowl in my play, except one single Kite; but I presently made Plume a bird, because of his name, and Brasen another, because of the feather in his hat; and with these three I engaged his whole empire, which I think was as great a Wonder as any in the Sun.

But to answer his complaints more gravely, the season was far advanced; the officers that made the greatest figures in my play were all commanded to their posts abroad, and waited only for a wind, which might possibly turn in less time than a day: and I know none of Mr. Durfey's birds that had posts abroad but his Woodcocks, and their season is over; so that he might put off a day with less prejudice than the Recruiting Officer could; who has this farther to say for himself, that he was posted before the other spoke, and could not with credit recede from his station. These and some other rubs this comedy met with before it appeared. But, on the other hand, it had powerful helps to set it forward. The Duke of Ormond encouraged the author, and the Earl of Orrery approved the play. My recruits were reviewed by my general and my colonel, and could not fail to pass muster; and still to add to my success, they were raised among my friends round the Wrekin.

This health has the advantage over our other celebrated toasts, never to grow worse for the wearing: 'tis a lasting beauty, old without age, and common without scandal. That you may live long to set it cheerfully round, and to enjoy the abundant pleasures of your fair and plentiful country, is the hearty wish of, my Lords and Gentlemen, your most obliged, and most obedient servant,



MR. WORTHY, a Gentleman of Shropshire
BULLOCK, a Country Clown, Brother to ROSE
PLUCK, a Butcher
THOMAS, a Smith
MELINDA, a Lady of Fortune, beloved by MR. WORTHY
ROSE, a Country Girl, Sister to BULLOCK
Steward, Drummer, Recruits, Constables, Watch, Mob, Servants, &c. &c.


In ancient times when Helen's fatal charms
Roused the contending universe to arms,
The Grecian council happily deputes
The sly Ulysses forth—to raise recruits.
The artful captain found, without delay,
Where great Achilles, a deserter, lay.
Him fate had warn'd to shun the Trojan blows:
Him Greece required—against their Trojan foes.
All the recruiting arts were needful here,
To raise this great, this timorous volunteer.
Ulysses well could talk: he stirs, he warms
The warlike youth.—He listens to the charms
Of plunder, fine laced coats, and glittering arms.
Ulysses caught the young aspiring boy,
And listed him who wrought the fate of Troy.
Thus by recruiting was bold Hector slain:
Recruiting thus fair Helen did regain.
If for one Helen such prodigious things
Were acted, that they even listed kings;
If for one Helen's artful, vicious charms,
Half the transported world was found in arms;
What for so many Helens may we dare,
Whose minds as well as faces are so fair?
If by one Helen's eyes old Greece could find,
Its Homer fired to write—even Homer blind;
The Britons sure beyond compare may write,
That view so many Helens every night.


SCENE, The Market-Place.

[Drum beats the Grenadier's March. Enter Serjeant Kite. follow'd by the Mob.]

Kite (making a speech). If any gentleman soldiers, or others, have a mind to serve her majesty and pull down the French king; if any prentices have severe masters, any children have undutiful parents; if any servants have too little wages, or any husband too much wife: let them repair to the noble Serjeant Kite, at the sign of the Raven, in this good town of Shrewsbury, and they shall receive present relief and entertainment. - Gentlemen, I don't beat my drums here to insnare or inveigle any man ; for you must know, gentlemen, that I am a man of honour. Besides, I don't beat up for common soldiers; no, I list only grenadiers, grenadiers, gentlemen. — Pray, gentlemen, observe this cap — This is the cap of honour; it dubs a man a gentleman in the drawing of a tricker: and he that has the good fortune to be born six foot high was born to be a great man. — Sir, will you give me leave to try this cap upon your head?

Mob. Is there no harm in't? Won't the cap list me?

Kite. No, no; no more than I can. — Come, let me see how it becomes you.

Mob. Are you sure there be no conjuration in it? no Gunpowder Plot upon me?

Kite. No, no, friend; don't fear, man.

Mob. My mind misgives me plaguily. — Let me see it. — (Going to put it on.) It smells woundily of sweat and brimstone. Pray, serjeant, what writing is this upon the face of it?

Kite. The crown, or the bed of honour.

Mob. Pray now, what may be that same bed of honour?

Kite. O! a mighty large bed! bigger by half than the great bed of Ware — ten thousand people may lie in it together, and never feel one another.

Mob. My wife and I would do well to lie in't, for we don't care for feeling one another. — But do folk sleep sound in this same bed of honour?

Kite. Sound! ay, so sound that they never wake.

Mob. Wauns! I wish again that my wife lay there.

Kite. Say you so? Then I find, brother —

Mob. Brother! hold there, friend; I am no kindred to you that I know of yet. — Look'ee, serjeant, no coaxing, no wheedling, d'ye see! If I have a mind to list, why so. — If not, why, 'tis not so. — Therefore take your cap and your brothership back again, for I am not disposed at this present writing. — No coaxing, no brothering me, faith.

Kite. I coax! I wheedle! I'm above it. Sir, I have served twenty campaigns — But, sir, you talk well, and I must own that you are a man, every inch of you; a pretty young sprightly fellow. — I love a fellow with a spirit; but I scorn to coax; 'tis base. — Tho' I must say that never in my life have I seen a man better built. How firm and strong he treads! He steps like a castle — but I scorn to wheedle any man. — Come, honest lad, will you take share of a pot ?

Mob. Nay, for that matter, I'll spend my penny with the best he that wears a head, that is, begging your pardon, sir, and in a fair way.

Kite. Give me your hand then; and now, gentlemen, I have no more to say, but this: Here's a purse of gold, and there is a tub of humming ale at my quarters. — 'Tis the queen's money, and the queen's drink. — She's a generous queen, and loves her subjects. — I hope, gentlemen, you won't refuse the queen's health?

All Mob. No, no, no.

Kite. Huzza then, huzza for the queen, and the honour of Shropshire!

All Mob. Huzza!

Kite. Beat drum.

[Exit, drum beating the Grenadier's March. Enter Plume in a riding habit.]

Plume. By the Grenadier March, that should be my drum; and by that shout, it should beat with success. — Let me see — four a clock. (Looking on his watch.) At ten yesterday morning I left London. — A hundred and twenty miles in thirty hours is pretty smart riding, but nothing to the fatigue of recruiting.

[Enter Kite.]

Kite. Welcome to Shrewsbury, noble Captain! From the banks of the Danube to the Severn side, noble Captain, you're welcome.

Plume. A very elegant reception indeed, Mr. Kite: I find you are fairly entered into your recruiting strain. — Pray, what success?

Kite. I have been here but a week, and I have recruited five.

Plume. Five! Pray what are they?

Kite. I have listed the strong man of Kent, the king of the Gipsies, a Scotch pedlar, a scoundrel attorney, and a Welsh parson.

Plume. An attorney! Wer't thou mad ? List a lawyer! Discharge him, discharge him this minute.

Kite. Why, sir?

Plume. Because I will have no body in my company that can write; a fellow that can write can draw petitions. — I say, this minute discharge him.

Kite. And what shall I do with the parson?

Plume. Can he write?

Kite. Hum! He plays rarely upon the fiddle.

Plume. Keep him by all means. — But how stands the country affected? Were the people pleased with the news of my coming to town?

Kite. Sir, the mob are so pleased with your honour, and the justices and better sort of people are so delighted with me, that we shall soon do our business. — But, sir, you have got a recruit here that you little think of.

Plume. Who?

Kite. One that you beat up for the last time you were in the country. You remember your old friend Molly at the Castle?

Plume. She's not with child, I hope?

Kite. No, no, sir — she was brought to bed yesterday.

Plume. Kite, you must father the child.

Kite. And so her friends will oblige me to marry the mother.

Plume. If they should, we'll take her with us; she can wash, you know, and make a bed upon occasion.

Kite. Ay, or unmake it upon occasion. But your honour knows that I am married already.

Plume. To how many?

Kite. I can't tell readily — I have set them down here upon the back of the muster roll. (Draws it out.) Let me see — Imprimis, Mrs. Sheely Snikereyes; she sells potatoes upon Ormond-Key in Dublin — Peggy Guzzle, the brandy-woman at the Horse-guard at Whitehall — Dolly Waggon, the carrier's daughter at Hull — Mademoiselle Van-bottom-flat at the Buss — Then Jenny Oakham, the ship-carpenter's widow at Portsmouth; but I don't reckon upon her, for she was married at the same time to two lieutenants of marines and a man of war's boatswain.

Plume. A full company! You have named five. — Come, make 'em half a dozen, Kite. — Is the child a boy or a girl?

Kite. A chopping boy.

Plume. Then set the mother down in your list, and the boy in mine. Enter him a grenadier by the name of Francis Kite, absent upon furlough. I'll allow you a man's pay for his subsistence. And now go comfort the wench in the straw.

Kite. I shall, sir.

Plume. But hold, have you made any use of your German doctor's habit since you arrived?

Kite. Yes, yes, sir, and my fame's all about the country for the most faithful fortune-teller that ever told a lie. — I was obliged to let my landlord into the secret, for the convenience of keeping it so; but he's an honest fellow, and will be faithful to any roguery that is trusted to him. This device, sir, will get you men and me money, which, I think, is all we want at present. — But yonder comes your friend Mr. Worthy. — Has your honour any farther commands?

Plume. None at present. (Exit Kite.) 'Tis indeed the picture of Worthy, but the life's departed.

[Enter Worthy.]


This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.