Guiliom, masquerading as a Count, is of course directly derived from Les Precieuses Ridicules, first performed 18 November, 1659, and Isabella is a close copy of Cathos and Magdelon. Flecknoe had already adapted Moliere in The Damoiselles a la Mode, unacted (4to 1667); and seven years later than Mrs. Behn, Shadwell, in his fine comedy, Bury Fair (1689), drew largely from the same source. His mock noble is a French peruke-maker, La Roch, who marries Lady Fantast’s affected daughter. Miller, in his The Man of Taste; or, The Guardian (1735), blended the same plot with L’Ecole des Maris. The stratagem of the feigned Turkish ship capturing the yacht is a happy extension of a hint from the famous galley scene (Que diable allait-il faire a cette galere?), Act ii, 7, Les Fourberies de Scapin. This, however, is not original with Moliere, being entirely borrowed from Le Pedant Joue, Act ii, 4, of Cyrano de Bergerac (1654). What is practically a translation of Les Fourberies de Scapin by Otway, was produced at the Duke’s Theatre in 1677, and in the same year Ravenscroft included a great part of it in his Scaramouch a Philosopher, Harlequin a Schoolboy, Bravo, Merchant, and Magician.
In the Epilogue Mrs. Behn asserts that she wrote The False Count with ease in something less than a week. This may be a pardonable exaggeration; but there are certainly distinct marks of haste in the composition of the play. In Act iii, I, she evidently intended Francisco and his party to be seized as they were returning home by sea, at the end of the act she arranges their sea trip as an excursion on a yacht.
The False Count; or, A New Way to Play an Old Game was produced at the Duke’s Theatre, Dorset Garden, in the autumn of 1682, not later than the end of October. An excellent rattling farce, it seems to have kept the stage at intervals for some twenty years. On 11 August, 1715, there was a revival at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It is billed as ’not acted ten years’. Spiller played Guiliom, Mrs. Moor Isabella, and Mrs. Thurmond Julia. There is no further record of its performance.
THE FALSE COUNT: or, A New Way to play an old Game.
Spoken by Mr. Smith.
Know all ye Whigs and Tories of the Pit,
(Ye furious Guelphs and Gibelins of Wit,
Who for the Cause, and Crimes of Forty One
So furiously maintain the Quarrel on)
Our Author, as you’ll find it writ in Story,
Has hitherto been a most wicked Tory;
But now, to th’joy o’th’ Brethren be it spoken,
Our Sister’s vain mistaken Eyes are open;
And wisely valuing her dear Interest now,
All-powerful Whigs, converted is to you.
’Twas long she did maintain the Royal Cause,