Frances Abington, Thomas King, John Palmer, William Smith
Oil on canvas
Lady Teazle : The School for Scandal
Sir Peter Teazle : The School for Scandal
Joseph Surface : The School for Scandal
Charles Surface : The School for Scandal
height (frame): 131cm
width (frame): 157cm
Thomas Harris; Harris sale, Robins 12 July 1819 (52)
1779 R.A. (268)
1833 London, Queen's Bazaar, Oxford Street, "Mr Mathews's Gallery of Theatrical Portraits" (15)
1975, London, Haywood Gallery, "The Georgian Playhouse" (37)
Patmore, p265; Griffiths, pp317-18; TAM 1935, reproduced
This picture depicts Act IV, Scene 3 of Sheridan’s play ‘The School for Scandal’. The characters; Lady Teazle (Frances Abington), Sir Peter Teazle (Thomas King), Joseph Surface (John Palmer) and Charles Surface ( William Smith) are stood in Joseph Surface’s Library, where Charles Surface (Joseph’s brother) has just thrown down the screen to reveal Lady Teazel. Mathews's caption to the picture cites the reactions of Charles Surface and Lady Teazle's husband, Sir Peter Teazle -"Charles: Lady Teazle, by all that's wonderful! Sir Peter: Lady Teazle, by all that's damnable." The hypocritical Joseph is thus revealed to be her lover, and Charles, previously thought by Sir Peter to be the guilty party, is vindicated.
Sheridan's comedy, was first performed at Drury Lane on 8 May 1777. The sitters in Roberts's painting were the original performers. King spoke Garrick's prologue and Mrs Abington spoke the elder Colman's epilogue. The review in the "Gazetteer" of 9 May was typical of the enthusiastic response that greeted the play: "No modern theatrical piece ever met with a fuller success, nor deserved it more.... The erformers deserve every sort of commendation for their spirited exertion in supporting the respective characters, especially Smith, King and the incomparable Mrs. Abington.