Farewells Used in the Late 17th and 18th Centuries.
By Paul Dickfoss

In portraying a person from the late 18th century an attempt should be made to portray speech as well as the clothing, foods, tents, etc. One simple way to begin in this direction is by dismissing a person using proper terms.
As with greetings, farewells may be found in plays of the time. In this paper I have listed farewells from five unabridged comedies. Two from the restoration, The Country Wife, 1673 and The Way of the World, 1700, and three from the 18th century, The Beggar's Opera, 1728, She Stoops to Conquer, 1773 and The School for Scandal, 1777. All of these take place in London and four deal with the upper class: The Beggar's Opera deals with the lower sort.

The farewells found are listed in table 1. The most apparent change is found in the latest play The School for Scandal. Two farewells from this play use the term “bye.” This term is found in none of the others.

Webster’s dictionary says by or bye meaning farewell was first found in 1709 and the term bye-bye for farewell was first found in 1736. Although the dictionary refers to this as baby for goodbye, the “bye! bye!” used in the play is spoken by a grown women. Apparently these are an abbreviated form of goodbye which was first written in 1573. Therefore, farewells may be similar to what we use today. Both “goodbye” and “take care” are found at the end of the 18th century. Although, by far, the most common farewell is “farewell.”

Table 1: Farewells used in the late 17th and 18th centuries as found in comedies from the time.
(Replies are only provided if they shed light on the farewell given)

Farewell

Reply

Play/Page

"Farewell." "Your servant, sir Jasper." Country/8
"Good night, dear Harcourt." "Madam, I hope you will not refuse my visit tomorrow, . . ." Country/42
"Well then, fare you well; . . "

Country/65
". . . farewell."

Country/75
"I am all obedience."

World/143
"One Kiss and then -- one Kiss -- begone -- farewell." "My Hand, my Heart, my Dear, is so riveted to thine, that I cannot unloose my hold. [they remain in each other's presence]" Beggar's/11
"So ‘till the Evening at our Quarters in Moorfields we bid you farewell." "I shall wish myself with you. Success attend you." Beggar's/13
"Gentlemen, adieu."

Beggar's/32
"Farewell."

Conquer /211
"Lady Sneerwell, I must wish you a good morning: I'm not very well." "O dear! she changes color very much." Scandal/243
"So goodbye to ye."

Scandal/249
"Take care, Sir Peter! . . ." ". . . Let us separate, madam." Scandal/264
". . . so, bye! bye!"

Scandal/264



SOURCES:
Atkinson, Brooks, 1958, Four Great Comedies of the restoration and 18th Century; Bantam Books, NY.
Gay, John, The Beggar's Opera; Transcribed by Richard Bear, as found on the internet at: http://bralyn.net/etext/literature/john.gay/beggars.txt (originally published in 1728,
based on the printed text of 1765)


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