Doolittle in Pygmalion

I enjoy the play by G B Shaw most because of Mr Doolittle, Eliza’s dad.
My favourite part of the play is in Act II, when he comes to see Mr Higgins after learning that his daughter is staying with him.
The part of the conversation is reproduced here:
“DOOLITTLE
[to Pickering] I thank you, Governor. [To Higgins, who takes refuge on the piano bench, a little overwhelmed by the proximity of his visitor; for Doolittle has a professional flavor of dust about him]. Well, the truth is, Ive taken a sort of fancy to you, Governor; and if you want the girl, I’m not so set on having her back home again but what I might be open to an arrangement. Regarded in the light of a young woman, shes a fine handsome girl. As a daughter shes not worth her keep; and so I tell you straight. All I ask is my rights as a father; and youre the last man alive to expect me to let her go for nothing; for I can see youre one of the straight sort, Governor. Well, whats a five pound note to you? And whats Eliza to me? [He returns to his chair and sits down judicially].
PICKERING
I think you ought to know, Doolittle, that Mr. Higgins’s intentions are entirely honorable.

DOOLITTLE
Course they are, Governor. If I thought they wasnt, Id ask fifty.

HIGGINS
[revolted] Do you mean to say, you callous rascal, that you would sell your daughter for £50?

DOOLITTLE
Not in a general way I wouldnt; but to oblige a gentleman like you I’d do do a good deal, I do assure you.

PICKERING
Have you no morals, man?

DOOLITTLE
[unabashed] Cant afford them, Governor. Neither could you if you was as poor as me. Not that I mean any harm, you know. But if Liza is going to have a bit out of this, why not me too?

HIGGINS
[troubled] I dont know what to do, Pickering. There can be no question that as a matter of morals it’s a positive crime to give this chap a farthing. And yet I feel a sort of rough justice in his claim.

DOOLITTLE
Thats it, Governor. Thats all I say. A father’s heart, as it were.

PICKERING
Well, I know the feeling; but really it seems hardly right–

DOOLITTLE
Dont say that, Governor. Dont look at it that way. What am I, Governors both? I ask you, what am I? I’m one of the undeserving poor: thats what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that hes up agen middle class morality all the time. If theres anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it’s always the same story: “Youre undeserving; so you cant have it.” But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow’s that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I dont need less than a deserving man: I need more. I dont eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I’m a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything. Therefore, I ask you, as two gentlemen, not to play that game on me. I’m playing straight with you. I aint pretending to be deserving. I’m undeserving; and I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it; and thats the truth. Will you take advantage of a man’s nature to do him out of the price of his own daughter what hes brought up and fed and clothed by the sweat of his brow until shes growed big enough to be interesting to you two gentlemen? Is five pounds unreasonable? I put it to you; and I leave it to you.

HIGGINS
[rising, and going over to Pickering] Pickering: if we were to take this man in hand for three months, he could choose between a seat in the Cabinet and a popular pulpit in Wales.

PICKERING
What do you say to that, Doolittle?

DOOLITTLE
Not me, Governor, thank you kindly. Ive heard all the preachers and all the prime ministers–for I’m a thinking man and game for politics or religion or social reform same as all the other amusements–and I tell you it’s a dog’s life anyway you look at it. Undeserving poverty is my line. Taking one station in society with another, it’s–it’s–well, it’s the only one that has any ginger in it, to my taste.

HIGGINS
I suppose we must give him a fiver.

PICKERING
He’ll make a bad use of it, I’m afraid.

DOOLITTLE
Not me, Governor, so help me I wont. Dont you be afraid that I’ll save it and spare it and live idle on it. There wont be a penny of it left by Monday: I’ll have to go to work same as if I’d never had it. It wont pauperize me, you bet. Just one good spree for myself and the missus, giving pleasure to ourselves and employment to others, and satisfaction to you to think it’s not been throwed away. You couldnt spend it better.

HIGGINS
[taking out his pocket book and coming between Doolittle and the piano] This is irresistible. Lets give him ten. [He offers two notes to the dustman].

DOOLITTLE
No, Governor. She wouldnt have the heart to spend ten; and perhaps I shouldnt neither. Ten pounds is a lot of money: it makes a man feel prudent like; and then goodbye to happiness. You give me what I ask you, Governor: not a penny more, and not a penny less.

PICKERING
Why dont you marry that missus of yours? I rather draw the line at encouraging that sort of immorality.

DOOLITTLE
Tell her so, Governor: tell her so. I’m willing. It’s me that suffers by it. Ive no hold on her. I got to be agreeable to her. I got to give her presents. I got to buy her clothes something sinful. I’m a slave to that woman, Governor, just because I’m not her lawful husband. And she knows it too. Catch her marrying me! Take my advice, Governor: marry Eliza while shes young and dont know no better. If you dont youll be sorry for it after. If you do, she’ll be sorry for it after; but better you than her, because youre a man, and shes only a woman and dont know how to be happy anyhow.

HIGGINS
Pickering: if we listen to this man another minute, we shall have no convictions left. [To Doolittle] Five pounds I think you said.

DOOLITTLE
Thank you kindly, Governor.

HIGGINS
Youre sure you wont take ten?

DOOLITTLE
Not now. Another time, Governor.

HIGGINS
[handing him a five-pound note] Here you are.

DOOLITTLE
Thank you, Governor. Good morning.”

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2 thoughts on “Doolittle in Pygmalion

  1. I agree “yossarianc22”.I used to read all his plays atleast once a year from when I was 16 to 25. I had not read this year and finally got my hands again on Pygmalion. Could not resist adding this part to the blog. 🙂

    Like

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