One hundred years after the first publication of The Voysey Inheritance, David Mamet resurrects Harley Granville-Barker's classic investigation into the capitalist soul in this brilliant adaptation.
For generations, the Voysey family business has been secretly skimming money from its clients' accounts. When Edward, designated to take over the firm from his aging father, discovers the embezzlement that has been keeping his relatives in a life of luxury, he must weigh the trappings of wealth and the imperative to preserve his family's good name against the better principles of his conscience. But moral righteousness turns to self-protection when he comes to understand fully the consequences of his "inheritance."
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October 25, 2005
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Excerpt from The Voysey Inheritance by David Mamet
Library of the Voysey estate.
edward, in evening dress, enters the room, followed by alice, two young people perhaps in their thirties.
alice: You didn't say a word at dinner.
edward: Did I not?
alice: A more engag?e response might be, "My dear cousin, forgive me . . . business matters," and so on.
edward: I beg your pardon.
alice: . . . Yes, or, perhaps, "My dear. You've found me out again. The press of work, so on . . . banishes e'en the thought of you from my mercantile soul."
edward: Forgive me.
edward: Father's still at the table.
alice: And you were late.
edward: I beg your pardon, Alice.
alice: Thank you, from which must one not conclude that you are working much too hard; or, if observant, that you have lost all interest in me?
(Enter mrs. voysey, a woman of a certain age.)
mrs. voysey: He has what, my dear?
alice: I say, your son has lost all interest in me.
mrs. voysey: We have lost interest? What is she saying, Edward? Why are you speaking of business; haven't we spoken enough of business?
edward: She isn't speaking of business, Mother.
mrs. voysey: If not, then she will be unique among our family. Edward. I take my oath. Have you seen my "work"?
alice: I believe I saw it in the blue room.
mrs. voysey: What?
alice: I believe, I saw it in the . . .
mrs. voysey: In the blue room.
(george booth, an older gentleman, enters.)
mrs. voysey: (Exiting) What is this interest that they say we've lost?
george booth: On my word, I've no idea. Edward: is there something I should know?
alice: I said he's lost interest in me . . .
george booth: Oh, good. Then we needn't tighten our belts, eh.
alice: That's right.
george booth: Lost interest in Alice, Edward.
alice: Yes, and the shame of it all, after these long years of protestations.
george booth: You staying up this weekend, Alice, or you going back to town?
alice: No, Mr. Booth, I am to stay here, pining, pining . . .
george booth: Over what? Our, our universal understanding is that it's you have been the long-sought quarry . . . Hugh coming up, Edward?
edward: I beg your pardon.
george booth: I say: Is Hugh coming up?
edward: I believe he is.
george booth: I wanted to tell him something. What did I want to tell him?
(mr. voysey, the paterfamilias, enters.)
george booth: Ah, ah, may we, now the cloth is drawn, proceed to business?
mr. voysey: At dinner, George, at dinner?
george booth: Uh, no, we're on to the port-we're on to the port, eh?
(Enter peacey, a middle-aged man in business attire, carrying his overcoat and hat.)
george booth: (Of peacey) And what is this, then?
peacey: Evening, Mr. Booth.
george booth: Good evening, Peacey, what news?
peacey: No news, such as is news, Mr. Booth, just these indents to sign . . . (He passes papers to mr. voysey, from the briefcase which he carries.) And I beg your pardon, to disturb your evening.
george booth: What of our Australian bonds, Mr. Peacey?
peacey: The bonds? Sound as a nut, sir.
george booth: There's no worry, then? No need for drastic measure, fear of want, and so on. (Pause)
mr. voysey: He's joking with you, Peacey.
peacey: Well, I know it, sir. (Noticing edward) Ah. Mr. Edward. Evening, sir . . . And Miss Alice.
alice: Good evening, Peacey . . .
mr. voysey: How's my boy doing, Peacey?
peacey: Like his father and his grandfather before him, sir, all business, through and through.
mr. voysey: High praise indeed. (He finishes with the forms.)
peacey: And in the office, working double tides all weekend.
mr. voysey: In the office on the weekend, was he, Peacey?
peacey: Yes, sir.
mr. voysey: Ah ha.
peacey: Like father like son, if I may.
mr. voysey: Yes. I understand.
peacey: I'm sorry to disturb your evening, sir.
mr. voysey: No, it's good you came. Good you came.
(The party enters from the dining room.)
mr. voysey: (To peacey) Tell Simmons that if he satisfies you on the details of the lease it'll be all right. Make a note for me of Mr. Garinger's address at Mentone, (Pause) and I'll take care of the Atkinson letter first thing Monday morning.
peacey: Very good, sir.
george booth: Peacey . . .
major booth voysey: (A strapping fellow in middle-age, entering) Of course I'm hot and strong for conscription.
george booth: (To peacey) Nothing urgent, eh? Eh?
major booth voysey: Get 'em out there, get their knees brown.
george booth: My dear boy, the country'll never stand for it.
major booth voysey: If we, if the Army, no, you're quite wrong George, if we lay the hand to the heart, the Army mind you, and say, to the country, on our honor, conscription is essential for your safety.
mr. voysey: Thank you, Peacey . . .
peacey: (Taking his leave) Sir . . . good evening, gentlemen.
major booth voysey: Then, what answer, eh?
peacey: Miss Alice.
major booth voysey: What answer has the country? Eh?
mr. voysey: Well, you ask the country.
major booth voysey: Perhaps I shall, perhaps I shall. Perhaps I'll chuck the service, and go into the House.
(mr. voysey goes after peacey.)
mr. voysey: Ah, Peacey, the one more thing . . . (He exits.)
major booth voysey: A life of service? I'm not a conceited man, but I believe, were I to speak out, on a subject, which I understand, Edward, eh? Eh?
major booth voysey: And only on that subject, then, the House will listen. Have to listen.
george booth: Do you think the gentlemen of England will allow themselves to be herded with a lot of shopkeepers and ploughmen, and be forced to carry guns?
alice: Yes, Major, what'd you say to that . . . ?
major booth voysey: One moment: have you thought, have you thought of the great physical improvement which conscription would bring in the manhood of the country?
george booth: I thought of it, dear boy, when you brought it up those many-several times during dinner.
major booth voysey: Yes, but Edward wasn't there, and I'd like his opinion. Where were you, boy, by the way?
alice: I believe he has a mistress. (Pause)
major booth voysey: Ah, no, he doesn't have a mistress. You don't have a mistress, do you? Then, where were you, boy?
edward: I was at work.
alice: A mistress might be a sign of passion.
major booth voysey: Quite right. Then, let me ask you, to think, of the moral and physical improvement which conscription would bring in the manhood of this country, Edward . . . S'what this country needs.
alice: What is that, Major?
major booth voysey: Chest. Chest and discipline. These are the fundaments of honor.
(mr. voysey reenters.)
mr. voysey: Ah, yes, son, back upon conscription?
major booth voysey: Edward didn't hear it.
mr. voysey: No, we must all hear it. Mustn't we?
major booth voysey: You've taught us to speak out, haven't you, sir?
mr. voysey: It seems I have. (To colpus, a clerical man, as he enters) Ah, Vicar . . .
major booth voysey: By the by, what was Peacey doing here?
mr. voysey: (To colpus) You were at Lady Mary's t'other evening, weren't you . . . ?
major booth voysey: Nothing wrong at the shop, eh?
colpus: Yes, I was.
mr. voysey: She giving us anything toward our chapel window?
colpus: Five pounds more. She's promised me five pounds.
mr. voysey: Then how will the debt stand?
major booth voysey: . . . Nothin' wrong at the shop . . . ?
george booth: Oh, please . . .
colpus: The debt will be, it will be thirty-three, no, I tell a lie, thirty-five pounds.
mr. voysey: Still . . .
colpus: Oh, yes.
mr. voysey: We're a long time, clearing it off.
colpus: Well, now that the window's up, people don't seem quite so willing to contribute.