It is Mrs. Higgins's at-home day. Nobody has yet
arrived. Her drawing-room, in a flat on Chelsea
embankment, has three windows looking on the river; and
the ceiling is not so lofty as it would be in an older
house of the same pretension. The windows are open,
giving access to a balcony with flowers in pots. If you
stand with your face to the windows, you have the
fireplace on your left and the door in the right-hand
wall close to the corner nearest the windows.
Mrs. Higgins was brought up on Morris and Burne Jones;
and her room, which is very unlike her son's room in
Wimpole Street, is not crowded with furniture and
little tables and nicknacks. In the middle of the room
there is a big ottoman; and this, with the carpet, the
Morris wall-papers, and the Morris chintz window
curtains and brocade covers of the ottoman and its
cushions, supply all the ornament, and are much too
handsome to be hidden by odds and ends of useless
things. A few good oil-paintings from the exhibitions
in the Grosvenor Gallery thirty years ago (the Burne
Jones, not the Whistler side of them) are on the walls.
The only landscape is a Cecil Lawson on the scale of a
Rubens. There is a portrait of Mrs. Higgins as she was
when she defied fashion in her youth in one of the
beautiful Rossettian costumes which, when caricatured
by people who did not understand, led to the
absurdities of popular estheticism in the
In the corner diagonally opposite the door Mrs.
Higgins, now over sixty and long past taking the
trouble to dress out of the fashion, sits writing at an
elegantly simple writing-table with a bell button
within reach of her hand. There is a Chippendale chair
further back in the room between her and the window
nearest her side. At the other side of the room,
further forward, is an Elizabethan chair roughly carved
in the taste of Inigo Jones. On the same side a piano
in a decorated case. The corner between the fireplace
and the window is occupied by a divan cushioned in
HIGGINS [kissing her] I know, mother. I came on
But you mustnt. I'm serious, Henry. You
offend all my friends: they stop coming whenever they
Nonsense! I know I have no small talk; but
people dont mind. [He sits on the settee].
Oh! dont they? Small talk indeed! What
about your large talk? Really, dear, you mustnt stay.
I must. Ive a job for you. A phonetic job.
No use, dear. I'm sorry; but I cant get
round your vowels; and though I like to get pretty
postcards in your patent shorthand, I always have to
read the copies in ordinary writing you so thoughtfully
Well, you never fall in love with anyone
under forty-five. When will you discover that there are
some rather nice-looking young women about?
Oh, I cant be bothered with young women. My
idea of a loveable woman is something as like you as
possible. I shall never get into the way of seriously
liking young women: some habits lie too deep to be
changed. [Rising abruptly and walking about, jingling
his money and his keys in his trouser pockets] Besides,
theyre all idiots.
Do you know what you would do if you
really loved me, Henry?
HIGGINS [rising and coming to her to coax her] Oh,
thatll be all right. Ive taught her to speak properly;
and she has strict orders as to her behavior. Shes to
keep to two subjects: the weather and everybody's
health--Fine day and How do you do, you know--and not to
let herself go on things in general. That will be safe.
Safe! To talk about our health! about our
insides! perhaps about our outsides! How could you be
so silly, Henry?
HIGGINS [impatiently] Well, she must talk about
something. [He controls himself and sits down again].
Oh, she'll be all right: dont you fuss. Pickering is in
it with me. Ive a sort of bet on that I'll pass her off
as a duchess in six months. I started on her some
months ago; and shes getting on like a house on fire. I
shall win my bet. She has a quick ear; and shes been
easier to teach than my middle-class pupils because
shes had to learn a complete new language. She talks
English almost as you talk French.
You see, Ive got her pronunciation all right;
but you have to consider not only how a girl
pronounces, but what she pronounces; and thats where--
They are interrupted by the parlor-maid, announcing
Mrs. and Miss Eynsford Hill. [She
Oh Lord! [He rises; snatches his hat from the
table; and makes for the door; but before he reaches it
his mother introduces him].
Mrs. and Miss Eynsford Hill are the mother and daughter
who sheltered from the rain in Covent Garden. The
mother is well bred, quiet, and has the habitual
anxiety of straitened means. The daughter has acquired
a gay air of being very much at home in society: the
bravado of genteel poverty.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [to Mrs. Higgins] How do you do?
[They shake hands].
So glad youve come. Do you know Mrs.
Eynsford Hill--Miss Eynsford Hill? [Exchange of bows.
The Colonel brings the Chippendale chair a little
forward between Mrs. Hill and Mrs. Higgins, and sits
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [taking up her daughter's cue] But
What they think they ought to think is bad
enough, Lord knows; but what they really think would
break up the whole show. Do you suppose it would be
really agreeable if I were to come out now with what I
Cynical! Who the dickens said it was cynical?
I mean it wouldnt be decent.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [seriously] Oh! I'm sure you dont
mean that, Mr. Higgins.
You see, we're all savages, more or less.
We're supposed to be civilized and cultured--to know all
about poetry and philosophy and art and science, and so
on; but how many of us know even the meanings of these
names? [To Miss Hill] What do you know of poetry? [To
Mrs. Hill] What do you know of science? [Indicating
Freddy] What does he know of art or science or anything
else? What the devil do you imagine I know of
THE PARLOR-MAID [opening the door] Miss Doolittle. [She
HIGGINS [rising hastily and running to Mrs. Higgins]
Here she is, mother. [He stands on tiptoe and makes
signs over his mother's head to Eliza to indicate to
her which lady is her hostess].
Eliza, who is exquisitely dressed, produces an
impression of such remarkable distinction and beauty as
she enters that they all rise, quite fluttered. Guided
by Higgins's signals, she comes to Mrs. Higgins with
LIZA [speaking with pedantic correctness of
pronunciation and great beauty of tone] How do you do,
Mrs. Higgins? [She gasps slightly in making sure of the
H in Higgins, but is quite successful]. Mr. Higgins
told me I might come.
MRS. HIGGINS [cordially] Quite right: I'm very glad
indeed to see you.
He goes to the divan, stumbling into the fender and
over the fire-irons on his way; extricating himself
with muttered imprecations; and finishing his
disastrous journey by throwing himself so impatiently
on the divan that he almost breaks it. Mrs. Higgins
looks at him, but controls herself and says nothing.
Y-e-e-e-es, Lord love you! Why should she die of
influenza? She come through diphtheria right enough the
year before. I saw her with my own eyes. Fairly blue
with it, she was. They all thought she was dead; but my
father he kept ladling gin down her throat til she came
to so sudden that she bit the bowl off the spoon.
LIZA [piling up the indictment] What call would a woman
with that strength in her have to die of influenza?
What become of her new straw hat that should have come
to me? Somebody pinched it; and what I say is, them as
pinched it done her in.
Not a bit. It never did him no harm what I could
see. But then he did not keep it up regular.
[Cheerfully] On the burst, as you might say, from time
to time. And always more agreeable when he had a drop
in. When he was out of work, my mother used to give him
fourpence and tell him to go out and not come back
until he'd drunk himself cheerful and loving-like.
Theres lots of women has to make their husbands drunk
to make them fit to live with. [Now quite at her ease]
You see, it's like this. If a man has a bit of a
conscience, it always takes him when he's sober; and
then it makes him low-spirited. A drop of booze just
takes that off and makes him happy. [To Freddy, who is
in convulsions of suppressed laughter] Here! what are
you sniggering at?
The new small talk. You do it so awfully well.
If I was doing it proper, what was you laughing
at? [To Higgins] Have I said anything I oughtnt?
MRSX HIGGINS [interposing] Not at all, Miss Doolittle.
Well, thats a mercy, anyhow. [Expansively] What I
always say is--
FREDDY [opening the door for her] Are you walking
across the Park, Miss Doolittle? If so--
Walk! Not bloody likely. [Sensation]. I am going
in a taxi. [She goes out].
Pickering gasps and sits down. Freddy goes out on the
balcony to catch another glimpse of Eliza.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [suffering from shock] Well, I
really cant get used to the new ways.
CLARA [throwing herself discontentedly into the
Elizabethan chair]. Oh, it's all right, mamma, quite
right. People will think we never go anywhere or see
anybody if you are so old-fashioned.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL
I daresay I am very old-fashioned;
but I do hope you wont begin using that expression,
Clara. I have got accustomed to hear you talking about
men as rotters, and calling everything filthy and
beastly; though I do think it horrible and unlady-like.
But this last is really too much. Dont you think so,
Dont ask me. Ive been away in India for
several years; and manners have changed so much that I
sometimes dont know whether I'm at a respectable
dinner-table or in a ship's forecastle.
It's all a matter of habit. Theres no right or
wrong in it. Nobody means anything by it. And it's so
quaint, and gives such a smart emphasis to things that
are not in themselves very witty. I find the new small
talk delightful and quite innocent.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [rising] Well, after that, I think
it's time for us to go.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [to Mrs. Higgins] You mustnt mind
Clara. [Pickering, catching from her lowered tone that
this is not meant for him to hear, discreetly joins
Higgins at the window]. We're so poor! and she gets so
few parties, poor child! She doesnt quite know. [Mrs.
Higgins, seeing that her eyes are moist, takes her hand
sympathetically and goes with her to the door]. But the
boy is nice. Dont you think so?
Oh, quite nice. I shall always be
delighted to see him.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL
Thank you, dear. Good-bye. [She
HIGGINS [eagerly] Well? Is Eliza presentable [he swoops
on his mother and drags her to the ottoman, where she
sits down in Eliza's place with her son on her left]?
You silly boy, of course shes not
presentable. Shes a triumph of your art and of her
dressmaker's; but if you suppose for a moment that she
doesnt give herself away in every sentence she utters,
you must be perfectly cracked about her.
But dont you think something might be done?
I mean something to eliminate the sanguinary element
from her conversation.
Not as long as she is in Henry's hands.
HIGGINS [aggrieved] Do you mean that my language is
No, dearest: it would be quite proper--say
on a canal barge; but it would not be proper for her at
a garden party.
But on what terms? Is she a servant? If
not, what is she?
PICKERING [slowly] I think I know what you mean, Mrs.
Well, dash me if I do! Ive had to work at the
girl every day for months to get her to her present
pitch. Besides, shes useful. She knows where my things
are, and remembers my appointments and so forth.
How does your housekeeper get on with
Mrs. Pearce? Oh, shes jolly glad to get so
much taken off her hands; for before Eliza came, she
used to have to find things and remind me of my
appointments. But shes got some silly bee in her bonnet
about Eliza. She keeps saying "You dont think, sir":
doesnt she, Pick?
Yes: thats the formula. "You dont think,
sir." Thats the end of every conversation about Eliza.
As if I ever stop thinking about the girl and
her confounded vowels and consonants. I'm worn out,
thinking about her, and watching her lips and her teeth
and her tongue, not to mention her soul, which is the
quaintest of the lot.
You certainly are a pretty pair of
babies, playing with your live doll.
Playing! The hardest job I ever tackled: make
no mistake about that, mother. But you have no idea how
frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and
change her into a quite different human being by
creating a new speech for her. It's filling up the
deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul
PICKERING [drawing his chair closer to Mrs. Higgins and
bending over to her eagerly] Yes: it's enormously
interesting. I assure you, Mrs. Higgins, we take Eliza
very seriously. Every week--every day almost--there is
some new change. [Closer again] We keep records of
every stage--dozens of gramophone disks and photographs--
HIGGINS [assailing her at the other ear] Yes, by
George: it's the most absorbing experiment I ever
tackled. She regularly fills our lives up; doesnt she,
HIGGINS [speaking together] You know, she has the most
extraordinary quickness of ear:
PICKERING.I assure you, my dear Mrs. Higgins, that girl
HIGGINS.just like a parrot. Ive tried her with ever
PICKERING.is a genius. She can play the piano quite
HIGGINS.possible sort of sound that a human being can
PICKERING.We have taken her to classical concerts and
HIGGINSContinental dialects, African dialects,
PICKERING.halls; and its all the same to her: she plays
HIGGINS.clicks, things it took me years to get hold of;
PICKERING.she hears right off when she comes home,
HIGGINS.she picks them up like a shot, right away, as
if she had
PICKERING.Beethoven and Brahms or Lehar and Lionel
HIGGINS.been at it all her life.
PICKERING.though six months ago, she'd never as much as
touched a piano--
MRS. HIGGINS [putting her fingers in her ears, as they
are by this time shouting one another down with an
intolerable noise] Sh-sh-sh--sh! [They stop].
I beg your pardon. [He draws his chair back
Sorry. When Pickering starts shouting nobody
can get a word in edgeways.
Be quiet, Henry. Colonel Pickering: dont
you realize that when Eliza walked into Wimpole Street,
something walked in with her?
Her father did. But Henry soon got rid of
It would have been more to the point if
her mother had. But as her mother didnt something else
MRS. HIGGINS [unconsciously dating herself by the word]
Oh, I see. The problem of how to pass her
off as a lady.
I'll solve that problem. Ive half solved it
No, you two infinitely stupid male
creatures: the problem of what is to be done with her
I dont see anything in that. She can go her
own way, with all the advantages I have given her.
The advantages of that poor woman who was
here just now! The manners and habits that disqualify a
fine lady from earning her own living without giving
her a fine lady's income! Is that what you mean?
PICKERING [indulgently, being rather bored] Oh, that
will be all right, Mrs. Higgins. [He rises to go].
HIGGINS [rising also] We'll find her some light
Shes happy enough. Dont you worry about her.
Good-bye. [He shakes hands as if he were consoling a
frightened child, and makes for the door].
Anyhow, theres no good bothering now. The
things done. Good-bye, mother. [He kisses her, and
PICKERING [turning for a final consolation] There are
plenty of openings. We'll do whats right. Good-bye.
HIGGINS [to Pickering as they go out together] Let's
take her to the Shakespear exhibition at Earls Court.
Yes: lets. Her remarks will be delicious.
She'll mimic all the people for us when we get
Ripping. [Both are heard laughing as they go
MRS. HIGGINS [rises with an impatient bounce, and
returns to her work at the writing-table. She sweeps a
litter of disarranged papers out of her way; snatches a
sheet of paper from her stationery case; and tries
resolutely to write. At the third line she gives it up;
flings down her pen; grips the table angrily and
exclaims] Oh, men! men!! men!!!