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Mad in white linen

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on December 23, 2007

In Reply to: Mad in white linen posted by Michael Burke on December 23, 2007

: Mad in white linen. I have come across this phrase on more than one occasion. Does anyone know its origin?

It comes from a satirical 18th-century play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan called "The Critic". It's about a play-within-the-play about the Spanish Armada, featuring a virtuous heroine called "Tilburina". The author, Mr Puff, invites the critics Mr Sneer and Mr Dangle to the rehearsal, and the following dialogue ensues:

Puff: Now enter Tilburina!
Sneer: Egad, the business comes on quick here.
Puff: Yes, sir - now she comes in stark mad in white satin.
Sneer: Why in white satin?
Puff: O Lord, sir--when a heroine goes mad, she always goes into white satin. Don't she, Dangle?
Dangle: Always - it's a rule.
Puff: Yes - here it is [looking at the book]
"Enter Tilburina stark mad in white satin, and her confidante stark mad in white linen."
"Enter TILBURINA and CONFIDANTE, mad, according
to custom."
Sneer: But, what the deuce! is the confidante to be mad too?
Puff: To be sure she is: the confidante is always to do whatever her mistress does; weep when she weeps, smile when she
smiles, go mad when she goes mad.