The Monologues

The Monologues

Draper composed more than fifty monologues over the course of her career, seventeen of which are available on CD:


1. The Italian Lesson

The most popular of Draper's character sketches, "The Italian Lesson" offers a brief window into the hectic life of a New York society matron. Written in 1925, when Draper was forty and at the height of her creative abilities, the monologue was originally referred to in letters as "The Busy Mother."

"Busy" is something of an understatement. While studying The Inferno, the matron, among much else and with the assistance of a long line of servants, plans a dinner menu, gossips with friends, quells disturbances by her passel of troublesome children, arranges for riding lessons, dentist's appointments, dancing classes, and gymnasium visits for said troublesome children, greets a new puppy, sends her husband's golf clubs and clothes to meet him at the train station, arranges a care package for the injured son of the night watchman, reviews appointment schedules with her secretary, finds guests for a box at the opera, instructs a painter in changes to a child's portrait, gives away concert tickets, tells a schoolteacher to drop mathematics from her son's curriculum, flirts with her lover, orders a new lampshade cover, and has a manicure. The matron notes that Dante, like Shakespeare, "seemed to know the things that always would be true." So did Draper, and like the work of those writers, her monologues are "filled with quotations and great general truths."

2. The Actress

On tour in Paris, a temperamental diva of indeterminate Slavic provenance meets with a parade of callers. To some—the maid, her dog—she speaks French; with others, including a friendly American gentleman named Mr. Bumstead ("He is kind like he is fat"), she employs heavily accented English. But when her impresario informs her that her favorite leading man will not be allowed to accompany her on an American tour, she displays her displeasure in a mellifluous tirade that variously has been described as Russian, Rumanian, Polish, and Czechoslovakian. It is actually a Slavic-sounding tongue invented by Draper for the purposes of this piece, originally called “Mademoiselle X of the Theatre Français” and composed around 1916.

3. Doctors and Diets

Four women are lunching at a chic midtown restaurant. All are on diets. Though written in 1925, "Doctors and Diets" is at times alarmingly contemporary, as when the hostess, Mrs. Grimmer, asks one of her three companions to state a beverage preference: "Vichy water, soda water, hot water, cold water, what sort of water?" Cures are discussed, physicians lauded, friends trashed—all with the very best intentions.

What happens when friends ignore friends' advice

4. A German Governess with a Class of Children

Released for the first time in this compilation, "A German Governess" is an early work of Draper's, composed before 1908, when she was still an amateur performing at parties and charity events. She continued to perform it until the end of her career. It was a particular favorite with children. Though Draper was quoted as saying that only two of her characters were based on real people, and this was not one of them, she did have direct knowledge of Teutonic teachers. Her parents felt she was not suited for institutional schooling, and after a brief experience at Miss Spence's School in New York City, Draper was educated at home -- by a German governess.


1. A Class in Greek Poise

Released for the first time in this compilation, "A Class in Greek Poise" follows the movements of a dedicated physical fitness instructor with a deadly flat Midwestern accent as she leads four plump pupils through their paces. They imitate Grecian friezes and woodland creatures, and one loses her bloomers. It is not clear exactly when Draper wrote the piece, but it was definitely part of her pre-1920 amateur repertoire.

2. On the Porch in a Maine Coast Village

Draper was well acquainted with the denizens of Maine's coastal villages; from childhood on, she spent summers at a house built by her family at Dark Harbor on Islesboro, and eventually became its owner. Draper pokes fun at herself and other "city folk" with this portrait of an old lady sitting on her porch and gossiping with friends. Though Draper used no special props for this monologue, many audience members were convinced that she sat in a rocking chair throughout. Another early monologue that became a staple of her repertoire, it was composed before 1913.

3-5. Three Women and Mr. Clifford

One of Draper's most imaginatively constructed monologues, "Three Women and Mr. Clifford" paints a pellucid portrait of Anthony Clifford, a 1920s captain of industry, through the eyes of the three most significant women in his life: his secretary, his wife, and his mistress. It is a particular favorite of the actor and director Simon Callow. "In seeing the women," says Callow, "you experience the most vivid realization of Mr. Clifford himself. You know that man inside out by the time it's over."

Written in 1929, when Draper was in the throes of a passionate affair with the Italian poet and anti-Fascist Lauro de Bosis, "Three Women and Mr. Clifford"—particularly the depiction of the mistress, Mrs. Mallory—offers a glimpse into Draper's own feelings on affairs of the heart and whether they can survive "the challenge of everyday life." De Bosis, who was 26 to Draper's 43 when he first met the actress in 1928, was killed in a daring anti-Fascist maneuver in Italy in 1931.