by: Molière



MASCARILLE: [After having bowed to them.] Ladies, no doubt you will be surprised at the boldness of my visit, but your reputation has drawn this disagreeable affair upon you; merit has for me such potent charms, that I run everywhere after it.

MADELON: If you pursue merit you should not come to us.

CATHOS: If you find merit amongst us, you must have brought it hither yourself.

MASCARILLE: Ah! I protest against these words. When fame mentioned your deserts it spoke the truth, and you are going to make pic, repic, and capot all the gallants from Paris.

MADELON: Your complaisance goes a little too far in the liberality of its praises, and my cousin and I must take credit not to give too much credit to your sweet adulation.

CATHOS: My dear, we should call for chairs.

MADELON: Almanzor!


MADELON: Convey to us hither, instantly, the conveniences of conversation.

MASCARILLE: But am I safe here? [Exit ALMANZOR.]

CATHOS: What is it you fear?

MASCARILLE: Some larceny of my heart; some massacre of liberty. I behold here a pair of eyes that seem to be very naughty boys, that insult liberty, and use a heart most barbarously. Why the deuce do they put themselves on their guard, in order to kill any one who comes near them? Upon my word! I mistrust them; I shall either scamper away, or expect very good security that they do me no mischief.

MADELON: My dear, what a charming facetiousness he has!

CATHOS: I see, indeed, he is an Amilcar [1].

MADELON: Fear nothing, our eyes have no wicked designs, and your heart may rest in peace, fully assured of their innocence.

CATHOS: But, pray, Sir, be not inexorable to the easy chair, which, for this last quarter of an hour, has held out its arms towards you; yield to its desire of embracing you.

MASCARILLE: [After having combed himself, and adjusted the rolls [2] of his stockings.] Well, ladies, and what do you think of Paris?

MADELON: Alas! what can we think of it? It would be the very antipodes of reason not to confess that Paris is the grand cabinet of marvels, the centre of good taste, wit, and gallantry.

MASCARILLE: As for me, I maintain that, out of Paris, there is no salvation for the polite world.

CATHOS: Most assuredly.

MASCARILLE: Paris is somewhat muddy; but then we have sedan chairs.

MADELON: To be sure; a sedan chair is a wonderful protection against the insults of mud and bad weather.

MASCARILLE: I am sure you receive many visits. What great wit belongs to your company?

MADELON: Alas! we are not yet known, but we are in the way of being so; for a lady of our acquaintance has promised us to bring all the gentlemen who have written for the Miscellanies of Select Poetry [3].

CATHOS: And certain others, whom, we have been told, are likewise the sovereign arbiters of all that is handsome.

MASCARILLE: I can manage this for you better than any one; they all visit me; and I may say that I never rise without having half-a-dozen wits at my levee.

MADELON: Good Heavens! you will place us under the greatest obligation if you will do us the kindness; for, in short, we must make the acquaintance of all those gentlemen if we wish to belong to the fashion. They are the persons who can make or unmake a reputation at Paris; you know that there are some, whose visits alone are sufficient to start the report that you are a Connaisseuse, though there should be no reason for it. As for me, what I value particularly is, that by means of these ingenious visits, we learn a hundred things which we ought necessarily to know, and which are the quintessence of wit. Through them we hear the scandal of the day, or whatever niceties are going on in prose or verse. We know, at the right time, that Mr. So-and-so has written the finest piece in the world on such a subject; that Mrs. So-and-so has adapted words to such a tune; that a certain gentleman has written a madrigal upon a favour shown to him; another stanzas upon a fair one who betrayed him; Mr. Such-a-one wrote a couplet of six lines yesterday evening to Miss Such-a-one, to which she returned him an answer this morning at eight o'clock; such an author is engaged on such a subject; this writer is busy with the third volume of his novel; that one is putting his works to press. Those things procure you consideration in every society, and if people are ignorant of them, I would not give one pinch of snuff for all the wit they may have.

CATHOS: Indeed, I think it the height of ridicule for anyone who possesses the slightest claim to be called clever not to know even the smallest couplet that is made every day; as for me, I should be very much ashamed if any one should ask me my opinion about something new, and I had not seen it.

MASCARILLE: It is really a shame not to know from the very first all that is going on; but do not give yourself any farther trouble, I will establish an academy of wits at your house, and I give you my word that not a single line of poetry shall be written in Paris, but what you shall be able to say by heart before anybody else. As for me, such as you see me, I amuse myself in that way when I am in the humour, and you may find handed about in the fashionable assemblies of Paris two hundred songs, as many sonnets, four hundred epigrams, and more than a thousand madrigals all made by me, without counting riddles and portraits.

MADELON: I must admit that I dote upon portraits; I think there is nothing more gallant.

MASCARILLE: Portraits are difficult, and call for great wit; you shall see some of mine that will not displease you.

CATHOS: As for me, I am awfully fond of riddles.

MASCARILLE: They exercise the intelligence; I have already written four of them this morning, which I will give you to guess.

MADELON: Madrigals are pretty enough when they are neatly turned.

MASCARILLE: This is my special talent; I am at present engaged in turning the whole Roman history into madrigals.

MADELON: Goodness gracious! that will certainly be superlatively fine; I should like to have one copy at least, if you think of publishing it.

MASCARILLE: I promise you each a copy, bound in the handsomest manner. It does not become a man of my rank to scribble, but I do it only to serve the publishers, who are always bothering me.

MADELON: I fancy it must be a delightful thing to see one's self in print.

MASCARILLE: Undoubtedly; but, by the by, I must repeat to you some extempore verses I made yesterday at the house of a certain duchess, an acquaintance of mine. I am deuced clever at extempore verses.

CATHOS: Extempore verses are certainly the very touchstone of genius.

MASCARILLE: Listen then.

MADELON: We are all ears.

MASCARILLE: Oh! oh! quite without heed was I,

As harmless you I chanced to spy,
Slyly your eyes
My heart surprise,
Stop thief! stop thief! stop thief I cry!

CATHOS: Good Heavens! this is carried to the utmost pitch of gallantry.

MASCARILLE: Everything I do shows it is done by a gentleman; there is nothing of the pedant about my effusions.

MADELON: They are more than two thousand miles removed from that.

MASCARILLE: Did you observe the beginning, oh! oh? there is something original in that oh! oh! like a man who all of a sudden thinks about something, oh! oh! Taken by surprise as it were, oh! oh!

MADELON: Yes, I think that oh! oh! admirable.

MASCARILLE: It seems a mere nothing.

CATHOS: Good Heavens! How can you say so? It is one of these things that are perfectly invaluable.

MADELON: No doubt on it; I would rather have written that oh! oh! than an epic poem.

MASCARILLE: Egad, you have good taste.

MADELON: Tolerably; none of the worst, I believe.

MASCARILLE: But do you not also admire quite without heed was I? quite without heed was I, that is, I did not pay attention to anything; a natural way of speaking, quite without heed was I, of no harm thinking, that is, as I was going along, innocently, without malice, like a poor sheep, you I chanced to spy, that is to say, I amused myself with looking at you, with observing you, with contemplating you. Slyly your eyes . . . What do you think of that word slyly--is it not well chosen?

CATHOS: Extremely so.

MASCARILLE: Slyly, stealthily; just like a cat watching a mouse--slyly.

MADELON: Nothing can be better.

MASCARILLE: My heart surprise, that is, carries it away from me, robs me of it. Stop thief! stop thief! stop thief! Would you not think a man were shouting and running after a thief to catch him? Stop thief! stop thief! stop thief!

MADELON: I must admit the turn is witty and sprightly.

MASCARILLE: I will sing you the tune I made of it.

CATHOS: Have you learned music?

MASCARILLE: I? Not at all.

CATHOS: How can you make a tune then?

MASCARILLE: People of rank know everything without ever having learned anything.

MADELON: His lordship is quite in the right, my dear.

MASCARILLE: Listen if you like the tune: hem, hem, la, la. The inclemency of the season has greatly injured the delicacy of my voice; but no matter, it is in a free and easy way. [He sings.] Oh! Oh! quite without heed was I, etc...

CATHOS: What a passion there breathes in this music. It is enough to make one die away with delight!

MADELON: There is something plaintive in it.

MASCARILLE: Do you not think that the air perfectly well expresses the sentiment, stop thief, stop thief? And then as if some one cried out very loud, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop thief! Then all at once like a person out of breath, Stop thief!

MADELON: This is to understand the perfection of things, the grand perfection, the perfection of perfections. I declare it is altogether a wonderful performance. I am quite enchanted with the air and the words.

CATHOS: I never yet met anything so excellent.

MASCARILLE: All that I do comes naturally to me; it is without study.

MADELON: Nature has treated you like a very fond mother; you are her darling child.

MASCARILLE: How do you pass away the time, ladies?

CATHOS: With nothing at all.

MADELON: Until now we have lived in a terrible dearth of amusements.

MASCARILLE: I am at your service to attend you to the play, one of those days, if you will permit me. Indeed, a new comedy is to be acted which I should be very glad we might see together.

MADELON: There is no refusing you anything.

MASCARILLE: But I beg of you to applaud it well, when we shall be there; for I have promised to give a helping hand to the piece. The author called upon me this very morning to beg me so to do. It is the custom for authors to come and read their new plays to people of rank, that they may induce us to improve them and give them a reputation. I leave you to imagine if, when we say anything, the pit dares contradict us. As for me, I am very punctual in these things, and when I have made a promise to a poet, I always call out "Bravo" before the candles are lighted.

MADELON: Do not say another word; Paris is an admirable place. A hundred things happen every day which people in the country, however clever they may be, have no idea of.

CATHOS: Since you have told us, we shall consider it our duty to cry up lustily every word that is said.

MASCARILLE: I do not know whether I am deceived, but you look as if you had written some play yourself.

MADELON: Eh! there may be something in what you say.

MASCARILLE: Ah! Upon my word, we must see it. Between ourselves, I have written one which I intend to have brought out.

CATHOS: Ay! To what company do you mean to give it?

MASCARILLE: That is a very nice question, indeed. To the actors of the hôtel de Bourgogne; they alone can bring things into good repute; the rest are ignorant creatures who recite their parts just as people speak in every-day life; they do not understand to mouth the verses, or to pause at a beautiful passage; how can it be known where the fine lines are, if an actor does not stop at them, and thereby tell you to applaud heartily? [4]

CATHOS: Indeed! that is one way of making an audience feel the beauties of any work; things are only prized when they are well set off.

MASCARILLE: What do you think of my top-knot, sword-knot, and rosettes? Do you find they harmonize with my coat?

CATHOS: Perfectly.

MASCARILLE: Do you think the ribbon well chosen?

MADELON: Furiously well. It is real Perdrigeon [5].

MASCARILLE: What do you say of my rolls? [2]

MADELON: They look very fashionable.

MASCARILLE: I may at least boast that they are a quarter of a yard wider than any that have been made.

MADELON: I must own I never saw the elegance of dress carried farther.

MASCARILLE: Please to fasten the reflection of your smelling faculty upon these gloves.

MADELON: They smell awfully fine.

CATHOS: I never inhaled a more delicious perfume.

MASCARILLE: And this? [He gives them his powdered wig to smell.]

MADELON: It has the true quality odour; it titillates the nerves of the upper region most deliciously.

MASCARILLE: You say nothing of my feathers. How do you like them?

CATHOS: They are frightfully beautiful.

MASCARILLE: Do you know that every single one of them cost me a Louis-d'or? But it is my hobby to have generally everything of the very best.

MADELON: I assure you that you and I sympathize. I am furiously particular in everything I wear; I cannot endure even stockings, unless they are bought at a fashionable shop.

MASCARILLE: [Crying out suddenly.] O! O! O! gently. Damme, ladies, you use me very ill; I have reason to complain of your behavior; it is not fair.

CATHOS: What is the matter with you?

MASCARILLE: What! two at once against my heart! to attack me thus right and left! Ha! This is contrary to the law of nations, the combat is too unequal, and I must cry out, "Murder!"

CATHOS: Well, he does say things in a peculiar way.

MADELON: He is a consummate wit.

CATHOS: You are more afraid than hurt, and you heart cries out before it is even wounded.

MASCARILLE: The devil it does! It is wounded all over from head to foot.

1 Amilcar is one of the heroes of the novel Clélie, who wishes to be thought sprightly.

2 The rolls (canons) were large round pieces of linen, often adorned with lace or ribbons, and which were fastened below the breeches, just under the knee.

3 Molière probably alludes to a Miscellany of Select Poetry, published in 1653, by de Sercy, under the title of Poésies choises de M.M. Corneille Benserade, de Scudéry, Boisrobert, Sarrazin, Desmarets, Baraud, Saint-Laurent, Colletet, Lamesnardière, Montreuil, Viguier, Chevreau, Malleville, Tristan, Testu, Maucroy, de Prade, Girard et de L'Age. A great number of such miscellanies appeared in France, and in England also, about that time.

4 The company of actors at the hôtel de Bourgogne were rivals to the troop of Molière; it appears, however, from contemporary authors, that the accusations brought by our author against them were well-founded.

5 Perdrigeon was the name of a fashionable linen-draper in Paris at that time.

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