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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Molière (Jean Baptiste Poquelin) (1622–1673)

An Interview with Trissotin

From “The Learned Women”


Phi.Let us sit down here to listen comfortably to these verses; they should be weighed word by word.

Arm.I am all anxiety to hear them.

Bél.And I am dying for them.

Phi.(to TRISSOTIN).Whatever comes from you is a delight to me.

Arm.To me it is an unparalleled pleasure

Bél.It is a delicious repast offered to my ears.

Phi.Do not let us languish under such pressing desires.

Arm.Lose no time.

Bél.Begin quickly, and hasten our pleasure.

Phi.Offer your epigram to our impatience.

Tri.Alas! it is but a new-born child, madame, but its fate ought truly to touch your heart, for it was in your court-yard that I brought it forth but a moment since.

Phi.To make it dear to me, it is sufficient for me to know its father.

Tri.Your approbation may serve it as a mother.

Bél.What wit he has!

Phi.(to HENRIETTE, who is going away).Stop! Why do you run away?

Hen.I fear to disturb such sweet intercourse.

Phi.Come nearer, and with both ears share in the delight of hearing wonders.

Hen.I have little understanding for the beauties of authorship, and clever subtleties are not in my line.

Phi.No matter. Besides, I wish afterward to tell you of a secret which you must learn.

Tri.(to HENRIETTE).Knowledge has nothing that can touch you, and your only care is to charm everybody.

Hen.One as little as the other, and I have no wish to——

Bél.Ah! let us think of the new-born babe, I beg of you.

Phi.(to LÉPINE).Now, little page, bring some seats for. us to sit down.(LÉPINE slips down.)You senseless boy, how can you fall down after having learned the laws of equilibrium?

Bél.Do you not perceive, ignorant fellow, the causes of your fall, and that it proceeds from your having deviated from the fixed point which we call the center of gravity?

Lép.I perceived it, madame, when I was on the ground.

Phi.(to LÉPINE, who goes out).Awkward clown!

Tri.It is fortunate for him that he is not made of glass.

Arm.Ah! wit is everything!

Bél.His never ceases.

Phi.Serve us quickly with your admirable feast.

Tri.To satisfy the great hunger which is here shown me, a dish of eight verses seems but little; and I think that I should do well to join to the epigram, or rather to the madrigal, the ragout of a sonnet which, in the eyes of a princess, was thought to have a certain delicacy in it. It is throughout seasoned with Attic salt, and I think you will find the taste of it tolerably good.

Arm.Ah! I have no doubt of it.

Phi.Let us quickly give ear.

Bél.(interrupting TRISSOTIN each time he is about to read).I feel, beforehand, my heart beating for joy. I love poetry to distraction, particularly when the verses are gallantly turned.

Phi.If we go on talking he will never be able to read.


Bél.(to HENRIETTE).Be silent, niece.

Arm.Ah! let him read, I beg of you!


  • Your prudence fast in sleep’s repose
  • Is plunged; if thus superbly kind,
  • A lodging gorgeously you find
  • For the most cruel of your foes——
  • Bél.Ah! what a pretty beginning!

    Arm.What a charming turn it has!

    Phi.He alone possesses the talent of making fluent verses.

    Arm.We must yield to prudence fast in sleep’s repose is plunged.

    Bél.A lodging for the most cruel of your foes is full of charms for me.

    Phi.I like superbly and gorgeously; these two adverbs coming together sound admirable.

    Bél.Let us hear the rest.


  • Your prudence fast in sleep’s repose
  • Is plunged; if thus superbly kind,
  • A lodging gorgeously you find
  • For the most cruel of your foes——
  • Arm.Prudence asleep!

    Bél.Lodge one’s enemy!

    Phi.Superbly and gorgeously!


  • Will she, nill she, quick, out she goes
  • From your apartment richly lined.
  • Where that ingrate’s outrageous mind
  • At your fair life her javelin throws.
  • Bél.Ah! wait! Allow me to breathe, I beseech you!

    Arm.Give us time to admire, I beg!

    Phi.One feels, at hearing these verses, an indescribable something which goes through one’s inmost soul, and makes one feel quite faint.


  • Will she, nill she, quick, out she goes
  • From your apartment richly lined.
  • How prettily rich apartment is said here, and with what wit the metaphor is introduced!

    Phi.Will she, nill she, quick, out she goes! Ah! in what admirable taste that will she, nill she, is! To my mind the passage is invaluable.

    Arm.My heart is also in love with will she, nill she.

    Bél.I am of your opinion; will she, nill she, is a happy expression.

    Arm.I wish I had written it.

    Bél.It is worth a whole poem!

    Phi.But do you, like me, thoroughly understand the wit of it?

    Arm. and Bél.Oh! oh!

    Phi.Will she, nill she, quick, out she goes! Although another should take the fever’s part, pay no attention; laugh at the gossips; will she, nill she, quick, out she goes. Will she, nill she, will she, nill she. This will she, nill she, says a great deal more than it seems. I do not know if every one is like me, but I discover a hundred meanings in it.

    Bél.It is true that it says more than its size seems to imply.

    Phi.(to TRISSOTIN).But when you wrote this charming Will she, nill she, did you yourself understand all its energy? Did you realize all that it tells us, and did you then know that you were writing something so witty?

    Tri.Ah! ah!

    Arm.I have likewise the ingrate in my head; this ungrateful, unjust, uncivil fever that ill-treats people who entertain her.

    Phi.In short, both the stanzas are admirable. Let us come quickly to the triplets, I pray.

    Arm.Ah! once more, will she, nill she, I beg!

    Tri.Will she, nill she, quick, out she goes!

    Phi., Arm., and Bél.Will she, nill she!

    Tri.From your apartment richly lined!

    Phi., Arm., and Bél.Rich apartment!

    Tri.Where that ingrate’s outrageous mind!

    Phi., Arm., and Bél.That ungrateful fever!

    Tri.At your fair life her javelin throws.

    Phi.Fair life!

    Arm. and Bél.Ah!

    Tri.What! without heed for your high line,

    She saps your blood with care malign——

    Phi., Arm., and Bél.Ah!

    Tri.Redoubling outrage night and day!

    If to the bath you take her down,

    Without a moment’s haggling, pray,

    With your own hands the miscreant drown.

    Phi.Ah! it is quite overpowering!

    Bél.I am fainting!

    Arm.I am dying from pleasure!

    Phi.A thousand sweet thrills seize one!

    Arm.If to the bath you take her down!

    Bél.Without a moment’s haggling, pray!

    Phi.With your own hands the miscreant drown! With your own hands, there, drown her there in the bath!

    Arm.In your verses we meet at each step with charming beauty.

    Bél.One promenades through them with rapture.

    Phi.One treads on fine things only.

    Arm.They are little lanes all strewn with roses.

    Tri.Then the sonnet seems to you——

    Phi.Admirable, new; and never did any one make anything more beautiful.

    Bél.(to HENRIETTE).What! niece, you listen to what has been read without emotion! There you play a sorry part!

    Hen.We each of us play the best part we can, aunt, and to be a wit does not depend on our will.

    Tri.My verses, perhaps, are tedious to you.

    Hen.No, I am not listening to them.

    Phi.Now let us hear the epigram.



    Phi.His titles have always something rare in them.

    Arm.They prepare one for a hundred flashes of wit.

    Tri.Love for his bonds so dear a price demands,

    E’en now it costs me more than half my lands;

    And when this chariot meets your eyes,

    Where so much gold emboss’d doth rise

    That people all astonished stand,

    And Laïs rides in triumph through the land——

    Phi.Ah! Laïs! What erudition!

    Bél.Exquisitely pretty, and worth a million!

    Tri.And when this chariot meets your eyes,

    Where so much gold emboss’d doth rise

    That people all astonished stand,

    And Laïs rides in triumph through the land,

    Say no more it is amaranth,

    Say rather it is oh, my rent!

    Arm.Oh, oh, oh! It surpasses everything! Who would have expected that?

    Phi.He is the only man who writes with such taste.

    Bél.Say no more it is amaranth, say rather it is oh, my rent! It can be declined: my rent; of my rent; to my rent; from my rent.

    Phi.I do not know whether I was prepossessed from the first moment I saw you, but I admire all your prose and verse whenever I see it.

    Tri.(to PHILAMINTE).If you would only show us something of your composition, we could admire in our turn.

    Phi.I have done nothing in verse. But I have reason to hope that I shall, shortly, be able, as a friend, to show you eight chapters of the plan of our academy. Plato only touched on the subject when he wrote the treatise of his Republic; but I will complete the idea as I have arranged it on paper in prose. For, in short, I am truly angry at the wrong which is done us in regard to intelligence; and I will avenge the whole sex for the unworthy place which men assign us by confining our talents to trifles, and by shutting the door of sublime knowledge against us.

    Arm.It is insulting our sex too grossly to limit our intelligence to the power of judging of a skirt, of the make of a garment, of the beauties of lace, or of a new brocade.

    Bél.We must rise above this shameful condition, and bravely proclaim our emancipation.

    Tri.Every one knows my respect for the fair sex, and that if I render homage to the brightness of their eyes, I also honor the splendor of their intellect.

    Phi.And our sex does you justice in this respect. But we will show to certain minds who treat us with proud contempt that women also have knowledge; that, like men, they can hold learned meetings—regulated, too, by better rules; that they wish to unite what elsewhere is kept apart, join noble language to deep learning, reveal Nature’s laws by a thousand experiments; and on all questions proposed, admit every party, and ally themselves to none.

    Tri.For order, I prefer peripateticism.

    Phi.For abstractions, give me Platonism.

    Arm.Epicurus pleases me, for his tenets are solid.

    Bél.I agree with the doctrine of atoms; but I find it difficult to understand a vacuum, and I much prefer subtile matter.

    Tri.I quite agree with Descartes about magnetism.

    Arm.I like his vortices.

    Phi.And I his falling worlds.

    Arm.I long to see our assembly opened, and to distinguish ourselves by some great discovery.

    Tri.Much is expected from your enlightened knowledge, for Nature has hidden few things from you.

    Phi.For my part, I have, without boasting, already made one discovery: I have plainly seen men in the moon.

    Bél.I have not, I believe, as yet quite distinguished men, but I have seen steeples as plainly as I see you.

    Arm.In addition to natural philosophy, we will plunge into grammar, history, poetry, ethics, and politics.

    Phi.I find in ethics charms which delight my heart; it was formerly the admiration of great geniuses; but I give the preference to the Stoics, and I think nobody so grand as their founder.

    Arm.Our regulations in respect to language will soon be known, and we mean to create a revolution. Through a just or natural antipathy, we have each of us taken a mortal hatred to certain words, both verbs and nouns, and these we mutually abandon to each other. We are preparing sentences of death against them, and we shall open our learned meetings by the proscription of the sundry words of which we mean to purge both prose and verse.

    Phi.But the greatest project of our assembly—a noble enterprise which transports me with joy, a glorious design which will be approved by all the lofty geniuses of posterity—is the cutting out of all those filthy syllables which, in the finest words, are a source of scandal: those eternal jests of the fools of all times; those nauseous commonplaces of wretched buffoons; those sources of infamous ambiguity, with which the purity of women is insulted.

    Tri.These are indeed admirable projects.

    Bél.You shall see our regulations when they are quite ready.

    Tri.They cannot fail to be wise and beautiful.

    Arm.We shall by our laws be the judges of all works; by our laws, prose and verse will both alike be submitted to us. No one will have wit except us or our friends. We shall try to find fault with everything, and esteem no one capable of writing but ourselves.Enter LÉPINE.

    Lép.(to TRISSOTIN).Sir, there is a gentleman who wants to speak to you; he is dressed all in black, and talks in a soft tone.

    Tri.It is that learned friend who entreated me so much to procure him the honor of your acquaintance.

    Phi.You have our full leave to present him to us.(LÉPINE ushers in VADIUS.)

    Tri.(introducing VADIUS).Here is the gentleman who is dying to see you. In presenting him I am not afraid, madame, of being accused of introducing a profane person to you; he can hold his place among the wits.

    Phi.The hand which introduces him sufficiently proves his value.

    Tri.He has a perfect knowledge of the ancient authors, and knows Greek, madame, as well as any man in France.

    Phi.(to BÉLISE).Greek! Oh, heaven! Greek! He understands Greek, sister!

    Bél.(to ARMANDE).Ah, niece! Greek!

    Arm.Greek! Ah! how delightful!

    Phi.What, sir, you understand Greek? Allow me, I beg, for the love of Greek, to embrace you.(VADIUS embraces also BÉLISE and ARMANDE.)

    Hen.(to VADIUS, who comes forward to embrace her).Excuse me, sir, I do not understand Greek.

    Phi.I have a wonderful respect for Greek books.

    Vad.I fear that the anxiety which calls me to render my homage to you to-day, madame, may render me importunate. I may have disturbed some learned discourse.

    Phi.Sir, with Greek in possession, you can spoil nothing.

    Tri.Moreover, he does wonders in prose as well as in verse, and he could, if he chose, show you something.

    Vad.The fault of authors is to burden conversation with their productions; to be, at court, in the public walks, in the drawing-rooms, or at table, the indefatigable readers of their tedious verses. As for me, I think nothing more ridiculous than an author who goes about begging for praise; who, preying on the ears of the first comers, often makes them the martyrs of his night-watches. I have never been guilty of such foolish conceit, and I am in that respect of the opinion of a Greek, who by an express law forbade all wise men any unbecoming anxiety to read his works. Here are some little verses for young lovers upon which I should like to have your opinion.

    Tri.Your verses have beauties unequaled by any others.

    Vad.Venus and the graces reign in all yours.

    Tri.You have an easy style, and a fine choice of words.

    Vad.In all your writings one finds ithos and pathos.

    Tri.We have seen some eclogues of your composition which surpass in sweetness those of Theocritus and Vergil.

    Vad.Your odes have a noble, gallant, and tender manner, which leaves Horace far behind.

    Tri.Is there anything more lovely than your canzonets?

    Vad.Is there anything equal to the sonnets you write?

    Tri.Is there anything more charming than your little rondeaus?

    Vad.Anything so full of wit as your madrigals?

    Tri.If France could appreciate your value——

    Vad.If the age could render justice to a lofty genius——

    Tri.You would ride in the streets in a gilt coach.

    Vad.We should see the public erect statues to you. Hem— It is a ballad; and I wish you frankly to——

    Tri.Have you heard a certain little sonnet upon the Princess Urania’s fever?

    Vad.Yes; I heard it read yesterday.

    Tri.Do you know the author of it?

    Vad.No, I do not; but I know very well that, to tell him the truth, his sonnet is good for nothing.

    Tri.Yet a great many people think it admirable.

    Vad.It does not prevent it from being wretched; and if you had read it you would think like me.

    Tri.I know that I should differ from you altogether, and that few people are able to write such a sonnet.

    Vad.Heaven forbid that I should ever write one so bad!

    Tri.I maintain that a better one cannot be made, and my reason is that I am the author of it.



    Vad.I cannot understand how the thing could have happened.

    Tri.It is unfortunate that I had not the power of pleasing you.

    Vad.My mind must have wandered during the reading, or else the reader spoiled the sonnet; but let us leave that subject, and come to my ballad.

    Tri.The ballad is, to my mind, an insipid thing; it is no longer the fashion, and savors of ancient times.

    Vad.Yet a ballad has charms for many people.

    Tri.It does not prevent me from thinking it unpleasant.

    Vad.That does not make it worse.

    Tri.It has wonderful attractions for pedants.

    Vad.Yet we see that it does not please you.

    Tri.You stupidly impose your qualities on others.

    Vad.You very impertinently cast yours upon me.

    Tri.Go, you little dunce, you pitiful quill-driver!

    Vad.Go, you penny-a-liner, you disgrace to the profession!

    Tri.Go, you book-manufacturer, you impudent plagiarist!

    Vad.Go, you pedantic snob!

    Phi.Ah! gentlemen, what are you about?

    Tri.(to VADIUS).Go, go, and make restitution to the Greeks and Romans for all your shameful thefts!

    Vad.Go, and do penance on Parnassus for having murdered Horace in your verses!

    Tri.Remember your book, and the little stir it made.

    Vad.And you, remember your bookseller, reduced to the workhouse.

    Tri.My fame is established; in vain would you endeavor to shake it.

    Vad.Yes, yes; I’ll send you to the author of the Satires.

    Tri.I, too, will send you to him.

    Vad.I have the satisfaction of having been honorably treated by him; he gives me a passing thrust, and includes me among several authors well known at court. But you he never leaves in peace; in all his verses he attacks you.

    Tri.By that we see the honorable rank I hold. He leaves you in the crowd, and esteems one blow enough to crush you. He has never done you the honor of repeating his attacks, whereas he assails me separately, as a noble adversary against whom all his efforts are necessary. His blows, repeated against me on all occasions, show that he never thinks himself victorious.

    Vad.My pen will teach you what sort of man I am!

    Tri.And mine will make you know your master!

    Vad.I defy you in verse, prose, Greek, and Latin!

    Tri.Very well, we shall meet again at the bookseller’s!