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

Samuel Foote (1720–1777)


LORD KELLY had a very red face. “Pray, my lord,” said Foote to him, “come and look over my garden-wall; my cucumbers are very backward.”

Foote expressed his conviction that a certain miser would take the beam out of his own eyes if he could manage to sell the timber.

A great gambler once said to Foote, “Since I last saw you I have lost an eye.” “I am very sorry for it,” said Foote; “pray, at what game?”

Foote, praising the hospitality of the Irish, after one of his trips to the sister kingdom, a gentleman asked him whether he had ever been at Cork. “No, sir,” replied Foote; “but I have seen many drawings of it.”

An author, after reading a play to Foote, was told that it would not do, by any means. “I wish, sir,” said the writer, “you could advise me what is best to do with it.” “That I can,” said the manager. “Blot out one-half, and burn the other.”

Lord Tracey complaining to Foote that a man had ruined his character, “So much the better,” replied the wit; “it was a bad one, and the sooner it was destroyed the more to your advantage.”

Foote was once met by a friend in town with a young man who was flashing away very brilliantly, while Foote seemed grave. “Why, Foote,” said his friend, “you are flat to-day; you don’t seem to relish wit!” “Why,” said Foote, “you have not tried me yet, sir.”

A mercantile man of Foote’s acquaintance had written a poem, and exacted a promise that Foote would listen to it, but he dropped off before the end of the first pompous line, “Hear me, oh, Phœbus, and ye Muses nine!” “Pray, pray, be attentive, Mr. Foote!” “I am,” said Foote. “Nine and one are ten. Go on!”

Foote was one day invited to dinner at Merchant Tailors’ Hall; and so well pleased was he with the entertainment that he sat till the chief part of the company had left the hall. At length, rising, he said, “Gentlemen, I wish you both a very good night.” “Both!” exclaimed one of the company; “why, you must be crazy, Foote; here are twenty of us!” “I have been counting you, and there are just eighteen; and as nine tailors make a man, I’m right. I wish you both a very good night.”

One evening at a fashionable dinner, when Foote was telling a story, one of the party interrupted him suddenly, with an air of apology, “I beg your pardon, Mr. Foote, but your handkerchief is half out of your pocket.” “Thank you, sir,” said Foote, replacing it; “you know the company better than I do,” and finished his story.

Foote being at a nobleman’s house, his lordship, as soon as dinner was over, ordered a bottle of Cape to be set on the table, which, after magnifying its good qualities, and in particular its age, he sent round the table in glasses that scarcely held a thimbleful. “Fine wine, upon my soul!” says the wit, tasting and smacking his lips. “Is it not very curious?” says his lordship. “Perfectly so, indeed,” says the other; “I do not remember to have seen anything so little of its age in my life before.”

After dining with the Duke of Leinster, at Dublin, Foote gave the following account of his entertainment: “As to the splendour, so far as it went, I admit it, there was a very fine sideboard of plate; and if a man could have swallowed a silversmith’s shop, there was enough to satisfy him. But as to all the rest, his mutton was white, his veal was red, the fish was kept too long, the venison not kept long enough. To sum up: everything was cold, except his ice; everything sour, except his vinegar.”

Foote, when travelling in the far west of England, dined one day at an inn. When the cloth was removed, the landlord asked him how he liked his fare. “I have dined as well as any man in England,” said Foote. “Except Mr. Mayor!” cried the landlord. “I do not except anybody whatever,” said he. “But you must!” bawled the host. “I won’t.” “You must!” At length the strife ended by the landlord (who was a petty magistrate) taking Foote before the mayor, who observed it had been customary in that town, for a great number of years, always to except the mayor, and accordingly fined him a shilling for not conforming to this ancient custom. Upon this decision, Foote paid the shilling, at the same time observing that he thought the landlord “the greatest fool in Christendom—except Mr. Mayor.”