Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  Cibber’s Repartee

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

Charles Reade (1814–1884)

Cibber’s Repartee

From “Peg Woffington”

THE LAUREATE was now respectfully addressed by one of his admirers, James Quin, the Falstaff of the day, and the rival at this time of Garrick in tragic characters, though the general opinion was that he could not long maintain a standing against the younger genius and his rising school of art.

Off the stage, James Quin was a character. His eccentricities were three: a humourist, a glutton, and an honest man—traits that often caused astonishment and ridicule, especially the last.

“May we not hope for something from Mr. Cibber’s pen after so long a silence?”

“No,” was the considerate reply. “Who have ye got to play it?”

“Plenty,” said Quin. “There’s your humble servant, there’s——”

“Humility at the head of the list,” cried she of the epilogue.

Vane thought this so sharp.

“Garrick, Barry, Macklin, Kitty Clive here at my side, Mrs. Cibber, the best tragic actress I ever saw, and Woffington, who is as good a comedian as you ever saw, sir.” And Quin turned as red as fire.

“Keep your temper, Jemmy,” said Mrs. Woffington with a severe accent.

“You misunderstand my question,” replied Cibber calmly.

“I know your dramatis personæ, but where the devil are your actors?”

Here was a blow.

“The public,” said Quin in some agitation, “would snore if we acted as they did in your time.”

“How do you know that, sir?” was the supercilious rejoinder. “You never tried!”

Mr. Quin was silenced. Peg Woffington looked off her epilogue.

“Bad as we are,” said she coolly, “we might be worse.”

Mr. Cibber turned round, and slightly raised his eyebrows.

“Indeed!” said he. “Madam,” added he, with a courteous smile, “will you be kind enough to explain to me how you could be worse!”

“If, like a crab, we could go backward!”

At this the auditors tittered, and Mr. Cibber had recourse to his spy-glass.

This gentleman was satirical or insolent, as the case might demand, in three degrees, of which the snuff-box was the comparative, and the spy-glass the superlative. He had learned this on the stage; in annihilating Quin he had just used the snuff weapon, and now he drew his spy-glass upon poor Peggy.

“Whom have we here?” said he. Then he looked with his spy-glass to see. “Oh! the little Irish orange-girl!”

“Whose basket outweighed Colley Cibber’s salary for the first twenty years of his dramatic career,” was the delicate reply to the above delicate remark. It staggered him for a moment. However, he affected a most puzzled air, then gradually allowed a light to steal into his features.

“Eh! Ah! Oh! How stupid I am! I understand; you sold something besides oranges!”