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

Jean de La Bruyère (1645–1696)


From “The Characters

MENIPPUS is the crow that is made fine with other birds’ feathers. He neither speaks nor thinks himself, but repeats other peoples’ thoughts and discourse. It is so natural for him to make use of their wit, that he himself is the first to be deceived by it; for, imagining that he expresses his own judgment or conception, he but echoes the man he last parted with. For a quarter of an hour he is tolerable, but then, his shallow memory flagging, be becomes insipid. He alone is ignorant of his distance from the sublime and heroic that he affects. He is quite unfit to judge of another’s wit, innocently believing himself to have as much as possible, and thus assumes the air and deportment of one who neither needs more for himself, nor envies it in others. Without concealment he often soliloquizes to himself, and thus you may meet him chattering and arguing to himself as if some great matter were under deliberation. If you salute him at such a time he is strangely perplexed, not knowing whether to answer your salutation or not, and before he comes to a resolution you are out of sight. It is his vanity that has elevated him and made him what he is. To observe him you would conclude that his whole business was to consider his own person, dress, and deportment; that he fancied the eyes of all men open only to behold him, and that as he passed along they but relieved each other in admiring him.