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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

NICANDER entertains Elise on the sweet and charming manner in which he lived with his wife, from the day of their marriage to the hour of her death. He has said before that he is sorry they had no children; he now repeats the remark. At times he talks of his houses in town, at times of his lands in the country, calculates the revenue they bring him, describes the plan of his buildings and the situation of his seat, enlarges on the convenience of the apartments, the richness and neatness of their furnishings; he assures her that he loves good cheer and fine entertainments, and complains that his late wife was too much averse to society. “You are so rich,” says one of his friends brought there for the purpose, “why do you not buy such an office, or make such an addition to your estate?” “Indeed,” replies Nicander, “you believe me richer than I am!” He forgets neither his extraction nor his connections. “The lord treasurer, who is my cousin; the chancellor’s wife, who is my near kinswoman;” this is his style. He tells her how he once became discontented with his nearest relations, and offended with his heirs. “Am I not wronged? Have I any great reason to do well for them?” he asks Elise, and desires her to be judge. He then intimates that he is in a feeble and languishing state of health, and speaks of the vault where he designs to be interred. He fawns, flatters, and is very officious to all those who have any interest in the lady he courts. But Elise has not the courage to grow rich at the price of being his wife. While he is yet talking to her, in comes a gentleman whose presence alone dismounts the batteries that Nicander has raised. He gets up melancholy and embarrassed, and is now saying elsewhere what he said to Elise.