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

William Wycherley (1640–1716)

Politeness Plausible

From “The Plain Dealer”


Man.Tell not me, my good Lord Plausible, of your decorums, supercilious forms, and slavish ceremonies, your little tricks, which you, the spaniels of the world, do daily over and over, for and to one another—not out of love or duty, but your servile fear.

Plaus.Nay, i’ faith, i’ faith, you are too passionate; and I must humbly beg your pardon and leave to tell you, they are the arts and rules the prudent of the world walk by.

Man.Let’m. But I’ll have no leading-strings; I can walk alone. I hate a harness, and will not tug on in a faction, kissing my leader behind, that another slave may do the like to me.

Plaus.What! will you be singular then, like nobody—follow, love, and esteem nobody?

Man.Rather than be general, like you, follow everybody; court and kiss everybody; though perhaps at the same time you hate everybody.

Plaus.Why, seriously, with your pardon, my dear friend——

Man.With your pardon, my no friend, I will not, as you do, whisper my hatred or my scorn; call a man fool or knave by signs or mouths over his shoulder, whilst you have him in your arms. For such as you, like common wenches and pickpockets, are only dangerous to those you embrace.

Plaus.Such as I! Heavens defend me! Upon my honour——

Man.Upon your title, my lord, if you’d have me believe you.

Plaus.Well, then, as I am a person of honour, I never attempted to abuse or lessen any person in my life.

Man.What, you were afraid?

Plaus.No. But seriously, I hate to do a rude thing; no, faith, I speak well of all mankind.

Man.I thought so. But know, that speaking well of all mankind is the worst kind of detraction; for it takes away the reputation of the few good men in the world, by making all alike. Now, I speak ill of most men, because they deserve it; I, that can do a rude thing rather than an unjust thing.

Plaus.Well, tell me not, my dear friend, what people deserve; I ne’er mind that. I, like an author in a dedication, never speak well of a man for his sake, but my own. I will not disparage any man, to disparage myself; for to speak ill of people behind their backs, is not like a person of honour; and, truly, to speak ill of ’em to their faces, is not like a complaisant person. But if I did say or do an ill thing to anybody, it should be sure to be behind their backs, out of pure good manners.

Man.Very well. But I, that am an unmannerly sea-fellow, if I ever speak well of people—which is very seldom indeed—it should be sure to be behind their backs; and if I would say or do ill to any, it should be to their faces. I would jostle a proud, strutting, overlooking coxcomb, at the head of his sycophants, rather than put out my tongue at him when he were past me; would frown in the arrogant, big, dull face of an overgrown knave of business, rather than vent my spleen against him when his back were turned; would give fawning slaves the lie whilst they embrace or commend me; cowards whilst they brag; call a rascal by no other title, though his father had left him a duke’s; laugh at fools aloud before their mistresses; and must desire people to leave me, when their visits grow at last as troublesome as they were at first impertinent.

Plaus.I would not have my visits troublesome.

Man.The only way to be sure not to have ’em troublesome is to make ’em when people are not at home; for your visits, like other good turns, are most obliging when made or done to a man in his absence. A pox! why should any one, because he has nothing to do, go and disturb another man’s business?

Plaus.I beg your pardon, my dear friend. What, you have business?

Man.If you have any, I would not detain your lordship.

Plaus.Detain me, dear sir! I can never have enough of your company.

Man.I’m afraid I should be tiresome; I know not what you think.

Plaus.Well, dear sir, I see you’d have me gone.

Man.(aside).But I see you won’t go.

Plaus.Your most faithful——

Man.God be w’ye, my lord.

Plaus.Your most humble——


Plaus.And eternally——

Man.And eternally ceremony—(Aside.)Then the devil take thee eternally.

Plaus.You shall use no ceremony, by my life.

Man.I do not intend it.

Plaus.Why do you stir, then?

Man.Only to see you out of doors, that I may shut ’em against more welcomes.

Plaus.Nay, faith, that shall not pass upon your most faithful humble servant.

Man.(aside).Nor this any more upon me.

Plaus.Well, you are too strong for me.

Man.(aside).I’d sooner be visited by the plague; for that only would keep a man from visits, and his doors shut.(Exit, thrusting out LORD PLAUSIBLE.)