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

William Congreve (1670–1729)

The Country Squire in London

From “The Way of the World”


Wit.In the name of Bartlemew and his fair, what have we here?

Mrs. Mar.’Tis your brother, I fancy. Don’t you know him?

Wit.(aside).Not I. Yes, I think he is it. I’ve almost forgot him; I have not seen him since the Revolution.

Foot.(to Sir WILFUL).Sir, my lady’s dressing. Here’s company, if you please to walk in in the meantime.

Sir Wil.Dressing! What, it’s but morning here, I warrant, with you in London. We should count it toward afternoon in our parts, down in Shropshire. Why, then, belike my aunt hasn’t dined yet—ha, friend?

Foot.Your aunt, sir?

Sir Wil.My aunt, sir—yes, my aunt, sir. Your lady is my aunt, sir. Why, what, dost thou not know me, friend? Why, then, send somebody hither that does. How long hast thou lived with thy lady, fellow, ha?

Foot.A week, sir; longer than anybody in the house, except my lady’s woman.

Sir Wil.Why, then, belike thou dost not know thy lady when thou seest her—ha, friend?

Foot.Why, truly, sir, I cannot safely swear to her face in a morning before she is dressed. ’Tis like I may give a shrewd guess at her by this time.

Sir Wil.Well, prithee, try what thou canst do. If thou canst not guess, inquire her out—dost hear, fellow? And tell her her nephew, Sir Wilful Witwoud, is in the house.

Foot.I shall, sir.

Sir Wil.Hold ye—hear me, friend; a word with you in your ear. Prithee, who are these gallants?

Foot.Really, sir, I can’t tell; there come so many here, ’tis hard to know ’em all.(Exit.)

Sir Wil.Oons, this fellow knows less than a starling. I don’t think a’ knows his own name.

Mrs. Mar.Mr. Witwoud, your brother is not behind-hand in forgetfulness. I fancy he has forgot you, too.

Wit.I hope so. The devil take him that remembers first, I say.

Sir Wil.Save you, gentleman and lady!

Mrs. Mar.For shame, Mr. Witwoud! why don’t you speak to him? And you, sir?

Wit.Petulant, speak.

Pet.And you, sir.

Sir Wil.No offence, I hope.(Salutes MRS. MARALL.)

Mrs. Mar.No, sure, sir.

Wit.This is a vile dog, I see that already. No offence! Ha! ha! ha! To him—to him, Petulant; smoke him!

Pet.It seems as if you had come a journey, sir. H’m, h’m.(Surveying him round.)

Sir Wil.Very likely, sir, that it may seem so.

Pet.No offence, I hope, sir.

Wit.Smoke the boots—the boots, Petulant—the boots! Ha! ha! ha!

Sir Wil.Maybe not, sir; thereafter as ’tis meant, sir.

Pet.Sir, I presume upon the information of your boots.

Sir Wil.Why, ’tis like you may, sir. If you are not satisfied with the information of my boots, sir, if you will step to the stable you may inquire further of my horse, sir.

Pet.Your horse, sir! Your horse is an ass, sir!

Sir Wil.Do you speak by way of offence, sir?

Mrs. Mar.The gentleman’s merry, that’s all, sir.(Aside.)S’life, we shall have a quarrel betwixt an horse and an ass, before they find each other out.(Aloud.)You must not take anything amiss from your friends, sir. You are among your friends here, though it may be you don’t know it. If I am not mistaken, you are Sir Wilful Witwoud.

Sir Wil.Right, lady; I am Sir Wilful Witwoud, so I write myself; no offence to anybody, I hope, and nephew to the Lady Wishfort of this mansion.

Mrs. Mar.Don’t you know this gentleman, sir?

Sir Wil.H’m, why, sure, ’tis not. Yea, by’r Lady, but ’tis—s’heart, I know not whether ’tis or no—yea, but ’tis, by the wrekin, Brother Anthony! What, Tony, i’ faith! What, dost thou not know me? By’r Lady, nor I thee, thou art so becravatted and so beperiwigged. S’heart, why dost not speak? Art thou overjoyed?

Wit.Odso, brother, is it you? Your servant, brother.

Sir Wil.Your servant! Why yours, sir? Your servant again—s’heart, and your friend and servant to that—and a—and a—flap-dragon for your service, sir! And a hare’s-foot for your service, sir, an you be so cold and so courtly!

Wit.No offence, I hope, brother.

Sir Wil.S’heart, sir, but there is, and much offence! Is this your inns-o’-court breeding, not to know your friends and your relations, your elders and your betters?

Wit.Why, brother Wilful of Salop, you may be as short as a Shrewsbury cake, if you please. But I tell you, ’tis not modish to know relations in town; you think you’re in the country, where great lubberly brothers slabber and kiss one another when they meet. ’Tis not the fashion here; ’tis not, indeed, dear brother.

Sir Wil.The fashion’s a fool, dear brother, and you’re a fop. S’heart, I’ve suspected this. By’r Lady, I conjectured you were a fop, since you began to change the style of your letters, and write on a scrap of paper gilt ’round the edges, no bigger than a subpœna. I might expect this when you left off “Honoured brother,” and “Hoping you are in good health,” and so forth—to begin with a “Rat me, knight, I’m so sick of a last night’s debauch”—’od’s heart, and then tell me a familiar tale of a cock and a bull and a bottle, and so conclude. You could write news before you were out of your time, when you lived with honest Pimple-Nose, the attorney, at Furnival’s inn; you could entreat to be remembered then to your friends. We could have gazettes then, and Dawks’s “News Letter,” and the “Weekly Bill,” till of late.

Pet.S’life, Witwoud, were you ever an attorney’s clerk?—of the family of the Furnival? Ha! ha! ha!

Wit.Aye, aye, but that was but for a while; not long, not long. Pshaw! I was not in my own power then—an orphan, and this fellow was my guardian; aye, aye, I was glad to consent to that man, to come to London; he had the disposal of me then. If I had not agreed to that, I might have been bound apprentice to a felt-maker in Shrewsbury; this fellow would have bound me to a maker of felts.

Sir Wil.S’heart, and better than be bound to a maker of fops, where, I suppose, you have served your time; and now you may set up for yourself.

Mrs. Mar.You intend to travel, sir, as I’m informed.

Sir Wil.Belike I may, madam. I may chance to sail upon the salt seas, if my mind hold.

Pet.And the wind serve.

Sir Wil.Serve, or not serve, I sha’n’t ask licence of you, sir. ’Tis like my aunt may have told you, madam; yes, I have settled my concerns, I may say now, and am minded to see foreign parts, if an how that the peace holds, whereby, that is, taxes abate.

Mrs. Mar.I thought you had designed for France at all adventures.

Sir Wil.I can’t tell that; ’tis like I may, and ’tis like I may not. I am somewhat dainty in making a resolution, because when I make it I keep it. I don’t stand still; I shall, then; if I say’t, I’ll do’t; but I have thoughts to tarry a small matter in town, to learn somewhat of your lingo first before I cross the seas. I’d gladly have a spice of your French, as they say, whereby to hold discourse in foreign countries.

Mrs. Mar.Here’s an academy in town for that use.

Sir Wil.There is? ’Tis like there may.

Mrs. Mar.No doubt you will return very much improved.

Wit.Yes, refined, like a Dutch skipper from a whale-fishing.


Lady Wish.Nephew, you are welcome.

Sir Wil.Aunt, your servant.

Fain.Sir Wilful, your most faithful servant.

Sir Wil.Cousin Fainall, give me your hand.

Lady Wish.Cousin Witwoud, your servant. Mr. Petulant, your servant. Nephew, you are welcome again. Will you drink anything after your journey, nephew, before you eat? Dinner’s almost ready.

Sir Wil.I’m very well, I thank you, aunt. However, I thank you for your courteous offer. S’heart, I was afraid you would have been in the fashion, too, and have remembered to have forgot your relations. Here’s your cousin Tony, belike. I mayn’t call him brother, for fear of offence.

Lady Wish.Oh, he’s a railer, nephew—my cousin’s a wit; and your wits always rally their best friends when they choose. When you have been abroad, nephew, you’ll understand raillery better.

Sir Wil.Why, then, let him hold his tongue in the meantime, and rail when that day come.