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

Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715–1747)

The Man of the World

From “Characters

A MAN of the world is not one who knows other men best, who has the most of foresight or skill in practical affairs, who is best instructed by experience or study. He is neither a good economist, nor a scholar, nor a politician, nor an enlightened official, nor a laborious magistrate. He is a man who knows nothing, and who is ignorant of nothing; who, a bungler in his own trade, whatever it be, believes himself expert in the trades of others; a man who has much useless wit, who can speak flatteries which do not flatter, say sensible things which do not instruct; who can persuade no one, well though he speak; gifted with that kind of eloquence which can create trifles or recall them to life, and reduce great subjects to nothing; of penetrating insight as to the external ridiculousness of men, but blind as to their souls; a man rich in words, who, powerless to impress by good sense, struggles to strike by singularity; who, fearful of wearying by logic, wearies by his inconsequence and digressions; who is lively without gaiety, and intense without passion; who needs a continual change of the places and the things that interest him, and yet is powerless to supply, by the variety of his amusements, the failings of his inner man. If several persons of this character happen to meet, and cannot arrange a game of cards, these men, who have so much brain, have not enough for half an hour’s conversation, even with women, without tiring each other. All their tricks, their jests, their news, their reflections, are exhausted in a moment. He who is not playing at quadrille or ombre, must watch those who are, in order that he may not come face to face with one to whom he has nothing to say. All these good people who have banished sense from their conversation are living examples of its necessity.