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

Ben Jonson (1572–1637)

The Wonderful Beauty Powder

From “Volpone”

Volpone.Lady, I kiss your bounty, and for this timely grace you have done your poor Scoto, of Mantua, I will return you, over and above my oil, a secret of that high and inestimable nature which shall make you for ever enamoured on that minute, wherein your eye first descended on so mean, yet not altogether to be despised, an object. Here is a powder concealed in this paper, of which, if I should speak to the worth, nine thousand volumes were but as one page, that page as a line, that line as a word; so short is this pilgrimage of man, which some call life, to the expression of it. Would I reflect on the price? Why, the whole world is but as an empire, that empire as a province, that province as a bank, that bank as a private purse to the purchase of it. I will only tell you it is the powder that made Venus a goddess, given her by Apollo, that kept her perpetually young, cleared her wrinkles, firmed her gums, filled her skin, coloured her hair, from her derived to Helen, and at the sack of Troy unfortunately lost: till now, in this our age, it was as happily recovered, by a studious antiquary, out of some ruins of Asia, who sent a moiety of it to the Court of France, but much sophisticated, wherewith the ladies there now colour their hair. The rest, at this present, remains with me, extracted to a quintessence; so that, wherever it but touches in youth it perpetually preserves, in age restores the complexion; seats your teeth, did they dance like virginal jacks, firm as a wall; makes them white as ivory, that were black as coal.