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

Ben Jonson (1572–1637)

Truewit Tells the True Way to Woo

From “The Silent Woman”


True.Believe it, I told you right. Women ought to repair the losses time and years have made in their features with dressings. And an intelligent woman, if she know by herself the least defect, will be most curious to hide it. If she be short, let her sit much, lest, when she stands, she be thought to sit. If she have an ill foot, let her wear her gown the longer and her shoe the thinner; if a fat hand and scald nails, let her carve the less, and act in gloves; if a sour breath, let her never discourse fasting, and always talk at her distance. If she have black and rugged teeth, let her offer the less at laughter, especially if she laugh wide and open.

Cler.Oh, you shall have some women, when they laugh, you would think they brayed, it is so rude and——

True.Aye, and others, that will stalk in their gait like an ostrich, and take huge strides. I cannot endure such a sight. I love measure in the feet and number in the voice; they are gentlenesses, that oftentimes draw no less than the face.

Daup.How camest thou to study these creatures so exactly? I would thou wouldst make me a proficient.

True.Yes, but you must leave to live in your chamber, then, a month together upon Amadis de Gaul or Don Quixote, as you are wont; and come abroad where the matter is frequent, to court, to tiltings, public shows and feasts, to plays, and church sometimes; thither they come to show their new tires, too, to see and to be seen. In these places a man shall find whom to love, whom to play with, whom to touch once, whom to hold ever. The variety arrests his judgment. A wife, to please a man, comes not down-dropping from the ceiling as he lies on his back droning a tobacco-pipe. He must go where she is.

Daup.Yes, and be never the nearer.

True.Out, heretic! That diffidence makes thee worthy it should be so.

Cler.He says true to you, Dauphine.


True.A man should not doubt to overcome any woman. Think he can vanquish them, and he shall; for though they deny, their desire is to be tempted. Penelope herself cannot hold out long. Ostende, you saw, was taken at last. You must persevere, and hold to your purpose. They would solicit us, but that they are afraid. Howsoever, they wish in their hearts we should solicit them. Praise them, flatter them, you shall never want eloquence or trust; even the best delight to feel themselves that way rubbed. With praises you must mix kisses, too; if they take any, any’ll take more; though they strive, they would be overcome.

Cler.Oh, but a man must beware of force!

True.It is to them an acceptable rudeness, and has ofttimes the place of the greatest courtesy. She that might have been kissed, and you let her go free without touching, though then she seem to thank you, will ever hate you after; and glad in the face is assuredly sad at the heart.

Cler.But all women are not to be taken all ways.

True.’Tis true; no more than all birds, or all fishes. If you appear learned to an ignorant girl, or jocund to a sad, or witty to a foolish, why, she presently begins to mistrust herself. You must approach them in their own height, their own line; for the contrary makes many, that fear to commit themselves to noble and worthy fellows, run into the embraces of a rascal. If she love wit, give verses, though you borrow them of a friend, or buy them, to have good. If valour, talk of your sword, and be frequent in the mention of quarrels, though you dislike fighting. If activity, be seen on your barbary often, or leaping over stools, for the credit of your back. If she love good clothes or dressing, have your learned counsel about you every morning, your French tailor, barber, linener, etc. Let your powder, your glass, and your comb be your dearest acquaintance. Take more care for the ornament of your head, than the safety; and wish the commonwealth rather troubled, than a hair about you. That will take her. Then, if she be covetous and craving, do you promise anything, and perform sparingly; so shall you keep her in appetite still. Seem as you would give, but be like a barren field, that yields little; or unlucky dice to foolish and hoping gamesters. Let your gifts be slight and dainty, rather than precious. Let cunning be above cost. Give cherries at time of year, or apricots, and say they were sent you out of the country, though you bought them in Cheapside. Admire her tires; like her in all fashions; compare her in every habit to some deity; invent excellent dreams to flatter her, and riddles; or, if she be a great one, perform always the second parts to her. Like what she likes, praise whom she praises, and fail not to make the household and servants yours, yea, the whole family, and salute them by their names; ’tis but light cost, if you can purchase them so. Make her physician your pensioner, and her chief woman. Nor will it be out of your gain to make love to her too, so she follow, not usher, her lady’s pleasure. All blabbing is taken away, when she comes to be a part of the crime.

Daup.On what courtly lap hast thou late slept, to come forth so sudden and absolute a courtling?

True.Good faith, I should rather question you, that are so hearkening after these mysteries. I begin to suspect your diligence, Dauphine. Speak, art thou in love in earnest?

Daup.Yes, by my troth, am I; ’twere ill dissembling before thee.

True.With which of them, I prithee?

Daup.With all the collegiates.

Cler.Out on thee! We’ll keep you at home, believe it, in the stable.

True.No; I like him well. Men should love wisely, and all women; some one for the face, and let her please the eye; another for the skin, and let her please the touch; a third for the voice, and let her please the ear; and where the objects mix, let the senses so too.