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

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732–1799)

Varieties of Truth

From “The Marriage of Figaro”


Suz.None of the things which you have planned, my friend, and which we are waiting for, have yet come to pass.

Fig.Chance has done better than all of us, little one. The way of the world is this: one works, one plans, one arranges, on this hand; on the other, it is fate that really rules, and, from the greedy conqueror who would like to swallow the earth, down to the harmless blind man led by his dog—all are the playthings of fortune’s caprice. But the blind man with his dog is at times more safely led and less mistaken in his views than the other blind man in the midst of his flatterers. As for that amiable little blind fellow whose name is love——

Suz.Ah, that’s the only one who interests me!

Fig.Permit me, then, taking service with folly, to be the good dog who leads him to your dear little door, and we shall be provided with lodgings for life.

Suz.Love and you?

Fig.I and love.

Suz.And you will seek no other home?

Fig.If you take me there, may a thousand million gallants——

Suz.You are going to exaggerate; tell me truthfully——

Fig.It’s the truth, the real truth.

Suz.Fie, you wretch! Can one speak several kinds of truth?

Fig.Yes, indeed. Since it has been remarked that with time old follies become wisdom, and that very ancient little lies have produced very great truths, there are a thousand kinds. There is the kind of truth that one knows, but dares not tell, for it is not well to tell every truth; and there is the kind one proclaims without having any faith in it, for it is not well to believe every truth; then there are passionate vows, mothers’ threats, the protestations of men in their cups, the promises of high officials, the last word of a haggling merchant—the list is infinite. It is only my love for Suzanne that is a truth beyond doubt.

Suz.I love your gaiety because it is folly, and tells me that you are happy. But let us discuss the meeting with the count.

Fig.Or rather let us not discuss it; it has nearly cost me Suzanne.

Suz.Then you do not wish it to take place?

Fig.If you love me, Suzanne, give me your word of honor on this point; let him shiver alone, and let that be his punishment.

Suz.It cost me so little to give him my word, that I can break it without much trouble. There is no question of the meeting now.

Fig.Is that the real truth?

Suz.I am not like you clever people; for me there is only one kind.

Fig.And you will love me a little?


Fig.That’s hardly anything.

Suz.And why?

Fig.In love, you see, not even too much is enough.

Suz.I do not understand these fine distinctions, but I will love no one save my husband.

Fig.Keep your word, and you will be a good exception to the rule.