Produced by Delphine Lettau, Charles Franks and the people at DP
THE LEARNED WOMEN
(LES FEMMES SAVANTES)
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH PROSE.
_WITH SHORT INTRODUCTIONS AND EXPLANATORY NOTES_
CHARLES HERON WALL
The comedy of 'Les Femmes Savantes' was acted on March 11, 1692 (see
vol. i. p. 153).
Moliere acted the part of Chrysale.
CHRYSALE, _an honest bourgeois_
PHILAMINTE, _wife to_ CHRYSALE
ARMANDE & HENRIETTE, _their daughters_
ARISTE, _brother to_ CHRYSALE
BELISE, _his sister_
CLITANDRE, _lover to_ HENRIETTE
TRISSOTIN, _a wit_
VADIUS, _a learned man_
MARTINE, _a kitchen-maid_
LEPINE, _servant to_ CHRYSALE
JULIEN, _servant to_ VADIUS
THE LEARNED WOMEN.
SCENE I.--ARMANDE, HENRIETTE.
ARM. What! Sister, you will give up the sweet and enchanting title of
maiden? You can entertain thoughts of marrying! This vulgar wish can
enter your head!
HEN. Yes, sister.
ARM. Ah! Who can bear that "yes"? Can anyone hear it without feelings
HEN. What is there in marriage which can oblige you, sister, to....
ARM. Ah! Fie!
ARM. Fie! I tell you. Can you not conceive what offence the very
mention of such a word presents to the imagination, and what a
repulsive image it offers to the thoughts? Do you not shudder before
it? And can you bring yourself to accept all the consequences which
this word implies?
HEN. When I consider all the consequences which this word implies, I
only have offered to my thoughts a husband, children, and a home; and
I see nothing in all this to defile the imagination, or to make one
ARM. O heavens! Can such ties have charms for you?
HEN. And what at my age can I do better than take a husband who loves
me, and whom I love, and through such a tender union secure the
delights of an innocent life? If there be conformity of tastes, do you
see no attraction in such a bond?
ARM. Ah! heavens! What a grovelling disposition! What a poor part you
act in the world, to confine yourself to family affairs, and to think
of no more soul-stirring pleasures than those offered by an idol of a
husband and by brats of children! Leave these base pleasures to the
low and vulgar. Raise your thoughts to more exalted objects; endeavour
to cultivate a taste for nobler pursuits; and treating sense and
matter with contempt, give yourself, as we do, wholly to the
cultivation of your mind. You have for an example our mother, who is
everywhere honoured with the name of learned. Try, as we do, to prove
yourself her daughter; aspire to the enlightened intellectuality which
is found in our family, and acquire a taste for the rapturous
pleasures which the love of study brings to the heart and mind.
Instead of being in bondage to the will of a man, marry yourself,
sister, to philosophy, for it alone raises you above the rest of
mankind, gives sovereign empire to reason, and submits to its laws the
animal part, with those grovelling desires which lower us to the level
of the brute. These are the gentle flames, the sweet ties, which
should fill every moment of life. And the cares to which I see so many
women given up, appear to me pitiable frivolities.
HEN. Heaven, whose will is supreme, forms us at our birth to fill
different spheres; and it is not every mind which is composed of
materials fit to make a philosopher. If your mind is created to soar
to those heights which are attained by the speculations of learned
men, mine is fitted, sister, to take a meaner flight and to centre its
weakness on the petty cares of the world. Let us not interfere with
the just decrees of Heaven; but let each of us follow our different
instincts. You, borne on the wings of a great and noble genius, will
inhabit the lofty regions of philosophy; I, remaining here below, will
taste the terrestrial charms of matrimony. Thus, in our several paths,
we shall still imitate our mother: you, in her mind and its noble
longings; I, in her grosser senses and coarser pleasures; you, in the
productions of genius and light, and I, sister, in productions more
ARM. When we wish to take a person for a model, it is the nobler side
we should imitate; and it is not taking our mother for a model,
sister, to cough and spit like her.
HEN. But you would not have been what you boast yourself to be if our
mother had had only her nobler qualities; and well it is for you that
her lofty genius did not always devote itself to philosophy. Pray,
leave me to those littlenesses to which you owe life, and do not, by
wishing me to imitate you, deny some little savant entrance into the
ARM. I see that you cannot be cured of the foolish infatuation of
taking a husband to yourself. But, pray, let us know whom you intend
to marry; I suppose that you do not aim at Clitandre?
HEN. And why should I not? Does he lack merit? Is it a low choice I
ARM. Certainly not; but it would not be honest to take away the
conquest of another; and it is a fact not unknown to the world that
Clitandre has publicly sighed for me.
HEN. Yes; but all those sighs are mere vanities for you; you do not
share human weaknesses; your mind has for ever renounced matrimony,
and philosophy has all your love. Thus, having in your heart no
pretensions to Clitandre, what does it matter to you if another has
ARM. The empire which reason holds over the senses does not call upon
us to renounce the pleasure of adulation; and we may refuse for a
husband a man of merit whom we would willingly see swell the number of
HEN. I have not prevented him from continuing his worship, but have
only received the homage of his passion when you had rejected it.
ARM. But do you find entire safety, tell me, in the vows of a rejected
lover? Do you think his passion for you so great that all love for me
can be dead in his heart?
HEN. He tells me so, sister, and I trust him.
ARM. Do not, sister, be so ready to trust him; and be sure that, when
he says he gives me up and loves you, he really does not mean it, but
HEN. I cannot say; but if you wish it, it will be easy for us to
discover the true state of things. I see him coming, and on this point
he will be sure to give us full information.
SCENE II.--CLITANDRE, ARMANDE, HENRIETTE.
HEN. Clitandre, deliver me from a doubt my sister has raised in me.
Pray open your heart to us; tell us the truth, and let us know which
of us has a claim upon your love.
ARM. No, no; I will not force upon your love the hardship of an
explanation. I have too much respect for others, and know how
perplexing it is to make an open avowal before witnesses.
CLI. No; my heart cannot dissemble, and it is no hardship to me to
speak openly. Such a step in no way perplexes me, and I acknowledge
before all, freely and openly, that the tender chains which bind me
(_pointing to_ HENRIETTE), my homage and my love, are all on this
side. Such a confession can cause you no surprise, for you wished
things to be thus. I was touched by your attractions, and my tender
sighs told you enough of my ardent desires; my heart offered you an
immortal love, but you did not think the conquest which your eyes had
made noble enough. I have suffered many slights, for you reigned over
my heart like a tyrant; but weary at last with so much pain, I looked
elsewhere for a conqueror more gentle, and for chains less cruel.
(_Pointing to_ HENRIETTE) I have met with them here, and my bonds
will forever be precious to me. These eyes have looked upon me with
compassion, and have dried my tears. They have not despised what you
had refused. Such kindness has captivated me, and there is nothing
which would now break my chains. Therefore I beseech you, Madam, never
to make an attempt to regain a heart which has resolved to die in this
ARM. Bless me, Sir, who told you that I had such a desire, and, in
short, that I cared so much for you? I think it tolerably ridiculous
that you should imagine such a thing, and very impertinent in you to
declare it to me.
HEN. Ah! gently, sister. Where is now that moral sense which has so
much power over that which is merely animal in us, and which can
restrain the madness of anger?
ARM. And you, who speak to me, what moral sense have you when you
respond to a love which is offered to you before you have received
leave from those who have given you birth? Know that duty subjects you
to their laws, and that you may love only in accordance with their
choice; for they have a supreme authority over your heart, and it is
criminal in you to dispose of it yourself.
HEN. I thank you for the great kindness you show me in teaching me my
duty. My heart intends to follow the line of conduct you have traced;
and to show you that I profit by your advice, pray, Clitandre, see
that your love is strengthened by the consent of those from whom I
have received birth. Acquire thus a right over my wishes, and for me
the power of loving you without a crime.
CLI. I will do so with all diligence. I only waited for this kind
permission from you.
ARM. You triumph, sister, and seem to fancy that you thereby give me
HEN. I, sister? By no means. I know that the laws of reason will
always have full power over your senses, and that, through the lessons
you derive from wisdom, you are altogether above such weakness. Far
from thinking you moved by any vexation, I believe that you will use
your influence to help me, will second his demand of my hand, and will
by your approbation hasten the happy day of our marriage. I beseech
you to do so; and in order to secure this end....
ARM. Your little mind thinks it grand to resort to raillery, and you
seem wonderfully proud of a heart which I abandon to you.
HEN. Abandoned it may be; yet this heart, sister, is not so disliked
by you but that, if you could regain it by stooping, you would even
condescend to do so.
ARM. I scorn to answer such foolish prating.
HEN. You do well; and you show us inconceivable moderation.
SCENE III.--CLITANDRE, HENRIETTE.
HEN. Your frank confession has rather taken her aback.
CLI. She deserves such freedom of speech, and all the haughtiness of
her proud folly merits my outspokenness! But since you give me leave,
I will go to your father, to....
HEN. The safest thing to do would be to gain my mother over. My father
easily consents to everything, but he places little weight on what he
himself resolves. He has received from Heaven a certain gentleness
which makes him readily submit to the will of his wife. It is she who
governs, and who in a dictatorial tone lays down the law whenever she
has made up her mind to anything. I wish I could see in you a more
pliant spirit towards her and towards my aunt. If you would but fall
in with their views, you would secure their favour and their esteem.
CLI. I am so sincere that I can never bring myself to praise, even in
your sister, that side of her character which resembles theirs. Female
doctors are not to my taste. I like a woman to have some knowledge of
everything; but I cannot admire in her the revolting passion of
wishing to be clever for the mere sake of being clever. I prefer that
she should, at times, affect ignorance of what she really knows. In
short, I like her to hide her knowledge, and to be learned without
publishing her learning abroad, quoting the authors, making use of
pompous words, and being witty under the least provocation. I greatly
respect your mother, but I cannot approve her wild fancies, nor make
myself an echo of what she says. I cannot support the praises she
bestows upon that literary hero of hers, Mr. Trissotin, who vexes and
wearies me to death. I cannot bear to see her have any esteem for such
a man, and to see her reckon among men of genius a fool whose writings
are everywhere hissed; a pedant whose liberal pen furnishes all the
markets with wastepaper.
HEN. His writings, his speeches, in short, everything in him is
unpleasant to me; and I feel towards him as you do. But as he
possesses great ascendancy over my mother, you must force yourself to
yield somewhat. A lover should make his court where his heart is
engaged; he should win the favour of everyone; and in order to have
nobody opposed to his love, try to please even the dog of the house.
CLI. Yes, you are right; but Mr. Trissotin is hateful to me. I cannot
consent, in order to win his favour, to dishonour myself by praising
his works. It is through them that he was first brought to my notice,
and I knew him before I had seen him. I saw in the trash which he
writes all that his pedantic person everywhere shows forth; the
persistent haughtiness of his presumption, the intrepidity of the good
opinion he has of his person, the calm overweening confidence which at
all times makes him so satisfied with himself, and with the writings
of which he boasts; so that he would not exchange his renown for all
the honours of the greatest general.
HEN. You have good eyes to see all that.
CLI. I even guessed what he was like; and by means of the verses with
which he deluges us, I saw what the poet must be. So well had I
pictured to myself all his features and gait that one day, meeting a
man in the galleries of the Palace of Justice [footnote: the resort of
the best company in those days.], I laid a wager that it must be
Trissotin--and I won my wager.
HEN. What a tale!
CLI. No, I assure you that it is the perfect truth. But I see your
aunt coming; allow me, I pray you, to tell her of the longings of my
heart, and to gain her kind help with your mother.
SCENE IV.--BELISE, CLITANDRE.
CLI. Suffer a lover, Madam, to profit by such a propitious moment to
reveal to you his sincere devotion....
BEL. Ah! gently! Beware of opening your heart too freely to me;
although I have placed you in the list of my lovers, you must use no
interpreter but your eyes, and never explain by another language
desires which are an insult to me. Love me; sigh for me; burn for my
charms; but let me know nothing of it. I can shut my eyes to your
secret flame, as long as you keep yourself to dumb interpreters; but
if your mouth meddle in the matter, I must for ever banish you from my
CLI. Do not be alarmed at the intentions of my heart. Henriette is,
Madam, the object of my love, and I come ardently to conjure you to
favour the love I have for her.
BEL. Ah! truly now, the subterfuge shows excellent wit. This subtle
evasion deserves praise; and in all the romances I have glanced over,
I have never met with anything more ingenious.
CLI. This is no attempt at wit, Madam; it is the avowal of what my
heart feels. Heaven has bound me to the beauty of Henriette by the
ties of an unchangeable love. Henriette holds me in her lovely chains;
and to marry Henriette is the end of all my hopes. You can do much
towards it; and what I have come to ask you is that you will
condescend to second my addresses.
BEL. I see the end to which your demand would gently head, and I
understand whom you mean under that name. The metaphor is clever; and
not to depart from it, let me tell you that Henriette rebels against
matrimony, and that you must love her without any hope of having your
CLI. But, Madam, what is the use of such a perplexing debate? Why will
you persist in believing what is not?
BEL. Dear me! Do not trouble yourself so much. Leave off denying what
your looks have often made me understand. Let it suffice that I am
content with the subterfuge your love has so skilfully adopted, and
that under the figure to which respect has limited it, I am willing to
suffer its homage; always provided that its transports, guided by
honour, offer only pure vows on my altars.
BEL. Farewell. This ought really to satisfy you, and I have said more
than I wished to say.
CLI. But your error....
BEL. Leave me. I am blushing now; and my modesty has had much to bear.
CLI. May I be hanged if I love you; and.... [Footnote: Moliere ends
this line with _sage_, with, apparently, no other motive than to
find a rhyme to _davantage._]
BEL. No, no. I will hear nothing more.
SCENE V. CLITANDRE (_alone_)
Deuce take the foolish woman with her dreams! Was anything so
preposterous ever heard of? I must go and ask the help of a person of
SCENE I.--ARISTE (_leaving_ CLITANDRE, _and still speaking to
Yes; I will bring you an answer as soon as I can. I will press,
insist, do all that should be done. How many things a lover has to say
when one would suffice; and how impatient he is for all that he
SCENE II; CHRYSALE, ARISTE.
ARI. Good day to you, brother.
CHRY. And to you also, brother.
ARI. Do you know what brings me here?
CHRY. No, I do not; but I am ready to hear it, if it pleases you to
ARI. You have known Clitandre for some time now?
CHRY. Certainly; and he often comes to our house.
ARI. And what do you think of him?
CHRY. I think him to be a man of honour, wit, courage, and
uprightness, and I know very few people who have more merit.
ARI. A certain wish of his has brought me here; and I am glad to see
the esteem you have for him.
CHRY. I became acquainted with his late father when I was in Rome.
CHRY. He was a perfect gentleman.
ARI. So it is said.
CHRY. We were only about twenty-eight years of age, and, upon my word,
we were, both of us, very gay young fellows.
ARI. I believe it.
CHRY. We greatly affected the Roman ladies, and everybody there spoke
of our pranks. We made many people jealous, I can tell you.
ARI. Excellent; but let us come to what brings me here.
SCENE III.--BELISE (_entering softly and listening_), CHRYSALE,
ARI. Clitandre has chosen me to be his interpreter to you; he has
fallen in love with Henriette.
CHRY. What! with my daughter?
ARI. Yes. Clitandre is delighted with her, and you never saw a lover
BEL. (_to_ ARISTE). No, no; you are mistaken. You do not know the
story, and the thing is not as you imagine.
ARI. How so, sister?
BEL. Clitandre deceives you; it is with another that he is in love.
ARI. It is not with Henriette that he is in love? You are joking.
BEL. No; I am telling the perfect truth.
ARI. He told me so himself.
ARI. You see me here, sister, commissioned by him to ask her of her
BEL. Yes, I know.
ARI. And he besought me, in the name of his love, to hasten the time
of an alliance so desired by him.
BEL. Better and better. No more gallant subterfuge could have been
employed. But let me tell you that Henriette is an excuse, an
ingenious veil, a pretext, brother, to cover another flame, the
mystery of which I know; and most willingly will I enlighten you both.
ARI. Since you know so much, sister, pray tell us whom he loves.
BEL. You wish to know?
ARI. Yes; who is it? BEL. Me!
ARI. Come, I say! sister!
BEL. What do you mean by this "Come, I say"? And what is there so
wonderful in what I tell you? I am handsome enough, I should think, to
have more than one heart in subjection to my empire; and Dorante,
Damis, Cleonte, and Lycidas show well enough the power of my charms.
ARI. Do those men love you?
BEL. Yes; with all their might.
ARI. They have told you so?
BEL. No one would take such a liberty; they have, up to the present
time, respected me so much that they have never spoken to me of their
love. But the dumb interpreters have done their office in offering
their hearts and lives to me.
ARI. I hardly ever see Damis here.
BEL. It is to show me a more respectful submission.
ARI. Dorante, with sharp words, abuses you everywhere.
BEL. It is the transport of a jealous passion.
ARI. Cleonte and Lycidas are both married.
BEL. It was the despair to which I had reduced their love.
ARI. Upon my word, sister, these are mere visions.
CHRY. (to BELISE). You had better get rid of these idle fancies.
BEL. Ah! idle fancies! They are idle fancies, you think. I have idle
fancies! Really, "idle fancies" is excellent. I greatly rejoice at
those idle fancies, brothers, and I did not know that I was addicted
to idle fancies.
SCENE IV.--CHRYSALE, ARISTE.
CHRY. Our sister is decidedly crazy.
ARI. It grows upon her every day. But let us resume the subject that
brings me here. Clitandre asks you to give him Henriette in marriage.
Tell me what answer we can make to his love.
CHRY. Do you ask it? I consent to it with all my heart; and I consider
his alliance a great honour.
ARI. You know that he is not wealthy, that....
CHRY. That is a thing of no consequence. He is rich in virtue, and
that is better than wealth. Moreover, his father and I were but one
mind in two bodies.
ARI. Let us speak to your wife, and try to render her favourable
CHRY. It is enough. I accept him for my son-in-law.
ARI. Yes; but to support your consent, it will not be amiss to have
her agree to it also. Let us go....
CHRY. You are joking? There is no need of this. I answer for my wife,
and take the business upon myself.
CHRY. Leave it to me, I say, and fear nothing. I will go, and prepare
her this moment.
ARI. Let it be so. I will go and see Henriette on the subject, and
will return to know....
CHRY. It is a settled thing, and I will go without delay and talk to
my wife about it.
SCENE V.-CHRYSALE, MARTINE.
MAR. Just like my luck! Alas! they be true sayings, they be--"Give a
dog a bad name and hang him," and--"One doesn't get fat in other
folk's service." [Footnote: Or, more literally, "Service is no
inheritance;" but this does not sound familiar enough in English.]
CHRY. What is it? What is the matter with you, Martine?
MAR. What is the matter?
MAR. The matter is that I am sent away, Sir.
CHRY. Sent away?
MAR. Yes; mistress has turned me out.
CHRY. I don't understand; why has she?
MAR. I am threatened with a sound beating if I don't go.
CHRY. No; you will stop here. I am quite satisfied with you. My wife
is a little hasty at times, and I will not, no....
SCENE VI.--PHILAMINTE, BELISE, CHRYSALE, MARTINE.
PHI. (_seeing_ MARTINE). What! I see you here, you hussy! Quick,
leave this place, and never let me set my eyes upon you again.
PHI. No; I will have it so.
PHI. I insist upon her going.
CHRY. But what has she done wrong, that you wish her in this way
PHI. What! you take her part?
CHRY. Certainly not.
PHI. You side with her against me?
CHRY. Oh! dear me, no; I only ask what she is guilty of.
PHI. Am I one to send her away without just cause?
CHRY. I do not say that; but we must, with servants....
PHI. No; she must leave this place, I tell you.
CHRY. Let it be so; who says anything to the contrary?
PHI. I will have no opposition to my will.
PHI. And like a reasonable husband, you should take my part against
her, and share my anger.
CHRY. So I do. (_Turning towards_ MARTINE.) Yes; my wife is right
in sending you away, baggage that you are; your crime cannot be
MAR. What is it I have done, then?
CHRY. (_aside_). Upon my word, I don't know.
PHI. She is capable even now of looking upon it as nothing.
CHRY. Has she caused your anger by breaking some looking-glass or some
PHI. Do you think that I would send her away for that? And do you
fancy that I should get angry for so little?
CHRY. (_to_ MARTINE). What is the meaning of this? (_To_
PHILAMINTE) The thing is of great importance, then?
PHI. Certainly; did you ever find me unreasonable?
CHRY. Has she, through carelessness, allowed some ewer or silver dish
to be stolen from us?
PHI. That would be of little moment.
CHRY. (_to_ MARTINE). Oh! oh! I say, Miss! (_To_ PHILAMINTE)
What! has she shown herself dishonest?
PHI. It is worse than that.
CHRY. Worse than that?
CHRY. (_to_ MARTINE). How the deuce! you jade. (_To_
PHILAMINTE) What! has she...?
PHI. She has with unparalleled impudence, after thirty lessons,
insulted my ear by the improper use of a low and vulgar word condemned
in express terms by Vaugelas. [Footnote: The French grammarian, born
about 1585; died 1650.]
CHRY. Is that...?
PHI. What! In spite of our remonstrances to be always sapping the
foundation of all knowledge--of grammar which rules even kings, and
makes them, with a high hand, obey her laws.
CHRY. I thought her guilty of the greatest crime.
PHI. What! You do not think the crime unpardonable?
CHRY. Yes, yes.
PHI. I should like to see you excuse her.
CHRY. Heaven forbid!
BEL. It is really pitiful. All constructions are destroyed by her; yet
she has a hundred times been told the laws of the language.
MAR. All that you preach there is no doubt very fine, but I don't
understand your jargon, not I.
PHI. Did you ever see such impudence? To call a language founded on
reason and polite custom a jargon!
MAR. Provided one is understood, one speaks well enough, and all your
fine speeches don't do me no good.
PHI. You see! Is not that her way of speaking, _don't do me no
BEL. O intractable brains! How is it that, in spite of the trouble we
daily take, we cannot teach you to speak with congruity? In putting
_not_ with _no_, you have spoken redundantly, and it is, as
you have been told, a negative too many.
MAR. Oh my! I ain't no scholar like you, and I speak straight out as
they speaks in our place.
PHI. Ah! who can bear it?
BEL. What a horrible solecism!
PHI. It is enough to destroy a delicate ear.
BEL. You are, I must acknowledge, very dull of understanding;
_they_ is in the plural number, and _speaks_ is in the singular.
Will you thus all your life offend grammar? [Footnote: _Grammaire_ in
Moliere's time was pronounced as _grand'mere_ is now. _Gammer_
seems the nearest approach to this in English.]
MAR. Who speaks of offending either gammer or gaffer?
PHI. O heavens!
BEL. The word _grammar_ is misunderstood by you, and I have told
you a hundred times where the word comes from.
MAR. Faith, let it come from Chaillot, Auteuil, or Pontoise,
[Footnote: In Moliere's time villages close to Paris.] I care precious
BEL. What a boorish mind! _Grammar_ teaches us the laws of the
verb and nominative case, as well as of the adjective and substantive.
MAR. Sure, let me tell you, Ma'am, that I don't know those people.
PHI. What martyrdom!
BEL. They are names of words, and you ought to notice how they agree
with each other.
MAR. What does it matter whether they agree or fall out?
PHI. (_to_ BELISE). Goodness gracious! put an end to such a
discussion. (_To_ CHRYSALE) And so you will not send her away?
CHRY. Oh! yes. (_Aside_) I must put up with her caprice, Go,
don't provoke her, Martine.
PHI. How! you are afraid of offending the hussy! you speak to her in
quite an obliging tone.
CHRY. I? Not at all. (_In a rough tone_) Go, leave this place.
(_In a softer tone_) Go away, my poor girl.
SCENE VII.--PHILAMINTE, CHRYSALE, BELISE.
CHRY. She is gone, and you are satisfied, but I do not approve of
sending her away in this fashion. She answers very well for what she
has to do, and you turn her out of my house for a trifle.
PHI. Do you wish me to keep her for ever in my service, for her to
torture my ears incessantly, to infringe all the laws of custom and
reason, by a barbarous accumulation of errors of speech, and of
garbled expressions tacked together with proverbs dragged out of the
gutters of all the market-places?
BEL. It is true that one sickens at hearing her talk; she pulls
Vaugelas to pieces, and the least defects of her gross intellect are
either pleonasm or cacophony.
CHRY. What does it matter if she fails to observe the laws of
Vaugelas, provided she does not fail in her cooking? I had much rather
that while picking her herbs, she should join wrongly the nouns to the
verbs, and repeat a hundred times a coarse or vulgar word, than that
she should burn my roast, or put too much salt in my broth. I live on
good soup, and not on fine language. Vaugelas does not teach how to
make broth; and Malherbe and Balzac, so clever in learned words,
might, in cooking, have proved themselves but fools. [Footnote:
Malherbe, 1555-1628; Balzac, 1594-1654.]
PHI. How shocking such a coarse speech sounds; and how unworthy of one
who calls himself a man, to be always bent on material things, instead
of rising towards those which are intellectual. Is that dross, the
body, of importance enough to deserve even a passing thought? and
ought we not to leave it far behind?
CHRY. Well, my body is myself, and I mean to take care of it;
_dross_ if you like, but my dross is dear to me.
BEL. The body and the mind, brother, exist together; but if you
believe all the learned world, the mind ought to take precedence over
the body, and our first care, our most earnest endeavour, must be to
feed it with the juices of science.
CHRY. Upon my word, if you talk of feeding your mind, you make use of
but poor diet, as everybody knows; and you have no care, no solicitude
PHI. Ah! _Solicitude_ is unpleasant to my ear: it betrays
strangely its antiquity. [Footnote: Many of the words condemned by the
purists of the time have died out; _solicitude_ still remains.]
BEL. It is true that it is dreadfully starched and out of fashion.
CHRY. I can bear this no longer. You will have me speak out, then? I
will raise the mask, and discharge my spleen. Every one calls you mad,
and I am greatly troubled at....
PHI. Ah! what is the meaning of this?
CHRY. (_to_ BELISE). I am speaking to you, sister. The least
solecism one makes in speaking irritates you; but you make strange
ones in conduct. Your everlasting books do not satisfy me, and, except
a big Plutarch to put my bands in [Footnote: To keep them flat.], you
should burn all this useless lumber, and leave learning to the doctors
of the town. Take away from the garret that long telescope, which is
enough to frighten people, and a hundred other baubles which are
offensive to the sight. Do not try to discover what is passing in the
moon, and think a little more of what is happening at home, where we
see everything going topsy-turvy. It is not right, and that too for
many reasons, that a woman should study and know so much. To form the
minds of her children to good manners, to make her household go well,
to look after the servants, and regulate all expenses with economy,
ought to be her principal study, and all her philosophy. Our fathers
were much more sensible on this point: with them, a wife always knew
enough when the extent of her genius enabled her to distinguish a
doublet from a pair of breeches. She did not read, but she lived
honestly; her family was the subject of all her learned conversation,
and for hooks she had needles, thread, and a thimble, with which she
worked at her daughter's trousseau. Women, in our days, are far from
behaving thus: they must write and become authors. No science is too
deep for them. It is worse in my house than anywhere else; the deepest
secrets are understood, and everything is known except what should be
known. Everyone knows how go the moon and the polar star, Venus,
Saturn, and Mars, with which I have nothing to do. And in this vain
knowledge, which they go so far to fetch, they know nothing of the
soup of which I stand in need. My servants all wish to be learned, in
order to please you; and all alike occupy themselves with anything but
the work they have to do. Reasoning is the occupation of the whole
house, and reasoning banishes all reason. One burns my roast while
reading some story; another dreams of verses when I call for drink. In
short, they all follow your example, and although I have servants, I
am not served. One poor girl alone was left me, untouched by this
villainous fashion; and now, behold, she is sent away with a huge
clatter because she fails to speak Vaugelas. I tell you, sister, all
this offends me, for as I have already said, it is to you I am
speaking. I dislike to see all those Latin-mongers in my house, and
particularly Mr. Trissotin. It is he who has turned your heads with
his verses. All his talk is mere rubbish, and one is for ever trying
to find out what he has said after he has done speaking. For my part I
believe that he is rather cracked.
PHI. What coarseness, O heavens! both in thought and language.
BEL. Can there be a more gross assemblage of corpuscles, [Footnote: A
reference to the corpuscular philosophy] a mind composed of more
vulgar atoms? Is it possible that I can come from the same blood? I
hate myself for being of your race, and out of pure shame I abandon
SCENE VIII.--PHILAMINTE, CHRYSALE.
PHI. Have you any other shaft ready?
CHRY. I? No. Don't let us dispute any longer. I've done. Let's speak
of something else. Your eldest daughter shows a dislike to marriage;
in short, she is a philosopher, and I've nothing to say. She is under
good management, and you do well by her. But her younger sister is of
a different disposition, and I think it would be right to give
Henriette a proper husband, who....
PHI. It is what I have been thinking about, and I wish to speak to you
of what I intend to do. This Mr. Trissotin on whose account we are
blamed, and who has not the honour of being esteemed by you; is the
man whom I have chosen to be her husband; and I can judge of his merit
better than you can. All discussion is superfluous here, for I have
duly resolved that it should be so. I will ask you also not to say a
word of it to your daughter before I have spoken to her on the
subject. I can justify my conduct, and I shall be sure to know if you
have spoken to her.
SCENE IX.--ARISTE, CHRYSALE.
ARI. Well! your wife has just left, and I see that you must have had a
ARI. And how did you succeed? Shall we have Henriette? Has she given
her consent? Is the affair settled?
CHRY. Not quite as yet.
ARI. Does she refuse?
ARI. Then she hesitates?
CHRY. Not in the least.
ARI. What then?
CHRY. Well! she offers me another man for a son-in-law.
ARI. Another man for a son-in-law?
ARI. What is his name?
CHRY. Mr. Trissotin.
ARI. What! that Mr. Trissotin....
CHRY. Yes, he who always speaks of verse and Latin.
ARI. And you have accepted him?
CHRY. I? Heaven forbid!
ARI. What did you say to it?
CHRY. Nothing. I am glad that I did not speak, and commit myself.
ARI. Your reason is excellent, and it is a great step towards the end
we have in view. Did you not propose Clitandre to her?
CHRY. No; for as she talked of another son-in-law, I thought it was
better for me to say nothing.
ARI. Your prudence is to the last degree wonderful! Are you not
ashamed of your weakness? How can a man be so poor-spirited as to let
his wife have absolute power over him, and never dare to oppose
anything she has resolved upon?
CHRY. Ah! it is easy, brother, for you to speak; you don't know what a
dislike I have to a row, and how I love rest and peace. My wife has a
terrible disposition. She makes a great show of the name of
philosopher, but she is not the less passionate on that account; and
her philosophy, which makes her despise all riches, has no power over
the bitterness of her anger. However little I oppose what she has
taken into her head, I raise a terrible storm which lasts at least a
week. She makes me tremble when she begins her outcries; I don't know
where to hide myself. She is a perfect virago; and yet, in spite of
her diabolical temper, I must call her my darling and my love.
ARI. You are talking nonsense. Between ourselves, your wife has
absolute power over you only because of your own cowardice. Her
authority is founded upon your own weakness; it is from you she takes
the name of mistress. You give way to her haughty manners, and suffer
yourself to be led by the nose like a fool. What! you call yourself a
man, and cannot for once make your wife obey you, and have courage
enough to say, "I will have it so?" You will, without shame, see your
daughter sacrificed to the mad visions with which the family is
possessed? You will confer your wealth on a man because of half-a-dozen
Latin words with which the ass talks big before them--a pedant whom
your wife compliments at every turn with the names of wit and great
philosopher whose verses were never equalled, whereas everybody
knows that he is anything but all that. Once more I tell you, it is a
shame, and you deserve that people should laugh at your cowardice.
CHRY. Yes, you are right, and I see that I am wrong. I must pluck up a
little more courage, brother.
ARI. That's right.
CHRY. It is shameful to be so submissive under the tyranny of a woman.
CHRY. She has abused my gentleness.
ARI. It is true.
CHRY. My easy-going ways have lasted too long.
CHRY. And to-day I will let her know that my daughter is my daughter,
and that I am the master, to choose a husband for her according to my
ARI. You are reasonable now, and as you should be.
CHRY. You are for Clitandre, and you know where he lives; send him to
me directly, brother.
ARI. I will go at once.
CHRY. I have borne it too long. I will be a man, and set everybody at
SCENE I.--PHILAMINTE, ARMANDE, BELISE, TRISSOTIN, LEPINE.
PHI. Ah! Let us sit down here to listen comfortably to these verses;
they should be weighed word by word.
ARM. I am all anxiety to hear them.
BEL. And I am dying for them.
PHI. (_to_ TRISSOTIN). Whatever comes from you is a delight to
ARM. It is to me an unparalleled pleasure.
BEL. It is a delicious repast offered to my ears.
PHI. Do not let us languish under such pressing desires.
ARM. Lose no time.
BEL. Begin quickly and hasten our pleasure.
PHI. Offer your epigram to our impatience.
TRI. (_to_ PHILAMINTE). Alas! it is but a new-born child, Madam,
but its fate ought truly to touch your heart, for it was in your
court-yard that I brought it forth, but a moment since.
PHI. To make it dear to me, it is sufficient for me to know its
TRI. Your approbation may serve it as a mother.
BEL. What wit he has!
SCENE II.--HENRIETTE, PHILAMINTE, ARMANDE, BELISE, TRISSOTIN, LEPINE.
PHI. (_to_ HENRIETTE, _who is going away_). Stop! why do you
HEN. I fear to disturb such sweet intercourse.
PHI. Come nearer, and with both ears share in the delight of hearing
HEN. I have little understanding for the beauties of authorship, and
witty things are not in my line.
PHI. No matter. Besides, I wish afterwards to tell you of a secret
which you must learn.
TRI. (_to_ HENRIETTE). Knowledge has nothing that can touch you,
and your only care is to charm everybody.
HEN. One as little as the other, and I have no wish....
BEL. Ah! let us think of the new-born babe, I beg of you.
PHI. (_to_ LEPINE). Now, little page, bring some seats for us to
sit down. (LEPINE _slips down_.) You senseless boy, how can you
fall down after having learnt the laws of equilibrium?
BEL. Do you not perceive, ignorant fellow, the causes of your fall,
and that it proceeds from your having deviated from the fixed point
which we call the centre of gravity?
LEP. I perceived it, Madam, when I was on the ground.
PHI. (_to_ LEPINE, _who goes out_). The awkward clown!
TRI. It is fortunate for him that he is not made of glass.
ARM. Ah! wit is everything!
BEL. It never ceases. (_They sit down._)
PHI. Serve us quickly your admirable feast.
TRI. To satisfy, the great hunger which is here shown to me, a dish of
eight verses seems but little; and I think that I should do well to
join to the epigram, or rather to the madrigal, the ragout of a sonnet
which, in the eyes of a princess, was thought to have a certain
delicacy in it. It is throughout seasoned with Attic salt, and I think
you will find the taste of it tolerably good.
ARM. Ah! I have no doubt of it.
PHI. Let us quickly give audience.
BEL. (_interrupting_ TRISSOTIN _each time he is about to
read_). I feel, beforehand, my heart beating for joy. I love poetry
to distraction, particularly when the verses are gallantly turned.
PHI. If we go on speaking he will never be able to read.
BEL. (_to_ HENRIETTE). Be silent, my niece.
ARM. Ah! let him read, I beg.
TRI. SONNET TO THE PRINCESS URANIA ON HER FEVER.
_Your prudence fast in sleep's repose
Is plunged; if thus superbly kind,
A lodging gorgeously you can find
For the most cruel of your foes--_
[The sonnet is not of Moliere's invention, but is to be found in
_Les Oeuvres galantes en prose et en vers de M. Cotin_, Paris,
1663. It is called, _Sonnet a Mademoiselle de Longueville, a present
Duchesse de Nemours, sur sa fievre quarte_. As, of necessity, the
translation given above is not very literal, I append the original.
"Votre prudence est endormie,
De traiter magnifiquement,
Et de loger superbement,
Votre plus cruelle ennemie;
Faites-la sortir quoi qu'on die,
De votre riche appartement,
Ou cette ingrate insolemment
Attaque votre belle vie!
Quoi! sans respecter votre rang,
Elle se prend a votre sang,
Et nuit et jour vous fait outrage!
Si vous la conduisez aux bains,
Sans la marchander davantage,
Noyez-la de vos propres mains."
The _die_ of _quoi qu'on die_ was the regular form in
Moliere's time, and had nothing archaic about it. This is sufficiently
true of "Will she, nill she" (compare Shakespeare's "And, will you,
nill you, I will marry you") to excuse its use here.]
BEL. Ah! what a pretty beginning!
ARM. What a charming turn it has!
PHI. He alone possesses the talent of making easy verses.
ARM. We must yield to _prudence fast in sleep's repose is
BEL. A _lodging for the most cruel of your foes_ is full of
charms for me.
PHI. I like _superbly_ and _gorgeously_; these two adverbs
joined together sound admirably.
BEL. Let us hear the rest.
_Your prudence fast in sleep's repose
Is plunged; if thus superbly kind,
A lodging gorgeously you can find
For the most cruel of your foes_
ARM. _Prudence asleep_!
BEL. _Lodge one's enemy_!
PHI. _Superbly and gorgeously_!
_Will she, nill she, quick, out she goes!
From your apartment richly lined,
Where that ingrate's outrageous mind
At your fair life her javelin throws_.
BEL. Ah! gently. Allow me to breathe, I beseech you.
ARM. Give us time to admire, I beg.
PHI. One feels, at hearing these verses, an indescribable something
which goes through one's inmost soul, and makes one feel quite faint.
_Will she, nill she, quick, out she goes
From your apartment richly lined_.
How prettily _rich apartment_ is said here, and with what wit the
metaphor is introduced!
PHI. _Will she, nill she, quick, out she goes!_ Ah! in what
admirable taste that _will she, nill she_, is! To my mind the
passage is invaluable.
ARM. My heart is also in love with _will she, nill she_.
BEL. I am of your opinion; _will she, nill she_, is a happy
ARM. I wish I had written it.
BEL. It is worth a whole poem!
PHI. But do you, like me, understand thoroughly the wit of it?
ARM. _and_ BEL. Oh! oh
PHIL. _Will she, nill she, quick, out she goes_! Although another
should take the fever's part, pay no attention; laugh at the gossips;
_will she, nill she, quick, out she goes. Will she, nill she, will
she, nill she_. This _will she, nill she_, says a great deal
more than it seems. I do not know if every one is like me, but I
discover in it a hundred meanings.
BEL. It is true that it says more than its size seems to imply.
PHI. (_to_ TRISSOTIN). But when you wrote this charming _Will
she, nill she_, did you yourself understand all its energy? Did you
realise all that it tells us, and did you then think that you were
writing something so witty?
TRI. Ah! ah!
ARM. I have likewise the _ingrate_ in my head; this ungrateful,
unjust, uncivil fever that ill-treats people who entertain her.
PHI. In short, both the stanzas are admirable. Let us come quickly to
the triplets, I pray.
ARM. Ah! once more, _will she, nill she_, I beg.
TRI. _Will she, nill she, quick, out she goes!_
PHI., ARM. _and_ BEL. _Will she, nill she!_
TRI. _From your apartment richly lined._
PHI., ARM. _and_ BEL. _Rich apartment!_
TRI. _Where that ingrate's outrageous mind._
PHI., ARM. _and_ BEL. That ungrateful fever!
TRI. _At your fair life her javelin throws._
PHI. _Fair life!_
ARM. _and_ BEL. Ah!
_What! without heed for your high line,
She saps your blood with care malign..._
PHI., ARM. _and_ BEL. Ah!
_Redoubling outrage night and day!
If to the bath you take her down,
Without a moment's haggling, pray,
With your own hands the miscreant drown._
PHI. Ah! it is quite overpowering.
BEL. I faint.
ARM. I die from pleasure.
PHI. A thousand sweet thrills seize one.
ARM. _If to the bath you take her down,_
BEL. _Without a moment's haggling, pray,_
PHI. _With your own hands the miscreant drown_. With your own
hands, there, drown her there in the bath.
ARM. In your verses we meet at each step with charming beauty.
BEL. One promenades through them with rapture.
PHI. One treads on fine things only.
ARM. They are little lanes all strewn with roses.
TRI. Then the sonnet seems to you....
PHI. Admirable, new; and never did any one make anything more
BEL. (_to_ HENRIETTE). What! my niece, you listen to what has
been read without emotion! You play there but a sorry part!
HEN. We each of us play the best part we can, my aunt, and to be a wit
does not depend on our will.
TRI. My verses, perhaps, are tedious to you.
HEN. No. I do not listen.
PHI. Ah! let us hear the epigram.
TRI. ON A CARRIAGE OF THE COLOUR OF AMARANTH GIVEN TO ONE OF HIS LADY
PHI. His titles have always something rare in them.
ARM. They prepare one for a hundred flashes of wit.
_Love for his bonds so dear a price demands,
E'en now it costs me more than half my lands,
And when this chariot meets your eyes,
Where so much gold emboss'd doth rise
That people all astonished stand,
And Lais rides in triumph through the land..._
[This epigram is also by Cotin. It is called, _'Madrigal sur un
carosse de couleur amarante, achete pour une dame.'_
"L'amour si cherement m'a vendu son lien
Qu'il me coute deja la moitie de mon bien,
Et quand tu vois ce beau carrosse,
Ou tant d'or se releve en bosse,
Qu'il etonne tout le pays,
Et fait pompeusement triompher ma Lais,
Ne dis plus qu'il est amarante,
Dis plutot qu'il est de ma rente."]
PHI. Ah! Lais! what erudition!
BEL. The cover is pretty, and worth a million.
_And when this chariot meets your eyes,
Where so much gold emboss'd doth rise
That people all astonished stand,
And Lais rides in triumph through the land,
Say no more it is amaranth,
Say rather it is o' my rent._
ARM. Oh, oh, oh! this is beyond everything; who would have expected
PHI. He is the only one to write in such taste.
BEL. Say no more it is _amaranth, say rather it is o' my rent_!
It can be declined; _my rent; of my rent; to my rent; from my
PHI. I do not know whether I was prepossessed from the first moment I
saw you, but I admire all your prose and verse whenever I see it.
TRI. (_to_ PHILAMINTE). If you would only show us something of
your composition, we could admire in our turn.
PHI. I have done nothing in verse; but I have reason to hope that I
shall, shortly, be able, as a friend, to show you eight chapters of
the plan of our Academy. Plato only touched on the subject when he
wrote the treatise of his Republic; but I will complete the idea as I
have arranged it on paper in prose. For, in short, I am truly angry at
the wrong which is done us in regard to intelligence; and I will
avenge the whole sex for the unworthy place which men assign us by
confining our talents to trifles, and by shutting the door of sublime
knowledge against us.
ARM. It is insulting our sex too grossly to limit our intelligence to
the power of judging of a skirt, of the make of a garment, of the
beauties of lace, or of a new brocade.
BEL. We must rise above this shameful condition, and bravely proclaim
TRI. Every one knows my respect for the fairer sex, and that if I
render homage to the brightness of their eyes, I also honour the
splendour of their intellect. PHI. And our sex does you justice in
this respect: but we will show to certain minds who treat us with
proud contempt that women also have knowledge; that, like men, they
can hold learned meetings--regulated, too, by better rules; that they
wish to unite what elsewhere is kept apart, join noble language to
deep learning, reveal nature's laws by a thousand experiments; and on
all questions proposed, admit every party, and ally themselves to
TRI. For order, I prefer peripateticism.
PHI. For abstractions I love Platonism.
ARM. Epicurus pleases me, for his tenets are solid.
BEL. I agree with the doctrine of atoms: but I find it difficult to
understand a vacuum, and I much prefer subtile matter.
TRI. I quite agree with Descartes about magnetism.
ARM. I like his vortices.
PHI. And I his falling worlds. [Footnote: Notes do not seem necessary
here; a good English dictionary will give better explanations than
could be given except by very long notes.]
ARM. I long to see our assembly opened, and to distinguish ourselves
by some great discovery.
TRI. Much is expected from your enlightened knowledge, for nature has
hidden few things from you.
PHI. For my part, I have, without boasting, already made one
discovery; I have plainly seen men in the moon.
BEL. I have not, I believe, as yet quite distinguished men, but I have
seen steeples as plainly as I see you. [Footnote: An astronomer of the
day had boasted of having done this.]
ARM. In addition to natural philosophy, we will dive into grammar,
history, verse, ethics, and politics.
PHI. I find in ethics charms which delight my heart; it was formerly
the admiration of great geniuses; but I give the preference to the
Stoics, and I think nothing so grand as their founder.
ARM. Our regulations in respect to language will soon be known, and
we mean to create a revolution. Through a just or natural antipathy,
we have each of us taken a mortal hatred to certain words, both verbs
and nouns, and these we mutually abandon to each other. We are
preparing sentences of death against them, we shall open our learned
meetings by the proscription of the diverse words of which we mean to
purge both prose and verse.
PHI. But the greatest project of our assembly--a noble enterprise
which transports me with joy, a glorious design which will be approved
by all the lofty geniuses of posterity--is the cutting out of all
those filthy syllables which, in the finest words, are a source of
scandal: those eternal jests of the fools of all times; those nauseous
commonplaces of wretched buffoons; those sources of infamous
ambiguity, with which the purity of women is insulted.
TRI. These are indeed admirable projects.
BEL. You shall see our regulations when they are quite ready.
TRI. They cannot fail to be wise and beautiful.
ARM. We shall by our laws be the judges of all works; by our laws,
prose and verse will both alike be submitted to us. No one will have
wit except us or our friends. We shall try to find fault with
everything, and esteem no one capable of writing but ourselves.
SCENE III--PHILAMINTE, BELISE, ARMANDE, HENRIETTE, TRISSOTIN, LEPINE.
LEP. (_to_ TRISSOTIN). Sir, there is a gentleman who wants to
speak to you; he is dressed all in black, and speaks in a soft tone.
(_They all rise._)
TRI. It is that learned friend who entreated me so much to procure him
the honour of your acquaintance.
PHI. You have our full leave to present him to us. (TRISSOTIN
_goes out to meet_ VADIUS.)
SCENE IV.--PHILAMINTE, BELISE, ARMANDE, HENRIETTE.
PHI. (_to_ ARMANDE _and_ BELISE). At least, let us do him
all the honours of our knowledge. (_To_ HENRIETTE, _who is
going_) Stop! I told you very plainly that I wanted to speak to
HEN. But what about?
PHI. You will soon be enlightened on the subject.
SCENE V.--TRISSOTIN, VADIUS, PHILAMINTE, BELISE, ARMANDE, HENRIETTE.
TRI. (_introducing_ VADIUS). [Footnote: It is probably Menage who
is here laughed at.] Here is the gentleman who is dying to see you. In
presenting him I am not afraid, Madam, of being accused of introducing
a profane person to you; he can hold his place among the wits.
PHI. The hand which introduces him sufficiently proves his value.
TRI. He has a perfect knowledge of the ancient authors, and knows
Greek, Madam, as well as any man in France.
PHI. (_to_ BELISE). Greek! O heaven! Greek! He understands Greek,
BEL. (_to_ ARMANDE). Ah, niece! Greek!
ARM. Greek! ah! how delightful!
PHI. What, Sir, you understand Greek? Allow me, I beg, for the love of
Greek, to embrace you. (VADIUS _embraces also_ BELISE _and_
HEN. (_to_ VADIUS, _who comes forward to embrace her_)
Excuse me, Sir, I do not understand Greek. (_They sit down_.)
PHI. I have a wonderful respect for Greek books.
VAD. I fear that the anxiety which calls me to render my homage to you
to-day, Madam, may render me importunate. I may have disturbed some
PHI. Sir, with Greek in possession, you can spoil nothing.
TRI. Moreover, he does wonders in prose as well as in verse, and he
could, if he chose, show you something.
VAD. The fault of authors is to burden conversation with their
productions; to be at the Palais, in the walks, in the drawing-rooms,
or at table, the indefatigable readers of their tedious verses. As for
me, I think nothing more ridiculous than an author who goes about
begging for praise, who, preying on the ears of the first comers,
often makes them the martyrs of his night watches. I have never been
guilty of such foolish conceit, and I am in that respect of the
opinion of a Greek, who by an express law forbade all his wise men any
unbecoming anxiety to read their works.--Here are some little verses
for young lovers upon which I should like to have your opinion.
TRI. Your verses have beauties unequalled by any others.
VAD. Venus and the Graces reign in all yours. TRI. You have an easy
style, and a fine choice of words.
VAD. In all your writings one finds _ithos_ and _pathos_.
TRI. We have seen some eclogues of your composition which surpass in
sweetness those of Theocritus and Virgil.
VAD. Your odes have a noble, gallant, and tender manner, which leaves
Horace far behind.
TRI. Is there anything more lovely than your canzonets?
VAD. Is there anything equal to the sonnets you write?
TRI. Is there anything more charming than your little rondeaus?
VAD. Anything so full of wit as your madrigals?
TRI. You are particularly admirable in the ballad.
VAD. And in _bouts-rimes_ I think you adorable.
TRI. If France could appreciate your value--
VAD. If the age could render justice to a lofty genius--
TRI. You would ride in the streets in a gilt coach.
VAD. We should see the public erect statues to you. Hem...(_to_
TRISSOTIN). It is a ballad; and I wish you frankly to....
TRI. (_to_ VADIUS). Have you heard a certain little sonnet upon
the Princess Urania's fever?
VAD. Yes; I heard it read yesterday.
TRI. Do you know the author of it?
VAD. No, I do not; but I know very well that, to tell him the truth,
his sonnet is good for nothing.
TRI. Yet a great many people think it admirable.
VAD. It does not prevent it from being wretched; and if you had read
it, you would think like me.
TRI. I know that I should differ from you altogether, and that few
people are able to write such a sonnet.
VAD. Heaven forbid that I should ever write one so bad!
TRI. I maintain that a better one cannot be made, and my reason is
that I am the author of it.
VAD. I cannot understand how the thing can have happened.
TRI. It is unfortunate that I had not the power of pleasing you.
VAD. My mind must have wandered during the reading, or else the reader
spoilt the sonnet; but let us leave that subject, and come to my
TRI. The ballad is, to my mind, but an insipid thing; it is no longer
the fashion, and savours of ancient times.
VAD. Yet a ballad has charms for many people.
TRI. It does not prevent me from thinking it unpleasant.
VAD. That does not make it worse.
TRI. It has wonderful attractions for pedants.
VAD. Yet we see that it does not please you.
TRI. You stupidly give your qualities to others.
(_They all rise._)
VAD. You very impertinently cast yours upon me.
TRI. Go, you little dunce! you pitiful quill-driver!
VAD. Go, you penny-a-liner! you disgrace to the profession!
TRI. Go, you book-maker, you impudent plagiarist!
VAD. Go, you pedantic snob!
PHI. Ah! gentlemen, what are you about?
TRI. (_to_ VADIUS). Go, go, and make restitution to the Greeks
and Romans for all your shameful thefts.
VAD. Go and do penance on Parnassus for having murdered Horace in your
TRI. Remember your book, and the little noise it made.
VAD. And you, remember your bookseller, reduced to the workhouse.
TRI. My glory is established; in vain would you endeavour to shake it.
VAD. Yes, yes; I send you to the author of the 'Satires.' [Footnote:
TRI. I, too, send you to him.
VAD. I have the satisfaction of having been honourably treated by him;
he gives me a passing thrust, and includes me among several authors
well known at the Palais; but he never leaves you in peace, and in all
his verses you are exposed to his attacks.
TRI: By that we see the honourable rank I hold. He leaves you in the
crowd, and esteems one blow enough to crush you. He has never done you
the honour of repeating his attacks, whereas he assails me separately,
as a noble adversary against whom all his efforts are necessary; and
his blows, repeated against me on all occasions, show that he never
thinks himself victorious.
VAD. My pen will teach you what sort of man I am.
TRI. And mine will make you know your master.
VAD. I defy you in verse, prose, Greek and Latin.
TRI. Very well, we shall meet each other alone at Barbin's. [Footnote:
Barbin, a famous bookseller. The arms chosen for the duel would no
doubt be books. See "The Lutrin," by Boileau.]
SCENE VI.--TRISSOTIN, PHILAMINTE, ARMANDE, BELISE, HENRIETTE.
TRI. Do not blame my anger. It is your judgment I defend, Madam, in
the sonnet he dares to attack.
PHI. I will do all I can to reconcile you. But let us speak of
something else. Come here, Henriette. I have for some time now been
tormented at finding in you a want of intellectuality, but I have
thought of a means of remedying this defect.
HEN. You take unnecessary trouble for my sake. I have no love for
learned discourses. I like to take life easy, and it is too much
trouble to be intellectual. Such ambition does not trouble my head,
and I am perfectly satisfied, mother, with being stupid. I prefer to
have only a common way of talking, and not to torment myself to
produce fine words.
PHI. That may be; but this stupidity wounds me, and it is not my
intention to suffer such a stain on my family. The beauty of the face
is a fragile ornament, a passing flower, a moment's brightness which
only belongs to the epidermis; whereas that of the mind is lasting and
solid. I have therefore been feeling about for the means of giving you
the beauty which time cannot remove--of creating in you the love of
knowledge, of insinuating solid learning into you; and the way I have
at last determined upon is to unite you to a man full of genius;
(_showing_ TRISSOTIN) to this gentleman, in fact. It is he whom I
intend you to marry.
HEN. Me, mother!
PHI. Yes, you! just play the fool a little.
BEL. (_to_ TRISSOTIN). I understand you; your eyes ask me for
leave to engage elsewhere a heart I possess. Be at peace, I consent. I
yield you up to this union; it is a marriage which will establish you
TRI. (_to_ HENRIETTE). In my delight, I hardly know what to tell
you, Madam, and this marriage with which I am honoured puts me....
HEN. Gently, Sir; it is not concluded yet; do not be in such a hurry.
PHI. What a way of answering! Do you know that if ... but enough. You
understand me. (_To_ TRISSOTIN) She will obey. Let us leave her
alone for the present.
SCENE VII.--HENRIETTE, ARMANDE.
ARM. You see how our mother's anxiety for your welfare shines forth;
she could not have chosen a more illustrious husband....
HEN. If the choice is so good, why do you not take him for yourself?
ARM. It is upon you, and not upon me, that his hand is bestowed.
HEN. I yield him up entirely to you as my elder Sister.
ARM. If marriage seemed so pleasant to me as it seems to be to you, I
would accept your offer with delight.
HEN. If I loved pedants as you do, I should think the match an
ARM. Although our tastes differ so in this case, you will still have
to obey our parents, sister. A mother has full power over us, and in
vain do you think by resistance to....
SCENE VIII.--CHRYSALE, ARISTE, CLITANDRE, HENRIETTE, ARMANDE.
CHRY. (_to_ HENRIETTE, _as he presents_ CLITANDRE). Now, my
daughter, you must show your approval of what I do. Take off your
glove, shake hands with this gentleman, and from henceforth in your
heart consider him as the man I want you to marry.
ARM. Your inclinations on this side are strong enough, sister.
HEN. We must obey our parents, sister; a father has full power over
ARM. A mother should have a share of obedience.
CHRY. What is the meaning of this?
ARM. I say that I greatly fear you and my mother are not likely to
agree on this point, and this other husband....
CHRY. Be silent, you saucy baggage: philosophise as much as you please
with her, and do not meddle with what I do. Tell her what I have done,
and warn her that she is not to come and make me angry. Go at once!
SCENE IX.--CHRYSALE, ARISTE, HENRIETTE, CLITANDRE.
ARI. That's right; you are doing wonders!
CLI. What transport! what joy! Ah! how kind fortune is to me!
CHRY. (_to_ CLITANDRE). Come, take her hand and pass before us;
take her to her room. Ah! what sweet caresses. (_to_ ARISTE) How
moved my heart is before this tenderness; it cheers up one's old age,
and I can still remember my youthful loving days.
SCENE I.--PHILAMINTE, ARMANDE.
ARM. Yes, there was no hesitation in her; she made a display of her
obedience, and her heart scarcely took time to hear the order. She
seemed less to obey the will of her father than affect to set at
defiance the will of her mother.
PHI. I will soon show her to which of us two the laws of reason
subject her wishes, and who ought to govern, mother or father, mind or
body, form or matter.
ARM. At least, they owed you the compliment of consulting you; and
that little gentleman who resolves to become your son-in-law, in spite
of yourself, behaves himself strangely.
PHI. He has not yet reached the goal of his desires. I thought him
well made, and approved of your love; but his manners were always
unpleasant to me. He knows that I write a little, thank heaven, and
yet he has never desired me to read anything to him.
SCENE II--ARMANDE, PHILAMINTE, CLITANDRE (_entering softly and
ARM. If I were you, I would not allow him to become Henriette's
husband. It would be wrong to impute to me the least thought of
speaking like an interested person in this matter, and false to think
that the base trick he is playing me secretly vexes me. By the help of
philosophy, my soul is fortified against such trials; by it we can
rise above everything. But to see him treat you so, provokes me beyond
all endurance. Honour requires you to resist his wishes, and he is not
a man in whom you could find pleasure. In our talks together I never
could see that he had in his heart any respect for you.
PHI. Poor idiot!
ARM. In spite of all the reports of your glory, he was always cold in
PHI. The churl!
ARM. And twenty times have I read to him some of your new productions,
without his ever thinking them fine.
PHI. The impertinent fellow!
ARM. We were often at variance about it, and you could hardly believe
what foolish things....
CLI (_to_ ARMANDE). Ah! gently, pray. A little charity, or at
least a little truthfulness. What harm have I done to you? and of what
am I guilty that you should thus arm all your eloquence against me to
destroy me, and that you should take so much trouble to render me
odious to those whose assistance I need? Tell me why this great
indignation? (_To_ PHILAMINTE) I am willing to make you, Madam,
an impartial judge between us.
ARM. If I felt this great wrath with which you accuse me, I could find
enough to authorise it. You deserve it but too well. A first love has
such sacred claims over our hearts, that it would be better to lose
fortune and renounce life than to love a second time. Nothing can be
compared to the crime of changing one's vows, and every faithless
heart is a monster of immorality.
CLI. Do you call that infidelity, Madam, which the haughtiness of your
mind has forced upon me? I have done nothing but obey the commands it
imposed upon me; and if I offend you, you are the primary cause of the
offence. At first your charms took entire possession of my heart. For
two years I loved you with devoted love; there was no assiduous care,
duty, respect, service, which I did not offer you. But all my
attentions, all my cares, had no power over you. I found you opposed
to my dearest wishes; and what you refused I offered to another.
Consider then, if the fault is mine or yours. Does my heart run after
change, or do you force me to it? Do I leave you, or do you not rather
turn me away?
ARM. Do you call it being opposed to your love, Sir, if I deprive it
of what there is vulgar in it, and if I wish to reduce it to the
purity in which the beauty of perfect love consists? You cannot for me
keep your thoughts clear and disentangled from the commerce of sense;
and you do not enter into the charms of that union of two hearts in
which the body is ignored. You can only love with a gross and material
passion; and in order to maintain in you the love I have created, you
must have marriage, and all that follows. Ah! what strange love! How
far great souls are from burning with these terrestrial flames! The
senses have no share in all their ardour; their noble passion unites
the hearts only, and treats all else as unworthy. Theirs is a flame
pure and clear like a celestial fire. With this they breathe only
sinless sighs, and never yield to base desires. Nothing impure is
mixed in what they propose to themselves. They love for the sake of
loving, and for nothing else. It is only to the soul that all their
transports are directed, and the body they altogether forget.
CLI. Unfortunately, Madam, I feel, if you will forgive my saying so,
that I have a body as well as a soul; and that I am too much attached
to that body for me totally to forget it. I do not understand this
separation. Heaven has denied me such philosophy, and my body and soul
go together. There is nothing so beautiful, as you well say, as that
purified love which is directed only to the heart, those unions of the
soul and those tender thoughts so free from the commerce of sense. But
such love is too refined for me. I am, as you observe, a little gross
and material. I love with all my being; and, in the love that is given
to me, I wish to include the whole person. This is not a subject for
lofty self-denial; and, without wishing to wrong your noble
sentiments, I see that in the world my method has a certain vogue;
that marriage is somewhat the fashion, and passes for a tie honourable
and tender enough to have made me wish to become your husband, without
giving you cause to be offended at such a thought.
ARM. Well, well! Sir, since without being convinced by what I say,
your grosser feelings will be satisfied; since to reduce you to a
faithful love, you must have carnal ties and material chains, I will,
if I have my mother's permission, bring my mind to consent to all you
CLI. It is too late; another has accepted before you and if I were to
return to you, I should basely abuse the place of rest in which I
sought refuge, and should wound the goodness of her to whom I fled
when you disdained me.
PHI. But, Sir, when you thus look forward, do you believe in my
consent to this other marriage? In the midst of your dreams, let it
enter your mind that I have another husband ready for her.
CLI. Ah! Madam, reconsider your choice, I beseech you; and do not
expose me to such a disgrace. Do not doom me to the unworthy destiny
of seeing myself the rival of Mr. Trissotin. The love of _beaux
esprits_ [Footnote: No single word has given me so much trouble to
translate as this word _esprit_. This time I acknowledge myself
beaten.], which goes against me in your mind, could not have opposed
to me a less noble adversary. There are people whom the bad taste of
the age has reckoned among men of genius; but Mr. Trissotin deceives
nobody, and everyone does justice to the writings he gives us.
Everywhere but here he is esteemed at his just value; and what has
made me wonder above all things is to see you exalt to the sky, stupid
verses which you would have disowned had you yourself written them.
PHI. If you judge of him differently from us, it is that we see him
with other eyes than you do.
SCENE III.--TRISSOTIN, PHILAMINTE, ARMANDE, CLITANDRE.
TRI. (_to_ PHILAMINTE). I come to announce you great news. We
have had a narrow escape while we slept. A world passed all along us,
and fell right across our vortex. [Footnote: _Tourbillon_.
Compare act iii scene ii. Another reference to Cotin.] If in its way
it had met with our earth, it would have dashed us to pieces like so
PHI. Let us put off this subject till another season. This gentleman
would understand nothing of it; he professes to cherish ignorance, and
above all to hate intellect and knowledge.
CLI. This is not altogether the fact; allow me, Madam, to explain
myself. I only hate that kind of intellect and learning which spoils
people. These are good and beautiful in themselves; but I had rather
be numbered among the ignorant than to see myself learned like certain
TRI. For my part I do not believe, whatever opinion may be held to the
contrary, that knowledge can ever spoil anything.
CLI. And I hold that knowledge can make great fools both in words and
TRI. The paradox is rather strong.
CLI. It would be easy to find proofs; and I believe without being very
clever, that if reasons should fail, notable examples would not be
TRI. You might cite some without proving your point.
CLI. I should not have far to go to find what I want.
TRI. As far as I am concerned, I fail to see those notable examples.
CLI. I see them so well that they almost blind me.
TRI. I believed hitherto that it was ignorance which made fools, and
CLI. You made a great mistake; and I assure you that a learned fool is
more of a fool than an ignorant one.
TRI. Common sense is against your maxims, since an ignorant man and a
fool are synonymous.
CLI. If you cling to the strict uses of words, there is a greater
connection between pedant and fool.
TRI. Folly in the one shows itself openly.
CLI. And study adds to nature in the other.
TRI. Knowledge has always its intrinsic value.
CLI. Knowledge in a pedant becomes impertinence.
TRI. Ignorance must have great charms for you, since you so eagerly
take up arms in its defence.
CLI. If ignorance has such charms for me, it is since I have met with
learned people of a certain kind.
TRI. These learned people of a certain kind may, when we know them
well, be as good as other people of a certain other kind.
CLI. Yes, if we believe certain learned men; but that remains a
question with certain people.
PHI. (_to CLITANDRE_.) It seems to me, Sir....
CLI. Ah! Madam, I beg of you; this gentleman is surely strong enough
without assistance. I have enough to do already with so strong an
adversary, and as I fight I retreat.
ARM. But the offensive eagerness with which your answers....
CLI. Another ally! I quit the field.
PHI. Such combats are allowed in conversation, provided you attack no
one in particular.
CLI. Ah! Madam, there is nothing in all this to offend him. He can
bear raillery as well as any man in France; and he has supported many
other blows without finding his glory tarnished by it.
TRI. I am not surprised to see this gentleman take such a part in this
contest. He belongs to the court; that is saying everything. The
court, as every one well knows, does not care for learning; it has a
certain interest in supporting ignorance. And it is as a courtier he
takes up its defence.
CLI. Your are very angry with this poor court. The misfortune is great
indeed to see you men of learning day after day declaiming against it;
making it responsible for all your troubles; calling it to account for
its bad taste, and seeing in it the scapegoat of your ill-success.
Allow me, Mr. Trissotin, to tell you, with all the respect with which
your name inspires me, that you would do well, your brethren and you,
to speak of the court in a more moderate tone; that, after all, it is
not so very stupid as all you gentlemen make it out to be; that it has
good sense enough to appreciate everything; that some good taste can
be acquired there; and that the common sense found there is, without
flattery, well worth all the learning of pedantry.
TRI. We See some effects of its good taste, Sir.
CLI. Where do you see, Sir, that its taste is so bad?
TRI. Where, Sir! Do not Rasius and Balbus by their learning do honour
to France? and yet their merit, so very patent to all, attracts no
notice from the court.
CLI. I see whence your sorrow comes, and that, through modesty, you
forbear, Sir, to rank yourself with these. Not to drag you in, tell me
what your able heroes do for their country? What service do their
writings render it that they should accuse the court of horrible
injustice, and complain everywhere that it fails to pour down favours
on their learned names? Their knowledge is of great moment to France!
and the court stands in great need of the books they write! These
wretched scribblers get it into their little heads that to be printed
and bound in calf makes them at once important personages in the
state; that with their pens they regulate the destiny of crowns; that
at the least mention of their productions, pensions ought to be poured
down upon them; that the eyes of the whole universe are fixed upon
them, and the glory of their name spread everywhere! They think
themselves prodigies of learning because they know what others have
said before them; because for thirty years they have had eyes and
ears, and have employed nine or ten thousand nights or so in cramming
themselves with Greek and Latin, and in filling their heads with the
indiscriminate plunder of all the old rubbish which lies scattered in
books. They always seem intoxicated with their own knowledge, and for
all merit are rich in importunate babble. Unskilful in everything,
void of common sense, and full of absurdity and impertinence, they
decry everywhere true learning and knowledge.
PHI. You speak very warmly on the subject, and this transport shows
the working of ill-nature in you. It is the name of rival which
excites in your breast....
SCENE IV.--TRISSOTIN, PHILAMINTE, CLITANDRE, ARMANDE, JULIAN.
JUL. The learned gentleman who paid you a visit just now, Madam, and
whose humble servant I have the honour to be, exhorts you to read this
PHI. However important this letter may be, learn, friend, that it is a
piece of rudeness to come and interrupt a conversation, and that a
servant who knows his place should apply first to the people of the
household to be introduced.
JUL. I will note that down, Madam, in my book.
PHI. (_reads_). "_Trissotin boasts, Madam, that he is to marry
your daughter. I give you notice that his philosophy aims only at your
wealth, and that you would do well not to conclude this marriage
before you have seen the poem which I am composing against him. While
you are waiting for this portrait, in which I intend to paint him in
all his colours, I send you Horace, Virgil, Terence, and Catullus,
where you will find marked in the margin all the passages he has
We see there merit attacked by many enemies because of the marriage I
have decided upon. But this general ill-feeling only prompts me to an
action which will confound envy, and make it feel that whatever it
does only hastens the end. (_To_ JULIAN) Tell all this to your
master; tell him also that in order to let him know how much value I
set on his disinterested advice, and how worthy of being followed I
esteem it, this very evening I shall marry my daughter to this
gentleman (_showing_ TRISSOTIN).
SCENE V.--PHILAMINTE, ARMANDE, CLITANDRE.
PHI. (_to_ CLITANDRE). You, Sir, as a friend of the family, may
assist at the signing of the contract, for I am willing to invite you
to it. Armande, be sure you send for the notary, and tell your sister
of my decision.
ARM. There is no need of saying anything to my sister; this gentleman
will be pretty sure to take the news to her, and try and dispose her
heart to rebellion.
PHI. We shall see who has most power over her, and whether I can bring
her to a sense of her duty.
SCENE VI.--ARMANDE, CLITANDRE.
ARM. I am very sorry to see, Sir, that things are not going quite
according to your views.
CLI. I shall go and do all I can not to leave this serious anxiety
upon your mind.
ARM. I am afraid that your efforts will not be very successful.
CLI. You may perhaps see that your fears are without foundation.
ARM. I hope it may be so.
CLI. I am persuaded that I shall have all your help.
ARM. Yes, I will second you with all my power.
CLI. And I shall be sure to be most grateful.
SCENE VII.--CHRYSALE, ARISTE, HENRIETTE, CLITANDRE.
CLI. I should be most unfortunate without your assistance, Sir, for
your wife has rejected my offer, and, her mind being prepossessed in
favour of Trissotin, she insists upon having him for a son-in-law.
CHRY. But what fancy is this that she has got into her head? Why in
the world will she have this Mr. Trissotin?
ARI. It is because he has the honour of rhyming with Latin that he is
carrying it off over the head of his rival.
CLI. She wants to conclude this marriage to-night.
CLI. Yes, to-night.
CHRY. Well! and this very night I will, in order to thwart her, have
you both married.
CLI. She has sent for the notary to draw up the contract.
CHRY. And I will go and fetch him for the one he must draw up.
CLI. And Henriette is to be told by her sister of the marriage to
which she must look forward.
CHRY. And I command her with full authority to prepare herself for
this other alliance. Ah! I will show them if there is any other master
but myself to give orders in the house. (_To_ HENRIETTE) We will
return soon. Now, come along with me, brother; and you also, my
HEN. (_to_ ARISTE). Alas! try to keep him in this disposition.
ARI. I will do everything to serve your love.
SCENE VIII.--HENRIETTE, CLITANDRE.
CLI. However great may be the help that is promised to my love, my
greatest hope is in your constancy.
HEN. You know that you may be sure of my love.
CLI. I see nothing to fear as long as I have that.
HEN. You see to what a union they mean to force me.
CLI. As long as your heart belongs entirely to me, I see nothing to
HEN. I will try everything for the furtherance of our dearest wishes,
and if after all I cannot be yours, there is a sure retreat I have
resolved upon, which will save me from belonging to any one else.
CLI. May Heaven spare me from ever receiving from you that proof of
SCENE I.--HENRIETTE, TRISSOTIN.
HEN. It is about the marriage which my mother has set her heart upon
that I wish, Sir, to speak privately to you; and I thought that,
seeing how our home is disturbed by it, I should be able to make you
listen to reason. You are aware that with me you will receive a
considerable dowry; but money, which we see so many people esteem, has
no charms worthy of a philosopher; and contempt for wealth and earthly
grandeur should not show itself in your words only.
TRI. Therefore it is not that which charms me in you; but your
dazzling beauty, your sweet and piercing eyes, your grace, your noble
air--these are the wealth, the riches, which have won for you my vows
and love; it is of those treasures only that I am enamoured.
HEN. I thank you for your generous love; I ought to feel grateful and
to respond to it; I regret that I cannot; I esteem you as much as one
can esteem another; but in me I find an obstacle to loving you. You
know that a heart cannot be given to two people, and I feel that
Clitandre has taken entire possession of mine. I know that he has much
less merit than you, that I have not fit discrimination for the choice
of a husband, and that with your many talents yon ought to please me.
I see that I am wrong, but I cannot help it; and all the power that
reason has over me is to make me angry with myself for such blindness.
TRI. The gift of your hand, to which I am allowed to aspire, will give
me the heart possessed by Clitandre; for by a thousand tender cares I
have reason to hope that I shall succeed in making myself loved.
HEN. No; my heart is bound to its first love, and cannot be touched by
your cares and attention. I explain myself plainly with you, and my
confession ought in no way to hurt your feelings. The love which
springs up in the heart is not, as you know, the effect of merit, but
is partly decided by caprice; and oftentimes, when some one pleases
us, we can barely find the reason. If choice and wisdom guided love,
all the tenderness of my heart would be for you; but love is not thus
guided. Leave me, I pray, to my blindness; and do not profit by the
violence which, for your sake, is imposed on my obedience. A man of
honour will owe nothing to the power which parents have over us; he
feels a repugnance to exact a self-sacrifice from her he loves, and
will not obtain a heart by force. Do not encourage my mother to
exercise, for your sake, the absolute power she has over me. Give up
your love for me, and carry to another the homage of a heart so
precious as yours.
TRI. For this heart to satisfy you, you must impose upon it laws it
can obey. Could it cease to love you, Madam, unless you ceased to be
loveable, and could cease to display those celestial charms....
HEN. Ah! Sir, leave aside all this trash; you are encumbered with so
many Irises, Phyllises, Amaranthas, which everywhere in your verses
you paint as charming, and to whom you swear such love, that....
TRI. It is the mind that speaks, and not the heart. With them it is
only the poet that is in love; but it is in earnest that I love the
HEN. Ah, Sir, I beg of you....
TRI. If I offend you, my offence is not likely to cease. This love,
ignored by you to this day, will be of eternal duration. Nothing can
put a stop to its delightful transports; and although your beauty
condemns my endeavours, I cannot refuse the help of a mother who
wishes to crown such a precious flame. Provided I succeed in obtaining
such great happiness, provided I obtain your hand, it matters little
to me how it comes to pass.
HEN. But are you aware, Sir, that you risk more than you think by
using violence; and to be plain with you, that it is not safe to marry
a girl against her wish, for she might well have recourse to a certain
revenge that a husband should fear.
TRI. Such a speech has nothing that can make me alter my purpose. A
philosopher is prepared against every event. Cured by reason of all
vulgar weaknesses, he rises above these things, and is far from
minding what does not depend on him. [Footnote: Compare 'School for
Wives,' act iv. scene vi.]
HEN. Truly, Sir, I am delighted to hear you; and I had no idea that
philosophy was so capable of teaching men to bear such accidents with
constancy. This wonderful strength of mind deserves to have a fit
subject to illustrate it, and to find one who may take pleasure in
giving it an occasion for its full display. As, however, to say the
truth, I do not feel equal to the task, I will leave it to another;
and, between ourselves, I assure you that I renounce altogether the
happiness of seeing you my husband.
TRI. (_going_). We shall see by-and-by how the affair will end.
In the next room, close at hand, is the notary waiting.
SCENE II.--CHRYSALE, CLITANDRE, HENRIETTE.
CHRY. I am glad, my daughter, to see you; come here and fulfil your
duty, by showing obedience to the will of your father. I will teach
your mother how to behave, and, to defy her more fully, here is
Martine, whom I have brought back to take her old place in the house
HEN. Your resolution deserves praise. I beg of you, father, never to
change the disposition you are in. Be firm in what you have resolved,
and do not suffer yourself to be the dupe of your own good-nature. Do
not yield; and I pray you to act so as to hinder my mother from having
her own way.
CHRY. How! Do you take me for a booby?
HEN. Heaven forbid!
CHRY. Am I a fool, pray?
HEN. I do not say that.
CHRY. Am I thought unfit to have the decision of a man of sense?
HEN. No, father.
CHRY. Ought I not at my age to know how to be master at home?
HEN. Of course.
CHRY. Do you think me weak enough to allow my wife to lead me by the
HEN. Oh dear, no, father.
CHRY. Well, then, what do you mean? You are a nice girl to speak to me
as you do!
HEN. If I have displeased you, father, I have done so unintentionally.
CHRY. My will is law in this place.
HEN. Certainly, father.
CHRY. No one but myself has in this house a right to command.
HEN. Yes, you are right, father.
CHRY. It is I who hold the place of chief of the family.
CHRY. It is I who ought to dispose of my daughter's hand.
HEN. Yes, indeed, father.
CHRY. Heaven has given me full power over you.
HEN. No one, father, says anything to the contrary.
CHRY. And as to choosing a husband, I will show you that it is your
father, and not your mother, whom you have to obey.
HEN. Alas! in that you respond to my dearest wish. Exact obedience to
you is my earnest wish.
CHRY. We shall see if my wife will prove rebellious to my will.
CLI. Here she is, and she brings the notary with her.
CHRY. Back me up, all of you.
MAR. Leave that to me; I will take care to encourage you, if need be.
SCENE III.--PHILAMINTE, BELISE, ARMANDE, TRISSOTIN, A NOTARY,
CHRYSALE, CLITANDRE, HENRIETTE, MARTINE.
PHI. (_to the_ NOTARY). Can you not alter your barbarous style,
and give us a contract couched in noble language?
NOT. Our style is very good, and I should be a blockhead, Madam, to
try and change a single word.
BEL. Ah! what barbarism in the very midst of France! But yet, Sir, for
learning's sake, allow us, instead of crowns, livres, and francs, to
have the dowry expressed in minae and talents, and to express the date
in Ides and Kalends.
NOT. I, Madam? If I were to do such a thing, all my colleagues would
PHI. It is useless to complain of all this barbarism. Come, Sir, sit
down and write. (_Seeing_ MARTINE) Ah! this impudent hussy dares
to show herself here again! Why was she brought back, I should like to
CHRY. We will tell you by-and-by; we have now something else to do.
NOT. Let us proceed with the contract. Where is the future bride?
PHI. It is the younger daughter I give in marriage.
CHRY. (_showing_ HENRIETTE). Yes, Sir, here she is; her name is
NOT. Very well; and the future bridegroom?
PHI. (_showing_ TRISSOTIN). This gentleman is the husband I give
CHRY. (_showing_ CLITANDRE). And the husband I wish her to marry
is this gentleman.
NOT. Two husbands! Custom does not allow of more than one.
PHI. (_to the_ NOTARY). What is it that is stopping you? Put down
Mr. Trissotin as my son-in-law.
CHRY. For my son-in-law put down Mr. Clitandre.
NOT. Try and agree together, and come to a quiet decision as to who is
to be the future husband.
PHI. Abide, Sir, abide by my own choice.
CHRY. Do, Sir, do according to my will.
NOT. Tell me which of the two I must obey.
PHI. (_to_ CHRYSALE). What! you will go against my wishes.
CHRY. I cannot allow my daughter to be sought after only because of
the wealth which is in my family.
PHI. Really! as if anyone here thought of your wealth, and as if it
were a subject worthy the anxiety of a wise man.
CHRY. In short, I have fixed on Clitandre.
PHI. (_showing_ TRISSOTIN). And I am decided that for a husband
she shall have this gentleman. My choice shall be followed; the thing
CHRY. Heyday! you assume here a very high tone.
MAR. 'Tisn't for the wife to lay down the law, and I be one to give up
the lead to the men in everything.
CHRY. That is well said.
MAR. If my discharge was as sure as a gun, what I says is, that the
hen hadn't ought to be heard when the cock's there.
CHRY. Just so.
MAR. And we all know that a man is always chaffed, when at home his
wife wears the breeches.
CHRY. It is perfectly true.
MAR. I says that, if I had a husband, I would have him be the master
of the house. I should not care a bit for him if he played the
henpecked husband; and if I resisted him out of caprice, or if I spoke
too loud, I should think it quite right if, with a couple of boxes on
the ear, he made me pitch it lower.
CHRY. You speak as you ought.
MAR. Master is quite right to want a proper husband for his daughter.
MAR. Why should he refuse her Clitandre, who is young and handsome, in
order to give her a scholar, who is always splitting hairs about
something? She wants a husband and not a pedagogue, and as she cares
neither for Greek nor Latin, she has no need of Mr. Trissotin.
PHI. We must suffer her to chatter on at her ease.
MAR. Learned people are only good to preach in a pulpit, and I have
said a thousand times that I wouldn't have a learned man for my
husband. Learning is not at all what is wanted in a household. Books
agree badly with marriage, and if ever I consent to engage myself to
anybody, it will be to a husband who has no other book but me, who
doesn't know _a_ from _b_--no offence to you, Madam--and, in
short, who would be clever only for his wife. [Footnote: In this
scene, as in act ii. scenes v. and vi., Martine speaks very correctly
PHI. (_to_ CHRYSALE). Is it finished? and have I listened
patiently enough to your worthy interpreter?
CHRY. She has only said the truth.
PHI. And I, to put an end to this dispute, will have my wish obeyed.
(_Showing_ TRISSOTIN) Henriette _and_ this gentleman shall be
united at once. I have said it, and I will have it so. Make no reply;
and if you have given your word to Clitandre, offer him her elder sister.
CHRY. Ah! this is a way out of the difficulty. (_To_ HENRIETTE
and CLITANDRE) Come, do you consent?
HEN. How! father...!
CLI. (_to_ CHRYSALE). What! Sir...!
BEL. Propositions more to his taste might be made. But we are
establishing a kind of love which must be as pure as the morning-star;
the thinking substance is admitted, but not the material substance.
SCENE IV.--ARISTE, CHRYSALE, PHILAMINTE, BELISE, HENRIETTE, ARMANDE,
TRISSOTIN, A NOTARY, CLITANDRE, MARTINE.
ARI. I am sorry to have to trouble this happy ceremony by the sad
tidings of which I am obliged to be bearer. These two letters make me
bring news which have made me feel grievously for you. (_To_
PHILAMINTE) One letter is for you, and comes from your attorney.
(_To_ CHRYSALE) The other comes from Lyons.
PHI. What misfortune can be sent us worthy of troubling us?
ARI. You can read it in this letter.
PHI. _"Madam, I have asked your brother to give you this letter; it
will tell you news which I did not dare to come and tell you myself.
The great negligence you have shown in your affairs has been the cause
that the clerk of your attorney has not forewarned me, and you have
altogether lost the lawsuit which you ought to have gained."_
CHRY. (_to_ PHILAMINTE). Your lawsuit lost!
PHI. (_to_ CHRYSALE). You seem very much upset; my heart is in no
way troubled by such a blow. Show, show like me, a less vulgar mind
wherewith to brave the ills of fortune. "Your want of care will cost
you forty thousand crowns, and you are condemned to pay this sum with
all costs." Condemned? Ah! this is a shocking word, and only fit for
ARI. It is the wrong word, no doubt, and you, with reason, protest
against it. It should have been, "You are desired by an order of the
court to pay immediately forty thousand crowns and costs."
PHI. Let us see the other.
CHRY. _"Sir, the friendship which binds me to your brother prompts
me to take a lively interest in all that concerns you. I know that you
had placed your fortune entirely in the hands of Argante and Damon,
and I acquaint you with the news that they have both failed."_ O
Heaven! to lose everything thus in a moment!
PHI. (_to CHRYSALE_.) Ah! what a shameful outburst Fie! For the
truly wise there is no fatal change of fortune, and, losing all, he
still remains himself. Let us finish the business we have in hand; and
please cast aside your sorrow. (_Showing_ TRISSOTIN) His wealth
will be sufficient for us and for him.
TRI. No, Madam; cease, I pray you, from pressing this affair further.
I see that everybody is opposed to this marriage, and I have no
intention of forcing the wills of others.
PHI. This reflection, Sir, comes very quickly after our reverse of
TRI. I am tired at last of so much resistance, and prefer to
relinquish all attempts at removing these obstacles. I do not wish for
a heart that will not surrender itself.
PHI. I see in you, and that not to your honour, what I have hitherto
refused to believe.
TRI. You may see whatever you please, and it matters little to me how
you take what you see. I am not a man to put up with the disgrace of
the refusals with which I have been insulted here. I am well worthy of
more consideration, and whoever thinks otherwise, I am her humble
SCENE V.--ARISTE, CHRYSALE, PHILAMINTE, BELISE, ARMANDE, HENRIETTE,
CLITANDRE, A NOTARY, MARTINE.
PHI. How plainly he has disclosed his mercenary soul, and how little
like a philosopher he has acted.
CLI. I have no pretension to being one; but, Madam, I will link my
destiny to yours, and I offer you, with myself, all that I possess.
PHI. Yon delight me, Sir, by this generous action, and I will reward
your love. Yes, I grant Henriette to the eager affection....
HEN. No, mother. I have altered my mind; forgive me if now I resist
CLI. What! do you refuse me happiness, and now that I see everybody
HEN. I know how little you possess, Clitandre; and I always desired
you for a husband when, by satisfying my most ardent wishes, I saw
that our marriage would improve your fortune. But in the face of such
reverses, I love you enough not to burden you with our adversity.
CLI. With you any destiny would be happiness, without you misery.
HEN. Love in its ardour generally speaks thus. Let us avoid the
torture of vexatious recriminations. Nothing irritates such a tie more
than the wretched wants of life. After a time we accuse each other of
all the sorrows that follow such an engagement.
ARI. (_to_ HENRIETTE). Is what you have just said the only reason
which makes you refuse to marry Clitandre?
HEN. Yes; otherwise you would see me ready to fly to this union with
all my heart.
ARI. Suffer yourself, then, to be bound by such gentle ties. The news
I brought you was false. It was a stratagem, a happy thought I had to
serve your love by deceiving my sister, and by showing her what her
philosopher would prove when put to the test.
CHRY. Heaven be praised!
PHI. I am delighted at heart for the vexation which this cowardly
deserter will feel. The punishment of his sordid avarice will be to
see in what a splendid manner this match will be concluded.
CHRY. (_to_ CLITANDRE). I told you that you would marry her.
ARM. (_to_ PHILAMINTE). So, then, you sacrifice me to their love?
PHI. It will not be to sacrifice you; you have the support of your
philosophy, and you can with a contented mind see their love crowned.
BEL. Let him take care, for I still retain my place in his heart.
Despair often leads people to conclude a hasty marriage, of which they
repent ever after.
CHRY. (_to the_ NOTARY). Now, Sir, execute my orders, and draw up
the contract in accordance with what I said.