The way of the world a comedy, as it is acted at the theatre in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields by His Majesty's servants
Congreve, William, 1670-1729.
A Chocolate-house.
Mirabell and Fainall [Rising from Cards] Betty waiting.
Mira.
YOU are a fortunate Man, Mr. Fainall.
Fain.
Have we done?
Mira.

What you please. I'll play on to en∣tertain you.

Fain.

No, I'll give you your Revenge another time, when you are not so indifferent; you are thinking of some∣thing else now, and play too negligently; the Coldness of a losing Gamester lessens the Pleasure of the Winner: I'd no more play with a Man that slighted his ill Fortune, than I'd make Love to a Woman who undervalu'd the Loss of her Reputation.

Page  2
Mira.

You have a Taste extreamly delicate, and are for refining on your Pleasures.

Fain.

Prithee, why so reserv'd? Something has put you out of Humour.

Mira.

Not at all: I happen to be grave to day; and you are gay; that's all.

Fain.

Confess, Millamant and you quarrell'd last Night, after I left you; my fair Cousin has some Humours, that would tempt the patience of a Stoick. What, some Cox∣comb came in, and was well receiv'd by her, while you were by.

Mira.

Witwoud and Petulant; and what was worse, her Aunt, your Wife's Mother, my evil Genius; or to sum up all in her own Name, my old Lady Wishfort came in.—

Fain.

O there it is then—She has a lasting Passion for you, and with Reason.—What, then my Wife was there?

Mira.

Yes, and Mrs. Marwood and three or four more, whom I never saw before; seeing me, they all put on their grave Faces, whisper'd one another; then complain'd aloud of the Vapours, and after fell into a profound Silence.

Fain.
They had a mind to be rid of you.
Mira.

For which Reason I resolv'd not to stir. At last the good old Lady broke thro' her painful Taciturnity, with an Invective against long Visits. I would not have under∣stood her, but Millamant joining in the Argument, I rose and with a constrain'd Smile told her, I thought nothing was so easie as to know when a Visit began to be troublesome; she redned and I withdrew, without expecting her Re∣ply.

Fain.

You were to blame to resent what she spoke only in Gompliance with her Aunt.

Mira.

She is more Mistress of her self, than to be under the necessity of such a resignation.

Fain.

What? tho' half her Fortune depends upon her marrying with my Lady's Approbation?

Mira.

I was then in such a Humour, that I shou'd have been better pleas'd if she had been less discreet.

Page  3
Fain.

Now I remember, I wonder not they were weary of you; last Night was one of their Cabal-nights; they have 'em three times a Week, and meet by turns, at one another's Apartments, where they come together like the Coroner's Inquest, to sit upon the murder'd Reputations of the Week. You and I are excluded; and it was once pro∣pos'd that all the Male Sex shou'd be excepted; but some∣body mov'd that to avoid Scandal there might be one Man of the Community; upon which Motion Witwoud and Pe∣tulant were enroll'd Members.

Mira.

And who may have been the Foundress of this Sect? My Lady Wishfort, I warrant, who publishes her Detesta∣tion of Mankind; and full of the Vigour of Fifty five, de∣clares for a Friend and Ratafia; and let Posterity shift for it self, she'll breed no more.

Fain.

The discovery of your sham Addresses to her, to conceal your Love to her Niece, has provok'd this Separa∣tion: Had you dissembl'd better, Things might have con∣tinu'd in the state of Nature.

Mira.

I did as much as Man cou'd, with any reasonable Conscience; I proceeded to the very last Act of Flattery with her, and was guilty of a Song in her Commendation: Nay, I got a Friend to put her into a Lampoon, and com∣plement her with the Imputation of an Affair with a young Fellow, which I carry'd so far, that I told her the malici∣ous Town took notice that she was grown fat of a suddain; and when she lay in of a Dropsie, persuaded her she was re∣ported to be in Labour. The Devil's in't, if an old Wo∣man is to be flatter'd further, unless a Man shou'd endea∣vour downright personally to debauch her; and that my Virtue forbad me. But for the discovery of that Amour, I am Indebted to your Friend, or your Wife's Friend Mrs. Marwood.

Fain.

What should provoke her to be your Enemy, with∣out she has made you Advances, which you have slighted? Women do not easily forgive Omissions of that Nature.

Mira.

She was always civil to me, till of late; I confess I am not one of those Coxcombs who are apt to interpret a Page  4 Woman's good Manners to her Prejudice; and think that she who does not refuse 'em every thing, can refuse 'em no∣thing.

Fain.

You are a gallant Man, Mirabell; and tho' you may have Cruelty enough, not to satisfie a Lady's longing; you have too much Generosity, not to be tender of her Ho∣nour. Yet you speak with an Indifference which seems to be affected; and confesses you are conscious of a Negli∣gence.

Mira.

You pursue the Argument with a distrust that seems to be unaffected, and confesses you are conscious of a Concern for which the Lady is more indebted to you, than your Wife.

Fain.

Fie, fie Friend, if you grow Censorious I must leave you;—I'll look upon the Gamesters in the next Room.

Mira.
Who are they?
Fain.

Petulant and Witwoud.—Bring me some Choco∣late.

[Exit.
Mira.
Betty, what says your Clock?
Betty.
Turn'd of the last Canonical Hour, Sir.
[Exit:
Mira.

How pertinently the Jade answers me! Ha? al∣most One a Clock! [Looking on his Watch] O, y'are come—

Enter a Servant.

Well; is the grand Affair over? You have been something tedious.

Serv.

Sir, there's such Coupling at Pancras, that they stand behind one another, as 'twere in a Country Dance. Ours was the last Couple to lead up; and no hopes appearing of dispatch, Besides, the Parson growing hoarse, we were afraid his Lungs would have fail'd before it came to our turn; so we drove round to Duke's Place; and there they were riveted in a trice.

Mira.
So, so, you are sure they are Married.
Serv.
Married and Bedded, Sir: I am Witness.
Page  5
Mira.
Have you the Certificate?
Serv.
Here it is, Sir.
Mira.

Has the Taylor brought Waitwell's Cloaths home, and the new Liveries?

Serv.
Yes, Sir.
Mira.

That's well. Do you go home again, d'ee hear, and adjourn the Consummation till farther Order; bid Waitwell shake his Ears, and Dame Partlet rustle up her Fea∣thers, and meet me at One a Clock by Rosamond's Pond. That I may see her before she returns to her Lady; and as you tender your Ears be secret.

[Exit Servant.
Re-Enter Fainall.
Fain.
Joy of your Success, Mirabell; you look pleas'd.
Mira.

Ay; I have been engag'd in a Matter of some sort of Mirth, which is not yet ripe for discovery. I am glad this is not a Cabal-night. I wonder, Fainall, that you who are Married, and of Consequence should be discreet, will suffer your Wife to be of such a Party.

Fain.

Faith, I am not Jealous. Besides, most who are engag'd are Women and Relations; and for the Men, they are of a Kind too Contemptible to give Scandal.

Mira.

I am of another Opinion. The greater the Cox∣comb, always the more the Scandal: For a Woman who is not a Fool, can have but one Reason for associating with a Man that is.

Fain.

Are you Jealous as often as you see Witwoud enter∣tain'd by Millamant?

Mira.
Of her Understanding I am, if not of her Person.
Fain.

You do her wrong; for to give her her Due, she has Wit.

Mira.

She has Beauty enough to make any Man think so; and Complaisance enough not to contradict him who shall tell her so.

Fain.

For a passionate Lover, methinks you are a Man somewhat too discerning in the Failings of your Mistress.

Page  6
Mira.

And for a discerning Man, somewhat too passi∣onate a Lover; for I like her with all her Faults; nay, like her for her Faults. Her Follies are so natural, or so artful, that they become her; and those Affectations which in ano∣ther Woman wou'd be odious, serve but to make her more agreeable. I'll tell thee, Fainall, she once us'd me with that Insolence, that in Revenge I took her to pieces; sisted her and separated her Failings; I study'd 'em, and got 'em by rote. The Catalogue was so large, that I was not without hopes, one Day or other to hate her heartily: To which end I so us'd my self to think of 'em, that at length, con∣trary to my Design and Expectation, they gave me every Hour less and less disturbance; 'till in a few Days it became habitual to me, to remember 'em without being displeas'd. They are now grown as familiar to me as my own Frail∣ties; and in all probability in a little time longer I shall like 'em as well.

Fain.

Marry her, marry her; be half as well acquainted with her Charms, as you are with her Defects, and my Life on't, you are your own Man again.

Mira.
Say you so?
Fain.

I, I, I have Experience: I have a Wife, and so forth.

Enter Messenger.
Mess.
Is one Squire Witwoud here?
Betty.
Yes; what's your Business?
Mess.

I have a Letter for him, from his Brother Sir Wil∣full, which I am charg'd to deliver into his own Hands.

Betty.
He's in the next Room, Friend—That way.
[Exit. Mess.
Mira.
What, is the Chief of that noble Family in Town,
Sir Wilfull Witwoud?
Fain.
He is expected to Day. Do you know him?
Mira.

I have seen him, he promises to be an extraordi∣nary Person; I think you have the Honour to be related to him.

Page  7
Fain.

Yes; he is half Brother to this Witwoud by a for∣mer Wife, who was Sister to my Lady Wishfort, my Wife's Mother. If you marry Millamant you must call Cousins too.

Mira.
I had rather be his Relation than his Acquaint∣ance.
Fain.
He comes to Town in order to Equip himself for
Travel.
Mira.
For Travel! Why the Man that I mean is above
Forty.
Fain.

No matter for that; 'tis for the Honour of Eng∣land, that all Europe should know we have Blockheads of all Ages.

Mira.

I wonder there is not an Act of Parliament to save the Credit of the Nation, and prohibit the Exportation of Fools.

Fain.

By no means, 'tis better as 'tis; 'tis better to Trade with a little Loss, than to be quite eaten up, with being overstock'd.

Mira.

Pray, are the Follies of this Knight-Errant, and those of the Squire his Brother, any thing related?

Fain.

Not at all; Witwoud grows by the Knight, like a Medlar grafted on a Crab. One will melt in your Mouth, and t'other set your Teeth on edge; one is all Pulp, and the other all Core.

Mira.

So one will be rotten before he be ripe, and the other will be rotten without ever being ripe at all.

Fain.

Sir Wilfull is an odd mixture of Bashfulness and Obstinacy.—But when he's drunk, he's as loving as the Monster in the Tempest; and much after the same manner. To give the t'other his due; he has something of good Na∣ture, and does not always want Wit.

Mira.

Not always; but as often as his Memory fails him, and his common place of Comparisons. He is a Fool with a good Memory, and some few Scraps of other Folks Wit. He is one whose Conversation can never be approv'd, yet it is now and then to be endur'd. He has indeed one good Quality, he is not Exceptious; for he so passionately affects Page  8 the Reputation of understanding Raillery; that he will construe an Affront into a Jest; and call downright Rude∣ness and ill Language, Satyr and Fire.

Fain.

If you have a mind to finish his Picture; you have an opportunity to do it at full length. Behold the Original.

Enter Witwoud.
Wit.
Afford me your Compassion, my Dears; pity me,
Fainall, Mirabell, pity me.
Mira.
I do from my Soul.
Fain.
Why, what's the Matter?
Wit.
No Letters for me, Betty?
Betty.
Did not the Messenger bring you one, but now
Sir?
Wit.
Ay, but no other?
Betty.
No, Sir.
Wit.

That's hard, that's very hard;—A Messenger, a Mule, a Beast of Burden, he has brought me a Letter from the Fool my Brother, as heavy as a Panegyrick in a Funeral Sermon, or a Copy of Commendatory Verses from one Poet to another. And what's worse, 'tis as sure a forerunner of the Author, as an Epistle Dedicatory.

Mira.
A Fool, and your Brother Witwoud!
Wit.

Ay, ay, my half Brother. My half Brother he is, no nearer upon Honour.

Mira.
Then 'tis possible he may be but half a Fool.
Wit.

Good, good Mirabell, le Drole! Good, good, hang him, don't let's talk of him;—Fainall, how does your Lady? Gad, I say any thing in the World to get this Fel∣low out of my Head. I beg Pardon that I shou'd ask a Man of Pleasure, and the Town, a Question at once so For∣reign and Domestick. But I Talk like an old Maid at a Marriage, I don't know what I say: But she's the best Wo∣man in the World.

Fain.

'Tis well you don't know what you say, or else your Commendation wou'd go near to make me either Vain or Jealous.

Page  9
Wit.
No Man in Town lives well with a Wife but
Fainall: Your Judgment Mirabell.
Mira.

You had better step and ask his Wife; if you wou'd be credibly inform'd.

Wit.
Mirabell.
Mira.
Ay.
Wit.

My Dear, I ask ten thousand Pardons;—Gad I have forgot what I was going to say to you.

Mira.
I thank you heartily, heartily.
Wit.

No, but prithee excuse me,—my Memory is such a Memory.

Mira.

Have a care of such Apologies, Witwoud;—for I never knew a Fool but he affected to complain, either of the Spleen or his Memory.

Fain.
What have you done with Petulant?
Wit.
He's reckoning his Mony,—my Mony it was;—
I have no Luck to Day.
Fain.

You may allow him to win of you at Play;—for you are sure to be too hard for him at Repartee: since you monopolize the Wit that is between you, the Fortune must be his of Course.

Mira.

I don't find that Petulant confesses the Superiority of Wit to be your Talent, Witwoud.

Wit.

Come, come, you are malicious now, and wou'd breed Debates.—Petulant's my Friend, and a very honest Fellow, and a very pretty Fellow, and has a smattering—Faith and Troth a pretty deal of an odd sort of a small Wit: Nay, I'll do him Justice. I'm his Friend, I won't wrong him neither—And if he had but any Judgment in the World,—he wou'd not be altogether contemptible. Come come, don't detract from the Merits of my Friend.

Fain.

You don't take your Friend to be overnicely bred.

Wit.

No, no, hang him, the Rogue has no Manners at all, that I must own—No more breeding than a Bum-baily, that I grant you,—'Tis Pity faith; the Fellow has Fire and Life.

Mira.
What, Courage?
Page  10
Wit.

Hum, faith I don't know as to that,—I can't say as to that.—Yes, Faith, in a Controversie he'll contra∣dict any Body.

Mira.

Tho' 'twere a Man whom he fear'd, or a Woman whom he lov'd.

Wit.

Well, well, he does not always think before he speaks;—We have all our Failings; you're too hard up∣on him, you are Faith. Let me excuse him,—I can de∣fend most of his Faults, except one or two; one he has, that's the Truth on't, if he were my Brother, I cou'd not acquit him—That indeed I cou'd wish were other∣wise.

Mira.
Ay marry, what's that, Witwoud?
Wit.
O pardon me—Expose the Infirmities of my
Friend.—No, my Dear, excuse me there.
Fain.
What I warrant he's unsincere, or 'tis some such
Trifle.
Wit.

No, no, what if he be? 'Tis no matter for that, his Wit will excuse that: A Wit shou'd no more be sincere, than a Woman constant; one argues a decay of Parts, as t'other of Beauty.

Mira.
May be you think him too positive?
Wit.

No, no, his being positive is an Incentive to Argu∣ment, and keeps up Conversation.

Fain.
Too Illiterate.
Wit.

That! that's his Happiness—His want of Learn∣ing, gives him the more opportunities to shew his natural Parts.

Mira.
He wants Words.
Wit.

Ay; but I like him for that now; for his want of Words gives me the pleasure very often to explain his meaning.

Fain.
He's Impudent.
Wit.
No; that's not it.
Mira.
Vain.
Wit.
No.
Mira.

What, he speaks unseasonable Truths sometimes, because he has not Wit enough to invent an Evasion.

Page  11
Wit.

Truths! Ha, ha, ha! No, no, since you will have it,—I mean he never speaks Truth at all,—that's all. He will lie like a Chambermaid, or a Woman of Quality's Porter. Now that is a Fault.

Enter Coachman.
Coach.
Is Master Petulant here, Mistress?
Betty.
Yes.
Coach.

Three Gentlewomen in the Coach would speak with him.

Fain.
O brave Petulant, three!
Betty.
I'll tell him.
Coach.
You must bring two Dishes of Chocolate and a
Glass of Cinnamon-water.
[Exit.
Wit.

That should be for two fasting Strumpets, and a Bawd troubl'd with Wind. Now you may know what the three are.

Mira.
You are very free with your Friends Acquaintance.
Wit.

Ay, ay, Friendship without Freedom is as dull as Love without Enjoyment, or Wine without Toasting; but to tell you a Secret, these are Trulls that he allows Coach∣hire, and something more by the Week, to call on him once a Day at publick Places.

Mira.
How!
Wit.

You shall see he won't go to 'em because there's no more Company here to take notice of him—Why this is nothing to what he us'd to do;—Before he found out this way, I have known him call for himself—

Fain.
Call for himself? What dost thou mean?
Wit.

Mean, why he wou'd slip you out of this Choco∣late-house, just when you had been talking to him—As soon as your Back was turn'd—Whip he was gone;—Then trip to his Lodging, clap on a Hood and Scarf, and Mask, slap into a Hackney-Coach, and drive hither to the Door again in a trice; where he wou'd send in for himself, that I mean, call for himself, wait for himself, nay and what's more, not finding himself, sometimes leave a Letter for him∣self.

Page  12
Mira.

I confess this is something extraordinary—I be∣lieve he waits for himself now, he is so long a coming; O I ask his Pardon.

Enter Petulant.
Betty,
Sir, the Coach stays.
Pet.

Well, well; I come—Sbud, a Man had as good be a profess'd Midwise as a profest Whoremaster, at this rate; to be knock'd up and rais'd at all Hours, and in all Places. Pox on 'em I won't come.—Dee hear, tell 'em I won't come.—Let 'em snivel and cry their Hearts out.

Fain.
You are very cruel, Petulant.
Pet.

All's one, let it pass—I have a Humour to be cruel.

Mira.

I hope they are not Persons of Condition that you use at this rate.

Pet.

Condition, Condition's a dry'd Fig, if I am not in Humour—By this Hand, if they were your—a—a—your What-dee call-'ems themselves, they must wait or rub off, if I want Appetite.

Mira.
What-dee-call-'ems! What are they, Witwoud?
Wit.

Empresses, my Dear—By your What-dee-call|'ems he means Sultana Queens.

Pet.
Ay, Roxolana's.
Mira.
Cry you Mercy.
Fain.
Witwoud says they are—
Pet.
What does he say th' are?
Wit.
I; fine Ladies I say.
Pet.

Pass on, Witwoud—Hearkee, by this Light his Relations—Two Coheiresses his Cousins, and an old Aunt, that loves Catterwauling better than a Conventi∣cle.

Wit.

Ha, ha, ha; I had a Mind to see how the Rogue wou'd come off—Ha, ha, ha; Gad I can't be angry with him; if he said they were my Mother and my Sisters.

Mira.
No!
Page  13
Wit.

No; the Rogue's Wit and Readiness of Invention charm me, dear Petulant.

Betty.
They are gone Sir, in great Anger.
Pet.

Enough, let 'em trundle. Anger helps Complexion, saves Paint.

Fain.

This Continence is all dissembled; this is in order to have something to brag of the next time he makes Court to Millamant, and swear he has abandon'd the whole Sex for her Sake.

Mira.

Have you not left off your impudent Pretensions there yet? I shall cut your Throat, sometime or other Petu∣lant, about that Business.

Pet.

Ay, ay, let that pass—There are other Throats to be cut—

Mira.
Meaning mine, Sir?
Pet.

Not I—I mean no Body—I know nothing.—But there are Uncles and Nephews in the World—And they may be Rivals—What then? All's one for that—

Mira.

How! hearkee Petulant, come hither—Explain, or I shall call your Interpreter.

Pet.

Explain, I know nothing—Why you have an Uncle, have you not, lately come to Town, and lodges by my Lady Wishfort's?

Mira.
True.
Pet.

Why that's enough—You and he are not Friends; and if he shou'd marry and have a Child, you may be dis∣inherited, ha?

Mira.
Where hast thou stumbled upon all this Truth?
Pet.

All's one for that; why then say I know some∣thing.

Mira.

Come, thou art an honest Fellow Petulant, and shalt make Love to my Mistress, thou sha't, Faith. What hast thou heard of my Uncle?

Pet.

I, nothing I. If Throats are to be cut, let Swords clash; snugs the Word, I shrug and am silent.

Mira.

O Raillery, Raillery. Come, I know thou art in the Women's Secrets—What you're a Cabalist, I know you staid at Millamant's last Night, after I went. Was Page  14 there any mention made of my Uncle, or me? Tell me; if thou hadst but good Nature equal to thy Wit Petulant, Tony Witwoud, who is now thy Competitor in Fame, wou'd shew as dim by thee as a dead Whiting's Eye, by a Pearl of Orient; he wou'd no more be seen by thee, then Mercury is by the Sun: Come, I'm sure thou wo't tell me.

Pet.

If I do, will you grant me common Sense then, for the future?

Mira.
Faith I'll do what I can for thee; and I'll pray that
Heav'n may grant it thee in the mean time.
Pet.
Well, hearkee.
Fain.
Petulant and you both will find Mirabell as warm a
Rival as a Lover.
Wit.

Pshaw, pshaw, that she laughs at Petulant is plain. And for my part—But that it is almost a Fashion to ad∣mire her, I shou'd—Hearkee—To tell you a Secret, but let it go no further—Between Friends, I shall never break my Heart for her.

Fain.
How!
Wit.
She's handsome; but she's a sort of an uncertain
Woman.
Fain.
I thought you had dy'd for her.
Wit.
Umh—No—
Fain.
She has Wit.
Wit.

'Tis what she will hardly allow any Body else;—Now, Demme, I shou'd hate that, if she were as handsome as Cleopatra. Mirabell is not so sure of her as he thinks for.

Fain.
Why do you think so?
Wit.

We staid pretty late there last Night; and heard something of an Uncle to Mirabell, who is lately come to Town,—and is between him and the best part of his Estate; Mirabell and he are at some distance, as my Lady Wishfort has been told; and you know she hates Mirabell, worse than a Quaker hates a Parrot: Or then a Fishmonger hates a hard Frost. Whether this Uncle has seen Mrs. Millamant or not, I cannot say; but there were Items of such a Treaty being in Embrio; and if it shou'd come to Life; poor Page  15Mirabell wou'd be in some sort unfortunately fobb'd ifaith.

Fain.
'Tis impossible Millamant should hearken to it.
Wit.

Faith, my Dear, I can't tell; she's a Woman and a kind of a Humorist.

Mira.
And this is the Sum of what you cou'd collect last
Night.
Pet.

The Quintessence. May be Witwoud knows more, he stay'd longer—Besides they never mind him; they say any thing before him.

Mira.
I thought you had been the greatest Favourite.
Pet.
Ay teste a teste; But not in publick, because I make
Remarks.
Mira.
Do you.
Pet.

Ay, ay, pox I'm malicious, Man. Now he's soft you know, they are not in awe of him—The Fellow's well bred, he's what you call a—What-dee-call-'em. A fine Gentleman, but he's silly withal.

Mira.

I thank you, I know as much as my Curiosity requires. Fainall, are you for the Mall?

Fain.
Ay, I'll take a turn before Dinner.
Wit.

Ay, we'll all walk in the Park, the Ladies talk'd of being there.

Mira.

I thought you were oblig'd to watch for your Bro∣ther Sir Wilfull's arrival.

Wit.

No, no, he comes to his Aunts, my Lady Wishfort; pox on him, I shall be troubled with him too; what shall I do with the Fool?

Pet.

Beg him for his Estate; that I may beg you after∣wards; and so have but one Trouble with you both.

Wit.

O rare Petulant; thou art as quick as a Fire in a frosty Morning; thou shalt to the Mall with us; and we'll be very severe.

Pet.
Enough, I'm in a Humour to be severe.
Mira.

Are you? Pray then walk by your selves,—Let not us be accessary to your putting the Ladies out of Countenance, with your senseless Ribaldry; which you roar out aloud as often as they pass by you; and when you Page  16 have made a handsome Woman blush, then you think you have been severe.

Pet.

What, what? Then let 'em either shew their Inno∣cence by not understanding what they hear, or else shew their Discretion by not hearing what they would not be thought to understand.

Mira.

But hast not thou then Sense enough to know that thou ought'st to be most asham'd thy Self, when thou hast put another out of Countenance.

Pet.

Not I, by this Hand—I always take blushing either for a Sign of Guilt, or ill Breeding.

Mira.

I confess you ought to think so. You are in the right, that you may plead the error of your Judgment in defence of your Practice.

Where Modesty's ill Manners, 'tis but fit
That Impudence and Malice, pass for Wit.
[Exeunt.