The Learned Women
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 of disgust?
HEN. What is there in marriage which can oblige you, sister,
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 shudder.
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
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 have made?
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 our admirers.
HEN. I have not prevented him from continuing his worship,
but have only received the homage of his passion when you had rejected
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 deceives himself.
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,
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 pain.
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
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 love returned.
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
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 him).
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 tell me.
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
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, ARISTE.
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 so smitten!
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
ARI. It is not with Henriette that he is in love? You are
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 father.
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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 china?
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
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
MAR. Sure, let me tell you, Ma'am, that I don't know those
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
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,
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
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
BEL. It is true that it is dreadfully starched and out of
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
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 the spot.
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 talk together.
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
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
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 mind.
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 defiance.
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 me.
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
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 run away?
HEN. I fear to disturb such sweet intercourse.
PHI. Come nearer, and with both ears share in the delight of
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
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
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
“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.
TRI. 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!
TRI. 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
ARM. 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
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
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
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
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!
TRI. What! without heed for your high line, She saps your
blood with care malign...
PHI., ARM. and BEL. Ah!
TRI. 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 FRIENDS. 
PHI. His titles have always something rare in them.
ARM. They prepare one for a hundred flashes of wit.
TRI. 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.
TRI. 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
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
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
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
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 our emancipation.
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 none.
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,
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
PHI. The hand which introduces him sufficiently proves his
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, sister!
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
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 learned discourse.
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
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
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
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 ballad.
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 verses.
TRI. Remember your book, and the little noise it made.
VAD. And you, remember your bookseller, reduced to the
TRI. My glory is established; in vain would you endeavour to
VAD. Yes, yes; I send you to the author of the 'Satires.'
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
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 in society.
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
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
ARM. It is upon you, and not upon me, that his hand is
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 excellent one.
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 us.
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
SCENE IX.—CHRYSALE, ARISTE,
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 listening unseen).
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 praising you.
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
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,
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
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 in deeds.
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 wanting.
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
CLI. I see them so well that they almost blind me.
TRI. I believed hitherto that it was ignorance which made
fools, and not knowledge.
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 letter.
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
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,
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
CLI. You may perhaps see that your fears are without
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,
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
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 son-in-law.
HEN. (to ARISTE). Alas! try to keep him in this
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 fear.
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 your love.
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
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 adorable Henriette.
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,
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
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 nose?
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
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
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
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 hiss me.
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 know?
CHRY. We will tell you by-and-by; we have now something else
NOT. Let us proceed with the contract. Where is the future
PHI. It is the younger daughter I give in marriage.
CHRY. (showing HENRIETTE). Yes, Sir, here she is; her
name is Henriette.
NOT. Very well; and the future bridegroom?
PHI. (showing TRISSOTIN). This gentleman is the
husband I give her.
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
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 is settled.
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
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 at times.]
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
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,
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
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 fortune.
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 servant. (Exit.)
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
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 your will.
CLI. What! do you refuse me happiness, and now that I see
everybody for me....
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
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
ARM. (to PHILAMINTE). So, then, you sacrifice me to
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
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.