Act I - Act I, Scene II


SCAN. What, Jeremy holding forth?

VAL. The rogue has (with all the wit he could muster up) been declaiming against wit.

SCAN. Ay? Why, then, I'm afraid Jeremy has wit: for wherever it is, it's always contriving its own ruin.

JERE. Why, so I have been telling my master, sir: Mr Scandal, for heaven's sake, sir, try if you can dissuade him from turning poet.

SCAN. Poet! He shall turn soldier first, and rather depend upon the outside of his head than the lining. Why, what the devil, has not your poverty made you enemies enough? Must you needs shew your wit to get more?

JERE. Ay, more indeed: for who cares for anybody that has more wit than himself?

SCAN. Jeremy speaks like an oracle. Don't you see how worthless great men and dull rich rogues avoid a witty man of small fortune? Why, he looks like a writ of enquiry into their titles and estates, and seems commissioned by heaven to seize hte better half.

VAL. Therefore I would rail in my writings, and be revenged.

SCAN. Rail? At whom? The whole world? Impotent and vain! Who would die a martyr to sense in a country where the religion is folly? You may stand at bay for a while; but when the full cry is against you, you shan't have fair play for your life. If you can't be fairly run down by the hounds, you will be treacherously shot by the huntsmen. No, turn pimp, flatterer, quack, lawyer, parson, be chaplain to an atheist, or stallion to an old woman, anything but poet. A modern poet is worse, more servile, timorous, and fawning, than any I have named: without you could retrieve the ancient honours of the name, recall the stage of Athens, and be allowed the force of open honest satire.

VAL. You are as inveterate against our poets as if your character had been lately exposed upon the stage. Nay, I am not violently bent upon the trade. [One knocks.] Jeremy, see who's there. [JERE. goes to the door.] But tell me what you would have me do? What do the world say of me, and my forced confinement?

SCAN. The world behaves itself as it uses to do on such occasions; some pity you, and condemn your father; others excuse him, and blame you; only the ladies are merciful, and wish you well, since love and pleasurable expense have been your greatest faults.

VAL. How now?

JERE. Nothing new, sir; I have despatched some half a dozen duns with as much dexterity as a hungry judge does causes at dinner-time.

VAL. What answer have you given 'em?

SCAN. Patience, I suppose, the old receipt.

JERE. No, faith, sir; I have put 'em off so long with patience and forbearance, and other fair words, that I was forced now to tell 'em in plain downright English -

VAL. What?

JERE. That they should be paid.

VAL. When?

JERE. To-morrow.

VAL. And how the devil do you mean to keep your word?

JERE. Keep it? Not at all; it has been so very much stretched that I reckon it will break of course by to-morrow, and nobody be surprised at the matter. [Knocking.] Again! Sir, if you don't like my negotiation, will you be pleased to answer these yourself?

VAL. See who they are.