THE ETHICS OF SPEECH IN THE PLAYS OF WILLIAM WYCHERLEY
JAMES PETER THOMPSON
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
James Peter Thompson
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT ......................................................... iv
CHAPTER ONE: WYCHERLEY AND THE SENECAN ETHICS OF SPEECH......... 1
CHAPTER TWO: DECORUM AND LOVE IN A WOOD......................... 39
Notes .................. ................................ 63
CHAPTER THREE: PARADOX AND THE GENTLEMAN DANCING-MASTER......... 70
Notes............................... .... ... ................ 92
CHAPTER FOUR: FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE IN THE COUNTRY WIFE............ 98
Notes............................ .... ... .................. 127
CHAPTER FIVE: THE PLAIN-DEALER AND THE CONCEPT OF CORRECTNESS... 133
Notes................. ....................................... 159
CHAPTER SIX: CONCLUSION: TRYAL MAKETH TRUST.................... 165
Notes ..................................................... 170
BIBLIOGRAPHY.......................... .......................... 172
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............................................. 185
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in P'irtial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
TIIE ETHICS OF SPEECH IN THE PLAYS OF WILLIAM WYCHERLEY
James Peter Thompson
Chairman: Aubrey L. Willians
Major Department: English
This stylistic and thematic study of Wycherley's language argues
that there is implicit in his plays an ethically correct manner of
speech, and, consequently, that a man's moral essence can be determined
from his words. Confirmation for my thesis is sought in seventeenth-
century devotional and courtesy writers, as well as in linguists and
rhetoricians, all of whom write with surprising frequency and urgency
of the necessity of speaking properly, decently and morally. Features
of speech, in these writers, are commonly described in ethical terms,
and "correct" often encompasses moral as well as grammatical rectitude.
In addition, after tracing the concept, "Style is the man," from its
classical sources, I also argue that the popularity of Senecan style
promoted an expressive theory of speech, identifying the speaker and
his words, and coloring those words with his essence. Changing concepts
of the nature and function of words are investigated, because such
shifts are bound to affect the ethical constraints thought to govern
speech; exactly what these writers feel a sentence can or does accom-
plish goes hand in hand with what they feel ought to be done with words.
However ambiguous words can be, and however their meanings change, most
language theorists of the period seem confident that intended meanings
are reasonably self-evident. The maintenance of such a "rectitude of
words" is the subject of much speculation, for the preservation of the
right meanings of words is perceived as the foundation of common coher-
Various aspects of the ethics of speech are examined in each of
Wycherley's four plays. In Love in a Wood, the concept of decorum is
analogous to prudence; the one is to speech what the other is to conduct,
both governing appropriate behavior. Differing ethical values in The
Gentleman Dancing-Master reflect conflicting concepts of signification,
while differing uses of figurative language suggest alternative attitudes
towards social constraints and rules in The Country Wife. The Plain-
Dealer anatomizes the concept of correctness, questioning Manly's
authority to judge and correct others' speech and action. Of partic-
ular interest in all the plays is metalanguage, because a large part of
Wycherley's dialogue consists of remarks about remarks. His characters,
for example, complete, expand, emend, or reject one another's simili-
tudes. Such passages often indicate a character's conception of what
his own words accomplish, and may reveal a tactic of expression. The
abuses of speech are also closely examined, as aberrations or rejections
of a rectitude of words. Dissimulation and deception, the ways charac-
ters mislead themselves and others, are consistently contrasted with
proper communication; a correct use of words becomes a metaphor for
cooperation, an attempt to reach, or aid, or inform another, rather
than to deceive or attack him.
WYCHERLEY AND THE SENECAN ETHICS OF SPEECH
Wycherley's characters congregate in French houses, St. James Park,
the New Exchange, or the Cock in Bow Street, to talk about the talk of
the town. Conversation in Restoration comedy, as Alan Roper remarks,
is often about conversation; characters relate what others have said
in order to anatomize the substance and style of such discourse. Novel's
and Olivia's exchange in The Plain-Dealer ( pp. 413-422)2 is represen-
tative of the reflexive nature of much of Wycherley's dialogue; Novel
describes the dinner he just left so he and Olivia can comment. At the
same time, Olivia and Eliza animadvert upon the present conversation;
the dialogue consists of self-referential remarks upon remarks, for
they comment upon their own and others' words.
The amount of animadversion in Restoration dialogue indicates an
extraordinary self-consciousness about speech and language; as Joan
Webber has said, the seventeenth century is "an age tremendously
conscious of its language: the individual writer, in every paragraph
he sets down, reveals his anxiety to understand the character of words."3
Her subject, the projection of self in words, is especially appropriate
for Wycherley's characters, because they are usually highly aware of
the impression they hope to create with their words, but indeed much
of the popular literature of the Restoration also exhibits a corre-
sponding self-consciousness about speech. Thus Swift's Polite
Conversations parodies a number of courtesy works that claim to teach
their reader to speak cleverly and impressively. The Mysteries of Love
and Rhetoric Revealed (London, 1658) includes whole conversations to
be used on one's mistress in the pit, the Ring, or at tea. The Art of
Complaisance, or the Means to Oblige in Conversation (London, 1673) is
a rhetoric of conversation, adapting the art of persuasion to "casual"
speech. Richard Allestree's The Government of the Tongue (Oxford, 1674)
teaches verbal prudence, while other works "Remarque" upon or "Vindi-
cate" "The Conversation of the Town."4 It may be supposed, in the light
of such works, that Restoration comedy elevates conversation to an art
form in part because much of the audience valued skilled, successful
speech. Pepys, for one, equally admires conversation on the stage and
in the pit, and often divides his attention between the two. And as
James Sutherland has argued, the verbal qualities of conversation were
also valued in written prose; the most admired Restoration prose is "a
slightly formalized variation of the conversation of a gentleman,"
characterized by ease, studied underemphasis, imperturbable nonchalance
However studied or self-conscious Restoration speech may have been,
conversation has been the measure of social grace from the Symposium
to the Cocktail Party. Samuel Johnson gives a sense of the social
nature of the man by closing each of his Lives of the Poets with a
sample of the poet's conversation. But while Johnson characterizes
poets by their conversation, in Restoration or Augustan literature men
are more likely to be defined by their speech; from Mac Flecknoe to the
Dunciad, men are defined and judged by the way they use words, because
speech was thought to reveal the essence of the man, not just his social
grace. It was, in fact, during the seventeenth century, according to
the OED, that the meaning of "conversation" shifted from "living amongst
people," or "mode of Life" to its present, specialized sense of
"talk."7 In Restoration comedy, conversation is a significant part of
action. It is by use of words that man deals with other men, by words
that he projects his self, his purposes and intentions; it is by words
that he persuades others of these intentions. Speech was considered a
moral act, as well as the means of revealing and exerting the will.
Although this moral view of speech is not unique to Restoration litera-
ture, divines, moralists, scientists and poets of this period write with
a surprising frequency and urgency of the necessity of speaking properly,
decently, and morally.
Seventeenth-century prose has been the subject of much study in the
last sixty years, from all critical persuasions, but studies have
increasingly turned to historical and theoretical linguistics. Though
these studies focus on the most basic language texts of the period,
grammars and spelling books, they still ignore relevant material. As
important as language training was, it was but half of the grammar
school master's responsibility, for he was to teach religion as well as
right speaking, and his students were to learn their catechism along
with their accidents. The two subjects went hand in hand; while Lily's
grammar demonstrated how language worked, religious and moral literature
explained why it worked or ought to work. Lily defines grammar as
recte scribendi atque loquendi ars; I wish to show that recte was
understood to encompass moral as well as grammatical rightness.8
This chapter traces, therefore, the ethical aspects of speech in
conjunction with changing language theory in the seventeenth century.
Morris Croll, George Williamson, and R. F. Jones have isolated three
types of prose style, arguing that the first half of the century was
dominated by anti-Ciceronian or Senecan style, while in reaction to both
Senecan and Ciceronian style, there appeared after 1650 a "plain style"
associated with new science. All three styles have persuasive purposes,
and I will treat them in terms of rhetoric in order to avoid the
suggestion that any one style is more "rhetorical" than the others.
Because these three are always more distinctive in theory than in
practice, they are best distinguished by their dominant interest or
aim: Ciceronian oratorical style is the most openly intended to sway
an audience; Senecan essay style is designed to reflect and display
its author's mind; scientific plain style tries to efface both audience
and author in order to present its subject matter, the close descrip-
tion of natural phenomena. These three rhetoric are essentially
analogous to critical categories established by M. H. Abrams, for
Ciceronian rhetoric is "affective," Senecan is "expressive" and scien-
tific is "mimetic."10 It is not my intention to prove that Senecan
rhetoric either replaced Ciceronianism or turned into Scientific
rhetoric. I am more concerned with the relative popularity of these
three aims of discourse, aims that are perennial, and though one may
seem more popular for a time, it can never eclipse the others.
My purpose in distinguishing these three rhetorical modes is to
show how differing concepts of what can or ought to be done with words
necessarily affect the moral constraints thought to govern speech.
Further, not all aspects of these rhetoric are exclusive, and through
the century different facets of the theories shift, conflicting or
aligning with each other, often in unpredictable ways. I will argue
that Wycherley found most congenial the Senecan theory of speech, a
speech that is ethical in its essential conformity with Stoic morality.
It is also ethical in the etymological sense of "ethos": the peculiarly
Senecan and Stoic influences lie in the emphasis on the ethos or charac-
ter or essence of a man contained in and revealed by his words. Of the
three, only Senecan rhetoric is truly comfortable with the idea that
speech reveals the inner man.
The idea that men are characterized by their speech is of course
proverbial, with the first known example of speech as the image of the
mind appearing as a received opinion in Dionysius of Halicarnassus: "it
is a just and general opinion that a man's words are the images of his
mind." In the Tusculan Disputations, Cicero credits Socrates with the
analogy between speech and character: Qualis autem homo ipse esset,
talem eius isse orationem.12 The analogy is often expressed epigram-
matically, as in Quintilian, ut vivat, quemque etiam dicere, or in
Seneca, Qualis vir, talis oratio,3 and passed into Renaissance prover-
bial lore through Erasmus's Adagia.4 In Robert Greene's proverb
collection, The Royal Exchange, speech reveals the heart, significantly
indicating virtues and vices: "Ex abundantia cordis os loquitor: allud-
ing to our Olde Englishe proverbe, what the heart thinketh, the tongue
clacketh: meaning heerby, that the affections of man are known by his
speech, as favoring of wisdom or follie, of envie, as loving to backbite:
of wrath, as uttering cholcrick terms and such like."15 Such views
were commonplace, and found throughout seventeenth-century literature,
from Ben Jonson to Thomas Sprat.16 To Isaac Barrow, for example,
Speech is commonly judged the truest character of the mind,
and the surest test of inward worth, as that which dis-
closeth the hidden man of the heart, which unlocketh the
closets of the breast, which draws the soul out of her
dark recesses into open light and view, which rendereth
our thoughts visible, and our intentions palpable.
Hence Loquere, ut to videam, Speak, that I may see you,
or know what kind of man you are, is a saying which all
men, at first meeting, do in their heart direct one to
another: neither commonly doth any man require more to
ground a judgment upon concerning the worth or ability of
another, than opportunity of hearing him to discourse for
a competent time.17
As proverbial as this analogy is, it is somewhat at odds with tradi-
tional Ciceronian rhetorical theory. Consider George Puttenham's
version of style as the man:
.there be that have called stile, the image of man
[mentis character] for man is but his minde, and as his
minde is tempered and qualified, so are his speeches and
language at large, and his inward conceits by the metall
of his minded, and his manner of utterance the very warp
and woofe of his conceits, more plaine or busie and intri-
cate, or otherwise affected after the rate. Most men say
that not any one point in Phisiognomy is so certain, as
to judge a mans manners by his eye: but more assuredly
in mine opinion, by his dayly manner of speech and
There is nothing unusual here, but Puttenham adds an es'sntial qualifi-
cation: "And yet preadventure not altogether so, but that every mans
stile is for the most part according to the matter and subject of the
writer, or so ought to be, and conformable thereunto."18 If each man
had a unique, individual style, then style would be the man; the concept
of decorum, however, dictates that each man adapt his style to subject
and situation. Puttenham thus suggests the divergence between Ciceronian
and Senecan concepts of style is the man. Ciceronian rhetoric, taught
on the basis of imitation, provides a spectrum of styles designed for
public speaking; appropriating these communal styles, each orator may
speak like Cicero. Senecan rhetoric, however, places a much greater
emphasis on the uniqueness of individual style; the Senecan stylist
theoretically speaks like himself, not like Seneca.
Even though Ciceronian rhetoric is unconcerned with individuality,
it still deliberately connects speech and conduct. Thus, in order to
refute the Platonic charge that rhetoric deceives and makes the worse
seem the better case, Quintilian, following Cicero, makes virtue insepa-
rable from eloquence. Borrowing Cato's definition of the orator, vir
bonus dicendi peritus, Quintilian insists that it is the orator's duty
always "to act and speak as befits a man of honor," because "no one can
be a true orator unless he is also a good man."19 Furthermore, from
classical antiquity through the Renaissance, Ciceronian rhetoricians
described features of speech in ethical or moral terms, as in the four
Theophrastan "virtues" of style.20 Cicero writes of the orator's
"religious obligation" toward correct style, and Quintilian makes purity
of style and conduct equivalent forms of correctness. Peripatetic
philosophy, which I will shortly associate with Ciceronianism, postu-
lates an "essential identity in the principle of the virtue of style
with moral virtue."22
Where Ciceronian rhetoric provides an external model of style for
imitation, Senecan rhetoric insists that style emanates from within, a
distinction which reflects conflicting Peripatetic and Stoic attitudes
toward the community. Ciceronian rhetoric is devoted to law, politics
and government: it stresses above all civic and social responsibility.
At the opening of The Rhetoric of Alcuin and Charlemagne, the king
reminds his rhetorician, "I remember you once said that the strength of
this art [rhetoric] lay wholly in dealing with public questions."23
Senecan and Stoic theory proposes a style for philosophy, not public
oratory, a style that comes not from the community but from the soul.
Constancy, the most important of Stoic virtues, dictates that style and
conduct be consistent, as Seneca instructs his correspondent:
Philosophy teaches that he [the philosopher] should live
according to his own standards, that his life should not
be out of harmony with his words, and that, further, his
inner life should be of one hue and not out of harmony with
his activities. This, I say, is the highest duty and the
highest proof of wisdom,--that'deed and word should be equal
to himself under all conditions, and always the same.24
Ciceronian rhetoric and its corresponding Peripatetic philosophy provides
a public, communal code of style and ethics, whereas Senecan rhetoric
and its corresponding Stoic philosophy provides a private, individual
style and ethic; Ciceronian style is theoretically external, Senecan
internal. Further, the popular, public style of Ciceronianism is openly
persuasive, whereas Senecanism asserts that persuasion is a function of
the truth of its facts, not the wording of its argument's.
Ironically, Buffon's famous phrase, "Le style est l'homme meme,"
is appropriate to both views, though for different reasons. Style is
the man himself in Castiglione's Courtier or Oscar Wilde; where style
is everything, each man is an artwork, the construct of style. Con-
versely, Stoicism posits an essential self, an inner man, a soul: here
style is the man when speech and soul harmonize. Richard Lanham draws
the contrast between Ciceronianism and Senecanism in terms of two views
of self; the former denies the concept of central self, while the latter
insists upon fidelity to a central identity.25 In view of its public
responsibilities, Ciceronianism is much more concerned with the many
roles an orator must play, in contrast to the Senecan and Stoic impera-
tive to individual consistency and continuity; the Ciceronian can be a
good man in many different ways, the Senecan in only one way. The
student of Ciceronian rhetoric is taught to argue both sides of any
dispute because his science is argumentation; the function of rhetoric,
as Aristotle defines it, is simply "to find out in each case the means
of persuasion."26 The Ciceronian world view is consequently more rela-
tive and fluid than the Senecan commitment to the pursuit of absolute,
self-evident, transcendental truth. Of the Courtier Lanham writes,
"Pose, not central self, victory, not truth, pleasure, not improvement
prevail;" these are also the aims Lanham associates with the Ciceronian
orator.27 Both Cicero and Seneca are interested in truth, but theirs
are different truths. Cicero draws a distinction between Prudentia,
or practical wisdom, and Sophia, or speculative wisdom,28 and his
rhetoric would be concerned with the former, Senecan with the latter.
Their subjects differ as do rhetoric and analytics; according to
Aristotle, rhetoric deals with probable truth through commonplaces.29
The subject of Senecan inquiry is closer to analytics, that is, absolute
The contrast Cicero draws between Peripatetic and Stoic philosophy
again turns on public and private, communal and individual.30 Peripa-
tetic philosophy is the most suited to Ciceronianism because it is
based on community standards and public views; Cicero observes in
De oratore that orators are not, in contrast to philosophers, given to
. the whole art of oratory lies open to the view, and is
concerned in some measure with the common practise, custom,
and speech of mankind, so that, whereas in all other arts
that is most excellent which is farthest removed from the
understanding and mental capacity of the untrained, in
oratory the very cardinal sin is to depart from the
language of everyday life, and the usage approved by the
sense of the community.31
Stoicism, on the other hand, committed to ideal truth, is more special-
ized, remote, technical and individualistic, if not idiosyncratic.
Anthony Le Grand, in Man Without Passion: Or, The Wise Stoic, According
to the Sentiments of Seneca (1675), writes of the "Peripateticks," who,
"leaning on the Opinion of the People," "affirmed that what was
generally received could not be faulty." On the contrary, "Truth,"
which Le Grand associates with Stoicism, "seeks not to please many."32
The point is a critical one for popular, public Ciceronian oratory, the
art designed to please many; its function, as Aristotle argues, is to
make the truths of analytics and dialectic understandable to the
untrained.33 Bacon's justification for rhetoric is similar to
Aristotle's but essentially Christian and Augustinian; if men were
perfect, persuasion would be unnecessary because they would always
respond to what is right, but because men are fallen and flawed, their
emotions must be swayed along with their reason:
Again, if the affections in themselves were pliant and
obedient to reason, it were true there should be no great
use of persuasions and insinuations to the will, more than
of naked propositions and proofs; but in regard to the
continual mutinies and seditions of the affections
Video meliora, proboque,
reason would become captive and servile, if eloquence of
persuasions did not practise and win the imagination from
the affections' part, and contract a confederacy between
the reason and imagination against the affections.
Where popular rhetoric is a mechanism designed to deal with the imperfec-
tions of men, Bacon writes that Stoic discourse "thought to thrust virtue
upon men by sharp disputations and conclusions, which have no sympathy
with the will of man."34 Cicero observes that "Stoic oratory is too
closely knit for a popular audience"; the language of philosophy is not
intended for instruction, and if it is not adapted to the level of the
audience, it will not be forceful enough for the moving persuasion of
Cicero records that the Stoics were notoriously hostile to his
type of rhetoric, and for obvious reasons. With their stress on the
control and mastery of emotion, Stoics necessarily found the emotional
appeal of openly persuasive rhetoric repugnant. Antonius, the more
practical orator in De oratore, says "it was rather by working upon,
than by informing, the minds of the tribunal" that he Pon his case.3
This type of claim invites the Platonic objection to the rhetoric Plato
connects with sophists: real knowledge is irrelevant to oratory when
its aim is not instruction but persuasion. In The Gorgias, Socrates'
statement that rhetoric "has no need to know the truth about things but
merely to discover a technique of persuasion," leads to the analogy
between rhetoric and other superficial skills that deal with appearance
and impression rather than real knowledge: "Sophistic is to legislation
what beautification is to gymnastics, and rhetoric is to justice what
cookery is to medicine."38 Cicero refutes this attack with the insis-
tence that eloquence must be founded upon wisdom. Crassus, Cicero's
spokesman in De oratore, claims that the true orator, "whatever the
topic that crops up to be unfolded in discourse, will speak thereon
with knowledge, method, charm and retentive memory, combining with
these qualifications a certain distinction of bearing." This orator
should command "the subtlety of a logician, the thoughts of a philoso-
pher, a diction almost poetic, a lawyer's memory, a tragedian's voice,
and the bearing almost of the consummate actor." (Under questioning,
however, Crassus admits that he is describing an impossible ideal,
and Antonius counters with the claim that only eloquence is necessary;
the forensic orator need not even have an extensive knowledge of the
The Stoic fondness for plainness is also at odds with the highly
figurative Ciceronian style, because figures can be used to darken an
argument. Seneca writes, veritas simplex oratio est, and "Besides,
speech that deals with the truth should be unadorned and plain. This
popular style has nothing to do with the truth; its aim is to impress
the common herd, to ravish heedless cars by its speed; it does not offer
itself for discussion, but snatches itself away from discussion."40
While plainness is a Stoic virtue, clarity is not, because the Stoic
speaker's ultimate responsibility is to the pursuit of truth, not to
easy comprehension. The Ciceronian orator must always answer to his
audience; where he is forced to adapt his speech to the situation, the
Stoic's speech must always be consistent if he is to have one true style
that emanates from the soul. Seneca tells Lucilius to "take'care of
the soul; for from the soul issue our thoughts, from the soul our words,
from the soul our dispositions, our expressions, and our very gait.
When the soul is sound and strong, the style is vigorous, energetic,
manly; but if the soul loses balance, down comes all the rest in
Stoic philosophy also has physical and metaphysical imperatives to
style. The Stoic theory of language is Realist; that is, words are not
arbitrary or accidental but God-given signs wherein the signifier is
naturally and inherently connected with the signified. Their concept
of the Logos extends through all features of the created world; the
Logos is the informing, divine, structural principle in all things. As
A. C. Lloyd summarizes in "Grammar and Metaphysics in the Stoa", "The
Stoics shared Heraclitus's belief that Logos was part of nature, with
the result that everything natural possessed some properties which it
possessed. But they interpreted Logos more plainly, as sounds which
signified by describing. Features of description were features of
nature, so that their [grammatical] categories were, like Aristotle's,
facts of nature."43 Meaning or signification, the conjunction of signi-
fier and signified, is neither arbitrary nor extrinsic, but the intrinsic
spark of divine presence. The misuses of speech, catechresis, solecism,
or worse, deceit, are then a denial or rejection or a tacit rebellion
against the divine principle. Every sentence uttered is informed by the
Logos, the word and reason of God, and so Montaigne can thus write
To lie is a horrible-filthy vice; and which an ancient
writer setteth forth very shamefully, when he saith,
that whosoever lieth, witnesseth that he contemneth God
and therewithall feareth men. It is impossible more
richly to represent the horror, the vilenesse and the
disorder of it: For, what can he imagine so vile, and
base, as to be a coward towards men, and a boaster towards
God? Our intelligence being only conducted by way of
the Word: Who so falsifieth the same betraieth public
society. It is the only instrument, by means wherof
our wits and our thoughts are communicated: it is the
interpretour of our soules: If that faile us we hold
our selves no more, we enter-know one another no longer.
If it deceive us, it breaketh al our commerce, and
dissolveth al bonds of our policies4 4
These contrasts between Ciceronian and Senecan, Peripatetic and
Stoic schools, are pertinent to the history of seventeenth-century
prose, for the early decades witness the predominance of a private,
personal, subjective, idiosyncratic essay style over a public, communal,
objective, oratorical style.45 A contrast illustrative of the change
may be drawn between the two extremes of Castiglione and Montaigne;
in Castiglione one makes himself, in Montaigne one is himself. The
rise of Senecan style brings a renascence of the Senecan concept of
speech as the index of the soul, and English aphorisms connecting style
and self blossom after 1590.
English interest in continental Neostoicism also began at this
time.47 Juste Lipsius's Latin Two Books of Constancy (1584) was
translated into English in 1594, and Du Vair's French Moral Philosophy
of the Stoicks (1585) was Englished in 1598. Joseph Hall, "Our English
Seneca," published his explicitly Stoical Heaven Upon Earth in 1606;
this saw print twenty-four times by 1637, and Earl Miner has shown that
the number of Stoical works published remained constant throughout the
century. Such works aimed, furthermore, to reconcile Stoicism and
Christian doctrine, adapting Stoic ethics to Christian faith and Stoic
fate to Christian Providence. Lipsius's Manuductio ad stoicam
philosophiam and Physiologia stoicorum (1604) made available the frag-
mentary Stoic teachings on ethics, physics and metaphysics; he is
particularly concerned to harmonize the Logos of the Old Stoa and the
Logos of St. John: Vides dare, hanc Naturam, Mentem esse Dei et
Rationem, uno verbo Deum.49 Seneca and Epictetus had long been
regarded as no ordinary heathens, and Etienne Gilson writes that "the
Middle Ages regarded them as precursors to Christianity and occasionally
as saints."50 Peacham thus recommends "the virtuous and divine Seneca"
for morality, the Seneca "who, for that he lived so near the times of
the apostles, and had familiar acquaintance with St. Paul (as it is
supposed by those epistles that pass under either their names) is
thought in heart to have been a Christian; and certes so it seemeth to
me, by that spirit wherewith so many rules of patience, humility,
contempt of the world are refined and exempt from the degrees of
paganism."51 Seneca, indeed, was thought a crypto-Christian through
the nineteenth century.
The Senecan revival in England produced a prose style that is, in
one form, rough and tumbling, crabbed, convoluted, paratactic, lacking
in connectives, paradoxical, sententious.52 Robert Burton, in
"Democritus to the Reader," provides the most felicitous description
and example of this style when he claims to write
in an extemporcan style, as I do commonly all other
exercises, effudi quicquod dictavit genius meus [I
poured out whatever came into my mind], out of a
confused company of notes, and writ with as small
deliberation as I do ordinarily speak, without all
affectation of big words, fustian phrases, jingling
terms, tropes, strong lines, that like Acestes' arrows
caught fire as they flew, strains of wit, brave heats,
elogies, hyperbolical exornations, elegancies, etc.,
which many so much effect. I am aquae potor [a water-
drinker], drink no wine at all, which so much improves
our modern wits, a loose, plain rude writer, ficum voco
ficum ligonem ligonem [I call a fig a fig and a spade
a spade], and as free, as loose, idem calamo quod in
mente [what my mind thinks my pen writes], I call a
spade a spade, animis haec scribo, non auribus [I
write for the mind, not the ear], I respect matter, not
words; remembering that of Cardan, verba proper res,
non res proper verba [words should minister to matter,
not vice versa], and seeking with Seneca, quid scribam,
non quem ad modum, rather what than how to write: for
as Philo thinks, "he that is conversant about matter
neglects words, and those that excel in this art of
speaking have no profound learning."
The manner conforms to Stoic theory; it is designed to express an inner
realism by following the action of the mind, and it is natural for
Burton to hold that style is the man: "It is most true, stilus virum
arguit, our style betrays us, and as hunters find their game by the
trace, so is a man's genius described by his works; multo melius ex
sermone quam lineaments de moribus hominum judicamus [we can judge a
man's character much better from his conversation than his physiognomy];
'twas old Cato's rule. I have laid myself open (I know it) in this
treatise, turned mine inside outward."53
The most perfect Renaissance expression of Senecan stylistic theory
and practice is found in Montaigne's essays. As Montaigne's subject is
the self, so his style emanates from the self; it is an exact meeting of
manner and matter. In "A Consideration Upon Cicero," he can be seen to
contrast public and politic language with the familiarity and sincerity
of his own writing:
I have naturally a comical and familiar stile: But after
a manner peculiar unto my selfe, inept in all publicke
Negotiations, answering my speech, which is altogether
close, broken and particular: I have no skill in cere-
monious letters, which have no other substance, but a faire
contexture of complimental phrases and curteous words.
I have no taste nor faculty of these tedious offers of
service and affection. I believe not so much as is said,
and am nothing pleased to say more than I believe. . I
offer my selfe but faintly and rudely to those whose I
am indeed, and present my self at least, to such as I have
most given my self. Me thinks they should read it in my
heart, and that the expression of my words, wrongeth my
In "Of Presumption," Montaigne explores the ethical implications of the
exposure of self, comparing the dissimulation necessary to the politi-
cian or courtier with his own honesty and openness. The Senecan style
and theory in Montaigne yield nothing short of an ethical imperative
toward the true and sincere language of the heart:
For, touching this new-found vertue of faining and
dissimulation, which now is so much in credit, I hate it
to the death: and of all vices, I finde none so much
witnesseth dimissenesse and baseness of heart. It is
a coward and servile humour; for a man to disguise and
hide himself under a make, and not dare to shew
himself as he is. Thereby our men address themselves
to treacherie: Being trained to utter false words, they
make no conscience to break them. A generous minde
ought not to belie his thoughts, but to make shew of
his inmost parts: Ther al is good, or at least all is
Montaigne's assumption that ethical qualities such as generosity
and baseness can be determined from a man's speech is based upon
Senecan and Stoic concepts of speech; this ethical hermeneutics of
language argues, on the one hand, that there exists a morally correct
manner of speech, and, on the other, that a man's moral essence can be
determined from his speech.
In literary histories, it is axiomatic that by the Restoration,
Senecan style was as outmoded as the witty style of preaching; the
Latinate periods of Milton, the o altitude of Browne, the "extemporean
style" of Burton, and the strong lines of Donne were superceded by some
consensus of a "modern" plain style as "polite and as fast as Marble."55
However much these changes have been exaggerated, scientific language
theory must have had a significant effect on the conception of language.
The language schemes of George Dalgarno and John Wilkins project a new
theory of signification in their attempts to forge a rigorously non-
figurative language that would resist any implication beyond literal,
denotative meaning. Yet their ambitious attempts to rectify the diffi-
culties and uncertainties inherent in discourse demonstrate how much
they, like earlier linguists, were concerned with moral aspects of
language. New scientists are, if anything, more explicit about the
ethical implications of speech. Throughout the century, to Ciceronian,
Senecan, or scientific theorist alike, the preservation of common signi-
ficance is perceived as the foundation of common coherence and under-
standing, while the subversion of the agreed meanings of words undermines
social and moral order; it is "ill governed speech," according to Isaac
Barrow, "which perverteth justice, which soweth dissentions, which
raiseth all bad passions and animosities, which embroileth the world
in seditions and factions, by which men wrong and abuse, deceive and
seduce, defame and disgrace one another."56 Though the government of
the tongue remained a prominent concern of linguistics, how scientific
theorists proposed to govern it was radically different from their
predecessors. Seventeenth-century scientific language theory is
essential to any understanding of Restoration philosophy of language,
because the schemes of Wilkins and others make explicit the writer's
most basic assumptions about the capacity and function of words.
Whether scientific plain style is an outgrowth of or a reaction
to Anti-Ciceronian style has been disputed. According to either
interpretation, the history of seventeenth-century prose style parallels
the gradual erosion of the classical and medieval curriculum of
language arts.57 According to D. C. Allen, Ciceronian, oratorical
style, based as it was on conventional wisdom, was suited to describe
the certitude of the ordered, hierarchical cosmos Ulysses traces in
Troilus and Cressida, while F. P. Wilson suggests that Senecan style
was suited to a "skeptical, tentative and self-conscious" Jacobean
age.8 Demetrius's contrast of periodic and paratactic structure
illustrates the distinction these historians draw: the former is like
the support of a vaulted dome, the latter like stones thrown in a
heap.59 Croll's connection of Senecan and scientific plain styles is
based on the Senecan rejection of the traditional wisdom of Ciceronian
oratory, the abandonment of generalities and probable truths, the
Aristotelian topics so suited to popular audiences. In other respects,
the causal connection between the two styles is, as R. F. Jones and
Robert Adolph point out, tenuous at best.60 Clarity or ease of compre-
hension is essential to scientific writing, but is of little importance
to Senecan stylists.61 Further, Bacon's plain style is designed, in
Adolph's terms, to be a "styleless style," the antithesis of the self-
revelatory Senecan style.62
Humanists and scientists alike employ the metaphor of the trivium
as the key to the door of knowledge, but the latter argue that humanists
were only interested in the key itself, and never passed into the realm
of true knowledge. Queen Elizabeth's tutor, Roger Ascham, described
the student's end as "a true choice and placing of words, a right
ordering of sentences, an easy understanding of the tongue, a readiness
to speak, a facility to write, a true judgment both of his own and
other men's doings, what tongue soever he doth use."63 Seventy years
later, these are not the skills John Dury, a follower of Comenius,
expects his pupils to master; Dury envisions a much curtailed language
curriculum in The Reformed School (London, 1651): "Whatsoever in the
teaching of Tongues doth not tend to make them a help unto Traditional
Knowledge by the manifestation of Real Truths in Sciences, is super-
fluous."64 The devaluation of the trivium reflects new scientists'
devaluation of disputation. The mastery of argumentation, in formal
disputation, is the crowning achievement of the trivium (the locus
classics is Isocrates' Antidosis, where "the power of speech allows
us to dispute, to resolve, to understand all issues").65 New science,
on the other hand, "proceeds on Trials, not on arguments."66 Glanvill
writes that the old methodology is ineffectual: disputation "runs
round in a Labyrinth of Talk, but advanceth nothing." Nullius in
Verba is the motto of the Royal Society.
The scientists reveal their most profound break with the past in
their attitude toward eloquence. In a Renaissance translation of
Isocrates' Nicholes, it is Eloquence that "reproveth and correcteth
the wicked, encourageth and imboldeth the godly, instructeth the
foolish, craveth the counsel and judgement of the wise; dissolveth
and dispatcheth all quarrells and controversies, and procureth the
knowledge of things unknowne."8 New science treats this eloquence
with contempt; even though Sprat recognizes that the persuasive techni-
ques of rhetoric cannot be abandoned, he still writes that "eloquence
ought to be banished out of all civil societies." New scientists
value a different eloquence that consciously rejects two millenia of
rhetorical technique. According to Sprat, it was the "constant
Resolution" of the Royal Society "to reject all the swellings of style:
to return back to the primitive purity, and shortness, when men
delivered so many things, almost in an equal number of words. They
have exacted from all their members, a close, naked, natural way of
speaking: positive expressions; clear senses; a native easiness:
bringing all things as near the Mathematical plainness, as they can."69
Sprat envisions a discourse so clear that no interpretation would
be necessary, and it was dissatisfaction with the existing language
that made scientists propose a new system, a Real Character.70 Such
projectors did not condemn language, as Jones argues;1 rather, they
ambitiously sought to rectify its defects, the "fallacies and sophistrie,
through Tautologies, ambiguous words, darke sentences,"72 that man had
endured since the fall. The Real Character is a synthetic lingua
humana, the Edenic speech with which Adam named the creatures according
to their kind.7 "Return to primitive purity" suggest the attractions
of the schemes: they will lead back to the golden age of language
before the fall and confusion. In The Court of the Gentiles, Theophilus
Gale describes Adam's speech as "the first rectitude of words,"74 a
phrase which exemplifies the fundamental desire to go back to or to
forge anew the correct meanings of words, thereby eliminating verbal
Thirty-two schemes for Real Characters and/or Universal Languages
appeared in Wycherley's lifetime.75 The most elaborate, Bishop John
Wilkins' An Essay towards a Real Character and A Philosophical
Language (London, 1668), explains the psychological rational: "As
men do generally agree in the same Principle of Reason, so do they
likewise agree in the same Internal Notion or Apprehension of Things ..
So that if men should generally agree in the same way or manner of
Expression, as they do agree in the same Notion, we should then be free
from that Curse in the Confusion of Tongues, with all the unhappy
consequences of it."76 If all men think alike, and have the same
conceits or pictures in the mind, then difficulty and misunderstanding
are caused by words themselves and occur in the translation from mental
to verbal discourse. An advertisement to George Dalgarno's Ars Signorum,
entitled "News to the Whole World, of the discovery of an Universal
Character, and a new Rational Language" (1657), promises a system that
will "deliver Truth in plain and downright terms."77
Vivian Salmon separates three levels of seventeenth-century
language projects that naturally escalate from the less to the more
ambitious.78 Common writing or universal language schemes propose a
lexicon of symbols into which all languages could be translated in
order to be made mutually intelligible. Philosophic schemes organized
the lexicon into philosophical or conceptual categories, from Ramon
Lull or Aristotle. Real Characters tried to make the philosophically
organized symbols naturally or intuitively significant, on the analogy
of Egyptian hieroglyphs, Chinese ideograms or the lingua humana. The
Real Character would forge an indestructible bond between the signifier
and the signified, making misunderstanding impossible by excluding
ambiguity and choice in meaning.79 Once one word clearly and precisely
signifies one thing, language would accurately reflect the created
world. As Knowlson puts it, "Language would not only be a means of
acquiring knowledge: it would itself be knowledge."80
Realist systems were clearly more ideal than languages that
employed nominal, arbitrary signs, and the Realist ideal persisted as long
as it was believed that language, like everything else, was created and
sustained by the Logos. Bacon, who is usually thought a nominalist,
can write of the error that words are "derived and deduced by reason
and according to signification," and then turn around and write, "The
true end of knowledge . is a restitution and a reinvesting (in
great part) of man to the sovereignty and power (for whensoever
he shall be able to call the creatures by their true name he shall be
able to command them) which he had in his first state of creation."82
The lingua humana provides more than a myth of a linguistic golden
age: it offers divine sanction for a concept of a Real Character
where the signifier and the signified are perfectly conjoined. The
Real Characters were thought necessary partly out of despair of re-
covering the perfect, first speech. Unable to reach the unfallen
Realism, Thomas Urquhart intends a synthetic solution, "to plainly
setteth down the analogie, that ought to be betwixt things and words."83
Nominal, arbitrary signs are reluctantly employed because "no language
ever hitherto framed, hath observed any order relating the things
In attempting to fuse the signifier and the signified, these
systems tacitly admit the void between them. There is an ironic dis-
placement apparent here; Wilkins does not seem to believe that
communication is more dependent upon the ethics of the speaker than
upon his language itself, and scientists in general attempt to rectify
the speech perhaps because they cannot reform the speaker. Wilkins
asks us to consider "the common mischief that is done, and the many
impostures and cheats that are put upon men, under the disguise of
affected insignificant phrase."85 He goes on to blame the phrase, not
the speaker, "equivocals," not equivocation, trying to make honesty
an externally imposed phenomenon. The Real Character ultimately tries
to make truth and clarity mandatory by making deceit and ambiguity
impossible, and this constitutes a major shift from the older theory
of language. New science believes that correct and unequivocal
signification can be maintained by a mechanical device that prevents
deviation from the normative value or meaning; significance is deter-
mined and locked in by the Real Character. Responsibility is external-
ized, and the speaker is absolved when language is blamed for misunder-
standing (willful deception does not enter into scientific discussions
of language). Traditional rhetorical theory insists upon the virtue
of the speaker, holding him responsible for any misunderstanding; where
speech is the index of the mind or soul, flaws and falsity come from
within. In his attack on Alexander More, Milton expresses the older,
rhetorical concept of the speaker's responsibility, arguing that words
are neutral, and receive their ethical coloring from their speaker:
"Yet not in a word or a thing, but in you consists every vice and
obscenity. Fouler than some faun or naked satyr, by your manners you
have changed innocent words into unchaste ones."86
Scientific language theorists of the Restoration attempted to
objectify discourse by disassociating the speaker from his speech.
Where classical and Renaissance language theory drew a correspondence
between language and the mind, asserting that words signified or stood
for ideas, Restoration linguists saw a correspondence between language
and nature, claiming that words signified or stood for things. The
catch phrase, res et verbal, serves as a model for language, bringing
together as it does the signified, that which is understood, and the
signifier, that which is said; in the seventeenth century, the meaning
of res changes from concepts or ideas to things or quiddity.88
The classical meaning of res ct verba is closer to thought and speech,
not word and thing, and Swift parodies this shift in the Academy of
Lagado, where words are reified into physical objects. In Cowley's
"Ode to the Royal Society," affixed to Sprat's History, Bacon is
credited with making the signified relate to things, not thoughts:
From Words, which are but Pictures of the Thought,
(Though we our Thoughts from them perversely drew)
To Things, the Minds right Object he it brought.
If words stand for or signify things, the auditor does not need to
interpret or imagine the thoughts of the speaker. It is almost as if
scientists viewed language as a tool extrinsic to man, a tool that
would be exchanged at will as soon as a better language was invented.
In consequence, none of the scientific linguists draw the analogy
between speech and conduct or style and the man; to them speech does
not image the heart or mind, or emanate from the soul. The universal
language would function exactly the same for every speaker; it is, in
fact, designed to eliminate individual variations.
There is no evidence in Restoration scientific language theory
of the classical concept of the perfect union between word and thought;
words are no longer thoughts realized or thoughts the soul to the
words' body. Cato's adage, rem tene, verba sequentur, had exemplified
the classical vision of the harmonious marriage of matter and manner,
the most perfect expression of which occurs in De oratore:
Every speech consists of matter and words, and the words
cannot fall into place if you remove the matter, nor can
the matter have clarity if you withdraw the words. And
in my own view the great men of the past, having a wider
mental grasp, had also a far deeper insight than our
minds eye can achieve, when they asserted that all this
universe above us and below is one single whole, and is
held together by a single force and harmony of nature:
for there exists no class of things which can stand by
itself, severed from the rest, or which the rest can
dispense with and yet be able to preserve their own
force and everlasting existence.89
The sentence almost becomes an emblem of the marriage of spirit and
substance, of body and soul; the synthesis of matter and manner
illustrates a doctrine of utility, plenitude and cosmic harmony, where
everything in the universe has its place and purpose. Res, the order
of concepts, is not only uncommunicable but unimaginable without the
form and expression of words. Quintilian warns that words have no
merit save in context, and "when we praise words, we do so because
they suit the matter."90 His point, however, is not to denigrate
words, but to celebrate the rhetor's mastery of expression. The most
often repeated version of Cato's phrase is from Horace, Ars Poetica,
verbaque provisam rem non invita sequentur, when the matter is in hand,
the words will not be loath to follow.91 To John Brinsley, in 1612,
Horace's words embody the very goal of education:
These three verses of Horace were worthy to be written in
letters of golde, and to be imprinted in the memories of
every one who is desirous to get the best learning. . To
attaine to this facultie, to be able to write or speak of
anie matter, and so to come to all excellent learning, the
very first and chief fountain, and that which is all in
all is to understand the matter well in the first place.
As for store of matter the writings of learned men (such
as Socrates was) will furnish you abundantly therewith.
And when you have the matter throughly in your
head, words will follow, as waters from a fountain even
almost naturally to express your mind in any tongue
which you study in any right order.92
New scientists, by contrast, sought a discourse of such "signi-
ficance, perspicuity, brevity and constant facility," that they would
not need to hunt after words and the fine placing of them.93- At the
same time, they lost the sense of the mastery of words. In Quintilian
and throughout classical and Renaissance rhetoric, words are the
servants of the thought, but words come to be regarded as rebellious
servants by Restoration scientists. In his version of rem tene, Milton
expresses all that the scientists reject; in this sentence, he displays
the mastery of words that the scientists at once seem to feel is
unnecessary but regret not having:
For me, Readers, although I cannot say that I am
utterly untrained in those rules which best
Rhetoricians have giv'n, or unacquainted with those
examples which the prime authors of eloquence have
written in any learned tongue, yet true eloquence I
find to be none, but the serious and hearty love of
truth: And that whose mind so ever is fully possest
with a fervent desire to know good things, and with
the dearest charity to infuse the knowledge of them
into others, his words (by which I can express) like
so many nimble and airy servitors trip about him at
command, and in well ordered files, as he would wish,
fall aptly into their own places.94
It is against this background of conflicting attitudes toward
language that I wish to read Wycherley's plays. Though I have described
the Ciceronian, Senecan, and scientific modes of rhetoric as antago-
nistic, on certain points they are at one, the most important of which
is the concern for the maintenance of the rectitude of words, a concern
that scientists, rhetoricians, divines and dramatists shared. This
passage from Richard Allestree is characteristic in its focus on the
righteousness of words: ". .. for tho in our depraved estimate the
Eloquence of Language is more regarded then the innocence, tho we think
our words vanish with the breath that utters them, yet they become
records in Gods Court, are laid up in his Archives as witnesses either
for or against us, that By thy words thou shalt be justified and by
thy words, thou shalt be condem'd, Mat. 12:37."95 The preceding verse
from Matthew is "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men
shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."
God's attention to every idle word in the theatre of the world is
analogous to the audience's attention to words in the world of the
theatre. In either case words are to be weighed for more than amuse-
ment or eloquence: in the last act, they are evidence for judgment.
Wycherley's plays were written and performed when Allestree was the
most popular author in England; his plays reflect an age highly conscious
of the moral significance of words.
Wycherley's use of dialogue to indicate moral characteristics,
along with his suggestion that there is a morally correct manner of
speech, are based upon Senecan and Stoic concepts of speech. It does
not necessarily follow that his plays are Stoical, though he treats
Stoic subjects in his verse.96 Nor do Wycherley's plays exhibit
Senecan style, though they are often paradoxical and sententious; as
Dryden observes, such difficult and compressed prose is inappropriate
for the stage: "A poet cannot speak too plainly on the stage: for
volat irrevocabile verbum; the sense is lost if it be not taken
flying."97 Wycherley's nondramatic prose is, on the other hand,
highly Scnccan, and his verse seems to reveal a Senecan poetic (if
there is such a thing). His insistence on the ethical conformity of
speech and self informs Vincent's question in Love in a Wood, "Is this
the stile of a woman of honour," and it can be seen also in his
frequent use of the cliche, "a man is as good as his word."
Wycherley is usually regarded as a crude stylist; W. R. Chadwick,
for example, writes of the "rough texture" of Wycherley's prose, and
the best he can say is that, like Wordsworth's, Wycherley's is the
language of ordinary men. Wycherley's contemporaries, however,
praised him for his verbal characterization, and John Dennis believed
that, in this respect, The Plain-Dealer was superior to classical
For the Style of the Comedy of the Ancients, and
particularly of Terence his Comedy, does not seem to
me to be varied enough, nor proportioned enough to the
characters. The Slave in Terence speaks with the same
Elegance, and the same Grace, for the most Part, that
his Master does. But look into the Plain-Dealer, and
you shall find as many styles in it, as there are
Characters. For Manly, Freeman, Plausible, Olivia,
Novel, Elisha, and the Widow Blackacre and Jerry, have
each of them a different Dialect, which, besides the
Variety, must be farther delightful, because 'tis an
exact Imitation of Nature. For as every Man has a
Different Form of Face, he has a different Turn of Mind,
and consequently, a different Cast of Thought, and a
different Manner of Expression.99
The tag loguere ut te videam, which Wycherley himself quotes (IV, 48),
is essential to the theatre, and Ben Jonson provided for Wycherley the
most outstanding model for characterization by speech; in Discoveries,
Jonson writes that "Language most shewes a man: speaker that I may see
thee. It springs out of the most retired, and inmost part of us, and
is the Image of the Parent of it, the mind. No glasse renders a mans
forme, or likenesse, so true as his speech."00 Jonas Barish, in
Ben Jonson and the Language of Prose Comedy, observes that "Jonson's
moral and linguistic judgments coincide," and he finds the same coinci-
dence in Wycherley's most Jonsonian play, The Plain-Dealer: in the
Widow Blackacre, "Corruption of style and corruption of manners coincide
with something like Jonsonian exactness."101 In all his characters,
Wycherley observes a constant coincidence of stylistic and ethical
qualities, through a parallelism of moral and verbal conduct. Donne
had written of his text, "We consider in the words, The maner and the
matter, How it is spoken, And what is said"; in Wycherley's plays,
how it is spoken reveals as much of the moral argument as what is
1. "Language and Action in The Way of the World, Love's Last Shift
and The Relapse," ELH 40 (1973), pp. 44-69.
2. All quotations from Wycherley's plays are from Gerald Weales'
edition (Garden City: Doubleday and Co., 1966), and those from
Wycherley's verse are from Works, 4 Vol., ed. Montague Summers
(1924, rpt. New York: Russell and Russell, 1964).
3. The Eloquent "I:" Style and Self in Seventeenth-Century Prose
(ladison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968), p.. 10.
4. See Remargues on the Humours and Conversation of the Gallants of
the Town, London, 1673, and Remarks Upon Remarques: or a Vindica-
tion of the Conversation of the Town, London, 1673.
5. Pepys's admiration for Sedley's witticism is paradigmatic, in the
entry for Oct. 4, 1664. Helen McAfee, Pepys on the Restoration
Stage (1916, rpt. New York: Benjamin Blom, nd.), pp. 175-6.
6. "Restoration Prose," in Stuart and Georgian Moments, ed. Earl Miner
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), pp. 113-4.
7. See John E. Mason, Gentlefolk in the Making: Studies in Courtesy
Literature (1935, rpt. New York: Octagon Books, 1971), p. 35.
8. This is the first sentence of William Lily's Brevissima Institudio,
(1567), facsimile ed. Vincent Flynn (New York: Scholars' Facsimiles,
9. Morris Croll, Style, Rhetoric and Rhythm, ed. J. Max Patrick and
Robert 0. Evans (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966),
pp. 7-233, George Williamson, The Senecan Amble (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1951), passim, and R. F. Jones, The Seventeenth
Century (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1951), pp. 10-160.
For important differences amongst these three, see pp. 19-20.
10. The Mirror and the Lamp (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953),
11. Roman Antiquities, 7 Vol. trans. Earnest Cary, (Cambridge: Loeb
Classical Library, 1937), Vol. I, p. 5.
12. Tusculan Disputations, 5.16.47.
13. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 4 Vol., trans. H. E. Butler,
(Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, 1935), Vol. IV, p. 172.
Seneca, Epistuale Morales, 3 Vol., trans. Richard M. Gummere,
(Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, 1961), Vol. I, p. 300-1.
14. In A Dictionary of Proverbs in England in the Sixteenth and
Seventeenth Centuries, Morris Tilley cites seven examples of
"Speech is the picture (index) of the mind," seven examples of
"As the man is so is his talk," and five examples of "A bird is
known by its note and a man by his talk." (Ann Arbor: University
of Michigan Press, 1950), S735, M75 and B365.
15. London, 1590. Facsimile ed. Charles Speroni, University of
California Publications in Modern Philology, Vol. 88 (1968),
16. Ben Jonson, Works, ed. Herford and Simpson, (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1947) III, 625, and Thomas Sprat, The History of the Royal
Society, facsimile ed. Jackson I. Cope and Harold Jones (St. Louis:
Washington University Press, 1958), p. 36. See also Henry Peacham,
The Complete Gentleman, ed. Virgil B. Heltzel (Ithica: Cornell
University Press, 1962), p. 54; John Hewes, A Perfect Survey of the
English Tongue (London, 1624) facsimile edition (Menston: Scolar
Press, 1972) epilogue, np.; Richard Head, Proteus Redivius: Or,
The Art of Wheedling, or Insinuation, London, 1675, p. 53.
17. Works, 3 Vol., New York, 1845. Vol. I, p. 141.
18. The Art of English Poesie (London, 1589), facsimile (Scolar Press,
1968), p. 123.
19. Quintilian, Vol. IV, p. 355, Vol. II, pp. 313-5 and I, 41, and IV,
20. George Kennedy considers the Theophrastan virtues, The Art of
Persuasion in Greece (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1963), pp. 273-284. Among the Renaissance rhetoricians who write
of the "vertues" of style are Richard Sherry, A Treatise of Schemes
and Tropes, London, 1550, facsimile ed. Herbert Hildebrant
(Gainesville: Scholar's facsimiles, 1961), p. 40; Angel Day, The
English Secretorie, London, 1586, facsimile (Scolar Press, 1967),
p. 13; Thomas Blunt, The Academy of Eloquence London, 1654,
facsimile (Scolar Press, 1971), pp. 1-46; John Barton, The Art of
Rhetorick Concisely and Completely Handled, London, 1634, "To the
21. Brutus, trans. G. L. Hendrickson, (Cambridge: Loeb Classical
Library, 1952), p. 247, and Quintilian, I, 131.
22. G. L. Hendrickson, "The Peripatetic Mean of Style and the Three
Stylistic Characters," AJP XXV (1904), p. 135.
23. Trans. Wilbur Samuel Howells, (1941, rpt. New York: Russell and
Russell, 1965), p. 67. It may seem odd to oppose Stoicism with
social responsibility, especially since, by the eighteenth century,
Stoicism was regarded as the philosophy of public commitment, as
opposed to Epicureanism. There is, however, a vast difference
between Addison's Cato and Lipsius or the Old Stoa, and Wycherley's
concept of Stoicism would have been closer to Lipsius's than
Addison's. The ethics of classical Stoicism are fundamentally
self-centered; though familial and social ties have value, the
only true good is personal virtue. There is, needless to say, no
nature dependent upon grace: everything is dependent upon the
individual will. See Ludwig Edelstein, The Meaning of Stoicism
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966), passim.
24. Epistles, I. 133-5.
25. Landam makes his point a little too strongly: the Ciceronian
"stylist has no central self to be true to. In the Arnoldian,
highly serious sense of self, he boasts no self at all. At his
center lurks a true Ciceronian vacuity. He feels at home in his
roles and to live must play them. When he poses, he is being
himself." The Motives of Eloquence (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1976), p. 27.
26. The Art of Rhetoric, trans. John Henry Freese, (Cambridge: Loeb
Classical Library, 1926), p. 13.
27. Lanham, pp. 47-8.
28. De officiis, trans. Walter Miller, (Cambridge: Loeb Classical
Library, 1947), p. 157, De oratore, 2 Vol., trans. E. W. Sutton
and H. Rackham, (Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, 1948), I, 137.
29. Rhetoric, pp. 11-15.
30. De finibus, III-IV and Tusculan Disputations, IV-V; on this point,
I am indebted to Jerrold Seigel's fine discussion of Cicero,
Rhetoric and Philosophy In Renaissance Humanism (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1968), pp. 22-8.
31. De oratore, I, 11. Again, see Seigal, pp. 1-30.
32. Trans. G. R., London, 1675, "Author's Preface," np.
33. Rhetoric, pp. 19, 287 and 347.
34. The Advancement of Learning (London: Oxford University Press,
1960), pp. 169-70.
35. Brutus, pp. 103-9, and Orator, trans. H. M. Hubbell, (Cambridge:
Loeb Classical Library, 1952), pp. 353-5. Cicero's justification
of rhetoric is fundamentally different from Aristotle's,
St. Augustine's and Bacon's; he does not, like them, separate
rhetorical truths from "higher," transcendent truth, nor conse-
quently, does he rank these two types of truth hierarchically.
Rather, he fuses wisdom and eloquence, rhetoric and philosophy,
almost as if they were manner and matter: either one alone is
36. De oratore, I, 161ff, and II, 131ff.
37. II, 347.
38. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, ed., Plato: The Collected
Dialogues (New York: Pantheon Books, 1961), pp. 242 and 247.
39. De oratore, I, 49, 89-91 and 160ff.
40. Epistles, I, 331 and 365-7.
41. Croll, p. 89.
42. Epistles, II, 315.
43. A. A. Long, ed., Problems in Stoicism (London: Athlone Press,
1971), pp. 70-1.
44. John Florio, trans., Montaigne's Essayes, 3 Vol. (London: John
Dent, 1910), II, 393-4.
45. Again, see Croll, p. 61.
46. Rosalie L. Colie, Paradoxica Epidemica (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1966), p. 378.
47. My understanding of Neostoicism is indebted to Jason Lewis, Justus
Lipsius, The Philosophy of Renaissance Stoicism (New York: The
Liberal Arts Press, 1955), Rudolf Kirk, ed., Sir John Stradling,
trans., Two Books of Constancie by lustus Lipsius (New Brunswick:
Rutgers University Press, 1939) and Kirk, ed., Joseph Hall,
Heaven Upon Earth and Characters of Vertues and Vices (New Brunswick:
Rutgers University Press, 1948).
48. "Patterns of Stoicism in Thought and Prose Styles," PMLA 85, (1970),
pp. 1023-34. Though Miner's conclusions have been justly censured,
his data are nonetheless useful.
49. Quoted from Jason Lewis, Justus Lipsius, p. 125, n. 10. This work
contains a very detailed description of Lipsius's work on Stoicism.
50. The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy (New York: Scribners, 1940),
51. Peacham, p. 64.
52. George Williamson still provides the best analysis of Senecan
style, pp. 61-149.
53. Holbrook Jackson, ed., The Anatomy of Melancholy (1932, rpt.
New York: Random House, 1977), pp. 31-2, and 27. Burton's note
here refers to Lipsius; ut ventatores feram e vestige impresso,
54. Essayes, I, 267-8, and II, 373.
55. Joseph Glanvill, Plus Ultra, facsimile, ed. Jackson I. Cope,
(Gainesville: Scholars' facsimiles, 1958), p. 84.
56. Barrow, Vol. I, p. 143.
57. For the influence of Ramism on curriculum reform, see W. J. Ong,
Ramus, Method and the Decay of Dialogue (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1958), and Wilbur Samuel Howells, Logic and
Rhetoric in England, 1500-1700 (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1956), pp. 146-281.
58. F. P. Wilson, Seventeenth Century Prose (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1960), p. 12, and D. C. Allen, "Style and Certi-
tude," ELH 15 (1948), pp. 167-175: both are based on Croll's work.
59. Demetrius, On Style, trans. W. Rhys Roberts, (Cambridge:' Loeb
Classical Library, 1927), p. 307.
60. Robert Adolph provides a useful summary of the disagreements
between Croll, Jones and Williamson, The Rise of Modern Prose
Style (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1968), pp. 10-25.
61. Bacon eventually thought Senecan style was as excessive as
Ciceronian copies: "Little better is that kind of stile (yet
neither is that altogether exempt from vanity) which neer about the
same time succeeded this Copy and superfluity of speech. . it hath
been deservedly dispised, and may be set down as a distemper of
Learning, seeing it is nothing else but a hunting after words, and
fine placing of them," The Advancement of Learning and Proficience
of Learning, trans. Gilbert Wats, Oxford, 1640, p. 29. Quoted from
Croll, p. 38, n. 40.
62. Adolph, pp. 39 and 76-77.
63. The Schoolmaster, ed. Lawrence V. Ryan, (Ithaca: Cornell Univer-
sity Press, 1967), p. 14.
64. Facsimile edition (Scolar Press, 1972), p. 49.
65. Trans. George Norlin, (Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, 1939)
66. History, p. 332.
67. Plus Ultra, p. 7.
68. Thomas Forest, A Perfect Looking Glass for all Estates (1580),
quoted from Donald Lemen Clark, John Milton at St. Paul's School
(1948, rpt. Hamden: Archon Books, 1964), p. 9.
69. History, p. 11, and 113.
70. I am indebted to four recent works on seventeenth-century language
theory: Murray Cohen, Sensible Words, Linguistic Practise in
England, 1640-1785, (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press,
1977); Vivian Salmon, The Works of Francis Lodowick, A Study of his
Writing in the Intellectual Context of the Seventeenth Century
(London: Longman, 1972); James Knowlson, Universal Language
Schemes in England and France, 1600-1800 (Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1975); Russell Fraser, The Language of Adam, On the
Limits and Systems of Discourse (New York: Columbia University
71. "Science and Language in England of the Mid-Seventeenth Century,"
in The Seventeenth Century, pp. 143-160.
72. Godfrey Goodman, The Fall of Man, 1616, p. 294. Quoted from
Beverley Sherry, "Speech in Paradise Lost," Milton Studies VIII
(1975), p. 252.
73. According to Salmon, p. 85, the phrase lingua humana comes from
Athanasium Kircher, Polygraphia, Rome, 1663.
74. Oxford, 1672, 2 Vol., Vol. I, pt. 1, p. 53.
75. Knowlson, Appendix B, pp. 224-232.
76. Facsimile (Scolar Press, 1968), p. 20. Knowlson suggests, p. 61,
that this concept derives from the Dutch Jesuit Herman Hugo,
Do prima scribendi origine, Antwerp, 1617.
77. Broadside, facsimile included in Ars Signorum, Scolar Press, 1968.
78. Salmon, pp. 12-42.
79. Typical of what Wilkins would eradicate are "Equivocals, which are
of several significations, and therefore must needs render speech
doubtful and obscure." Real Character, p. 17.
I use signifierr" and "signified," not in the specific Saussurean
sense, but in the older sense of that which conveys meaning and
that which is meant.
80. Knowlson, p. 8.
81. Knowlson, pp. 14-15, Salmon, pp. 87-98, and Fraser, pp. 142-194
demonstrate the Realist nature of these schemes. Following the
work of Francis Yates, they also indicate how dependent these
schemes are upon mysticism; there are Hermetic, Lullist, Cabalis-
tic, and Rosicrucian elements found throughout. Particularly
influential was Jacob Boehme's Signatura rerum, where the Real
essence of words and things is revealed to the adept.
82. James Spedding, et al., ed., Works, 14 Vol., (London, 1858-74),
Vol. III, pp. 400-401, and 222. Cf. the ambiguity in the goal of
Dalgarno's Didascalophus, (Oxford, 1680): "That primative and
Divine, or purely rational Sematology, taught by Almighty God,
or invented by Adam before the Fall," pp. 101-2.
83. Logopandectieson, or an Introduction to the Universal Language,
London, 1653, facsimile (Scolar Press, 1970), np.
84. Urquhart, p. 2.
85. Wilkins, dedicatory, np.
86. Don M. Wolfe, ed., Complete Prose of John Milton (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1955-), Vol. IV, pt. II, p. 743.
87. Cohen, pp. 1-42.
88. See A. C. Howell, "Res et Verba: Words and Things," ELH VIII
(1946), pp. 131-42, and Salmon, pp. 72-82.
89. II, 17-19.
90. I, 79.
91. Trans. II. R. Fairclough, (Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library,
1926), pp. 476-7, I. 311. Bacon quotes this, Advancement, p. 4,
as does Peacham, p. 55.
92. John Brinsley, Ludus Literarius, London, 1612, facsimile (Scolar
Press, 1968), p. 43.
93. Wilkins, p. 443.
94. Yale Prose, Vol. I, p. 143.
95. Richard Allestree, The Government of the Tongue, Oxford, 1676,
fourth edition, p. 6.
96. "To an Unhappy, Impatient, Querelous Friend," for example, chides
the friend's lack of "constancy," while recommending the expli-
citly Stoic virtues of patience and trust in a just Providence,
97. George Watson, ed., Dryden's of Dramatic Poesy, 2 Vol. (London:
John Dent, 1962), Vol. II, p. 233.
98. W. R. Chadwick, The Four Plays of William Wycherley (The Hague:
Mouton, 1975), pp. 123 and 39.
99. Edward Miles Hooker, ed. The Critical Works of John Dennis, 2 Vol.
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1939),- I. 224-5.
100. Works, III, 625. The editors, IX, 270-2, cite Vives, De ratione
dicendi as a source.
101. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), pp. 94 and 288.
102. Janel M. Muellcr, ed., Donne's Prebend Sermons (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1971), pp. 74-5.
DECORUM AND LOVE IN A WOOD
Love in a Wood (1670) was an exceptionally successful first play;
if John Dennis is to be believed, it brought Wycherley fame, a titled
mistress and recognition from the court. Today the play is dismissed
as energetic but uncontrolled; Anne Righter judges it "confusing and
centerless," and to W. R. Chadwick, it is an unsuccessfully synthesized
"melange," "a Jonsonian--Fletcherian-Shirleyan-platonic-intrigue-wit-
farce-comedy."2 Nevertheless, some of the chaos apparent in Love in a
Wood is purposive and controlled, for Wycherley finally restores order
in his intrigue plot in the process of righting inverted values. Both
formal and thematic unity, moreover, can be discerned, as in the arrange-
ment of characters in the scale of love that Rose Zimbardo has demon-
strated. My particular concern is to show how a parallel scale of
ethical and aesthetic values is revealed in the dialogue itself.
The ethics of speech can be determined by asking what types of
verbal behavior characters consider permissible, and by this I mean
not only what they feel they may say, but also what they can say. The
latter concerns what the speaker thinks he can do with words and,
further, what success his sentences meet. In this respect, the
language of deception is especially revealing and significant, because
any disparity between intent and statement provides the best opportu-
nity to investigate the tactics of expression. My first section
examines the ways characters mislead themselves and others; the second
section deals with the plot or action precipitated by lying; and the
last section questions the significance of lying in terms of the values
presented in the play.
In all of Wycherley's comedies, the language of his fools is the
most distinctive; their speech is obtrusive, conspicuously distorting
the normative modes of speech. The protagonists' speech is unexcep-
tional, appearing "natural" or "correct" compared to the exaggerated or
debased features of foolish talk. In Love in a Wood, it is Dapperwit's
speech that stands out, calling attention to itself and serving as a
false standard against which others' linguistic skills can be measured.
Bonamy Dobree finds in Dapperwit's speech alone the brilliance of the
later plays, and singles out for praise this promising exchange between
Dapperwit and Martha, when, just as they are about to elope, Dapperwit
pauses to complete a similitude:4
Martha. Let us go before my Father comes, he will soon have
Dapperwit. Stay, let me think a little. (Pauses.)
Martha. What are you thinking of? you should have thought
before this time, or I should have thought rather.
Dapperwit. Peace, Peace.
Martha. What are you thinking of?
Dapperwit. I am thinking, what a Wit without vanity is like;
he is like--
Martha. You do not think we are in a public place, and may be
surpriz'd, and prevented by my Father's Scouts.
Dapperwit. What, wou'd you have me lose my thought?
Martha. You wou'd rather lose your Mistress, it seems.
Dapperwit. He is like--I think I'm a Sot to night, let me perish.
Martha. Nay, if you are so in love with your thought. (Offers
Dapperwit. Are you so impatient to be my wife? he is like--he is
like--a Picture without Shadows, or, or--a Face without
Patches--or a Diamond without a Foyl; these are new
thoughts now, these are new.
Martha. You are wedded already to your thoughts, I see, good
The characteristic improprieties of Dapperwit's speech are exhibited
here in several ways. His wit is, as always, ill-timed, leading Ranger
to complain in another context, "S'death, is this a time for simili-
tudes?" (79). Martha suspects that Dapperwit's delay results from some
reluctance to marry, yet he is only searching for a vehicle to complete
his simile; the coxcomb labors to give forth typically stale similitudes.
It is this labor that draws attention to his wit and words, character-
izing him as a "Witwould."5 Exposure of the machinery of art is a sign
of crudity. Elsewhere, in his poetry, Wycherley writes of the conven-
tional aim: wisdom "plays Discretion's part,/ Since the best skill is,
to conceal one's Art" (III, 29, recalling the Latin tag, ars celare
artem).6 Dapperwit's art is marked by effort, whereas Wycherley himself
would consider a graceful ease and negligence as the sign of natural
genius. And despite his own reputation as a slow, painstaking craftsman,
Wycherley argues in "Against Industry: To a Laborious Poetaster, who
preferred Industry to Wit" that the effect of art or wit is vitiated
by obvious labor:
For Wit, to gain Esteem, like Beauty too,
Must seem, an Artful Negligence, to show;
Must, for its Fame on Nature, more rely,
Than either upon Art, or Industry. (IV, 17).
The exhausting industry of Dapperwit's wit is again seen in his repartee
with Lydia, where he admits defeat after a vain struggle to extend his
cliched conceit on the light of her countenance: "I dare not make use
again of the lustre of her face" (37).
If wit should be striking or novel, Dapperwit's belabored simili-
tudes are entirely predictable, and his auditors so expect his compari-
sons that Ranger calls him "Mr. or as" (62). The trivial nature of
Dapperwit's bon mots reflects, moreover, Wycherley's basic disassocia-
tion of wit from wisdom: this goes beyond the conventional distinction
of true and false wit, because throughout his plays and verse, Wycherley
usually uses "wit" to mean false wit. In "Upon the Folly of Wit," he
claims that the struggle for wit is inevitably foolish:
Thus Wit, as more, but less Discretion is,
Which makes it of the Praise it seeks, to miss;
Most often too, but for its seeking it,
So proves least Wisdom, as it is most Wit:
So Wit, as more 'twou'd prove it self, proves less,
By its degrading Self-conceitedness;
The Praise it seeks, to lose by seeking it,
So proves more Nonsense, as it wou'd, more Wit. (Ill, 144, 147).
It is almost as if true wit is a contradiction in terms, and therefore
does not appear in Love in a Wood; any expression that identifies itself
as "wit" or "art" is necessarily self-defeating. Dapperwit has no
conception of finesse, and his excess causes Vincent (19) and Ranger (54)
to demand that he leave off his inappropriate similitudes. The folly
of excessive wit is, indeed, a common Restoration topic; in his sermon
on wit, Barrow could be describing Dapperwit or many similar figures
in Restoration comedy:
A man of ripe age and sound judgment, for refreshment to him-
self, or in complaisance to others, may sometimes condescend
to play in this or any other harmless way: but to be fond
of it, to prosecute it with a careful or painful eagerness,
to doat and dwell upon it, to reckon it a brave or a fine
thing, a singular matter of commendation, a transcendent
accomplishment, anywise preferable to rational endowments,
or comparable to the moral excellences of our mind (to solid
knowledge, or sound wisdom, or true virtue and goodness),
this is extremely childish or brutish, and far below a man.
Wit and humor are pleasant, diverting and useful, but Barrow condemns
wit when it is profane, slanderous, or in as Dapperwit's case, excessive.
Dapperwit's foolish lingering while Martha awaits is above all
inappropriate and indecorous in the classical sense of the failure to
suit subject and style to the situation. Aristotle discusses decorum
in terms of the orator's ability to make himself credible to each partic-
ular audience, but Dapperwit is unable to fit his words to his auditor:
"now I call her Whore in plain english, she thinks I am jealous" (25).
Seneca similarly exhorts his reader to "Let the words be fitted to the
matter,"10 so that no element calls attention to itself by appearing
unsuitable or inappropriate, but it is inappropriate words that often
lead Sir Simon into difficulty: "A pox I must be using the words in
fashion though I never have any luck with 'em" (24). (In The Country
Wife, Harcourt understands that the success of his disguise as a parson
is dependent on his observation of the proper decorum, for he says, "I
must suit my Stile to my Coat" 315.)
Decorum, however, concerns more than stylistics: to Cicero, "The
universal rule, in oratory as in life, is to consider propriety."11
In his examination of Milton's decorum, Thomas Kranidas shows that it
represents a "concern for the relation of poetry to the total culture,"
and is most often "an ethical or religious problem rather than a
literary one."12 Decorum may be seen, in fact, to bridge ethical and
aesthetic concerns in an effort to harmonize all aspects of a man's
life. Quintilian shows this concern for harmony in his insistence that
a good orator always "act and speak as befits a man of honour."13 "In
short," Cinthio writes, "decorum is nothing other than the grace and
fitness of things."14 This same concern is exhibited by English
Renaissance writers; Charles Hoole urges the grammar school master "to
minde his Scholars of the true decorum of both things and words."15
George Puttenham puts it most succinctly in his chapter on "decency,"
a word, like decorum, derived from deceo, to be fitting, or seemly,
or proper; that which is decent is in keeping with accepted and expected
behavior, "And there is a decency to be observed in every man's action
as well as his speech and writing."16
Dapperwit's words and action display similar features. As Norman
Holland has observed, his name suggests the fusion of foppish behavior
and witty speech.17 Both are suspect in light of the nature of wit in
this play, for according to all internal definitions in Love in a Wood,
wit is vicious. In his taxonomy of wits, Dapperwit says that "all Wits
rail" and concludes that the end of "the true Wit . lies in damning
all but himself" (38). Even Ranger says that their duty is "to talk, cen-
sure, and speak ill of all [they] meet" (31). This essential equivalence
of wit and slander is also prevalent in Wycherley's verse, where wit is
defined as ill-natured fault-finding (III, 33 and 160). Barrow
emphasizes the danger of the mistaken identifaction of wit and slander:
When men, to raise an admiration of their wit, to please them-
selves, or gratify the humour of other men, do expose their
neighbor to scorn and contempt, making ignominious reflections
upon his person or his actions, taunting his real imperfec-
tions, or fastening imaginary ones upon him, they transgress
their duty, and abuse their wits; it is not urbanity, or
genuine facetiousness, but uncivil rudeness, or vile malignity.
To do thus, as it is the office of mean and base spirits, unfit
for any worthy or weighty employment, so it is full of in-
humanity, of iniquity, of indecency and folly.18
Gripe's attitude towards wits is ironically fitting; he calls Dapperwit
"an idle, loytering, slandering, foul-mouth'd, beggarly Wit" (108).
Joyner's description of wits' activity is similarly appropriate: they
condemn, defame, deflower, affront and break (52). Both Joyner and
Dapperwit associate wit with thoughtless and gratuitously destructive
window breaking, a practice symbolic of the malicious nature of
insulting or slanderous wit.19
If wits misuse language to slander others, their praise is para-
doxically similar. In the tavern scene, when Vincent leaves, Dapperwit
abuses him and flatters Ranger to his face. When Vincent returns and
Ranger leaves, Dapperwit abuses Ranger and praises Vincent. Praise and
blame, equally void of sincerity and meaning, become interchangeable,
because they are both designed for self-elevation.20 As Wycherley
explains in the dedication to the play, praise springs from vanity:
poets "but begin praise to others, which concludes in themselves. .
they offer Laurel and Incense to their Hero's, but wear it themselves,
and perfume themselves" (6). The self-interest of praise is evident
when Joyner and Gripe try to out-flatter each other.21 Their
stichomythic praise of each other is so echoic and indistinguishable
they could be speaking into mirrors, and their flattery is also so
exaggerated and ambiguous that Weales terms it "lightly masked insult"
(12n). There is, in fact, little distinction, because, in Pope's
version of the commonplace, "Praise undeserv'd is scandal in disguise."
The self-interest of praise is most pointed in Sir Simon, who, disguised
as Jonas, praises Sir Simon: "faith, 'tis a pretty jest; while I am
with her, and praising my self to her, at no ordinary rate" (61). The
other person praised is patently a fiction, and Sir Simon is literally
praising himself. As insult of another is really praise of self, so
praise of another is really reflective of self. The purpose of communi-
cation with another is lost or subverted as the language becomes an
entirely self-referential tool of vanity. Like the characters wandering
in the dark of Act Five, they end up talking of and to themselves.
Dapperwit recognizes the self-interest of wit, as is clear from
his similitude, "you can no more find a man of wit without vanity, than
a fine woman without affectation" (94). He then presents a double
indecorum; as his overly figurative style is excessive, inappropriate
and indecorous, so the substance of his remarks is indecorous, for
self-praise is always improper. Demetrius remarks that the style of
boasting and boasting itself are inherently inappropriate: "There is a
sort of general analogy between imposture and frigidity [of style].
The impostor boasts, facts not withstanding, that qualities belong to
him which do not. In like manner, also, the writer who invests trifles
with pomp resembles one who gives himself airs about trifles."22
Dapperwit's foppish self-satisfaction and foolish witty style are
perfectly analogous; they are trifles invested with pomp. He presents
himself as a man of parts when he is a fool, while his words suggest
weighty thought when they are nonsense. In Dapperwit, style is the man:
he is a trifle dressed with pomp.
It is a short step from Dapperwit's self-deception to the actively
and intentionally false facade that Lady Flippant presents when she
images herself as a walking false signifier: "'Tis well known, no Woman
breathing could use more Industry to get her a Husband than I have; Has
not my Husband's Scutcheon walked as much ground as the Citizens Signs
since the Fire, that no Quarter of the Town might be ignorant of the
Widow Flippant" (10). Flippant's clapboard advertizes her as a rich
widow, uninterested in remarriage, whereas actually she is impoverished
and anxious to remarry. The Widow does not endeavour to deceive about
her reluctance to marry; indeed, she wants her availability known. But
her "wealth," however, is a lying claim, and, in the words of Robert
South, is "an outward signification of something contrary to, or, at
least beside the inward Sense of the Mind."23
Distinctions of this sort, in the seventeenth century, frequently
became casuistical. Bacon thus distinguishes between a type of dissimu-
lation that withholds truth, a dissimulation that leads others astray,
and simulation which actively deceives.24 Lady Flippant's impression
of wealth falls somewhere between the second and third levels. In fact,
most of the deception in this play similarly encourages others to
misinterpret. Like the equivocal constructions that Wilkins condemned,
the language of deception is largely dependent upon the natural ambi-
guity of the "sign." "Sign" is a complex word in Wycherley, particularly
in The Country Wife, where Horner is "the Sign of a Man" (267). In Love
in a Wood the word is used nine times, as in Sir Simon's defense of
himself: "that he [Sir Simon] is not married, is a sign of his Wit"
(77). Every "sign" in the play is, like this one, false in itself, or
misinterpreted. Like the shop signs in which Pinchwife reads his own
horns, Wycherley's sign is a tabula rasa in which characters read what
Wycherley's characters try to exploit similar properties of words
as signs when they speak ambiguously, hoping to entrap their listener
in any one of their possible meanings. Flippant tries to engage Ranger
in this manner, but she cannot quite master her words. She wants her
reputation for aversion to marriage understood as coyness, but Ranger
refuses to understand:
Flippant. ...Sir, pray tell me is your aversion to marriage real?
Ranger. As real as yours.
Flippant. If it were no more real than mine. [Aside.)
Ranger. Your Servant, Madam.
Flippant. But do you hate marriage certainly? (Plucks him back.)
Flippant. Come, I cannot believe it, you dissemble it, only
because I pretend it.
Ranger. Do you but pretend it, Madam?
Flippant. I shall discover my self--- (Aside.) I mean,
because I hold against it, you do the same in compliance.
Flippant expects her language simultaneously to conceal and reveal her
intentions, but her message is too dependent upon her auditor, and
Ranger rejects her intimations, willfully interpreting her Words
When the refusal to understand meets the refusal to be understood,
communication comes to a complete standstill, as in the following
exchange between Ranger and Lydia:
Ranger. [The reason] I did not wait on you was, my apprehension,
you were gone to the Park, notwithstanding your promise
to the contrary.
Lydia. Therefore, you went to the Park, to visit me there, not-
withstanding your promise to the contrary.
Ranger. Who, I at the Park? when I had promised to wait upon you
at your Lodging; but were you at the Park, Madam?
Lydia. Who, I at the Park? when I had promised to wait for you at
home; I was no more at the Park than you were; were you
at the park? (68).
Both are lying and each knows the other is lying, but is unsure to what
extent; Lydia knows that Ranger was at the Park, but she is unsure
whether he knows that she knows, and Ranger knows he was at the park
but is unsure whether Lydia knows. They each expect their words to
conceal their own guilt and still elicit a revealing response. But this
verbal sparring only produces echoes of their own words, reminding us
of the indistinguishable compliments Gripe and Joyner exchange; again,
Lydia and Ranger could be speaking into mirrors, for question and
response are identical. Communication is frustrated as the words become
less meaningful with each repetition; the conversation stagnates, unable
to move beyond the repeated phrases, and confusion has replaced
enlightenment as the end of speech.
Double meanings and implications are lost when one or both of the
participants is uncooperative; in the first case, Ranger is unreceptive
to Flippant's attractions, and in the second, Lydia and Ranger refuse to
understand and to be understood. The most extreme example of such
refusals occurs between Christina and Ranger; while she refuses to
accept his implied message, he refuses to accept her apparent message:
Ranger. Madam, I understand you--- (Apart to Christina.)
Christina. Sir, I do not understand you.
Ranger. You wou'd not be known to Mr. Vincent.
Christina. 'Tis your acquaintance I wou'd avoid.
Ranger. Dull Brute, that I was, to bring her hither: (Aside.)
I have found my error, Madam; give me but a new appoint-
ment, where I may meet you by and by, and straight I will
withdraw, as If I knew you not. (Softly to her.)
Christina. Why, do you know me?
Ranger. I must not own it. (Aside.)
No, Madam, but--- (Offers to whisper.)
Christina. Whispering, Sir, argues an old acquaintance; but I
have not the vanity to be thought of yours, and resolve
you shall never have the disparagement of mine. (88).
The drama here is played out in the stage directions; the asides and
whispers signify the illicit nature of Ranger's message, a message
Christina refuses to accept. She diverts his private message to public
knowledge, making explicit what Ranger tries to keep implicit. She
returns with directness all he tries to achieve by indirection, answering
double-dealing with plain dealing.
According to Vincent, Christina employs "the stile of a woman of
honour" (83), using the "plain english" that eludes Dapperwit (25) and
Sir Simon (74). Her speech is characterized by simplicity and clarity,
as in her direct statement, "The Paper is a stranger to me, I never
writ it; you are abused" (88). She counters Ranger's elaborate
language of deception with simple honesty. Several times in the play,
characters claim, "I take you at your word" (73, 77, 105, 110), a
cliche underlining the ethics of speech; but while Christina demonstrates
that she is as good as her word, Ranger's word is, by his own admission,
worthless: "My perpetual ill luck in lying, should break me of the
quality; but like a losing Gamester, I am still for pushing on, till
none will trust me" (45).
The complexity of the intrigue plot of Love in a Wood is generated
in part by an extraordinary amount of lying. Ranger is certainly not
the only mendacious character; with few obvious exceptions, all deceive
and cheat one another, almost effacing credibility with their cross-
biting. Words must be tested and validated before they can be believed,
and validation takes the form of a trial, where character's statements
are treated as if they were testimony to be evaluated. Thus Ranger's
word and character are suspect due to his "perpetual ill luck in lying"
(45), and he finds himself on trial:
Leonore. Why do you not put him to his tryal, and see what he
can say for himself?
Lydia. I am afraid lest, my proofs, and his guilt, should make
him desperate, and so contemn that pardon, which he could
not hope for.
Leonore. 'Tis unjust to condemn him, before you hear him.
Lydia. I will reprieve him till I have more evidence. (71).
Valentine and Christina are also tried: "S'death, what have I giddily
run my self upon? 'Tis rather a tryal of my self than her" (103, see
also 78, 85).
Trials in this play are accompanied with legal language and argu-
ment, raising questions of evidence that ultimately become epistemolog-
ical, asking what can be known and what must be taken on faith.25
Valentine and Vincent's debate over Ranger's credibility is essentially
Vincent. Why do you believe him [Ranger]?
Valentine. Shou'd I believe you?
Vincent. 'Twere more for your interest, and you wou'd be less
deceiv'd; if you believe him, you must doubt the
chastity of all the fine women in Town, and five miles
Valentine. His reports of them will little invallidate his
testimony with me. (50).
Vincent may allude to the distinction between inartificial and artifi-
cial proofs, or in Bacon's terms, matters of fact and matters of art and
opinion; inartificial proofs are apparently incontrovertible facts like
contracts, while artificial proofs are impressions created by the
speech, and depend upon the character of the speaker.26 Vincent
establishes Christina's innocence by undermining Ranger's credibility;
to Valentine, Ranger's evidence is an inartificial proof, the testimony
of a sworn witness, whereas to Vincent it is a question of Ranger's
character and the ethos of his speech. The orator, as Aristotle saw
him, "persuades by his moral character when his speech is delivered in
such a manner as to render him worthy of confidence," and this confi-
dence is "due to the speech itself."27 Vincent tries to refute Ranger's
Valentine. Will not Chamber-maids lye Vincent?
Vincent. Will not Ranger lie, Valentine?
Valentine. The circumstances of his story proved it true.
Vincent. Do you think so old a Master in the faculty, as he, will
want the varnish of probability for his lies?
Valentine. Do you think a Woman, having the advantage of her Sex,
and Education under such a Mistress, will want impu-
dence to dis-avow a Truth, that might be prejudicial
to that Mistress? (81).
Ethical proof brings us back to the morality of speech, for ethos
is not simply a matter of cunning and rhetorical art, but is also part
of the moral defense of oratory and rhetoric. Quintilian's concept of
ethos follows his argument that only a good man can be a good orator:
"ethos denotes moral character," and, "requires the speaker to be a
man of good character and courtesy."28 Similarly, in Hobbes, ethical
proof rests on character, because "it is the speaker, or person we
believe in, or trust in, and whose word we take, the object of our
Faith; and the Honour done in Believing is done to him onely."29
Ethical proof lies at the heart of Christina's defense, for she is not
answering any particular charge so much as defending her honor and
Christina's case ascends the three stages of defense: the defense
first questions whether the alleged event ever occurred; if it occurred,
whether it was indeed a crime; and finally, if it was illegal, whether
the defendant was not justified.31 Vincent first questions whether
Ranger ever met Christina, suspecting that Ranger is either lying or
mistaken about the identity of "Christina."32 Vincent then admits the
meeting, but still denies her guilt. When it is determined that she
did break her vow to Valentine, Vincent argues that she must have been
justified, forcing Valentine to transcend mere questions of fact and
mundane legality. Valentine must believe her word as a woman of honor,
dispense with proofs, and have faith in Christina herself.
The darkness of Act Five is emblematic of the falsity of some
proofs and the frailty of the senses, because when the "night blots out
all distinctions" (43), "you cannot distinguish a Friend from a Fop"
(31). Because there is much that Valentine cannot know with any
certainty, Vincent argues that he must accept some things on trust.
In all his works, Wycherley insists that love is based on faith and
trust, "Since Love is Faith, as Faith, we Love/ More, by mad Zeal, than
reason, prove" (II, 7), and faith in love and religion is not, by defini-
tion, provable (see III, 41).
The word "faith" occurs forty-eight times in Love in a Wood, but
it is misused more often than not. P. F. Vernon has observed the repe-
tition of a "network of trust words," like Sir Simon's "faith and troth,"
which are often used when the characters are the least truthful.33
Despite these negative citations, however, faith or willingness to
trust acquires significance, and becomes, indeed, an index of the worth
of the characters. If there is a high and a low plot, each is managed
by the "eiron" figures, Joyner and Vincent;34 where Joyner trusts no
one and cheats everyone, Vincent is the only one to believe Christina.
The lower characters like Gripe and Crossbite are suspicious of every-
one, exhibiting only a vain faith in themselves; Sir Simon and
Dapperwit try to exploit each other's trust, because "every Wit has his
Cully, as every Squire his lead Captain" (17). Boasting that "Women
are poor credulous Creatures, easily deceived" (21), Ranger is also too
willing to exploit others' trust, and in learning to trust Lydia, he is
disabused of his selfish attitude towards others.
Faith and trust demand that Ranger and Valentine transcend the
apparent and learn to discern and respect inner, true values. Holland
has explored the contrast between real and apparent values in terms of
masking and disguise, concluding that the prevalence of disguise and
deceit reveals Wycherley's doubt that real, natural,or inherent values
can exist.35 Disguise, however, usually fails in Wycherley's plays,
and there is little successful deception here; only Joyner's schemes
prosper, while Gripe's pose of piety, Lucy's of virginity, Flippant's
of wealth, and Dapperwit's of wit deceive none but themselves.
The futility of disguise is best demonstrated by Sir Simon's
confused pride in his disguise as the clerk Jonas: "Then you shall see
when I am Sir Simon Addleplot and my self, I'll look like my self, now I
am Jonas I look like an Ass; you never thought Sir Simon Addleplot
cou'd have looked so like an Ass by his ingenuity" (18). As Joyner
points out, Sir Simon can not make a fool of himself, when he already
is a fool. He is obviously an ass, whether disguised as Sir Simon or
Ranger. What fellow's that?
Dapperwit. A Servant, to a friend of mine.
Ranger. Methinks, he something resembles our acquaintance, Sir
Simon, but it is no compliment to tell him so; for that
Knight is the most egregious Coxcomb, that ever plaid
with Ladies Fan.
Sir Simon. So; thanks to my disguise, I know my Enemies. (Aside.)
Ranger. The most incorrigible Ass, beyond the reproof of a kicking
rival, or a frowning Mistress. (61).
Sir Simon's unmistakable folly shines forth even in the dark, when the
moon "scarce affords light enough to distinguish a man from a tree"
(102). In Act Two, Flippant quotes the proverb, "Jone's as good as my
Lady in the dark certainly" (33).36 Sir Simon tries to demonstrate that
"Jonas is as good as the Knight in the dark," only to disprove it, for
even though he dresses as a knight rather than a clerk, Martha refuses
him: "Let me tell you, Jonas, 'tis not your borrow'd clothes and
title, shall make me marry my Fathers man" (97-8). As Dapperwit claims,
"You have carry'd your self so like a natural Clerk" (99); there are
natural, inherent values that even Martha recognizes, and Sir Simon will
remain a fool no matter how he is dressed, or what title he buys. Jone
is not as good as my lady in the dark. A more appropriate proverb is
quoted by Don Diego in The Gentleman Dancing-Master: "The Hood does not
make the Monk, the Ass was an Ass still, though he had the Lyons Skin
Sir Simon alludes to another night proverb: "Well, after all my
seeking, I can find those I wou'd not" (97). Rather than the proverbial
"He that gropes in the dark finds that he would not," in this play
characters find what they should, or what they deserve.3 As
Righter puts it, "the whole comedy presents an ironic view of charac-
ters desperately rushing forward who nevertheless remain, despite their
efforts, in exactly the place to which their own value assigns them."38
The result of deception, disguise and darkness in Love in a Wood is not
confusion but clarity, for the true worth of characters is revealed
when there is no constraint. In this play, the truth will out, in words
as well as actions; Sir Simon can act and speak as none other than a
Sir Simon. There is a Proverb, Mrs. Joyner, you may know him
by his company.
Joyner. No, no, to be thought a man of parts, you should always
keep company with a man of less wit than your self.
Sir Simon. That's the hardest thing in the world for me to do,
faith and troth. (16).
In Flippant's line, "I never admitted a man to my conversation, but for
his punishment" (42), the words reveal an unintended truth. Though
Ranger is more adept at deception, all his lying also comes to naught:
"A pox, I have hang'd myself in my own line" (45); he is so accustomed
to concealing his thoughts that his fondness for Lydia is only revealed
by the device of the overheard aside: he who gropes in the dark not
only finds what he would not, but reveals what he would not.
Christina's constancy, in her faith in Valentine and her rigid
honor, contrasts sharply with the more compliant and often deceitfully
submissive behavior of the others. Lydia and Ranger are much more
practical; rather than uphold principle, they always yield to expedi-
ency. Christina demonstrates little social resiliency or compliance
in her rigid adherence to fixed ideas of conduct, ideas that do not
alter with the situation. If she is idealized, or at least less
imperfect than the other characters, we must ask whether her rigidity
is congruent with the concept of adaptability that is associated with
decorum above, and whether inflexible, absolute rules of honor or
practical compliance is the ethical ideal of Love in a Wood. This ethi-
cal crux runs through all of Wycherley's work; Alithea and Harcourt's
debate over her rigid honor, and Manly's refusal to comply with social
conventions, involve the same difficulty of conforming principles with
pragmatism. Holland believes that Christina compromises her ideals
when she is forced out of her house, and Cynthia Matlock goes further,
arguing that Christina, Alithea and Fidelia are introduced only to be
undercut.39 The place and meaning of these ideal characters is central
to any interpretation of Wycherley's plays, so it is essential to
determine whether ethical values rest on a practical mean or an ideal,
on resilient pragmatism or rigid principles.
To some extent, the problem is inherent in the concept of decorum,
for Kranidas has argued that there were two recognizable and conflicting
types of decorum in the seventeenth century. First, the concept of
adaptability, which "demands from the parts of a work of art consis-
tency with established traditional social forms," is a limited or lower
decorum, associated with Anglicanism.40 Such social adaptability or
compliance with custom is best exemplified by Balthazar Gracian's
manual of prudence; Maxim LXXVII is entitled To be company for all
sorts of Men:
lie is a wise Proteus that is holy with the holy, learned with
the learned, serious with the serious, and jovial with the
merry. That is the way to gain all hearts, similitude being
the bond of good will. To discern tempers, and by a politick
transformation to suit the humour and character of every one
is a secret absolutely necessary for those who depend on
Richard Baxter's justification for the Puritan plain style of preaching
is similarly rooted in this limited decorum; we must adjust our words
to suit the audience: "All our Teaching must be as Plain and Evident
as we can make it. For this doth must suit to a Teacher's Ends. He
that would be understood, must speak to the Capacity of his Hearers, and
make it his Business to make himself understood."42 Kranidas' second
type of decorum is not concerned with the audience and their under-
standing; it is a cosmic decorum which insists upon the harmony of one's
speech and behavior with the highest ideals, conforming not with social
circumstance, but with God's word. Kranidas finds this rarefied decorum
in the writings of Milton, Stanley Fish in George Herbert and Joan
Webber in John Lilburne.43 The conflict between these two types of
decorum, the lower Aristotelian and practical, the higher Platonic and
transcendent, is mirrored in the contrast between Lydia's practical
adaptability and Christina's adherence to high-minded principles.
Though I have described Christina's honest, open speech as an
ethical ideal in the play, such a transparency is not approved by all
the characters. Martha regards Sir Simon's openness as a flaw: he is
"so perspicuous a Fop, the women find him out, for none of 'em will
marry him." In the word "perspicuous" she attacks the'transparency of
both his person and his speech, while Sir Simon defends his "darkness:"
"for his being perspicuous, 'tis false, he is as mysterious as a new
Parliment man" (77). As Dapperwit is foolishly unable to conceal his
art, Sir Simon is unable to conceal his artifice, that is, his intrigues;
the former is perspicuous in his verbal scheming, the latter is perspic-
uous in his actual scheming.
It is not only fools and knaves who defend dark speech; after
deceiving Ranger, Lydia boasts to her maid, "have I not dissembled
well, Lenor?" (71). And it is by no means clear that blunt 'truth was
always regarded as best; the motto of The Art of Complaisance or The
Means to Oblige in Conversation (London, 1677), is Qui nescit dissimu-
large, nescit vivere. This book teaches the limited decorum, how to
be politic, circumspect and polite by adjusting our conversation to
fit the particular audience: "This Complaisance, which I pretend to
teach, is an Art to regulate our words and behaviour, in such a manner
as may engage the love and respect of those with whom we converse."45
The author would agree with Lydia on the necessity of dissimulation:
we must learn the discretion how to conceal secrets, in order not to
betray or compromise our trust. He teaches the dexterity of how to
avoid telling unpleasant truths without actually lying, equivocating
carefully between truth and lies:
We ought always in our discourse to have regard to Truth, as
the ground of Conversation, but to avoid involving my self in
those great questions concerning truth, I shall content my
self to say, that it is conformity of our words, with our
thoughts, without determining whether there ought to be a
precise similitude of the thoughts we express to the thing we
have in our mind.46
The truth must be carefully guarded in Gracian's Maxim CLXXI, Not to
tell a lie, and yet not to speak all the truth neither: "Nothing
requires more circumspection than truth. For to tell it, is to draw
the hearts bloud. There needs as much skill to know when to tell it,
as when to conceal it."47
According to G. A. Starr, the favorite text for sermons on dissimu-
lation was Matthew 10.16: "Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and
harmless as doves."48 As in Bacon's essay, "Simulation and Dissimu-
lation," the arguments are often casuistical; any form of deceit is
forbidden, be the cause ever so good, though wisely withholding infor-
mation is permissible. As Edward Stillingfleet puts it, we are allowed
"so much Wisedom as is consistent with innocency."49 The same may be
said for the ethical ideals Christina represents; as much expediency is
allowed as is consistent with honesty. How far one may trim and still
maintain moral rectitude is not so important as the hierarchical rela-
tionship, the subordination of the means to the ideal.
Honesty and dissimulation are never satisfactorily reconciled, by
Wycherley or any other moralist. Gracian's work is entitled The Art of
Prudence, and there is a clear analogy between decorum and prudence:
decorum is to speech what prudence is to conduct. They are both, in
Cicero's words, ars vivendi, and like rhetoric, which is based on
decorum and adaptability, the means to live in an imperfect world.50
That prudence is a necessary evil is dramatically embodied in the
unhappy lesson of deception that is forced on Margery at the close of
The Country Wife. Christina's conduct is clearly imprudent, particu-
larly in her bluntness with Ranger and Valentine, for she does not heed
appearances, and Fielding's narrator's advice may be as appropriate for
her as for Tom Jones: "Prudence and Circumspection are necessary even
to the best of Men. They are indeed as it were a Guard to Virtue,
without which she cannot be safe. It is not enough that your Designs,
nay that your Actions, are intrinsically good, you must take Care that
they shall appear so."51 Like Alithea's, Christina's honor is a matter
of internal worth rather than reputation, and both, at least initially,
lack the guard of prudence. To a limited extent, Lydia and Christina
move toward each other, for Lydia gives up intriguing as Christina
learns to adapt her honor. Holland's argument that Christina is forced
to compromise her principles, however, does not accurately describe her
progress. Again, like Alithea, she must choose between true honor and
a vow of lesser importance, and even though she ventures out, she
remains true to Valentine. Her active defense of her virtue is much
more admirable than her simple notion of retreat, a type of cloistered
virtue; from her first entrance, which is to her disadvantage, Christina
rises in our estimation, and rather than compromise her ideals, she
refines them, adapting her honor to save Valentine.
The ability to adjust is perhaps the most distinguishing mark of
intelligence in this play; Gripe and Crossbite are never able to
transcend their selfishness and greed, and Sir Simon represents the
foolish inability to adjust to any situation: "What, ruin'd by my own
Plot, like an old Cavalier: yet, like him too, I will plot on still"
(99). Ranger learns to throw over his plots when the situation demands:
"of Intrigues, honourable or dishonourable, and all sorts of rambling,
I take my leave; when we are giddy, 'tis time to stand still" (91).
The issue of adaptability dovetails with trust and faith in the final
conception of marriage. Christina's last line, "I had rather suspect
your faith, than you should mine" (111), suggests that her virtue rests
not only on prudence and appearance but also on Valentine's trust in
her. Ranger and Valentine learn to trust and accept another under the
conditions of marriage: "The end of Marriage, now is Liberty/ And
two are bound--to set each other free" (112). These lines are not, as
some have claimed, cynical, but rather follow the conventions of love
poetry, as in Donne's paradox, "To enter in these bonds is to be
Wycherley has made speech a metaphor for cooperation; where Gripe,
Sir Simon, or Dapperwit never hear anything beyond echoes of their own
words, Christina, Valentine, Ranger and Lydia simply learn to talk to
each other. At first Lydia and Ranger's inability to communicate is
caused by wilful self-enclosure, just as Valentine and Christina are
also unable to speak with each other when they first meet (85ff). Such
mutual obfuscation adumbrates the selfishness and egotism of the
interruptions in The Plain Dealer (413ff), where Olivia will not suffer
anyone else to speak. In Love in a Wood, characters learn to use words
to reach others, rather than to cheat, slander or attack others. When
they learn to speak correctly, they arrive at the understanding and
cooperation promised in the last couplet.
1. Works of John Dennis, II, pp. 409-411.
2. Anne Righter, "William Wycherley," in Restoration Theatre, ed. John
Russell Brown and Bernard Harris, (New York: Capricorn Books,
1967), p. 72, and W. R. Chadwick, The Four Plays of William
Wycherley (The Hague: Mouton, 1975), p. 18.
3. Wycherley's Drama (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965),
4. Restoration Comedy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1924), pp. 82-
5. I wish to avoid attempting to define "wit," with the attendant
problems of fancy, imagination and judgment. I use the term in its
modern sense of verbal ingenuity, clever or striking remarks,
because I believe this is quite close to Wycherley's meaning in
the plays. Wycherley almost always uses the term satirically,
ironically, and negatively, signifying the over-ingenious use of
words. For a positive contemporary definition, Dryden's in
"Apology for Heroic Poetry" (1677) is most fitting: "...the
definition of wit (which has been so often attempted, and ever
unsuccessfully by many poets) is only this: propriety of thoughts
and words; or, in other terms, thoughts and words elegantly adapted
to the subject." George Watson, cd., John Dryden's of Dramatic
Poesy (London: John Dent, 1964), Vol. I, p. 207.
6. The inability to conceal art recalls the play's Horatian motto and
its distinction between natural and excessively artful poets.
Though Wycherley's verse was written long after his plays, it very
often deals with the same subjects, and I feel it is illuminating.
His poems often state explicitly themes only implicit in the plays.
7. For "slow Wycherley" see Rochester's "Allusion to Horace:"
But Wycherley earns hard what'er he gains
He wants no judgment, nor he spares no pains.
Complete Poems, ed. David M. Vieth (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1974), p. 123. Pope refers to this passage in "To Augustus,"
Epistle II i, 1. 85.
8. Eugene McCarthy has noticed the negative implications of wit in
Wycherley, "Wycherley's Plain-Dealer and the Limits of Wit,"
English Miscellany 22(1971), pp. 47-92.
9. Barrow, Works, I, pp. 159-60.
10. Rhetoric, pp. 377-9; trans. Roger L'Estrange, Seneca's Morals,
London, 1682 (second edition), p. 245.
11. Orator, p. 359. cf. Thomas Farnaby, Index Rhetoricus, London, 1625:
Caput artis est, decere quod facias. Sic igitur eloquentiam prudent-
aimque miscebit orator, sic decoro scenaeque inserviet. p. 19.
12. The Fierce Equation: A Study of Milton's Decorum (The Hague: Mouton
1965), pp. 13, 14.
13. Quintilian, IV, p. 163.
14. On the Composition of Romances, trans. Allan II. Gilbert, in
Literary Criticism from Plato to Dryden (Detroit: Wayne State
University Press, 1962), p. 273. This passage is cited by
15. A New Discovery of the Old Art of Teaching School, London, 1660,
facsimile (Scolar Press, 1969), p. 139.
16. The Arte of English Poesie, London, 1589, facsimile (Scolar Press,
1968), p. 231.
17. The First Modern Comedies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1967), p. 39.
18. Barrow, I, p. 156.
19. Window breaking and wit are again equated in The Plain-Dealer, pp.
500-1. See also Dryden's "Prologue to the Wild Gallant, Reviv'd"
(1669), 1. 10, for a similar use of window breaking.
20. The self-interest of praise is hardly new with Wycherley. In the
Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle writes: ". . honor seems to depend
on those who confer it rather than on him who receives it." Trans.
Martin Ostwald, (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1962), p. 8.
Wycherley's contemporary, Samuel Butler, writes of praise of the
And those Romances, which we frame,
To raise ourselves, not them, a name.
Butler's Satires, ed. Rene Lamar, (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1928). p. 97. To Obadiah Walker, flattery is "an abusing
of Language, a putting together many good words to signify nothing."
Of Education, Oxford, 1673, facsimile (Scolar Press, 1970), p. 224.
21. This scene may owe something to similar flattery in Shadwell's The
Miser Act two, Scene one, Works, ed. Montague Summers CLondon:
Fortune Press, 1927), Vol. III, p. 38 ff.
22. On Style, trans. W. Rhys, (Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, 1927),
23. Robert South, Forty Eight Sermons and Discourses, London, 1715,
Sermon XII, Vol. I, p. 462.
24. Francis Bacon, Essays (London: Oxford University Press, 1937),
"Of Simulation and Dissimulation," (1625), pp. 22-6.
25. Wycherley's familiarity with forensic rhetoric is not unusual; like
many of his fellow dramatists, he studied at the Inner Temple.
Furthermore, any well-educated theatregoer would have known something
of the subject from his studies of the trivium, which were still
dominated by forensic oratory, and children were still taught to
plead legal cases like Cicero. Thomas Farnaby's Index Rhetoricus
(1625) is the best example of a popular, Ciceronian rhetoric. For
seventeenth-century education I have consulted Sir Thomas Elyot,
The Bringing up of Children (1533), Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster
(1570), and William Kempe, The Education of Children (1588).
Particularly useful and detailed are John Brinsley, Ludus Literarius
(1612), and Charles Hoole, A New Discovery in the old Art of Teaching
School (1660). T. W. Baldwin, William Shakespeare's Small Latine
and Lesse Greeke (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1944) and
D. L. Clark, John Milton at St. Paul's School (1948, rpt. Hlamden:
Archon Books, 1964) are also informative.
26. Bacon, Advancement, p. 34.
27. Rhetoric, p. 17.
28. Quintilian, Vol. II, p. 427.
29. Leviathan, ed. W. G. Pogson Smith, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967),
30. Christina's defense is classically Ciceronian, winning favour through
mild tone, modesty, gentle language and seeming reluctance, all of
which serve to display good nature, calmness and loyalty. De
oratore, I, 325ff.
31. See Cicero's De partition oratorio, chap. xxxv ff., or the pseudo-
Ciceronian Rhetorica ad herennium, book II.
32. Notice the skeptical repetition of "Christina," pp. 83-4.
33. "Wycherley's First Comedy and Its Spanish Source," Comp. Lit 18
(1966), pp. 139-40.
34. I use Northrope Frye's terms "eiron" or "gracioso" figure for those
characters who manipulate others, and bring about action, without
really participating in it. Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1957), p. 173.
35. See particularly the chapter "Disguise Comic and Cosmic," pp. 45-63.
36. Cf. Edward Phillips, The Mysteries of Love and Eloquence, London,
1658, facsimile (Scolar Press, 1972): "There is a Proverb that tells
the Gentleman, that Jone is as good as my Lady in the dark: and why
should there not be another Proverb to tell the Gentlewoman, that Tom
is as good as my Lord in the Dark." p. 150. For other examples,
see Tilley, J 57.
37. Tilley, D 39.
38. Righter, p. 72.
39. Holland, p. 44, and Matlock, "Parody and Burlesque of Heroic Ideals
in Wycherley's Comedies." PLL 8:3 (1972), pp. 273-286.
40. Kranidas, pp. 47-8. The whole of chapter one is relevant, pp. 13-
41. Balthazar Gracian, The Courtier's Oracle, Or The Art of Prudence,
London, 1694, p. 74. Cf. I Cor. 9:22: "To the weak became I as
weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men,
that I might by all means save some."
Pope told Spence that Gracian was one of Wycherley's favorite
authors. The Art of Prudence, written in 1647, was translated in
1694; however, Wycherley clearly read Spanish, and there is a
distinct possibility that he was in Spain on a diplomatic mission
in 1664, where he could have read or acquired an edition of Gracian.
See John Loftis, The Spanish Plays of Neoclassical England (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1973), p. 121, for a review of the
42. Gildas Salvianus (1658) in Works, London, 1707, Vol. IV, p. 358.
43. See Stanley Fish, Self-Consuming Artifacts (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1972), pp. 156-223, and Joan Weber, The
Eloquent "I" (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968), pp.
44. The Latin is translated in anon., An Essay in Defense of the Female
Sex, London, 1696: "it has been Proverbially said of Old, that He
that knows not how to dissemble, knows not how to live." This writer
is careful to distinguish dissimulation from "criminal Deceipt,"
pp. 113-4. To Gracian, dissembling is a form of self-control, and
mastery of the will in Maxim XCVIII, To Dissemble: "Passions are
the breaches of the mind. The most useful knowledge is the art to
dissemble. He that shows his Game, runs the risque of losing it.
Let circumspection combat against curiosity. Cover your heart with
a hedge of diffidence and reserve, from those who nibble too nicely
at words. Let them never know your disposition lest they prevent
you either by contradiction, or flattery.
He who yields to his passions, saith the Authour, Chap. 2 of his
Hero, stoops from the state of a man, to the condition of a beast;
whereas he that disguises them, preserves his credit at least in
appearance. Our passions are the swoonings of our reputations.
lie that can make a sacrifice of his will is Lord over himself. To
dive into the will of another, is the mark of a sublime wit; to be
able to hide ones own, is to get the superiority over another. To
discover ones thought, is to open the gate of the fort of the mind:
Here it is that politick Enemies give the assualt, and most fre-
quently with success too. When once the passions are known, all the
avenues and sally-ports of the will are known and by consequence it
may be commanded upon any occasion. A complete man must then in the
first place apply himself to the subduing of his passions, and then
to the dissembling of them so artfully, that no spy can ever be able
to unmask his thought. This Maxim teaches one to become an able
man, when he is not; and so cunningly to hide all his imperfections,
that all the sharp-sighted spies of another man's road, lose their
way in seeking it." pp. 90-1.
Tilley includes eighteen examples of this proverb, D 386. For
others, see Sir Walter Raleigh, The Arts of Empire, London, 1658,
p. 68, and Florio's translation of Montaigne, Vol. II, p. 374.
45. The Art of Complaisance, p. 2.
46. Ibid., p. 54.
47. Gracian, p. 161. For the opposite view of dissimulation, see
Richard Head, Proteus Redivivus: Or The Art of Wheedling, or
Insinuation, London, 1675: "This art of Wheedling, which some
would have called complaisance, is in plain terms, nothing else
but the Art of Insinuation or Dissimulation, compounded of mental
reservation, seeming-patience and humility, (self-obliging) civil-
ity, and a more than common affability, all which club together to
please and consequently to gain by conversation." p. 3. Complai-
sance viewed negatively is wheedling, an art of self-interested
hypocrisy, the means to thrive by pretence. The wheedle is a
Restoration Uriah Heep, and more than a little dishonest: "Lyes he
looks not on as half so sinful, and sometimes questions whether
they are a sin or not, when a round sum hath been the product of
their falsity." p. 25.
48. G. A. Starr, Defoe and Casuistry (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1971), pp. 191-3. Sampson Letsome, The Preachers Assistant,
London, 1753, refers to thirteen sermons on this text, pt. 1,
pp. 117-8. See also Gracian's proverb CCXLII, Not to be a Dove in
"Let the cunning of the Serpent go in course with the simplicity of
the Dove. There is nothing easier than to deceive a good man. He
that never lyes, easily believes; and he that never deceives, con-
fides much. To be deceived, is not always a sign of brutishness;
for goodness is sometimes the cause of it. There are two sorts of
people that well knew how to prevent a mischief, the one, because
they have learned what it is at their own cost; and the others,
because they have learned it at the expense of others. Prudence
ought then to be as careful to caution it self, as cunning is to
cheat. Have a care not to be so good a man, that others may take
occasion from it of being bad. Be a composition of the Dove and
Serpent; not a Monster but a Prodigy." p. 215.
49. A Sermon Preached before the King at White-Hall, London, 1679, p. 4.
50. Cicero, De finibus, 5.16: sic vivendi ars est prudential. My under-
standing of pnidence is greatly indebted to Martin Battestin's
discussion in The Providence of Wit (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1974), pp. 164-179.
51. Martin Battestin, ed., Tom Jones (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1975), I, p. 141.
52. Elegy XIX, "Going to Bed," 1. 31.
PARADOX AND THE GENTLEMAN DANCING-MASTER
Wycherley's second play, The Gentleman Dancing-Master, has never
been revived since it opened in 1672, a fact that may support Courtall's
complaint in She Would If She Could: "A single intrigue in love is as
dull as a single plot in a play, and will tire a lover worse than
t'other does an audience." The slight plot unfortunately continues to
tire readers, who, taking simplicity for simple mindedness, term the
play meaningless farce. In all fairness, The Gentleman Dancing-Master
does seem to lack the wit and significance that characterizes Wycherley's
other plays. But its simplicity and apparent meaninglessness are decep-
tive, resulting from the failure to apprehend its language of paradox,
a mode of discourse present in all of Wycherley's work, but more pro-
nounced here. The ethical foundation of this play is congruent with
Wycherley's other comedies; indeed, those scenes which appear the most
farcical, Monsieur's undressing and dressing, in fact demonstrate the
playwright's consistent focus on a language ethically correct and
Most of the farcical action follows Don Diego's demand that his
prospective son-in-law Monsieur de Paris "Leave off French Dress,
Stammering and Tricks" (177), and wear Spanish clothes. This "meta-
morphosis" (189 and 199) reaches a climax in Act Four when Monsieur
puts on a Golilia, the paradigmatic Spanish garment:
Don Diego. Off, off, off with it I say, come refuse the
Ornamento principal of the Spanish Habit. (Takes
him by the Crevat, pulls it off, and the Black puts
on the Golilia.)
Monsieur. Will you have no mercy, no pity, alas, alas, alas,
Oh I had rather put on the English Pillory than this
Spanish Golilia, for 'twill be all a case I'm sure;
for when I go abroad, I shall soon have a Crowd of
Boys about me, peppering me with rotten Eggs and
Turneps, helas, helas. (Don Diego puts on the Golilia.)
Don Diego. Helas again?
Monsieur. Alas, alas, alas. (193).
Monsieur's removal of his French crevat parallels his suppression of the
hypercorrect French aspiration in "helas," underscoring the identity
between his affected dress and his affected language. He had earlier
pointed to the similarity, asking "must I leave off all Franch Beautes,
Graces and Embellishments, bote of my Person and Language?" (177).
Wycherley has enacted a literal, visual and audible parallel to the
familiar metaphor of language clothing thought in words, and an under-
standing of this metaphor reveals much about the language of The
The "garment" metaphor is common in rhetorical descriptions and
definitions of style. Erasmus offers a representative analogy between
word and thought and body and dress in De duplci copia: quod est
vestis nostro corpori, id est sententiis, elocutio. Negue enim aliter
quam forma dignitasque corporis, cultu habitugue, itidem et sententia
verbis vel commendatur, vel deturpatur. In Ramistic rhetoric the
word most often used for elocution is "garnishing," which ornaments or
covers as does clothing.5 Thomas Wilson's version of the metaphor
describes the difference and distance between the rich clothing of word
and bare thought: "Elocution commenteth the matter, that seemeth to be
clad in Purple, walking afore both bare and naked."6 In a twentieth-
century discussion of the clothing metaphor, Holland mistakenly thinks
of language as mere cover or disguise and deceit: "Language was itself
regarded as an outside--clothing, ornament, or, in general a shell of
accidents--within which the real substance, thought, lay hidden."7
Implying, in Wilson's words, that the "naked" thought is superior,
Holland fails to realize that themetaphor has both positive and negative
connotations, as is explicit in this analogy of Quintilian's:
Again a tasteful and magnificent dress, as the Greek poet tells
us, lends added dignity to its wearer: but effeminate and
luxurious apparel fails to adorn the body and merely reveals
the foulness of the mind. Similarly, a translucent and iri-
descent style merely serves to emasculate the subject which it
arrays with such pomp of words.8
Speech should be thought to advantage dressed, but like dress, speech
can be elegant or vulgar, appropriate or mismatched; in "An Epistle to
Mr. Dryden," Wycherley compliments Dryden on the propriety and harmony
of his language:
Such is your Sense, which you so well express,
Each Thought is brilliant in its proper Dress. (IV, 159).
Furthermore, as Rosemond Tuve explains, the garment of style often
indicates the ideal fusion of word and thought, "in the sense that the
flesh is the soul's garment, its bodying forth or manifestation."9
Words realize or give life to thought, as Ben Jonson asserts in Dis-
coveries: "In all speech, words and sense are the body and the soul.
The sense is, as the life and soule of language, without which all words
The positive and negative connotations of the clothing metaphor
correspond to the two poles of language in The Gentleman Dancing-Master:
in Gerrard's normative speech, words harmoniously fit the thought and
speaker, and in Monsieur's affected speech, word, thought and speaker
are unrelated, if not warring, elements. Above all, the metaphor under-
scores the superficial nature of the French features of Monsieur's
language. As David Rhodes points out, unlike Sir Fopling Flutter's
correct French, Monsieur's is a bastardization of two languages: he
debases English sentences with French morphology, syntax and pronunci-
ation.11 Monsieur offends according to all four classical criteria of
style, the Theophrastan virtues of correctness, clarity, propriety and
ornament.1 His speech is not grammatically correct, but deliberately
broken; not perspicuous, but confused and incoherent; not brief, but
prolix; not decorous, but grotesquely inappropriate for a native English
In the Tavern scene, Monsieur's speech and Gerrard's speech
Monsieur. Auh--his Son (for he had but one) was making de Toure
of France, Espaigne, Italy, an' Germany in a Coach
and six, or rader now I think on't, gone of an Embassy
hider to dere Master Cromwell, whom dey did love and
fear, because he was sometinge de greater Rebel bute
now I talk of de Rebelle, none but de Rebel can love
de Rebelled, and so mush for you and your Friend the
Dushe I'le say no more, and pray you say no more of
my friend de Franch, not so mush as of my Friend the
Gerrard. No, no; but, Monsieur, now give me leave to admire thee,
that in three months at Paris you could renounce your
Language, Drinking and your Country (for which we are
not angry with you as I said) and come home so perfect
a French-man, that the Dreymen of your Father's own
Brew-house wou'd be ready to knock thee in the head. (143).
Monsieur's speech is very confused; the eleven clauses, progressing
only through non sequitor, seem to parody the rambling, associative
parataxis of Senecan style. Gerrard's speech, made conspicuous only
by contiguity, is a model of logicality and perspicuity. The suspended
hypotaxis of evenly spaced members separates admiration and insult at
either ends of the sentence, balanced by a parenthetical expression.
The contrast, of course, suggests that only Gerrard has the intelli-
gence to construct a complicated or even coherent sentence.
Monsieur's Gallomania and the contrast between English clarity and
French confusion may derive from two characters, M. Galliard in the
Duke of Newcastle's The Variety or The French Dancing-Master, and
Frenchlove in James Howard's The English Monsieur.13 Monsieur's speech
is, however, quite different from these two. M. Galliard is French-
born, so his French pronunciation is not affected; using incorrect
pronouns and substituting "de" for "the" and "vat" for "what," he is a
social climbing dancing-master who is tricked into marrying the chamber
maid rather than the rich widow. Frenchlove, on the other hand, is "an
affected English man translated into a ridiculous French man."14 Like
Sir Fopling or Melantha, Frenchlove speaks correct English with an
occasional French idiom. But in Howard, Dryden and Etherege, the
language/ garment equation is much reduced; Sir Fopling sprinkles his
conversation with French phrases as delicately as he scents his gloves
with orange, affecting, as the author of Remarques on the Iumours and
Conversation of the Town writes, "the beautiful trimming of foreign
words."15 His French is more like a cosmetic or accessory than a full
suit of clothes. Of the five playwrights, only Wycherley creates a
language unique to his character.
Many of the features of Monsieur's and Don Diego's speech reflect
contemporary English views of continental languages. Thus the prolixity
of French was an English commonplace; in a preface to a translation
from French, John Evelyn apologizes for the original, which is "somewhat
verbose, according to the style of that overflowing nation."16 Accord-
ing to Roscommon, the opposite translation from English to French would
necessarily be prolix: "The weighty Bullion of One Sterling Line,/
Drawn to French Wire, would thro' whole Pages shine."17 If French was
thought florid and wordy, Spanish was antithetically grave and dull,
corresponding to Don Diego's "Spanish Care, Circumspection and Prudence"
(188). These conflicting qualities are personified in James Howell's
prefatory poem to his Lexicon Tetraglotton:
The smooth Italian, and the nimble Frank,
The long-lunged Spanish march all in a rank,
The English leads them, so commands the Van
And reason good in this Meridian,
But Spain brings up the rear, because we know
Her Counsels are so long, and pace so slow.18
By asserting the self-sufficiency of English, especially by disparaging
loan words, Seventeenth-century writers assert the independence of their
speakers and their nation.19 Undisguised patriotism prompts the viru-
lence of Thomas Sprat's attack on the French language in his Observations
(1665) on Samuel Sorbiere's A Voyage to England, where he defends the
"Ornaments and Copiousness" of his native tongue, "comparing the Chas-
tity, the Newness, the Vigour of many of our English Fancies, with the
corrupt and swelling Metaphors wherewith some of our Neighbors do still
adorn their books."20 Linguistic chauvinism is most extreme in L. S.'s
Remarques, where his ancestors, refusing to debase their speech with
French, "were careful of the true glory of English men, to justifie the
Dominion of their Language, equal to the Dominion of their Seas."21
Underlying this implausible synecdoche is the idea that style or
language is the index of the soul, so that the greatness of the English
language is ineluctably connected to the greatness of the English
The connection between the man and his speech also underlies
Wycherley's characterization of Monsieur and Don Diego; his satire
is not, of course, directed at the French or the Spanish, but at those
English speakers who affect other languages. The Romance features of
their speech is like clothing in the worst taste, that which is com-
pletely inappropriate to the body dressed. Don Diego and Monsieur have,
in effect, subverted the function of language by asserting the primacy
of the signifier, because their signifiers take precedence over the
signified. In the following dialogue, both behave as if the change of
names will produce a change of nature or reputation:
Don Diego. Do'st thou call me Monsieur (voto a St. Jago.)
Monsieur. No, I did not call you Monsieur veto a St. Jago, Sir,
I know you are my Uncle, Mr. James Formal-da-
Don Diego. But I can hardly know you are my Cousin, Mr. Nathaniel
Paris; but call me Sir Don Diego henceforward, look
you, and no Monsieur, call me Monsieur Guarda.
Monsieur. I confess my errour, Sir; for none but a blind man
wou'd call you Monsieur, ha, ha, ha--But pray do not
call me neder Paris, but de Paris, de Paris (si vou
plai'st) Monsieur de Paris! (174-5).
Monsieur's unmasking of his uncle demonstrates that no matter what
accent they employ, their coat will still be a merchant's sign, their
relatives will still be buried in the yard, not the church, and they
will still be middle-class Englishmen, not European gentility (224).
It is not enough to say that a change of name or dress will no more
change a man than a change of word will transform the thing it was
thought to signify, for there are clearly two opposing systems at work
here. Monsieur apparently does believe that his new name transforms
him; Gerrard, on the other hand, knows that Monsieur was a fool before
and after his trip to Paris. Don Diego, with typical myopia, quotes
the appropriate proverb, but only for Monsieur: "The Ass was an Ass
still, though he had the Lyons Skin on" (194).
Uncle and nephew are so concerned with externals that they take
care of the words and dress, but let the thought and man shift for
themselves. In Don Diego's words, "the incongruous match of Spanish
Doublet and French Pantaloons" (190) parallels his incongruous match of
Spanish oaths and English merchant. If asides conventionally represent
a character's thought, it is telling that Monsieur employs perfectly
acceptable English in his asides; his French accent is then a dupli-
citous facade. In Monsieur, the aside and regular speech represent
two different languages, an internal language of thought, English, and
an external language of speech, French. Wycherley here follows the
traditional idea that thought is internal discourse. In Plato, "think-
ing and discourse are the same thing, except that what we call thinking
is, precisely, the inward dialogue carried on by the mind with itself
without spoken sound."22 The difference between speech and thought
is only sound; it is this essential identity in Stoic metaphysics that
invests speech with the properties of the mind and soul.23 To Saint
Augustine, thought, the "inward and mental word," is the discourse of
the inner man, and audible language, the "outward and sensible word,"
is the discourse of the outer man. Communication was therefore
conceived as the process of translation from internal to external
speech; in Hobbes's words, "the general use of Speech, is to transfer
our Mentall Discourse into Verbal."25 Monsieur's audible speech does
not emanate from the soul, and there is no consistency or correspondence
between the inner and outer man. The folly of Monsieur's speech differs
from that of Wycherley's "witty" fools, Dapperwit, Sparkish and Novel,
for they exhibit a correspondence between exterior, linguistic folly,
and interior, inherent folly. Monsieur's speech produces a curious
suggestion of emptiness; having rejected his country, his language and
his nature, it is as if there is nothing behind his words and dress:
style is all there is to such a vacuous man. Dapperwit's dull simili-
tudes always make some obvious cliched sense, but Monsieur's macaronic
utterances are very difficult to follow. Like the Norman French legal
language of The Plain Dealer, Monsieur's is a language which resists
Monsieur's and Don Diego's attitude toward language is the same as
their attitude toward clothing. To Monsieur, who will "live and die for
de Pantaloon against de Spanish Hose" (175), clothing becomes an end in
itself. He and his uncle are no longer concerned with Hippolita,
marriage, family honor, or even religion--Monsieur "could kneel down
and varship a pair of jenti Pantaloons" (175). As dress becomes an end
rather than a means to social grace or comfort, words also become ends
in themselves; their "jernis" and "votos" lose referents, and are
rendered meaningless out of their proper cultural and linguistic context.
When Don Diego refuses him "one little Franch Oate" (178), Monsieur
produces a word heap, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing:
"Helas, helas, den I shall take my leave, morte teste, venture, Jernie,
teste-bleu, ventre-bleu, ma foy, certes" (178). We witness a process
of reification, as Monsieur's and Don Diego's words become things; their
words are like physical souvenirs brought back from a grand tour,
objects of status rather than means of communication. Words to Monsieur
are like Mallarme's radiant jewels, valuable, not simply for significa-
tion, but in and of themselves, an attitude woefully out of accord with
the prevailing Restoration language theory.
Uncle and nephew value words for their social or national status
rather than accepted, normative meaning, imposing a private or idiomatic
value on words that is always consistent with Don Diego's or Monsieur's
vanity. In consequence, they not only misuse words, but they misconstrue
everyone else's, for everyone says exactly what these two would like to
hear. Monsieur, Hippolita claims, "is as apt as an ill Poet to mistake
the contempt and scorn of people for applause and admiration" (171).
Don Diego's wilful misinterpretation and self-deception are even more
brazen: "Be a Spaniard like me, and ne're think people laugh at you:
there was never a Spaniard that thought any one laughed at him" (194).
The false Spaniard and Frenchman's devotion to words allows them
to be manipulated, not by meaning but by sound and association:
Gerrard. But indeed, methinks, you are not slovenly enough for
Monsieur. Slovenly! you mean negligent?
Gerrard. No, I mean slovenly.
Monsieur. Then I will be more slovenly. (144).
Because Gerrard associates "French" and "slovenly," Monsieur will
endeavor to be slovenly, no matter what the word means, just as he is
victimized by the accent rather than the substance of the Scullion's
words (149). He who directs words, in turn directs people, and through
their exploitations of ambiguity, Gerrard and Hippolita talk rings
around these dupes. Virginia Birdsall has observed that Hippolita
"manipulates words, artistically playing with their variable meanings
and deceiving all those incapable of recognizing a double entendre
either in word or in action when they are faced with one."26
Gerrard and Hippolita exercise these verbal powers on each other
at first; when they meet, Gerrard uses an inflated, "precieuse" style:
"My Soul, My Life, 'tis you have Charms powerful as numberless,
especially those of your innocency irresistable, and do surprise the
wary'st Heart; such mine was, while I cou'd call it mine, but now 'tis
yours for ever" (158). The lovers must purify their language, partic-
ularly their oaths; when the mutual distrust between Hippolita and
Gerrard is greatest, she calls attention to the misuse 'of "faith:"
Gerrard. Cou'd all that so natural Innocency be dissembl'd?
faith it cou'd not, dearest Miss.
Hippolita. Faith it was, dear Master.
Gerrard. Was it, faith?
Hippolita. Methinks you might believe me without an Oath. (205).
EIippolita reintroduces "faith" once again when she and Gerrard reach
their understanding: "faith, here's my hand now in earnest, to lead
me a Dance as long as I live" (218). The word has been validated, for
the concept has been realized between them. Their linguistic reform
follows a pattern predictable in Wycherley; a more precise use of words
leads to a more truthful and honest correspondence between speech and
thought; the more honest and open their speech, and the more exposed
their true thought, the more dependent upon trust they become, achieving
eventually the "language of the heart." They must purify their language,
for it is only when they mean what they say that Hippolita can give her
"self and fortune away frankly" (220).
Monsieur's speech can be characterized by his affectation of
"agreeable ill Englis'" (143), and rejection of "base good Englis'"
(134); these oxymorons, like the "incongruous match" between his clothes
and person, accentuate the disparity between his nature and appearance.
Don Diego and Monsieur are not, however, the only characters whose
chosen role contradicts their actual station, for Gerrard is a gentle-
man imitating an imitation gentleman. The title itself is oxymoronic
because dancing-masters were considered only gentlemen in appearance.
Usually "better dress'd and prouder than many a good Gentleman" (164),
Don Diego claims that dancing-masters have but the "outsides of Gentle-
men" (161). In their first exchange, Prue and Hippolita construe
Monsieur as a type of dancing-master: this apishh Kind of Gentleman"
has "Civility and good Breeding more than a City Dancing-master" (131).
C. J. Rawson explores the problems that dancing-masters create:
Dancing-masters were a special and embarrassing case, because
they were a necessary part of a genteel education. Not only
did one therefore see them a good deal, but they were pro-
fessionals who taught gentlemen some of the marks of gentility.
.The gentleman thus had a painful obligation to the
dancing-master, and the dancing-master must have acquired
pretensions of gentility which exacerbated the situation; the
gentleman had to learn from a laboured specialist the graceful
ease which was supposed to be his birthright, and the dancing-
master could feel that he did things better than his pupils.
Hence part of the insistence that a gentleman should learn to
dance well, yet not like a dancing-master, and, more generally,
the obsessional frequency with which writers of the period keep
mentioning dancing-masters, often with edgily ambiguous or
over-aggressive contempt. The title of Wycherley's Gentleman
Dancing-Master must have derived much piquancy from this whole
Monsieur and dancing-masters raise the question of what constitutes
gentility, innate breeding, or acquired characteristics like manners,
wealth and appearance. Following centuries of courtesy literature,
Wycherley suggests that though gentility is in part inherited, it is
above all earned by gentle conduct.28 Monsieur sums up Gerrard's
situation: "Well, thou art a generous man, I vow and swear, to come
and take upon you this trouble, danger, and shame, to be thought a
paltry Dancing-master, and all this to preserve a Ladies honour and
The oxymoronic title describes the apparently contradictory and
paradoxical action of the protagonist, who demeans and shames himself
for an honorable cause. I emphasize oxymoron because Rosalie Colie
has observed that this is the central trope of paradox, and I wish to
demonstrate that the language and action of this play is paradoxical.29
Though Pope was referring to Wycherley's verse when he told Spence that
Wycherley "loved paradoxes," the plays also reveal a love of paradox,
and The Gentleman Dancing-Master in part may be seen as a kind of
Encomium Moriae, or Praise of Folly. The word "fool" is used eighty-
six times in the play, mostly of Gerrard and Monsieur. But while
Monsieur and Don Diego are anxious to deny their folly--"I am no fool,
Look you" (152)--Gerrard willingly and deliberately "plays the fool:"
"To be caught in a Fool's Trap--I'll venture it" (141), he says, and he
is "Fooled and abused" (208), and "made a Fool" (213) by Hippolita. It
is only when he consents, moreover, to "be such a fool as to steal a
Woman with nothing" (206) that he wins her and a "Fools Paradise"
(172). Gerrard plays the fool by playing a dancing-master; where
Monsieur tries to appear better by imitating his betters, Gerrard
becomes better by imitating his inferiors.
The ironic reversal of wisdom and folly has long been a comic
convention designed to express the self-awareness of limitation; as
Touchstone says, "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows
himself to be a fool" (5.1.33). Similarly, the Socratic docta ignoran-
tia, of which Montaigne provides a famous statement, is based on the
humble declaration of ignorance: "The wisest that ever was being
demanded what he knew, answered, he knew that he knew nothing."31 The
primary source of Erasmus's wise fool is, of couse, Saint Paul:
"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Rom. 1.22), or
"If any man among you seemeth to be wise, let him become a fool that
he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God"
(I. Cor. 3.18-9). On this text, John Webster writes, "This is the whole
knowledge of man, to know that it is nothing of itself, and whatsoever
it is, it is of God and for God."32 Wycherley's familiarity with
the docta ignorantia is clear from his poems "Upon the Impertinence of
Knowledge," andl "In Praise of Ignorance"; in "Upon the Discretion of
Folly," he writes that "the greatest Folly is to be Wise," and "Folly
Proves Wisedom" (III, 28).
According to Pope, Wycherley's favorite authors were those most
paradoxical: "He used to read himself to sleep o'night, either in
Montaigne, Rochefoucault, Seneca, or Gracian, for those were his four
favorite authors."33 Further, Wycherley would have been familiar with
paradox from grammar school, because paradox remained an integral part
of education in rhetoric.. While we may associate paradox with the
complexities of the Parmenides, it was also the subject and method of
epideictic or demonstrative oratory, because the contoversiae or
practice cases for student declamations often were based on paradox.34
Practice declamations were collected in progymnasmata, which were still
in use through the eighteenth-century; in the sixteenth and seven-
teenth centuries, Aphthonius's progymnasmata went through thirty Latin
and twenty Greek editions, not including English versions by Richard
Rainolde and William Fullwood.35 Rainolde's A Booke Called the
Foundation of Rhetorike (1563) contains nineteen declamations, about
which questions are posed, including confirmation and confutation,
praise and dispraise; such questions were intended to form topics for
the student's compositions.3 John Brinsley, in Ludus Literarius,
recommends Cicero's Paradoxa Stoicorum for model themes, and the most
famous and complete Renaissance collection of paradoxes, Ortensio
Landi's Paradossi (1543), was presented as a formulary rhetoric: Thomas
Lodge's translation, Paradoxes Against Common Opinions (1602), advertises
its contents as "Debated in the form of Declamations," to be used for
Wycherley's knowledge of such material is clear from his many
paradoxical encomiums; he has poems in praise of Ignorance, Folly,
Poverty, Old Age, Laziness, Avarice and Dullness, and with the exception
of that on laziness, there are analogues for each of these in the Landi
collections, all with similar arguments.38 Even these few examples do
not, however, reveal the extent of paradox in Wycherley's verse, for
almost half of the poems (all those in heroic couplets) are based on
paradox, often arguing the opposite of what the reader expects, revers-
ing their own argument, turning inward, and playing orthodoxy against
heterodoxy in the manner of a Stoic dialectician.3
Skepticism notwithstanding, Colie argues that paradox is "often
designed to assert some fundamental and absolute truth," and the truth
asserted by the encomium moriae is the necessity of humility.40 Webster
quotes Nicholas of Cusa's dialogue between an Idiot and a Doctor,
wherein the Idiot says, "This perhaps is the difference betwixt me and
thee, thou thinkest thy self knowing, when thou art not, from hence
thou art proud; I truly know my self to be an Idiot, from hence I am
humbled, in this perhaps I am more learned."41 Vain an'd proud pre-
tensions to knowledge are paradoxically countered by a humble awareness
of frailty and limitation. In Erasmus, to the philosophers' objection,
"'tis a miserable thing for a man to err, mistake and know nothing
truly," Folly answers, "Nay rather, this is to be a man." In the
play before us, the folly of wisdom is typified by Don Diego's claim to
"ha'no body wiser than my self" (211).
The importance of humility is best represented in Hippolita's
explanation of Gerrard's jealousy. Unlike the excessive jealousy of
Valentine in Love in a Wood or Pinchwife in The Country Wife, jealousy
here serves as proof of love: "jealousy in a Gallant is humble, true
Love, and the height of respect, and only an undervalueing of himself
to over value" his mistress (219). While Gerrard plays the fool and
adopts the relatively humble pose of a dancing-master, his rival over-
values himself: "Cousin, I doubt not your amour for me, because I
doubt not your judgment" (133). Monsieur's indifference indicates that
he is too self-centered to ever think of another's affection, but
Wycherley was later to write, in poems and a letter, that there could
be no love without jealousy.43 And in one of his better poems,
Wycherley argues that jealousy elevates the mistress and humbles the
lover, because it witnesses that she is worthy to be beloved by others,
while he is unworthy to monopolize her affections. Further, his
assurance of her love would be impertinent and offensive (III, 178-
The most important distinction between Gerrard and Monsieur,
therefore, lies in love of others and love of self, the distinguishing
basis for so much Restoration and eighteenth-century psychology and
characterization, from Tom Jones and Blifil to Clarissa and her brother
James. Gerrard, Jones and Clarissa, in their several ways, are
raised by falling, becoming worthy by admitting their unworthiness.
That these characters function in part as moral exempla, and that their
conduct is based on theological virtues, makes them no less interesting;
here the moral significance of Gerrard's generosity and humility only
adds depth and richness to this supposedly thin play.
If The Gentleman Dancing-Master is paradoxical and oxymoronic, it
is the more noteworthy that the language is relatively non-metaphoric.
Compared to the other plays, there is a striking absence of elaborate
similitudes and conspicuous metaphors; there are only about ten, and
almost all of these are spoken by Gerrard and Hippolita. Such economy
is partly explained by the fact that Monsieur's "wit," such as it is,
is expended simply in French expressions. More important, similitude
and metaphor necessarily illustrate similarity and conjunction, whereas
oxymoron exhibits contradiction, dissimilarity and disjunction. With
the exception of the isolated protagonists, this play is peopled with
characters whose dress and language do not fit their nature or station.
Hippolita in effect summarizes the design of the play when she contrasts
French levity and Spanish gravity: "We shall have sport anon, betwixt
these two Contraries" (174).
One contrary that runs through all of Wycherley's work, beginning
with Lady Flippant's first line in Love in a Wood, is the choice of
marriage for love or for money. Like the paradoxical contrast of
spiritual and mundane values, mercenary self-interest of vicious
characters competes with the idealistic, selfless values of love;
Monsieur is only attracted to Hippolita's fortune, while Garrard is
foolish enough to marry her portionless. Gerrard and Hippolita are
not, however, untainted, because when she first reveals her fortune,
he can only repeat, "Twelve hundred pound a year--" (158), just as
Hippolita can only repeat "A Coach and Six" (185). Both are swayed by
material considerations, but Gerrard eventually agrees to "be such a
Fool as to steal a Woman for nothing" (206).
Contrasting values are most vivid in the last scene; the articles
of keeping between Monsieur and Flirt there appear as a grotesque
parody of the lovers' proviso scene, where Hippolita proposes, "Let us
have a good understanding betwixt one another" (218).46 Though Monsieur
is unable to see the difference, kept mistress and wife form the two
extremes of greed and generosity, or self-love and love of others.
Flirt's articles symbolize, moreover, the disjunction rampant in the
play, for they all deal with some type of separation. She and Monsieur
doubtless stand at opposite sides of the stage:
Monsieur. . there's no difference betwixt a Wife and a Wench.
Flirt. Only in Cohabitation, for the first Article shall be
Against Cohabitation; we Mistresses suffer no Cohabi-
Monsieur. Nor Wives neither now.
Flirt. Then separate Maintenance, in case you should take a Wife,
or I a new Friend.
Monsieur. How! that too? then you are every whit as bad as a
Flirt. Then my House in Town, and yours in the Country if you
Monsieur. A mer Wife.
Flirt. Then my Coach apart, as well as my Bed apart. (230).
Surrounded by such disjunction and disharmony, Gerrard and
Hippolita appear remarkably well matched. Wycherley neatly demon-
strates how well they compliment each other in the passages on modesty.
Hippolita is always in danger of seeming "a confident coming piece"
(220), although the two prostitutes provide a beneficial qualification
to her forwardness, because their exaggerated aggression tempers her
appearance of immodesty. Gerrard, however, believes that modesty is
only important for the lady, claiming that "modesty in a man is as ill
as the want of it in a Woman" (184), and that "Modesty between Lovers
is as impertinent as Ceremony between Friends" (204). He is mistaken,
for some diffidence is necessary in both lovers; moreover, the for-
wardness of both is dissembled; when they first meet, he says, "Love
and Modesty come together like Money and Covetousness, and the more we
have, the less we can shew it" (155). When they put aside dissembling,
modesty reasserts itself, suggesting that they elicit the best in each
other: "Well, though you are so modest a Gentleman as to suffer a Wife
to be put upon you with nothing, I have more conscience than to do it:
I have the twelve hundred pounds a year out of my Father's power, which
is yours, and I am sorry it is not the Indies to mend your bargain"
I stress modesty because it is a particular source of misinter-
pretation.4 Birdsall is so taken with Ilippolita's dominance that she
is disappointed when she eventually gives her hand to Gerrard.48 Dobrce
believes that Wycherley had an underlying "hatred" for llippolita, and
the usually sensible Weales concludes that "after watching Hippolita
for five acts, one wants to congratulate Monsieur on escaping marriage
with her."49 These harsh judgments result from a misunderstanding or
disregard for the "trial" plot common to so many Restoration'comedies;
lippolita admits to Gerrard, "I confess I had a mind to try whether
your interest did not sway you more than your love" (220). Because her
future and fortune are completely in Gerrard's hands, her prudence in
testing his honor and love before accepting him is only sensible; while
avoiding the aggressiveness of Flirt and Flounce, she must actively
"try" her choice while she has the chance. Ironically, Hippolita must,
to some degree, imitate her "precise" (129) aunt Caution. The epithet
is used again twice; before meeting her, Gerrard refers to Hippolita as
"a new City-Mistress, and you know they are as inquisitive as precise
in the City" (147); and Hippolita is a city mistress, even though she
herself says they "are never precise but at a Play" (220). Wycherley
plays upon the two concurrent meanings of the word, scrupulous and over-
scrupulous (O.E.D.); Hippolita must modulate between the two meanings,
acting neither too easily like Prue, nor too punctiliously like Caution.
She validates a positive, correct meaning of the word, exercising true
judgment; when Gerrard proves his love, she gives her "self and fortune
away frankly" (220).
The interplay between contradictory significations parallels the
fundamental action of The Gentleman Dancing-Master; the play dramatizes
a series of binary opposition, homologous to the contrast of folly and
wisdom, including French levity and Spanish gravity, innocence and
experience, and passivity and aggression. In scene after scene, pairs
of characters play out these contrasts, often switching roles, like the
way that Don Diego and Caution exchange their antithetical acceptance
and suspicion of Gerrard. Though characters switch sides, the cate-
gories are immutable; Hippolita successfully oscillates between
innocence and experience, or between activity and passivity, without
moderation or compromise. Nor can Gerrard, the English gentleman, be
considered a compromise between French levity and Spanish gravity; he
is at times frivolous and other times serious. Protean and adaptable,
the lovers are the only characters capable of navigating deftly between
the contrarieties; though a gentleman, Gerrard, when necessary, becomes
a dancing-master. While Monsieur is unable to adapt his speech even
momentarily to gain Hippolita's fortune, Gerrard is willing to learn a
new language: "A Dancing-School in half an hour will furnish you with
terms of the Art" (167). Gerrard and Hippolita embody the spirit of
paradox because they are not rigidly bound to any extreme. Transcending
the constrictions of contradiction, they understand that it is at times
wise to be foolish, and at times foolish to be wise.
The synthesis of conflicting qualities, such as modesty and
forwardness, is symbolized by their dance. Dance is burlesqued and
frustrated for four acts, until Gerrard and Hippolita reach an under-
standing: "faith here's my hand now in earnest, to lead me a Dance as
long as I live" (218). The significance of such a dance may be seen
in the words of Sir Thomas Elyot: "the association of a man and a
woman in dancing may be signified matrimonie. . which betokeneth
concorde." This concord is a concordia-discors, formed of masculine
and femine qualities:
Wherefore whan we behold a man and a woman daunsing to gether,
let us suppose there to be a concorde of all the side quali-
tites, being joyned to gether as I have set them in ordre.
And the moving of the man wolde be more vehement, of the woman
more delicate, and with lasse advancing of the body, signi-
fieing the courage and strength that ought to be in a man,
and the pleasant sobernesse that should be in a woman. And
in this wise fiersenesse, joined with mildnesse maketh severitie;
Audacitie with timerositie maketh magnanimitie .
He continues with the synthesis of the virtues Constance, Honour,
Sapience and Continence: "These qualities, in this wise knitte to
gether, and signified in the personages of man and woman daunsinge, do
express or sette out the figure of very nobilitie."50 Wycherley
dramatizes a similar synthesis of virtues, carefully reversing, confus-
ing, and finally correcting Gerrard's and Hippolita's qualities.
Separately they are not perfect characters, and indeed, exemplary
characters were considered inappropriate for comedy; but together, they
represent as perfect a couple as can be found in Wycherley and in
1. George Etherege, She Would If She Could, ed. Charlene Taylor,
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1971), 3.1.107ff, p. 46.
2. Dobree, Rogers and Chadwick, pointing to the play's Horatian motto,
term the play a farce. Only Holland and Righter find any meaning
or value here.
3. Following Holland, Klara Boyd notes the equation of clothing and
language, "A Study of the Imagery in the Plays of William Wycher-
ley," Diss. Florida State University, 1970, p. 58.
4. Opera Omnia, Leiden, 1703, Vol. I, p. 8.
5. See Dudley Fenner's translation of Talon, The Artes of Logicke and
Rhetorike (1584): rhetoric is "an Arte of speaking finely. It hath
two parts, Garnishing of speech, called Eloquution [and] Garnishing
of the maner of utterance, called Pronunciation." Four Tudor Books
on Education, ed. Robert Hood Bowers, (Gainesville: Scholars'
facsimiles, 1966), p. 168.
6. G. 11. Mair, ed., (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909), p. 160.
7. First Modern Comedies, p. 51.
8. Institutio Oratoria, III, 189.
9. Elizabethan and Metaphysical Imagery (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1947), p. 61.
10. Works, VIII, p. 621.
11. "William Wycherley's Love in a Wood and The Gentleman Dancing-
Master: A Critical Edition," Diss. Stanford, 1969, pt. II,
12. Thomas Wilson translates the virtues as Plainness, Aptness, Composi-
tion (correctness) and Exornation (ornamentation); by the seventeenth
century, the four were often reduced to three: in Farnaby's Index
Rhetoricus (1625) the virtues are Elegantia, Compositione and
Dignitare, facsimile (Scolar Press, 1970), p. 16.
13. Rhodes, pt. II, p. 524. The Variety was performed in 1641, 1661,
1662, and printed in 1649. The English Monsieur was performed in
1663, 1666, 1667, 1668, and printed in 1674.
14. The English Monsieur, London, 1674, p. 1.
15. London, 1673, p. 94. R. F. Jones discusses Restoration neologism
in The Triumph of the English Language, (Stanford: Stanford Univer-
sity Press, 1953), pp. 214-271, but he does not give enough weight
to the evident resistance and hostility to this practice. Dryden
typically expresses a moderate and sensible view in the "Defense of
the Epilogue:" "For I cannot approve of their way of refining, who
corrupt our English idiom by mixing it too much with French; that is
a sophistication of language not an improvement of it; a turning
English into French, rather than a refining of English by French."
Watson, I, p. 176.
16. Miscellaneous Writings of John Evelyn, ed. William "Upcott, (London:
Henry Colburn, 1825), p. 559.
17. "An Essay on Translated Verse," in J. E. Spingarn, ed., Critical
Essays of the Seventeenth Century, (1907, rpt. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press), II, p. 198. This passage, with others,
is cited by William H. Youngren, "Generality, Science and Poetic
Language," ELH 35 (1968), p. 164.
18. Lexicon Tetraglotton, An English-French-Italian-Spanish Dictionary,
London, 1660. Cf. L. S., Remarques: "the Spaniard . scorns to
truckle under the laws of their [French] Mode; and sullenly keeps
to a fashion of some hundreds of years, rather than appear inclined
to the lightness of his neighbors." p. 98.
19. George Herbert's "The Sonne" opens
Let Forrain nations of their language boast,
What fine varieties each tongue affords:
I like our langugae, as our men and coast:
Who cannot dresse it well, want wit, not words.
Works, ed. F. E. Hutchinson, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941),
20. A Voyage to England, with Observations on the Same Voyage by Doctor
Thomas Sprat, London, 1709, pp. 170 and 172.
21. Remarques, p. 96.
22. Sophist, 263e, Collected Dialogues, p. 1011.
23. For internal discourse in Stoicism, see A. A. Long, "Language, and
Thought in Stoicism," in Problems in Stoicism, p. 82.
24. On the Trinity, book XV, chap. X-XIV, Basic Writings of St. Augustine,
ed. Witney Oates, (New York: Random House, 1948), Vol. II, p. 847.
25. Leviathan, ed. W. G. Pogson Smith, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967),
p. 24. cf. John Hoskyns: "The conceits of the mind are pictures of
things and the tongue is interpreter of these pictures." Directions
for Speech and Style, ed. Hoyt Hudson, (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1935), p. 2. This work, written circa 1600, was
not printed until this century, but whole sections, including the
passage quoted, found their way into Jonson's Discoveries and Thomas
Blount's Academy of Eloquence, London, 1654. Blount has similar
commonplaces: "Speech is nothing else but an expression to another
man of the images one hath within himself," p. 97; "Thoughts are
but over-flowings of the minde and the tongue is but a servant of
the thought," p. 98; "Speech and Thought are two sisters, the
youngest created, that the eldest may be known," p. 98. See also
Thomas Wilson, p. 2, John Hewes, A Perfect Survey of the English
Tongue (1624, 1632 and 1658), epilogue and Cowley, "Ode to the
Royal Society," stanza IV.
26. Wild Civility (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970), p. 131.
27. Henry Fielding and the Augustan Ideal Under Stress (London:
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972), pp. 27-8.
28. John E. Mason, Gentlefolk in the Making, Studies in the History of
Courtesy Literature (1935, rpt. New York: Octagon Books, 1971), pp.
6-12 and 293-4. Gentle birth was often regarded as conferring a
debt or obligation to virtuous conduct. Mason, p. 163, quotes
William de Britaine, Humane Prudence (1680): "Urbanity and
Civility are a debt you owe to Mankind."
29. Paradoxica Epidemica (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966),
Introduction, pp. 1-38.
30. Joseph Spence, Observations, Anecdotes, and Characters of Books and
Men, ed. James M. Osborn, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), Vol. I,
p. 38. Wycherley wrote Pope about his letter of praise, "It is not
the first, you great Wits have gain'd Reputation by their paradoxi-
cal or ironical Praises; your Forefathers have done it, Erasmus and
others." The Correspondence of Alexander Pope, ed. George Sherburn,
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956), Vol. I, p. 69, 11 August 1709.
31. "An Apology of Raymond Sebond," Vol. II, p. 202.
32. John Webster, Academiarum Examen London, 1654, facsimile, ed.
Allen G. Debus (New York: Elsevier Inc., 1970), p. 4.
33. Spence, p. 37.
34. I have used the following surveys of classical education: George
Kennedy, The Art of Persuasion in Greece (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1963) and The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972); D. L. Clark,
Rhetoric in Greco-Roman Education (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1957); M. L. Clark, Rhetoric at Rome (London: Cohen and
35. William G. Crane has traced the editions in Wit and Rhetoric in the
Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937), p. 61.
For the popularity of Hermogenes' progymnasmata see Annabel Patter-
son, Hermogenes and the Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1970), passim.
36. Facsimile (Scolar Press, 1972). Pope appears to have been somewhat
confused and annoyed by Wycherley's ability to argue both sides,
such as in the poems in praise of the retired life, the active life
and the mixed life (Spence, p. 38). We should perhaps take this
as a warning against reading any of Wycherley's work, including
The Plain-Dealer, as self-expression.
37. Facsimile (Scolar Press, 1968), p. 184.
38. See Henry Knight Miller, "The Paradoxical Encomium with Special
Reference to its Vogue in England, 1600-1800," M.P. LIII (1956),