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Speed. Well, your old vice still; mistake the word: What news then in your paper?
Laun. The blackest news that ever thou heard'st.
Laun. O illiterate loiterer! it was the son of thy grandmother: this proves, that thou canst not read.
Speed. Come, fool, come: try me in thy paper.
and a note of apostrophe, makes Launce both mistake the word, and sets the pun right: it restores, indeed, but a mean joke; but, without it, there is no sense in the passage. Besides, it is in character with the rest of the scene; and, I dare be confident, the poet's own conceit. Theobald.
- saint Nicholas be thy speed!] St. Nicholas presided over scholars, who were therefore called St. Nicholas's clerks. Hence, by a quibble between Nicholas and Old Nick, highwaymen, in The First Part of Henry the Fourth, are called Nicholas's clerks.
Warburton. That this saint presided over young scholars, may be gathered from Knight's Life of Dean Colet, p. 362; for, by the statutes of Paul's school there inserted, the children are required to attend divine service at the cathedral on his anniversary; the reason I take to be, that the legend of this saint makes him to have been a bishop, while he was a boy. Sir 7. Hawkins.
So, Puttenham, in his Art of Poetry, 1589: “ Methinks this fel. low speaks like bishop Nicholas ; for on Saint Nicholas's night, commonly the scholars of the country make them a bishop, who, like a foolish boy, goeth about blessing and preaching, with such childish terms, as maketh the people laugh at his foolish counter. feit speeches.” Steevens. 6 Speed. Imprimis, She can milk.
Laun. Ay, that she can. These two speeches should evi. dently be omitted. There is not only no attempt at humour in them, contrary to all the rest in the same dialogue, but Launce clearly directs Speed to go on with the paper, where he himself left off. See his preceding soliloquy. Farmer.
Laun. And thereof comes the proverb,—Blessing of your heart, you brew good ale.
Speed. Item, She can sew.
Laun. What need a man care for a stock with a wench, when she can knit him a stock. 8
Speed. Item, She can wush and scour.
Laun. A special virtue; for then she need not be washed and scoured.
Speed. Item, She can spin.
Laun. Then may I set the world on wheels, when she can spin for her living.
Speed. Item, She hath many nameless virtues. Laun. That's as much as to say, bastard virtues; that, indeed, know not their fathers, and therefore have no names.
Speed. Here follow her vices.
Speed. Item, She is not to be kissed fasting,' in respect of her breath.
Laun. Well, that fault may be mended with a breakfast: Read on.
Speed. Item, She hath a sweet mouth.1
Blessing of your heart, &c.] So, in Ben Jonson's Masque of Augurs :
“ Our ale 's o' the best,
“ Prays for their souls that brew it.” Steevens.
knit him a stock.] i. e. stocking. So, in Twelfth Night: it does indifferent well in a flame-colour'd stock." Steevens.
she is not to be kissed fasting,] The old copy reads-she is not to be fasting, &c. The necessary word-kissed, was first added by Mr. Rowe. Steevens.
sweet mouth.] This I take to be the same with what is now vulgarly called a sweet tooth, a luxurious desire of dainties and sweetmeats. Fohnson.
So, in Thomas Paynell's translation of Ulrich Hutten's Book, De Medicina Guaiaci & Morbo Gallico, 1539: “ – delycates and deynties, wherewith they may stere up their sweete mouthes and prouoke theyr appetites.”
Yet, how a luxurious desire of dainties can make amends for of. fensive breath, I know not. A sweet mouth may, however, mean a likerish mouth, in a wanton sense.
Laun. That makes amends for her sour breath.
Laun. It's no matter for that, so she sleep not in her talk.
Speed. Item, She is slow in words.
Laun. O villain! that set this down among her vices ! To be slow in words is a woman's only virtue: I pray thee, out with 't; and place it for her chief virtue.
Speed. Item, She is proud.
Laun. Out with that too; it was Eve's legacy, and cannot be ta'en from her.
Speed. Item, She hath no teeth.
Laun. If her liquor be good, she shall : if she will not, I will; for good things should be praised.
Speed. Item, She is too liberal.3
Laun. Of her tongue she cannot; for that's writ down she is slow of: of her purse she shall not; for that I 'll keep shut: now, of another thing she may; and that I cannot help. Well, proceed.
Speed. Item, She hath more hair than wit; and more faults than hairs, and more wealth than faults.
Laun. Stop there; I'll have her: she was mine, and not mine, twice or thrice in that last article. Rehearse that once more.
So, in Measure for Measure : “ Their saucy sweetness that do coin heaven's image,” &c.
Steevens. - praise her liquor.] That is, shew how well she likes it, by drinking often. Fohnson.
She is too liberal.] Liberal, is licentious and gross in language. So, in Othello: “Is he not a prophane and very liberal counsellor?" Johnson. Again, in The Fair Maid of Bristow, 1605, bl. 1:
“ But Vallenger, most like a liberal villain,
“ Did give her scandalous ignoble terms." Mr. Malone adds another instance from Woman's a Weathercock, by N. Field, 1612:
“ Next that the fame
Speed. Item, She hath more hair than wit, 4
Laun. More hair than wit—it may be; I 'll prove it: The cover of the salt hides the salt, and therefore it is more than the salt: the hair that covers the wit, is more than the wit; for the greater hides the less. What's next?
Speed. —And more faults than hairs,—
Laun. Why, that word makes the faults gracious:5 Well, I'll have her: And if it be a match, as nothing is impossible,
Speed. What then?
Laun. Why, then I will tell thee,—that thy master stays for thee at the north gate.
Speed. For me?
Laun. For thee? ay; who art thou? he hath staid for a better man than thee.
Speed. And must I go to him?
Laun. Thou must run to him; for thou hast staid so long, that going will scarce serve the turn.
She hath more hair than wit,] An old English proverb. See Ray's collection:
“ Bush natural, more hair than wit." Again, in Decker's Satiromastix:
- Hair! 'tis the basest stubble; in scorn of it
“ This proverb sprung,—He has more hair than wit.” Again, in Rhodon and Iris, 1631:
“ Now is the old proverb really performid;
makes the faults gracious:] Gracious, in old language, means graceful. So, in K. John:
“ There was not such a gracious creature born.” Again, in Albion's Triumph, 1631:
« On which (the frieze were festoons of several fruits in their natural colours, on which, in gracious postures lay children sleeping." Again, in The Malcontent, 1604:
* The most exquisite, &c. that ever made an old lady gracious by torch-light.” Steevens.
Mr. Steevens's interpretation of the word gracious has been controverted, but it is right. We have the same sentiment in The Merry Wives of Windsor:
“O what a world of vile ill-favourd faults
Speed. Why didst not tell me sooner? 'pox of your love-letters!
Exit. Laun. Now will he be swinged for reading my letter: An unmannerly slave, that will thrust himself into secrets !-I'll after, to rejoice in the boy's correction. [Exit.
The same. A room in the Duke's Palace.
Enter DùKE and THURIO; PROTEUS behind.
Thu. Since his exíle she hath despis'd me most,
Duke. This weak impress of love is as a figure
Pro. Gone, my good lord.
Duke. So I believe; but Thurio thinks not so.-
Pro. Longer than I prove loyal to your grace,
Duke. Thou know'st how willingly I would effect The match between sir Thurio and my daughter.
Pro. I do, my lord.
Duke. And also, I think, thou art not ignorant How she opposes her against my will.
Pro. She did, my lord, when Valentine was here, Duke. Ay, and perversely she persévers so.
6 Trenched in ice;] Cut, carved in ice. Trancher, to cut, French. Johnson. So, in Arden of Feversham, 1592:
“ Is deeply trenched in my blushing brow.” Steevens.