Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Olivia’s Pottage
by [?]

Mr. Wycherley was naturally modest until King Charles’ court, that late disgrace to our times, corrupted him. He then gave himself up to all sorts of extravagances and to the wildest frolics that a wanton wit could devise. . . . Never was so much ill-nature in a pen as in his, joined with so much good nature as was in himself, even to excess; for he was bountiful, even to run himself into difficulties, and charitable even to a fault. It was not that he was free from the failings of humanity, but he had the tenderness of it, too, which made everybody excuse whom everybody loved; and even the asperity of his verses seems to have been forgiven.

I the Plain Dealer am to act to-day.

* * * * * *

Now, you shrewd judges, who the boxes sway,
Leading the ladies’ hearts and sense astray,
And for their sakes, see all and hear no play;
Correct your cravats, foretops, lock behind:
The dress and breeding of the play ne’er mind;
For the coarse dauber of the coming scenes
To follow life and nature only means,
Displays you as you are, makes his fine woman
A mercenary jilt and true to no man,
Shows men of wit and pleasure of the age
Are as dull rogues as ever cumber’d stage.

WILLIAM WYCHERLEY.–Prologue to The Plain Dealer.

It was in the May of 1680 that Mr. William Wycherley went into the country to marry the famed heiress, Mistress Araminta Vining, as he had previously settled with her father, and found her to his vast relief a very personable girl. She had in consequence a host of admirers, pre-eminent among whom was young Robert Minifie of Milanor. Mr. Wycherley, a noted stickler for etiquette, decorously made bold to question Mr. Minifie’s taste in a dispute concerning waistcoats. A duel was decorously arranged and these two met upon the narrow beach of Teviot Bay.

Theirs was a spirited encounter, lasting for ten energetic minutes. Then Wycherley pinked Mr. Minifie in the shoulder, just as the dramatist, a favorite pupil of Gerard’s, had planned to do; and the four gentlemen parted with every imaginable courtesy, since the wounded man and the two seconds were to return by boat to Mr. Minifie’s house at Milanor.

More lately Wycherley walked in the direction of Ouseley Manor, whistling Love’s a Toy. Honor was satisfied, and, happily, as he reflected, at no expense of life. He was a kindly hearted fop, and more than once had killed his man with perfectly sincere regret. But in putting on his coat–it was the black camlet coat with silver buttons–he had overlooked his sleevelinks; and he did not recognize, for twenty-four eventful hours, the full importance of his carelessness.

In the heart of Figgis Wood, the incomparable Countess of Drogheda, aunt to Mr. Wycherley’s betrothed, and a noted leader of fashion, had presently paused at sight of him–laughing a little–and with one tiny hand had made as though to thrust back the staghound which accompanied her. “Your humble servant, Mr. Swashbuckler,” she said; and then: “But oh! you have not hurt the lad?” she demanded, with a tincture of anxiety.

“Nay, after a short but brilliant engagement,” Wycherley returned, “Mr. Minifie was very harmlessly perforated; and in consequence I look to be married on Thursday, after all.”

“Let me die but Cupid never meets with anything save inhospitality in this gross world!” cried Lady Drogheda. “For the boy is heels over head in love with Araminta,–oh, a second Almanzor! And my niece does not precisely hate him either, let me tell you, William, for all your month’s assault of essences and perfumed gloves and apricot paste and other small artillery of courtship. La, my dear, was it only a month ago we settled your future over a couple of Naples biscuit and a bottle of Rhenish?” She walked beside him now, and the progress of these exquisites was leisurely. There were many trees at hand so huge as to necessitate a considerable detour.