Falstaff to Fashionable Lover

Falstaff (Sir John), in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and in the two parts of Henry IV., by Shakespeare. In Henry V. his death is described by Mrs. Quickly, hostess of an inn in Eastcheap. In the comedy, sir John is represented as making love to Mrs. Page, who “fools him to top of her bent.” In the historic plays, he is represented as a soldier and a wit, the boon companion of “Mad-cap Hal” (the prince of Wales). In both cases, he is a mountain of fat, sensual, mendacious, boastful, and fond of practical jokes.

In the king’s army, “sir John” was captain, “Peto” lieutenant, “Pistol” ancient [ensign], and “Bardolph” corporal.

C. R. Leslie says, “Quln’s ‘Falstaff’ must have been glorious. Since Garrick’s time there have been more than one ‘Richard,’ ‘Hamlet, ‘Romeo,’ ‘Macbeth,’ and ‘Lear;’ but since Quin [1693–1766] only one ‘Falstaff,’ John Henderson [1747–1786].”

(Robert William Elliston (1774–1831) was the best of all “Falstaffs.” His was a wonderful combination of wit, humour, sensuality, and philosophy, but he was always the gentleman.)

Falstaff, unimitated, inimitable Falstaff, how shall I describe thee? Thou compound of sense and vice: of sense which may be admired, but not esteemed; of vice which may be despised, but hardly detested. “Falstaff” is a character loaded with faults, and with those faults which naturally produce contempt. He is a thief and a glutton, a coward and a boaster, always ready to cheat the weak and prey upon the poor, to terrify the timorous and insult the defenceless. At once obsequious and malignant, yet the man thus corrupt, thus despicable, makes himself necessary to the prince by perpetual gaiety, and by unfailing power of exciting laughter.—Dr. Johnson.

Famous. “I woke one morning and found myself famous.” So said Byron, after the publication of cantos i. and ii. of his Childe Harold (1812).

Fan (The), a semi-mythological poem in three books, by John Gay (1713).

Fanciful (Lady), a vain, conceited beauty, who calls herself “nice, strangely nice,” and says she was formed “to make the whole creation uneasy.” She loves Heartfree, a railer against woman, and when he proposes marriage to Belinda, a rival beauty, spreads a most impudent scandal, which, however, reflects only on herself. Heartfree, who at one time was partly in love with her, says to her—

“Nature made you handsome, gave you beauty to a miracle, a shape without a fault, wit enough to make them relish … but art has made you become the pity of our sex, and the jest of your own. There’s not a feature in your face but you have found the way to teach it some affected convulsion. Your feet, your hands, your very finger-ends, are directed never to move without some ridiculous air, and your language is a suitable trumpet to draw people’s eyes upon the raree-show” (act ii. sc. 1).—Vanbrugh: The Provoked Wife (1697).

Fan-Fan, alias Phelin O’Tug, “a lolly-pop maker, and manufacturer of maids of honour to the court.” This merry, shy, and blundering elf, concealed in a bear-skin, makes love to Christine, the faithful attendant on the countess Marie. Phelin O’Tug says his mother was too bashful ever to let him know her, and his father always kept in the background.—Stirling: The Prisoner of State (1847).

Fang, a sheriff’s officer in 2 Henry IV., Shakespeare (1598).

Fang, a bullying, insolent magistrate, who would have sent Oliver Twist to prison, on suspicion of theft, if Mr. Brownlow had not interposed on the boy’s behalf.—Dickens: Oliver Twist (1837).

The original of this ill-tempered, bullying magistrate was Mr. Laing, of Hatton Garden, removed from the bench by the home secretary.—Foster: Life of Dickens, iii. 4.

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