A True Widow "Wit's The Noblest Frailty Of The Mind"

Thomas Shadwell

"Wit's The Noblest Frailty Of The Mind"

Context: Bellamour, a London gentleman, is visited in rapid succession by Stanmore, another London gentleman; Carlos, a gentleman recently returned from France; Selfish, a vain and clothes-mad coxcomb who boasts of his prowess with women; Young Maggot, a law student and poetaster who neglects his law studies in order to develop his feeble wit in writing songs; Prig, another coxcomb and poetaster whose talk runs to the many sports he relishes; and Old Maggot, a businessman who is as scornful of wit as his nephew is enamored of it. Warned that his uncle is coming, Young Maggot hides while Bellamour, Carlos, and Stanmore engage the old fellow in conversation. When Old Maggot complains that his nephew is neglecting law for literature, Stanmore answers, in a phrase that is a parody of a line from Dryden's The Indian Emperor (1667): "Love's the noblest frailty of the mind":

Poetry is an ornament to a man of any profession.
'Tis a damn'd Weed, and will let nothing good or profitable grow by it, 'tis the Language of the Devil, and begun with Oracles. Where did you know a Wit thrive, or indeed keep his own?
They part with their Money for Pleasure, and Fools part with their Pleasure for Money; the one will make a better Last Will and Testament, but the other lead a happier Life.
Meanwhile the hidden nephew is so intent upon his versifying that he speaks aloud:
Profit begone, what art thou but a breath.
I'l live proud of my Infamy and shame,
Grac'd with the Triumphs of a Poets name:
Men can but say, Wit did my Reason blind,
And Wit's the noblest frailty of the Mind.