"Not To Be Sneezed At"

Context: Some idea of the kind of humor in this play may be gleaned from the names of the two rustic characters, Zekiel Homespun and his sister Cicely, who came to London as servants for unfortunate Caroline Rormer. Dr. Pangloss, who lards his language with Latin tags and tries to make a cultured man out of Lord Duberly, is a satire on pedantry in general. The death of Caroline's father has ended her comfortable existence of the past, and the disappearance of her sweetheart has deprived her of future hope. At the beginning of Act II, she has sent her faithful retainer Felix Hendrick with a letter requesting help, to her father's old friend, a miserly banker. Now the servant is back to report, with many excuses, that the wealthy friend refuses to help her. He gives Kenrick half a crown which the proud servant flings in his face. Eventually, however, all ends well. Her sweetheart reappears. The servant Cicely Homespun also finds an understanding husband. The miserly banker is thwarted. The great English actor Edmund Kean (1787?–1833) made his debut in this play, with all its melodramatic language that seems so artificial to modern ears. Here is the exchange of dialogue that put the expression "not to be sneezed at," into the English language.


CAROLINE
Pray, pray be silent, Kenrick! Oh nature! spite of the inequalities which birth or education have placed between thy children,–still, nature, with all thy softness, I own thee. The tear of an old and faithful servant, which bedews the ruins of his shelter, is an honest drop that penetrates the heart.
KENRICK
Aye, cry away, my poor dear Miss Caroline; cry away! I shared the sunshine of your family, and it is but fair that I should go halves in the ruin.
CAROLINE
A poor two hundred pounds, Kenrick, are now all that remain to me.
KENRICK
Well, come, two hundred pounds, now-a-days are not to be sneezed at.