The Way of the World "Fan Spread And Streamers Out, And A Shoal Of Fools For Tenders"

William Congreve

"Fan Spread And Streamers Out, And A Shoal Of Fools For Tenders"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Mrs. Fainall, formerly the mistress of Mirabell, discusses her situation with Mirabell. When she merely hated her husband, she could tolerate him, but now she despises him and cannot stand him. Mirabell replies that she should have just enough disgust for her husband to give her a relish for her lover. Mirabell explains that he had her marry to save her reputation, as it seemed possible that she might have a child. A better man than her husband should not have been sacrificed to the occasion, and a worse one would not have served the purpose. They then discuss an intrigue they are setting afoot to place Mrs. Fainall's mother, Lady Wishfort, in a compromising position. They are discussing the lady's character when Mrs. Millamant, who loves Mirabell, enters with Witwoud, one of her admirers, and Mincing, her maid. Apparently she makes a rather stately and impressive entrance, for Mirabell likens her to a full-rigged ship; she comes, he says, full sail, with her fan spread and her streamers out, like the ship with its canvas unfurled and all the flags flying:

Here's your mistress.
Here she comes, i'faith, full sail, with her fan spread and streamers out, and a shoal of fools for tenders; ha, no, I cry her mercy!
I see but one poor empty sculler; and he tows her woman after him.