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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Samuel Foote

  • [A witty English comedian, sometimes called “the English Aristophanes;” born at Truro, about 1720; educated at Oxford; opened the Haymarket Theatre, 1747, being director, author, and actor; had great talents for ridicule, mimicry, and colloquial wit; died 1777.]
  • Thank you, sir: you know the company better than I do.

  • When told at a party that his handkerchief was half out of his pocket.
  • A gentleman having praised a very plain woman, Foote said he had a right to claim her, “by the law of all nations, as the first discoverer.”
  • Foote was dining one day in Paris with Lord Stormont, and some old Cape wine was passed round in very small glasses. Foote was asked why he kept his glass so long before him without drinking; to which he replied, “I am only considering how small it is of its age.” This, however, is as old as Athenæus.
  • When told that the Delavals did every thing in good style, “It is not,” he said, “their usual gait.”
  • Being asked if he had ever seen Cork, “No, sir; but I have seen a great many drawings of it.”
  • Dibble said, that, much as he liked porter, he could never drink it without a head. “That must be a mistake,” interposed Foote, “as you have done so, to my knowledge, above these twenty years.”
  • One who preserves all the exterior decencies of ignorance.

  • His definition of a very good sort of man.
  • When on one occasion he had attacked a pretentious person upon his characteristic foible, and the latter had said, “Why do you attack my weakest point?” Foote replied, “Did I say any thing about your head?”
  • A conceited young fellow, not finding his jokes appreciated, said to Foote: “You are flat to-day: you don’t seem to relish wit.”—“You have not tried me yet,” was the answer.
  • Foote asked a man without tune why he was always humming a certain air. “Because it haunts me,” was the reply. “No wonder,” rejoined Foote, “when you are always murdering it.”
  • On a certain occasion, a rich Cornish rector held forth upon the surprising profits of his living, and stretched a very dirty hand over the table. “Well, doctor, I am not at all surprised at your profits,” remarked Foote, “for I see you keep the glebe in your own hands.”
  • He said that he did not go to church: “not, however, that I see any harm in it.” When Boswell asked Johnson if Foote were an infidel, “I don’t know, sir,” he replied, “that the fellow is an infidel; but if he be, he is an infidel as a dog is an infidel,—that is to say, he has never thought upon the subject.”
  • A mercantile friend, who imagined that he had a genius for poetry, insisted on reading some verses beginning, “Hear me, O Phœbus, and ye Muses nine!” and then, perceiving his auditor inattentive, exclaimed, “Pray listen.”—“I do,” replied Foote; “nine and one are ten: go on.”
  • She keeps the Graces at arm’s-length.

  • Of a lady extremely awkward in the use of her arms.
  • To a hypocrite, who said that his heart lay at his fingers’ ends, “I always thought so,” replied Foote, “as I never knew it to lie in the right place.”
  • A guinea dropped on to the floor, and Garrick observed that it had gone to the devil. “You are what I took you for,” rejoined Foote, “always contriving to make a guinea go farther than any other man.” Garrick was considered exceedingly avaricious, although Johnson denied it. When once asked how he could place Garrick’s bust on his bureau, Foote replied, “I allow him to be so near my gold because he has no hands.” Boswell quotes a saying of Foote, that “Garrick walked out with the intention of doing a generous action; but, turning the corner of a street, he met the ghost of a halfpenny, which frightened him.”—Life of Johnson, 1778.
  • Suppose you go sober, my lord.

  • To an intemperate nobleman, who asked Foote in what disguise he had better go to a fancy ball.
  • A dull dramatic author said he could laugh at his critics. “Do so,” said Foote; “for in this way you will not only disappoint them, but lead the merriest life of any man in England.”
  • A reviewer boasted that he had the power of distributing literary reputation as he liked. “Take care,” Foote told him, “that you are not too prodigal of it, or you may leave none for yourself.”
  • It should be Woodcock, by the length of your bill.

  • Asking the landlord of the castle at Salthill, on the production of the bill for dinner, what his name was, and being told it was Partridge.
  • “If you go to Zürich, beware how you stop at the Raven. They will cheat you. They cheated me. But I had my revenge; for when we reached Schaffhausen I wrote in the Travellers’ Book:—
  • “Beware of the Raven of Zürich!
  • ’Tis a bird of omen ill;
  • With a noisy and an unclean nest,
  • And a very, very long bill.”
  • LONGFELLOW: Hyperion, Bk. III. chap. iii.
  • Depend upon it, it is not a thing to be laughed at.

  • Returning a comedy to an author who had asked Foote to look at it. Rivarol said of Dugazon, a buffoon, who overdid his parts, “He is a good comedian, pleasantry apart.”
  • A celebrated gambler, Baron Newman, having been thrown out of a second-story window at Bath for cheating at cards, asked Foote what he should do. “Never play so high again in your life,” was the reply. The same advice is attributed, in a similar case, to Talleyrand: “Only play on the ground floor” (rez-de-chaussée).
  • Lord Kelly had a very red face. “Pray, my lord,” said Foote to him, “come and look over my garden-wall: my cucumbers are very backward.”
  • When Foote was talking immoderately at table, a bishop asked when he would stop preaching: “Oh, my lord! the moment I am made a bishop.”
  • The foolish Duke of Cumberland told Foote, in the greenroom, he had come to swallow all his good things. “Upon my soul,” the actor replied, “your royal highness must have an excellent digestion, for you never bring up any thing again.”