Mr. Puff is a writer and playwright who makes a living from using
Now, Sir, the Puff Collateral is much used as an appendage to advertisements, and may take the form of anecdote.Yesterday as the celebrated George Bon−Mot was sauntering down St. James's−street, he met the lively Lady Mary Myrtle, coming out of the Park,'Good God, Lady Mary, I'm surprised to meet you in a white jacket,for I expected never to have seen you, but in a full−trimmed uniform, and a light−horseman's cap!' "Heavens, George, where could you have learned that?"'Why, replied the wit, I just saw a print of you, in a new publication called The Camp Magazine, which, by the bye, is a devilish clever thing,and is sold at No. 3, on the right hand of the way, two doors from the printing−office, the corner of Ivy−lane, Paternoster−row, price only one shilling!' [...] But the Puff Collusive is the newest of any; for it acts in the disguise of determined hostility.It is much used by bold booksellers and enterprising poets.An indignant correspondent observes that the new poem called Beelzebub's Cotillion, or Proserpine's Fete Champetre, is one of the most unjustifiable performances he ever read! The severity with which certain characters are handled is quite shocking! And as there are many descriptions in it too warmly coloured for female delicacy, the shameful avidity with which this piece is bought by all people of fashion, is a reproach on the taste of the times, and a disgrace to the delicacy of the age! Here you see the two strongest inducements are held forth; First, that nobody ought to read it;and secondly, that everybody buys it; on the strength of which, the publisher boldly prints the tenth edition, before he had sold ten of the first; and then establishes it by threatening himself with the pillory, or absolutely indicting himself for Scan. Mag.! [...] As to the Puff Oblique, or Puff by Implication, it is too various and extensive to be illustrated by an instance;it attracts in titles, and presumes in patents; it lurks in the limitation of a subscription, and invites in the assurance of crowd and incommodation at public places; it delights to draw forth concealed merit, with a most disinterested assiduity; and sometimes wears a countenance of smiling censure and tender reproach.It has a wonderful memory for Parliamentary Debates, and will often give the whole speech of a favoured member, with the most flattering accuracy. But, above all, it is a great dealer in reports and suppositions. It has the earliest intelligence of intended preferments that will reflect honor on the patrons; and embryo promotions of modest gentlemen who know nothing of the matter themselves. It can hint a ribband for implied services, in the air of a common report; and with the carelessness of a casual paragraph, suggest officers into commands,to which they have no pretension but their wishes. This, Sir, is the last principal class in the Art of Puffing--An art which I hope you will now agree with me, is of the highest dignity yielding a tablature of benevolence and public spirit; befriending equally trade, gallantry, criticism, and politics:the applause of genius! the register of charity! the triumph of heroism! the self defence of contractors! the fame of orators! and the gazette of ministers!
Richard Brinsley Sheridan, The School For Scandal and Other Plays, Penguin Classics, 1988, pp.152-3.
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