Lord John. A cynic is a man who, etc....
Rotten. Now try again.
Lord John. A cynic is a man who, etc.... [Lights cigarette.]
No, even that is not good. Once more:—–
Lord John (lighting cigarette). A cynic is a man who, etc.
Better, but leaves too much to the actor.
Well, I see I must tell you.
Lord John (taking out gold cigarette case from his left-hand upper waistcoat pocket). A cynic, my dear Arthur (he opens case deliberately, puts cigarette in mouth, and extracts gold match-box from right-hand trouser) is a man who (strikes match) knows the price of (lights cigarette)—everything, and (standing with match in one hand and cigarette in the other) the value of—–pff (blows out match) of (inhales deeply from cigarette and blows out a cloud of smoke)—nothing.
It makes a different thing of it altogether. Of course on the actual night the match may refuse to strike, and Lord John may have to go on saying “a man who—a man who—a man who” until the ignition occurs, but even so it will still seem delightfully natural to the audience (as if he were making up the epigram as he went along); while as for blowing the match out, he can hardly fail to do that in one.
The cigarette, of course, will be smoked at other moments than epigrammatic ones, but on these other occasions you will not need to deal so fully with it in the stage directions. “Duke (lighting cigarette). I trust, Perkins, that...” is enough. You do not want to say, “Duke (dropping ash on trousers). It seems to me, my love...” or, “Duke (removing stray piece of tobacco from tongue). What Ireland needs is...”; still less “Duke (throwing away end of cigarette). Show him in.” For this must remain one of the mysteries of the stage—What happens to the stage cigarette when it has been puffed four times? The stage tea, of which a second cup is always refused; the stage cutlet, which is removed with the connivance of the guest after two mouthfuls; the stage cigarette, which nobody ever seems to want to smoke to the end—thinking of these as they make their appearances in the houses of the titled, one would say that the hospitality of the peerage was not a thing to make any great rush for....
But that would be to forget the butler and the three footmen. Even a Duke cannot have everything. And what his chef may lack in skill his butler more than makes up for in impassivity.
A POETRY RECITAL
It has always been the privilege of Art to be patronized by Wealth and Rank. Indeed, if we literary and artistic strugglers were not asked out to afternoon tea sometimes by our millionaire acquaintances, it is doubtful if we should be able to continue the struggle. Recently a new (and less expensive) method of entertaining Genius has become fashionable in the best circles, and the aspiring poet is now invited to the house of the Great, not for the purpose of partaking of bodily refreshment himself, but in order that he may afford spiritual refreshment to others. In short, he is given an opportunity of reciting his own works in front of the Fair, the Rich and the Highly Born, and making what he can out of it in the way of advertisement.